Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Chinnor Byke Dayz 2018

Chinnor Byke Dayz 2018

After being at the Wey Valley observed first Sunday of the month on another hot day that brought out a record 216 bikes for a sunny ride, Monday was back at the Museum and just laying around was this odd mag-dyno. Close inspection revealed it to be a Simms. Mr Simms, an entrepreneur was a Boche rep for London in the 1900’s so to see something like this was extraordinary. As Mr Lucas bought out the Clyde Motorcycle Company to obtain the Simms magneto and production of the Clyde ended in 1907 I am guessing that this type of mag-dyno was of that era. It looks like it. However the Lucas magneto did not really get going until World War one when no one in the UK could get hold of any Boche magnetos. Up to that point Boche was everyones favourite.

Having started the week with removing the flywheel oil seal that was leaking on the Valiant progress was halted by the fact that I was not able to find the oil seal I had ordered weeks before form the LE Velo Club and had to wait for the delivery of the replacement. Another job waiting for completion along with the one to do on the Greenford Police LE. 

Another pleasantly hot week and Friday I was off to Chinnor. Arriving at seven in the evening a band was already playing and more cask ales on tap than I could sample in a day set the tone. Some decent food was available and the evening disappeared with grand entertainment. Dr Blue doing two stints in his particular style. Gita was with me and this time we didn’t camp. The field was full but with so many more cars than before. It is not surprising as we are all getting a bit older and crawling into a small tent to sleep on a thin mattress is not so easy to do. I avoid if I can. It is not so much the comfort as the ease of getting out of it for a midnight pee. Years of body abuse has taken its toll.

Back on the Saturday morning in time for the first band to play the brave soals who did the morning ride out to return and show off their bikes were not as many as last time but were still just as interesting. A 1950’s Panther stole the show but the most interesting was the Lambretta. This three wheeler was their version of the Piagio Ape that Valentino Rossi did much of his early riding on the roads with. His parents would not let him out on a two wheeler knowing how enthusiastic he would ride. 

It was a very warm day Gita and I tried the various food stalls and the afternoon had an additional feature. We enjoyed the music as many enjoyed the England game on a big screen in the dinning tent. Best bit was that England won for a change. I tend not to watch England play as when I do they loose! A bit like going for a bike ride and the black clouds and rain find me!

The bands played on Billy Watman got my vote for the most interesting performance. Explaining how he achieved his unique style with a few bits of gadgetry. Being a solo artist and guitar player he had us all singing along to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Good choice, as between all of the audience there was a passable performance. 

People’s Front of Judea gave another over the top performance. It was getting late and cold! And we had to be up early in the morning so we missed the last performances. Shambolic always do something interesting and Nemesis would have been great to see but that will have to wait for another time. Chinnor Byke Dayz is a MAG event with half the proceeds going to MAG and the other to the Air Ambulance Service. At £15 I think it is fantastic value and better than many events that you pay a lot more for. All credit to Paul and Anne who are the lead organisers for this event. Long may it continue.

At the Museum on Monday I picked a cutting from one of the roses at the back of the Museum and brought it home  on the LE at the end of the day. Three blooms on the cutting and the flag of St George in the back ground as a tribute to Englands win.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Not A Biking Trip

My French Trip 2018

Sometimes things do not work out as planned. Having booked everything in advance and paid for most of it the only things left to do were the final check over the Buell and an MOT. The MOT was due at the end of the month so as I would be travelling in France I thought it best to get it done before I go. On checking the final drive belt it had splits in it between the teeth and needed replacing. I would not have bothered if I was just travelling in the UK as I know there are not that many Harley shops in Normandy where I could get a replacement belt if it broke. This was ten days before departure and should have been enough time to get things sorted. I should have changed the belt myself and gone on my merry way. However advice was given that the sprockets would need changing too! This has lead to a whole series of disasters that meant my treasured Buell was not ready to take to France. The Kawasaki was not suitable with Gita on the back and to carry enough luggage for two for a week. I needed to make a reasonable choice of which set of wheels to take and decided on the Burton two seater sports car that Gita could also drive. 

