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Photo of the writer and his machine at Wharfdale
The writer and his machine check out from Wharfdale


49cc in the Rossendale


"The rallyist" the man with the curly blond beard announced to all and sundry, "must be a fox and a lion; a lion to go like the clappers, and -"  "What's he going on about?" Lou Bellamy whispered to me.

"A quotation adapted from Machiavelli", I replied, "a very ruthless and cunning politician of the Italian Renaissance.  I suppose it might be appropriate before the day's out".

We were together on the starting grid of the seventh Rossendale Enduro Rally.  There was the excitement, confusion, noise and all the intangible fun of a rally start.

I have been riding in things like this for years, but today I was apprehensive like never before.  This year the Enduro was in the hands of Gerald Sheridan, a brilliant trials and rally rider turned organiser; it was an open secret that this event would be one of the longest and toughest in the calendar - and my Phillips Gadabout was the smallest machine entered!

Tense, I waited on the grid, my eyes following the second hand of my sealed clock as it crawled towards what the organisers call the Precise Starting Time.  "Now'" called out the starter.

A good swing on the pedals, and the engine burst into life.  Glancing for passing traffic.  I turned right on to the main road and began the long climh up through Haslingden.

Just out of Haslingden town I went slap-bang on to the first bit of roughery - do you know what that means in the North of England?  The Pennines are for tbe most part made up of wild moorland cut by steep sided valleys.  The surface of the road (so called) that I came to was not bad altogether but steep, really steep.  From second the bike dropped to first, then the power tailed off as we bit the real gradient.  I pedalled madly, but so low was the gearing that the engine was at its last gasp before I could give it any real assistance.  Slowly, too slowly, we crested the top of the hill.

It was more level going now, but rougher.  I bounced and jolted over the stones and potholes and swerved across the ruts, on the watch all the time for the sudden boulder which might put me out of the event for good.

Then on the far side of the hill we passed a farm and I knew that the track surface must improve.  So it did, but only to plunge downwards in a breakneck gradient which allowed hardly a faster pace than when coming up.  At last I was at the bottom.  Breathless, my palms and wrists aching from the brute effort of hanging on to the bars, I cut through the back streets of Crawshawbooth and landed on the main road.  My speedometer showed 4.2 miles from the start - I had only another 138 to go.

Now I could look into my timekeeping.  The speed scbedules changed from high to low and back again every few miles and on each occasion a time reference must be worked out.  "Bear left at yellow railings up cobbled road" - of course, the "road" petered out into some nightmare track and became a steep hill.  The engine spluttered to a standstill, I could pedal no longer; I leapt off and, with feet slithering wildly on the loose stones and dirt, had no option but to resort to plain brute force and push.

At the top of the hill, with nothing in sight for miles was the first observed section: a run through a peat bog and across a gulley.  This I managed non-stop, but with feet flailing like a drunken centipede.

Now tbe other competitors were catching up, for they rode to faster schedules, and I found myself in the thick of the rally.  I saw Brian Smith, last year's premier award winner, struggling with a seized rear wheel.

After the lunch stop instead of taking the first turn I sailed gaily down into Pately Bridge. Thus I lost five minutes trying to find out what had gone wrong, then another ten crawling back up the steep hill.

Heedlessly I drove on, hoping that I could make up for lost time, and accidentaUy cut a corner off the route, missing a control altogether.

But there was always the reflection that other fools might be riding today.

Slowly, the homeward miles crawled by.  Then suddenly the back tyre went flat.  I could have sat down and wept.  There were only three controls to finish.  Well, this was the end for me.  I was stranded halfway up a horrible hill, miles from anywhere.  Glumly, I set about trying to find my puncture repair set.

Even if I pressed on, I'd never make the time up.  Might as well jack it in.  It was beginning to rain.

Going home I stopped in Nelson for a cup of coffee and while glancing idly through the route form, I suddenly guessed where the next control would be.  There were twelve miles to go, and I had twenty-seven minutes to do it in.

Fox Wins

Crouched low over the bars, the engine howling like a demon gone mad, I flew through the drizzle and the dusk.  The marshal gaped at me, when, spot on the minute, I sailed up to Contral 15.

"I thought you'd packed in", he said.

"Never even thought of it!" I snapped back, "Just cut a corner off the route, that's all."  It was a comparatively easy run to Control 16, the finish of the event.  Handing over my papers, I made my painful way into the pub.

Blond Beard of the morning met me, and sportingly stood me a drink.  I swear it was the most gorgeous pint I ever tasted.

Lou Bellamy came in, together with Gerald Sheridan, the secretary of the meeting... boih of them were grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat.  "You lost 333 points" Gerald said, "and Lou here lost 134.  He gets the premier award and, as under the rules he can't win more than one award, you take the Britax cup for the best under 75cc.  He's first and you're second in the general classification!"  Lou and I looked at one another, then as the whole wonder of it came upon us, we burst simultaneously into peals of uproarious laughter.  Yes, the rallyist must be a fox and a lion: a lion to go like the clappers - but a fox to guess where the controls are!

First published in the October 1960 edition of Power & Pedal

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