On the western edge of The Cotswolds tucked away between gentle dales and valleys is the UK's most scenic motor racing venue; the Prescott hill climb circuit.
It's owned by the Bugatti Owners Club, and speed events for cars have been organised there since 1938. But in 2011 the Severn Freewheelers, a motorcycle club which organises volunteers to deliver blood and other medical necessities on behalf of the NHS, ran the first motorcycle event on the track and in the surrounding fields – the Presott Bike Festival.
It was considered a success with thousands turning out in the spring sunshine that prevailed over that weekend. But meteorological fortune failed to come their way last year, and the rain that curtailed many a motorcycle plan almost washed the event away. Read on to hear how it went this year.
April is the cruellest month - but it wasn't too bad for motorcycles this weekend!
On Sunday 7th April the cruel late winter had relented, and a hazy sun lifted the temperature enough for motorcycles (and cars) in their hundreds to head for Prescott. As I approached the circuit area, bright yellow was in profusion, dotted against the background browns and greens of the hills and trees. Not daffodils but a small army of volunteers clad in the by now statutory hi-vis; ensuring that vehicles and people located to the right places: this is a very well organised event.
The focus of the festival is the chance to have a go at the twisty 1,128yd hill circuit (distance not given in metres), and the limited places are sold well in advance. It attracts every conceivable motorcycle, and three wheelers too. From shiny multi- thousand pound MV Agustas and Ducatis, to Japanese classics, clever specials, racers, vintage machines, mini motos, and the downright eccentric and scruffy.
Amongst my favourites was a Honda C90 step thru with a sidecar attached. A BSA of unknown vintage in blending brown and rust, but sounding sweet as any four stroke when ticking over, and a Gold Star stripped of everything superfluous to movement. You can see where my 'admiration' is coming from here.
All line up in the paddock area until called for their run, and it's this conglomeration of bikes and owners that provokes attention and much photographic interest.
Run the Hill
Run the Hill isn't competitive or timed; it is ridden purely for the experience and the enjoyment of the ride. And if variety is the spice of motorcycling life, a spell at the trackside provides a mix of riding and speeds from the mildest pepper to the hot, hot chilli -usually the blokes on super motards.
One session is held in the morning, and another after the lunch break. Between times they feature a good few fast riders and drivers to show how the hill can be attacked. The super motards of the two wheel hill climb specialists being backed into bends and slid through with controlled ferocity provided a fascinating contrast to the bloke on the big FJ Yamaha tourer with three teddy bears strapped to the pillion seat. While the Classic 50cc Racing Club struggled to keep their little two strokes in the rev range on the steep approach to the hairpin.
Five litres of your favourite...
Around the track an array of trade stands from large SW England dealers, specialist bikes, small clothing accessory and parts outfits, insurance, touring companies – one proving popular with offerings of Normandy cider, a trials course for youngsters, and a live band tent with a bar in the vicinity, kept us punters amused.
I managed to procure five litres of my favourite bike cleaner, but you could also dig fifteen quid out of your wallet or purse and be transported at some speed over the course as a passenger in a Aprilia powered sidecar outfit, or a Morgan three wheeler – they had an area in the paddock to display their gorgeous cars. Did you know you can hire a Morgan three wheeler with a Moto Guzzi Vee Twin engine for £265 a day or £1100 per week?!!
A nice little Urn-er
Being a circuit used for car meetings the (new) clubhouse provides a comfortable eating, drinking and meeting facility...but hey! £1.50 to put a tea bag in a cardboard cup and direct you to an urn is a trifle insulting, but in keeping with the ' they're trapped here now so we'll charge 'em what we like' policy that all these events adopt.
Leominster Classic Motorcycle Club and the National Chopper Club set out a few rows of members bikes for the passing crowds to walk around and admire. And by midday the crowd had swelled to a size that must have given the organisers much relief, and it was just about warm enough for some indomitable souls to put out a picnic.
They call it mellow yellow
The Severn Freewheelers who organise and head up this event is a motorcyclists organisation that recruits volunteer riders to provide a free despatch service to hospitals across Gloucestershire, Worcestshire, Herefordshire and parts of Wiltshire.
They have a stable of five specially built bikes in emergency livery, BMW and Honda. The riders they recruit all have to have obtained an advanced riding qualification through ROSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) or the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorcyclists), and have liking for lots of yellow.
They are constantly fundraising, as each bike costs £4,000 a year to run, and the bike festival is a chance for them to raise both their profile and money. Each of the volunteers on the ground had a message on their overalls or jackets inviting people to text a small donation...good marketing folks.
Severn Freewheelers are part of a national organisation of what are known as blood bikes; National Association of Blood Bikes www.bloodbikes.org.uk Check out your local association if you think you'd like to be involved.
Friendly and well run
Congratulations to the club in for a friendly well run bike event, especially after last years rain soaked circumstances. It's a great for a season opener if you live within striking distance of the Cheltenham area or include it as part of a two wheel weekend.
I was too late to book my own Run the Hill spot this year. It's planning ahead with a vengeance I know, but when 2014 starts to loom I'd like to join in the fun!
for Wemoto News