Breakdown dramas for the “slow” kings of the open road

Part two of Roger Bibbings’ story of the “East to West Slowly” challenge.

Roger, our "easy rider" is pictured on the right.

Roger, our “easy rider” is pictured on the right.

The party started out promptly at 8.30am from the foot of the giant wind turbine named Gulliver at Ness Point, in Lowestoft, on Saturday, June 21, seen off by the Mayor, Councillor Roger Belham, himself a former motorcyclist.

The route ran past Bungay towards Diss and Thetford and out towards Huntingdon. A coffee stop at pub in the Cambridgeshire village of Wicken led to a conversation with the landlady who revealed that her son had been run over on the drive when he was three, although remarkably he had not been seriously hurt (driveway accidents are clearly more common than is realised).

After skirting Northampton, the riders made their way by lanes to Banbury and then towards Stow-on-the-Wold, stopping briefly to see the solstice celebrations at the Rollright Stones.

Following an overnight stop in and around Malvern the group headed off west the next day, stopping for a hearty breakfast at the Buttley Tea rooms at Winforton near Hay.

The LE, which had been unused for the best part of 30 years but was carefully recommissioned for the trip by John Bradshaw, performed well on the way out to Lowestoft and over to Malvern. But approaching Brecon its ancient electrical system suddenly cried “enough!”

After nearly two hours of fruitless fault finding the decision was reached that the three remaining bikes should press on to the finish, taking a scenic route over the Black Mountain to Carmarthen but thereafter sticking to the A40 to make up time.Roger Bibbings 2_E2WS_2014 smaller

Approaching Haverfordwest they were met by about a dozen riders from the Pembrokeshire Vintage and Classic Motorcycle club, who had heard about the ride. They kindly escorted the three MZ machines on the final leg to meet the mayoral party at 5.30pm. Speeches were made and photos taken, including by the local press.

Phil Speakman then rode straight back to Liverpool, while the other two riders and Phillip Thwaites enjoyed the culinary delights of St Davids.

The next day was not without its dramas. Peter Henshaw’s MZ 250 expired on the way home with an obscure short circuit high up on the Black Mountain. With no mobile phone contact up there, the last remaining machine, the trusty little 150 MZ, with only 10 horsepower, had to be pressed into service to take a rider and pillion plus luggage (combined weight more than 30stone) to civilisation to summon recovery.

All in all, though, it was a great adventure undertaken in glorious sunshine.

The appeal for RoSPA’s Driveway Safety Campaign is ongoing. And plans are afoot for another “slow” motorcycle challenge in 2015.

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