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6th December 2006


Opinion: I'll Be The Judge of That?

It's easy to pick a winner, isn't it? Ah. Not always. PaulG80 bravely enters the fray to give an inside view on how hard it is to judge the concours awards at a classic bike show...

There was a lot of discussion last autumn on the message board about concours judging and awarding prizes. This is, in part, down to our steamed editor and resident Knotted Expert awarding a top prize at a show to a motorcycle that had never been registered, used or ridden. The outcry was huge and it gave me an idea to try and redress the balance a bit by giving you an insider's view to the black art of judging.

I have assisted Frank with show judging on a few occasions now and even in my limited capacity (holding the clipboard and doing the writing), it was really hard work. The bikes can be presented for judging in a number of different ways and there have been two styles of event that I have helped at.

A big shed type event. And that is a Big Shed...

Firstly there was the big shed type event, where all the bikes are parked together and you can happily amble around looking at them all and, if need be, compare them side by side. The other advantage is that, more often than not, Proud Owner is in attendance which gives you a chance to have a small piece of the bike's history. Another good point is that you can wander around incognito, fairly innocuously, and nobody knows quite what you are up to.

The other style was at Knebworth where the machines are called into the ring ridden round and presented for inspection and you have to make a snap decision in a limited time. This involves far less walking but is more agonising as the thinking and ruminating time is so short -- plus you do it in full view of an audience. The upside is that all machines live and breathe and the sound of the engine can add to the overall feel and character of the bike.

My vote goes to the W650...

When assisting I am always asked my opinion (for what little it's worth) and when I profess a liking to a certain bike I am then asked to justify it by our Knotty Expert who, let's face it, has forgotten more than I will ever know about bikes. My choice of bike would then be pulled to pieces as completely unoriginal and wrong. My retort is normally 'so what, I like it!' (You see my knowledge and courage are boundless).

However there are times when we both agree on what we like (normally peeling paint and oil leaks) and that makes things a whole lot easier.

The next big hurdle is who wins and who comes second. This is a horrible decision to have to make but it's where Frank's (or any other regular show judge's) eye for detail comes into its own. The balance is nearly always tipped by the smallest of details. I don't mean details like 'that's the wrong thread bolt' but little things like presentation or little engineering touches to make things easier for the owner. Sometimes its rarity value alone that will help a bike get award. Other times it's been a story associated with a bike that has helped in the decision making process.

Obviously you can't please all the people all the time and controversy will crop up. But if it makes for an interesting debate, then why not? The Commando which won at the Ardingly autumn show did so because it had not been near the road, so it was the most original bike there…

If you are at a show with the RC Roadshow then you can ask Frank if you can help with the judging and you will be surprised at how difficult it is (plus Frank enjoys the company!).

Random Norton bits on eBay.co.uk

So next time you are at a show and the judges are walking round, clutching clipboard, spare a thought for them and how hard they are working. You never know you may even win something. But if you don't then fivers placed under the seat strap are always welcome.

Next week: Concours Judging Yachts in the Bahamas; a continuing series

'That' Norton...

More Random Nortons on eBay.co.uk

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