August 10th 2016
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Richard Jones goes a-roving in his ancestral homeland and makes tracks for the Llangollen International Bike Festival...
July saw me take the momentous decision to go on tour to the land of the gods, North Wales of course, with three objectives in mind. First to see the relatives, second was to get a chance for a ride around, and third was to visit a motorcycle show.
Objectives 1 and 2 were realised although the ride consisted of Tessie the Triumph and I riding around Bala Lake and then back over the tops to the old home town. That being said I’m sure you’re more interested in the third objective which was realised too and I have to say I was very impressed by what I saw.
The show was held in the Royal International Pavilion, Llangollen, which is perhaps better known as the home of the International Musical Eisteddfod although this time it was the venue for the Llangollen International Bike Festival, shortened to LlanBikeFest. The main pavilion provided the setting for the assembly of several hundred motorcycles of which classics formed a not unreasonable percentage although there were modern machines, competition and custom motorcycles on parade too. Outside there were manufacturers, an auto-jumble, displays from the Llangollen and District Motorcycle Club, Extreme Wheelies which proved interesting, and even a funfair. In short pretty much something for everyone, all set in the beautiful Dee Valley.
No sooner had I entered the pavilion than I got into conversation with local man ‘Moz’ Owen who is no stranger to competition, racing at the TT at over 120mph and Oliver’s Mount (where he had just achieved a first in the Lightweight class) amongst other venues. However it was his father, Gareth, who had built the machine you see here and who had also raced a Manx Norton on the Isle of Man when he was competing between 1967 and 1986. Gareth had taken a Suzuki 140cc pit bike engine, mated it with a Honda Benly frame, found and fitted the 2ls front brake and had that tank, costing £10, painted by a local garage as an homage to his Manx Norton. I commented that Gareth must be a very talented engineer to which Paul replied it was, perhaps, that he was bored.
The oldest machine I photographed was this two-stroke, two-speed, 269cc Clyno dating from 1919. Although this one came from Wolverhampton, to where the marque moved in 1910, cousins Frank and Ailwyn Smith started out in Thrapston, Northants, and exhibited their first machines at the Stanley Show in 1909. There were two models, a 3hp single and 6hp V-twin, powered by Stevens engines and featuring sprung forks and an engine pulley the Smith boys had devised. The two-stroke featured here entered the model range in 1914 which came with two-speeds built into the engine – don’t ask me how. Production continued after WWI until 1923 when it ceased so the firm could focus on car production. What a shame.
‘It’s a BSA C15, Jim, but not as we know it.’ The owner of this special had fond memories of his first C15 but wanted to improve on the model so this one comes with Honda front forks and disc brake, Yamaha RD250 race fairing, BSA race tank, electronic ignition, clip-ons and rearsets with the seat from a Honda monkey bike. It’s all finished in a very patriotic colour scheme and is used to advertise the owner’s company based near Wrexham. BSA would have been proud.
Italian bikes were, of course, represented but I liked this one because it was red – as I have said before, I am easily pleased. As can be seen from the legend on the tank this is one of the Aermacchis produced after Harley Davidson had bought 50% of the company stock in 1960. This 1962 model is an Ala Verde – Green Wing – and was designed by Alfredo Bianchi for release in the late 1950s. The 250cc ohv horizontal single engine, complemented by a 5-speed gearbox, produced 19hp and was said to be good for 85mph. That’s all well and good, but look at those lascivious lines, all curved and curvaceous and red. I had to move on quickly to take some more photos before anyone noticed I was salivating…
You will be unsurprised to learn that there were also motorcycles from the Land of the Rising Sun, this Kawasaki A1 Samurai particularly catching my eye as I hadn’t seen one before. It’s a 247cc two-stroke twin dating from 1967 and features Superlube oiling as well as dual rotary disc valves; there’s a five-speed gearbox and apparently it’s claimed it was good for just under 100mph. No wonder the British motorcycle industry couldn’t keep up, although Kawasaki’s marketing department describing it as the ‘most advanced 250 roadster in the world’ may have been a bit much. This one was imported from the USA and restored with the emphasis on retaining as much of the original machine as possible – even the seat is the same one that Kawasaki Heavy Industries fitted when it was new.
And now for those of you that enjoy a good café racer, feast your eyes on this example which was sitting amongst the Carole Nash custom bikes area behind the main stage. You aficionados won’t need me to tell you how good this one is which is just as well as I can’t – details were, to say the least, minimal. Never mind – no one is interested how Rembrandt painted masterpieces so let’s apply the same principle here and just gaze upon it.
Yes I know it’s a 998cc Vincent Rapide but this is a very special Vincent Rapide. The CA on the registration denotes it was first registered in Denbighshire but, even more importantly, it was registered in Ruthin in 1948, Ruthin being my home town. The icing on the Jones’ cake is that the description said that it had ‘now returned home.’ So if owner Ian, or anyone who knows him, is reading this then please get in touch as I would be honoured to come and photograph a Vincent in Ruthin.
We’d better have a look at a few more British bikes given my focus on the Vincent, so first a Triumph. This is a 1963 Triumph Tiger 90 350cc with its love it/hate it (delete as you feel appropriate) bathtub fairing. Personally I quite like them, so there.
And now a 1956 498cc Matchless G80S which was given an major engine overhaul between 2010-2011 and which ‘has rejuvenated the old lady’. I have to say that owner Bill has somewhat understated the case as the motorcycle looked marvellous. Oh, and a little less of the ‘old’ – it’s the same age as I am.
Finally a conundrum of a BSA type – the red one is a BSA Rocket 3 whilst the blue one is a BSA Rocket 4. This leads to a few possibilities:- (a) I am hallucinating but then so is the camera (b) BSA actually produced a four-cylinder machine which has passed me by (not unusual) or (c) this is a very special special. Answers on a postcard, please, to Confused, Jones Towers.*
This is LlanBikeFest’s very own trike built by the show’s co-organiser Peter Rogers and powered by a 1500cc Alfa Sud engine which looks rather splendid. Apparently the trike is rather fast, good for wheelies and isn’t just for show having been toured in Europe. Comfort and style in one handy package.
Let’s finish with the show’s special guest, the man himself – Giacomo Agostini – seen here patiently signing autographs for the many people who queued up to see him. Who would have believed it – Agostini sitting on the stage of the International Eisteddfod; does it get any better?
Don’t worry if you missed this one – they are planning another LlanBikeFest for the 5th and 6th August 2017 so bookmark www.llanbikefest.co.uk
Speaking of websites there will be more photos from Richard of this show and other events at www.flickr.com/photos/cerrig_photography/ (with a few of Tessie on tour too!)
*We do actually know the answer to Richard’s confusion but, because we’re horrid, we’re not going to tell him. But you could always try googling ‘Triumph Quadrent’ or ‘Quadrant’ and see what happens…
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