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2014 Pioneer Run, Part 1.

September 25, 2014

The Pioneer Run is the largest event in the world for pre-1915 motorcycles, with almost 400 machines taking part each year. Except last year, when the event was cancelled due to snow and ice on the road! This year all the participants were eager to ride from London to Brighton on a warm sunny day.


Organized by the Sunbeam Motorcycle Club Ltd (the club is open to all makes of pre WWII machines, not just Sunbeams!), this event was called the 75th +1 as last year was to have been the 75th event. We met at the Epsom Downs racetrack, and were waved off by the Mayor of Epsom and Ewell, at a rate of about 3-4 machines per minute.  The oldest and typically slowest machines leave first, barring the #1 Dreadnought of 1904 which is faster than many of the later bikes!  George Brough rode the bike in the first Pioneer Run of 1930 with number 1, and the starters number was given to the bike again this year, even though there were several machines from 1896-1903 that were older. In fact there were six machines that participated in the inaugural 1930 event and again this year, and each bike wore its starter number from 1930.

After jiggling the various carburetor and spark control levers and dodging the traffic we finished the route in Brighton, being welcomed by the Mayor along the glorious Madeira Drive. The lineup of bikes along the seafront was impressive, with the waves and the Pier in the background. Personally, I was ready to do it all over again the next day, but will have to wait until next time.

by Dennis Frost

Dave Masters and I just before the start.  It was his invitation that brought me and my 1913 Veloce over to ride the Pioneer this year.  He had the bright idea last year that we should pair my Velo and his 1913 Veloce for their 100th birthdays.  The snow and ice delayed the party, but we were able to ride the bike together along the route this year. His bike, M5054 is the only complete example of Veloce’s bike that had their IOE motor type, complete with a two speed gearbox. Mine is the more conventional sidevalve layout. It was a lot of fun to have two of the three remaining pre1914 Velos on the road together.


This Rex was one of my favorite machines!


Ken Lee rode this 1904 James H. Smith, the only example extant.


A few American machines were on the run this year, including this fine Excelsior twin.



An AJS twin and Triumph single wait for the start.


The 770cc Vtwin motor in the 1914 Sparkbrook had plenty of power for the low hills that we encountered. And belt slip was not a problem with the large front  pulley on the chain-cum-belt drive.


This Triumph has an oddball gearchange, with a pulley mounted just above the motor mainshaft.  The owner has restored it to work very well, but has never been able to find out who built it initially.


Veteran (pre 1915) Sunbeams can be spotted by the large disc in the timing cover. For 1915 and later bikes, the gear and cover were sized much less dramatically.


The guys from Veteran and Vintage were there too, with a few choice bikes for sale.  If I recall correctly, this is a Zedel motor with gear driven primary drive.


A few photos of the Alldays Matchless for you to study.  The leather holster on the seat tube contains a starting handle which engages the right end of the rear axle to spin the wheel, and thus the motor, to life. Rudge’s own Senspray carb, Bosch magneto and sprung footboards are in front of that interesting rear end.


The Slinger is one of a kind.  Some would say that is a good thing!  But I love it with its bogie front end. It spit out some coolant during the run, but still finished under its own power. Note that the dent in the top of the coolant tank was already there 40-50 years ago when the other photo was taken.


I’ll finish part 1 with these photos of a 1896 Leon Bollee.  What a marvelous contraption! The driver sits to the rear, passenger in the front.  A steering wheel is operated by the driver’s right hand, while his/her left controls the drive.  See if you can spot the long lever along the left side of the machine.  Moving it front to rear moves the rear wheel to tighten or loosen the drive belt. The adjustable wheelbase isn’t the problem though.  The issue comes in that when brakes are needed, the rider moves the wheel forward to rub against a brake shoe that is stationary on the frame. Which works as well as expected for a vehicle of this weight. However, if the machine stops on a slight uphill incline, the wheel must be moved rearward to tighten the belt and engage the drive. If the hill is too steep though, the whole bus starts rolling back and the driver hopes for a quick, clean engagement between the belt and the rear wheel to stop moving back and starting moving forward! Smile




The large single cylinder is mounted on the left side of the rear wheel, with the fuel tank on the right side.




Neat steering linkage.  Rack and Pinion steering predates modern sports cars!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Geert permalink
    September 28, 2014 12:04 pm

    Hi Pete,

    The Photo of the AJS v twin, tis is not an AJS but a Bradbury.
    They look very mutch the same, but there are some diferances.

    regards, Geert

    • September 28, 2014 5:26 pm

      Thanks Geert! I zoomed in and sure enough, the footboards do say BRADBURY. I had been too hasty before when I saw the AJS-looking bridges to hold the cylinderheads to the crankcases. Checking the books, it seems that Bradbury introduced their 6hp V twin for 1914, complete with chain drive, 3 speed gearbox and a drum brake in the rear hub. It is a very impressive bike! The twin model continued with improvements and more cc’s until the Bradbury firm failed in 1924.

  2. October 13, 2014 6:14 am

    Hello, I like your blog and I’m following it. A lot of interesting stuff. think you could like mine too, It’s about motorbike culture and lifestyle. Follow it! 🙂 the marquis

  3. Nick Smith permalink
    March 7, 2015 11:18 am

    The best suggestion I have for the variable gear on the Triumph can be found on page 189 of The Motor Cycle from 23 February 1911.
    They had obviously recently covered the Mabon gear in favourable terms, as an M Parkinson wrote in, in plaintive terms, to lay claim to the basic idea (a variable pulley on a countershaft running concentrically with the engine mainshaft) “months ago”.

    Included is a picture of his gear fitted to what looks like a Rex: it shares the ‘over and under’ look of the one on the machine pictured above.

    I can’t recall finding that he had secured a patent for it (at least not under his own name).

  4. Nick Smith permalink
    March 9, 2015 11:49 am

    Will look out for it at the Pioneer this year, and see if I can speak to the owner: I think I found that after seeing the bike last year. Probably too close to the Mabon design to get its own patent.


  1. 2014 Pioneer Run, pt 3. More oddballs | Occhio Lungo
  2. 2015 Pioneer Run part 1 | Occhio Lungo

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