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Peak District Mini-Motor

by Gordon Hindley

A bright sunny Sunday morning and it's off to take part in the Dukeries Section Spring Run, being held this year in the scenic Peak District.  In the back of the car is my cyclemotor, being taken on its first club outing.

It was about five years ago, at a Sotheby's auction of classic motor cycles that it all began.  A packed auction house with hundreds of eager potential buyers.  Bidding seemed brisk for every lot on offer.  There were over 500 items in all and the spares were selling first.  £300 for a, no doubt rare, speedometer; £400 for a rusty old frame and thousands of pounds for the usual British big-engined bikes.  It was easy to feel a novice on matters of classic motor cycle buying.  Other enthusiasts appeared to have a certain confidence in their knowledge.  Surely, there could be no bargains today.  I had no intention of buying anything - after all, I had only gone to the sale on the invitation of a friend to offer moral support.  A cardboard box was the next item on offer.  It contained a Trojan Mini-Motor; I remembered viewing this lot but had only given it a casual glance, as indeed I had all the items on offer.  The auctioneer was asking for bids and nobody seemed interested.  I put my arm up with a bid of £35, trying not to look eager, and bang, the auctioneer's gavel came down, to my amazement and delight.  "I think you've got a bargain there," said my friend.  I had to agree.

The box containing the Mini-Motor engine went straight to the back of my shed.  I'll look out for a suitable bike to put it on before doing anything more to it.  A couple of years passed until one day I was at the local tip, dumping my garden rubbish.  There, leaning against a wall was an all black gent's cycle - looks interesting.  Could it be one of the employees of the tip had come to work on it? Of course not - my mind had temporarily slipped back to the days of the 1950s and early sixties.  A quick glance to the employees' car park showed that it was occupied by four-wheel work horses from Dagenham, Munich or wherever - not two wheelers from Nottingham.  The cycle had been tipped and was now set aside by the entrepreneurial workers alongside other hopefully saleable items to make a few extra quid before being put through the crushers - know what I mean, nudge, nudge, wink, wink.  Thank goodness.  A swift enquiry, a swift exchange of a £5 note and the cycle was in the back of my car.  I had bought a Raleigh touring cycle, hub brakes, Sturmey-Archer 3-speed gears, newish tyres, an excellent large old saddle bag, dynamo lighting attachment and, with a few adjustments, in working order.  I was to find out later that it was made in 1939.  It would be ideal.

Now it was time to get the Mini-Motor engine down from the shelf and, at the first opportunity, I sent off an order to the NACC Club Spares for its missing hoop that was needed to fit it to the Raleigh.  The brackets at the bottom of the hoop were easily made.  Next thing was to get a dating certificate for the engine and so, with the necessary photos and information sent to David Casper, back came the certificate.  The engine was a 1950 model, lovely-one of the early Mini-motors.  We were nearly ready for the road now so the bike was added to my insurance, using the engine and frame numbers, and it was off to get an MoT.  Now, living near Manchester, we are fortunate in having at our service Eddie's Two Wheels in Sale.  Eddie, the amiable and always willing & able proprietor, is the NACC Motobécane Marque Enthusiast and his interest in all two-wheeled machines, especially our kind, is gratifying.  With my new MoT certificate, it was now a mere formality to register the machine and be issued with an age-related number and then pedal off for a few test runs.  Granadaland's Frank Brzeski also proved helpful with a few early snags with his knowledge of running Mini-motors.  Frank kindly gave me an original splashguard that fits around the drive roller, as mine was missing.

Would my cyclemotor now be able to complete its first club run or would the Peak District defeat my optimistic enthusiasm?  My only reservation was that the Mini-Motor was proving hard to restart when hot.

At the meeting point for the start of the run, there were a couple of other cyclemotor machines amongst a nice collection of autocycles and mopeds.  Derek Langdon was also Mini-motor powered.  His very professionally constructed machine looked very futuristic - or was it retrospective?  I'm not sure, but it was beautifully prepared and made.  It also ran pretty effectively as Derek had an early start and completed the run without me seeing it in action.  John Hook also had one of his home constructed power cycles there.  John's machine, immaculately turned out and of more conventional design and equally professionally built used a Rex engine.  John had travelled to the start on his machine - a three-hour journey - and he would also make the journey home after the run on it.  My cyclemotor brought up the rear on the run and the willing event organisers and marshals patiently saw everyone through the route, which was easily followed.  The route was superb, the scenery spectacular - as could be expected in the Peak District.  The Dukeries Section does put on very good events.  At one stage, the road turned on to a track and I had to open what was to be the first of three wide steel gates that blocked the track.  One hand doing the gate whilst the other held the Raleigh, keeping the engine running in case it wouldn't restart if it stopped.  It was a bit like going through the doors on Matthew Kelly's 'Stars in their eyes' TV programme.  Once through it appeared as though a thick mist had come down the valley and the road had become sheet ice, but it was only that my goggles had totally steamed up and I had slipped on something a cow had left behind.  My goggles soon cleared and, fortunately, the sun kept shining although the air was cold.

The Mini-Motor completed the run and I only had to push it up one short steep incline when the engine and my heavy pedal assistance ran out of steam.  The run had been most enjoyable.

A new condenser has now been fitted and I'm hoping to have cured the problem of bad starting and hope that a new big spark will give me a bit more power too.  In the engine that is - unfortunately not in my legs.

First published - June 1999

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