Well, it’s pretty well a year since I started the Ariel B project and the aim was always to try and enter her for the world famous Banbury Run. This is the largest gathering of veteran and vintage motorcycles in the world and is held (not surprisingly) near Banbury in Oxfordshire, England. It was initially started as a homage to the British manufacturers who were mainly based in Birmingham. They used to take new models out for testing by running them down to Banbury, the going up the notorious Sunrising hill. This tested the gearing to the full. After rounding Banbury Cross they then went down Sunrising to test the brakes and then back to Birmingham.
Nowadays the run is limited to 500 entries of bikes built before 1931. Nowhere else do you see such a collection of historic bikes and of such quality. To get an entry was a feat, to get round the 68 mile timed course on an untested bike could be described as optimistic.
Along with my pal Gary Parkin we have been working on this bike for a year now. One of the biggest challenges was simply finding or making the parts required. The Ariel Club Slovenska were great as they hold a huge range of parts either old originals or re-manufactured replica parts. I got a few bits from Draganfly in England though their stock is nearly all 1932 and later.
Another great help was Julian Street, a real magician on the lathe who could always be called upon to make anything round! He was even able to machine out the old valve guides and other complicated jobs.
At around this point we moved the bike up to my garage rather than Gary’s workshop as I needed to get more working hours in if I were ever going to get her finished in time. And hours were indeed lavished ; so much so that my poor wife Jane began to feel quite the motorcycle widow as I was spending so much time in the garage.
Finally on Saturday June the 10th I first heard the engine cough into life. What a first! After that it was more work to get all the finishing touches done. Test rides were next on the menu with the first few being only a couple of Kilometers then back to the garage to see what was loose or needed adjusting. After only four of these short trips it was time for the off and Gary loaded his Velocette KSS onto the trailer next to the B , or Doris as she is now called by me. A drive up to Caen and we were actually on our way to Banbury on the night ferry to Portsmouth.
We stayed in nearby Bloxham and I was fully absorbed in more last minute checks. I took the following photo there and hopefully you can see the difference from the start.
Sunday dawned bright clear and hot and we set off for the event at the Gaydon British Car museum who host the event. What an atmosphere. 500 classic bikes all around and they were being called out in order six at a time. Would she start when it was my turn? I tried to tune out the hundreds of spectators and start her the same way as always. First kick, nothing, but on the second she roared into life and we were off. Gary is a past master of the event so to be honest I just followed him around the winding Oxfordshire lanes that he knows so well. I did have a few problems like the back stand kept dropping down and scraping along the road, as well as a bolt in the girder forks that kept unwinding itself. However that trusty old 90 year old engine kept chugging along and Sunrising was no problem.
We made it right round though we saw an awful lot who had fallen by the wayside and were awaiting collection by the pickup team.
Phew, what a relief and such a sense of achievement. Gary wanted to go to the prize giving as he has been hoping for a medal for timekeeping for some years. Sadly this was not to be, probably because the poor bugger had to keep stopping for me while I hitched up the stand yet again. (memo; take plenty of bungees next time).
To my utter amazement my name was called out and I found that I had won the Wooton Trophy for the best overseas entry! A brilliant end to a fabulous day.