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Culture: Pioneer Veteran Motorcycle Run

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Only Pre-1915 Bikes Need Apply

2008 Event: 70th Run on Sunday, 9th March

Also see new website: Brighton Run

Veteran bike and rider

The Pioneer Run is organised by The Sunbeam Motor Cycle Club and in 2007 celebrated its 69th run from London to Brighton. To take part in the Pioneer Run you have to have a motorcycle, tricycle, of bike and sidecar that 'left the factory' before 1st Jan 1915, and your claim to have one has to be verified by the Club experts, who will issue you with a registration certificate. More than 300 entrants take part in the event each year, so obviously a good many bikes pass the test.

(By the way, bikes made after 1st Jan 1915 are known as Vintage.)

The Pioneer Run is a must-see. It is a walk into a living museum for the day. More than 300 machines and their 'careful owners' are there for your amazement and enjoyment. The atmosphere is very friendly and relaxed. And although most of the riders have a veteran look about them, the spectators are of all ages.

This huge museum-for-a-day gives a fascinating insight into the very early history of the motorbike, as it evolved from the bicycle. It's very easy to see that transition, since some of these early specimens are little more than a bicycle with some sort of motor strapped on.


Raleigh OK4859
Raleigh OK 4859
Click the photo
for a larger version

The bikes have a staggered start off from Epsom Downs 8 a.m onwards. Many bikers must wonder whether their ancient machines will last the course. Breakdown is always a possibility, and running repairs are apparently a common feature of the Pioneer Run and to be expected. Another feature of the veteran motorbike is the perpendicular upright posture which the rider has to take - a posture otherwise known as 'Sit Up and Beg' or the 'Piano Player'. Some of the runs to the Drive attract a large market stall element - the Mini run in particular - but the Pioneer Run is I suspect more about the exchange of anecdote, tips and history on how you came to acquire your veteran machine and how you keep it roadworthy.

Any open air event is at the mercy of the weather, and Brighton is famous for its dirty weekends, by which I mean wet and windy, of course. The Pioneer Run is scheduled for the third Sunday in March which could easily be a washout, but for the last few years they've been lucky.


Some of the more than 300 pre-1915 motorbikes

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