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Coast to Coast on a Super Solex

Frank Auton

Last year, creating history, I did the Coast to Coast run in one day.  It was an epic trip, but it was lonely and lacked the fun of doing the run with the group.

So this year, I decided to do the C to C run as it was designed, in two days, stopping overnight in Alston for the AGM and with the Club.

Unlike last year, the weather in Hartlepool was sunny and dry.  On the dot of 9:30am we all set off together.  However, the Solex lacks the top speed of the other mopeds in the club.  Within 30 minutes, every other person on the run had overtaken me.  Once again, it seemed I was destined to do the C to C on my own.  Fortunately, the high-speed machines were clearly not as comfortable as the Solex, as the riders had to stop longer at the checkpoints.  So, while they were drinking tea and resting their legs, I was able to catch them like the tortoise and the hare.  Over the space of two days, we all managed to arrive within a few hours of each other.

Just to highlight the contrast with last year's weather.  Last year I had to stop in Middleton in Teesdale to buy reviving soup and coffee.  I was frozen, wet, and starving, as nothing was open between Hartlepool and here.  This year, I stopped in the same place this year but to buy factor 25 sunscreen and a can of Tizer.

I decided not to stop in the Youth Hostel, as it is a contradiction in terms, due to my age and arrival on powered transport.  However, the real disadvantage was the 11:00pm curfew, when the Alston Pub Disco did not start until 10:45.  I stayed in a homely B&B where I was given a glass of champagne on my return from the AGM - not because of my epic trans-Pennine journey but because it was the landlady's birthday.

I had never attended the AGM before and it was certainly an experience.  For me the key message was the reminder that the principal object of the club was to enjoy the sense of irony from undertaking epic adventures on unsuitable machines and having fun.

It may be perverse, but I was really pleased when it started raining on Sunday in Alston and continued until we reached Whitehaven, thus maintaining the tradition of the C to C weather.  It made it worthwhile bringing the waterproofs.

My wife cannot understand how grown men and women can derive pleasure from messing about on motorised bicycles.  She has a rather unflattering term for people who take on such strange pastimes and devote too much time and attention to the pursuit - she calls them Dib-Dobs.  The trainspotter in his anorak is the best example of a Dib-Dob.  As I rode across the moors on Sunday, in the rain, at a steady 14mph, worrying that I may actually be a Dib-Dob, I spotted something that made me realise how normal moped riders are.  In a wet and bedraggled field was a collection of tents and caravans with a sign up for the WLMDC.  In the field next to the tents was a selection of men in anoraks, completely soaked, and walking up and down the field with metal detectors.  This group was the West Lancs Metal Detector Club.  Now these people really are Dib-Dibs.

I think when we organise future long distance events we should introduce a system of handicaps for the different classes of machines.

Group 1: roller drives, mini-motors, Solexes, etc; group 2: rubber band drive; group 3: direct gear or chain drives; group 4: machines with gearboxes; group 5: small, red Italian motorcycles as ridden by Dave Casper.

I think a special award ought to go to the Super Solex and Big Percy, as the only Group 1 roller drives to make it from coast to coast!

I have noticed how the event is becoming more sophisticated, with the spare machines, back-up crews, support vehicles and mobile phone links between the riders and the crew.  The pit crews who overnight, rebuilt several of the engines while the riders enjoyed dinner particularly impressed me.

I enjoyed the event more as a collective group outing than as a solo run.  It was less of an epic but a more enjoyable weekend away.

It was interesting to note what a promiscuous lot, NACC members are.  It turns out that they all had many motor cycles in their sheds and are members of many other clubs.  It would be interesting to do a survey of what machines are in the shed and what other clubs members belong to.

So what about next year's run?  Is the coast to coast to become a tradition or should we look to vary the theme?  Perhaps, we should try a run between different coasts.  Perhaps a C to C across Cornwall, Devon and Dorset, for the Southerners; or C to C across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex; or the Thames estuary to the south coast.

Many thanks to the organisers for a super event, the highlight of the NACC calendar.  Whatever the route, put me down for next year.

First published - August 1999

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