Pioneer Run

21st March 1999 - Sunbeam MCC


- Phil the Spill

I had arranged to go down to Brighton with fellow WMA member Dennis for this year's 62nd Pioneer Run, but due to the weather Dennis decided to cry off. I do not, however, recall any awkward silences when he announced his decision, as I was on the verge of ringing him up to cancel for the self-same reason. After his phone call I decided, through sheer bloody-mindedness more than anything else, to go on my own despite the weather, but I waited awhile to see if the rain lessened a bit first.

After about half an hour it did indeed let off so I set off for the M25 in order to join the rest of the bikes at Reigate, as I had a couple of years ago. I passed through more than a few showers, but none of them were as bad as I had originally feared and the number of vintage bikes breaking down was only slightly higher than on 'dry' runs. The spectators, however, proved less hardy than the machinery, and were conspicuous by their absence, until the route went through the small villages. In these places there seemed to be a number of people who were probably just visiting and had no idea what was going on, and watched with total bafflement. All the locals were quite happy to see the veterans, and some had settled into their chairs outside their houses, (between showers), to watch the chugging and wheezing masses go past.

Once I finally reached Brighton sea front, I made my way swiftly to one of the few open coffee establishments to recover from the ride down, as I had got quite cold after a while. I found it quite amusing that, as the next-door Dodgem car arena was not being used for its vehicles, chairs and tables had been put in there, and could be used to enjoy one's coffee out of the wind and rain. On the way to the finish line I had to dash for cover as a particularly heavy shower came down upon us. I decided to pay the £2 to get into the paddock this year. I still think this is a bit steep, but it enabled me to get some good close-up photos of the elderly machines, (once the other spectators got out of my way, at least).

Having taken a good few photos I decided to go for a wander up to the pier, dodging another heavy shower on the way, pausing only to hear the commentator (the same one as usual) insisting that a 'Forecar' was so called because it had four wheels. (Oh yes? I haven't found one with more than three yet!) He was also complaining that the Steam Packet ferry to the Isle of Man is the most expensive in the world. (I was always told that, on a cost-per-mile basis, the Isle of Wight ferry was the most expensive per mile in Europe, but as I have never been to the Isle of Man I couldn't say for sure.) Some old bikes were still arriving and the sun came out occasionally as if to welcome them and help those already there dry out a bit.

After visiting the pier, (I didn't even spend any money in the arcade), I made my way back to the paddock, displaying my programme to avoid having to pay the £2 again, to see any machines that had arrived while I was wandering. I noticed the owners bartering with one another for hard-to-get parts, although I still cannot see the wisdom in using a fifty-year-old nut and bolt in preference to a new one just because the bike is 'a classic'. Personally I wouldn't trust any fifty-year-old component on a machine that I was to ride, (until I get to that age, of course!).

Hiding from another outburst before I left for home, I noticed a group of riders putting a very strange looking bike into a trailer – unfortunately I had run out of film by then. It seemed to be an in-line three-wheeler, with the motor powering the front wheel. If anyone has a photo of such a beast I would definitely be interested.

On the trip home I noticed a few interesting bikes, the first was an old-ish bike with the number plate starting POK – apt, considering the noise the machine was emitting. Later on the A23 I passed a pair of identical Gold Wings, their number plates were S15 LSK and S15 SLK. Presumably his-and-her machines?

Phil Drackley - Phil the Spill