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MPR 007

by Mark Daniels

Out goes the annual Christmas card mailshot.  The promise of hot coffee and King Alfred's brand mince pies (you left them in the oven too long again David!)  All too irresistible it appears, for the assorted gaggle of inexplicable souls annually lured by the treacherous coastal sirens to an almost certain hypothermic doom, somewhere upon the frost-bitten course between Orwell Yacht Club and The Shipwreck Bar at Shotley Marina.  Our tale actually has no more to do with mythology of the sea, and little more to relate with seasonal festivities other than the coincidental timing of the event from which it lends its name - this is David Evans's Mince Pie Run!

To riders of antique Cyclemotors, Autocycles, and old Mopeds, this event can really only be related to legends of Lemmings hurling themselves off cliffs - I mean, really, what sane person does an East Coast road run in January?  Every year we ask ourselves this question, yet dutifully turn out again to support the event.  Invariably it's cold, sometimes it's wet, and occasionally it's surprisingly fair weather!  Neither is this merely a local scale event with a few of the regional eccentrics wheeled out for the day: it widely attracts not just national attention, but once again, a vanguard from across the North Sea!

A scent of anticipation permeated the air of the packed clubhouse; after all, people have waited a whole year for this.  By quarter-to, there was a great mustering in the car park, where it was exceptionally busy this year due to a high turnout of some 20 Coasters Scooters and other odd machines on their own parallel annual event, following a similar course, to The Bristol Arms at Shotley Gate.  It doesn't do to arrive late for this event, as people seem so keen for the off, right on the nail at 11am.  The logistics of just getting so many machines through the gate and away down the road goes beyond the formation of a group, so a long stream of bikes find themselves battling up the first obstacle: Bourne Hill.  Ted Riceman reckoned his James Superlux made it up without pedalling this year, attributing the engine pulling better - due his having lost weight!  Really?  The audience appeared sceptical.

I was road testing a 1962 Phillips Panda Mk3 around the course this year, hopefully to appear in some later article.  Last ridden in 1985, so a bit of an unknown quantity, and while it soldiered steadily up Bourne Hill, it has to be said that these are not one of history's faster mopeds, and didn't overtake many people on the climb.  By the time we crested the summit, it was becoming obvious there was a little belt slip occurring, and reluctance of the motor to rev cleanly suggested re-commissioning after the 22 year lay-up hadn't been wholly comprehensive - the day had all the signs that it might be a long 25 miles!

Across the interchange, I pulled over and deployed the time honoured repair technique of putting the machine on the stand, and revving the nuts out of it to clear the jet.  That fixed, I rejoined behind PC50 trio Carl Squirrell, Bill Doy and Roly Scarce, with Brian Barley [Honda CG] ... just the belt slip to contend with now, as they steadily pulled away out of sight.  Past the reservoir, through Tattingstone, and entering Holbrook I was approached by Team Stafford from Norfolk, Bob [Honda PC50] and John [Moby M40] coming toward me in the wrong direction!  I waved them the correct course ahead, and they turned around in the road to follow.

At the bottom of the hill at Lower Holbrook, I pulled up at the side of the road by a stopped Moby AV88 in its cooling cycle from the usual overheated internal coil having cut out the spark, so took advantage of the available tool supply to re-adjust belt tension on the Phillips.  Moments later, we were rejoined by the mayhem of Team Stafford as they stopped to wrench the broken remains of exhaust from the M40, and chuck it into Bob's toolbox!  John continued without any exhaust, a lot noisier, but he declared it still went OK!  Frank Brzeski grizzled past on some motorised garden powered appliance, and after a little more tinkering with the reluctant-to-restart Phillips, and the Moby cooled down and back to sparking, we got underway again.  Both bikes now seemed to be going pretty well - until some 5-6 miles on, when the Moby returned to working temperature and its internal coil cut out the spark again.  The rider waved to continue while he waited again for the cool January air to revive his mount.  Who was the mystery man on the Moby AV88?  Did he ever make it back to base, or is he still lost forever in the bleak wilderness of Shotley peninsula?

Arriving at The Shipwreck Bar, I could hardly go for a beer without first popping across the bike park to observe the non-stop entertainment of Team Stafford, brother John skilfully clubbing away at the battered wreckage of his Moby exhaust system with some blunt instrument!

Just about the time we were all preparing to leave, Andrew Roddham was just arriving on a (Trojan?) Tandem with daughter Alex in the navigator's seat.  Trying to compensate for the Panda's limited performance, I got a flying start, but the first of the leading group were soon streaming past on the uphill climb from the waterfront.  David Evans [Puch MS50], Laurence Coates [PC50], Geoff Daw [Garelli BiMatic], and Alan Bloys with his garried-up AV76.  Steve Cobb [Garelli Katia], Paul Nelmes [Bown AutoRoadster] and the St Neots team: Alex Lees [Norman JDL], Ralph Richardson [Raleigh RM9] & Chris Saunders [Raleigh RM5].  Leaving Shotley Gate, the Phillips settled down into a more steadily paced midfield group of John Daborn [Moby N50], Paul Daniels [Ariel 3], and Carl Harper [Honda CG], as the fast boys passed by in hot pursuit of the leading pack, Martin Gates [Raleigh RM11], Cookeye [PC50], Bocsi [Honda Dax], David 'Lurch' Freeman [Yamaha Chappy], Neil Bowen [Yamaha FS1E], and Dutch riders Ben Teuben [Zündapp Falconette] & Dirk Roest [Kreidler].  By Chelmondiston we were joined by Keith Flood [Honda PC50], Tony Hammond [NSU Quickly], and Peter Lawson [Puch Maxi].  Then onward to Woolverstone passed by Mark Gibb [Honda C90], Ray Gibb & Dave Jockel [NSU Quicklys], and Paul Efreme [Norman Nippy Sachs3], all strongly pressing ahead.

Approaching Freston, a flapping noise from the Phillips and increasing transmission slip signalled the old belt cording was breaking up, as a great cluster of the scooters returning from Shotley Gate hoovered on by.  Once cresting the rise at Freston Boot, it was mostly downhill, then along The Strand, with our Orwell destination drawing us onward.  The belt-slipping Phillips Panda did manage to soldier home under its own power, albeit down to 15mph in the end, despite which, there were still a number more machines awaiting return - such was the size of the field!

Other attending riders among the masses on the day, R Polley [Zündapp ZD40], I A Lee [Mobylette], David Whatling [Cyclemaster], Neil Morley [Vespa ET4], Steve 'Wally' Wright [Lambretta], Neil Dains [Suzuki], C Clover [Mobylette], and another mystery man riding a golden sand Raleigh RM9.  From North Norfolk, a Bown AutoRoadster ridden by Brian Hastings, and from Hastings Luke Booth [DiBlasi], with special 'mad-as-a-box-of-frogs' mentions probably due to L Polley [Yamaha moped], who actually rode his machine up from London to attend the event, and Keith Ashby again making a 3-day epic, to ride his New Hudson from North Norfolk!

Up front, the annual honour of 'first-home' among the quicker runners in the 40mph class was closely fought for most of the distance between Paul Nelmes's ballistic Bown autocycle and Martin Gates on the ever-faster Super Tourist, until caught on The Strand by the Dax and Chappy monkey-bikes of Bocsi and Lurch, though too late it seemed, as the Raleigh just held its handling advantage over the smaller wheeled machines through the last crucial corners. Phew!

The next Mince Pie will be its 25th Run, second longest staged event on the rally calendar, eclipsed only by the Anglian Run, now set for its own silver on 20th May.

This article appeared in the April 2007 Iceni CAM Magazine.

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