(click any photo to enlarge)
And so the day came to take the newly refurbished Raleigh Record Ace for its first outing to a meeting of the Veteran-Cycle Club. A lovelyAutumn day, with a "Misty, Moisty, Morning" and spiders' webs glittering on the hedgerows.
I rode to the meeting place, a little country airfield about 12 miles distant along quiet Kentish lanes hedged with ripe blackberries. The field is a well-known meeting place and there was the added treat of seeing a get-to-gether of the Motor Assisted Cycle Club and the start of a run of the Vintage Sports Car Club (superb vehicles from the 1920/30s.
A variety of cycles of all ages arrived - most brought along in cars to the start:
This is an 1897 American Victor. The guy (Victor, would you believe) had bought it at an auction the day before (he refused to tell us how much he paid for it!) and this was its first run out. The wheel rims are made from maple wood and must not be subjected to extremes of temperature or they buckle.
Here is another - a mid 1930's BSA "Trichrome Special". A vast machine ridden by a bloke about 6 foot 5 inches (Veterans don't do metric!). He stuck up like a lighthouse as he rode amongst the group.
So eventually a group of some 28 riders on machines of various ages assembled
Having admired each other's mounts we set off through the narrow, traffic-free lanes of the Kentish Weald, a leisurely ride, moving up and down the column to chat to different people and now and again stopping to allow the slower, older bicycles to catch up.
For the "non-English" amongst my friends the curious buildings in the background are "Oast Houses", originally used for drying hops, used in beer making and now turned into desirable country houses.
Eventually, after a delightful meander of some 12 miles we arrived at the country pub where lunch had been booked. The super weather meant that meals could be taken outside in the garden and this was another chance to chat to others and admire the bikes
I gravitated towards one old chap (extreme left of the second lunch pic.) who had an earlier model of my machine. He said he did not ride as much as he used to, but always made the point of riding a little every day, whatever the weather - it "kept him in trim" - He was 87!!
After a magnificent Ploughman's Lunch and some good Kentish Ale we gradually assembled by common consent and set off by another route back to the airfield. Only one puncture on one of the trikes (3 wheeler racing cycles, the riders of which are known as "barrow boys") stayed our passage. We sat on the grass and chatted, offering sage advice whilst it was mended.
Arriving back we congregated at the little airfield's cafe, sitting in the sun with cakes and tea, listening to the drone of the prop planes taking off and watching the parachutists enjoying themselves (each to their own, I suppose, but you would not get me stepping into space from 5,000 feet).
Goodbyes said, I cycled the 12 miles home through the autumn-tinted lanes, the sun on my back. A leisurely day of some 48 miles overall in good company, in lovely scenery. A "green" day - no petrol used (by me, at least), no carbon footprint left behind. So simple, so completely satisfying.
Oh...and my Raleigh Record Ace? Admired and coveted by most. But in such groups there is always one "rivet counter". Ours took pains to tell me that the bolt holding the handlebar stem should have a slotted head, not Allen key type! (It made him happy).