22nd April 2015
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Prescott Bike Festival and Hill Climb 2015
Richard Jones attends this annual Gloucestershire hillclimb and presents a selection of classic motorcycles in action for your entertainment...
Could there be a more pleasant place to spend a sunny Sunday in spring than Prescott Hill, set on the side of the Cotswold escarpment with views out to the Vale of Evesham and, for those with good eyesight, the Welsh hills in the far distance? It’s even better when the bike festival is taking place and once again the Severn Freewheelers and the National Association of Blood Bikes were the two worthy organisations set to receive the proceeds of the day. There was plenty to see and do and also lots of opportunities to spend your money. Carl Fogarty and Charlie Boorman were amongst the guests – I missed them although I’m sure they didn’t miss me.
The Norton Owners’ Club had a good display and this one caught my eye, partly because of the violent yellow paintwork and partly because it looked so odd. Apparently it was built by one Roger Kordas and is a Commando engine in a Featherbed frame; it’s different because, as the legend on the tank may suggest, it has a 90 degree crank. This set up is intended to provide a smoother, vibration-free ride equal to, or better, than the traditional Commando with its Isolastic mounts. Has anyone out there ridden one?
This 50cc Derbi Gran Sport was purchased direct from the factory warehouse in Barcelona by a father and son, Harry and Michael Greenwood, in April 1968. In August they then rode it at Snetterton to take third place in the standard production class of the two-hour 50cc endurance race. How anyone could have stayed crouched on that machine at speed for two hours is beyond me. The bike is still in use today, taking part in the pre-1970 class of the Classic Fifty Racing Club’s championship parades at Tonfanau and Aberdare Park circuits as well as appearing at Prescott Hill.
This appears to be a 1951 Douglas 90 Plus – sporting the 25bhp version of the firm’s 348cc engine, introduced by the Bristol company in 1950. Although it was timed at 94mph when practising for the 1950 Junior Clubman’s TT, competition success eluded it and the model was discontinued along with the rest of the ‘Mark’ series when the Dragonfly was introduced in 1955.
Time for some action photos of the bikes on the hill. I have only included the ones in focus because, as Trevor Collier said when he turned up unexpectedly; ‘Don’t try and tell me you know how to take photos.’ He’s quite right – panning and getting sharp pictures of fast moving motorcycles is not really my forté. Nevertheless have a look at this 1984 Ducati TT2 – Italian although not red, but then you can’t have everything. Ducati had this 583cc model in its range between 1981 and 1984 and, as with all classic Ducatis of any stature, the machine was designed by the legendary Fabio Taglioni. It featured the 90° L-twin engine with single overhead cam and two desmodromic valves for each cylinder, all of which was fed by twin Dell’Orto carburettors, generating 58bhp when the engine was spinning at 10,500rpm.
This is Spring-Heeled Jack, a 1927 Velocette KSS 348cc prototype and is unique – only one was built and was tested during the 1928 TT practice. What makes it unusual is the sprung frame which was built under patent from Bentley and Draper – if you look carefully you can just see the rear suspension in this shot. The motorcycle was ridden by ‘Ubique’, a correspondent from the Motor Cycle, who was very impressed with the machine and its handling which he described as ‘a joy’. He also said that he had it ‘straight from the horse’s mouth that it will be marketed as soon as manufacturing facilities permit.’ Clearly the horse got it wrong and this 85mph one-off was purchased from the Velocette factory when it closed down.
As we were in Gloucestershire it was only right that there was one of the county’s foremost manufacturer’s machines on the Hill – a 1961 Cotton Trials bike with the 250cc Villiers engine. Despite the fact that so many of these machines survive you rarely see them at shows or events and there are certainly very few being advertised for sale. Apparently once they are bought their owners hang on to them so it could be reasonably assumed that they really are very good classic machines.
It’s rare to see a genuine 1967 Triumph T120TT out and about. This model was the brainchild of Bill Johnson of Johnson Motors on the west coast of the USA and was a high performance race bike, stripped down and tuned to fill the niche markets of off-road racing in the States. The engine had higher compression pistons, hotter camshafts and a high output ignition system, which all combined to produce 54hp at 6500rpm. The paintwork is certainly correct for the TT as in 1967 the colours were aubergine over either gold or white, this presumably being the white version. Some 3500 T120Cs and TTs were manufactured, making them not so rare worldwide, if seldom seen in this country; certainly a very fine looking motorcycle.
Unsurprisingly there were classic Japanese motorcycles on the Hill and this Kawasaki Z650B1 stood out due its colour scheme and the fact that it looked rather useful. The four cylinder, dohc 652cc engine with its four Mikuni carburettors pushed out a respectable 64bhp when new. The machine helped Kawasaki build up a reputation for bullet-proof four cylinder machines and the B1 variant first appeared in the UK in 1977 in Candy Super Red or Candy Emerald Green – there is no mention of blue or yellow so perhaps this an homage to the Moriwaki Kawasaki?
I am sure I wouldn’t lean the Flying Millyard over at such a courageous angle but it doesn’t seem to be bothering its creator, Allen Millyard. The monster special features a 4894cc V-twin engine which was intended for aircraft (including the Lockheed Electra in which Amelia Earhart took her final flight). Allen paid £100 for the Pratt and Witney engine and took two of its nine cylinders to form the heart of this machine. It is clearly a popular motorcycle: last year at the Salon Privé exhibition in London it earned the rare distinction of winning two prizes.
I couldn’t finish without sharing this one with you – Luke Whiting may feel confident to take his 1976 Cossack sidecar combination up the Hill on two wheels but his passenger seems less happy about the whole experience.
You can experience the day yourself at next year’s Prescott Bike Festival – it’s for an excellent cause and will be held on April 10th 2016 with tickets available from October at www.prescottbikefestival.co.uk
You’ll find more photos from this event and many other motorcycle rides and shows at Richard’s archive: www.flickr.com/photos/cerrig_photography/sets/
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