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Banbury Run 2014

As a newcomer to the joys of vintage motorbikes I hadn't realised the importance of the year of manufacture in relation to the Banbury event. My own bike was manufactured in 1932 so just misses out on the pre 1931 entry criteria.
Knowing that section members had previously used the Tony Milk AJS to enter the event I hoped to be able to do so too. I was delighted to find the bike was available for the 2014 event and just before Christmas I collected it from Mike Berriman. Having had a few practise runs around my local area I realised how challenging it is to ride a bike built in 1925. I decided to take part in all the club runs leading up to the Banbury event so I could become familiar with it. I became quite confident about riding the bike and really enjoyed the experience.
After downloading the entry forms from the VMCC website asap in January I took them to Nick Farthing as he agreed to collate entries from the Norwich section so hopefully we would be in the same starting group. This worked and we received letters confirming our entry details  and numbers - 219 to 224.
Exploring period style clothing was interesting but I decided the amount it would cost was rather excessive for limited use. I did buy an open faced helmet which transformed the riding experience allowing me to be much more involved with the machine, both aurally and visually.
Prepping the bike was easy, the usual pre run checks that everything was in place, tightened and lubricated, tyre pressures correct and all clean but not too shiney.
Accommodation for Saturday night was prearranged with a friend who lives half an hour away from Gaydon and Peter Bennett had kindly offered to take the bike to Gaydon in his van so that was all sorted.
I awoke early on the morning to discover the weather forecasters had been correct, after a very wet Saturday, Sunday was promising to be hot and sunny.
I met Peter at about 8:30  and we went to sign on, a very easy and simple process. We then unloaded the bikes and attached our numbers 222 and 223, gave the bikes a final check and rode them to our allocated positions in the bike assembly paddock. The first bikes were  timed to start at 10:00 and we were off at 10:44 so we had plenty of time to meet up with the rest of our group.
They were:
No 219 Nick Farthing on a 1905 Brown
No 220 Simon Hollingworth on a 1912 Triumph
No 221 Peter Bell on a 1926 Norton
No 222 Steve Hallam on a 1925 AJS
No 223 Peter Bennett on a 1929 AJS
No 224 Steven Green on a 1920 Scott combination
Val Cartmell was also at the event volunteering as a marshal
also taking part were:
No 113 Stephen Lee on a 1923 BSA
No 114 Michael Lee on a 1925 BSA
No 422 Geoffrey Dixon on a 1928 Raleigh
No 423 Ben Dixon on a 1927 BSA
We had to push our bikes into the queue for the start as we were not allowed to run our engines until about 3 rows from the line.
Feeling slightly nervous the first obstacle was achieved - the bike started, next to get away without stalling, tick, leaving the site had a hectic feel as so many bikes were about and I didn't have long to settle before I nearly made a basic error, that of following the bike in front. As the riders have 3 route options its not a good idea to rely on the bike in front as a guide as it may not be on your route. At the first roundabout I nearly fell into this trap,  Peter who was behind me could see I was in two minds so he overtook me to ensure I kept on the straight and narrow - well bendy and narrow actually. Peter stayed ahead for the rest of the journey so that helped relieve some of the navigation concerns. They used the tulip system this year which was pretty clear. We soon settled into a steady pace and were able to enjoy the Warwickshire scenery. One country lane had been turned into a ford from the previous days rain and was quite deep but thankfully the magneto stayed dry and we kept going.
This year Sun Rising Hill was nearer the start than the end so after passing through the village of Oxhill we soon turned right onto the A442. Peter agreed to wait for me at the top. So with some trepidation I approach the infamous incline. I was in third gear when approaching the first right hand bend with quite a few bikes around. One unfortunate rider had stalled in the middle of the bend and was trying to paddle it to the side of the road making an effective block. I was forced to almost stop but kept going in first. The bike soon needed second and pulled strongly all the way to the top left hand bend which was edged with spectators waving us on. Before I knew it the climb was over and I saw Peter waiting for me. We carried on through Banbury and stopped at a pub in the village of Great Bourton. This was a prearranged stop where we had agreed to meet my wife Deborah for lunch. Another rider on a Scott had tagged onto us and stopped also. We chose this place at random from looking at the route plan on an OS map in the signing on tent. It was an excellent choice having good food and local ale. We were able to sit in the garden and watch the bikes go by. Perfect.
After taking a few photographs and feeling rested and refreshed we set off for the final part of our journey. The fuel situation seemed ok but I topped up the oil tank as a precaution as it was more than half empty. The rest of the journey was most enjoyable going through attractive villages, though some of them were in dips which had steep roads both in and out. The ups were no problem but being a Norfolk bike the brakes weren't used to being applied so much on the steep downs and after a while would start to fade. Otherwise the bike ran perfectly. Back at Gaydon we rode past the start line to be acknowledged as finishers and then parked up and signed off to receive our mugs. What a lovely ride and a fantastic experience. Thanks to Peter for riding with me and of course to Tony Milk for making the bike available to the section so that novices like me can have such a great opportunity.

Thats a tick against Banbury on the bikers bucket list for me.
Now who has a flat tank for sale? Ready for next year.
Report and Pictures by Steve & Deborah Hallam









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