Turned out to be a good choice as we had lots of fun driving around in it and admired by many as it is so different from ordinary cars. Taking the Newhaven to Dieppe crossing with the first night in Le Harve followed by a day along the coast via Honfleur to Caen. Day two to Dinan via Mont St Michel then on to Laval where there was a music festival. All free and out doors. This happens on a particular Thursday all over the country each year. Something to remember in mid June. Finally arriving in l’Aigle to meet up with the guys from the Wey Valley Advanced Motorcycle Club for the annual “French Trip” that is not always to France. While there we had a trip to Le Mans to see the Bugatti circuit and the Motor Racing Museum. 

It was well worth the visit with features on racing stars over the decades including Steve McQueen. There are not many bikes there but for me an interesting steam powered one, a 1907 Paul Buard. I did enjoy looking around the older cars as they were modified production models but the later ones start to look the same as the aerodynamics take over and everyone comes up with the same ideas. 

I have discovered that over the years when the concept is right there are very few alternatives that work as well. The last time we went to France it rained most of the time and the glorious sunshine has prevailed for weeks making me miss the Buell even more. The Kawasaki is getting more miles on it and so is the LE and now I am finally getting around to changing the front oil seal on the Valiant in an effort to cure it incontinence. After taking off the generator flywheel and removing the faulty seal I discover I can’t find the oil seal I ordered from the LE Club months before. I am now waiting for one to arrive in the post. I seem to have gremlins around me at the moment where bikes are concerned. Still some fun to be had as Chinnor Bike Dayz is upon us with more canvassing for the LMM and hours of live music.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Southern Classic Bike Show 2018

Southern Classic Bike Show 2018

As usual preparations start much earlier in the year, making the booking for the stand and asking anyone who would like to display their LE along with their details to register them for the event. Easy enough for me as all those who display their bikes last year were turning up with the same ones this year. EasyI only have to fill in another form. Hopefully for next year Chris will have his LE running and will not need to borrow my trailer again. It seems it is the only time it gets used. I had been away in America doing the touristy West Coast and National parks and a few motorcycle museums along the way as well as contracting cellulitis and the use of my right hand until the second dose of antibiotics got to work. For a change, this year the weather was good, but not the day coinciding with the Royal Wedding and Cup Final! These guys should have better planning! As I was single handed, literally, George helped set up the stand on the Friday afternoon and we were ready for an early start on Saturday morning. What a lovely day! It was sunny, warm for all of us who rode our bikes to the show. Me on my much modified LE, George on his KSS as his LE is still work in progress, Philip on his Valiant that runs very well and Chris with his Police LE. All set up and ready for 09:30 when the punters come in.

It was a busy day with so much interest in the stand and recruitment of new people to the club. I did a stint on the LMM stand and that generated a great deal of interest with the museum taking home a couple of prizes for best original with the Dunstall Triton and best in its class the P1 first triple. As the temperature outside went up more people flowed into the hall it was a busy old day. 

I usually get out late morning to have a look around but this time it was not until after lunch and lots of things had already gone. Most of the stalls appear to be selling the same stuff as last year, only with more rust on and Tiger cubs are coming out of the woodwork for sale. Prices for old bikes are stupidly high as well as are parts but there are some really nice things on show like this Motobi and the MV racer. 

Lastly I have some saddlebags that I used to get stuff home and now my LE looks like it is ready to go places. In my quest for information I keep looking for examples of early Villiers engines so far I have got back to 1921 fitted to a Francis Barnett “built like a bridge” model. 

Here is a 1924 example. 

