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The Madness of Coast to Coast III

David Stevenson

26th & 27th June

Well, that's it.  The Blue Smoke has cleared, the rubber particles have settled, the waterproofs are drying in the airing cupboard and buttocks are beginning to get some sense of feeling back.  As we gathered on the cliffs at Blackhall Rocks, it didn't feel like the Coast to Coast at all.  The sea reflected a clear blue sky and although there was quite a wind blowing the air temperature was pleasantly warm.  Participants stood in hushed groups glancing nervously over their shoulders.  What was that big bright yellow thing in the southern sky?  Finally, the editor suggested that we ought to call it off on account of the weather.  David Romaine and I were looking particularly vacant since our tents had shared a small corner of the vast campsite with the Crimdon Dene and Blackhall Rocks Junior Light Operatic Society (All Night Drama Section) whose rendition of "Shut the Coalhouse Door (Or I'll Bottle You, You Bastard)" kept us awake to the early hours.

Sunday, however, restored everyone's confidence for we awoke to puddles and dampness.  The late morning was decidedly wet with swirling low cloud and heavy rain.  Those idiots who had been complaining on Saturday that it "wasn't really any sort of test in weather like this", were presumably satisfied.

A number of reasons, sadly most commonly the illness of close relatives, prevented quite a few of the expected 24 riders joining us.  Seventeen bike/rider combinations took part, although the tribe that sat down to dinner on the Saturday night numbered 31.  As sweeper up, I missed much of the action, particularly on the Sunday, for reasons, which will become obvious.  My results table may therefore be inaccurate and I would be happy to be corrected.  As in previous years, I leave accounts of the experience to those who actually rode it.

The Results:

Pete Stanners:
Mobylette AV 40/50 something (?) - Pete had bought his machine off a tip for £10 and put in a new spark plug...  As I followed it as it rattled, roared and banged its way through the prime minister's Sedgefield constituency, while its complete exhaust system cooled in the back of my car, certain phrases about machine preparation echoed through my mind (ironically as you shall see, dear reader).  After 16 miles, both Pete and the Mobylette called it a day and Pete took a turn later driving Ray's van so that the whole Ipswich crew could have a ride.  Steve Cobb (and friends?) fettled the Mobylette when they reached Alston and Pete, I believe, successfully completed the second day's riding.  (Total 87 miles)
John Bailey:
John's very nice-looking Francis Barnett Powerbike was to be seen being "adjusted" at several points on the ride, but he successfully completed the full distance.  (144 miles)
Bob Terry:
Bob was riding one of John Hook's customised machines, a Mobylette.  As far as I know he had no problems and sailed across.  (144 miles)
Liz Butler:
Liz came with the same winning Liz-plus-Honda PC50 combination as last year and completed without a problem (144 miles)
Frank Brzeski:
The clutch, which is a subtle instrument allowing varying degrees of engagement, and Frank, who isn't, don't mix.  Having "lost" the clutch on his BSA Winged Wheel in an exact replay of last year's ride on his Buzz Special, he returned to "Big Percy" (I'm sorry madam, but that really is what it says here) his sprinting Mini Motor and successfully completed.  (54 + 90 miles)
Carl Squirrell:
Carl was, I think, Honda PC50 mounted and I know he rode the section Staindrop to Alston (36 miles).  They were taking turns in driving the van so I'm not sure what he did on Sunday.
Dave Casper:
I'm very happy to report that Dave and the Benelli sped over the distance without a difficulty.  Dave reported that the going was a lot easier than the stopping but appeared to still be in one piece when we (eventually) arrived at Whitehaven.  (144 miles) 
Brian Barley:
Brian was on this year's most popular machine, the two-speed NSU Quickly, which experience of the last two coast to coasts has taught the "flatties" of East Anglia, to whom two pimples and a wart are a mountain range, is the machine for the hills.  Everybody remarked how well these machines coped with the run.  (144 miles)
Paul Raybould:
Paul wanted to expunge the memory of the one unsuccessful section which last year robbed him and his BSA Winged Wheel of the satisfaction of going the full distance.  The bike went really well and gave away nothing to the more powerful machines that accompanied it.  (144 miles)
Steve Cobb:
Another veteran rider, Steve had also opted for a very nicely turned out Quickly.  This is really cheating and a handicap system involving the need to transport a medium sized donkey across the country on every NSU Quickly that enters is being developed for future events.  (144 miles)
Dave Evans:
I cannot tell you what Dave said about Steve and the donkey...  Dave was also Quickly mounted - perhaps I should rephrase that.  (144 miles)
Ray Gibb:
NSU Quickly - need I say more?  (144 miles)
Bill Doy:
Bill was not following the fashion and was riding a Norman.  This also refused to break down and will in future be subject to the same rule as the Quicklies.  (144 miles)
Barbara Smith:
Good Lord protect us.  Last year the verminous Bown 50 made it to Alston and then died...  This year it did exactly the same.  Sensing, how can I put this delicately, that there might be tensions if Barbara failed to complete yet again, I set to.  Last year the electrics failed.  They were replaced with an equally ancient but apparently sound set.  Knowing that this might be a weak spot, I had a coil rewound.  This, however, turned out not to fit correctly.  My life was saved by a coil generously donated by Dave Evans and the socket set of Andrew Roddham, who with Pippa waited for us to complete the exchange.  The midges were unbelievable and by the time we set off again there was only half of me left.  By dint of steady riding Barbara eventually rejoined the tail end of the ride and successfully arrived as the last completer.  (144 miles)
Steve Smith/Sheila Brown:
were sharing the evil bronze Mobylette Luxamatic.  Steve ran well on Saturday and Sheila took over for the second leg, passengered by Robbie.  However, after 50 miles the smelly old crate expired.  So, when the repaired Maths Adviser caught up with the tail end of the ride, it was the broken down wreck of the other bike for which I was spannering.  Oh joy!  Oh happiness!  We got the bike started again, but without any power and so, it went onto the trailer.  Subsequent investigations have revealed that the cage of the needle roller little end fell to bits and that the metal exited via the bore, head and piston crown, wrecking the engine.  Cheese label collecting, here I come.  (74 + 50 miles)
David Romaine:
was on his ex-Lincolnshire Police Raleigh moped.  This ran extremely well and arrived at Alston with the main field.  The next morning Dave left early to make his way back to the Crimdon Dene campsite to collect his car.  He informs me that he was there before midday, having appreciated that it was downhill on the way back.
Frank Auton:
The hero of last year's event, when he managed the whole 140 miles in poor weather in a day on his VéloSoleX, Frank returned this year to experience the social side.  His bike is really wonderful.  Not only did it once again perform the feat without fuss or bother but it also looks so good, with that unrestored patina of age, faded gold lining and the dull sheen of elbow grease on its paintwork.  You would never guess it from looking at him, but Frank is as mad as anyone else in the NACC.  At home, he has a VFR750 Honda.  Now for one of those you need a real ride so the weekend after the Coast to Coast he had put himself down for the Gold Challenge in the ACU National Rally which requires a journey of 500 miles in 24 hours - then the ride back from Doncaster to Amersham (+130 miles?).  He did the same last year.

Dave and I would like to thank all those who helped once again, particularly the accompanying drivers.  Frank's driver, John, Steven Warner and Jane marshalled most effectively on the Saturday.  When the weather is fine and hardly anybody breaks down there is very little to amuse the backup crew.  Dave is already being dropped none too subtle hints about next year.  While I'm not absolutely against the idea I think most people who want to have a go at the Coast to Coast have done so now.  Can I suggest that what we need to do is to keep the formula - a two day ride with a definite and achievable objective in some dramatic scenery and a social gathering on the evening - and take it somewhere else.  I noticed a Welsh ride, the Cambrian Challenge, suggested to the coast and back over two days.  Would someone out there like to make a joint effort for 2000AD?

What about you, sir?

Yes, you.

The one with "666" in red studs on the black leather jacket slowly shaking his head.

You wouldn't bother if you were me?

Perhaps you've heard a long range forecast and would share it with us?

Well that's all very fine and dandy but what you're forgetting is, that we've already been on Hartside Top when it's alternately raining frogs and boils.

First published - August 1999

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