Website updated 22nd September 2021
These will be uploaded as they become available.
Section notes have to be submitted to the Journal several months in advance of publication, hence November's notes referring to happenings in September.
October? How did that happen, where did summer go? Hopefully, there'll still be enough reasonable weather left to allow us out on at least one more midweek run (21st) before we tuck up the bikes for winter. With this cursed Covid business not having left us yet it seems prudent to make club night, on the 14th, another "noggin & natter" rather than risk being couped out inside the hall listening to a speaker. August club night saw our long-awaited reunion at the Car Park Concours (aka shiny bike night). And what a wonderful evening that was — a splendid turnout of men and machinery; and not a cobweb in sight, on either. Awards went to a Kawasaki four (post-war), a works Norton racer (pre-war) and a late vintage Royal Enfield vee-twin (spirit of the VMCC 75th anniversary). Breakfast meet on Sunday, 31st October at the London Gliding Club, near Dunstable.
Four runs in one month must be some kind of record for the section — three well-attended midweek jaunts and a rather more sparcely populated Sunday outing; the draw of a bacon butty at a cafe must be greater than a steam-up at a heritage railway centre. Three of those four runs took in locations from the VMCC Waypoint Rally — what a jolly good wheeze that is. With club nights having nervously resumed, weekday runs have now dropped back to just the traditional third Thursday of the month. September club night will be a 'Noggin and Natter', as I don't think we're quite ready yet to be couped up indoors for a formal presentation. Maybe by October we'll be a little more confident. It looks like Shuttleworth won't be re-opening its cafe to us general public types, so we seek a new location to resume our monthly breakfast meets; suggestions please.
Unless the world has gone even more crazy than it has been for the last while, August will finally see us gathering together in the Shefford Memorial Hall car park, concoursing (if there is such a word) in the grandest possible style. For one year only, there will be an additional award for the bike that, in the opinion of the judges, best captures the spirit of the VMCC 75th anniversary; but don't assume it has to be of that era, that would be too obvious. A small but loyal group have maintained relative sanity by partaking of the midweek runs every other week. Varying the start and finish locations has meant we have been able to explore without having to travel the same roads time after time. What about weekend runs? I hear you cry. Good question, and one I hope we will be able to answer before long.
Can it be? Can it really be, that July will see us back together in Shefford swapping tales of lockdowns and rebuilds? Let's hope so, and let's hope for dry weather on the 8th for our first evening meeting for a seemingly interminable sixteen months. Who would have thought, last March, that this was going to drag on this long? The July club night is, of course, the Car Park Concours (aka shiny bike night) and our flagship event to celebrate the 75th anniversary year for the VMCC. Such excitement. There will be a special award for the bike that, in the opinion of the executive judging panel, best encompasses the spirit of that momentous commemoration. This is probably a good time to say a huge thanks to all our brilliant contributors to the newsletter and especially Will for his articles, the virtual club nights and the virtual quiz night.
The anticipated final loosening of the restrictive bindings in June comes too late to allow our usual "Ride a bike to Shefford" night but, trying to look on the bright side, allows an extra month of fettling and polishing before July's "Shiny bike night". But regular midweek runs mean you can exercise the steed, meet a few friends, and see what has happened to the countryside whilst you've been locked down, or up, depending on how you look at it. June will, however, host what should be the swansong of virtual club nights, brought to you once again by Will; details will be in the newsletter and on the website. April's virtual club night "Hoo's the fastest?" looked at the speed trials in the grounds of Luton Hoo in the 1900s, 1910s and 1920s. Somehow I can't see them allowing us to stage a revival now it's a posh hotel.
The countdown continues. Repeating last month's section notes, the first traditional club night in the New World Order is likely to be the Car Park Concours in July with a chance to meet old friends and show off the lockdown rebuild. We might even have a full-blown run at some stage, who knows? It's still a little early to make definite plans; watch this space. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, abnormality prevails, with virtual club nights and the newsletter taking centre stage. At the beginning of March, I had the honour of joining a group of Ariel Owners' Club members to represent our VMCC Section escorting our good friend John O'Brien to the crematorium on his final journey. I'm sure he wouldn't have minded having a Triumph amongst the Selly Oakers. Will Curry produced a really challenging, which probably goes without saying, virtual quiz night. A true triumph of technology.
I'm trying hard to avoid using that heavily overworked cliche 'there's light at the end of the tunnel' and I think I've succeeded. At the moment, that light might still seem pretty dim and distant but let's hope that's just because it's a 6V headlight slowly heading our way. At the moment, Boris' route sheet, sorry 'roadmap', suggests we might be able to recommence our runs, in groups of up to six, sometime in April. The first club night is likely to be the Car Park Concours in July, which has the added bonus of being outdoors for anyone still nervous about you know what. The display should be spectacular considering how long we've had to prepare. Meanwhile, there's still the newsletter and virtual club nights to look forward to. April virtual club night should be 'Hoo's the Fastest?', the story of the Luton Hoo Speed Trials in the 1910s.
King of the Virtual Club Nights, Will Curry, is determined that the March Quiz Night tradition shall continue, despite the inability for us to gather as usual at Shefford. Quite how he will manage that, at the time of writing, is best described as a "worthy challenge". Hopefully, it'll allow everyone to get involved but you'll have to provide your own snacks and cups of tea. Talking of virtual club nights, it seems there will be a few more before we get back to normal, so ideas would be much appreciated, as would contributions to the newsletter; who would ever have thought it would get as far as thirty-odd issues, and counting? Fingers crossed that restrictions will soon be eased enough to allow us out to enjoy the glories of spring on our bikes. Best get the dust covers off, sumps drained, chains oiled, and knees embrocated, just in case.
Well, it's really good to have got back to normal enjoying club nights, and lunch and breakfast meets with all our old friends. He wakes with a jolt. Oh dear, I must have dropped off and been dreaming of the better times to come. Back in the grim reality of Tier Four (at the time of writing) maybe these things won't be so far off by the time you are reading this in February. I can imagine a long line of old bikes outside the Shefford Health Centre, with riders, sleeves rolled up, eager for the life-resurrecting jab. Six of us managed to see the old year out with a highly enjoyable weather-dodging, back roads, midweek run to Jordan's Mill. For everyone else, there was the bumper festive issue of the Beds Newsletter; the 25th issue since lockdown began way back in spring. The committee are starting to plan ahead.
O how I long for the days when 150 words were never quite enough to describe all the exciting things we'd done in the section over the last month, and were about to do in the next one. At the moment, 15 words would probably cover it, but where's the fun in that? The November lockdown meant no midweek runs, not that we'd probably had many takers this time of year. As I write, we're in the midst of the virtual AGM, not a patch on the usual riot of fun. Nothing on the horizon, I'm afraid, possibly until Easter. Except, of course, the newsletter, which continues apace thanks to our wonderful contributors, and, hopefully, a virtual club night or two and, again hopefully, some opportunities to get out and ride when the tiering system and weather favour us and the gritting lorries are securely at home in their garages.
First of all, my apologies for the non-appearance of the Section Notes in the October journal. They were submitted as normal, but I believe we were not alone in having them vanish into the proverbial thin air. Of all the monthly club nights, December is surely one of everyone's favourites so I'm sure it will be sorely missed. The huge turnout, Rod dressed as Santa Claus, Brent's brilliant wit as auctioneer and Martin's festive spread and endless cups of tea; I better stop as I'm getting excessively nostalgic. It just won't be the same without arriving home with the bike's topbox crammed full of things I neither need nor want but, somehow, ended up buying. Current section activity is still limited to midweek runs, if they've survived into December, the newsletter and Will's monthly virtual club nights. Best wishes for the festive season, if that hasn't been cancelled as well.
Sadly, in September, we suffered the sudden loss of another good friend, Tony Dickason. Ongoing restrictions strictly limited the funeral motorcycle escort but the VMCC was represented by co-members of the Oakley Club he also attended. November traditionally sees the raucous excitement of the Section AGM; debating controversial motion after motion, and the fight to join the committee (if only). As mentioned in the newsletter, for those who receive it, we are attempting to hold a 'virtual' AGM by correspondence over the next few weeks. Reports will be sent out by email, or in the newsletter, and comments/questions invited. Anyone not on the email list can call me to arrange for papers to be delivered. Christmas is, of course, cancelled so the junk will have to accumulate in your garage for another year before it can be passed to some other unsuspecting soul for a fraction of its true worth.
Guidance from "on high" suggests that Section Notes should concentrate on upcoming events, rather than what we've been up to. OK, fair enough — but not a lot happening here. So, what to write about now? A little bit of dramatic licence there because midweek runs may continue if anyone is foolish enough to brave whatever Autumn decides to throw at us. Sadly, Shuttleworth don't seem to want to re-open their cafe despite the attraction of having us visit for breakfast. No sign of club nights returning yet either. Gosh, how grim. We only managed one of the two planned midweek runs in August because of a very badly timed thunderstorm drenching us on the way to the start point. The one that did go ahead saw Norm Lorton take us on a circumnavigation of Bedford, complete with educational stops to discuss geology, geography, and how far to the coffee stop.
Another month with very little to ramble on about, but ramble on I shall. It's tempting to repeat last September's Section Notes, pretend that everything is normal, and see if anyone notices. There would be the report of the annual shiny bike Car Park Concours, the midweek run, and we'd be looking forward to our monthly Shuttleworth breakfast meet. But no concours competition and no breakfast meet although we are enjoying midweek runs every couple of weeks, albeit on a more restricted basis. Small groups mean no need for a route sheet or drop-off system — a faint silver lining to a rather dark cloud. It also means we've been able to finish at cafes with enough outdoor space for our spaced-out group; interpret that how you will. Don't forget to get your bike out on the Navigation Challenge; drop me a line if you don't know what I'm talking about.
Sad news of the loss of our great friend David Watts arrived just too late for last month's section notes. The restrictions in place at the time meant the funeral service could only be attended by a limited number of family and close friends but that didn't stop us providing an impressive 21-bike procession to follow David on his last journey. Just a few days before that, a smaller number of bikes were to be found galivanting around the Bedfordshire lanes on the first of our resumed midweek runs — except this was on a weekend because of the wet weather on the originally scheduled weekday. Six bikes, six riders, six different makes (Ariel, BSA, Norton, Royal Enfield, Triumph and Velocette), and it would have been six cylinders but I spoilt it with a twin. The lockdown newsletter continues with great gusto thanks to the budding authors in our splendid group.
That was the week that was — or should I say, that was the month that wasn't? Early on in May the backroads of Bedfordshire didn't echo to the klepp, klepp, klepp of veterans or the thump, thump, thump of vintage and girder-fork machines on the Roger and Arthur King Memorial Run. No-one got lost on the first midweek run of the season because, of course, there wasn't one. The fish and chip van didn't visit on what would have been club night, and the Rose and Crown in Ridgemont didn't have to provide any snacks for the night we couldn't visit our chums in the Velo Club at their new venue. Finally, the month ended without bacon, eggs, sausages or beans at Shuttleworth. But we did have the second 'virtual club night', courtesy of Will, and the lockdown newsletter managed to remain weekly thanks to excellent contributions from various members.
No Spring Run, no midweek run, no breakfast meet and no hilarious club night talk by Brent on his solo motorcycling holiday adventures; so what is there to report? Well, there was our very first virtual club night, and jolly good it was too. Will, once upon a time writer of technical manuals for electronic things, turned his attention to handbooks of the motorcycle variety. And there has been the occasional email newsletter with tales of spannering from various sheds. Who knows whether our calendar of events will have assumed some semblance of normality by June, but it seems unlikely — so you probably won't be able to ride your bike to the June club night, and the Carpark Concours in July may well have to take a very different and unusual form. Apologies to the non-computer users but, apart from this, we have no other way to keep in touch.
March in Bedfordshire vintage motorcycling land is traditionally quiz month, and so it was this year. Markedly reduced numbers, because of you-know-what, but many teams emerged to do battle with Will's wisdom and cunning and enjoy the plentiful refreshments. The result was close with Anglian again stealing the trophy, but by just two points from our Bedfordshire boys; excitement indeed. Looking back to what I wrote this time last year, my 150 words were mostly dedicated to looking forward to the myriad of exciting events in the forthcoming weeks and months. Not so this year, of course, at least until the Government relaxes its hand on the axe hanging over us. Never before have the words 'cancelled' and 'postponed' featured so prominently in our calendar of events. Nevertheless, we can keep in touch through the email newsletter; please contact me if you're not already on the distribution list.
The British Motorcycle Directory says the Braithwaite motorcycle was 'made by a gentleman of that name in some numbers at a location near Lake Windermere'. Well, another gentleman of that same name brought the sole remaining Braithwaite motorcycle along to show us at our February club night. Robin, a descendant of the gentleman in question, gave us an extremely well-researched and fascinating history of how the bike was continuously developed, and ridden, by his grandfather over the years until it became the fine machine before us. Time to pull the dust cover off one of the treasures in the shed, kick the tyres and head to the first midweek run of the season on the 16th, and again for the combined Shuttleworth breakfast meet and Spring Run on the 26th. Hilarity assured at the April club night when we hear from Brent of mishaps and misadventures on his biking holiday.
Galloping gourmets were out in force in January; excellent turnouts for the midweek lunch and the breakfast meet, both at Shuttleworth. A fine selection of bikes at the latter, spanning the decades from veteran to classic, and everyone home before the afternoon deluge. No-one spotted arriving by plane. Part two of the Cotton story, the post-war years, by Bob Smith was warmly received at club night — and there is a third part to look forward to. March is, of course, the motorcycle equivalent of University Challenge, Brain of Britain and Mastermind all rolled into one: yes, it's Will's fiendish quiz night — feared by all who fallen victim in the past. Can Anglian be toppled? By the time you read this we will have sadly laid our good friend Ron Macbeth to rest. The final midweek lunch before we get back to riding will be at the Tavistock Carvery in Bedford.
Bedfordshire's celebrated return to Chiltern Section's quiz night saw us come a respectable third, out of six, thanks almost entirely to Don; Nigel and I would best be described as 'also ran'. If only we'd managed to field a full team there could have been an upset. Despite being delayed a week by the perceived need to elect a new government our auction night was another rip-roaring success with almost everyone going home with something, wanted or not, and raising over £350 for charity. No idea why but last month's journal says our February club night is on the second Wednesday instead of Thursday — rest assured it isn't. It does, however, feature a talk on the unique Braithwaite motorcycle with a guest appearance of the bike itself. Excellent turnout for the December midweek lunch and we managed to coax no less than six motorcycles out to Shillington on Boxing Day.
A new year, a new decade, and a new programme of events — how exciting is that? The usual mix of talks, runs and lots of fine dining; over 40 events at the last count. Kicking off the new season will be a club night talk although the subject is yet to be confirmed at the time of writing — but, rest assured, it'll be good. If you've recovered from the seasonal excesses, the following week we'll be out to lunch again. Looking back to November, the AGM passed without riot or rebellion, and without sight of the President who, at one stage, was expected to be paying us a visit; crossed lines, I suspect. Much to my surprise, the Hoppy Shield came my way; I really wasn't expecting that but I much appreciate it. Nigel and Sam rounded off the evening with the annual slideshow of what we'd been up to.
