Pioneer Run 2011


Pioneer Run 2011

21st March 2011

Early o clock on Epsom Downs

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as seen in

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73rd Pioneer Run Sunday 20th March 2011


Its Sunday

And after a ridiculously busy day the day before clearing out a garage a lie in sounded a great idea

So why the green blazes was I standing on a windswept hill top at just after 7am frantically looking for any extra layers to keep me warm

Well it’s March and the Sunday closest to the start of spring, so it must be the 73rd Pioneer run for pre 1914 bikes from Epsom to Brighton.


The whirring, clanking and chuffing on various veteran motorised contraptions proved this to be the case, add in the puffing and panting of several participants as they tried their best to bring to life their ancient devices.

This is often considered the first big event in the South and although the run is for pre 1914 bikes there is always an eclectic mix of modern and classic bikes.


So I hear you ask what has this to do with custom motor cycles, well these very early years of motorcycling brought forth many of the innovations which we have now become to consider the norm. And recently I am sure you haven’t failed to notice how many modern custom motorcycles are taking their influences from this era.

Just think of the classic “chop” Hardtail, minimal seat, simple electrics, minimal front brakes, small petrol tank, maybe an open belt drive and you are seeing the resemblance to these veteran bikes

At the recent LICS show in February this was much in evidence too with little touches like reverse brass levers.


We may ourselves think on a blustery cold and grey Sunday morning whether to head out our bikes with modern suspension, 24v lights and an oiling system that keeps the fluids circulating around the engine without rider involvement, but these bikes, which often look flimsy enough to snap even before a rider is sat upon it, and have none of these comforts and I would be sorely afraid trying one for a few miles let alone the 50 miles to the coast. I would still love to try riding one though.


Now for me the more original one of these bikes is the more I like them and the quirkier the better. The ones which I really liked this year were the 1890’s Leon Boillee tricycles which on “tick over” had the most amazing noise, which a friend of mike commented it sounded like a like a miniature version of an ALCO Diesel Electric locomotive!!, this worried me as he showed no Train spotting tendencies before but then he is an Australian.


The riders show as much personality as some of the bikes, and as participants come from all over Europe and the Dutch seem to sport the most wonderful moustaches. And as for sartorial eloquence, tweed and wax cotton was de rigueur


At 8am the first of these precarious contraptions on their way, superbly marshaled by the Sunbeam Motorcycle Club who have organised this event since 1930. Some machines actually make it up the slope without rider assistance, most bikes requiring a running start or frantic pedalling. And then head off to fight with the modern traffic to the coast there’s legs, arms, cogs, handles, plungers and pedals all frantically turning, winding and spinning around.


It takes about an hour and a half for all the bikes to depart and all the time more local clubs and bikes arrive making just browsing the way to spend a pleasant hour.


Yes its history, but its living breathing clanking and clunking history and we should all be proud that we can still see these machines used as they should be.