“Our Lads” at the Banbury.
A couple of years ago, I realised I could afford to get back into bikes, after a 39-year break, due to family commitments, (and an accident in 1983 on my bike, which resulted in a broken ankle).
I only ever wanted British bikes and I soon found myself with 4 bikes in the garage, but something was missing, I didn't have a pre-WW2 bike!
Talking to a couple of friends (Ian Carruthers, Glenn Williams and myself) we decided that we all fancied doing the Banbury Run that starts and finishes from the grounds of the British Motor Museum. This started the search for a suitable pre 1931 bikes.
Ian found a 1926 Calthorpe that needed a lot of work, Glenn found a 1930 Levis that needed work and I purchased a 1930 Motoconfort (French) that hadn't been running for over 10 years.
The first Banbury we did was last year (2022). We stayed the night before the ride at a pub about 12 miles away. The weather was perfect for the ride and the turnout of bikes was amazing in both quality and quantity. Taking part in the Banbury Run also gave us free entry to the Motor Museum, which was a bonus.
There's 2 ways to register for the run, timed or not timed, as we were weren't interested in being competitive, we entered as untimed. Glenn and myself (Glen) completed the 65+ mile run in about 3 hours, having to stop only once to reattach Glenn's Levis's seat with string and rags. Unfortunately, Ian's Calthorpe only did about 5 miles before the clutch gave up! but luckily, we're not the British Army so we left him behind :)
After the ride we loaded the bikes into Glenn's van and went home. We were very tired on the way home and I thought it would be a good idea next year to stay over another night after the ride.
Forward fast 12 months to this year's Banbury Run.
This time we decided to stay in my caravan on site. We were a man down this year because Ian had been told he was going on holiday that week so he couldn't do it this year, however, Glen 1 and Glenn 2 and our bikes were ready to go. I took the caravan to the site on Friday afternoon and Glenn brought the bikes over on Saturday. The caravan was well stocked with beer and food (and more beer) for the weekend.
For this year's event I had some British steel to ride, the French bike had gone and I'd purchased a 1931 Sunbeam Lion 500cc that was manufactured in 1930, so its Banbury eligible
On the morning of the ride at approximately 8 am we took the bikes to the start point and signed in, in the VMCC tent, then suddenly without warning the heavens opened and it absolutely threw it down. We sheltered in the VMCC tent for 10 minutes until it stopped, at this point we thought we were in for a wet ride. We set off at 10:25 in, thankfully, nice sunshine.
The route map can be a bit challenging, but we managed it last year without any mistakes so I wasn't too concerned about it. We did make one mistake and had to backtrack to the last known position that we knew was correct, but that, to me, is all part of the fun. The only big issue, that caught everyone out was box number 35 on the map. After riding up and down a road for what felt like ½ hour with loads of other riders. I came to the conclusion that it was drawn incorrectly. It shows our approach from the wrong direction, once I'd realized that we were back on track.
The route changes slightly every year, but it takes you through some very picturesque villages with parents, children and the elderly sitting at their gateways waving as you ride past, (they are obviously very supportive of the event). These villages are all linked with B roads that take you through some beautiful countryside, however some bits, like the infamous and challenging "Sunrising Hill" are included every year.
Last year Glenn's Levis just managed to get up unaided (as it did this year) but my French bike needed a little push with one leg right at the top of the hill. This year my British 500 cc 4 stroke Lion accelerated all the way up in 2nd gear, (I felt sure it would have done it in 3rd). In total we did 83.8 miles, and like last year, it was a very enjoyable day.
If you haven't done the Banbury Run yet, I strongly recommend you do. For any new rider who may be concerned about following the route map, the organisers have set up a "Novice Buddy" Scheme where they pair you up with someone who's done it before. To be honest, the first time I did it, I thought I'd be lost all the time but I found it quite easy to navigate the route.
One thing that was a bit worrying this year was the numbers. We were about 100 riders down to last year, and we were told that last year's event was smaller than the year before. The Auto Jumble was also noticeably smaller than last year. If this fall in numbers continues, I fear for the future of this fantastic event.
We're looking forward to next year's Banbury run and who knows? Maybe Ian's Calthorpe will be ready!
Apparently, this year's Banbury run is going to be on the motorcycle show very soon.
Henry Cole and crew filming in the background.
Alan Millyard was there as well.