THE FIRST PIONEER RUN, organised by the Sunbeam Motor Cycle Club, took place in 1930. It was open to riders of pre-1915 motorcycles.
In the very early days, the authenticity of machines was not something anyone had too many sleepless nights over. You simply "run what you brung", to use the modern vernacular. But all that changed in 1938 when the Pioneer Register was started, its object being to determine the eligibility of machines entered for the event.
Today, the scrutineering is as rigorous as a communist witch hunt, so you can forget all about bolting your lawnmower engine to that old Hercules pushbike in the shed and laying on the nickel plate.
It's a pity that the scrutineering doesn't include the riders outfits - some of whom slip off happily from the start line wearing full-faced lids and dayglo jackets. But our modern day health & safety fascists, coupled with the ever-tightening noose of the insurance industry, make it difficult for the Sunbeam Club to weed the men from the boys.
Still, the underlying spirit of the event is strong - even though sartorial elegance often leaves much to be desired.
Tattenham Corner, Epsom to Madeira Drive
Regardless, the Pioneer Run is still the world's greatest veteran bike event. It starts at Tattenham Corner, Epsom (close to where Suffragette Emily Davison was trampled to death by King George V's horse during the 1913 Epsom Derby - supposedly whilst trying to attach a Suffragette flag to the nag).
The route then heads south along the A217 to Reigate and Crawley, Pease Pottage and Handcross, then doglegs west to the A281 south to Pyecombe where it picks up the A23 to Brighton. The run (and not a race, take note) finishes at Madeira Drive.
And because the event is held in March each year, it's usually bloody cold. Moreover, it kicks off at 8.00am (whatever the hell that is).
But don't let that put you off. Today's modern Pioneers, usually supported by back-up vehicles and satellite communication technology, may not be the tough and resourceful Pioneers of old; those guys and girls who, with their teeth, could extract horseshoe nails from tyre rubber and forge crankshafts in a ditch at the side of the road, etc.
Times change, and the modern world takes no prisoners. But make no mistake that these guys are the embodiment of that great spirit of yesteryear. Just try to stay out of their way if you're riding modern hardware that makes the Epsom-Brighton jaunt feel like a walk around the garage.
The Pioneer Run should be experienced at least once in your life. Most traditions are not worth preserving.
But this tradition is an exception. Long may it continue.
Important note: We've become a victim of our own success with this eBook and have stopped issuing it from Sump. Why? Because it takes an awful lot of memory, is being downloaded all over the world in rising numbers and we're concentrating now on putting up new pages in line with reader feedback. But we might re-introduce the book at a later date. So watch this space.
Meanwhile, the eBook is still available from the Sunbeam Motor Cycle Club website which you can find here:
Pioneer Run eBook
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