Oxford, 23/06/2019. Last weekend the normal peace and quiet of the Cotswolds was briefly shattered by the Prescott Bike Fest, an event in which Prescott Hill Climb, normally the refuge of the Bugatti Owners Club, was given over to bikes, trikes and a succession of weird and wonderful machinery.
Prescott Hill Climb is set in a beautiful location at the western edge of the Cotswold hills. We joined competitors and exhibitors the Saturday night and camped, enabling us to walk the course at sunset. It’s not an ideal circuit for bikes, with hairpins, blind bends and limited runoff protection for riders. But counter that with a great location, excellent surface and the fact that the whole event was run by the Severn Freewheelers, a local organiser for the Blood Bikes charity, which all takings go to support.
Race Day (Sunday) was beset by occasional showers, which made the track somewhat greasy at times. I saw some very rare vehicles making the run, everything from tuned-up Honda 50 mopeds to a Joey Dunlop TT Honda replica, to a bike powered by a jet (helicopter) engine! The last was a real crowd draw every time it started up but unspectacular on the course – the race announcer commented that the machine had so much power that the rider was unable to use it.
The weekend was basically a ‘run what you brung’ event, so more for fun than any real competition. You could ride your road bike to the venue and, after scrutineering, try it out along the course. Many people did so. And as a bike festival it had the usual collection of specialist traders and food stalls, as well as a beauty contest (for bikes).
I didn’t want to risk my own machine on the course, but thought I’d sign up for the experience as passenger in a racing sidecar outfit. Unfortunately I pulled a shoulder muscle the night before, so was unable to try out the idea (racing-sidecar passengers have to be highly mobile, prepared to move about the machine and hang out on one side or the other depending on the corner).
So instead I signed up for a ride in a Morgan 3-wheeler, a vehicle I remembered from the 1960s, but which is apparently being manufactured again somewhere in the Malverns. It was a good choice, because after I’d been shoehorned into the tightly fitting cockpit, this thing racketed up the course at a rate of knots I couldn’t have considered. Where I would have braked for the bends, the driver simply slid the rear (driving) wheel and kept up the pace.
With the noise from the two-litre V-twin engine exiting somewhere below my left ear, it was a pretty exciting ride, and I climbed out at the end grinning from ear to ear. What a machine to have in the garage! When I enquired the price however, I was told £40,000 plus! As the owner said, probably the most expensive 3-wheeler you can buy to go do the shopping in.
© Philip Hunt, 2019.
All photos © David McCairley photography.
Blood Bikes – a charity that enables volunteer riders to deliver blood, plasma and platelets between hospitals for the NHS. Usually employed for emergency deliveries and out-of-hours, they can get through the traffic and are cheaper than a helicopter. Volunteers are on-call 24/7 and have to be advanced riders, being examined by police riders before they are accepted. The charity is organised by UK regions; the organisers of this event, Severn Freewheelers, are responsible for the Severn region. bloodbikes.org.uk
Severn Freewheelers – severnfreewheelers.org.uk
Prescott Hill Climb – prescott-hillclimb.com