December? Already? How did that happen, seems like only a few weeks ago we were riding in the warm summer rain; hopefully Spring will arrive just as soon. Meanwhile, seek out your woolly vest and long johns (or grab the car keys and crank up the heater) because there's loads doing in Bedfordshire in December. Club night on the 12th (Now the 19th!) features the usual auction of the unwanted and undesirable, together with some splendid Xmas grub. Midweek lunch on the 19th is at the Bedford Toby. We will be gathering at the Musgrove Arms in Shillington on Boxing Day, and for breakfast at Shuttleworth on the 29th. The October club night was a revelation — who else but Eddie & Bob knew so many, now obscure, machines had come from the Beds & Herts area? A small but select bunch headed out to Essex on the Autumn Gold Run, staying unexpectedly dry.
The clocks have changed and, no, that doesn't mean the speedo and tacho have been replaced but it does mean shorter riding days and longer workshop evenings. But don't forget to give up the spanners on the evening of the 14th November for the Annual General Excitement, or AGM for short. Can you believe that Brent and I have been in post for ten whole years now. Maybe you want us ousted but, more likely, you probably think we're only just getting the hang of it. We can also look forward to Nigel and Sam's photo review of what we have been up to this year. Midweek runs have given way to midweek lunches and the breakfast meets have gone monthly (the last Sunday) and, of course, you don't have to come on an old motorcycle if you don't want to, but it would be rather wonderful if you did.
For a while it looked like the Summer Saunter was going to be more like a Winter Washout, but slowly sipped coffee in the Marston Forest Centre cafe saw the clouds part leaving us with an entirely dry run. Not so lucky with an unanticipated road closure which forced us onto the A45 dual carriageway. A quick dive down the first exit took us to an unplanned coffee stop at a rather nice Marina rather than the planned destination. October club night features a double act of Bob and Eddie introducing us to some obscure machines. The combined Breakfast Meet and Autumn Gold Run is on 13th October, starting and finishing at the Shuttleworth Collection cafe, with special 'biker' breakfast and lunch deals. Bargain hunters get a second bite of the cherry (or, more likely, bacon and eggs) with another Breakfast Meet on Sunday 27th, the day the clocks change.
No-one can say Beds Section doesn't move with the times. A new category of best Japanese classic at the car park concours has been introduced a mere 35 years or so after the first ones became VMCC eligible. The recipient was a fine example of the rather revered Kawasaki Z900 — 70s superbike. Representing earlier eras, best post-war was a Venom Thruxton (drool) and pre-war a rather tasty Norton. No doubt we'll get complaints of neglect from the fans of Italian machinery. Talking of complaints I believe there was an error on the midweek run route sheet — whoops, I hope no-one missed their lunch. Plenty to do in Bedfordshire in September. Club night (12th) features myself recounting the day I gave away a brand-new bike — intrigued? The following Thurs (19th) is the midweek run, and don't forget the final Sunday (29th) is the, now monthly, flying visit for breakfast at Shuttleworth.
Summertime, and the living is easy — but the riding is hectic. Check the oil and tyres, lube the chain and away to August's club night (8th), midweek run (15th) and Summer Saunter (18th). Please note the change of date for the Saunter due to unforeseen circumstances (as they say) — but still starting from the Forest Centre, Marston Moretaine, and using the drop-off system, as usual. Next year's programme is already taking shape, and it's looking good, but we really could do with some new help organising runs. Why not give it a try, help available. Breakfast meets at Shuttleworth are proving popular so we're going monthly, all year round, on the last Sunday of the month. Totally informal, just show up for a chat. The September one will also be "Sand and Motorcycles" day, so we can then all head over to Leighton Buzzard. Good turnout for June's ride-a-bike night.
The word on the streets, or should that be B-roads, is that the newly renamed and rededicated 'Roger and Arthur King Memorial Run' was another great success; a now well-established and popular local rival to the SMCC's Pioneer Run but without all the traffic lights. All praise to Roger's family for keeping it going. Feeling a bit under the weather, Don let the midweek riders find their own way around his route sheet. Some managed, the others will hopefully find their way home before the Car Park Concours at the July club night. Yes, it's that time of year again. Time to fix that oil leak (or at least wipe it off when you get there and nobody's looking), polish those tyres, buff that chrome and keep your fingers crossed for a dry evening. And, of course the 7th July sees our annual commemoration of the original Albert Brown Run.
If I didn't leave these section notes until the very last minute I might have time to get the lowdown on events I couldn't make in person. So, no report from the midweek run or the Easter Sunday breakfast meet that was planned in place of the Spring Run, which wasn't going to happen because of no organizer available. Volunteers for next year please take one step forward. Our speaker at the April club night took us somewhat by surprise by the extent of his enthusiasm for all things BSA with the planned one-hour talk keeping everyone entertained for over twice that time, and causing the raffle to be postponed until May. Time to unleash the favourite steed ready for the June club night when we hope everyone will 'Ride a Bike to Shefford'. Sadly, I have to report the passing of popular club member and accomplished restorer, Roy Stockham.
It's a rare year indeed when the Anglian Section are defeated in our annual intersection quiz; this is not a rare year. How do they do it, especially when Will Curry's questions are so far from the run-of-the-mill quizzes? Great to see the bikes back on the roads for the first midweek run of the year and the breakfast meet at Shuttleworth; we're thinking of making the breakfast meets monthly (low calorie options available). Check the front end of your bike — if it's got girder forks then you should be doing the Roger and Arthur King Memorial Run on the 12th. If not, you can still go along to watch. Then keep the tank topped up for the midweek run on the 16th and our annual visit to the Velo Fellows in Cranfield on the 20th. Fish and chips at club night; no supper before you leave home that night.
Keen observers of the classic bike market will have spotted the recent surge in Vincent prices. That would be because we all immediately rushed out and bought one each after watching 'Chasing Shadows', starring our own Oscar nominee Bob Culver, at our inaugural film night. We'd better not show any films about Lawrence of Arabia next! The arrival of April signals the time to put down the knife and fork, grab a few napkins to wipe down the bike, and get fired up for the first of Don's midweek runs. That will then be followed quickly by the Spring Run on Easter Sunday; not sure who's doing the route for that one yet but, rest assured, it'll be as good as ever. As Ken Dodd would have said, get your chuckle muscles ready because April club night features Brent and his Box Brownie snaps from his latest bike holiday adventure.
Nine bikes, ancient and modern, followed the hearse taking Roger King on his final scenic journey to a packed crematorium. Roger may have gone but his spirit will live on in the re-named Roger and Arthur King Memorial Run in May. Bob Smith dazzled us with his encyclopaedic knowledge of Cotton motorcycles at the January Club night. A full hour, and more, and that was just part one — hopefully he'll be back to deliver part two sometime next year. The January breakfast meet at Shuttleworth was a great excuse to get out on a Winter's day. Only two bikes in the car park (Chris Dawkins' Panther and my Triumph) but that was probably not too surprising with the thermometer reading -3°C when I left home. A beautiful hoar frost was a glorious site once I'd scraped the ice off my visor. March club night is quiz night, say no more.
December was a bag of mixed emotions — fun, frolics and a packed house at the Christmas 'do' and auction, raising loads of money for charity, but sadness at the news of the passing of Roger King. Roger was a real club stalwart — responsible for instigating the midweek runs and lunches and, of course, the very popular Arthur King Memorial Run. I'm pleased to report that it will go ahead this year as planned, courtesy of Roger's son and daughter.
Why is it that the phrase 'under new management' strikes fear into the heart? — those who went to the Boxing Day gathering will know what I mean. For February club night we are attempting a Film Night — I say 'attempting' because we all know that technology has a tendency to conspire against these things. I'm sure Nigel and Sam will have it all under control but fingers crossed, just in case.
The AGM passed without drama; no surprise there. No attempts to depose the committee, no proposals for radical change and no financial crisis (phew). All very reassuring really; we must be doing something right. Either that or everyone is too polite to point out how hopeless we are. The highlights of the evening were the presentation of the Phil 'Hoppy' Hopkins Shield jointly to Rod and Ron, in particular for their work behind the curtain marking the quiz answer sheets, and the photo review of the year capably presented by Sam Cootes with dad, Nigel, looking on. The 2019 programme explodes into action with no less than three events to brighten up the otherwise dreary month of January — a talk on those wonderful Cotton motorcycles by Bob Smith and Chris Sawyer, midweek lunch at the Toby Carvery in Bedford on the 17th and a Shuttleworth breakfast meet on Sunday 20th.
Bedfordshire's own walking (and riding) motorcycle encyclopedia and quiz master supreme, Will, fascinated the October club night regulars with some of the more sensible developments in motorcycle design, following on from last year's not-so-sensible ones. Despite our best efforts to confuse people over the date of the Autumn Gold Run, it went ahead in glorious weather on 21st October. Apologies to anyone who showed up on the wrongly advertised date of the 14th but considering the weather that day it would probably only have been cats and dogs anyway, and they don't count. Deliberately timed to coincide with the 'Biker Deal' cheap nosh at the Shuttleworth Cafe, the day saw the car park awash again but this time with motorcycles of all descriptions, a good couple of dozen of which ventured off on Don's excellent route. Sort out your spare junk, December club night is the charity auction, with grub.
September clubnight featured John Young's epic and enthralling tale of how he built a T150 Triumph Trident with bigger fuel and oil tanks, and entered the Iron Butt Association Rally, visiting almost every US state in ten days. The rally organiser was so certain that such an old bike couldn't possibly finish that he told everyone they could call him Sally for the rest of his life if he did. Bad move, Sal! Despite early rain, five bikes turned out for the midweek run with guest star Roger in Will's sidecar. Rod created a bit of a scare, lying on the pavement next to his bike with Dave trying to help him up. Seems he slipped over when getting off his bike and couldn't get up again because of dodgy knees. Once up again he was first to Shuttleworth for lunch. November club night is the AGM and photo review.
A little bit of rain won't stop the hardy Beds Section riders — oh, hang on — yes, it will. The midweek run was a right washout and only Don and the indefatigable Rod showed up — so they went for a cup of tea instead; very wise. With their sodden gear just about dried out, both showed up for the Summer Saunter run along with five others. The rain started whilst we were enjoying a pre-run coffee but off we went, through lots of bumpy back lanes around Heath & Reach, and up to the Dunstable Downs Visitor Centre. Three hours riding in steady rain but we all seemed to enjoy it, and the drop-off system worked perfectly. October club night features our own Will with a follow up to last year's "It seemed like a good idea at the time" talk, with one entitled "Now that was a good idea"; intriguing.
It's probably not often the lovely Fiona Bruce gets mentioned in VMCC Section Notes but I'm afraid she has to take the blame for creating a bit of chaos on the July Midweek Run. An unfortunate clash with the Antiques Roadshow at Wrest Park saw 11 of our own antique riders (interpret that as you will) having to filter past gridlocked cars in Silsoe on their way to the Wixams Garden Centre. Highlight of the run was a climb of Sharpenhoe Hill, scene of the 1907/8 MCC speed hill-climbs, but Don reports the usual high standard of navigation meant not everyone enjoyed that experience. July club night was the annual Car Park Concours and a lovely evening encouraged an excellent turnout of around 70 gleaming machines. Judicious marshalling avoided any of the usual clashes with angry car owners blocked in by three or four apparently abandoned bikes — not mine, Guv.
The sun came out to shine and the bikes came out to play, big time. June club night saw the car park rammed full of bikes slotted between the jolly annoying number of cars of the other hall users. Bike estimates ranged from a rather precise '44' to a rather imprecise 'over 70' - the truth lay between the two. The 40th anniversary snacks nearly didn't happen thanks to Sainsburys' questionable online ordering system — many thanks to Heather for saving the day. Not sure what happened at the midweek run or the Sunday breakfast meet, forgot to ask. But I do know the Albert Brown Run was a resounding success. Great weather, great route and a truly eclectic mix of bikes — veteran, vintage, pre-war, classics, two-strokes, four-strokes, British, Japanese (sorry Albert) even sports mopeds. August sees the Summer Saunter, using the drop-off system, and Noggin and Natter at club night.
"We're passing your place, Rod, get the kettle on" so went the cry on the May midweek run. He duly did so, but the run never actually passed — they stayed there all afternoon! O to be retired and a person of leisure. Roger King's 10th anniversary AKM Run, ably assisted by his daughter Jemma and other family members, was a truly splendid affair with more than 50 girder fork machines, ranging from 1909 to 1939 or so, touring the quiet (at least until 50 bikes came along) Bedfordshire lanes. May club night featured yours truly telling the tale of the original 1904-5 Albert Brown Trophy events, and busting a few long-held myths along the way — it didn't go to Stony Stratford, after all. July is, of course, the semi-legendary sparkly bike night — keep fingers crossed for good weather, bring out your best and be the envy of all the rest.
The knives were out in the Beds Section in April, albeit plastic ones, and forks too, for the annual fish and chip night. Numbers were a little down on what we (and the man with the chip van) hoped but it's quality not quantity that counts - and a jolly good evening was had. Two season-opening runs in quick succession blew away the cobwebs. John wasn't feeling up to producing his usual Spring Run (get well soon) so Don stood in at short notice and gave us an excellent outing starting and finishing at the Shuttleworth cafe (yet more food). A good turnout that and the Midweek run. Did I mention food? Don't forget Ride a Bike Night at the Memorial Hall on June club night features food to celebrate our 40th anniversary, the next Shuttleworth breakfast meet on June 24th, or the Albert Brown pie Run on 1st July.
Two breakfast meets, a midweek lunch and a quiz night with food — I'm not sure about an army marching on its stomach, but this VMCC section certainly seems to ride on its. Talking of quiz night, guess who won? Yes, Anglian of course but we didn't give them the trophy. We would have if we'd remembered to bring it along. Thanks to everyone who helped. The breakfast meets at Shuttleworth are proving really popular with the most amazing selection of bikes being brought along that might not otherwise appear for a run. The merry month of May's looking jolly busy — club night features yours truly and the story of the original Albert Brown Runs. Then grease up your girders for the 10th Anniversary Arthur King Memorial Run, venture off to the Velo Club and meet up for the midweek run — all in the space of a week; cancel all appointments.
Hopefully by the time you read this, both the snow and the merry hoohah around the national AGM will have melted away and we can get some serious vintage miles on our bikes in the company of good friends. Wheels start to roll on the 15th for the Spring Run, and the 19th for the Midweek Run. One thing the AGM business did highlight was the difficulty of contacting members outside of club nights; if you have email and want to join a mailing list please let me know on the email address above. February club night featured an excellent talk on the fascinating history of Joe Ehrlich and his EMC bikes, by marque specialist Jim Turner. Many of the audience that night also seemed to have links with EMC in one way or another. No slaving over a hot stove before April club night — it's fish and chip night.
