The Day the Motorcycle Earth Stood Still

In 1929 one man achieved the impossible. He rode a motorcycle through water...

By the time the word was out that Reggie Vane-Burke was to attempt to ford the Stocks-End Ford on a motorcycle almost the whole of Peasante-under-Thumbe had turned out to witness the attempt. We were convinced we would watch Vane-Burke and some floosie from the city on the pillion go 'up in smoke' as they attempted the impossible.

After breakfasting on a boiled onion, me, Smudger Smudge and Drudger Drudge walked the 65 miles to Stocks-End Ford in two days to get a proper vantage-point on the wall next to the puddle. It wasn't long (another two days) before the place filled up with newspaper-men from Fleet Street and the cream of the British motorcycling establishment. They had come to watch Vane-Burke make history or die in the attempt.

As we breakfasted on a wooden fence post on the morning of the attempt, some rich city folk arrived in a Norton combination and parked it perilously close to the water. It was only with assistance from members of the local Dullard-under-Cosh Light Car, Motorcycle, Bicycle and Rambling Club, that the lucky couple escaped the fate that surely awaited Vane-Burke and that city tart.

Soon we could hear the muffled chuffing of Vane-Burke's mount - a specially-modified 500cc Rudge-Whitworth with a Sturmey-Archer three-speed hub. The muffled chuffing became louder and the crowd surged forward to the very edge of the aquatic abyss. It seemed they would be swallowed along with the brave Vane-Burke and what now appeared to be a showgirl from the celebrated West End musical 'We've All Been

Taken To The Cleaners', on the pillion pad.

As the machine neared the edge of its watery grave I remember a floating sensation creeping over me and then a dull thud followed by two other light crashing noises. It appears that the three of us had been overcome by a combination of excitement and malnutrition.

We were later visited in hospital by the hero of the crossing and he kindly brought us some commemorative grit and pebbles collected from the primary chaincase of his Rudge machine. We tucked into them with relish.

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