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19th April 2007

Norton Adventures: VMCC Day at the Ace Cafe
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Martyn Roberts has forsaken his CB750 and gone adventuring on his wideline Norton Dominator. After a trip to the Ace, he gets in on the spirit of things...

Undaunted by the lack of other RCers or VMCC folk making the trek south from Leicestershire, I resolved to go it alone to the British Bike Day at the Ace Café.

The Norton and I are still getting to know each other - last time out she frightened me to death when she shed the centre stand return spring at speed. However, the prospect of doing nearly 200 miles in the day at a steady 45-50 on my Ariel with no other bikes for company was not very appealing. So, the Norton it was.

I loaded up the old girl with water and choccy bars (for me) and tools (for her) and set off around 8.30am. That counts as an early start for me. Well it does on Easter Sunday anyway.

The omens were good - sunshine, light traffic - as we settled into a canter down the A5 at about 55. The run down was uneventful but, once into London stop-start traffic, the clutch started playing up, making neutral impossible to find at a standstill. Plus the tickover got a bit frantic - around 1500rpm. Still we got there - around 11.30 - in bright sunshine too.

Here's the proof -

What a sight!

Like TT week on Douglas prom - but 30-40 years ago!

While the old girl was hot, I quickly adjusted the idle speed and clutch cable then set off with my camera like a little lad in a sweet shop.

This row of Goldies had pride of place -

Just a sea of chrome, sparkling in the sunshine -

This must be one of the ultimate Ace Café bikes -

I've always had a soft spot for these, since owning one in the early 80s - they seem to be overshadowed now by more glamorous siblings -

I think this is the most desirable of the Speed Twins - no bathtub and no sprung hub -

Nice Beezer unit twin?

Late Daytona, looking pretty original -

There were loads of Vincent twins - somebody appears to have abandoned an old green wreck behind this one -

Very nice B31 or B33 (I didn't check the crankcase!) - I saw one like this at Malvern - I wonder if it was the same one? Nice colour -

And finally, another Triton -

I could have spent hours more taking pics but I had been recommended to try the Big Breakfast. Yum Yum! Fantastic quality and huge helpings. What an atmosphere, too.

I couldn't help thinking, as I looked around at the baldies and grey beards, what a contrast it must be, compared to the old days when the place would have been full of teenagers and twenty-somethings. Probably fewer fights nowadays, too (!). I didn't meet any RCers though, so I wonder where they all were?

Duly fed and watered, it was time to head home. Once free of London, the roads were pleasantly traffic-free again. See the pic below, just my old Norton and one other old buffer - this is the A5, normally bustling with vehicles.

Wasn't it nice of them to provide a specially signed parking area for Nortons?

I thought the valve gear was getting a bit rattly, going through Towcester at 30mph. The noise was still there at 40 on the open road but, as I went quicker, it seemed to disappear. Hmmmm. The answer was obviously to up the speed a bit (!).

After a few miles at 60, I became aware of a couple of riders up ahead in the distance. Cranking the speed up to 65, I started to get closer to them. Eventually, I could see they were a couple of 60s twins - a BSA and a Triumph. Considering myself now a 'Norton man' this was going to become a matter of honour. Easing the old girl up to 70-75 was enough to reel them in and roar past on the outside, uphill on a dual carriageway section. Proper Ace Café stuff!

I must admit, the steady roar at those speeds was becoming addictive - it certainly drowned out any mechanical clatter from the motor. The highlight of the run home was my favourite roundabout - with no traffic joining from the right it became a quick run into the entry then crank hard over for a long, long double-apex right then ever-so-quickly into the final left exit and keep her on the correct side of the white line.

Blimey, these featherbeds really do handle! The silver car in my mirror which was going to overtake me before the roundabout was now at least 100 yards behind - it took him about a mile to build the speed back up and eventually come by.

A mile or two further on I became aware that the left hand grip was becoming a bit 'squashy'. A combination of revs and my 'clinging on for grim death' riding style had worked it half way off the handlebar! A quick bash with my wrist and it was back where it belonged.

Once home, with the old girl tucked up in the garage, I gave her a quick check over - one or two minor oil dribbles, nothing to worry about - oh, it looks like the headlamp lens has been wriggling in an attempt to break free! I think it's called character…

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