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:: [ 81st PIONEER MOTORCYCLE RUN -  2021 ] ::
Photos by Chas Moody. 

Our Membership Secretary Chas Moody is a very keen vintage biker who regularly partakes in the Motorcycle 'Brighton Run'. This picture is of him on his 1914 Triumph TT Roadster leaving Bridges in Pease Pottage during the snows of the  'Beast from the East' when the 2018 Pioneer Run start had to be moved from Epsom Downs due to the blanket of snow being swept by the biting wind.


The 81st Pioneer Run for veteran motorcycles, due to take place on Sunday 22nd March 2020 was cancelled seven days before the event by its organisers, the Sunbeam Motorcycle Club, as part of the world wide suspension of events and meetings of all kinds in the attempt to control the spread of the highly contagious Coronavirus. Our SVVS meetings were put on hold at the same time. The cancellation was very disappointing for entrants and spectators alike, but a responsible decision and quite understandable in the circumstances.

Our Chas Moody instead went on a solo ride of the local countryside and provided the article and photos on out Events Webpage 




by Chas Moody  (Photo below)

The Pioneer Run for veteran motorcycles is the largest annual gathering of motorcycles made before 1915 in the world and is surely one of the 'Must Do' events for the veteran motorcycle enthusiast. The first Pioneer Run took place in 1930, run by The Sunbeam Motor Cycle Club, as a revival of 'The Old Crocks Trial' which had been run by the Streatham and District Motor Cycle Club in 1914. The Pioneer Run has taken place annually in March, traditionally on the first Sunday in spring ever since, with the exception of the War years between 1940 and 1945, in 1948 and 1974 due to petrol shortages, in 2001 caused by restrictions due to foot & mouth disease and in 2013 due to heavy snow in the Surrey Hills area and forecasts of severe ice.

I had long held the ambition of participating in the run, but a complete and running veteran motorcycle, having the all-important Pioneer Certificate issued by the Sunbeam Motorcycle Club was way beyond my means. In 1992 however, I was lucky enough to acquire the dismantled and incomplete remains of a 1914 500cc Triumph motorcycle, the most numerous ( I hesitate to use the word 'common'!) make that takes part in the run. The reason why so many veteran Triumphs have survived is that they were good quality reliable machines, very popular, and made in huge numbers. As a result, spare parts are fairly plentiful - if you know the right people, and replica parts are now being made, such is the present demand.  It wasn't until 2014 that I finished restoring the bike and entered the 75th +1 Pioneer Run, so called because the 75th run the previous year was cancelled at short notice due to snow & ice as previously mentioned. Unfortunately I didn't make the finish that year due to a faulty magneto but I have finished successfully in the following five runs, and hopefully, this year would be my sixth successful run.

Last year's run, the 81st, was cancelled due to the Pandemic, and the run this year couldn't be held at the traditional time in March for the same reason, so the Sunbeam Motor Cycle Club decided to run the event this Autumn and name it the 81st+1 Pioneer Run. They got the weather about right, cool and dry following torrential rain the previous day, but what they or anyone else hadn't anticipated was the lack of petrol due to a shortage of delivery drivers which was then exacerbated by panic buying! The old bikes themselves are actually quite frugal, although I've never taken much notice of the fuel consumption of my Triumph, but those travelling to and from the event with trailers or vans were also in need of this scarce commodity which may have prevented some entrants from participating.


This year, I chose to enter the run under the banner of the SVVS instead of previous years with the Sunbeam Motor Cycle Club (SMCC), as do the majority of riders. Many SVVS members have ridden in the Pioneer Run before but none as far as I know have entered as SVVS, in which case I am proud to be the first!

The big difference this year was that the run finished at Shoreham Airport (now named Brighton City Airport), instead of the 'traditional' finish on Brighton sea front due to concerns for the safety of riders entering the fast A23 at Pyecombe on the approach to Brighton. There were just over 200 entries this year, rather less than previous years but understandable in the circumstances. At Epsom I put all the petrol I had, about 4 litres, in the tank and hoped it would get me to Shoreham, as the chances of finding a filling station with petrol on the route were slim. The tank does have the luxury of a petrol gauge but it's a relatively crude affair consisting of a cork that floats on the surface of the petrol, sliding on a twisted metal strip connected to an indicator needle in the gauge on the top of the tank. The gauge informed me that the tank was full, but when I wheeled the bike off the stand it changed its mind, indicating half full! When on the road, the needle wobbles about frantically as the cork bobs around in the tank and its only practical use is to show that at least there is some petrol in the tank! The Triumph has direct belt drive from the engine to the rear wheel with no gears or starting mechanism. It does however have the benefit of a replica after-market clutch which makes it reasonably easy to ride safely in the road conditions of today with traffic lights, roundabouts and increased traffic. The drill is to push-start the bike using the exhaust valve lifter to reduce compression, leaving the clutch fully home, then after a few paces when the bike has gained sufficient momentum, release the valve lifter lever, either pulling the clutch lever in when the engine fires or just throwing a leg over the saddle and setting off, it's up to the rider - or maybe the bike. Just make sure you're on it when it goes!

I wheel the bike from the grass car park on to the road where it starts easily and I ride up to the starting enclosure and wait my turn to be waved off by the Mayor of Epsom & Ewell, Councillor Peter O'Donovan. I stop the engine while waiting to prevent overheating, so it's another push start to get under way from Tattenham Corner up to the A217. The bike runs well and I pay particular attention to the air and throttle settings to make the most of what petrol I have, down through Reigate to Crawley, then on to the compulsory stop at Leonardslee Gardens and a welcome cuppa. Setting off again, through Cowfold and on to Henfield where the new route took us straight on towards Shoreham. Soon after passing through Small Dole, a seagull flying aloft was a welcome indication that the coast was near, then rounding the next bend the green rolling hills of the South Downs filled the landscape, the sun broke through the clouded sky and I felt its warmth through my riding jacket, the bike was thumping along nicely and I felt sure of reaching the finish - providing the petrol held out! After successfully negotiating the potentially confusing spiral roundabout onto the A27, thanks to excellent signage and helpful marshals, we are guided onto the airport perimeter road and form up in front of the historic Art Deco airport terminal building to complete the run. I sign off at the Sunbeam Club marquee and collect my finishers medallion then on to chat with fellow riders and friends and admire the other machines on show. A most enjoyable day and a big thumbs up for the new finish venue and revised route with very little traffic, probably due to the petrol shortage. And talking of petrol, the bike used just over two litres for the 42 mile run, giving around 100mpg and there was plenty left in the tank - probably enough to ride the bike home - but I'm glad I didn't because driving back with the bike on its trailer, the heavens opened and chucked it down!


      1904 James.H.Smith 3HP,  belonging to 'Ken-Lee.

1908 9hp BAT (Best After Test)    

   1909 500cc Triumph TT Roadster



   1914 Ixion 2.5hp, two-stroke.

1896 Leon-Bollee Tricar 3.5hp, No.1 Dave-Pittuck    

   Finish at Shoreham

Shoreham Airport Building

Moody's Virtual Pioneer Run -  2020

2018 Pioneer Run

2017 Pioneer Run

2013 Pioneer Run

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