In 1924 an intrepid Hugh Gibson riding a 3.5 hp Raleigh machine, with a young Arthur Bourne in the sidecar, set off to ride around the entire coast of England, Scotland and Wales. His achievement was marked with the award of the prestigious Maudes Trophy which was established in 1923 in recognition of feats of endurance on motorcycles.Hugh left Liverpool on a 798cc V-twin outfit, perhaps more remarkable was that Marjorie Cottle, another works rider for Raleigh, set off in the opposite direction, unobserved, on a 348cc solo. Although Hugh suffered a number of mechanical set-backs, and took a wrong turn, Marjorie only had one puncture and a plug change and an unfortunate collision with a sheep in the driving rain near Oban.They completed the 3,429 ride in under 12 days and amazingly arrived back within 15 minutes of each other.
In 1954 my father, Titch Allen, then working for Feridax, decided to re-create this famous achievement as a publicity stunt. He duly set off from Liverpool on an 650cc Ariel Huntmaster and sidecar and tried to follow the original route. Unfortunately, some of the roads no longer existed or were now impassable, however, he completed the trip in 10 days setting a new unofficial record.
To mark the 100th anniversary of Hugh Gibson’s achievement and the 70th anniversary of Titch Allen’s ride, the VMCC is inviting members to ride some or all of the coastal route during the course of 2024.This is not a competition, there are no prizes, but might provide some interesting rides and scenery for those wishing to participate. Clearly this favours those close to the coast but nevertheless others may wish to incorporate a coast run as part of a holiday or other event.
The original route will be marked on a series of Google maps published below and summarised in the Journal. Members will be able to follow sections of the route and ride as much or as little as they wish. We would like members to submit details of the sections they have covered (start and end) which will be marked on the map. The aim, albeit an ambitious one, would be to have covered the entire route during the course of the year. Photos of your individual achievements would be most welcome. It is hoped that all participants that submit a claim would receive a certificate.
Should anyone wish to try and cover the entire route I am sure that local sections would be only too happy to assist with support, accommodation and companionship along the way.
ROUND THE COAST (from Motorcycle Sport, November 1964, pages 432-634) written by Titch Allen
"For years I had been fascinated by Hugh Gibson's ride. Having said I could do it I was was stuck with it. Jim Feriday, my boss at Feridax, was the sponsor and did a magnificent job of working out a route card compressing Gibson's schedule by two days and laying on all the hotel accommodation. Ariels had recently introduced the Huntmaster, which was a thinly disguised B.S.A. A10 engine in their own frame and mated to a Burman gearbox, and agreed to co-operate, and Esso, Mobiloil and Champion likewise. Underlying the plan was the hope that it would qualify for the Maudes Trophy, the blue-riband award given for an outstanding demonstration under A.C.U. observation. This had been awarded to B.S.A. for the out-standing feat of winning three I.S.D.T. golds with off-the-line Star Twins, a standard so high that it looked like remaining a B.S.A. preserve until Honda annexed it with a seven-day enduro for fifties at Goodwood. As a make-weight, with the Maudes in mind, we also planned to run the Ariel solo at Silverstone and try and put 500 miles into 500 minutes. Preparation was thorough. I took delivery of a Huntmaster and began to run it in. It was soon evident that the Silverstone idea was out. The outfit would not lap either the full circuit or the club circuit at anything like the necessary speed. The Ariel was swapped for another with an export engine high-compression pistons and a "quick" camshaft. This was a lot better but incapable of hauling a heavy sidecar at the right speed so the decision was taken to do the highspeed test solo, and speed and fuel-consumption tests were done at M.I.R.A. The sidecar was a prototype designed by a colleague for a coachbuilding firm interested in the sidecar market; looking back, I can see it was a mistake to use an untried product. It was very comfortable but far too heavy, and had too much travel for the swinging-arm wheel suspension. I went to a lot of trouble over the sidecar wheel braking, ending with a linkage to the machine's rear-brake pedal plus an overriding hand control on the left bar. With this set-up I could steer the outfit with the brakes, and because the sidecar brake torque tended to compress the springing, I had a measure of sidecar banking on lefthanders. Again there was a lengthy build-up of "pre-race" tension and I was relieved to get started from Liverpool and head North.
