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Son of Coat to Coast (SoCtC) - Preparation

Frank Auton

The reports from Buzzing of a group travelling the width of Britain on tiny cyclemotors made me think "Why?"  The reports came back of a 2-day journey in torrential rain.  Everyone knows that water, 2-stroke fuel, friction rollers and brake blocks do not mix.  Again "Why?"

But the seed of an idea was sown.  Once there it just grows until you know that you have got to do it.  "Why" becomes "why not", "why not" becomes "must".  You are hooked and there is no turning back.

So I sent off the forms, booked the weekend in the diary and casually mentioned at home, a nice weekend in the Lake District.  The Solex joining us for the journey, and my wife and car as back-up crew could be dropped in equally casually later: "Oh, didn't I mention it?"

As preparation for the 100+ mile event, I brushed the dust of the Solex and set off down the hill on a trip to Tesco.  A 4-mile round trip and one big hill.

The Solex started reluctantly, ran uncertainly, stopped firing on the hill and coasted down the hill to the shop car park.  I abandoned the shopping and pedalled furiously around the car park trying to generate the vital spark.  Dead!  I tried all of the normal 2-stroke routines: petrol, spare plug, wiggle the wires, kick the tyres, sit and wait.  Still dead - Disaster No 1.  To the amusement of the people in the bus queue, I pedalled home.  Pedalling the Solex on the flat is bad enough, but up hill with no light engine assistance is hard work.  Next day the Solex was still dead.  I was tempted to get out the spanners and start exploring.  Fortunately, I lacked the time and knowledge, so I turned to Buzzing and looked for help.  I made contact with Dave Beare - Les Amis du VéloSoleX - who fortunately lives quite close and was willing to take in the Solex and "sort it out".

After a few weeks I collected the Solex, which had required a de-coke, new points, new HT lead, a new mysterious rubber part for the fuel pump and a bit of TLC.  I loaded it back on the bike rack of the car, well set up for the Coast to Coast.  Many thanks Dave for an excellent and very reasonable repair.

My hunger was my downfall.  Stopping for a pizza.  I should have gone straight home.  The back wheel of the Solex protrudes from the back of the car.  A van managed to clip the wheel, putting a 30-degree bend in the back of the Solex and mangling the wheel - Disaster No 2.

I rang Dave.  He had an old but serviceable spare rear wheel.  I dismantled the Solex and, thanks to its ingenious bolt-together construction, I was able to straighten all of the rear end and get it back in a straight line.  In the meanwhile, after a trip to Sars Poteries, Dave returned with a brand new Solex rim and spokes for a perfect replacement.

So without covering more than 2 miles I have already had some adventures on the Son of Coast to Coast.  I set off 'up North' on Friday and we will either have an uneventful run or more adventures.  Wait for episode 2.

It is now my wife who sits and wonders "Why?"  Can anyone explain it?

First published, August 1998

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SoCtC - on a VéloSoleX

Frank Auton

Leaving London for the Coast to Coast Run, I was able to get the VéloSoleX to cruise at a comfortable 80 mph, for the whole length of the M1.  It certainly helped being on the back of a BMW.

It is 8:00 on Saturday morning and it is pouring with rain as we enter the caravan park.  The sight of the Solex brings another aficionado running out in the rain, a bedraggled and wet David Stevenson.  Dave hands me the latest update of the route, apologises for the weather and wishes me well for the run.

At 8:15 the Solex pops into life, despite the rain, and I set off with the map installed and the rain clouds down to 20 feet.  As a torrent of water rains down this will be an opportunity to put my brand new waterproofs to the test.  There is not another living soul to be seen.  For most of the early part of the route, the only other vehicles are the huge colliery lorries thundering past, adding to the deluge with their spray.  The drivers are considerate enough to leave a few inches between their huge wheels and my handlebars.

The route instructions are fortunately crystal clear - this is no day for searching for the right way.  I am now winding through the colliery villages, through the marvellous twisting and turning lanes and onto the edges of the North York moors.  Then starting the long, but mercifully just within the Solex's capability, climb up onto the moors.

