3rd August 2012
Richard Jones goes in search of café racers, rock 'n' roll and Brylcreem at a classic bike meet half way up the A5. Triumph, BSA, Norton... and Renault?...
It is a little known fact that in the second century AD, Roman legionaries based in Lactodorum used to wander up Watling Street of an evening to Caesar's Publica Domum, there to quaff a few noggins of the locally brewed ale. They would spend the evening arguing whose sword was the sharpest and how far they could march in a day. It's good to find that after nearly 2000 years little has changed although Lactodorum is now Towcester, Watling Street is the less imaginatively named A5 and Caesar's is now Jack's Hill Café.
The patrons are now less likely to be legionaries, rather motorcyclists gathered to discuss whose bike is best and who can get to Doncaster quickest. It's also a venue for ride outs to gather - not only does it sit on the A5 but is close to the M1 and Silverstone; the photo below was taken before these Harley-Davidson owners set out on the Ride to the Wall.
For the last few years the owners at Jacks have held a Ton Up day celebrating all things motorcycling from the 1950s and 1960's including the music of those halcyon days. Tessie the Triumph and I set off up Watling Street for some rock &roll and all things café racer. On arrival I was astonished to find what is a very large car park stuffed to the gunnels with bikes and riders - I had a hard job to actually park the bike without running anybody over. So much to see and all the usual suspects were present with clip-ons and rearsets in abundance
Not unsurprisingly the BSA RGS Owners' Club were out in force and, true to café racer form, seat comfort is sacrificed for looks.
There were also Nortons in abundance - these two especially caught my eye as they were again cast in the café racer mould. When I was a young and impressionable youth the JPN was my idea of the ultimate café racer although I suspect proponents of the work of Messrs Dunstall, Rickman and Slater may strongly disagree (tonight's homework: 'Laverda Jota - Café Racer?' Discuss on no more than 27 pages of A4).
Yes of course there were Triumphs and this brace of beauties, parked next to each other, deserve a mention in dispatches for their striking paintwork if nothing else.
Where would we be without Royal Enfield? This Continental was one example of the Redditch marque on parade.
I know I always seem to have a Vincent in the viewfinder any time I'm let near bikes but I make no apologies for including this gloriously blue bolide. I want one of these to display in the Minstrel Gallery here at Jones Towers but both Mrs Jones and the minstrel have made some pretty strong objections
No respectable rocker café would be seen without at least a few examples of Featherbed frames with engines other than a Norton powering them along and this event was no exception. I swear that if the sun had been out I would have been blinded by the chrome on the Triton - how on earth do they keep them clean?
There were also plenty of custom bikes on display too but the one that caught my eye was this mini chopper (hatchet?) which appears to be based on a Honda Cub engine - minimalist!
It goes without saying that there were also some older bikes present that may not have made it to the Ace Café in its original heyday. This 1953 MV Agusta stood out, not only because of the resplendent red paintwork but also because - for me - the attention to detail is amazing; if you look carefully you can just see the MV symbol on the tyre pump. I subsequently discovered the bike belonged to B44 Clive, lender of MIG equipment to PUB; Clive did say it wasn't the ideal machine for long journeys - 50 mph downhill with a following winds was probably its top speed.
Talking of PUB she was at the event too with her Triumph - probably the oldest bike in attendance and well over the 'ton' as I understand it dates from 1909 (although I stand to be corrected).
I had to include this photo as the bike is such a puzzle. Despite looking hard I was unable to find any evidence that Renault actually produced a motorcycle in its own name so I can only assume that it's a Renault car engine in a bicycle frame ŕ la Mr Parker's Sunbeam Deux Chevaux that has recently featured in RealClassic magazine. If anyone knows any more about it I'd be fascinated to hear
No surprise that Rocker Chic was the dress of the day - there should have been a prize for the best quiff and use of Brylcreem. 3
So will Jack's Hill eclipse the Ace Café as the place to be seen? To be fair I have only seen the latter from the train but Jack's Hill is easier to get to, is in far more pleasant surroundings and has a far larger car park so it gets my vote. Perhaps a RealClassic attendance at the event next year?
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