Monday, November 7, 2011

Banbury Run 2011 By Nicholas Biebuyck


Hi Frank,

Below is an article that I wrote for The Classic MotorCycle, one of the big publications in the UK, which was in their July issue earlier this year.
Best, Nicholas

What are we looking for when we go out for a Sunday ride? A beautiful route? Minimal traffic? Comradeary? Ideal weather? Unity with our machine? It is sometimes hard to find these but the Banbury Run provided the catalyst to bring all of these and more out for me to enjoy one of the best rides I have ever had.
I had very kindly been lent a 1928 AJS K8 in the most perfect condition: a wonderful level of patina which most individuals would consider too far gone and in need of restoration, but for me this is exactly how I like them, showing all of the stories from it’s many years of existence. It had also been well used so was very compliant mechanically and the owner knew the AJ incredibly well, passing on the lessons he had learnt over so many years to me.

To be on the safe side, a few weeks before the Run I took it for a test ride near the generous owners home. It was the first time I had ridden anything this early so I was looking forward to the experience with the usual nervous anticipation that surrounds such an outing. Following a quick briefing on starting the machine, keeping an eye on the oil sight glass and how to deal with the hard change box with a reputation for being not brilliant as is the case with all AJs from this period, I was off! After a short ride through the local town (a bit of a baptism of fire due to the traffic lights, traffic and right turns, which are particularly tricky when you have to indicate, change gear, brake and control the throttle with the same hand) I was out on to the open road.

Within a few miles I had got into the swing of things and was thoroughly enjoying a closeness to the machine I was riding which I had never really experienced before. The exposed valve gear and the exhaust note when the engine was sitting comfortable, coupled with the eerie lack of other noises combined to produce a beautiful symphony. This together with the lack of distractions such as speedo, rev counter, flashing lights and superfluous handle bar controls made for a wonderful pure riding experience.

After about 20 minutes I returned feeling rather triumphant, at which point the owner suggested I give his Velo Venom a crack. Never one to turn down the chance to try a new machine, especially one as iconic as the big Veloce single, I jumped on and went for a spin. It provided the exact contrast I needed to really piece the puzzle of the 20’s through to the 60’s, and although it was a lovely machine to ride it certainly showed how things had changed and how much I wanted a piece of the 20’s to ride regularly.

Fast forward 4 weeks and I am standing in the car park of the Gaydon Heritage Centre surround by 600 other machines, having signed on, affixed my number and put my instructions for the long, circa 60 mile route, route into rollers which the owner had lent me when he saw me trying to sandwich the paper between the flat tank and the frame tube. Turning on the fuel and oil, flooding the carb, a few swift kicks later and the AJ was fired up. Following a brief moment of panic due to the lack of oil in the sight glass (in my nervousness I had turned the wrong tap on) and a bit of adjustment on the Pilgrims, the engine was up to temperature and ready to go.

As I drew up to the line with the engine off and my fellow team TCM members who had made it this far (more on that else where no doubt), I gave a few swift kicks and the engine fired. As the flag dropped I, nightmare of nightmares stalled the K8, and was immediately surround by offers for a bump start, a kick start and other assistance, but my trusty steed fired first kick and I was off. Amusingly as I went to change gear for the first time about 500m from the start, luckily just out of sight of the main knot of spectators at the start line, I managed to pull in the valve lift rather than the clutch and stalled the machine again! As always one swift kick later we were off not to make the same error again.

The weather was almost perfect, sunny spells with enough cloud cover to keep the temperature down and making sure none of the entrants overheated: kitted up riders in town traffic as well as their machines. The route was fantastic as well, taking in some spectacular surrounding countryside along country lanes, some of which can’t have been too far from roads of the period and with hardly any traffic encountered. Sun Rising was very enjoyable on a big OHV 500 but I did feel sorry for the poor chaps and their outfit who were having to push it up the hill as I went by. On the few occasions that I did stop to offer assistance to riders by the road or to check things were okay, the same response I was greeted with when I pulled over to admire the countryside, the AJ started first kick and went without an problem at all for the whole course. Following signing off and collecting my mug I great sense of satisfaction washed over me and as Simon Robinson said, ‘you can tell who has been on the run because of the oily mist on their hands” adding to the sense of achievement even further. On top of all of that a week later I got a call from Sam at the VMCC to say that I had won the award for the youngest rider taking part! The day out at Banbury simply could not have been any better.

I really cannot wait for next year, to point where I am furiously trying to get on to as many other events as possible. Role on Banbury Run 2012 and a chance to meet the familiar faces and friends that I made this year.



Anonymous said...

OcchioLungo said...

good for you Nicholas! I'm glad that you found that 1920's bikes are even better than a Velo Venom. They really are so much more fun to ride than moderns. I hope to make the Banbury myself someday.

PS, make sure to tell all the younger riders that they need to get on early bikes, instead of Haybusas. :)