The Pioneer Run - March 2011
(Click any photo to see a larger picture - then just follow the slide show.)

Usually, within the VMCC it is the privilege of the President that he gets the opportunity to ride the clubs 1904 Dreadnought in the Pioneer run. The last time that had happened was when Harry Wiles was the President back in 2008 and I wasn't going to miss out on the opportunity, even though the Pioneer run is not an event for me. The last time that I rode in the Pioneer run was 40 years ago on the Clement Garrard and I've not entered it ever since, the reasons for which are all another story - ask me sometime and I'll tell you why.

Having collected the Dreadnought from the M&C collection musuem in Bakewell last November and spent the time since then checking it over to make sure that it was fit for the outing, I was satisfied that all was well. Next thing was to have a ride locally to ensure all worked well.

So, the week before the run, I took the Dreadnought around the block a few times and decided that it was as good as could be.

Barry C had already volunteered to drive my car from the start at Tattenham Corner to Brighton and Rob J also expressed an interest in coming with us. The great plan was that I'd load everything up the day before and we'd all leave from my house at 4am on the Sunday morning. The weather forecast was good for the day and when we left South Wales it was nice and dry. Dawn broke as we approached Reading and soon we were at Tattenham Corner by 7am. I was riding number 33 and due away at 8.16am, so had over an hour to get ready.

The bike was soon unloaded and fuelled up for the run. Rob had been designated as the 'official cameraman', so was busy taking pictures of some of the 371 Veterans that were gathering for the start, and what a varied lot there were.

I must say that it was a trifle chilly, well, it was March and early in the morning, so I decided that it was a case of wearing loads of clothing. We unloaded the bike and I disassembled the trailer and packed it in the boot of the car. After sorting the bike and getting all the wet gear on(well, you never know), it was time for a quick coffee before the push from the unloading area to the assembly paddock. Not an easy job that, as it was uphill across grass and then over a busy road.

There were 32 other riders to leave before me and in no time at all we moved forward to the start line. I was in a batch with four other machines and as Harry Wiles was there he was co-opted to help Rob give me a push off. "Let the others move off first" I said, and as soon as there was a gap away we went. The MMC motor fired up very quickly and in it's usual bunny hopping manner, off down the road we set. Turn left and I was soon heading for the traffic lights to turn right onto the A217 which headed south towards Brighton. Barry and Rob returned to the car and set off in the opposite direction on the Tender Vehicle route. They were to rejoin the main route after a mere 2 mile detour.

Meanwhile I reached the traffic lights on the A217 in Burgh Heath which were, of course, on red. I pushed the Dreadnought through the red light , dodging a few cars on the way. Pointing south, I pushed the bike off and again she fired up quite easily. The engine, in it's usual manner, bunny hopped down the road and slowly gained a bit of speed allowing the revs to rise and the bike to run more smoothly. I'd checked the ignition timing previously and made sure that the motor was able to be set fully retarded - and it was spot on, I must say. However the engine always took it's time to get going and for me that was not one of the likeable points of riding the bike. Probably I've been spoilt by the way my '08 Triumph runs so smoothly. I soon had a problem as the motor cut out, then picked up and then cut out again. This happened several times before I realised that the thumb of my right hand was resting on the cut-out switch. Once I moved my hand on the bars, the motor picked up and I had no more problems all day from that switch.

I caught Mike Wills up on his 1904 Bradbury and decided to follow him as I was unfamiliar with the route. However, there was no need for me to have been worried at all as at every junction there was a blue RAC sign pointing the way for the Pioneer run. The ride along the A 217 was uneventful with no stops at all, apart from a couple of red traffic lights. The bike was running very nicely indeed as I followed the Bradbury. Once or twice I had to pass Mike as the Bradbury slowed on a hill and not having the luxury of a set of pedals I had to take a charge at the slope to make sure of getting over. At traffic lights Mike was soon away before me as the Dreadnought took it's time, as usual, for the motor to get going.

It seemed in no time at all that we were crossing over the M25 and heading downhill into Reigate. Out the other side and up a short hill and the engine settled down to a nice steady beat. I was back up to following Mike and the two of us plodded onwards around roundabouts and through traffic lights, some of which were on red, but, shush, don't tell anyone that.

Then, minding my own business, and enjoying the ride, a car pulled up alongside with someone hanging out of the passenger side window with a camera. It took a moment or two before I realised that it was Rob and Barry.
Not easy to take pictures from a moving car of a moving motorcycle, so the pics are not that good, but hey, here's one that ain't half bad with the other being taken from a layby a bit further down the road:

Rob and Barry then set off for Brighton as they had to be there before 10am so as to get into the VIP parking area at the front end of Marine Parade. Meanwhile Mike Wills and I plodded on to Gatwick airport. We caught up with a few other machines and passed them, of course. One was the Clement engined machine of Andy Brown. The next thing that happened was that we were passed at speed by the Clement only for it to die a death just a few hundred yards further down the road.

