The 2013 ACU National Rally


Roy Bellett, our Club President (Matchless G9), and his team of Dave Nichols (AJS Model 20) and Dave Wallings (AJS Model 31) of the East London and Essex section have just competed in this year’s Auto Cycle Union National Road Rally, gaining a daytime bronze award, riding for the first time and spurred on by my tales of competing in forty previous rallies.


Dave Wallings, Dave Nichols and Roy Bellett, The East London and Essex Section Craven Trophy Team.



Starting at the Hein Gerricke store based Braintree control at twelve noon on Saturday 6th July it was first off through the picturesque Essex countryside to Sawston in Cambridgeshire, which is a few miles from the famous Duxford airfield and Imperial War Museum. Leaving Sawston our intrepid trio rode into and across the Norfolk countryside to the Ely control. If you haven’t ridden in this part of the country then it is well worth a trip, the towers of Ely cathedral looming up out of the mist across the very flat Norfolk landscape.


From Ely it’s a very scenic run across the fens to Wisbech. This part of the country resembles Holland to me but without the windmills. Lots of canals to cross on neat little bridges and quaint villages to pass through on traffic free roads. The sun was shining and the temperature was showing 28 degrees Centigrade. I have been across there on earlier rallies when it was pouring with rain and the wind was blowing, but that’s a different story.


The Wisbech control is located at Gilgows motorcycle shop, where a warm welcome is always made and an abundance of helpers is always on hand. Gilgows always lay on a fantastic spread of tea, coffee, cold drinks and an enormous spread of cakes, sandwiches and sausage rolls. Roy and his team took a half hour break here after covering eighty miles. Fully refreshed it was then off to Langrick, which is located near to the Wash on the east coast. The transport café at Langrick, where the control is located, does a fantastic breakfast, but there was no time for fry-ups this time as we had to navigate our way Westwards, To Stibbington, just off the A1 and to the left of Peterborough. It’s west on the A52 and then down the B1177 to Dunsby and Bourne, very picturesque villages to pass through, on the run down the A15 past Market Deeping to Peterborough.


Stibbington control is another transport café, alongside the A1 and just below Wansford. For many years the rally control was at the Little Chef at Wansford, which was handy if you were going to do the “through the night” run for maximum marks and a Gold award. Unfortunately that Little Chef, like many others, is now no more. Out of the Stibbington control and Roy’s team set off down the A1, not the most interesting of roads, for a thirty mile blast to St Neots. The St Neots control is in a pub but there would be no time for a drink there on this occasion.


After the St Neots control it was more of the A1, riding south down to Stevenage. This is interesting because the rally control is located at the Bike Stop motorcycle clothing and accessories shop in the old town of Stevenage with its cobbled streets and “old world” shops, unlike the bland modern town that surrounds it. The Bike Stop shop has been a control point for many years and although under new management a warm welcome is always given, refreshments are provided and seats laid out on the pavement so that you can have a rest and watch the town go by. There is also a fish and chip shop opposite so you can take a break from riding and have an evening snack. This was my forty first National Rally and the manager insisted on having his photo taken shaking hands with me for his shop promotional pictures. In 2001 I met the road racer Phil Read there so our photo is in my album.


East London and Essex Section member Bob Russell with his Suzuki Bergman scooter



A quick refreshment and Roy and his team were off to their final control, the scout hut at Harlow. It had been a trouble free run for all and they were hoping to qualify for the Club’s Craven Trophy (which subsequent to the rally results being announced has been awarded to them). As for myself, I ride a 400cc Suzuki Bergman scooter, because a few years ago I was in collision with a wild deer, resulting in a written off  motorcycle and a smashed left elbow joint. The surgeons at Broomfield hospital in Chelmsford repaired me but I can’t pull clutch levers in for long periods so reverted to the automatic scooters. I suppose that one would call me a social member of the Club now as I go on our section runs but not on rallies of the marque.


Bob Russell

(East London and Essex Section)


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