PIP HIGHAM

Classic Motorcycle Mechanics - - CONTENTS -

Pip has a moun­tain to climb in hon­our of brother Bill.

Piller­ton Pri­ors, Shut­ford, Wrox­ton, ring any bells? Prob­a­bly not un­less you’ve ei­ther watched, or pos­si­bly taken part in The Ban­bury Run.

The Ban­bury is ba­si­cally 500 or so blokes, and a slen­der smat­ter­ing of ladies hooning around mid­dle Eng­land on bikes that are a min­i­mum of 88 years old. Yup, you read that right, bikes so old that a few have even had a tele­gram from the Queen. A lot of the scoots sport fea­tures un­fa­mil­iar to some of you younger chaps out there; they have re­tar­da­tion de­vices (can’t call them ‘brakes’) and hand op­er­ated levers for con­trol­ling stuff such as ig­ni­tion ad­vance, fuel mix­ture strength and gear se­lec­tion. Some have ex­posed valve gear, push-rods, rock­ers etc. They oc­ca­sion­ally rely on chem­i­cal sor­cery to en­er­gise front and rear lights. They have many cranks, brack­ets and link­ages to fid­dle with (usu­ally while in mo­tion.) My con­nec­tion with The Ban­bury stems from the fact that I was asked to ride the lit­tle bike that brother Bill had spent many moons re­fur­bish­ing. Bill didn’t feel up to the ride him­self and I gladly ac­cepted on con­di­tion that he came to watch. On the day we had a full team turnout and as my start time ap­proached I felt a wee bit con­cerned that I might cock up the start and then fall off at the first cor­ner. Why so? Well, un­til this point I’d never rid­den the bike and the com­bi­na­tion of five levers to pull, push and gen­er­ally mod­u­late was testing both of my brain cells. Added to this was the 60-mile route through un­fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory. Guid­ance for said route was via a pair of blue printed A4 sheets. I no­ticed that many of the en­trants sported natty roller gad­gets, han­dle­bar mounted, on which to dis­play the route. Not be­ing in pos­ses­sion of such kit I opted for the clenched teeth method: catch­ing the oc­ca­sional glimpse of the next way­point when­ever a few mo­ments of calm oc­curred. In con­ver­sa­tion with a cou­ple of bods clad in tweed great­coats, one name cropped up sev­eral times: Sun­ris­ing Hill. How tough could one lit­tle in­cline be? With a flick of a flag I was away, the lit­tle Prester bur­bling along hap­pily in first gear, I promptly set off in the wrong di­rec­tion. A swift U-turn got us back on track. All went well un­til an un­ex­pected in­cline, a sharp turn, sev­eral sheep and a mo­ment’s in­de­ci­sion over which lever to pull, caught me out. I stalled the lit­tle stro­ker and had to do a swift about face in or­der to get bur­bling again. A mile or so fur­ther along, a sub­stan­tial in­cline came into view as I rounded the bend, ah now, this is Sun­ris­ing. With the throt­tle wire tighter than Jimmy Helms’ lar­ynx on Gonna Make You An Of­fer. I launched around the ini­tial curve show­er­ing sparks off the care­lessly trail­ing right-hand pedal and there was Bill, grin­ning from ear to ear. Part ‘A’ mis­sion ac­com­plished. As the poor lit­tle bike shed its en­ergy I dabbed for a low gear: but Sun­ris­ing is long and steep. Three quar­ters of the way up my inexperience caught me out and we ground to a halt. As I con­sid­ered my op­tions Bill’s lad Si­mon and grand-lad Will came to the res­cue. A quick shove, some fu­ri­ous ped­alling and a ju­di­cious dose of clutch slip­page got the plot un­der way again, and, as if pro­pelled by col­lec­tive at­ti­tude zoomed up to the crest, to be met by a great roar from the as­sem­bled masses of in­cred­u­lous civil­ians. Sun­ris­ing: 0, Prester [98cc]: 1. The whole the­o­ret­i­cal route is about 60 miles, I reckon that with a cou­ple of mis­cues, I com­pleted about 75 miles and the lit­tle red bike didn’t miss a beat. The re­cep­tion as I turned into the col­lec­tion area at Gay­don was ab­so­lutely ter­rific: I think I caught a bit of dust in my eye when I clocked the en­tire team wait­ing for me. All credit to Bill for putting to­gether the smallest bike to com­plete the 2018 run and also to He­len for her pa­tience with the many hours Bill spent toil­ing in his shed in the gar­den. And sadly, Bill passed away on the morn­ing of the sec­ond of July, but he saw his lit­tle bike take on Sun­ris­ing, and win.

BE­LOW RIGHT: Team pic with reg­u­la­tion dogs in at­ten­dance.

BE­LOW: A tricky mo­ment on Sun­ris­ing with Si­mon and Will hot-foot­ing it to the res­cue.

ABOVE: About to crest that darn hill...

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