A mere couple of decades of regular bookings slipped the memory of our normal meeting venue and they gave the room away for January. Not standing much chance against the Bedfordshire Police Commissioner, we decanted off to a hastily rearranged venue found by Dave Watts. And what a venue it was! I doubt many VMCC meetings have aken place in a church. No, not the Church Hall (the Girl Guides were in there), the Shefford Methodist Church itself. The sights of Don McKeand preaching about Royal Enfield prototypes in front of various religious imagery, and Gordon Hallett's lovely 200cc RE prototype behind the pews was an edifying sight. No bar and not much heating but a truly memorable evening. Most inconsiderately it snowed on the morning of our Shuttleworth breakfast meet. Resourceful as ever, about 20 members took to snow shoes, skidoos, skis and (mainly) cars and showed up anyway.
The Christmas charity auction raised both many a smile from the antics of ace auctioneer Brent, and a tidy sum to be divided between the Air Ambulance and our hosts, the Shefford Town Memorial Association. An excellent evening with lots of grub and the customary appearance of our very own Santa Claus. In my usual inefficient manner I've forgotten to enquire how the December midweek lunch and Boxing Day gathering went - as long as the lunch venue hadn't closed down, this time, I guess all went well. The provisional December breakfast meet at Shuttleworth unfortunately coincided with four inches of snow. Looking forward, the February clubnight will feature a talk on Dr Joe Ehrlich and EMC motorcycles by the marque specialist Jim Turner. The new Journal Diary system means that to find details of our clubnight you have to look back to last month's journal - who's daft idea was that?
It's Winter, it's cold, there's salt on the roads but don't let that get you down - it's 2018 and there's a whole new programme of splendid events to amuse, entertain, educate and even feed you. First up, in January, is Don telling us about prototypes of his beloved Royal Enfields - and, no, not the intriguing new 650cc twin seen at the recent NEC Bike Show. The AGM held few surprises with the committee returned en bloc for yet another year - but we don't mind. One of the highlights of the evening was the award of the Phil 'Hoppy' Hopkins Shield to Roger King for his sterling efforts over many years organising the Arthur King Memorial Run, and introducing midweek daytime runs and lunches into our programme of events. The other highlight was the photo review of 2017 events presented by probably our youngest member, Sam Cootes. Well done, both.
A slight misinterpretation of the Autumn Gold Run route card sent a few riders off to enjoy a spot of green laning until getting completely bogged down and realizing it probably wasn't the right road or, at least, not the right tyres. And I thought the 'no muddy boots' sign at the coffee stop was aimed at ramblers. My talk 'Still going like the Clappers', continuing the story of the early local speed hill-climbs, seem well received; well, nobody threw anything. Talking of talks, the 2018 programme has come together nicely - we can look forward to another year of splendid entertainment. December sees the charity auction, with Christmas grub, so sort out everything that didn't sell on eBay and we'll lumber someone else with it. On Boxing Day there will be the, now customary, gathering at the Musgrave Arms in Shillington - hot coffee available. And don't forget the midweek lunch.
My informant tells me Will Curry's talk, "It seemed like a good idea at the time...." was extremely well received by the gathered masses. In inimitable style, he described motorcycle design cul-de-sacs, dead ends and downright howlers, illustrating them with revealing pictures of some of the horrors inflicted on two-wheelers over the years. Contributions from the floor ranged from exploding vacuum cleaners to dismembered digits! A splendid evening of entertainment. With stoic dedication, the mid-week run was organised from his hospital bed by Don and headed up by the ever willing Dave. More delightful roads for the Section faithful to enjoy. Sadly the runs are done for the year now and midweek activity turns to the now traditional Winter season of food and chat organised by Roger. The unending excitement continues in November with the eagerly anticipated AGM and, of course, Nigel's review of the year's events here in Beds.
It being Summer we got the bikes out and we rode them lots. Happy days. The car park of the newly refurbished Memorial Hall was full almost to overflowing on club night with wonderful machinery whilst their owners nattered over the proverbial noggin. Turnout for the midweek run was excellent once again, and the Summer Saunter was a splendid sunny affair with the rare bonus of no less than four lady pillions and sidecar passengers, and a fully functioning drop-off system. Cancel all other engagements because our October calendar is jam-packed. Yours truly will be continuing the tale of the local early 20th century hill climbs at club night. The following Thursday sees the return of Roger's ever popular midweek lunches. But don't put the steed away yet. On Sunday 22nd there will a breakfast meet at the Shuttleworth Cafe followed by the Autumn Gold Run to aid the digestion.
A bit cramped with the building works and the keep-fitters cars, but the Car Park Concours in July was as popular as ever. No official count but more than three score bikes including one of the brand new, shiny Brough Superiors and the regular crew of Harley customs. An amusing touch this year was the award of chrome polish and buffing cloth instead of the usual bottle of wine. The threat of rain kept start numbers down for the midweek run, and punctures, broken cables and helping hands meant only three or four made it to the pub for lunch. It may have taken over 110 years but the Albert Brown Run has changed with the times; no longer must bikes be of entirely British manufacture and it's no longer non-stop. Instead we have a splendid variety of British, Italian and Japanese bikes and a cake stop to die for.
June was a quiet month in Beds VMCC land with the excellent AKM run having past and the Albert Brown and Concours Night still yet to come. Ride a bike night was rather quieter than expected and the rain-threatening sky causing a mass exodus by about 9.30pm. Looking forward, August club night is the customary "Noggin and Natter", hopefully with the emphasis on natter and not too heavy on the noggin. The week after that is the Midweek Run and the 27th sees the Summer Saunter, the one run a year where we use the drop off system. Not sure yet but we may be heading out through Hertfordshire into the near reaches of Essex. But fear not, most people return unharmed physically or mentally. October sees the Autumn Gold Run and it would be good to get a volunteer to plan a route. Any suggestions for next year's programme?
The "Overland to Vietnam" talk by adventurer extraordinaire, Gordon May, was widely acknowledged as one of the best we've had for many a year - everyone stayed right to the end and no-one sneaked out for a swift beer. A unique and captivating tale and a polished speaker make a wonderful combination. Talking of wonderful combinations, Don left his at home for the mid-week run but, sidecar or solo, his runs are always a popular do. And talking of popular dos, the 10th anniversary Arthur King Memorial run, organized entirely by Roger King and his family, saw about 40 girder fork bikes from veterans to pre-war take to the Bedfordshire lanes, terrorizing cyclists and walkers alike. July club night features the spectacular car park concours although, with the building works going on, it'll be a tight squeeze. So leave the car at home and bring along your shiniest of the shiny.
I sincerely hope your April wasn't completely ruined by the non-appearance of my Section Notes. They did make it to HQ but mysteriously disappeared into the ether at some stage of the publication process. They can, however, be found on our website (for those who know what that is). My roving reporters tell me that the midweek run season started well with a dozen riders and almost as many different makes of machine. Not quite so, the Spring Run which attracted a goodly crowd to the start but it seems bacon & eggs proved a greater attraction for many than the draw of the open road. A good turnout for fish & chip night - what is it about food and our section? June is, of course, 'Ride a Bike to Shefford' and a chance to show off the old P&J, just in case it rains on Concours night in July.
Much head-scratching and educated guesswork, as ever, at Will's Intersection Quiz which lived up to its reputation for being somewhat off-beat, but great fun. And, of course, plenty of excellent grub to refresh the over-taxed brains. Anglian resumed their winning ways (in the quiz, that is, not the feasting). May club night should prove to be rather special with motorcycle adventurer and author, Gordon May (May in May, such co-ordination), relating tales of his amazing solo journey to Vietnam on a rigid WWII Matchless. Bring some dosh as I'm sure he'll have copies of his excellent books for sale. A glorious mild, dry and sunny morning ensured our inaugural breakfast meet at the Shuttleworth Cafe was a roaring success. Great to see so many of our crew out with their bikes, providing great interest to the hoard of modern bike, and Harley, riders there for the discounted bacon and eggs.
It's April - high Summer in Bedfordshire. Dust sheet off, mouse trap emptied, oil mopped up, tyre pressures checked, clutch freed, fingers crossed, and kick. And as William Hickson almost said "if at first it doesn't start, kick, kick and kick again". Assuming this has resulted in some element of success, head out for the first Section Runs of the year - Don's midweek run on the 3rd Thursday and John's Spring Run on Easter Sunday (yes, I know). At the February club night we were fascinated by Don's fascination with motorcycles with sidecars attached, and motorcycle model kits - hands up those who made an Airfix C15 or Arrow whilst waiting for their first provisional licence. The only real connection between the two subjects being that they are two things that float Don's boat - and, yes, he did include the boat sidecar. April club night is, of course, fish and chip night.
If it's March it must be Inter-Section Quiz time, when we welcome the brainy and the brave to do battle in Shefford against the wit and wily wisdom of Will. It's not as tricky as it might seem - remember, no team has ever gone home without scoring any points (yet). Refurbishments mean the Hall is in a bit of a state, so arrive early to find a parking space or, better still, come on a bike. Overseas teams will be met at the airport as usual. Word has it that Bob Culver's captivating talk in January was very well attended and very well appreciated, as always. One more chance to dine in style mid-week before the dust covers come off for the riding season starting in April. Before then, March sees the start of our regular series of breakfast meets at the Shuttleworth cafe & bacon-slicer flywheels and grey porridge welcome.
Bargains galore at the December auction and a very healthy £350 or so raised for the East Anglian Air Ambulance which, by my reckoning, should keep it going for about half-an-hour; hopefully not flying to any of us. It never ceases to amaze me what emerges from people's garages year after year. Feeding the assembled masses was a challenge with the kitchen having disappeared into the refurbishment works but thanks to Martin and his helpers (including super shopper Dave Watts). The Boxing Day escape-the-family meet at the Musgrave Arms was, I hear, well attended. February club night features Don talking about 'A Motorcycle Miscellany' which, judging by the title, could be about almost anything. The week after that, the dining experience continues with the midweek lunch at the Old Red Lion in Houghton Regis. Time to start swatting up for Will's intersection quiz night in March - need I say more?
January 2017Unlike some other slightly higher profile votes in 2016 there was no great surprise at the Section AGM when the existing committee members were swept back in post for another year; the doors were locked and guarded anyway so there was no escape. The Phil 'Hoppy' Hopkins Memorial Shield went to Don McKeand for his sterling efforts including all the Midweek Runs through the now distant warmer months. January club night features a talk by Bob Culver. The topic was undecided at the time of going to press but, as always with Bob, you know it'll be brilliant. The last slot in the 2017 programme has been filled and it's looking good - the usual mix of runs, lunches, quiz, food, ride-ins and talks. A new feature this year, from the AGM, will be quarterly Sunday breakfast meets at the Shuttleworth Cafe - probably starting in March; watch out for announcements.
Eddy's intriguingly titled 'Every picture tells a story' provided a fascinating insight into early events of the Motor Cycling Club and Association of Pioneer Motorcyclists through wonderful original photographs he'd been lucky enough to obtain some years ago. The Autumn Gold Run (Autumn Cold, someone said) proved a great success. Loads of great bikes, glorious weather (for October) and stunning colours in the trees and hedgerows. Shuttleworth proved a popular start and finish venue with its £6 breakfast and lunch deals, and coffee at Dunstable Downs made a convenient break for the 20+ riders and passengers. Splendid to see so many friends at the start and finish. December club night will feature the traditional charity auction so have a look in the shed and see what you no longer need, doesn't fit, or you can't remember what it is, but which might tempt someone else to squander their Christmas bonus.
Well, that's it for the organized riding season - the last midweek run has passed the finishing line and the Autumn Gold has gone back into the security vault (report next month). It was also the last midweek run for the big end on Don's Royal Enfield which should keep him occupied on the days he now has spare. November, of course, sees the fun-filled and action-packed AGM and the chance either to kick out or congratulate the committee before enjoying Nigel's photo review of the past year. September saw a first for the section when a joint meeting was held with the Bedford Section of the Triumph Owners Club. The attraction was special guest John Rosamond's fascinating insight into goings-on at the Triumph Meriden factory during his 25 years there, from a young welder to Chairman of the Workers' Co-operative. Attendance was over 70, in number not just average age.
The August midweek run saw three generations of the Coote family - Son (anonymous, I'm afraid), Dad Nigel & Grandad Brian. They also brought the twins (one Triumph, one BSA). The others included two from Northants on their third return visit (Don is clearly doing something right) and almost everyone braved the Eddlesborough ford, albeit with varying degrees of anxiety. Roughly the same number of bikes ventured out on the Summer Saunter, the second year of the drop-off system and, once again, it worked - very well, actually, because a road closure in Brill would have caused chaos with a route sheet but did mean we didn't see the wonderful windmill. Every picture tells a story at the October club night, or so says Eddie; tantalising. The Autumn Gold Run has moved back to October 23rd, starting and finishing at the Shuttleworth Collection cafe, with special £6 'biker' breakfast and lunch deals.
Albert Brown (aka Brent) came up trumps once again with glorious weather for his run, a splendid route through Bedfordshire's 'empty quarter', and an excellent pie lunch at the hastily rearranged start/finish venue, the Polhill Arms. Hero of the day was surely Chris who, every year, chugs his way around on his veteran Triumph. Resounding success also for Don's Midweek Run, tempting 14 riders away from their allotments, Bingo, or whatever retired people get up to all day. The guest list included some welcome tourists from far-flung Northants. Topping it all off, weather once smiled upon us for the Carpark Concours with one of our best attendances seeing over 90 bikes, albeit including a few more modern machines. September club night is joint with the Triumph Motorcycle Owners Club when we have John Rosamond reminiscing about his days as Chairman of the Triumph Meriden workers' co-operative; not to be missed.
Once again, the June club night brought out some exotic and shiny machinery, possibly anticipating rain on the August Concours Night but hopefully just a chance to get them out. No mention of rain in the weather forecast for the morning we took the 70th Anniversary Baton on to the Taveners Section on the Northants/Leics border - but Carol got that well and truly wrong. We were on the receiving end of a good two and a quarter hour soaking, only for it to be dry when we got to the hand-over pub. Such is life. Two more chances for a good canter on the bikes in August. Don's midweek run (Thurs 18th from Shefford Memorial Hall) and the Summer Saunter (Sun 28th starting and finishing at the Marston Vale Forest Centre). Nobody got lost last year, so the Summer Saunter will use the drop-off system again, with no route sheet.
What comes to mind when you think of Finland? For Beds Section members it's no longer just pine trees, reindeer and saunas; thanks to Don McKeand we now know all about the great (and boozy) motorcycle rallies they have there and which he has attended over the years. Long way to go. He's also been busy with the monthly midweek runs. Also very busy in May was Roger King and all the members of his family running the Arthur King Memorial run for veteran, vintage and girder fork bikes. This year the rain stayed away and a great day was had by all. Talking of runs this might just arrive in time to remind you about the Albert Brown Run - but only if you pre-entered I'm afraid. But don't get the bike too dirty because club night is the much-celebrated Car Park Concours night and shininess always fools the judges.
