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Best of Three

by Mark Daniels


Wetheringsett was a new 'instant rally' whisked up to replace the cancellation of Wattisfield Festival due to the earlier government-sponsored pit barbecue fiasco.  The open country roads of the Anglian heartland and a windy day were to play much to the favour of the predominantly 'Suffolk Racers' group who were all geared-up for a good gallop, while 'Lampwicke' Pattle contrastingly turned up on the oddity of the meeting with the legendary Lohmann bicycle.  This barely powered and inexplicable peculiarity claims to be propelled by an 18cc compression ignition engine, loosely categorised as a diesel, though seems to run better on some bizarre brand of kerosene-based French lamp oil.  It's difficult to fathom the reason for any manufacturer's desire to create such a mysteriously feeble contraption having no electrical generation capabilities whatever, and questionable ability to even propel itself along on its own merit.  After the irreverent had finished playing 'Where's the engine?' everyone waited patiently with nervous anticipation for the mighty atom to dramatically burst into life as Andrew pedalled it round and round the camping field, trailing a white plume of unburnt gas mixture while twiddling strange alien controls.  Starting of the motor was finally indicated by disappearance of the vapour trail, though pedalling still appeared necessary to maintain forward momentum.  Setting off along the road, I chatted briefly beside Andrew as he assisted the pathetic machine toward maximum velocity - while my RM2 struggled to even maintain such a low speed as the motor snatched against the gearing.  This managed to hold the interest of the following pack for nearly a whole 200 yards, before the novelty wore off as it was realised nothing else was going to happen and they streamed past, so I waved goodbye and left Andrew to his fate of self-inflicted slow torture.

The pace was raised as the main group hurtled off in pursuit of its primary mission, an unofficial stop off the scheduled route at Worlingworth Crown!  Meanwhile Tony Hammond (Ariel Red Hunter) & Michael Flood (New Hudson) gallantly held back to rescue son Andrew's Raleigh Runabout Pop, which faded into inactivity and was narrowly saved from a destination deep in the hedgerow.  On the return leg, one moment of mayhem was created by David Evans (NSU), while leading the group, in his mis-selection of a jacket with open pockets.  This allowed the escape of a new packet of Embassy, which caused a scattering of the pursuing pack in their efforts to avoid it.  All that is apart from Neil Green who aimed his Puch City straight for the target and scored a direct hit, leaving David straightening out sad crumpled sticks for the rest of the day.  Last men back were Ray Gibb (NSU) and Roly Scarce (Honda PC50) who missed a key marker and drifted off on a countryside survey that added some 20 miles to the prescribed route.

Wetheringsett proved a good country gallop set from a pleasant camping field base; there certainly seemed enough interest to suggest it may well be re-staged next year. 


Two weeks later and it was on to one of my calendar favourites: Steve Cobb's Roydon Rebels Run, and to celebrate the occasion... the long awaited debut of the mysterious Mercury Mercette.  Only four of these unique machines are presently known to survive, and must surely rank among the NACC's most eccentric oddities.  The interest afforded by its appearance at the event being graciously received as much reward following the horrendous year-long engineering reconstruction required to recover this hopelessly lost cause.  With earlier secret test rides having failed to exceed a reliability range of 5 miles, a space on the back-up vehicle was booked for around this distance in anticipation of the seemingly inevitable.  No one was more surprised than I was when it not only completed the course, but acquitted itself with quite a promising performance!  Autocycle mounts made a strong showing at this event, including Keith Flood's Norman and a Raynal being ridden by Tony Hammond, Michael Flood's "Gentleman's" New Hudson (suit you sir!) and Richard Wightman on a step-through "Lady's" model (er - suit you sir?).  Representation of members from sections further afield included Leicester riders John Hook (Moby special) & Mick Adams (Raleigh Runabout) who took their time around the course to enjoy the scenic diversity of this excellent route, while Paul Efreme (NSU) up from Billericay in Essex, dogged my tracks around the circuit despite the audio battering dished out by the raucous Mercette.

