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by Mark Daniels

Deep in the depths of rural East Anglia, between Framlingham and Diss, is a country lane that leads ... somewhere else; though it’s not signposted and it’s not on the map!  It seems as if it can only be found unintentionally under the most ideal conditions by riding rare, bygone pedal assisted machines in the spirit for which they were made.

After the long, dark, endless winter, Steve Cobb, David Evans and myself were getting dead keen to do a rally, but in early March these tend to be a bit thin on the ground, so we just thought to get together for a little run on a nice day.  It was decided to meet at a mid-point somewhere between our towns and ride the lanes for a while with no particular destination in mind.  In keeping with rally tradition it was a fine spring Sunday, but to make a change from our usual “Suffolk racers”, where most of our rides end up as a mad dash from point to point, we thought we’d take out our slow “golden oldies”.

So it was that the intrepid trio left home simultaneously, riding towards each other in opposite directions, to meet up along a predetermined road, south of the Norfolk border.  Vehicles chosen being David’s Phillips Panda Mk2, Steve’s Leopard Bobby Mk3 (3 listed remain), and my Hercules Corvette (only 4 known survivors).

On a temperate and very English day blessed by the spring sun we wandered aimlessly through lanes bursting with the fresh growth of a new year, down tracks bordered by the yellow faces of daffodils which nodded as we ambled by.  The endless haze of bluebells stretched away into deep woods and forgotten country villages melted into the mists of time.

The induction drone from the Phillips Rex blending with the low burble of the Hercules Lavalette but contrasting the lively crack of the Leopard Sachs produced strange varied resonances between the machines as the speeds changed to loads on inclines, straights, sweeping bends and our respective positions to each other.

Then coming out of a curve, to our great surprise, an immaculate New Hudson Autocycle in splendid green and gold livery came from the opposite direction.  Its tall rider dressed in traditional greatcoat, leather helmet and goggles waved as we passed, and he disappeared back around the bend.

A couple of miles further on we came upon a pair of cottages where a pea green 2 speed NSU Quickly leaned against the front wall and next door the neighbour tinkered with a Cyclemaster in his drive outside a crumbling old shed festooned with ivy.  Beyond this the lane opened up into a nameless hamlet as an elderly gentleman wearing a deerstalker hat pedalled a black Moby AV3 away from the village store.  We pulled up at the shop for a break, parking the bikes by the kerb, bought ice cream cones and sat on the wall outside.  On the forecourt of a garage opposite with old style petrol pumps, three kids played with wooden toys as an old couple popped slowly by on a Raleigh Runabout and Francis-Barnett Powerbike.  Finishing off our ices and donning our helmets again, we were amazed to witness a young lad whizzing down the street on a Dunkley Whippet pursued by two others on bicycles and pedalling furiously!

As we remounted our machines to pull away, the sun went in, and as a cool chill descended over the late afternoon we knew it was time to head home.  Leaving the scene behind, we realised that strangely no one had even seemed to notice us, and were almost unaware of a rider on a brilliant flame red Norman Nippy who cruised beside us for a short while before giving a nod of acknowledgement as he swung away up a little lane to the right.  A few miles further on we saw what suddenly dawned on us as the first car we had seen all afternoon, and we knew at once we were back!

Of course, we had been to Mopedland-but who would ever believe us?

First published - June 2000

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