Villiers Road works was where John Marston had his cycle gearbox manufacturing but on selling the company to his son in 1902 the interest in engines developed and in 1912 the first engine was produced, a 350cc 4 stroke. It was later that year a simple 269cc two stroke 70mm x 70mm was made and this was fitted to a number of motorcycles. In 1913 the Sun-Villiers was launched and by 1914 these remarkably simple engines had been fitted to Alldays, The Royal Ruby, Bown, Coventry Eagle, Sparkbrook, Ixion, Invicta, Juno and Roulette.

Friday, 29 June 2018

West Coast Road Trip 7

A Road Trip

West Coast 7

Flagstaff was our stop off point for the Grand Canyon. The plan was to travel early, get to the Grand Canyon and stay there all day to possibly watch the sunset. We did a few walks and filled in most of the day at the scale of this vista. It was getting colder still and decided we had had enough and that sunset could wait another time. The journey back was a bit more interesting as we were leaving a few small flakes of snow were falling. On the road we could see a weather front moving in with big black clouds over Flagstaff. The closer we came to Flagstaff the heavier the snow was falling and the roads were soon covered in snow with disappearing tyre tracks. Once in Flagstaff the volume of traffic kept the roads clear. The next day it was warming up but the car had a layer of snow on it. Today we were supposed to go to the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest but that there was no point as it would have been covered in snow! A day off and time to explore Flagstaff. Another town with a Route 66 sign.

It’s a boy’s town with small breweries everywhere and not much shopping for the ladies. It is also a ski resort. The snow was not enough to to get anyone interested in doing some skiing though. I had a visit to local emergency department at the hospital there as I had a painful swollen hand that required an xray and some antibiotics to get it on the mend. There difference between private health care and the NHS is unbelievable. No queues!

The next destination was Bryce Canyon with more scenery to be awed by, followed by Zion National Park. A drive through Las Vegas was all I wanted. The spectacle has to be seen even in day light. Shopping was on the list and another suitcase was bought from Macey’s for all the “stuff” purchased on the way. Just beyond Pahrump is Death Valley National Park and some amazing roads. 

Pahrump was a stop over on our way to Yosemite. Nothing much, but we were spreading the travelling to ensure the little one was not in the car seat for too long. In early May I chose to go up the east side of Yosemite which has a mountain range running north-south with only a few passes to get across. The one we wanted to take was on Highway 120 and all the reports said it was still closed. It was a gamble that when planning accommodation that the other passes along the 108, 4 and 88 would be open. We decided on Mammoth Lakes as a stop off which was closest to the shorted route the 120. As we had snow a few days before I thought that everything would be closed.

Leaving Pahrump we headed into Death Valley that on this day was a cool 43 degrees Centigrade. Taking the 127, 190 and then the 395 thorough and onward to Mammoth lakes. Once off the interstates these other major roads have bends in them and, for me, provide a lot more interesting driving. Death Valley is the place where aircon in the car stops you boiling. At one stop in the valley a group of German bikers on Harleys were on an organised tour. They looked hot. I could not think on anything worse than having to travel slowly with a massing engine roasting your nuts as well. Brave lads but no speed keeps you cool at that temperature. Death Valley needs to be seen but not for long and soon we were away from the desert and into greenery as we headed north through Bishop to Mammoth Lakes also a ski resort. The 120 was still closed so we had to do another 200 miles to get around the mountain range. Good news in that the 108 via Sonora to Mariposa was open other wise another 100 miles would be added to the journey. The 108 was a delight. Snow was still piled high on each side of the road as we climbed through pine trees up and over the pass. Not many people talk about these roads but they have all the features of winding country lanes, enough to test anyones abilities. There are some straight bits too!

Yosemite has changed over the years with commerce getting its way and it was worse that the Lake District on a Bank Holiday. Yosemite is a popular place and you have to see the sights. I could not believe that it was so busy. Most of it was viewed from the shuttle bus as it was the easiest way to get around. The final leg was back to San Francisco doing more touristy stuff visiting the “Hippie” area and just before getting on the plane, lunch in the Latin Quarter where the murals add so much colour to the streets. Back home I discover I have carpel tunnel syndrome from the infection and can’t grip anything. Reason for no recent postings, my excuse, can’t type!

