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The Henlow Camp Run

Hugh Gallagher

When my son was about 5 years old I put a Cucciolo engine onto a Triumph boy's bike, locked it into first gear which was plenty fast enough, brazed a lawnmower petrol tap into a thinners tin and then brazed the tin onto the top frame tube as a fuel tank, removed the pedals and cranks and brazed a tube across under the bottom bracket as a footrest.  It gave our children, their friends and most of my neighbours lots of fun for many years.

When our first grandchild, a girl, was born in September 1999, I thought it would be a good idea to do something similar for her, and just before Christmas that year I saw an ad for a BSA 3 which I thought may be suitable.  It is 'stable' with its three wheels, and the saddle is very low.  With a little attention I got the 3 running although it had not been used since 1980, and my granddaughter was driven for several laps round the back garden by her parents, but it could be some time before she is able to ride it herself!

Well, Jim Pallett had organised a new Cyclemotor run of 33 miles starting near Henlow Camp in Bedfordshire and which I wanted to support, so I thought that as I do not have a trailer it would be a good idea to ride there, do the run and then ride home again on the 3, a round trip of about 90 miles.  It is funny as you get older you brain still tells you that you are as athletic and nimble as you ever were, but afterwards the body tells you that you were not!

Anyway, I should have taken more care over the preparation of my vehicle before I left home.  It started off running well, but within a few miles it had died.  I did the usual thing of cleaning the plug and then the main jet and it ran for about 400 yards before dying again so I gave it the same treatment again and it ran a bit further, then again and it went for several miles which encouraged me.  All in all, it stopped seven times, but towards the end a formula one grand prix team would have been proud of the speed that I managed to carry out each service.

The engine of the 3 is between the back wheels covered by a hinged cover.  To gain access you have to remove the push in petrol filler cap and turn two plastic bayonet clips.  On one occasion I must have failed to push the filler cap back firmly enough and when I got to the end of the run I discovered that it was missing and also the fact that I was almost out of petrol as most of it had bounced out of the tank.  Peter Lawson kindly donated a pint of two stroke ready mix which he put in my tank, while I worked out how to identify and return to the last place where I had seen my filler cap.  Well the calculations worked and within about 100 feet of where I had last stopped to do some fettling there was the filler cap lying in the middle of the road. I hate loosing things because of the hassle of trying to replace them or, worse still, finding that they are just not available at all.

On the way home after the run the 3 went like the wind, well relatively speaking, until I got about 400 yards from home and then it stopped again, but this time it was out of fuel.  It is so embarrassing having to push or pedal when I am so near to home as you can be guaranteed to meet more neighbours than at any other time and I am sure they all think that it is time that I grew up!

That evening I removed the petrol tank to find that there was a lot of loose rust, which I should have cleaned out before the run, still, it is done now as well as fitting a new plug.

What I did find out about the 3 is that it has a very good, lively engine but handles like a dog! The rear engine and drive and two wheels are unsprung and when it hits a bump it gets airborne, and at the speed we ride at and our position on the road that means that we are prone to hitting most of the bumps.

Anyway it was a good day out, thanks to Jim and Barbara.

First published, June 2001

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