We got our motors running, headed out on the highway, looked for adventure and whatever came our way, twice actually in April. First opportunity came courtesy of John Brooker's excellent Spring Run on a great route with lunch close to base at the Roxton Garden Centre. Good weather encouraged a fine turnout with hardly a cobweb in sight, but many a dirty fingernail from last minute fettling. The new Thursday slot for Don's midweek run didn't seem to create too much chaos or confusion with a happy throng of thirteen riders. Fish, chips and lots of chat was the order of the evening at April club night; a very popular evening. June is all about riding - Ride a Bike to Shefford (9th), midweek run (16th), collect the Anniversary Baton from the Banbury Run (19th), deliver it to the Taveners (22nd) and, just into July (3rd), the celebrated Albert Brown Run.
History was made in Shefford in March when, shock horror, Anglian Section didn't win our Intersection Quiz; Chiltern did - well done those chaps, a well fought battle. Despite murmurings that Will Curry's questions were perhaps proving just a little too devious for some, the results showed that, just like a good motorcycle trial, every question had been 'cleaned' by at least one team. Don McKeand is doing a star turn double act in May - at club night he'll be recounting tales of rallying in far off Finland, then the following Thursday he'll be leading another popular midweek run. Just a few days before that we'll be having our annual visit to the Velo Fellows, on the evening of Mon 16th. They've moved shop to the Cross Keys on the High Street in Cranfield where some gourmet snacks will be laid on. Let's try to fill the car park with bikes.
Hey, hey, hey - it's riding season at long last. Grease up those joints, fill up with fresh juice, do the same to the bike, and head to the first Beds Section outing which will be John's Spring Run on 10th April. Don's midweek run follows on Thursday 21st - yes, that's right, midweek runs are the third Thursday from now on. And keep the old glory near the front of the shed ready for the Founders Relay Rally on May 1st; huge thanks to everyone who has volunteered to help man the checkpoint. February club-night saw us all drooling over Bob Culver's glorious 1928 (or thereabouts) Chater-Lea forming the backdrop to his wonderfully entertaining talk on that now seldom seen marque. April sees the ever popular fish and chip night and a chance for a natter over the mushy peas. Don't forget to enter the Arthur King and Albert Brown runs.
"Biker Down" at the January club night thankfully turned out not to be a motor cycle themed soap opera but a very useful session from the local fire service on what to do if you happen upon a bike accident. Heaven forbid that you should but the basic message was "Don't panic, call the Emergency Services". Sound advice indeed but they also showed us how to remove a full-face helmet - but only if the poor victim has stopped breathing. March club night is the usual challenge to defeat Anglian Section in our ever-popular Intersection Quiz Night. Questions, once again, courtesy of Will Curry so expect something out of the ordinary or, more likely, lots of things out of the ordinary. Free grub, of course, as usual. Talking of the proverbial culinary delights don't miss Roger's last (Wednesday) midweek lunch of the season before Don's (Thursday) runs take over in April.
The Beds Section always likes to punch above its weight and nowhere was this more in evidence than in the way 2015 was sent off with the proverbial bang rather than a mere whimper. The hall was full to the rafters, and beyond, for the charity auction and Christmas feast - almost seventy punters eager to clear out their old junk and then replace it with someone else's. We raised more than £500 and at least as many laughs thanks to the antics of the man with the gift of the gab and the gavel, Brent. The money will go to Hoppy's favourite charity, the East Anglia Air Ambulance - a very worthy cause that we all hope we never have to use. February club night sees club stalwart Bob Culver telling us all about the Chater-Lea. And for a bit of welcome winter warmth, please don't forget the mid-week luncheon meeting.
The dust has finally settled after the wild excesses of the Section AGM - no surprises,
committee returned en bloc and our financial head is still above the water.
The request for new volunteers to help organize runs provoked stony silence so
I repeat the plea here. No experience necessary just enthusiasm and a vague sense of direction;
lots of help available. The new 'Hoppy Memorial Shield' for services rendered was awarded to John Brooker
Dave's Autumn Gold Run is always fun. Apparently things started to go awry at the very first turn on the route sheet when some of the 23 riders merrily headed off towards oblivion. Nigel's Sunbeam running out of sparks proved another blow to those relying on his map-reading skills. Leafy lanes and sleepy villages were a breeze but a roundabout split opinions; some went one way, some the other, and possibly others are still there to this day. The lunchtime stop at Dunstable Downs proved elusive for some with others, as Eric Morecambe might have said, having taken all the right turns, but not necessarily in the right order. My October talk on the Sharpenhoe hill-climbs seemed to go down quite well (I've got three more bookings). Chris Illman is promising to bring lots of Hoppy's stuff to the December auction so bring plenty of cash. Xmas grub as usual.
The Hoppy Tribute night was a truly splendid affair with over 50 of his friends gathered to hear hilarious tales of the great man from Chris, Martyn and others. Chris brought along some fascinating memorabilia and photos, including one of when Hoppy was slim (aged about 4, I believe). November club night sees the annual adrenalin rush of the AGM (keep the Rennies handy). That's when you get the chance to shape the section's activities - if the committee are listening and haven't been voted out by that stage of the proceedings - as if. There will also be the photo review (rose-coloured filtered) of the year's events presented by Nigel, the section's answer to Lord Snowdon. Don reports his final midweek run of the season was a rather intimate affair but much enjoyed by the loyal band of enthusiasts. Maybe Roger's lunches will tempt a few more from their sheds.
Back in 1905, Albert Brown's idea of a fun day out was 100 miles charging around Herts and Bucks lanes in pursuit of a Trophy. Thankfully Brent has different ideas about how to spend a summer Sunday and nowadays the ABR is a wonderfully relaxed affair with bikes of all descriptions, from veteran Triumphs to 70s Italian sports mopeds, ambling around peaceful Bedfordshire backroads. Following up a promise (threat?) made at the 2014 AGM, the Summer Saunter was run on the drop-off, or dispatch rider, system. Not to everybody's taste but a dozen or so riders gave it a go and, probably to everyone's amazement, nobody got lost and nobody got left behind. Rain stopped play at lunchtime so the afternoon ice-cream leg was abandoned but it was August; what did we expect? October clubnight sees me talking about the 1907-8 speed hillclimbs at Sharpenhoe, and midweek activities come indoors.
More than a dozen bikes escorted Hoppy to the crematorium on his final journey. Standing room only, and a full house afterwards at the Memorial Hall with all the local sections strongly represented. A fitting tribute. A lovely evening helped made the Concours another rip-roaring success with the car park bursting with shiny bikes of all descriptions. Few pre-war bikes but the Velo black and gold caught the judge's eye, together with a Triumph T110 in the post-war class. Rather embarrassingly the 'special' award went to my Triumph long-distance trialler proudly still wearing mud from the 'Lands End'. A fickle bunch, our mid-weekers, with a bit of drizzle reducing numbers to just six, meaning the road-closed detour didn't cause the usual chaos. The Albert Brown report will appear next month when I've nothing else much to write about. September clubnight will be a tribute to Hoppy with stories and pictures.
For many, the June club night will be forever poignant. Founder member, 30-year secretary, and station mainstay Phil (Hoppy) Hopkins insisted on coming to 'Ride a Bike' night despite his obvious poor health. The next morning he passed away, heading for that great workshop and library in the sky. He will be greatly missed. How fitting that it was a lovely dry evening which brought out an exceptional array of machinery, more akin to Concours Night. A couple of chances to ride and a night of natter are on the cards for August. Don has yet another new route for the midweek run (Weds 19th) followed closely by the Summer Saunter (Sun 23rd). The Saunter will use the drop-off, or despatch rider system, as an experiment; with no route sheet. September club night will be a tribute/memorial night for Hoppy with pictures and stories from those that knew him best.
Good grief, it's summer. Didn't see that coming - well, not at the May clubnight anyway. The combination of the cancellation of our billed speaker, Gordon May, and rain seemed to help most people find something else to do in the shed that night. The substitute entertainment comprised myself taking a look at the motorcycling highlights, and some of the not quite so high lights, of 1957. Don says the midweek run was a bit showery with a few slippery roads to challenge the eight riders - all new routes now. July clubnight is, of course, the legendary Car Park Concours, the polisher's parade, attracting shiny bikes from far and wide; come early, everyone else does. Keep the bike running for the midweek run on the 15th and the Albert Brown Run on the 26th. Still a few places left on the Forest of Dean weekend in September, contact me for details.
Swelled by guests from Anglian Section, Don's Midweek Run apparently extended half the length of the county, halting onlookers in their tracks. The following weekend about half that number were treated to a splendid tour of the lanes on John's Spring Run. Excellent fish and chips at the April club night although numbers were a bit down on previous years; oh well, helps preserve fish stocks in the North Sea. The Arthur King Memorial Run on the Bank holiday weekend squeezed itself into an essentially dry period between some very heavy showers - but those of us who rode to and from the run got soaked! With a brilliant turnout of over 30 veteran, vintage and pre-war girder fork machines, this event is now very well established with riders coming from as far away as Devon. June sees 'ride a bike to Shefford' on club night and the next midweek run.
Questions so difficult that contestants broke into sweat, spectators gasped and the St John Ambulance was on stand-by. Yes, it was Intersection Quiz Night once again. Will Curry's fiendish questions caused much head scratching but, once again, Anglian Section emerged victorious. Well done to them and everyone who took the challenge. Keep the bikes near the front of the garage as there's plenty of riding in May. Girder forked bikes will be out on the Arthur King Memorial Run on the 3rd - come over to Shefford anyway and see them off. Then on the 18th ride over to Husborne Crawley to visit the Velo Club, and on the 20th it's the next in the series of Don's Midweek runs. Unfortunately Gordon May has cancelled his visit to the May club night so now we'll have to ride down to India on Royal Enfields ourselves to find out what it's like.
Rejoice. Ring the church bells. Bring on the dancing girls. April means it's time to fire up ready for the year's Beds Section runs. First up is Don's eagerly awaited inaugural midweek run, having taken the reins from Roger; and John Brooker's Spring Run never fails to please. So let's see lots of ancient wonders emerging from under the winter dust, and making their way to the garage to get the bike ready. February club-night was an enthralling but sobering visit to the seedy world of classic bike theft in the company of world authority, Dr Ken German. The number of bikes stolen is staggering; where did I put that padlock? Brent presented Geoff Hoden with an engraved glass tankard in appreciation of many valued years of service on the section committee; thanks Geoff. April sees fish and chip night and a chance for a natter over the mushy peas.
The first club night of 2015 featured a fascinating and detailed history of the now defunct Bedford to Cambridge railway line by George Howe of the Sandy Historic Transport Group (or something like that). George is a very knowledgeable enthusiast whose dedication even runs as deep as living in one of the old stations on the route. March club night should draw a good crowd away from their winter rebuilds to see the battle of the giants, also known as the intersection quiz. Can the home team build on their winning performance at Chiltern Section and steal victory, and glory, from Anglian this year; or will it be the same as usual? Come along, form a team and give it a go; it's just for fun. No seriously, it is. Don't forget Roger's mid-week lunch the following Wednesday where you can invent stories about how many answers you got right.
In true tradition, the Autumn Gold Run turned out to be as much a scatter rally as a guided run. A printing error managed to lose a whole line of directions, dispersing riders far and wide throughout the lanes of Hertfordshire (I don't think anyone made it as far as the coast). If the truth be told, some of us had already got ourselves lost way before the missing instructions. At the October clubnight I had the privilege of talking about my trip to Zambia with the charity Riders for Health who do a brilliant job providing motorcycles to health workers in remote areas of Africa. Many thanks to Gary Taylor for joining us to explain the valuable work they do. The December auction sees the chance to recycle your unwanted bits and pieces, raise some money for charity and scoff some festive grub. Don't forget the Boxing Day Run.
Well that's it. The official Beds Section riding season is over. By the time you read this the last run will have wound its way around the lanes (report next month), midweek activities see the ethanol moving from petrol to the lunchtime beer - but probably with the same effect on the ancient machinery it fuels. But it's not all doom and gloom, the excitement is already building for the November AGM. Under interrogation, my informant tells me that a healthy (figuratively speaking) contingent from the Anglian Section crossed the county boundary to swell numbers on the September midweek run to Stockwood Park in Luton. Welcome friends, please come again next season. Whilst not out riding in the glorious September weather, the committee have been busy putting together the 2015 programme. Already confirmed are talks by Gordon May, brave traveller, and one on the history of the Sharpenhoe Motorcycle Hill Climbs.
Like the song said "two out of three ain't bad", the two dry weather runs in August were actually jolly good whereas the Quainton Run was better described by the old nursery rhyme "it's raining, it's pouring; the old man is snoring". Only Ron and I disturbed our slumbers to test our water resistance. My first go at a midweek daytime run seemed to go well with eleven of us exploring some narrow back-roads en route to the Super Sausage. Very enjoyable; roll-on retirement. Don's Aviation Run tool us on a fascinating tour of historic flying sites in our area, including Shuttleworth, Twinwood, Tempsford and the Cardington sheds. The intended destination of the Gransden Air Show was foiled as it had sold out to those more interested in Lancasters than Triumphs, BSAs or Nortons. October clubnight features yours truly talking about my Zambia trip with Riders for Health.
Luckily the forecast rain held off for the car park concours night but I fear it reduced the number of gleaming machines strutting their stuff compared to some years; indeed, so many people came in cars and vans that the room for bikes was rather squeezed. All the same we had about 75 machines which made for an excellent evening and some worthy winners went home with some cheap plonk for their efforts; all expense spared in the Beds Section. Thanks to some coercion and serious arm-twisting by Brent, the turnout for the Albert Brown Run reached a very impressive total of 36 bikes including Chris on his veteran Triumph and a trio of Garelli mopeds thumping and buzzing their respective ways through the Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire back roads, villages and small towns to the bemusement of the local residents. A rather fine roast dinner rounded the run off nicely.
Clean off the dust (mud) from the Albert Brown Run, kick the tyres and top up the SAE 40 because August is all about riding old bikes. This starts with the VMCC Ace Cafe Day on the 10th - can we win Best Section Turnout again? Then ride it along to club night for the traditional August noggin-and-natter; as BT used to say - it's good to talk. Don tells me he only got six on the June mid-week run; jolly disappointing I'd say. Let's see some improvement for August or there will be tears - mine, because I'm leading it. Don's Aviation Run is now on Sunday the 24th starting from the Shuttleworth Cafe and ending up at the wonderful Little Gransden air show. Then keep the bike ticking over ready for the run to the excellent Quainton Vintage Vehicle Day the next day (Bank Holiday Monday). Good section turnout at Banbury.
Lots to do in July. On the 10th we have the world-renowned slendour of the Car Park Concours; prepare to be dazzled (sunglasses advised). Then Don's Midweek Run on the 16th for the lucky ones whose working days are past. And on the 27th we have the premier section event for the year, the Albert Brown Run; sign up now and help bring it back to its former glory. Recent events included a hugely popular talk on motorcycle rallying by Paul Cook aided by Nigel Coote, Roger Crockford and a very well-dressed KTM 690. The Arthur King Memorial Run was the best attended to date with 33 bikes rewarding Roger's hard work year on year. Unfortunately mechanical mishap reduced the finishers by one - it seems BSA made grenades as well as guns. We also had a good display of five bikes in the sunshine at the Shefford Memorial Hall fete.