Friday, 8 June 2018

West Coast Road Trip 6

A Road Trip

West Coast 6

A short trip on a Saturday afternoon to Joshua Tree. We stayed at 29 Palms which is almost at the north entrance to the park then early Sunday morning we were on the next leg of our travels to Phoenix where we had another one night stop in an Air BnB. At the end of the road is Rosie MaCaffreys Irish pub for a nice beer and a meal. Phoenix was my request as there is a motorcycle museum in the Buddy Stubbs Harley shop. 

I met a nice guy called Phil and was really one of the mechanics doing a stint looking after customers visiting the museum. I didn’t know much about Buddy Stubbs but his father owned a Harley shop and as such Buddy was brought up in a motorcycling environment. He was a successful flat track rider and road racer and his experience was put to good use as a stunt rider for the movies.

I did see Buddy but did not get a chance to talk with him. I felt it was a missed opportunity. His Harley dealership is the only one that you can hire a Harley from. Everyone else uses Eagle Riders that is a country wide set up.

The museum has a very interesting mix of Harleys and European motorcycles many of which have been acquired in New Zealand. What was a surprise was a Velocette Valiant in the collection. That makes a least two I know of in the USA. Always looking for bits of information there is a 1913 Indian at the back of the display and that has leaf spring front and rear suspension. 

I thought it was only after the first world war that they had used this, but not so. They have an 1930’s Ariel Square four and a 1950’s one too. I still prefer the earlier ones. 

Being a Harley Dealer there are some special Harleys, like the 1929 board track racer, the military flat twin and one of the first singles.

Oldest motorcycle there is a Frera Leonardo from 1906.
Of the British bikes is an Excelsior Manxman, a whole load of Triumphs including a TRW, Ricardo and GP racer. I took so many photos but I can only use so many. This is a tribute to Martin who has seen Evil Knevil and the Triumph and Harley he rode.

Following on here are a selection of photos to wet your appetite for a visit to this very special museum. I spent quite a few hours there and there are a few scooters and mini-bikes too even the very boxy Harley Topper. 

I had run out of energy and needed some lunch before making the next stage of the trip to Flagstaff. It had turned colder and started rain when we arrived. It would turn out to be an interesting next few days.

Friday, 1 June 2018

West Coast Road Trip 5

A Road Trip

(West Coast 5)

After leaving the museum in Solvang it was only a couple of hours to get to the hotel in Los Angeles. Highway 101 gets close to the coast and near Santa Barbara we looked down on the old road and there were miles of RVs parked up enjoying the afternoon sun. LA was where we met up with daughter and granddaughter who would be with us for the rest of the trip and why we needed a bigger car. Great to have them around but not so sure how the days would go with the little one. We stayed in a hotel on Sunset Boulevard and spent a lot of time going up and down Hollywood Boulevard enjoying the theatre of it all. There are a number of “Military” shops along Hollywood Boulevard and outside one was a particularly looking aggressive manikin. 

Looking closely it did look as though he had a very pained expression on his face. We were having a family breakfast in one of the commercial squares in the LA International market and off to one side was a sauce shop that had some very descriptive brands.    Among them were “Ass in a tub”, “Whoop Ass”, “Sphincter shrinker”, “Butt pucker”, Asbirin”, “Colon cleaner” and a more up market one that I thought was appropriate for this soldier “Anal Angst”. While there we found a Trader Joes and bought an insulated bag to keep baby food in and perhaps a cold beer or two and then off to Santa Monica Boulevard to see a special motorcycle shop.  Its on Route 66 now but used to be on Sunset. 

