11th September 2015
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Brackley Festival of Motorcycling 2015
Take one quiet Northamptonshire town. Close its long, sloping high street and add barriers to make a circuit of two straights joined by a pair of hairpin bends. Add RealClassic reporter Richard Jones and his camera..
Next, flavour with a race paddock and race teams, a trials and scramblers arena, custom motorcycles, club and trade stands, a fairground and one Wall of Death. Finally season with a soupçon of classic racing machinery together with thousands of spectators, motorcyclists and their mounts and what do you get? The Brackley Festival of Motorcycling of course.
The machine leading the pack in this particular photo is not a classic yet but it may well be in the future – it’s a British hand-built Moto2 specification machine you can own yourself for those special track days.
As you see, it’s possible to get extremely close you can get to the action at Brackley. This can make in-focus photos just a tad tricky; never have I had to change lenses so quickly and so often.
The riders are taking part in what is described as a parade, albeit a fairly swift-paced one. You can see from the look in this one’s eyes how seriously they take their riding. Is this what you call the thousand yard stare?
The National Motorcycle Museum was in attendance and brought along some interesting and rather rare bikes. I always thought that ‘Sirrah’ was an expression a medieval knight used to some varlet before he gave him a sound thrashing. But no - it was also one of the names Alfred Wiseman used to sell his two makes of Birmingham-built motorcycles from 1921, the other being the more expensive Verus. The designer of the Sirrah was a Mr Harris so with a bit of reverse psychology (geddit?) you can work out how the name arose.
Like so many machines of that era this 1923 example used a proprietary engine, in this case a 292cc, 2¾hp two-stroke Union that comes with a Burman clutch, two-speed gearbox and a kickstarter as optional extras. The Amac carburettor fed one of the engine’s three ports, the other two being an exhaust port and one to act as a transfer passage to bypass the piston from the crankcase to the combustion chamber (I wrote that as if I understood what it meant – impressive). Final drive was by belt; the front brake was a stirrup type whilst the rear stopper was a foot-operated block acting on the rim so no worries about coming to a swift halt then. One interesting fact – in late 1923 Wiseman adopted a frame for all his models in which the tubing was formed in such a way that only one joint was required, and this was welded rather than brazed and lugged.
Cheque books and savings accounts (or overdrafts) at the ready – H&H Classics are selling this 1953 Vincent Series C Black Shadow at Duxford in October with no reserve. It has only had two owners since new, has 22,000 miles on the clock of which only 8000 have been done since 1965 when it was bought for £125, and has been off the road since 1969 so a restoration project. Apparently it was found in a cupboard in Liverpool this year; I have checked the cupboards in the garage of Jones Towers but regrettably with no success.
LP Williams and his team only created 21 Buccaneers from Triumph T140 and TR7 donor bikes between 1987 and 1997 and this is number 7 – I know this because there is a small plate with 007 on the headstock. Based on a 1981 T140, this beautiful piece of machinery has seen much in the way of improvement and addition; upgraded engine internals, excellent brakes, handsome alloy tank and custom fibreglass bodywork. It could almost convince me to buy a Meriden Triumph to accompany the Hinckley version – almost but not quite.
It’s difficult to believe that this handsome V-twin AJS spent a good proportion of its life buried in a hole, but the motorcycle in the black and white photo is in fact the same machine as the colour one I took.
The story goes like this. Back in the 1920s a man bought an AJS and sidecar and all was well until the outbreak of WW2 when the same man decided to build an air raid shelter but, being careful, he decided to make it very deep one which required a large hole. In fact such was the size of the hole that peace had broken out by the time he had finished digging it so he was left with a redundant hole. What to do? Well to paraphrase Bernard Cribbins:-
A hole in the ground so big and sort of round
Roll forward to 1978 when the man’s cottage was destroyed in a gas explosion – I don’t know if he was in it at the time – and the site was cleared and turned into a playground. The following year the Northampton VMCC got wind of the AJS, used a metal detector to find its location, obtained permission to excavate and after six hours with a mechanical digger unearthed the machine which they then restored. Hopefully it will live happily ever after.
There were lots of custom bikes about and this one caught my eye, not least because it looked a bit like the one Keira Knightley rode in the Chanel advert. Regrettably Ms Knightley was not in attendance.
Eric Patterson of EGP Enterprises (aka Mr Kempton Park AutoJumble) is something of a fast dude (to use the modern parlance) in his spare time in that he likes to run fast motorcycles down the salt flats at Bonneville at very high speeds. On August 28th 2014 he took the Viscount you can see here to Utah to compete first in the 1000cc MPS-CG (which I think means Modified Partially Streamlined – Classic (Gasoline)) class where he beat the Harley Davidson record of 123.26mph by doing 124.862mph. Then, later the same day, he managed to get the Viscount up to an average 131.684mph in the MPS-VG class – the latter letters denoting Vintage (Gasoline).
A few racing shots to finish off – this big brute (the bike, not the rider who is not a big brute) was a 1963 Manx Norton commissioned by Chas Mortimer but is now a Triton with a rebuilt and modified Triumph T150 engine, a frame modified and refurbished by Dave Degens, bespoke alloy race fuel and oil tanks, custom stainless 3-into-2 exhaust / silencer system, Akront rim wheels and lots of things too numerous to mention. Question – is it better than a Manx Norton?
This lightweight Benelli made smoke totally disproportionate to its size and was later seen to be rolled off into the paddock, presumably having expired. How the following riders could see I don’t know and it made photographs somewhat foggy; still - it was excellent fun while it lasted.
Finally a demonstration, if one were required, that things in the Triking world are amicable and fun, unless you were the driver of a yellow, Triumph-powered machine - he seemed very competitive…
If you missed the Festival make sure you get there next year; details at www.brackley festivalofmotorcycling.co.uk. In the meantime there are more photos from this and other motorcycle events at www.flickr.com/photos/cerrig_photography/sets/
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