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20th September 2007


The Longest Day 2007
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Think of summer, and of a Trident, a Commando, a B31 and a T100 wending their way across the moors of the south-west. NVNL dreams of days like these...

'On days like these when skies are blue and fields are green
I look around and think about what might have been'

This afternoon is very sunny, the sky is very blue and the fields are very green, the fine weather is unusual for summer 2007 and very welcome. Now then, hands up: who remembers the opening sequence of the 1969 film 'The Italian Job'?

An elegantly smart, middle-aged man is driving an equally smart, red, open-topped car along a mountain road in glorious sunshine under a deep blue sky. The music sound track plays 'On Days Like These' sung by Matt Monro. Let us leave the end of this movie scene for later…

2007 saw the third meeting of the RealClassic Two One Six Clause and, as before, hopes were for a good day's riding in glorious sunshine under a deep blue sky. The Two One Six Clause has met twice previously, in 2005 and 2006. On both occasions the weather was more typically Atlantic than stereotypically Mediterranean, which is to say it was quite overcast, breezy, and a bit rainy; but 2007 was probably our rainiest meeting to date, and certainly our windiest.

Two One Six refers to the date of our meetings by the way, the 21st of June, and should not be taken to infer that the Two One Six Clause comprises six members each mounted on a Triumph Twenty One - we've never managed to muster more than five bikes, and although the majority of them are always Triumph-engined, none has ever been a 3TA. Obviously we're a clause because we're too small to be a paragraph or even a sentence, much less a full chapter. We meet on the specified date to ride about some moor or other on the south-west peninsula. We get plenty of daylight, but strictly limited amounts of glorious sunshine under a deep blue sky.

This year we rode about Bodmin Moor, having in previous years graced Dartmoor and Exmoor with our optimistic presence.

Trident and Commando huddle together for support...

At the appointed hour, four British bikes of a certain age were assembled outside the Pie Stop Café just off the A30 near Trevague (no, honestly), and we went inside out of the rain for beverages, comfort and to await further arrivals. Inside was a smiling and familiar face belonging to Mr E Mann of Wellington in Somerset who turned up to the Exmoor216 gathering on a Trident-engined Triton. He was tucking in to a hearty breakfast, having set off some hours earlier on his A10 only to be turned back by the exceptionally high winds.

Mr E Mann not only owns and curates a wide range of fine old bikes (there's a post-war Francis Barnett in his shed as well as the BSA and the Triton), he's also a person who likes to keep a commitment. So, despite the high winds, imminent house move and the fact that his wife is heavily pregnant, he jumped in his van and drove to the Pie Stop Café to share a little fellowship and to wave us off on our great adventure. Kudos to you then Mr E Mann, and apologies if we couldn't quite remember your proper name. You're a proper member of our little gang, and no mistake. You certainly get 'furthest travelled' for the 2007 meeting…

The riding members for the day were Dee Jackson (Trident), Phillip Rashleigh (B31, modified), Dave Barkshire (Commando, borrowed) and Yours Truly (T100). We nattered and sipped while we waited for Pete Best to arrive from Crediton.

...while B31 shows off its suitable tyres.

The time for departure came and went and with some reluctance we concluded that Pete Best would not be joining our happy band this year and we set off into the wind and rain. As we headed gingerly westward along the A30 it seemed prudent to select a route which kept us off the hilltops as much as practicable.

We left the dual carriageway at Five Lanes and headed off northish choosing high hedges and valley bottoms as much as possible although Davidstow Moor exerted an irresistible influence. As others have said, Davidstow Moor was used as an RAF base from 1942 to 1945 and subsequently for motor racing and music festivals. On 21/6/07 there were just high winds and grazing sheep and ponies, as eight air-cooled British cylinders four-stroked sedately towards the shelter and sandwich shops of Camelford.

After Camelford we headed southish through St Breward and on to a set of picnic tables in a wood near Poley's Bridge, where miraculously the rain stopped and the sun came out while we ate. Turned out nice again. So nice in fact that Phill Rashleigh took some decent photos; it was the only photo opportunity of the day.

Having conversed and digested we set off for Cardinham Moor, still keeping out of the wind as much as possible. At Millpool we took a road very much less travelled as suggested by local biker, Dave Blendell, whose busy social calendar prevented him joining us for the day. Here are Dave's navigational instructions:-

'There's a small road. As you head towards Millpool from the range direction it's in the vicinity of the cattle-grid and a left-turn, the only left turn before you enter the village I think. Takes you down a steep hill across a ford and eventually to just the other side of Cardinham, as soon as you get out the other end you'll know exactly where you are.

'Used to walk my dog down there (several) years ago and my CB200 managed the ford OK, so can't see a problem for anything else. Erm, that was 30 years ago but you know progress round there, doubt it's been converted into a six-lane highway or has a 600 home Barrett Estate at the end of it. It's narrow but a road rather than a dirt track and a very pretty route, about three miles I'd guess.'

Well, it's a fine little detour and well worth the taking; high-hedged, steep, moss strip down the middle, very pretty. The ford at the bottom was quite passable though memorably greasy and the ensuing ascent featured a fallen tree across our way which we all managed to ride under. Wild and woolly or what?