From our own correspondents: Don reports that the season's first mid-week run went well. Nineteen was probably a record number of riders, aided by beautiful weather. The new 45 mile route followed the Greensand ridge from Hatch to Woburn, and through Potsgrove to the Red Lion, Houghton Regis. No one actually got lost, despite a few traditional false turnings where most followed the bike in front rather than the route sheet. Brent reports that just six riders (it was Easter Sunday) braved the dire weather forecast to line up for the Spring Run. As usual John had an excellent route with plenty of back-lanes and picturesque country roads. After forty miles a piping-hot carvery and a pint hit the spot, then back on the bikes to come back by another corker of a route. As usual the weather forecast was miles out, with barely a trickle to wet the riders.
There's one question that quizmaster Will doesn't ask in the Annual Intersection Quiz because everyone would know the answer - who is going to win? Sorry no points for knowing it was Anglian. We only see the cup for a couple of hours each year before it goes back home (picture shows it disappearing once again). Wax up that Belstaff and polish those Goldtops, the riding season is in full swing now with the Relay Rally, AKM and Midweek Runs and visiting the Velo club in May. Still time for one more indoor meeting with a talk on rallying (cars).
Whoopee, Spring has sprung, let's get those bikes out and go for a run. Please excuse the impromptu poetry but the arrival of the riding season brings joy to the heart. And boy do we have some runs coming up. Join me for a run to the AGM at Gaydon, join Don for a midweek run, join John for the Spring Run, join Roger for the AKM Run, and join the whole VMCC for the Relay Rally. Or if that doesn't excite you we have the fish and chip supper in April. Looking back to February we had the most engaging and amusing of talks by Dick Hardwick on the fascinating history of the lawn-mower, with more than a few prize samples on display. Apparently the early large mowers were pulled along by a boy - so can we blame the current state of youth unemployment on Briggs and Stratton?
January club night featured a fascinating insight into the excellent work of the British Legion Riders Branch, presented by Sam Price with Lisa on the keyboard. This relatively new branch of the RBL is doing a grand job of raising awareness and loads of money for the Poppy Appeal, and riding bikes at the same time - can't be bad. March sees the ever popular Intersection Quiz Night with the usual, unusual questions. Looking forward, food seems prominent in our programme: Refreshments at the Quiz Night, Roger's last Midweek Lunch for the season, and the Fish and Chip Supper in April. Riders of lightweight bikes are advised to partake modestly in sympathy with their machines. My apologies but I left it a bit late to organize a museum visit this Spring; maybe Autumn instead. I'm doing a back-roads run to the bun fight, sorry AGM, at Gaydon; contact me for details.
Christmas spirit was once again in abundance at the now traditional annual auction in December. No big value items this year but the assorted junk, sorry "contemporary accessories, collector's items and rare automobilia" prised over three hundred quid from the tightly clamped wallets of the gathered faithful. This will be split 75/25 between the desperately needed new PA system and Hoppy's nominated charity, the East Anglia Air Ambulance. Many thanks to everyone who bought and/or brought. Too early to report on the Boxing Day Run as I'm writing this before the world shuts down for Christmas. It looks like we may have a saviour for the midweek, watch this space. February clubnight features a talk on the fascinating history of the lawnmower. If we were a modern bike club I'd attempt a joke about a "blade" but I won't because you may not have a clue what I'm talking about.
Once again the AGM has entrusted section affairs to an unchanged committee; hopefully that can be seen as a healthy endorsement. Officers' reports are on the website. The Section Shield was deservedly awarded to webmaster and quizmaster Will Curry (see picture) who has been there since the birth of the section. He is also the steady, moderating voice on committee keeping the chairman's more outlandish suggestions closer to Planet Bedfordshire. New Year, exciting new programme; January features an insight into the motorcycling activities of the Royal British Legion Riders Branch. We will soon need organisers for this year's midweek runs.
Autumn Gold? Liquid gold, more like. But rain doesn't stop play for us and seven hardy souls tested their waterproofs on a wonderful 100 mile jaunt through delightful Cambridgeshire villages on Dave and Jennifer's splendid route. Slippery ford near Duxford though. The ever entertaining Hoppy treated us to a treatise at clubnight on carburettors, especially old and odd ones; many of which seemed never to have been much good at their job so have found their way into his personal collection which he brought along for prodding and poking by the assembled inquisitive masses. We look forward to the rest of the suck, squeeze, bang and blow cycle. Christmas is almost upon us; time to munch on a few mince pies and find a new home for those unwanted bits and pieces at the auction. The Boxing Day run will be on December 26th this year; please note the date.
Roger's midweek run was, I'm told, entrusted to Rod and lots of people came - but not because of that I'm sure. Lots also came to club night which was a wonderful example of what our transatlantic school chums would call "show and tell". Bob Culver brought in his rather wonderful Vincent-HRD TT Replica from 1935 or thereabouts, together with a couple of engines of similar ilk. Excellent evening, much drooling. November sees the ever anticipated AGM and the photo review of the year's activities. Your yearly chance to boot out the committee and start afresh (as if), or just to have your say in what you think we should be doing. It's also nearly time to turn out all your extraneous vintage valuables ready for the December auction. Dig deep because we desperately need funds for a new PA system; "Speak up - we can't hear you at the back".
Whoops, missed the August deadline, then foolishly sent the August notes by mistake for September; must concentrate. Concours night way back in July was amazing, making up for last year's washout. Over a hundred bikes of all shapes, sizes and ages. The Ace Cafe event seems to have lost its shine; we won best section turnout with just six members. Don's "Windmill Run 2" was well supported, and rightly so because it was excellent; how did he find some of those roads? My run to the Quainton Vintage Vehicle Day proved popular, we'll do that one again next year. October club night is a change to the original programme with Hoppy giving the first installment of "Suck, squeeze, bang & blow". Roger's midweek runs give way to midweek lunches; time to swap oily rags for napkins. Dave's "Autumn Gold Run" starts from Shuttleworth, not Shefford - arrive early have coffee.
Whoops, missed the deadline last month for the first time in seven years - can you ever forgive me? Twice as much to fit in this month so here goes. Excellent weather meant bikes galore at the ride-a-bike-to-Shefford night, and even more on Concours night in July - about 75 eligible machines and loads more who just came along for the spectacle! Good numbers also at Roger's midweek runs and pie-and-pint night. The Albert Brown Run saw about three dozen folk take to the delightfully quiet back roads of Bedfordshire and into the Bandit Country of neighbouring Northants - we counted them out, we counted them back; all home safely. A small group ventured even further north in July for a glorious weekend of riding and repairing (ask Brent or Roger) around Staffordshire and Derbyshire. Thanks to Notts & Derby Section for letting those of us with functioning bikes join their excellent run.
Bikes galore at the ride-a-bike-to-Shefford night thanks to good weather and probably the worry that it might lash it down again on Concours night in July - ride 'em while you can! June has been the month for getting out-and-about with excellent numbers at Roger's midweek run, Brent's pie-and-pint night and good old Albert Brown's run. Although Albert himself wasn't on a Brown, and looked remarkably like Brent, about three dozen folk took to the delightfully quiet back roads of Bedfordshire and into the Bandit Country of neighbouring Northants - we counted them out, we counted them back; all home safely. August continues the riding theme with no less than four outings including guided runs to the VMCC Ace Cafe Day (11th) and the Quainton Vintage Vehicle Day (26th) that weren't in the original programme of events for the year. August club night is a chance for chatter in the car park.
The Beds section doesn't normally let the grass grow under its feet (wheels?) but unfortunately it did in May when the talk on the history of the Lawn-mower had to be cancelled. A hastily assembled picture show of my own collection of "Motorcycles in Miniature" seemed a well received substitute. The Arthur King Memorial Run once again saw a splendid collection of mainly veteran and vintage, girder-forked machines chugging enthusiastically around our lanes with just about everyone beating the rain. Out on the roads again, we were treated to fine hospitality by the Velo Club in Husborne Crawley. Fingers here are well and truly crossed that we don't get a repeat of last year's washout at the July Car Park Concours. Another chance to show off your polishing skills a few days before that when we run over to the classic bike day at the Super Sausage cafe in Potterspury.
Before you do anything else, grab a crayon and head for the diary section of this journal where there are no less than six unmissable Beds Section events. There's Ride-Your-Bike (NB the date was wrong in the May journal), Concours and Pie-and-Pint nights, and Mid-Week, Albert Brown and Super Sausage Classic Bike Show runs. No grass growing under our tyres! The April fish and chip night made its usual dent in the North Sea stocks with an impressive 50 portions being served, and jolly tasty they were. I don't know his secret but John Brooker always seems to find great weather, interesting routes and a good pub for his Spring Run, and this year was no exception. Lunch stop was somewhere near Duxford - except Brent who arrived there for afternoon tea. Roger reports an amazing 17 riders for the first mid-week run where they visited the Luton Mossman carriage museum.
The legendary inter-section quiz saw ten teams grappling with Will Curry's brain-teasers but once more it's the name "Anglian" that gets carved into the cup pedestal. Luckily we don't have that rule whereby winning it three times entitles them to keep it, or by now they'd have a mantelpiece decorated at our expense. Quiz night is a great team effort; huge thanks to everyone involved. Roger's Winter lunch meetings have proved very popular as ever, keeping the hungry fed and getting people out of the shed into the daylight. The midweek run programme has now taken over - a good reason for retiring early. May sees the Arthur King Memorial Run for veterans, vintage and girder-forked bikes; why not come along to Shefford at the start, lunchtime or the finish to witness the spectacle. Club night is all about lawnmowers and please come visit the Velo club on the 20th.
Hopefully this month will see the first of the hibernating bikes emerging from sheds, garages and front rooms across the county, dripping fresh SAE 40 and reflecting sunlight in refurbished chrome, ready for the Spring Run on the 7th and the midweek run on the 17th. Maybe even having received a few tweaks ready for the racetrack after hearing Martin Brookman's fascinating tales of life as a GP mechanic at the February clubnight. Unfortunately we had a few problems with the sound system, which we are urgently trying to fix, but famous names like Steve Parrish and Barry Sheene were dropping like confetti. Ten of us ventured up into the Midlands to the Coventry Museum of Transport to see their amazing collection. Maybe some will be inspired and we'll see the odd, or even very odd, British Scooter appearing on runs? April clubnight is the famous fish and chip night.
If the post is behaving itself, you may still be in time for our visit to the Coventry Transport Museum on Sunday March 3rd and the display of a unique collection of British Scooters, as well as all the other brilliant stuff they have there. See the events diary pages, car share from Shefford or bike. The impoverished should note the free entry. March club night sees the annual clash of the Titans at the legendary and fiendish intersection quiz night; rumour has it that Hoppy has been helping with the questions. In January we were very pleased to welcome CEO James Hewing to update us on how the club is functioning at national level - and jolly well it would seem. There was an excellent and appreciative turnout. James raided the VMCC library beforehand and smuggled out one of the original Norton dispatch books - real history, who needs Time Team?
2012 certainly went out with a bang - a very loud bang from auctioneer Brent's gavel. The Christmas auction raised an astounding £536 for Riders for Health and £48 for research into Parkinson's disease. I'm not sure if it was the personal appearance of Father Christmas that did it, or whether Martin spiked the mince pies, but generosity abounded. A huge thank-you to everyone who donated items and to those who dug deep for things that they probably never realised they wanted; you can always bring them back next year. February clubnight features Martin Brookman's tales of the jet-setting, playboy lifestyle of a GP mechanic. Sunday March 3rd we're visiting the wonderful Coventry Transport Museum. It's the last day of the British scooter exhibition - but don't let that put you off; there's loads of other stuff and free admission! Car share or go by bike. Don't forget the March quiz night.
The Annual General Meeting saw a desperate scrabble amongst the assembled masses to secure committee places for the next year. To avoid too much disappointment it was, however, decided that the existing committee will stay in place (again). The Section Shield was awarded to Nigel Coote for his excellent efforts through the year, including maintaining the Section Archive - Nigel is on the right of the picture receiving the shield from Secretary Brent; clearly they didn't feel the need to dress for the occasion. The exciting 2013 programme kicks off with a visit from no less than VMCC CEO, James Hewing.
John's Transport Quiz really got people guessing; and so did Dave's Autumn Gold run! It never ceases to amaze me how much knowledge our people have on almost anything old with wheels (or wings) but John still managed to stump a few. Many apologies for the wrong date in the journal for the run but judging by the excellent turnout, I didn't fool many - and nobody showed up on the wrong day. Dave's imaginary T-junctions on the Hertford Road created some fun; with bikes going in all directions it was more like a Red Arrows display than a VMCC run. I exaggerate, of course, and everyone made it to the Bishops Stortford lunch stop before dark. Only half-a-dozen at the first midweek lunch but hopefully that's improved by now. Please bring lots of lots for the December auction. Boxing Day sees a repeat of last year's popular run to Sarratt.
November always causes me a bit of a headache as there isn't usually a lot to report and I wish for a picture to paint the proverbial thousand words or, in the case of these notes, just fifty. Maybe we should have a September run - just so I have something to say. Talking of runs and other events, next year's programme is looking jolly exciting with the usual mix of talks, runs, the quiz, ride-outs, ride-ins and networking (posh name for a good old natter). You won't be disappointed. September clubnight saw Brent recounting in his usual captivating and hilarious style memories of his youth, largely misspent on Garelli mopeds, and his attempt to recapture it somewhere on the road from John O'Groats to Land's End. An adventure which has probably left him barred from Travelodges for life. AGM this month, charity auction next - please dig out lots of lots.
I say this every October but, gosh, can it really be that time of year already? My, how time flies when you're having fun on old bikes. The August Noggin & Natter, mid-week run and Windmill Run all proved very popular but not so the VMCC day at The Ace Cafe. Indeed more Beds section members were scoffing ice-cream in Belgium on the Oude Kleppers Parade than fry-ups on the North Circular; odd. Don's Windmill Run was a glorious outing into neighbouring Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire and home past the Great Gransden Airshow, an interesting diversion for some. Something a bit different at October clubnight with John Brooker's, just for fun, transport quiz. Whilst the monthly mid-week event moves indoors, there is still the chance to exercise the steeds on the splendid Autumn Gold Run. The AGM cometh in November, please let Brent know if you'd like to join the committee.
Writing section notes this year without mentioning the weather is proving somewhat of an impossibility - but, then again, we are British so what else would we talk about? The July highlight for the whole of Bedfordshire is usually our wonderful Car Park Concours but not this year. Persistent rain meant it effectively cancelled itself - there wasn't really any need for emergency committee pow-wows with only ten bikes outside and those being of the largely "all-weather" variety. All praise though to our anonymous judge who still braved the elements (on a bike). Remind me to ask someone how the midweek runs are going. Please be advised that Steve Lindsell is unable to give his talk on "Racing Bullets" at the September clubnight and the pace will slow somewhat to that of a big-bore moped as Brent recounts the tale of his recent end-to-end endeavour; possibly even answering that perpetual query "why?".
