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Coast to Coast III

Frank Auton

After the loss of great riding events due to the tragic foot & mouth disease it was a delight to see the famous C2C resurrected.  Thanks to the great coastal stalwarts David Casper and Dave Stephenson.  I decided to do a repeat of the in-one-day-epic-run, not because of the challenge but it meant I was able to convince Heather that this was really a weekend together in the Lake District and not another blokey biker weekend where I was not seen from Friday to Monday.

In fact it worked well, Friday night in Saltburn, found us a great B&B, the best real fish & chip supper, that us city folk only dream about, and the sight of Endeavour recently moored in Whitby after returning from Australia.  It was only the plastic inflatable kangaroo hoisted aloft in the rigging, which really gave away the fact that this was a replica and not the original vessel.

Saturday started well with a nice reception committee to see me off (Those above plus Andrew Pattle).  A bit of a shock though, I could see the join between the sea and the sky and there was no rain.  The wind was blowing a gale - more of this later.  I was confidently informed that it was raining in the Pennines and the dark clouds in the direction I was heading seemed to confirm this.

I set off and the route was familiarly correct. My average speed was 16.5mph according to the new bike computer speedo - not Solex original equipment. The only other preparation was to look at the spark plug - tried to explain to Heather about the perfect digestive biscuit colour of the electrode, but bought a spare plug anyway, and to paint a green plastic petrol can black to match the Solex livery.

The Solex ran as it always does, likes a slight uphill gradient, four strokes like mad when on the flat over 18.5mph and goes fastest downhill with the engine lifted off the front wheel.  Slow and comfy as ever, the fields and miles rolled by.  Stopping only for coffee from the Thermos, home made sandwiches and pictures of the journey - would be happy to supply for the Daily Telegraph; the trip was going well.  Within an hour I was definitely back in the groove, the clouds got darker and it started to rain enough to put on the plastic rainwear.  It was not until Cockermouth that the torrential monsoon began with rain bouncing off the road - but I do not stop for rain.  Not when the 6:30pm deadline is approaching.  Any later and I do not get a lift to the Lakeland hotel where dinner awaits.

Frank and his Solex
Pause for a photo before the rain sets in

Actually, the rain was not the problem - it always rains on the C2C - it was the wind.  Although the Solex is slow it has torque!  That means that the C2C rarely requires LPA even climbing the highest parts of the route.  With a gale force wind directly ahead of you I found I had to pedal more than I have ever had to do on the Solex.  I was convinced it was actually going wrong, confirmed by an ominous metallic clonking noise from the front.  I was not going to stop and look in case it didn't start again.  In Alston I had a coffee and saw the problem.  Like the famous Comet aircraft of the same age the Solex was suffering from metal fatigue and the front mudguard strut had sheared off.  No matter, that is what Duct tape is for - matching black of course - silver looks so vulgar.  Later in the afternoon the same fate befell the real mudguard strut - more to do with lugging a gallon of 4-star than fatigue.

I love the camaraderie of motorcyclists.  I got friendly waves from the vast numbers of superbikers who powered their way along the sweeping moorland roads; it was as though they knew my other bike was a VFR.

My arrival in a downpour to the Tesco car park in Whitehaven was so familiar it made a perfect end of the trip.  I had tried to phone in my successful arrival but mobile phones cannot cope with the terrain of the lakes and Pennines.  Actually, David - reception is much better if you turn the thing on occasionally.  It was a great day out and again I missed seeing any other mopeds, cyclemotors and especially the Daily Telegraph motoring correspondent riding pillion on a cyclemotor assisted tandem.

Next time - I want to do it on a different bike - anyone got a good condition Vincent Firefly for sale?  PS - I love the way my spellchecker keeps trying to change Solex to Rolex!

First published, August 2002

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