It is the Thunder Road Motorcycle shop where stars and Henry Cole have visited. I have around somewhere an original Indian Chief motif baseball cap that is now apparently quite rare that was bought for me as a present about 30 years ago. I had to visit the place. Having been to an organic cafe and had steak and salad we walked for, what seemed like miles, and went past Thunder Road. A very pleasant visit but had no LMM fliers with me.

One guy was on an Enfield, the Himalaya and talked about the attributes of this type of motorcycle. It is interesting how things have moved on from those leggy easy rider chops back to more conventional machines. In the evening we drove up to the Observatory to see Hollywood at dusk and the city slowly illuminated as the light went and the dark came in there were students out with “big” telescopes to look at the stars and more than willing to let you see what they were looking at. 

Next day we were passing the Thunder Road Shop and dropped in to leave some fliers and take a few more photos I was given a Thunder Road pin badge. Not many are bought now but as I wear a waist coat when volunteering it will be put on that along with a San Francisco Fire Department patch. I had an idea to keep going along Santa Monica Boulevard to the coast along Route 66 and see the memorial to Will Rogers but we were now on a schedule and needed to get to Joshua Tree for our next stop.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

West Coast Road Trip 4

A Road Trip

(West Coast 4)


Leaving Morro Bay topped up with a good breakfast at a harbour side cafe it was a grey misty start to the day. Solvang was a couple of hours away. Not a long drive but it would be Highway 101with only rolling countryside to see. We were well away from the dramatic coastline near Santa Barbara where rains of last year had washed away some of Route One. Solvang is a quaint town with local breweries and a place to taste some craft ales. We passed one on the way into town at, of all places Buellton (Solvang Brewery). It is also the nearest town to Ronald Reagan’s ranch and has Danish style architecture making it even less American. Still has a MacDonalds though!

Arriving early afternoon we had plenty of time to explore the town and enjoy its style. Two reasons for being at Solvang, one was its quaintness and the other, the Solvang Motorcycle Museum. This we would visit the next morning before going on to LA. Passing a restaurant at the end of the afternoon we stopped for a beer and had a Buellton 805. That evening we went in search of somewhere to eat and finally sat down at the Solvang Brewing company restaurant, had a rack of beers and some chicken. I like the idea of being able to try a selection of beers rather than halves or pints.
Another hearty breakfast then around the corner to the Museum. It is run by Jill at the desk taking your money and Virgil. Virgil is more than a rocket scientist and is a theoretical nuclear physicist. A very clever man with money and a passion for special motorcycles. We had some interesting conversations about a up-down flat twin racing two stoke Jawa that he had got from the factory. There was no information with it so everything is conjecture. 

Virgil believes it to be a factory prototype that has been put together to get around the vibration problems of a two stroke single. Thinking about it now the flat twin two stroke has also been done by Velocette in the Viceroy scooter. The Viceroy engine has a common crankcase and is balanced as the four stroke with pistons opposing each other. This two stroke had two carbs and basically two engines strung together. Set up as being opposed would give the best balancing but 90 degrees in a vee would give the better power delivery. My view on this layout was that it was a student or apprentice project with the simplicity and crudeness in the construction. Virgil disagreed with this in that as a prototype it didn’t need to be any better. I think that when someone designs and builds and engine they want to make it look the business even if it is not. Virgil went on to sign his books an I carried on looking around at some of the fantastic bikes in his collection. He has one of the eight Brittens in existence. I have now seen three, one was at the Britten Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand South Island the second in the Tao Papa Museum in Wellington, New Zealand North Island and now, this one.

It will only travel with him and will not get shipped anywhere. It is too much of a treasure to be shipped anywhere. I took so many photos but he has an original Mike Hailwood machine, the Vincent that did the speed record at Bonneville are just a few examples of the extraordinary collection and there is a lot more.

Some other special machines worth mentioning like the Guzzi Vee Twin racer, the supercharged BMW Rennesport racer and the NSU Rennemax.