Rain (how dare it?) on Ride-a-Bike to Shefford night no doubt kept a few of the shinier steeds at home under their dustcovers and owners under their bedcovers waiting instead for July Concours night. I'm sure midweek runs are as popular as ever but I always leave these notes too late to enquire. The pie-and-pint night and new format Albert Brown Run have now settled nicely into firm features of our programme of events, and both were very successful and truly enjoyable. Gazing into the future, though not too far, we see two remarkable transitions: Don McKeand turns into Don Quixote to take us on a tour of tilting at local windmills; and in a change to the advertised programme for September, Brent tells us how, earlier this year, he shed a (good) few years to relive his teenage years by riding a moped from John O'Groats to Lands End.
I'm told I got it shockingly wrong in May's Notes about Anglian's seemingly perpetual victories in our inter-section quiz. Whoops, sorry. At the June clubnight Bob Culver (he who knows about Vincents) beguiled the gathered masses with 'An unusual engine', and unusual it certainly was. A two-stroke with six pistons in three cylinders but with one cylinder delivering the charge to the others. Built for powering large lifeboats to be dropped from Shackletons, Bob actually had one of the engines there on display. The riding season is now in full swing and the Arthur King Memorial Run was the most successful to date with 30 riders enjoying excellent weather and a first class event; another 570 entries and Banbury has a serious rival. July sees two great Beds Section traditions. Ride the beast in the Albert Brown Run, then brazenly polish it up for the Car Park Concours.
The fish and chip supper proved the plaice to be once again this year, with something like 55 portions being served up. In last year's report I lamented having no runs during an exceptionally dry April; this year I think we're glad we didn't! Hopefully rain will be a distant memory by now because we've got a packed Summer programme and every single event is about getting out and riding. Tighten those last bolts, polish that last bit of chrome, check the tyres and oil and head our way. There's ride-a-bike-to-Shefford night, the midweek run, the now-established Pie-and-Pint night and Albert Brown Run and the hugely popular Car Park Concours. Don't forget, the Albert Brown Run now caters for all nationality VMCC eligible bikes and even the more recent Royal Enfields; little traffic and largely flat so it's ideal for the older machines.
How well do you remember 2006? Well enough to remember someone other than Anglian 'A' winning our intersection quiz night? Yes, history repeated itself again but well done to everyone who took on Will Curry's challenging and, dare I say it, sometimes controversial brain-teasers. It was particularly pleasing to have the bell and buzzer system working again for the quick-fire final round. All-in-all a great team effort, with at least a dozen people involved in making it a success for, I believe, the 24th time. The other highlight of March was the start of the riding season proper and John Brooker's excellent Spring Run. A healthy turn-out of around15 bikes ranging from a lovely pre-war Triumph 3H to an equally lovely Yamaha 'Elsie', with all sorts in between including Brent's uncommon Sanglas. 'All sorts in between' would probably also describe most of the riders.
February club-night was a veritable treat with Bill Phelps recounting fascinating tales of his 50 years on two wheels. How can one man attract so many gifts of old bikes - the Steptoe of the vintage motorcycle world? The inevitable first question was "just how big is your shed?". The late evening snow made it an interesting ride home; all praise to trials bikes. No excuse for boredom or hunger over the coming weeks. John Brooker's Spring Run will be taking us in a Northerly direction with, of course, the essential pub lunch. Club-night is the feast of fish and chips; please don't bring sandwiches that night because we've had to commit to a large order to entice the van into our car park. The new season of Roger's mid-week runs is about to start. Finally, dust off the veterans and girder fork machines for the Arthur King Memorial Run.
January club night was a slight change from the advertised "tour" of section archives to a slide show of racing photographs recently acquired by Roger King. It came as a surprise to me but hopefully the originally scheduled show will appear sometime so we can laugh at times when only the bikes were vintage. Two great traditional section club nights in the diary for the next couple of months. The intersection quiz, with sumptuous refreshments, this month, and the fabulous fish and chip supper in April. Add to that the last mid-week lunch of the Winter season and the Spring Run on April Fool's Day and it's clear that the year is about to change up a gear. If you haven't heard the details of the Beds Boys on Tour weekend in June in Derbyshire, and you fancy joining in, you'd best waste no time in contacting Brent or myself.
The Christmas auction was an outstanding success, furnishing people with all manner of things they never knew they needed, and raising the rather grand sum of �231. The money has formed our contribution to the kind people of Shefford who are going to build us a splendid new clubhouse - Grand Designs, here we come. A mild Boxing Day allowed a score or so members to escape turkey sandwiches and nagging in-laws to make the run down to the vintage meet in Sarratt; a welcome change to the challenging conditions of the previous two years. The February clubnight promises a real treat, with former President Bill Phelps relating tales from his 50 years of motorcycling. Also listen out for initials details of the "Beds Boys on Tour" weekend sometime this summer. And don't forget to get swatting ready for the Quiz night in March - high time that Bedfordshire Section beat Anglian.
Highlights of the AGM were presentations to two stalwarts. The Section Shield went to Martin
Brookman for his unstinting efforts looking after the catering. Then a special award, suggested
by the section membership, was made to Phil 'Hoppy' Hopkins in recognition of his immense efforts
over three decades in helping found, develop and run the Bedfordshire Section. The photo shows
Chris Illman presenting the engraved tankard. In the rest of the business, the AGM granted no
remission to the committee so we're all 'in' for another year. But that's no burden; we wouldn't
do it if we didn't enjoy it.
Lady Luck smiled graciously and provided perfect weather for our Autumn Gold run, bringing riders out in droves. Thirty bikes meant this was probably our best weekend turnout of the year with, I'm delighted to say, riders joining us from neighbouring sections and the VJMCC. Dave and Nigel's excellent route took us to picturesque Essex. It would be nice to say that it took us home again but, approaching the outskirts of Doncaster we began to suspect that the turning for Bishops Stortford was somewhere behind us. October clubnight featured myself attempting to entertain and amuse with a selection of motorcycle adverts from the 40s and 50s. People said nice things to me afterwards; possibly just being polite. December has the auction so please have a quick gander in the loft for anything that might raise a few pennies. Please don't forget the Mid-week lunch and the Boxing Day run.
November sees three exciting events to satisfy the thrill-seekers amongst our ranks: the second of Roger's mid-week lunches, the release of the action-packed 2012 programme and, thrill of thrills, the section AGM. All the committee are desperate to continue but that doesn't mean there isn't any room left in these hallowed ranks of privilege and power. Please come and tell us how you think we're doing - we can take it - and what we can do to make vintage motorcycling in Bedfordshire as enjoyable as possible (except for filling in potholes, that is). December sees the now familiar auction but we need things to flog so drag out that Minerva engine, Tandon tea-cosy or even the Lada manual. Proceeds will go towards a donation to the fund for a new Memorial Hall in Shefford. The bring-something-interesting evening went well with an eclectic bunch of oddities, and the things they brought along.
Gosh can it really be that time of year already - whatever happened to the summer? But don't consign your pride and joy to the back of the shed just yet as there's still the Autumn Gold Run to get out on the lanes and enjoy the trees in their glorious splendour. The Curiosities run in August saw a splendid collection of eleven bikes exploring some of the lesser known landmarks in Beds, Herts & Bucks, including a maypole, a cement kiln roller (a what?) and the scene of the Great Train Robbery. By all accounts, mid-week daytime runs have continued in their popularity, more so than the weekend runs - oh to be retired! But it's now time to swap to mid-week lunches instead. October club night sees yours truly exploring the delightful world of motorcycle magazine adverts in the 1940s and 1950s when artists and cartoonists reigned supreme ver photographers.
Wills and Kate and a few others sent their apologies but almost everyone else was there at the July Car Park Concours evening. And what a splendid time we had. Around 100 bikes if one counts the more modern machines paying homage to their forefathers. Prize winners were Gary Cass's 1930 OEC (pre-war), Philip Butcher's 1972 Triumph Daytona (post-war) and Will Curry's Ariel (victim of war). Midweek runs are proving very popular amongst those unafflicted by continuing employment. September clubnight needs members to bring along "something interesting" to amuse their fellows - not necessarily motorcycle related but that would be good.
A bit late but I'm pleased to report that the Arthur King Memorial Run for the older bikes was another success but one which again failed to attract the numbers that it should considering the huge effort (and expense) Roger goes to. On the other hand the Albert Brown Run (just yesterday as I write) pushed the kitchen staff at the finish pub close to their rev-limiters. Well done to Brent and Denise for keeping this run going and attracting such a healthy entry (numbers, that is, not riders). Pleasingly the breakdown trailer returned empty this year, although it was a close thing with my 3T almost making it two years in a row! Ride-a-bike night was blessed with glorious weather and the turn-out was spectacular. Just a Noggin & Natter for the August clubnight as hopefully the weather will keep us all out in the car park talking bikes.
Holiday meant your unworthy scribe missed both the evening ride to the Ariel Club and the Arthur King Memorial Run; and the journal submission deadline meant I haven't had time to get reports - hopeless, I know. But I was there to hear club member Ellis Billington's fascinating talk on his experiences with having taken up flying a Cessna aeroplane. Many thanks to Ellis for standing in at short notice after our original planned talk fell through. Lots of questions at the end confirmed that he had captured many an imagination in the audience. Fingers crossed for a fine evening for the car park concours. Hopefully there'l l be no conflict with the football players' cars this year - last year it was rumoured that a few members were spotted coolly flicking combs through their Brylcreemed quiffs and reminiscing about clashes with Mods on Southend sea-front when challenged to move their bikes.
The April fish & chip supper was a roaring success with over 50 portions being served up - and jolly good they were too. If only we could have predicted the month was going to be drier than the Atacama Desert we could have arranged a few more runs. But there are plenty of chances to exercise your steeds locally over the coming weeks. Hopefully the lack of water doesn't mean all the Scotts and LE Velocettes will be off the road. Apart from a fresh venue, new rules for the Albert Brown Run remove the restriction to British bikes only - so bring your Harley, FN, Gilera, Honda or whatever. All bikes built before the end of 1986, and more recent Royal Enfields, are all welcome. The route is almost flat so don't be afraid to dig out those veterans, cyclemotors, Ariel 3s and D1 Bantams. Concours is coming - get polishing!
Spring has sprung, neighbouring sections have been quizzed (and found just a little more knowledgeable than us) and bikes have been aired. March clubnight saw local sections go head-to-head in battle against Will Curry's fiendish quiz. The quick fire final, after excellent refreshments from Martin and his crew, left a now familiar podium of Anglia first, just ahead of our own Bedfordshire 'A'. John Brooker's Spring Run maintained the standard of excellence he has established over the last few years. His uncanny ability to arrange a sunny start brought out 17 bikes including Ellis on his vintage Scott who came along to see us off. BSA, Harley, Honda, Matchless, Royal Enfield, Triumph and Velocette made an impressive sight and sound through the lanes and villages of a splendid route. Very nice of the workman to explain to John, in such clear terms, exactly the meaning of the 'Road Closed' signs.
Hibernation time is over and we're all hungry for vintage motorcycle action. The Winter talks have been really good, as ever, but it's time to spread some tyre rubber and the occasional drop of SAE 40 over the asphalt - but fix those fuel leaks, that stuff's far too expensive to waste. Check out the events listing below for our first two runs of the season - no need to head over to Northampton or Chesham, Bedfordshire is the place to be. If you haven't done our runs, believe me, you're really missing out. Speaking of dropping oil, our secretary Brent's talk at the February clubnight about "Riding the Giro" was an absolute classic. Hilarious tales of mopping up oil leaks with hotel towels, ending up in the middle of a bicycle race and arriving late at lunch stops to find everyone else had already diasappeared leaving only crumbs in their wake.
A bit late with the report of the Boxing Day Run, but as there wasn't one I don't suppose it matters that much. Two or three hardy (foolhardy?) members did make their way to the start on bikes but it wasn't to be - far too risky without ice-skates so, heads bowed, they went home to the left-over turkey and mince pies. Last month I forgot to mention our gallant efforts over at the Chiltern Section quiz. Icy roads meant a few no-shows and instant promotion for the three "B" team members. We didn't win. January clubnight saw the return of Ashley Atkinson to complete his talk on "The Bedfordshires" in WW1 that he started last January. And he still didn't manage to get to 1918 - this could become a regular feature! And still no mention of Triumph Model H's. Otherwise it's all a bit quiet around here.
Some say "brave soul", others say "should know better" but there was just the one bike at the rather chilly December clubnight. I plead guilty but I needed to get some miles on the bike before the Exeter Trial. Clubnight itself was our now customary auction, with Brent taking charge of proceedings. All items were generously donated by club members including the star item, a pair of Rodark panniers , which helped us raise a handsome total of �127.50. The money was donated to the Bedford NHS Trust Coronary Unit, in memory of Jeff Davies. The suggestion of communal carol singing was greeted with as much enthusiasm as a barn-find Puch Maxi so we moved swiftly to the excellent spread of Christmas Fare courtesy of Martin, Chris and several members who brought things along; many thanks. February sees a swap from the programmed talk which will appear in May instead.
The Bedfordshire Section made sure of a fine send-off for one of our best, Jeff Davies. Fourteen bikes accompanying him on his last ride, this time in the Triumph motorcycle hearse. Many more members attended by car and filled the church to capacity. On a brighter note, the AGM passed off with no riots or votes-of-no-confidence and only minor heckling - which, of course, we come to expect. Indeed, the mood was rather upbeat and the committee was voted back in en-bloc to keep on doing what they have been doing. A feedback session, nervously introduced by the Chairman, produced some interesting ideas - most of which will be implemented. The opening meeting for the New Year is about World War One so if you have any interesting memorabilia you can bring along, please do but bear in mind that the Bomb Disposal Squad don't like call-outs on dark, cold Winter evenings.
October saw Chris Illman bare his motorcycling soul in front of a large, highly appreciative audience with tales of grass tracks and his bikes, illustrated using our new digital projector - a very generous gift from Peter Jones' widow in his memory. Dave Watts' Autumn Gold Run to distant Essex was a splendid end to the conventional riding season. Some 20 bikes (see photo) were tempted out by glorious weather. Alternative routes were inevitably explored by some but everyone eventually arrived safely at the lunch stop in 'biker hang-out' Finchingfield. We fitted in well; showed those youngsters a thing or two!
Unfortunately I must report that the search has been called off for those riders who vanished on the final mid-week run for the year, Interpol have drawn a blank and relatives are now being contacted. Unconfirmed reports have it that the run organiser was amongst those who failed to arrive at the lunch stop. Hopefully he will reappear in time to organise more of these popular runs next year. Talking of next year, the programme is coming together nicely but suggestions for events and speakers are always welcome. The 'bring-something-interesting' evening seemed to go quite well even though the organiser (me) didn't seem to have much of a clue about how it was supposed to work. This month is, of course, AGM time but it will also provide an opportunity to tell the committee what's good and what's not and what club events you'd like to see; praise always welcomed.
