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...