Jumbo Run

Memories fade over the decades but Jean-Francois' feature on the Jumbo Run took me back — anyone who's been on a Jumbo, on three wheels or with the two-wheeled fighter escort knows that trivial day‑to‑day worries are obliterated by the overwhelming emotion of he event. Maybe someone from the organising committee could be prevailed on to write a proper history but I'd like to share some disjointed scraps of memory.

Returning from a Jumbo aboard a Panther/Busmar I was at a services adjusting the Burman clutch when two coachloads of soccer supporters squared up to each other. I was a few feet in front of a line of chaps in green and white scarves and and, still on an emotional high, cheerfully asked them to form a salient round me and the combo, which they were happy to do. Their drivers started their engines so both sides had to run for their coaches leaving me to fettle the Panther and head south, pondering on how the supporters and I were having very different days.

At Billing Aquadrome one year a thoughtless woman loudly remarked that "people like this" shouldn't be allowed to mix with "normal children". A young pillion rider told her off; the woman's husband told off the pillion rider whose boyfriend promptly told off the husband. One of the medical team that accompanied the run calmed down what could have been an unfortunate incident. On that one day of the year, the Jumbo kids had hundreds of motorcycling friends with them. I hope the thoughtless woman learned from the experience.

Maybe on the same run I passed a side turning to see my rally chum Bov (Birmingham 71MCC, rode a rare CM750/4 with Hondamatic transmission) sitting on the bonnet of a bronze roller that was slowly pulling out with potentially dreadful results. He later explained that his pillion had handed out explanatory leaflets to waiting car drivers (who thus knew the run was sanctioned by the local authorities and the cops) but one driver just wouldn't listen. In the nick of time one of the police outriders arrived at speed and, as the driver started to complain, opened the door, pulled her out and read her the riot act.

A few miles down the road the run crossed a county line and the two teams of police riders, about a dozen in all, were lined up at the side of the road to salute us. Emotional? You bet.

One year I took Jumbo stalwart Elsie Wilkes, my adopted second mum, to Kassel for the German Jumbo, carrying a formal letter of greeting from Elsie's local mayor to his German opposite number. Transport was a Jubilee Bonnie/Squire ST2; the overnight run home through torrential rain was the worst I've endured, followed by riding within 200 yards of my South London home the next day taking Elsie back to Acock's Green. Memories...

Colin Bembridge noticed that Elsie was exhausted and ordered me to stay on for an extra night. I'd arranged to drop Elsie off and go straight to my girlfriend's place at Repton. I phoned her from the motorway as we neared Brummagen to remake the date for that night, to be told she'd made arrangements to go out. Elsie told me afterwards that my expression as I came away from the phone scared her; evidently the rest of the journey scared her further. A solid meal and a night's kip sorted me out and I never saw that girl again. The intense emotions of youth, eh?

I could never forget the mini Jumbo organised and marshalled single-handedly by the indomitable Colin Bembridge, former FoSC chairman.

My craziest Jumbo memory concerned a strapping teenage passenger in an elderly chap's Monza (he was probably younger than I am now!) who, as two mayors and assorted press prepared to wave us off from Chelmsley Wood Hospital, punched a hole in the screen, stood up, dropped his kecks and vigorously relieved his tension. Fortunately a nurse was there to advise that he was best left to it. The mayors and their ladies duly waited, he finished, the nurse tidied him up. The lad sat down, Buster from Watsonian handed the rider his card with the promise of a complimentary replacement screen and the run started. As I recall there was talk of making this the standard starting procedure.

And finally, I remember carrying our sidecar passenger one year, a young lady named Meena with profound physical disabilities, to the top of a giant slide. She sat on my lap and just as we started down whispered in my ear, "I hope I find a boyfriend soon". At the bottom I handed Meena to my Allie, found a quiet spot, and had a good cry. That was at least 30 years ago; I hope Meena found her boyfriend.

These are the flashes of memory that have survived so many years of rally partying. They remain vivid as does the memory that the Jumbo Run took (and no doubt takes) as many kids as they can carry, including the most disabled youngsters. The overriding memory is of that flood of good will — the sight of local West Midlanders on the pavement waving us by — the sound of the solo escort firing up in the next field and pulling out to clear the road for Jumbo — and dredging up those memories makes me realise how many years since I've been on one. Maybe the GS850/QM2 will be heading north in September 2024.

Dave Richmond