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30th December 2005
2005: A RealClassic Year
What was your classic biking highlight of the outgoing year? RealClassic readers have selected some of their favourite moments, places, people and machines...
On initial contemplation, I was chewing over which classic bike had been my most memorable ride of 2005. There were quite a few to choose between; recently, Neil Shoosmith's stunning Commando and my first AJS 650; or before then the Norton Electra at Shepton or the T100C at Cheltenham; or the Enfield Electra which cheerfully trudged 3000 miles around the country underneath me; or the Norton F1 when howled down the M5 on the hottest day of the year and didn't boil over; or trying my first hand-change machine at Founder's Day or…
Too many. And anyway, I realised that it wasn't necessarily the bikes or the rides which stuck in my memory - it was the company we shared at the time. Neil and Nipper with the Commando in the NOC van. Richard Negus of Norton Motors sharing his sheer delight in the rotary bikes when he whipped the cover off the F1 to reveal it, gleaming blackly and ready to ride. The Gloucester Dribblers egging me on to do another lap of Cheltenham racecourse and so sealing the fate of the Tiger. Emm's steadfast companionship on the RBR, and the joy ever since which has been bumping into people whose first words are always 'we met up at XYZ on the RBR…' Humbernut's generous courage at letting me loose on his sidevalve. And so on, and on.
So my Memorable Moment of 2005 was that rarest of things: a day off, with my best friend, and old motorcycles. Thanks to every one who made this year memorable in so many other ways.
The Perfect Place For A Pint
Seen here; my BSA D14/4 Bantam outside the Red Lion in Snargate, Kent. A well loved pub in this part of the world.
A Ride & A Feed!
My highlights? The Kent Sporraners converging with the Herts/Beds Mafia at my house on the way to the RC Rally and then eating me out of house and home. And riding the Enfield Interceptor for the mag. Sunshine, nice bike, good ride!
Real Life Riding
This photos sums up classic bike riding for me. It was taken by Armin Fischer and what more needs to be said?
A Day In Summer
It was the end of July. Gloucester was under leaden skies but the weather forecast gave no hint of what was to come. Well wrapped I headed north and got as far as Moreton in Marsh when the precipitation started, light at first, then heavier, much heavier. Not the most promising start to what was going to be a memorable day..
The ride from Gloucester to Stanford Hall is over 70 miles of prime classic bike B-roads, mainly along the old Roman Fosse Way. Normally light of traffic, it is blessed with a wonderful half way stop at the Old Mill where coffee and the finest of bacon sandwiches await. On this day of creeping cold and damp the stop was most welcome. On to the Hall for Founder's Day: it could well have been Flounder's Day!
On the Friday I had fitted Norah the Norton with a twin leading shoe front brake which, as promised, had substantially improved the bike's ability to stop. There were pitfalls which became apparent whilst riding across the fields to the RealClassic pagoda. The merest suggestion of front brake snatch locked the wheel which all but dumped this old fool on the floor. Proceed with caution.
There were a fine collection of RCers gathered in and around the tent but plainly, on this occasion, the tent could have been bigger to provide shelter for more of the dampees. The great delight was to find that Humbernut and Stilljoe had sallied forth from the North East with the impeccable two Humbers and the tiny Eagle and, even better, the Geordie lads were encouraging the RCers to try the machines. Very brave considering the ground was sodden and the rain unrelenting. I suppose the only saving grace was that it wasn't cold!
Bob offered me the Humber sidevalve for a parade lap and he and I sat, side by side, at the entrance to the arena awaiting our laps of honour. In the meantime a poor soul was swinging the beejaysus out of a red Douglas racing boxer. Red faced and many kicks later it started and the noise was deafening.
I had never ridden a flat tanker before but was delighted, with careful thought, how tractable and civilised a hand change, lever-throttled sidevalve could be. One thing sticks in my mind and that was the fact that poor old Bob had no waterproof trousers on. Thank the Lord that, to a point, skin is waterproof.
Back at the pagoda Stilljoe offered me the Eagle. What a delicately delightful little bike. Care is needed lest it drops off the throttle and stalls. The only downside was that, across the wetlands of Stanford, great caution was needed. The thought of dropping my own bikes is worrying but the thought of damaging the exquisite Eagle was beyond contemplation. Magic.
It was time to go but there was no way that sodden gloves, which had already stained my hands near black, could be donned. Frank to the rescue with a spare pair from the wagon. It rained all the way back to Gloucester but that didn't seem to matter. I stayed aboard, without incident, and wheeled a very dirty Norah into the garage with the smug feeling of having had a marvellous day with great company and a ride on a Humber and a Coventry Eagle. More Magic.
