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Mince Pie Run: Up with the Racers

by Mark Daniels

Are you mad?  What sort of nutter would want to do an Autocycle rally in December?  As it happens the weather turned out nice again and lots of nutters did!  A right raggle-taggle troop of rallyists congregated at the Orwell Yacht Club for an 11:20 off after traditional mince pies and warming coffee.  David Evans had done another sterling job of whipping up support at this unlikely time of year and was rewarded for his regional Christmas card mailshot by a very strong turnout from all across East Anglia, including 3 microcars: Bond, BMW Isetta Bubble Car, and a pre-war Raleigh Safety Seven, as well as our honourable Editor and Bill Ives on tricycles representing the Dagworth & District Gentlemen’s Cycling Society.

With the eligible 2-wheelers being dominated by European and Oriental offerings it was clearly going to be another pacing run for the few ‘old timers’ batting for the home team.  Out of the Yacht Club the steady climb up Bourne Hill instantly took the sting out of the keen start and showed the superior strengths of Wally’s pre-war James autocycle as he and ‘Lurch’ on an early leading-link Raleigh Supermatic cruised by on the climb.  From the A14 flyover the early leaders took off in a group and I was unable to make up any ground, until towards Tattingstone, my Sturmey Archer motor had finally crept up to its performing temperature (which usually takes five miles) and I could set about catching up the leading pack.  The gap closed steadily as we snaked through the village and I got the pace just about right to take advantage of the RM2’s tall gearing to pick up revs on the drop down to the reservoir and howl past a gaggle of assorted machines, only to find the front runners all stopping on the far side around the plug maladied NSU of Ray Gibb.  Leaving him clearly in control of the situation, the group took away from the water where Steve Cobb’s Quickly was obviously not up to his usual expectations as it spluttered uphill with what later turned out to be a carb full of water.  He did however manage to keep going, and was to stay much with the day’s pace by a slightly mad combination of clipping corners, scratching bends and judicious use of the brakes.

Having smartly taken advantage of a head start, we came upon Paul Stevenson from Norwich creating a mobile chicane on his superb BSA Cyclaid as he applied LPA on the narrow lanes towards Stutton.  I briefly held back with him for some light banter and we were swallowed up by the racing pack, so it was off and away again.  As we buzzed on by the Royal Hospital School, a group of throttle jockeys got the drop on me, having better anticipated the fall into Lower Holbrook.  I found myself suddenly engulfed by dive bombers Rolly Scarce and Mark Gibb on their PC50s having a ding-dong with the flying Puch City of Neil Green and his mates on their sports machines, so the Raleigh rocket motor was wound up and the chase was on!

To any bystanders the resultant banshee howl of our full tilt group descent on that long steep hill must have been frightening.  I know it scared the willies out of me as the fearsome revs and vibrations conjured images of the tormented Sturmey engine exploding all over the road.  I wondered how the PC50 mounted boys must have felt.  Is it a bird?  Is it a plane?  No-it’s a Honda valve!  Ugh!  Still, we all survived on to some prudent scratching through Harkstead due to the wet roads.  Towards Erwarton the fields seem to drain into the lanes and “puddles” doesn’t fairly describe the formation of the many deep muddy pools which the wary would avoid.  Unfortunately, in front of me, David Holmes on GPO Puch and Mark Gibbs’s PC50 became embroiled in a running splashing battle which resulted in flying tidal waves and billowing clouds of steam from contact with hot exhausts.  Steve Cobb wisely dropped back in the interest of saving cleaning while my Raleigh became splattered in the fallout from this contest and began to take on the guise of a piece of local agricultural machinery.  Rounding the corner onto the B1456, the traditional sprint back to Chelmondiston was delayed by some cars tucked in behind a couple of cyclists with the bunched pack now chomping at the bit.  The obstruction cleared and the advantage of higher torque on the more modern machines showed as they opened a gap.  To my surprise I was joined at this point by David Evans on his aromatic Quickly F running on McCulloch 2-stroke oil and rattling like one of their old chainsaws!  He’d set off last with the microcars and caught up despite the noise, which he attributed to ring damage incurred on the starting ascent of Bourne Hill.

David Freeman’s Supermatic got a real flyer on the home straight as ‘Lurch’ slid into his famous ‘racing slouch’, and headed the pack to the chequered flag where everyone pulled up in good spirits at the Pin Mill lunch stop.  The array of machinery in the car park attracted much sympathy from the other customers who later watched the bulk of the column depart in convoy.  I followed up with the rearguard for a steady run back to the Orwell with Rolly Scarce (PC50), Mick Cousins (Camino) and Richard Everitt (Mobylette).  From those that had not encountered it before, the RM2 received the usual amazed compliments on its now almost legendary turn of speed, while all who have ridden with it over the past year seemed pleased it simply continued to live up to its lively reputation.

We all had another great road ride and I did some good running with B Welham on his Kawasaki AR50, though it did show appreciably stronger torque and maybe smelt of big bore kit.  The MZ Simson of T Hooley, despite having lost second gear, showed an unexpected turn of speed for an eastern bloc machine, as did ‘Wally’ Wright’s ancient Sar Poteries prize winning James, which performance and 1/4" barrel raising plate suggested its previous owner had been a bit of a whizz inside.  If anyone tells you it’s not possible to ‘soup-up’ a deflector piston motor-don’t believe them! Keith Flood seemed to have finally given up breaking down on autocycles and thought he’d have a go at a similar feat on an NSU Quickly, however it miraculously survived to make it round the full course under its own power.  Meanwhile the temperamental New Hudson was inflicted on the optimistic A Hammond who actually succeeded in coaxing the recalcitrant beast to the finish. Brian Barley’s Quickly was back up to performance on this occasion after its last exhaust-clogged struggle at Wenhaston.  Maintaining a relentless pace was Peter Green’s Wisp and the Hondas of Carl Squirrel, Lawrence Coates, Mark Gibb and Rolly Scarce, which all made it back, unlike their larger BSA C11 4-stroke cousin that broke down again (as last year).  On this occasion it did however make it as far as the Butt & Oyster car park, where it refused to start, and got left for its sins as rider John Holmes cadged a lift home on the back of an NSU Quickly!

After such another strong showing you have to conclude that the Mince Pie Run has fast become one of the classic rides on the calendar and a great motivator to get out there and do more rallies in the next season.  East Anglian activities promise to be well backed again next season and there’s been serious talk from some parties of spreading group support further afield, so the Hanningfield Run promises to be an early beneficiary of this plan.

First published - February 2000

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