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Back in May, on Sunday 30th of that month to be precise, an elect band of mopedistes gathered beneath a lowering grey sky for the start of the first (?) Southeast 50 mile (well ... 47½ actually) road run.
The route was to be around a well-signed cycle network that utilised little-frequented public roads, linking the towns of Folkestone, Dover and the city of Canterbury by way of some tranquil scenery and picturesque villages. Nothing could be simpler, you patient scribe believed. Yes, it was a fair way, but over 30 years of powered two0wheeling indicated to me that, with time, anything could handle this route. After, it was created for cyclists...
O, it started all right.
We all set off like ducklings in a line, heading for Dover but sharing the lanes with hordes of walkers on a charity event heading in the same direction!
We even managed to circumnavigate Dover's 'Mad Max' one-way system unscathed. The climb (1 in 4?) up to Dover Castle taxed transmissions, Knees and other rubbery bits, but even the single-speed machines made it to the summit, where we gathered in degrees of breathless contemplation of the view westward across the town and famous harbour.
The small group set off in the general direction of Canterbury, some 15 miles distant, and everything seemed to be going well. However, the newest machine in the group - a 2-month old 'Typhoon' scooter ridden by 17-year-old Andrea Roberts on her first ever outing with enthusiasts - sustained a nasty puncture in the rear tyre. Fortunately, pumping in some 'slime' tyre sealant, fortuitously carried by Ian Williams, repaired it.
So, we set off once more, through a wonderfully variegated countryside until we reached the lovely village of Bekesbourne, which lay a mile or so from our planned lunchtime halt. Forming up at the roadside outside a beautiful quaint cottage, we noted ominously that some of our number were absent. Thoughts turned to who had suffered breakdown this time. And so it proved. Ian Gill's Cyclemaster had spectacularly locked up the back wheel, one of the driving sprockets apparently having sheared. Ian Williams again came to the rescue, transporting the other Ian back to our base on his AJS 350 to collect a car and trailer for the recovery of the stricken cyclemotor.
We took our lunch break in sombre mood, only to learn that the weather had broken and it was raining. Abandoning the rural route back, and mindful that there were two youngsters of 12 riding as pillion on two of the bikes, we set off in convoy along the Elham Valley.
To start with, it wasn't too bad, but then the heavens opened. No, that doesn't convey the amount of rain that descended. It was as though a lake were being drained out of the sky. We trundled along through water lying four inches or more in the gutters, passing members of a tandem club travelling in the opposite direction. They were clad in T-shirts and shorts!
After what seemed an eternity, we reached the farm, our starting point, to discover that William Gill was missing! Whilst the rest were fed hot tea, Ian Gill and I sallied forth by car, but couldn't find his brother anywhere.
Returning from our third sortie, we found William back at the farm at last, his Cyclemaster having dismantled itself during one of the climbs out of the Elham valley!
The rain pelted down for the remainder of the afternoon, so there was no BBQ as planned. Instead, we all huddled round the wood-burning stove in the farmhouse parlour, desperately trying to dry out from the effects of the deluge. So, the first Moped Marathon was literally a washout, although we must have covered 40 miles or more during the run.
Those who took part, and the machines that they rode, were as follows:
|Ian and William Gill||Cyclemasters|
|Peter Hollands||Puch M50 3-speed|
|Colin Packman||BSA sports moped|
|Luke Booth||Honda PC50K1|
|Andrea Roberts||Piaggio Typhoon X|
|Phil Roberts||Honda 250 Spacey|
|Ian Williams||AJS 350|
and myself on the trusty Typhoon scooter. Pillion passengers were my son Jonathan and his friend Alex Austin, who enjoyed the luxury of the big Honda!
I must admit that this experience put me very close to giving up on organising these events, But at one of Ian and Susan Williams's convivial gatherings, both Ian and Colin Packman expressed a wish to complete the run impromptu one Sunday in the future, an eventuality that we have yet to organise.
Quite seriously, I reiterate an open invitation to anyone who may wish to visit this corner for a guided ride out with yours truly to simply 'phone me on 01303 893286. There is ample space for camping or caravaning should anyone wish to make a weekend of it. I look forward to hearing from you.
To finish this rather dismal report, my own small collection of 50cc machines has been expanded by a Tomos moped and another in pieces from my old friend Ron Tuck, who has had to curtail powered two-wheeling due to failing eyesight. So, the basic ingredients for the 'Nifty Fifty cc Riders Club' continue to accrue here in rural Kent. I hope that in the next issue, I may be able to write a little generally about 50cc machines and their undoubted appeal and enjoyment,
Good luck to you all out there, and safe (dry!) riding.
First published - August 1999
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