Veteran Weekend – London to Brighton on an 1896 Raleigh Bicycle

Fantastic weekend! The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run was first held in 1896 to celebrate their being no longer the need for a man to walk in front of a car with a red flag, which was the law before that date! Traditionally held on the first Sunday of November, the cars have to be pre-1904 to enter, and there were over 500 of them, powered by petrol, steam and electricity. The event is preceded on Saturday by a concours in Regent Street, central London, and this year there was a focus on eco-cars with various new hybrid, electric and hydrogen powered vehicles shown alongside the veterans. One of the most interesting Veterans this year was the 1900 Lohner-Porsche. This extraordinary Austrian car has huge electric motors in the front wheels, which are charged by the petrol driven engine, being effectively the first hybrid car. The electric motors provide short bursts of extra power when needed.

My friend Alan Nelmes encouraged me to ride down to Brighton with him and the cars, so we set off with them from Hyde Park at 7am, Alan mounted on his Edwardian Raleigh X-frame and me on my 1896 Raleigh safety bicycle with 66 inch fixed gear. On the way we were constantly passed by these wonderful veteran cars and felt like we were very much part of the event. At a welcome feed stop we tucked into bacon rolls and coffee, before pressing on to the half way stop at Crawley, where we could examine the wonderful machinery closely and find out more about them from the owners. A little later we stopped in Handcross at the great Vintage Motorcycle emporium of Brian Verrall where we saw the most extraordinarily original and wonderful c.1919 Indian Powerplus motorcycle pictured below. On the hills of Sussex we found ourselves passing some of the cars on the uphill sections where we were able to chat to the drivers as we were riding along.

After some 62 miles we arrived at Madeira Drive, on the Brighton seafront and watched the remainder of the cars coming in. We’d made better time than about half the field! All in all a most splendid day, with many memorable sights, sounds and smells. I hadn’t ridden the Raleigh for a while and was reminded what delight it is to ride… great riding position, light and fast, just the right machine for this wonderful ride. Then it was back to reality with the train journey back to London on First Capital Connect trains which have absolutely no provision for bicycles on their trains, so they have to be placed blocking the entrance doors.