The next objective was Crawley and the bypass around the town, then on to the Pease Pottage roundabout. I was stopped at the roundabout by the traffic lights and on pushing off, just couldn't get the Dreadnought to pick up at all. Bit more heavy breathing for a minute or two (from me, not the bike) and I was ready to try again, still no joy. I just couldn't seem to get the motor to turn over fast enough to get it to run at a speed where it could eventually pick up. OK, another breather, and another push - this time I got it and we were away. Must have been the slight up hill slope of the road, or was it just me getting past it?

After a couple of miles I reached Handcross and the coffee stop. "Whatever you do, don't stop for coffee" was the advice that I'd been given, "Press on for Brighton so as to get there before the traffic builds up". Who gave me that advice? You know, I just can't remember, so I pressed on anyway. After Pease Pottage we were out into the country and onto B roads, much nicer. The bike was running well and I was expecting a left turn after a few miles. We seemed to go on forever and ever and I was riding alone with no other rider in sight. Mile after mile and I started to get a touch worried as I may have missed one of the RAC route signs. Not to worry too much as I had a route card folded up in my pocket - then - just as I was considering stopping I saw a yellow jacketed marshal pointing left. He was a nice re-assuring sight, I can tell you. By this time the bike was beginning to tell on my legs and rear end. Karslake may well have designed it to be comfortable for him, but then he was 6 foot 4 inches tall and the seating arrangement sure didn't suit a 5 foot 8 inch Welshman. Through Cowfold and on to Henfield we went, galloping up the few hills that appeared on the way. It was then a left turn and head for the main A23 into Brighton.

I passed a De Dion Tricycle and joined the A23 which is a fast dual carriageway - not much fun, I can tell you. Anyway, the Brighton pylons soon came into view. They mark the outskirts of Brighton and I knew that after I had passed them I had to get out into the middle lane when the road widened into three lanes. There on the grass was an RAC sign that read 'Beware, slow motorcycles changing lanes'. Not much comfort that, but it had to be done, so I drifted out to the outside of the lefthand lane, had a quick look just after a large van had tried to push me back, and went for it. I was now riding in the middle of the middle lane and heading for the roundabout that was the A23 and A27 junction. As it happened it was easily negotiated and the Dreadnought and I were on the final run into Brighton. Thank goodness for Bus lanes, as motorcycles were allowed to use them. There was one hairy moment as a car decided to turn right across my path and I automatically closed the Dreadnought throttle which made the bike take a great leap forward. The Throttle levers on the bike operated in the wrong direction to any other bike that I've ridden. Anyhow, after my left heel was panicking and unable to find the brake lever, we gained speed, and luckily, the said car very quickly made the right turn. Was I glad of that.

A few more traffic lights to push off at, one to take on red by pushing through - I was getting fed up with them by this time - and we were at the aquarium roundabout. Across we went as the marshal opened the barriers for us and the Dreadnought and I motored off along Marine parade. Was I pleased!! Just a touch more so than my backside and legs I reckoned. Anyway, as I approached the finishing line I could see Ian Young standing there with his microphone and I was flagged to stop and be interviewed. What could I say - no troubles at all. Anyway, after a brief chat I was away on to the parking area where I lined the bike up in the sixth place spot. Only five machines had finished before me - not bad at all. I had a look at my watch - 10.15. Wow, did I really cover the 62 miles in 1 hour and 59 minutes, seems I did!! Anyway, you work it out.

Here's a few of the bikes seen at the finish:

Barry, Rob and I spent a couple of hours wandering around and looking at all the machines on display and what a variety there were. There were twelve 19th century three wheelers to ogle at - must say that I do fancy one of them. Loads of friends to say 'hello' to as well.

The day had been dry and a bit overcast but very soon after my arrival in Brighton the sun came out. Please don't think that I'm making any claim for organising that, but it did turn out to be a lovely day. After a couple of hours the time came to set the trailer up, load the bike and head for home. We travelled towards Worthing and on to Arundle and Southampton along the south coast with the idea of heading up through Salisbury and Bath before hitting the M4.

Gosh, what a day - the weather and the company certainly made it for me, apart from the opportunity to ride such an historic machine as Harold Karslake's Dreadnought. As a footnote, I was asleep on the settee by 8pm.