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A Tribute to Jacques Cousteau

by Nick Asling

On hearing the sad news about the passing of this great man, it was decided to mark the occasion by travelling a great distance under water by cyclemotor.  These criteria were more than met by the Yorkshire Section's 'Coast to Coast' run.

Derek Langdon and I had decided to do the decent thing and cover the whole journey in one day.  I set off from home with the wife and kids at 6:00am in order to meet up with Derek at Crimdon at 7:00am sharp.  This went to plan and we arrived to find what could only be described as hurricane conditions.  Nevertheless, we set off looking like a pair of deep sea divers in all our wet weather gear and, to our relief, encountered very little traffic until we arrived at the first checkpoint - or rather a couple of hundred yards down the road as we had ridden straight past it.  We were now completely saturated and decided to press on without delay.

Checkpoint number two, and you could have stocked my underpants with goldfish.  Both machines were running well - Derek's was on a Power Pak and I was on the Cyclemaster.  Fortifying liquids were taken my men and machines and we were off.  Apart from being overtaken by a couple of canoes and a gondola, we were making good time, arriving at High Force at 11:00am.  Julie asked if we would like to join her and the kids in a visit to the falls but the sight of thousands of gallons of water descending onto the ground below was becoming a little monotonous by now, so we left them to it.

After passing the appropriately named Langden Beck Hotel, Derek found the Power Pak reluctant to propel him up the sheer cliff face that confronted us.  It took us a long time to reach Alston (where lesser mortals would call it a day) and the ecstasy of eating fish and chips in steaming trousers (us that is, not the fish).

Off we went again and, as we crested the hilltop at the highest point, the wind hit us with a bang.  This, and the bobsled run down into Penrith, proved to be too much for the Cyclemaster when we discovered no fewer than nine broken spokes.  I decided to load it onto the car and follow Derek for the rest of the way to Whitehaven.  At Bassenthwaite we encountered a very tame red squirrel as we finished off the last of the sandwiches.  We met Derek again at Cockermouth and then passed on to the finish point to cheer him in.  We arrived at 6:45pm; two hours later, still no Derek.  I phoned the campsite at Lamplugh but they had not seen him.  Then I read the route sheet, which said to take the road to St Bees and the Beacon.  We set off to St Bees where we found a completely exhausted Derek trying to push his bike back up the hill to Whitehaven!  Well, it had stopped raining by then, leaving only the tornado.  Despite all the hiccups, we did have a jolly good day and I fully intend doing it again - on an autocycle!

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Coast to Coast highlights

by Andrew Pattle


With NACC members spread all across the country, travelling at their own pace, and sign-on sheets that were water logged in the driving rain, it was difficult to keep track of just who was taking part in the Coast to Coast ride.  However, here is a list of those who, I believe, rode all or some of the trip: Dennis Kirby, Nick Asling, Derek Langdon, Gordon Hindley, Dave Evans, Brian Barley, Frank Brzeski, Keith Marham, Peter Crowder, Philippa Wheeler, Andrew Pattle, Ian McGregor, Stephen Cobb, William Doy, Dave Lawton, Dave Whatling, John Rose, Peter Rose, Paul Raybould, Roland Scarce.


Several other club members took part: organisers, support crew, spectators, prospective riders who were sane enough not to attempt it in that awful weather, well wishers, etc, etc.  This is a list of those I spotted, I know there were more: David Casper, Sheila Brown, Robbie Stevenson, Katy Stevenson, David Stevenson, Peter Bartlett, Erica Bartlett, Bernard Davenport, Frank Livesey, Susan Brzeska, Susan Marham, Carl Squirrel, Ray Gibb, John Tickell, Ian McGregor's sister ...

What Happened

Dave Lawton completed the whole trip on an Orbea Solex, notable for its engagement control fashioned from a beer engine handle.  The Solex was a little troublesome, using several HT leads for the trip.  Dave's transport home was unusual too: the Solex was securely mounted onto the side of a Lomax three-wheeler.

Philippa Wheeler lost some luggage on the way to the start, including the rear number plate for her Cucciolo.  Most of the lost items were replaced by a quick bit of shopping en route.  The six-speed Cucciolo (it was driving through a derailleur gear) had Palcos to ease the bumps and three independent braking systems.  Phillipa had no real problems on the ride other than some loose tappets and a near-miss of a errant sheep.

Ian McGregor's Aberdale failed during Saturday's ride but some repair work at the half way point go it going for Sunday - only to fail again.

Frank Brzeski's Mini-Motor broke its engagement cable on Saturday. This was mended for Sunday but even so, Frank sometimes had to resort to pressing the tank down with one hand to get enough grip in the wet conditions.

Peter Crowder's BSA Winged Wheel finished Saturday with a broken clutch cable.  Dave Evans supplied a solderless nipple to repair it but Peter suffered a coil failure on Sunday and did not finish.

I did not even attempt the Saturday ride but had the Vincent Firefly going on Sunday.  There was no grip at all from the roller drive for the first six miles (all uphill!) but as the roads dried the Vincent started flying along.  It lost its oil drain plug somewhere; fortunately I noticed before any damage was done.  Philippa supplied a suitable bolt to fill the hole and I continued to within ten miles of the end when the Firefly ground to a halt with broken ignition points.

Derek Langdon and Nick Asling attempted the whole run in one day; their story is told elsewhere in the magazine.

Dave Evans's Quickly was its usual, trouble-free self.  Dave was, however, one of several riders with bright blue hands.  The Blue Hand Club turned out to be, not some secret sect, but the result of the soaking rain washing the dye out of their leather gloves.  Dave was also sponsored in his ride - raising money for the Ipswich branch of the Samaritans.

Dave Casper drove the recovery vehicle and even this was not without its problems: the trailer tyre punctured just yards before the half way stop.  It was successfully repaired for day two and, at the garage where the repairs were made, we saw an interesting collection of vintage vehicles - among them were a Cyclemate and a clutch-less Raleigh RM1.

As for the route itself: well, on Saturday it was all very wet indeed and there were some quite large pools of water on the road.  Several riders went wrong at the very first roundabout, not being used to the "keep going straight unless you're told otherwise" style of route sheet, but, from then on there were no problems.  The "All-day breakfast" at the first checkpoint proved very popular indeed, as was the beer at the High Force Inn - it was brewed on the premises.  The scenery was probably quite magnificent, if only you could see it through all the rain and fog.  The half way point was Alston, where the steep descent down a cobbled street proved a good test of cyclemotor road-holding.

Sunday started damp too; it wasn't actually raining but it was misty and the clouds were shrouding the top of the first hill.  Several riders (including me) did not attempt to ride on Saturday but we went to Alston in the hope of riding on Sunday.  Some saw how wet it was still and decided not to bother, others thought they would give it a try.  We rode the first six miles up the hill into the clouds but when we reached the top there was a sight that lifted everyone's spirits: way down in the valley below us was a small, sun-lit patch of ground.  As we sailed down the long descent the circle of sunlight grew and grew and, from then on, it was the most glorious day you could wish for.  Frequent stops had to be made as the riders peeled off their layers of waterproof clothing.

All this might sound like a huge catalogue of disaster but, far from it: it was one of the most successful and most enjoyable runs the club has organised.  It was also more popular than the organisers could have envisaged when they came up with the idea: about 40 club members took part in one way or another.  There is a chance of organising a similar event next year.  If you missed out on this year's run, have a go next year - it will be an unforgettable experience!

First published - August 1997

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