Just one more weekend run then it's time for the Winter rebuild, and maybe to find time to work on the bike as well. Our runs may not be the best supported but, by Heavens, they're good! A very fine example of that was Don McKeand's Curiosities Run taking in no less than 11 of beautiful Bedfordshire's well-known (Cardington airship sheds) and not so well-known (Doolittle Mill, near Totternhoe) landmarks, and finishing with a small quiz and a well-earned ice cream on Dunstable Downs. Glorious weather, good company, all in all a perfect day out - especially trying to splash the kids playing in the ford. August club-night saw Hoppy impressively working his way through an alphabet of Vee twins made in Britain - and he nearly made it. Anyone know of one beginning with 'U'? No, nor did Pat Davy who helped Hoppy with his research - fanatics, the pair of them.
Life is full of mysteries; one of which was the destination for the July evening run and another of which is the reason why no-one showed up. Perhaps people thought that if they didn't know where they were going they wouldn't know how to get home? - or maybe it was just the rain. Less of a mystery is why the "Car park concours" is one of our most popular events. Out of at least 75 VMCC eligible bikes, our expert judge gave the awards to an HRD Comet (best pre-war), T120 Bonneville (best post-war) and a much-modified T150 Trident (best special). A very tough job with so many delicious machines, and every one ridden there; wonderful! The Albert Brown Run gained a new look this year and it proved to be a very good one thanks entirely to Brent's organisation - lovely quiet roads and an excellent welcome at the pub.
They say the sun always shines on the righteous which probably explains why we had drizzle on "Ride a bike to Shefford" night but it didn't seem to dampen spirits at all. Pie-and-pint night in Wilden went really well - great pies, good beer, lovely evening, nice selection of bikes and lots of tales of "I used to have one of those" from the locals. Thanks to Ron Macbeth for leading a run over to the Great Ouse river gala - hope the magnetos were waterproof. Good to see lots of section members at the Banbury Run - the one VMCC event where the bikes are even older than the riders! The riding highlight for August is the Curiosities Run visiting a selection of local oddities, please come along it'll be fun. Finally, a plug for a charity classic bike and car show at the Flitwick Rufus Centre on August 8th from noon.
Covers are off, oil has been mopped up (or should that be topped up?), engines have been fired up, the blue smoke has begun to clear, and bikes are back on the road in Bedfordshire, big time. May club night was such a glorious evening that the planned table top quiz got passed over in favour of a car park evening of noggining and nattering. A busy month for Roger King with the second midweek run and the Arthur King Memorial Run to organise. The latter was a real treat for pre-war bike fans with two dozen veteran, vintage and girder-fork machines chugging their way around local back roads. Numbers weren't as high as they should be (where were you?) but the quality and variety of bikes was truly splendid. Don't forget the Albert Brown Run for British made bikes only; check with Brent if you haven't pre-entered.
The glint of polished chrome in the moonlight (OK, streetlight) was a sight to be beholden at the April clubnight; a splendid array of machines for such an early season evening. Fish & chips were the speciliality of the day with Martin and his helpers being kept busy buttering bread and brewing tea. A goodly selection of them reappeared, despite the fear of what volcanic ash might do to ancient pushrods and pistons, for both the Spring Run and inaugural Midweek Daytime Run. The Spring Run was particularly risky as John Brooker took us right up to Leicestershire, dangerously close to Iceland. Brilliant route, great pub, beautiful weather, excellent company - perfect. Roger King played it safer taking his run to plane-free Luton and the excellent Mossman Carriage Collection. The crummy weather meant Relay Rally visitors were well down on previous years - but were made very welcome by hosts Martin & Hoppy.
The legend lives on. They said it couldn't be done but the Bedfordshire Intersection Quiz was once again a resounding success. Fourteen teams pitted their wits against a truly varied bag of brain teasers devised mainly by Will Curry. Anglia A topped the qualifying rounds only to be narrowly defeated in the quick-fire final by a shock victory on home turf for Bedfordshire A. Martin Brookman and his team excelled with the catering; huge thanks to everyone who contributed food or help on the night. Springs were heard creaking as the visitors' carriages left the car park. Plans for the Albert Brown Run are finally coming together and this year will start from Wilden (where?). Roads around there are particularly well-suited to the low-powered and veteran machines we love to see on this run. And one last reminder that the Spring Run is now the 18th April.
Before you do anything else grab your diary and the Tippex bottle because Spring is coming early this year - well, the Spring Run is anyway. I hear the Stafford Classic Bike Show is worried about numbers so have asked us to avoid a clash. The run will now be a week earlier on Sunday April 18th; you have been warned. February clubnight took us on a gentle stroll through the section archive. Starting with the newspaper reporting of the very founding of the Section, through to runs, racing, trials and picnics. Memories stirred of days long gone when the sun always shone, pre-war bikes were ridden in anger and Brylcreem was only 6d a tub. Thanks to Nigel for digitising the glass slides and fragile parchments and continuing to maintain the archive for future generations. News later of a charity classic car and bike show in Flitwick in August.
Luckily, thaw set in just before the January clubnight so skis and skates weren't needed but it was still a bit dodgy for bikes. The ever defiant, die-hard Will Curry took to his MZ combo whilst the rest of us softies resorted to the comfort of a fourth wheel, heater and Radio 2. Once tales had been exchanged of how winter never used to bring the whole country to a halt, and how they'd once ridden a Rudge Autocycle for 100 miles through 3-feet high snowdrifts just to get a packet of cigarettes, the gathered masses sat down to beguilling tales of the Bedfordshire Regiment in WWI. Fascinating stories of bravery and sacrifice told by passionate and very knowledgable enthusiast Ashley Atkinson. Further intrigue was added by the display of grenades, shell cases and other paraphenalia of war, brought along by Norman Keighley. As always, an excellent evening.
The lure of excellent (and free) grub brought section members out in droves to the Xmas bash and auction at the December clubnight and, needless to say, they weren't disappointed. Recently retired Chairman Chris Illman brought the auctioneer's hammer down on items aplenty, raising a tidy sum of around �150. The traditional Boxing Day Run was under new management but icy conditions on local roads kept many a bike and rider safe at home by the hearth. About ten hardy souls braved the very cold but sunny conditions and set off from Pulloxhill on a well-chosen route sticking to treated roads. Local rumours of a display of ice-sculptures in the pub disappeared once the riders had been hosed down with coffee and hot soup. The 2010 programme is looking good - check the website if you haven't yet picked up a copy of the listing. Be warned, the quiz approacheth.
In tennis they cry "new balls", in the VMCC they cry "new blood". And such was the theme of the section AGM. Wielding the long knives were retiring Chairman and Secretary, Chris Illman and Ivor Rhodes. Competition to fill these posts was fierce but I fought off all the challengers myself to take the chair [spot the poetic license]. The battle for Secretary was equally non-existent and for a while it looked like we were doomed. But in true fifth cavalry style, Brent Fielder came forward to save the day. Luckily for us, the rest of the committee has bravely stayed on. Chris and Ivor both received well earned votes of thanks from the floor. Also well-earned was the section shield for outstanding efforts during 2009, awarded to Dave Watts. The 2010 section programme is looking pretty exciting including mid-week runs for those who no longer have to suffer the daily grind.
Have pity on those who missed the Autumn Gold Run for it was a real cracker (no seasonal pun intended). Possibly the best attended run of the year with around 30 bikes and a good sprinkling of pillions and passengers - yes, we even had a 3-wheeler with us. Glorious weather, spectacular autumn colours and a great route - what more could you ask? OK, a route card without confusing bits, but who's counting? A few were spotted disappearing into oblivion on the return leg; but I'm afraid the search has now been officially called off. Many thanks to David & Nigel for a splendid run. Clubnight saw yours truly showing a few slides of some of the curiosities found by the roadside whilst motorcycling around our wonderful island. Monuments to people and events otherwise long forgotten. Look out for details of the coming events, arrangements aren't settled quite yet.
The September clubnight enjoyed the continued spell of good weather and lots of bikes came out to play. Once rounded up and herded into the hall their riders were treated to a great start to the indoor season. Richard Browne gave a fascinating insight into racing in the 60s, mainly in exotic places like Malaysia, back when everything was in black & white. His wonderful photographs took everyone back to days when British singles were battling it out with the flashy oriental newcomers, and when safety took second place to having fun. When you are reading this it should be just before the section AGM. Please don't choose that night to start the Winter re-build but come along and let us know what you want from the section. This year is more important than ever as it looks like we shall have new blood in both Chairman and Secretary. Yikes!
After something like 15 years, Chris Illman is standing down as Chairman as he sprints into retirement, or retires into sprinting, depending on how you look at it. We have a nomination for the post but if there's anyone else keen on the job a nomination should be made to Ivor. We had a fine time at the Ace Cafe VMCC day, narrowly missing out to the Anglian Section on the award for best club turnout, but making up for it by eating most of their prize! To save embarrassment, no mention will be made here of one-way streets or lost souls. If only Bonnickson had listed a satnav. Many thanks to Don for an excellent Boundaries Run with its highlight of passing through the wonderful Flamstead Scarecrow Festival, despite the obvious risk of mistaken identities! An excellent turnout of about 16 bikes and the most glorious of Summer days.
Move over Calgary Stampede - no longer can you claim to be The Greatest Show on Earth, that honour goes to the Beds Section Car Park Concours! OK we're deficient in calf-roping but boy what a display of bikes! I counted 61 VMCC eligible bikes but they were coming and going all evening so there were probably several more. All but two were ridden there and all but three were ridden home. Best prewar was a 1935 Velocette MAC, best postwar was a 1971 Bonneville. The Albert Brown Run for bikes of British manufacture was another splendid day out. Two dozen bikes representing every class from several Veterans up to a rule-stretching Post-60 Japanese four (it's the electric start, you see). Unfortunately the run to the museum at Rushden Station couldn't go ahead (blame it on that Beeching chap) and was replaced by a social visit to "The Musgrave Arms".
Whoopee, it's summer! Time for the fur lining to come out of the Belstaff and to swap the Trials Universals for some TT100s. Time indeed to prise the pride and joy from its sterile cocoon and just ride. The June club night extended the invitation, or should that be challenge, to do just that and "ride a bike to Shefford" and, thankfully, many did. The barbeque at Cranfield Social Club seemed a little shy on numbers this year but the weather was kind, the company was good and plenty of grub made it an excellent evening. As always, the section was well represented on the Banbury Run with Roger King taking "best sidecar"; not sure about the bike, but great sidecar! Having left this to the last minute, as always, I'm not absolutely sure of the details for the "Beating the Boundaries Run" so please check for details, but come.
The May clubnight played host to noggining and much nattering on a fine evening amongst an impressive array of bikes old and, well, some not quite so old. Club members were, of course, just old. Turnout was a bit less at the Musgrave Arms for the Anti-social run but an enjoyable evening was had none the less. The Arthur King Memorial Run for veteran, vintage and girder-fork machines is now beginning to gain pace in its third year with an entry of some thirty bikes. The picture shows the wonderful 1904 Smith (yes, Smith), winner of 'best-veteran' and 'what-do-all-those-levers-do' awards.
Maundy Thursday saw the traditional distribution of fish and chips amongst the hungry and needy of the section, the first hot meal for some since emerging from winter hibernation amongst restoration projects in sheds and garages across the county. The Spring Run (see photo) was a very successful event with a score of fine machines, riders and pillions enjoying a delightful jaunt across the borders into parts of Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire unknown to many of us. Many thanks to John Brooker for organising such an interesting route, excellent lunch stop and splendid weather. Please now enter the Albert Brown Run.
Bedfordshire Section's quiz night is the must-not-miss event for March in this part of the world. Boasting a long reputation for stimulating both brain and stomach, this year was no exception. New teams for both questions and catering excelled and kept that reputation more than intact. But not everything was new, guess who won? - and guess who was second? The full ten points if you said Anglian "A" and the 3Rs (from Northants), respectively. An added bonus to the evening was lovely weather that brought out a goodly collection of splendid machinery, old and new; amazing for what was really still late Winter. Finally, I must humbly apologize for the lapses that have crept into my report recently - giving the wrong month for the fish-and-chip supper and rechristening Don McKeand as Rod McKean. Hope no-one went hungry. Loads to do in the next few weeks; get those wheels rolling.
Despite the Shackeltonian efforts of some committee members, weather conditions for the January clubnight were declared too nasty and the meeting was cancelled. Word has it that a few valiant souls did manage to snow-shoe their way to Shefford for an impromptu noggin & natter in the bar. Rumours that several Husqvarnas were seen in the car park turned out to be untrue; they were actually Huskies. Efforts are underway to try to rearrange Richard Browne's talk on racing later in the year; watch this space. It's that time of year again - time to brush off the cobwebs, grease the joints, then pop out to the garage and get that bike out for the Spring Run (see below). It's going to be a great Summer with no less than five Sunday runs in our programme. Let's prove the cynics wrong and show that Beds section do ride their bikes!
A little late with the report from the Boxing Day run but by all accounts it was jolly successful with over 30 bikes in attendance and a cool £275 raised for our favourite charity, the Ampthill Cheshire Home. Leaving the festive season well behind us we cruised into 2009 in the company of Don McKeand aboard an Enfield, high in the Himalayan hills of India and Bhutan. Celebrating a "big" birthday he treated himself to the Thunderdragon Tour I'm sure you've seen advertised in the glossy classic magazines. And what a treat it was judging by his marvellous anecdotes and wonderful pictures. Narrow mountain roads with frequent landslides, huge drops and no barriers, tea plantations, fortified monastries, curries galore and all courtesy of a slogging 500 single built in Madras - we certainly got the impression he enjoyed it. It wouldn't be fair to mention the bent crashbars - so I won't.
Christmas was celebrated in truly generous spirit in Bedfordshire with an impressive £157 raised for the local Cheshire Home at our inaugural auction. Bargains were aplenty with Chris Illman's hammer dropping on magazine collections and TT programmes at far less than eBay prices. Amongst the more unusual items was a brace of pheasants, a snip at just £6. Remarkably, all the auction items were donated by club members. This year was just a try-out but it was great fun and it's sure to become an annual feature. Hopefully the Boxing Day Run from the Ampthill Cheshire Home was its usual great success but, as I write, that's still in the future - the day after Christmas I seem to recall. It barely leaves time to work out how to connect the new SatNav to a 6V dynamo but it's a good chance to show off that hand-knitted petrol tank warmer.
An air of great excitement preceded that favourite of all section events - the AGM. Extra stewards struggled to control the seething masses clamoring to re-elect the committee en masse, debate start times and indulge in the perennial whinge about Bedfordshire not being a strong riding section. Highlights were the release of the 2009 programme and the presentation of the Section Shield to the much-deserving Don McKean for unstinting devotion to section activities. The photograph shows Don (left) receiving the award from Chairman Chris Illman. Please note - future evening meetings will be on a strict 8pm for 8.30 basis.