The rain seems to be determined to keep on with increasing strength as I gain altitude.  The raindrops are rebounding off the road, helped by an increasingly strong wind.  Every dip becomes a large pond to be ridden through with feet up and a prayer for the electrics.  So far, the waterproofs seem to be just what they say.  I need a cup of coffee and some breakfast, but it is too early for checkpoints or anywhere to be open and there is nothing and no one around.

Despite the weather the Solex is running perfectly, confirming the theory that the 2 stroke engine likes a cool damp atmosphere.  Well this is perfect 2-stroke weather!  As we climb up the moors the LPA becomes more frequently required and with the wet roads, the roller slip adds to the need for human intervention.

After 3 hours I arrive in the beautiful village of Middleton in Teesdale.  I decide the time has come where I absolutely have to have a cup of coffee.  Actually, the time arrived 2½ hours ago but there was nowhere open.  In true local custom, I accompanied my cup of coffee with a slap of rich fruitcake and a chunk of Wensleydale cheese.  I noticed that while in the cafe the rain stopped - only to start again as soon as I stepped outside again.  I note the mileage covered is 45 from the start, which is an average of 15 mph - the best I have ever seen on the Solex.

On the long drag up to Alston, the sun wins the weather contest and sets the scene for the rest of this journey and I take pictures to prove it.  After 60 miles the low petrol warning indicator comes on.  This is that the engine stops.  I quickly engage the auxiliary petrol tank which I installed on the rear carrier and am off again in minutes.  The steep hill climbing has reduced the mpg from 140 to 120 and I worry if my fuel calculations will get me the 140 miles, or will I pedal the last bit.

I make it finally to Alston with only a little bit of leg power.  The wet cobbled streets of Alston make handling a bit tricky and I hope I do not need to stop quickly.

I am now on the Alston to Penrith section.  As this is the halfway point, I assumed it would all be downhill from here on, whereas it is in fact the steepest uphill of them all.

I eventually arrive at Hartside and am just preparing to marvel at the best view of the Lake District from the highest point when the sky goes black, the hail comes down and I decide the time has come to join the wet and steaming cyclists and walkers for a bowl of soup and a big mug of tea.

Due to leaving early I have seen no other NACC members or autocycles and in fact the roads are so quiet I have hardly seen anybody.  It must be the impact of the World Cup football.

When the hail stops, I take a photograph of the Solex parked next to a dozen superbikes out on a high-speed burn up of the Lake District.  I ride off quickly to avoid any wise remarks when they return.

The sun comes back and I enjoy the long steep descent almost all of the way to the coast through the prettiest and unspoilt Northern lakes until eventually I see the sea and arrive at Whitehaven.  My journey ends with tea and a bun in the Tesco cafeteria after a 'phone call to Heather to come and get me.  It has taken 10½ hours to make the journey of 140 miles.  I made it with only a drop of petrol left and the Solex has never run better with more speed and power than ever before, thanks to the attention to the engine by Dave Beare before I left.  The route was fantastic from the beginnings where the colliery villages gave way to the North York Moors, to the gradual transition to the Lake District with the splendid dark green fells, ridged undulating valleys and splendid dark watered lakes.  This has to be one of Britain's most beautiful long distance journeys.

A clear and easy to follow route with not one navigating error is a tribute to the care and double-checking of the two Davids who organised the route.  This proved to be one of the best fun 2-wheel run outs of the year.  If you decide to do it again you can definitely put my name down as it cannot rain three times in a row.  How about doing it in reverse next time?

The 4 women riders in SoCtC
There were four women rides on SoCtC:
Liz Butler, Sheila Brown, Lorraine Carter
and Barbara Smith (aka the Maths Adviser).

First published, August 1998

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SoCtC - Aftermath

This article by Rex Hake appeared in Buzzing in August 1998 and was held in The Moped Archive until October 2009, when it was removed at Colin King's request.  'Rex Hake' was a pseudonym used by Colin.  Colin asked for his verse to be removed because he disapproved of the actions of the brother of one of my friends.

Andrew Pattle

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