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The Dukeries Passing Out Parade

David Stevenson

29th October 2000

When I asked Uncle Phil if he minded delaying the Dukeries autumn run for a couple of weeks so that Robbie could join us if he passed his Compulsory Basic Training on his sixteenth birthday, Uncle Phil replied (a) that he'd no objection and (b) that since he seemed to remember Robbie riding round and round car parks for at least the last nine years he could see no earthly reason why he wouldn't pass his CBT, in which this was the main activity, first time. 

Robbie himself was not so sanguine but duly acquitted himself well earning from his instructor the high praise of being labelled "a sensible lad".  As the sensible lad's father it would be improper of me to make public my estimation of the instructor's judgement of character.  However, if "sensibleness" were the criterion upon which driving licences were issued there'd be an awful lot more pedestrians (and the NACC would be down to about 15% of its current membership).

Some measure of the sensibleness enjoyed by this household may be gauged from the fact that within 20 hours of receiving his CBT Robbie was riding the 159 miles to his aunt's at Norwich.  Having performed well on this ride, the 25 projected miles of the Passing Out Parade was going to be a doddle.  Unfortunately Robbie had to help marshal rather than participate directly because the insurance on one machine for a 16 year old is astronomical and the insurance on a second 'classic bike' practically doubles the astronomicalness.

The first plan to motorise the boy had centred on a couple of non-running yellow Puch VZ50s.  He certainly enjoyed the ride once we made one working example but it was clear that despite the respectable (for a moped) performance the prominent pedals were going to be a problem in this style conscious age.  The second plan was based on the acquisition of a more motor cycle - like Puch Grand Prix.  Parental doubts about the potential reliability and safety of both the go and stop of a 22 year old machine in the heavy local traffic eventually resulted in the purchase of a seven month old Peugeot X-Team Speedfight.  If you haven't had a chance to sample one of these modern mopeds then make sure you do so.  With water-cooling, automatic transmission, and double discs they are a revelation.  De-restricted they will reach 50 mph on the flat, accelerate sufficiently fast to keep up with urban traffic and stop on a sixpence or rather, I should say, a one penny piece.

To the run then: the weather in October was, as you will remember, diabolical and Uncle Phil, who had kindly offered to put up the signs on the Saturday, did so in floods and gales.  We were rather surprised to find twenty bikes signed on by the 11:00am start on the Sunday.  Derek Langdon had sent a note in from his mother to say he was unwell but Frank Breszki and Peter and John Rose had travelled all the way down the yellow brick road from Granadaland.  A number of well known Dukeryites were present but unmotorised.  Harold, whose normally faultless Quickly died during the summer, Frank Livesey, the Cranes, and the two Daves, Jackson and Hutton, were spectating.  The fact that John Hook, who rides his wonderfully prepared machines everywhere, arrived in a van was a measure of how bad the forecast was.  The four Harts, Neville, Ivan, Chris and Russell, were all (at least temporarily) motorised.  The Hog, however, with a rebuilt engine had not yet re-attained the serene plateau of reliability which it used to inhabit - put more simply, dear reader, it broke down.  An unkind commentator suggested that this might be because the latest chromed accessories outweighed those attached to the average Goldwing.  The four air-horns gave an audible warning that would not disgrace the QE2.  The rumour that there is a plan afoot to make a trailer generator to be towed behind Hog to power the ancillaries has been denied.  Frank Kilmore was another early victim of Uncle Phil's fiendish new starting route, which swooped down a couple of hills only to climb laboriously back up again.  Forced to return on his own failed machine, Frank kindly became breakdown van.

Uncle Phil himself was not able to be present, but the remaining Dukeries contingent, intended to provide a telephone back-up service, quickly disgraced themselves by turning the wrong way at one of the early signs and found themselves almost immediately back at the start.  They duly set out again and were the last home by quite a long way, proving themselves, once again, neither use nor ornament.

The Bown 50 lived up to its reputation for reliability by evincing an exciting new fault - viz an unwillingness to go into second gear.  This was the result of water in the gear cable.  Its last ride had been Jim Lee's event from Bosworth Battlefield, an event that surpassed by a considerable margin my own previous worst cyclemotor experience, the Dukeries Crich event of a few years ago.  Let me say straight away that there was nothing whatsoever wrong with Jim's planning but it rained solidly from the moment the Maths Adviser, son of Maths Adviser and I left the start until the time, two or so hours later, that we returned.  Each of the maps the three of us had been issued with dissolved in turn and we arrived back at the Battlefield café chilled to the bone to sip hot soup in our own personal puddles each with a pocket full of papier maché.  Cheese label collecting, here I come.

Back at the West End Hotel, the buffet was excellent with far more than twenty hungry cyclemotorists could eat.  By this point, the skies had darkened and it was raining intermittently so the fact that no silly games had been planned turned out to be a blessing.  Robbie told me that he had really enjoyed taking part in his first NACC event as a rider and I should like to thank all those, motorised or not, who took the trouble to turn out on what was not predicted to be a particularly sunny Sunday.

First published, December 2000

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