6th May 2010
His first attempt came a cropper with mechanical mayhem, but Gordon May is ready for a re-match. His BSA Bantam is set and ready to ride...
We met up with author and adventurer Gordon May at the recent Stafford Show, when he was itching, champing and fairly frothing with excitement about his forthcoming epic escapade. Gordon aims to travel some 6500 miles from Manchester in the UK to Cairo, Egypt -- and back again - aboard a 1952 BSA Bantam.
Gordon's first attempt at the journey, in August and September 2009, ended with a major engine failure in north-eastern Italy. The bronzed local beauties at the beach weren't too impressed with his knotty handkerchief and knobbly knees, apparently!
Undeterred, Gordon will set off again in the spring of 2010 (in fact, if all goes to plan then Gordon's will have gone by the time you read this) with a completely rebuilt engine. His new route will take him across the Mediterranean to Tunisia then along the north coast of Libya and Egypt. On the return leg, the plucky little two-stroke will cross the Sinai before heading north through Jordan and Syria. After a short ferry crossing from Turkey to Greece, Gordon will track up the Adriatic coastline of Albania and Croatia before retracing the route of his first foray over the Alps but in reverse.
Says Gordon; 'Peggy the Bantam is fully ready and has had a good 500 miles of running-in on the rebuilt engine. Last week I rode her almost fully laden over the High Peak to Buxton, Derbyshire. She pulled solidly at 30mph in third gear for half an hour on a long steep climb and she never missed a beat. My levels of optimism for a successful trip this time are very high.'
Much as it would be great to use the original 125cc 3-speed D1 engine for the journey, it would be too impracticable. Getting over the Alps and Dolomites fully laden would be a challenge and a half! We have fit a 1969 175cc D14 / 4 Bantam engine, anticipating that the extra horsepower and 4th gear will make the journey more enjoyable.'
Gordon's website (www.overlandtoegypt.co.uk) not only gives plenty of information about the trips itself but also details of the modifications and upgrades which the Bantam has received, plus an overview of the engine rebuild. And for those folk who unkindly suggested that the bike is called 'Peggy' because it 'pegged out' last time, you will also find a new page dedicated to the 'real' Peggy - Peggy Iris Thomas, whose adventures on a Bantam in the Americas in the early 1950s gave Gordon his inspiration.
Other folk have also been a real help in preparing for the expedition, says Gordon. 'Although I am making this journey on my own it just could not happen without the help and support of some fantastic people at this end: Bantam owner, Derek Thom; engine builder, Andy Berry, and Pete Rose of the Bantam Owners Club. All have dedicated large amounts of time and energy into preparing the bike. I am exceedingly grateful. It also wouldn't be possible to go without the support of my lovely partner, Jane Gregory.'
Now if we have done the sums right, Gordon might just have reached the English Channel by the time this story is posted. 'One highlight of travelling south through England will be meeting up with former BSA development department worker, John Garner, of Redditch. Now in his eighties, John was a test rider of the prototype Bantams in the late 1940s. I'm really looking forward to hearing his tales and showing him Peggy.'
As before, Gordon plans to post a blog en route to Egypt, commencing on Day One, Tuesday 27 April 2010, which you can follow at www.overlandtoegypt.co.uk/blog
Good luck - again - Gordon!
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