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Thence by a circuitous route past Colliford Dam, over a couple of muddy slipper bridges to the Eclectic Shed for a well earned cuppa and a wash and brush up.

Remember that opening scene from 'The Italian Job'? The middle-aged man who drove through the sunny Italian Alps while Matt Monro crooned? Well the character in the car, Beckermann, drove into a tunnel from which he never exited alive due to a head on collision with a strategically placed bulldozer. So, he may have had finer weather than we did but the Real Classic Two One Six Clause's 2007 Longest Day out had a happier ending.

Richard Holt (aka NVNL, RealClassic Club Member Number 015, paid-up and proud.)

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Here's what the others said -

Pete Best: I started off in plenty of time this morning on the Bonnie despite the inclement weather but only got a few miles down the road when I started experiencing very bad missing and finally cutting out. It felt like fuel starvation on one of the cylinders. Managed to nurse it back home (mostly on one cylinder) but too late to change mounts to the modern Trophy and get down to the meeting point in time. First time I've had any problems since the Longest Day run last year.

Hope you all enjoyed yourself despite the weather.

Extremely frustrated and disappointed at this end!

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Dee Jackson: I must admit it was an unpromising beginning - trying to get the T150 started - in the rain - whilst wearing full wet weather gear! The ride out to the café was almost as challenging … a buffeting wind and slanting rain followed by a diesel assisted slide into service area. Still it could only get better from there - and it did!

An enchanted car park, yesterday.

Richard, Phill and Dave turned up, and Richard led us through some of the most enchanting lanes around Bodmin. Richard must know this territory well - we only got lost once! Some of the tracks were quite challenging for a road tyred T150 - a ford, loose gravel, tight switchbacks, steep hills and a couple of muddy bridges - the rear end (the bike and mine!!) squirmed on more than a couple of occasions. Still, it made for an entertaining riding experience - somewhere between a tour, a hill climb and a trial.

We finished up with tea chez Richard - thanks for a most diverting ride - which made the best of mixed weather. I was overdressed for most of it.

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Dave Barkshire: This is the third year that a few hardy RCers have braved the elements for a Longest Day Ride which has been run on the moors of the South West of England, Dartmoor, Exmoor and now Bodmin Moor. The weather forecast guaranteed particularly atrocious conditions and, driving across the South West to somewhere not-very-near-Launceston, torrential rain lashed the countryside. Bollocks!

Knowing that not everyone would bottle out at the last moment and that nobody wanted to be the first to blink meant that there was no turning back. My choice of borrowed steed for the day was a Velocette LE or a Norton Commando which is a bit like choosing between a field mouse and a big hairy gorilla. I chose the gorilla as I'd not ridden one since 1980 (and that was only around a car park twice which really doesn't count), and the other attendees were all mounted on large-capacity machines which would have left the LE in the distance.

Bodmin Moor is slightly less famous than Dartmoor and Exmoor but is surprisingly diverse and beautiful which makes it good riding country and a fine location to get a soaking. There are plenty of twisty narrow lanes winding their way through wooded valleys and it's not until you emerge onto an open section that you remember that you're on a moor. Somehow we missed out on a total soaking as the day brightened up with a few showers here and there but the roads were slippery and required some care from the four riders to avoid any mishaps as we slid through fords and muddy patches. Lunch was taken at a clearing by the River Camel and the sun even came out for a while.

An enchanted NVNL, yesterday...

After Bodmin Moor, the next discovery of the day for me was the Commando, which has such a brutish motor that it delivers instant grunt from the first whiff of throttle and pushes the cycle forward at such a rate through the gears that the front becomes very light and you have to wonder if the front wheel might lift if any more power was available.

On the flipside, the rather spongy bicycle becomes very fishlike when scrubbing off speed which I was fortunately forewarned about, but for someone who usually rides rock solid rigid frames the Commando requires a lot of faith when this happens. The Commando engine does honour its origins and feels as though it is descended from a Dominator. It has some of the same characteristics which are quite different to those of a Triumph engine and it's easy to understand why people usually plump for one or the other when the debate gets going. As good as the Triumph engine is, I'd say that the Commando engine has more sex!

So next year there is talk of combining the Longest Day Ride with the Holsworthy Rally which would mean an overnight camping expedition. We can only hope that rain will stay away. I really thought that this year would be a complete disaster but the opposite was true and I look forward to the next one.

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Phillip Rashleigh: Fantastic, though NVNL is a bit of a mud loon! My Beeza is stinking filthy, which is nice and she will stay that way for a week or two she looks so much better with dirt on her.

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After words from NVNL: The discovery of the day for me was the pilot light on Phill Rashleigh's modified B31, it was just so easy to pick up in the rear view mirrors. I was so impressed that I sent a cheque to Paul Goff and bought some. They are Quartz Halogen and 23 Watts, available in six or twelve Volt form.

21/6/08 falls on a Saturday. Sadly it is the weekend before rather than the weekend of the Holsworthy Rally, according to Mike Curtis who knows about these things. At a guess we'll ascend to Dartmoor again, but I'm open to persuasion…

Next year?

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