My hands, now a serious shade of off-white, took a week to recover and the gloves took the best part of a fortnight before they could be posted, dryly, back to RCHQ at Bude.
Here's a photo that sums up 2005 for me. Unfortunately a few days after it was taken the rider was killed in a tragic bike accident. He was a good friend and I miss him.
Chip Off The Old Bloke
I am the proud father of a 13 year old (Albert Swain) who rode around the Wiltshire BSAOC camping weekend on my 1961 BSA Golden Flash! The reason I am so especially proud is because it is a big and heavy bike, and for a youngster at the age of 13 it is quite an achievement to be able to kickstart the beast, get it off the stand successfully, and ride around in full view of all the members. It is something that I am quite proud of and will never forget, and certainly this is my highlight for the past year of 2005.
Dribblers On Parade!
Just one of many pics from this year - but this photo shows the Dribblers at the Puesdown Inn, en route to the RC Ride-In at the London Motorcycle Museum.
Robert 'flapjack' Taylor
Meeting New Friends
After talking with Lannis for about three years on the computer, I invited him and his wife Fay over to stay with me and my wife Janette. Now remember - they were really complete strangers to us, but we got on like a house on fire, Fay and Janette were like long lost sisters. Lannis asked if there were any BSA events going on; and just as it happens the BSAOC Open day held at Billing was the last weekend of their vacation. Lannis took my BSA 1959 A10 and I went on the Chuffing Chariot. The photo shows Lannis trying to start the '56 M21 on his very first ride on an outfit.
Once Lannis returned to Virginia he went out and found a mighty M21 (known as the BSA Commander over there), and he has now invited me to ride it in 2006 for the BSAOC International Rallye held in Brimfield Massachusetts. Not only that, but he's letting me ride it to the Ohio Valley Rally the week after, and 600 miles away I'm told. This photo reminds me of how it all started and what a great time complete strangers had together back in 2005.
Content In Kent
For Lannis and Fay Selz from Virginia, THIS was the highlight! After three days in England 'learning the ropes', we were ready to hit the road on our own. We rode a lovely A10 courtesy of KentShaun, one that shifted upside down, riding on the left side of the road, off on a two-day tour of Kent.
Had a fantastic time, explored those high-hedged Kentish lanes to our hearts' content, and brought it all home in one piece!
Coming Back To A RealClassic
I guess it was getting back into biking for me, and passing my test, after a break of over 20 years, having given up when the 125 law came in. Then buying my first real classic in the shape of my 1962 T100A, and joining in with the RC crowd.
Spoiled for Choice
Yes I know the brief was for one picture but there are so many! My short list comes down to the Round Britain Ride and how much fun it was for so many; in similar vein, the RC Rally and what a party it was; collecting my eBay AJ and a November day on the North Pennines.
The Round Britain Ride was definitely a highlight and gave me an excuse for a ride out through Swaledale to Hawes. Quite apart from the brief meeting with RH and Emm it really brought the RC community together and produced some fine pictures, articles and reports. The only downside for me was taking my daughter on a birthday treat and missing the run down from Edinburgh.
The RC Rally prompted a 300 mile or so round trip ride, partying with new and old RC friends and a great show. It hardly gets better than that and it was worth the cold night on hard ground.
Then there's the eBay AJ. If I really had to pick the one that meant the most this would be it. It was a difficult time as my father steadily faded away in hospital. He had ridden a G3 Matchless during WWII but left his at Dunkirk. I thought the AJ might be a good choice for bike number two but came across this 1948 AJS 16M on eBay with two hours to go. The last bike I had before the wilderness days was a '60 16M, the price was right, I had a good feeling from the seller's responses to my questions so I put in a late bid.
My surprise at winning it was immediately eclipsed by my wife having a total meltdown. There was much unpleasantness for some time as we dealt with issues that should have been dealt with long before.
The picture is significant in that she came with me to pick the bike up from Fife and it showed the reconciliation process was under way. We stopped by the harbour in Anstruther and enjoyed a fresh fish and chip lunch much as we had twenty years earlier before marriage and kids. It's a lot of baggage for an old bike to carry but as I go through the recommissioning process, I am really looking forward to riding it.
And finally, here's the North Pennines in November. If ever there was a road less travelled this is it. Cold and bleak yes but this part of England just cries out to be explored on a classic bike. It is a big part of the reason I bought one in the first place.
Much as I enjoy the organised events, just saddling up and going nowhere in particular accounts for most of my rides. The only challenge is deciding which way to go: east to the North York Moors, west into Teesdale, north up to Weardale and Northumberland or south into Swaledale and the Yorkshire Dales. It's almost enough to make up for the often cold and wet climate and a crisp, sunny day like this really is a jewel.
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