Dark nights are upon us and the number of bikes at section meetings is in serious decline although a few Winter workhorses are happily emerging from Summer grazing, suitably doused in Waxoyl and WD40. Our October club night talk was curiously billed as "Aerial motorcycles?" (sic). Hopefully, the spelling and the ubiquitous question mark meant few were expecting tales of Selly Oak Red Hunters or Square Fours. Instead Jim Woodham treated us to a surprisingly detailed insight into the world of microlights - aeroplanes, that is. Ranging from hang-gliders with chain-saw engines to very sophisticated (and jolly expensive) small aircraft with four cylinder engines and a surprising turn of speed - T E Lawrence emulators watch out! By the time you read this the section AGM will be over and all will be well with the world as we head towards an exciting programme of talks and runs in the new year.
It's time to find the fleece lining for the Belstaff, dig out the Winter hack, don the thermals and head off to Shefford to enjoy the Beds section monthly indoor events. The season went off to a flying start with a wonderful presentation on the Green Power Challenge from Bob Billington and his team of 11-16 year olds, including the now semi-legendary "Mini-Stig". But the true star was the electric car they had built from sticky-back plastic, old detergent bottles and discarded tea-trays. The idea is to race their rivals around a track for a full 4 hours to see how far they can go before the amperes finally expire. ACC Racing are currently lying an impressive 33rd nationally amidst no less than 360 teams. Great to see that not all kids are hoody-wearing, knife-wielders! And, finally, a quick plug for the usual Boxing Day run - date to be announced!
Isn't it typical, we get an extra 25 words or the chance for a photograph in the section report and what happens in the Bedfordshire Section this month? - not a lot! Club night was a "Noggin & Natter" although that isn't strictly accurate because my dictionary reckons a Noggin is about a quarter of a pint and none of our section has ever been spotted with anything that small. A pleasant evening though with lots of nice bikes and loads of "Natter". Journal deadlines meant it was too late to publicise the change of speaker for the September meeting but well done Don for standing in at short notice - report next month. Evenings are starting to pull in and shed lights are coming on but don't forget our monthly meetings including the AGM in November. Is the section doing what you want, could you help in any way - this is your great chance.
Not sure about all-singing-and-dancing but July certainly has been an all-riding month - who said the Bedfordshire boys and girls don't do runs? The Albert Brown Run this year was again extremely enjoyable even if a road blocked by a car crash did cause minor chaos and the unfavourable weather put the kibosh on the afternoon section. Luckily we had a lovely evening for the car park concours resulting in a great turn-out with lots of visitors - but, strangely, no judging this year. An enforced late change of venue for the Social Run saw a welcome return to the Musgrave Arms, Shillington where, it is rumoured, a bunch of ageing renegade rockers can be found on a semi-frequent basis looking for a jukebox to race to.
A small but select bunch of veteran, vintage & girder fork mounted riders enjoyed the challenge of the Arthur King Memorial Run twisting its way through the back roads of Beds & Herts. A pity that numbers are so low for this well organized event. No such shortage of bikes and riders at the ride-a-bike to Shefford club night in June - oh to be a Turtle Wax shareholder! The annual barbeque at Cranfield managed to draw the rainclouds but not before many had already left home without packing their waterproofs (and spent the evening staring out the window to see if the rain would stop). Good job the excellent and plentiful grub was indoors. A fun ride home indeed for those suffering from 6V lighting.
The month of May was a merry one indeed for the fine people and machines of the Bedfordshire section. The Spring Run saw an impressive 20 bikes on a near re-run of last year's excellent route but this time without the curtain of rain to hide the scenery. Brian Cornwell entertained us admirably at the club night with his reminiscences from 50 years of motorcycling combining humorous personal experiences with sporting endeavours and technical talk. The variety of bikes at the anti-social run to the Musgrave Arms in Shillington was nothing short of amazing, including no less than three veterans. And congratulations to section member Ivor Webb who's off to the Isle of Man to receive a loyalty award for an amazing 50 years attendance.
The Bedfordshire gourmet dining experience continued at the April clubnight with the traditional fish and chip supper. A very successful evening, popular with everyone apart perhaps from the North Sea cod population which took quite a hit. But I'm sure they would have derived some comfort from the wonderful collection of bikes that appeared on such a nice evening. Lots more chances to ride those bikes now that Summer is (hopefully) here and we step up to two clubnights each month and even some weekend runs. June sees the Arthur King Memorial run, the ride-a-bike-to-Shefford night and the BBQ outing to Cranfield, followed in July by the Albert Brown run, the car park concours and an evening ride-out. Keep those fingers crossed for good weather.
Certainties in life are few but one to add to the proverbial "death and taxes" is that Anglian "A" team will win the Bedfordshire inter-section team quiz. And, most impressively, they did so again this year. The quiz has become semi-legendary over the last 20 years but change is afoot as Hoppy and Chris Illman are retiring from organizing it, and the ladies who have fed us so splendidly also feel it is time for a rest. Volunteers are sought to prevent a tradition being lost. May sees the start of a busy Summer programme starting with what promises to be a fascinating talk from Brian Cornwell. Then fetch your steeds in from their Winter grazing ready for a canter around on the Spring Run.
The February club night coincided with St Valentines Day but numbers didn't seem to suffer. Indeed, I counted at least ten loved ones that had been brought along - five in the audience and five more left parked outside! An audience of around 80 (attendance, that is, not average age - although, now I think of it...) were entertained splendidly by Phil "Hoppy" Hopkins and the fruits of his search for some often tenuous links between airships and early motorcycle engine manufacturers. April club night is the traditional fish and chip supper night. Then the run season will soon be upon us, starting with the Spring Run on 18 May, the AKM Run in June and the Albert Brown Run in July (see Regs Available).
The January club night featured a very professional, informative and fascinating insight into the operations of the East Anglian Air Ambulance service. Very reassuring to know they're there but hopefully our motorcycling exploits won't cause any of us to need their professional services. The March clubnight sees the Bedfordshire hospitality wagon rolled out once again for the much celebrated intersection quiz. Teams of three are invited to do battle with the Goliaths of old bike trivia, knowing they can console themselves in defeat with some great nosh. Then back on the diet ready for the April fish and chip supper night. It's no wonder we see so few small capacity bikes - with all this gourmet feasting, they can't carry the weight!
Unfortunately Santa himself didn't make it to the December club night but the fine array of Christmas fare would have done him proud. Jolly chilly that night so only three bikes (no sleighs) spotted in the car park. The special Christmas raffle raised about �170 for the local Cheshire Home and this was boosted magnificently by a collection among the 35 or so festive riders setting off from there on the traditional Boxing Day Run. The February club night features Phil (Hoppy) Hopkins investigating the not very obvious link between motorcycles and airships (sorry, we're saving the Ariel motorcycles joke for later in the year). Then all evening leave is cancelled to allow everyone to get down to some serious revision for the March inter-section quiz.
A healthy turnout of more than 35 members ensured true democracy at the section AGM and without the need for UN observers. But changes were afoot. Ivor Rhodes took over as secretary but with an appeal for member participation to help make things happen. New blood was transfused into the committee in the varied forms of Will Curry, Nigel Coote and Chris Dawkins - volunteers all, not a King's shilling in sight. Many thanks to Peter Hall and Lew Birt for their past efforts. But the greatest thanks of the evening went with the award of the Section Shield to the retiring secretary Hoppy (aka Phil Hopkins) for recognition of his untiring efforts, not just over the last 12 months but for the last 30 years!
The lights are coming on in workshops across the County, loved ones have been abandoned, teabags have been stockpiled, and the only good reason to emerge is club night. October saw my own debut as the monthly entertainment, telling tales and showing pictures of the places my motorcycles have taken me including the Himalayas, California, Eastern Europe and New Zealand. The audience was more than generous in its appreciation so I urge others to take centre-stage and tell us what lights your fire, motorcycling-wise. Our December gathering poses the intriguing question - "Do you believe in Santa?". And do you think he'll be able to get a pre-war Speed Twin down my chimney? Don't forget the Boxing Day Run - divorce grounds, if ever there were any!
September's club night saw us ushered reluctantly back indoors for the start of the autumn and winter programme - reluctant, that is, only because of the lovely evening and the fine array of bikes gleaming outside. Once inside Will Curry treated us to an illustrated tour through the intriguing and sometimes surprisingly strange world of motorcycle manuals and handbooks with many examples taken from his own extensive collection, with even the occasional though predictable mention of Ariel motorcycles. The November club night brings the important business of the AGM and the need to find worthy replacements for some key officers. Never an easy task but the deceptively smooth running of the club doesn't happen by accident. Your County needs you!
August club night was a rare nice evening so bikes were out in force and the table-top sale played rather a supporting role to an impromptu beer and natter in the car park. Weather was not so kind for the Beating the Boundaries Run with heavy rain throughout the night before and into the morning putting off all but a brave quartet. Nevertheless, fortune smiled in the unusual form of a broken brake cable and by the time it had been sellotaped together the rain had stopped ready for the venture into Bedfordshire's "outer limits". The October meeting sees yours truly showing pictures of my many motorcycle touring exploits. November is the all-important AGM and, be prepared, Hoppy is standing down as secretary - crisis?
Luckily the Gods turned the taps off leaving the Albert Brown Run with ideal weather. A solid entry from veteran to classic set off from the Milton Keynes museum of Rural Life for an excellent run around the Northants, Bucks and Beds lanes. A splendid event indeed - very well organised. Good weather also ensured a marvelous turn-out for the "car park concours". Over 75 bikes of all descriptions were inspected, criticized, drooled-over and coveted by the gathered masses with a 1940s Royal Enfield v-twin, once again, taking "the bike I'd most like to be left in a will" award. It was pleasing to see many visitors to the club enjoying the display and adding to the spectacle with some very exotic modern machinery.
The first Arthur King Memorial Run took a small but enthusiastic gathering of Veteran, Vintage & girder-fork machines on a splendid tour of the Beds & Herts backroads. Hopefully the huge effort by Roger and his family will be rewarded by better numbers in the future. Inclement weather for the club night's ride-a-bike-to-Shefford theme was disappointing but didn't stop the appearance of some finely preserved relics of Britain's industrial past - and many of them on bikes! My holidays meant I had to write this before the barbeque at Cranfield Social Club but hopefully it was its usual success. August sees the Beating-the-Boundaries run and the Table-top sale, when unwanted bits and unsuspecting punters meet.
A large and appreciative crowd gathered on a damp May club night to hear Roy Price's fascinating account of sidecar scrambling through the 50s and 60s - most enjoyable. Unfortunately, the Spring Run lived up to its name only because a spring can be an abundant source of water - falling non-stop on the dozen riders! A great pity as the route and pub stop were excellent. We finally got lucky with the weather and had a lovely evening for the anti-social run to the Green Man in Eversholt where we were joined by some members of the Chiltern Section on a night off (i.e. mostly modern bikes, tut-tut). Lots happening in July, including the fiercely contested car park concours - pass the Solvol Autosol please.
One swallow sidecar doesn't make a summer but no less than 32 "eligible" bikes (and a few exotic "moderns") at the April club night must be a sure sign of better weather. No speaker this month but a lot of good chat over the traditional fish and chip supper. June club night is "Ride a bike to Shefford" night so let's hope for good weather again to encourage another large turnout. Other highlights in June and July are the Arthur King Memorial Run, the Albert Brown Run, the Car Park Concours, the Cranfield Barbeque and a social night in Bromham with the AMOC.
Shefford Memorial Hall was once again packed to the rafters as over 80 potential Brains-of-Britain displayed their knowledge of ancient and obscure motorcycles, associated personalities, and basic botany in the semi-legendary intersection quiz, now in its 19th year. The main round left most heads spinning but saw Anglian "A" and Chiltern "A" emerge as rivals for the quick fire 80-question final, with the Anglian section eventually victorious. But one question nobody had any problem answering was whether the food was good - of course it was, this is the Bedfordshire section! The month of May features a club night talk by 60s sidecar racer Roy Price, the Spring Run and the evening anti-social run (i.e. find your own way to the venue).
Payback time for all the mild winter weather came at last - one decent snowfall and it would coincide with club night, wouldn't it? I hear about 16 hardy soles still managed to snow-shoe their way to Shefford to see "Chasing Shadows", a film made in 2000 about Vincents. No speaker for the April club night as we'll all have our mouths full with the traditional fish & chip supper. The merry month of May sees the first club run for the season - time to pump up those tyres and grease those bearings. The 2007 Bedfordshire Landmark Challenge should be on the website soon or contact me for a copy; a chance to explore the backroads over the course of the summer.
The January club night was packed with over 80 members eager to learn all about magnetos from Dave Fisher. And they didn't go away disappointed having heard tales of slip rings, face cams and earth brushes - there was even a spot of praise lavished on the much maligned Joe Lucas! The Boxing Day run was well supported with around 30 bikes and riders keen to escape the turkey left-overs. An amazing �247.40 was raised on the day for the Ampthill Cheshire Home who kindly provided refreshments at the start. Only a few days left now to swot up for the intersection quiz night at the March meeting - come and be surprised by the amount of obscure knowledge you didn't even know you knew.
A mild December club night brought out a good few old bikes - and an awful lot of old bikers. A generous bunch they were too with the raffle raising the handsome sum of �140.04 for the local Cheshire Home. The ladies did us proud with excellent festive grub including the essential sausage rolls and mince pies. The 2007 programme was unveiled to a roll of drums and fanfare of trumpets - action packed, as always with a splendid mix of talks, films, runs and food plus the annual quiz. Check out the website for the full programme and loads of other fascinating stuff. February club night features "Chasing Shadows", the film about Vincents.
The November club night saw a good and fairly well-behaved turn-out for the section AGM; the stewards had a quiet evening. Generally favourable reports all round so the committee was voted back in en bloc - and everyone else secretly breathed a quiet sigh of relief. A very popular vote of thanks was made to Ivor Rhodes and his family for their unstinting dedication in organising the Albert Brown Run year after year. The Section Shield was presented to Bob Culver for his outstanding contribution to the section also over many years. Dave Fisher of Moathouse Magnetos will be visiting us for the January club night to talk about, yes you've guessed it, magnetos. Indeed, my own Triumph CN3 bears testament to his abilities.
At the October club-night Hoppy treated us to a fascinating tale of a veteran car with the unlikely name of Adam. The story was originally discovered in a scrap book (The Book of Adam) bought at a jumble. The new-look website is up and running on www.vmccbeds.co.uk and looking for content. The programme for 2007 is progressing well and should be released with a small fanfare at the December club night. The evening will have a distinct seasonal flavour with an evening in Santa's grotto - but don't let that put you off, the grub'll be good! Don't forget the Boxing Day Run - the ideal way to escape the grandkids. January sees a visit from Dave Fisher (Moathouse Magnetos) to talk about, yes you've guessed it, magnetos.
The September meeting saw an impressive array of shiny machines grace the car park for the return to dark evenings. Inside the hall, the unmistakable figure of our own Will Curry took the floor with a talk, nay more a chat, on "motorcycling today" including some interesting cost comparisons from a 1910s Ariel parts price list converted to today's prices. Another interesting observation was that of the fifty and odd people in the room, only five owned up to also owing a machine less than 10 years old. November sees the AGM so come along and have your say in Club affairs, whinge at the committee, then vote them back in for another year because they actually do it all quite well.
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