Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Pioneer Run 2011

Ariel at start line
The mighty Wall Autowheel had its entry secured into the 2011 London to Brighton many months ago and last Sunday the big day came. Preparations had been thorough and exacting and consisted of a two mile ride to the local MOT station.

An early morning rise and the long drive up to Epsom downs beckoned. This was my second Pioneer Run, the Wall and I had completed the 2010 event and with mixed emotions. Being my first Run I hadn't really expected to be piloting a machine with a twenty miles per hour top speed along dual carriageways on the fringes of London and under the Gatwick runway. But halfway along suddenly all was beautiful Sussex countryside, minor roads and cheerful crowds lining the roads. Great, until we approached Brighton, took a dual carrigaeway over the downs and then had to negotiate busy city traffic. Added to it all the performance of the Wall was erratic as usual with occassional periods of splendid tune and bouts of miserable overheating.

Beautiful De Dion trike at tea stop
Knowing what to expect this time I snuck in a little before my allotted time at the start line, well, you've got to take every chance you have when piloting such a feeble steed. I sailed away and cruised merrily along as folks on more powerful contraptions gently wafted by.

Somehow this time even the dual carriageway was far more enjoyable. Perhaps knowing what to expect helped and staved off disappointment. The tea stop was marvellous and the bike was threatening enough power to make a rice pudding skin worry. Suitably refreshed before setting off it seemed prudent to check oil. Remarkably the total loss system had by this point used absolutely no oil at all. Luckily I had put some two stroke oil in the petrol and clearances in the well used motor are such that seizure is quite unlikely. Last year I had consumed a tankful by this point. Thinking that this was down to using too thin 30 grade oil I had swapped to 50 this year. Obviously it was proving too gloopy to drop through the oil regulator at all.


As I approached Brighton I was feeling pretty chuffed with myself. Sure a little overheating and consequent power loss was evident, when you are dealing in fractions of horsepower a little difference counts for a lot, but progress had been good and the end was in sight. But coming in to the city outskirts I noticed the brackets supporting the Wall to the bicycle had fractured. A couple of miles to go and with smooth roads I made the decision to press gently on. A mistake. In sight of the Pavilion the Wall decided to break from its partner bicycle and make its own way in life.

Disaster! The motor unit clanked down the road behind the bicycle dragged on by the bowden decompressor and throttle cables. I came to a rapid halt in the middle of a busy junction and made my way to the pavement, cursing the blank-faced car drivers too gormless to stop and let me across.

1913 TT Douglas at finishing line. Wonderful patina

So close to the end and on busy roads there was little to do but detach the cables, pick the Wall up, and cycle on. I placed the unit on top of the handlebars and, though a bit hairy going through city traffic so top heavily laden, we pedalled across the finishing line to a mini cheer.

Thankfully the Wall sustained only minor flesh wounds and will soon be re-attached to the Raleigh Cross-Frame, perhaps to return next year.....