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4th January 2006


A Snow Ride

Come the Spring, Anarchy will be riding his 1959 Royal Enfield off-roader in competitive pre-65 scrambles. It must be time to get some practice in, then...

It had snowed lightly during the night and everything was left coated with a fine layer of dusted ice and frosty snow this Christmas holiday morning. To seek refuge from the dreaded one-eyed goggle box showing yet more repeats of the Morecambe and Wise Christmas show, I made plans for a snow ride to further test out and break in the Enfield scrambler. To be honest cabin fever was setting in and I needed to be out into the open air to clear my head from these festive celebrations of overeating and excess.

I have just two months until the first non-competitive classic scramble practice session, then four weeks after that is the first race of the pre-65 club race season…gasp!

I've posted my membership subscription for 2006 to the club and I'll need to fill in the AMCA license application form to get my race license for the coming season. Both bike and aged body need preparation and training and whilst I'm sure the bike will be ready for combat, my ill-prepared body is possibly another issue. It's been clear that I seriously underestimated just how physical motocross racing, or 'Classic scrambles' is for a novice. Being very used to physical hard work does not prepare you for all the different sets of muscles that get tested on the racetrack. These old bikes are heavy to throw about and weigh almost twice as much as a modern motocross race bike, or at least they feel they do.

Proof that one good photo is worth a dozen lesser ones...

I start the old Land Rover up and set off onto the crisp white roads to head towards the farm where I'm currently storing the racer, pleased that I can see no other tracks in the snow except the prints from my wheels that I am leaving behind me. On board are a can of petrol and a flask of piping hot coffee to keep both of us revived. It's just a two mile drive and the heater in the cabin barely has a chance to make much of an impression on the frosted window glass that I've cleared as much as practically possible with a plastic ice scraper.

As I pull into the farm gate all is quiet and white as far as the eye can see. A startled rabbit darts from the tractor shed like an errant punctuation mark on the clean white void of the deserted farmland.

I have a large thirty feet long shed to store equipment and to use as a workshop when I'm here working on the farm. It's clean and dry and the windows are fitted with sturdy wooden shutters to keep storms and prying eyes out.

Opening the shed door lets in the morning sunlight to light up the interior and I get a view of the knobbly rear tyre of the 1959 Royal Enfield MX motorcycle, highlighted in the sunbeam like a Tutankhamen treasure that has been quietly hidden from human sight for thousands of years, and now, is ready to be laid bare into the daylight.

I wheel the bike out into the snow and flip the fuel tap to reserve. Already the bitter cold is gnawing at my fingers as I fumble and pull the choke lever on the Amal and tickle the concentric carb until a few drops of fuel appear like tears of glass from the float chamber.

I have a sidestand fitted to the racer but the bike has much higher suspension and so it rests at a jaunty angle with the bike leaning at a seemingly impossible slant. This gives the bike a certain raffish character which I quite like, though when racing starts for real I'll be removing the side stand to save every ounce of weight I can and will make do with a paddock stand instead.

So, find compression then squeeze the decompressor lever and ease the piston just over top dead centre as she gasps a deep sucking breath of ice-cold stinging air into her single lung.

Random Enfield Stuff on eBay.co.uk

I take a swing on the kick-start and… nothing, bugger!

There is no ignition to switch on, no battery to boil dry, I have minimised the coil ignition system to the most primordial of systems because in racing simple and lightest is best, it's all about KISS, keep it simple stupid. I have no doubt that a spark is alight in the alloy internals of the engine as I stab the kickstart. Couple of kicks later she fires, a crack of thunder that echoes across the fields for a brief moment whilst she kicks back the hefty kickstart lever in spiteful retaliation for such rough handling. It misses my foot, I had expected it and kept clear. She teases, the bitch, but once bitten: twice shy.

One more kick and we are cooking with gas. I instantly shut the choke and she breathes easier and bellows and snorts white vapour in the ice-cold air.

I just plan on trundling around the fields so I don simply a woollen hat and leather gloves and with a prod on the gear lever we are off plodding along at walking pace to gently warm up the motor.

Out through the gate I snick into second gear and she surges forward with a satisfying grip on the snow-covered grass, then into third and we are making good progress across the rutted land. Looking down I see the fork sliders pumping and fine snow being thrown up into the air from the tyres, I blink and curse for not bothering to put on goggles. Back now into first gear to negotiate a narrow gateway.

It's time to up the pace and I snick into second and open the throttle wide and I'm rewarded with a lightening of the fork and rapid acceleration across the ice and snow. Up again into third and wide open on the throttle and we are moving rapidly towards a sharp right turn at the end of the white covered meadow, dropping into second and throttle on the end stop we are power sliding into the corner then back into third for the straight climb up the hill.

I listen.

I hear air sucking in and the silencer bellowing out. There is an amalgam of sounds with whirring and tapping from the cylinder head and subtle rattles from the primary cover as the fuel is sucked in, exhaust is pumped out and we hurtle forward across this artic wasteland with the integrity of Shackleton with a true sense or purpose. I half close my eyes as they stream from the cold air and find the rhythm of change down, corner, change up, and flat out. Digging the rear tyre into the ground, she puts down her power in a controlled and positive fashion.

It's simply glorious, I've built this bike from ground zero starting with a rusty discarded ancient frame and lovingly crafted it into a living, breathing machine that rip, snorts and bellows and waves it head as it offers to burst its heart for you, to try to please. It drops its head into corners and squirms its rear swinging arm through the snow, searching out for grip below this temporary artic surface, very alive and very organic. Round and round I ride, enjoying the freedom and challenge and the loneliness of the solitary off-road rider.

After half an hour the cold has beaten me and I turn back to head for the barn and the beckoning warmth of the thermos flask with its welcome kick of caffeine. I let the bike idle and turn off the fuel tap to let her sip the last few drops of fuel clean from the carb to ensure that this lead replacement petrol leaves a minimum of its green gummy residue taste in her mouth.

It's been wonderful riding in the snow and it's another small step forward in understanding each other before we go into combat together. I haven't practised the jumps yet and that will be another literal leap of faith I'll need to undertake as soon as I can fabricate some kind of man-made jump on this flat land.

But today riding in the snow was another bonding experience of an old motorcycle and rider. Somehow I think we will work out just fine.

Winter ride to report?

Almost a shame to get it dirty. Almost...
More Random Royal Enfields on eBay.co.uk

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