Inexplicably having decided to give the 'escaping objects jacket' a second chance, David Evans (NSU) unknowingly succeeded in losing his mobile phone on this occasion.  It was picked up by Steve Cobb (NSU).  On discovering its loss at the half distance Gislingham Six Bells, Steve made a meal of the moment saying he "saw it fall out but didn't bother picking it up since it was smashed to pieces".  The fish took the bait and was mercilessly played until the ruse was finally revealed.  Revenge at last for the famous 'flat tyre' incident at Leiston Long Shop in the October 2000 edition, and all even at last - or is it?  Joining us at Gislingham was Andrew Pattle, having travelled from Stowmarket on the Lohmann with Carl Harper of the Dagworth & District Gentlemen's Cycling Society riding a cumbersome Elswick Hopper trade bike.  Carl was actually heard to comment how the Lohmann slowed him down and that he nearly ran up the back of it a couple of times!

On the return leg from the Six Bells, DE answering the stirring call of nature (and Adnams bitter), stopped at the roadside beside a suitable hedgerow.  A few steps across the verge however resulted in the unexpected discovery of a deep overgrown ditch - and little David completely disappeared!  Fortunately, SC was at hand to hear the muffled cries for help and haul him out.  Back at Roydon village hall it was revealed that Keith Flood's Norman autocycle had prised brother Michael's hold on the annual trophy for Best Machine; still, it keeps it in the family.  Meanwhile, Peter Green's Wisp was 'tried out for size' by SC, while his young son indiscreetly remarked "Dad, the tyres are flat with you sitting on it"!  We took it the machine was unlikely to be changing hands, and that Ricky was going to bed early that evening!  Due to an administrative cock-up, the trophy became engraved as the 3rd R/R/R - the same as last year!  So officially, this was the second 3rd Roydon Rebels Run.  Steve is now being signed up for evening classes in Basic Counting!


The 1st Autumn Jaunt round Constable's Dedham Vale proved a fine October day, and lured out group support from the three main active Essex rallyists of Keith Rutledge (Trojan trade bike), Paul Efreme (Norman Nippy), and P Smith (New Hudson).  NACC activities have been strangely lacking in this county in recent years, but we hope that the situation may start to pick up in the coming year with support from the rest of the Anglian section.  It isn't very often I'm struck to make much comment on oriental machinery, but Carl Squirrel turned out a superb (and rarely seen these days) PC50 powered Honda Novio in red & white.  Leaving the Bourne Vale Social Club, the first obstacle looming ominously before us was the long ascent up the daunting Freston Hill.  Quite a struggle for any normal NACC machine, but not for the supertuned red Raleigh Wasp which blasted past everything up the climb.  PE thought his 3-speed Sachs Nippy Special should also have been up to a similar feat, so took up in pursuit. The hill however wasn't climbed at the same rate as the engine temperature, and with smoke pouring from every orifice, Paul and the Norman became the first casualty with a heat seizure on the crest.  Fortunately it was freed up by backing in gear and was able to continue, though somewhat more cautiously, from thereon.  The main group had gone ahead from the seizure incident and this called for a catching up effort, which was just what the Wasp was built for.  Towards Holbrook, as the gap to Peter Green's Wisp rapidly closed, it finally came to showdown time for two local Titans.  The Wasp's reputation had preceded it and the result was never really in doubt as the engineering differences were conclusively proven - though, a couple of miles further on, so was the cost of this performance as the first spark plug collapsed with shattered porcelain.  A second plug was similarly consumed on the same leg, so the Wasp actually arrived at the Beehive Inn among the tail end stragglers, so much for tuning!  Everyone was 'very understanding' when Peter Green managed to 'get lost' on his own run and actually had to ask directions in East Bergholt to find the Pub!  Following refreshments and the landlord's choice of KR's Dad's Army Trojan motorised novelty as most interesting machine, the local press sprung a surprise photo shoot arranged by the publican.  A picture article appeared in the Evening Gazette the following day.  The return leg was another spirited ride, and once again the Wasp was in its element - until plug number three was demolished at Blacksmith's Corner after a hard thrash up the Copdock carriageway with David Evans (Puch3), Neil Bowen (BSA B31), Wally Wright (Yamaha) and David "Lurch" Freeman's Velocette LE.  As the main group was waved by, I must confess that one of Aesop's famous animal fables sprang readily to mind.  The delay on this occasion however played to some advantage, as the main group was dutifully led along the prescribed "suicidal mudhole" route through Wherstead village - it was plain to tell from the few clean machines, who had been fortunate enough to avoid this deadly element.

First published, December 2001

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