The average speed on the route card varied between 30 and 36 m.p.h. according to the going, but this time meals were laid on one hour for lunch and 30-minute tea stops morning and afternoon. And each night there was a three-star hotel. Jim Ferriday had a theory that the answer to aches and pains was to take a hot bath every night with a massive dose of bicarbonate of soda in it, and consequently there was a mysterious package waiting for me at every hotel. Of the run itself not much need be written. It was well planned and in the main it went according to plan. Almost every reader will be familiar with some part of the roads round the coast of England, Scotland and Wales, and will know what that entails, and almost everyone will have at some time done a run of 350 miles in a day. Only when you have to do it against the clock with an A.C.U. man logging every detail, and do it day after day, does it become anything of a problem. After four or five days it becomes a way of life the human body is remarkably adaptable and you seem to have been doing it all your life and destined to go on doing it for the rest. Difficult to sleep It becomes difficult to sleep because th engine still runs in your brain your whole body seems to get integrated with the machine. McNulty and I found the answer was to sit around and have a chat or read a book until the "engine" had stopped running. The only "tough " day was the second when, accompanied by the editor of this magazine, we had to go from Stranraer to Strome Ferry via Fort William. After Fort William it got dark and we had a blizzard. Over the old mountain road from Invergarry (now replaced by a new road) visibility was a pool of light in the snow flakes, and I had an illogical feeling that we were lost and would never get anywhere. The editor's vertical twin blew a gasket and couldn't keep up, and he heroically insisted that I press on and abandon him to his fate. We had chosen May for the ride because the Met. people said we would have the best weather in Scotland not because I would celebrate my birthday with tea at the John o'Groats Hotel! Thereafter the biggest worry was to strike a balance between holding the average over varying conditions and conserving the machine as much as possible. Every adjustment was logged against us and there was so much on the ball that it was important to do everything to the best of one's ability always there was the fear of some mishap or shunt which would wreck the whole thing. The first mechanical failure was the rear chain breaking on the way to Aberdeen. That doesn't seem much, but it was a major operation to thread it back on the gearbox sprocket, and to make up time the Ariel had to be thrashed. It didn't really have it easy at all for we wore a Dunlop Fort rear tyre out in 1,800 miles. After half-distance the worry of what might go wrong increased, the brakes were getting tired and traffic density increased as we went South. Gibson may not have had the performance but he didn't have the traffic to contend with. After Weymouth another problem arose. Spokes began to go in the sidecar and rear wheels. A spoke head jammed the sidecar wheel and was difficult to remove with only a boulder to bash out a wheel spindle. The rear wheel was more serious. Trying to work out spoke consumption on a spoke per 100 miles basis, we arranged for a repair session with Ariel agent Bob Ray at Barnstaple and cornered as gently as possible. We were well in the "crossed fingers" stage with only another day ahead when I began to hear an untoward noise in the engine. This business of hearing noises is a well-known phenomena among those who travel far, but I began to worry. A bigger shock was in store.
Tramping merrily downhill near Aberystwyth with supper only an hour away, the sidecar suspension collapsed, locked the wheel, and shot us in the ditch. It is typical of an A.C.U. official, and unshakeable John McNulty in particular, that as we crunched to a stop his first movement was to enter up the unscheduled stop in his log! The situation was serious. The damper unit had broken, allowing the wheel to bottom in the mudguard. I was now in the state of mind when I would have lugged the outfit all the way to Liverpool rather than give up. The answer seemed to be to replace the broken unit with a wooden strut. A farmer produced the worst saw I have ever seen it was a piece broken off a cross-cut and I laboriously whittled a chunk off a fencing rail, notched the end to register with the fixing bolts and lashed it in place with wire. It was rough on McNulty who from then on had a rigid chassis, but it lasted the distance as did the engine. A look at the oil filter confirmed my fears that there was a real noise. There were metal particles they looked like bronze. The only sizeable bronze bearing in the engine was the drive-side main. This bush fed oil to the crankshaft. All this went through my mind as I gingerly set out next day on the last lap. Oh how I nursed that engine. I had to keep up the 30 m.p.h. average, but I kept it pulling to ease the knock and changed down without blipping. It got no worse on the homeward run from Liverpool to Birmingham, where there was a reception party. When I told Bert Perrigo about the noise he said : "Not to worry. You are bound to imagine noises after that distance." It wasn't until Len Crisp took the Ariel out for a really long test run that anyone would believe me. When the engine was stripped under observation it appeared that something, perhaps a steel filing, had got into the bush and neatly turned all the bronze out. Everything else was faultless. It is old history now but we did go solo to Silverstone with a team of riders and put 500 miles into 500 minutes only just, because the rear chain parted a mile or two afterwards. Getting back to the effect of long-distance riding, I can honestly say that I have never felt fitter than I did at the end of the 10 days. I had no aches and pains, apart from rather sore and numbed hands, and after the celebrations I rode home on another bike. But it was quite a few days before the engine stopped running in my head. There seems, therefore, to be no physical limit to how long one can go on riding assuming food and sleep, and the psychological problems appear to sort themselves out after a week or so. Up to that point I did have periods of depression it seemed so far to go, something would go wrong, interspersed with periods of dangerous exuberance when I drove too fast and felt that nothing would go wrong.
Was it worth it? In terms of personal satisfaction, of something attempted, something done, yes. In terms of publicity for the sponsors who can tell? Financially I did it for fun I didn't get a gold watch like Gibson but Ariels gave me a nice brace of pipes. The Ariel averaged 50 m.p.g. for the 3,589 miles - note how as the time falls the m.p.g. increases. Fully loaded, the Ariel outfit would do 75 m.p.h.
In 1924 an intrepid Hugh Gibson riding a 3.5 hp Raleigh machine, with a young Arthur Bourne in the sidecar, set off to ride around the entire coast of England, Scotland and Wales. His achievement was marked with the award of the prestigious Maudes Trophy which was established in 1923 in recognition of feats of endurance on motorcycles.Hugh left Liverpool on a 798cc V-twin outfit, perhaps more remarkable was that Marjorie Cottle, another works rider for Raleigh, set off in the opposite direction, unobserved, on a 348cc solo. Although Hugh suffered a number of mechanical set-backs, and took a wrong turn, Marjorie only had one puncture and a plug change and an unfortunate collision with a sheep in the driving rain near Oban. Averaging 20mph and riding for 16 hours a day, Hugh and Marjorie completed the 3429 miles in 12 days and amazingly arrived back within 15 minutes of each other.
The plaque on the sidecar reads: 'Raleigh Round the Coast Reliability Trial.