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As Bernard cautioned in Octobers Buzzing, the forecast promised changeable. Which is what we gotin bucketfuls. And the Little Chef en route gave little comfort (no change there), as early sunshine turned into sub-tropical downpour. So what was the mood of the autocycle faithful gathered at The New Inn, Stratford Saye? Drenched, sombre and defeatist? Half a guessthe reverse, as wartime camaraderie and cyclemotor spirit just added to that feeling of adventure that precedes every run.
Friendly faces peered from the imaginary shelter of the car parks only tree, chirruping a re-assuring welcome. And whats this, a couple of cheery Tommies in an Andersen shelter? Andsurely not heregas capes? But no, a simple mistake, just an upturned hatchback providing some respite, and prudent covers over precious machineryno excuse for slipping drive belts.
And so were off, riders being Jim Pallett - New Hudson; Mike Crumpton - Tri-Cyclemaster; Derek Carter on JES, Lorraine Carter and Bernard Marlow on Cyclemasters; Tim and Margaret Bunting - both VéloSoleX; Alan Herbert - on James; John Lipscombe, Bob Goodwin, Tim Russell-Smith - all Mobylette; Tony Brown - cadmium powered (retired).
A twist of the throttle, finding the balance, and pure joy, a scenic meander around twenty miles of the most picturesque Roman countryside. Narrow lanes certainly, but straight not at allvery curious, history re-written? Autumn hedgerows lush with with mellow fruitfulness, and so mild that the rain only refreshes. Heres a puzzle: grown men fishing, in the road! An impromptu stop indicates the presence of a bridge, and the dismounted group concludes this may be a river. In this weather who knows, and the blackberries so good, who cares?
And so swishing on, judicious pedalling on modest inclines, to the keenly anticipated elevenses halt. Rounding a corner: a pleasing spectacle. There in a leafy glade our very own Henley Regattaonly more so; marquee, hot drinks, home made cakes and marvellous flapjacks (thank you Lorraine) hit the spot, and everywhere Derek and Lorraines attention to detail. Indeed some were so overcome, as partly dispensing with canvas seemed oblivious to the accumulated water torrenting down their necks. Tony Brown, more concerned with electrocution from his machinetoo modern?folded it cautiously into his car boot. And so, suitably refreshed and under brightening skies, most took the optional longer route back. Sign 3 miles to Odihamdrat, missed that recent run.
Special accolades to Margaret Bunting, her first ride in four years, and Mike Crumpton, demonstrating a truly heroic performance on the two-wheel-out-front TriCyclemaster. His deft ability in outwitting its tendency to twitchiness on the straights was equalled only by his fearsome technique in leaning into the bends for optimum momentumat all costs. So a popular choice, Mike won both the amusing trophies, namely, Designer Ears, cleverly crafted and inscribed by Colin: Friends, Romans Cyclemotorists...(geddit!) Mikes wins, for the second year running, were for longest distance travelled (from Worcestershire), also Landlords choice, overheard saying later, really didnt know what to expect, but I quite like themwhether machines or riders, remains unknown. And your scribe further enjoyed Mikes company autocycling afterwards towards Thatcham.
Thames Valley Section has good cause to be grateful to Derek and Lorraine, also Bernard, Colin, and everyone else involved, for their excellent groundwork and planning to make this years Silchester a saunter to remember. And yes, the skies did clear for lunch in the New Inn gardenbut it rained, so we paddled back inside.
First published - December 1999
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