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21st January 2008


Winter Rides
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What did you do between Christmas and the New Year? James French took his unusual Enfield for one of his favourite rides...

'You're mad!' they say. Maybe they're right.

Riding a rare 44 year old classic motorcycle in the middle of December - not a lot of people do that you know. The 'conkers' person with his (or hers; must be PC these days) gleaming, better-than-new-looking machine derives much pleasure from exhibiting and possibly winning a competition with their machine. I too derive a similar pleasure, but in a different way with my machines.

My pleasure comes from a winter's ride along country roads, taking in the views and listening to the engine's solid, noisy, constant beat. The boots are keeping the toes warm, good gloves for the hands and a scarf and balaclava for the top end - it's just the knees that are feeling the cold. My Bullet's chromed tank is cold to touch - you can understand why knee grips were used on the sides of petrol tanks - useful things. Knee grips that is.

Perfect for a winter ride

Earlier I had done a silly thing. Is my memory going? Old age perhaps? But I had set the Bullet's ignition switch to 'EMG' position by turning it anti-clockwise instead of clockwise. 'EMG' is designed for starting with a flat battery. Anyway I had set off and within two miles I experienced misfiring and my immediate thoughts were all about fuel, blocked jet etc. I pulled up and turned around, keeping up some high revs, and headed for home -- only to have the engine die on me.

Oh bother! (Or words to that effect). Only two hills from home.

Getting off the road at a nearby field gate with hard standing I put the Bullet onto its stand and went to turn off the ignition. As I did, realisation dawned on what I had done. Switching to the normal 'ON' position, a good swing on the kick start and the Bullet roared back into life and was again running normally.

Feeling relieved and at the same time annoyed with myself I set off again for a 20 mile ride via Cranford, Brigstock and Oundle to the Chequered Skipper pub at Ashton in Northamptonshire. I knew there would be a 5% Winter Warmer behind the bar for me -- but first I could enjoy the delights of a steady 40 to 45mph ride through our countryside.

Lots to see, you know, at this time of year. A large flock of wood pigeons were feasting on the clover in a farmer's stubble field - a pheasant or two running across the road in front of me as I exit Cranford. Wonder if they will survive next Saturday's shoot? You always manage to see a hovering Kestrel, a common bird now. It seems there is one every three or four miles or so.

After Brigstock where we have some remnants of Rockingham Forest there is a success story; ten years ago some Red Kites were released and they have bred successfully, so often you see one or two circling the land as they look for carrion as they are scavengers. A majestic sight, with their seven-foot wingspan and forked tail.

The Bullet's running really well - all are happy - glances behind every now and again confirm no one else on the road. Bliss. Oh I forgot to say - going through Brigstock I spotted two bikers parked up with their modern scrambles-type machines. A quick toot of my 6-volt horn - a wave and thumbs up as we pass by. A different sort of biker, but bikers indeed, about to set off and do their thing on two wheels.

Finally into Oundle and steady through the town - that noisy exhaust turns people's heads or is it that they haven't seen many motorcycles on the road today? The Chequered Skipper soon appears in front of me. A Christmas tree on the edge of the Green is adorned with lights in front of the Pub. I have now finished one of my favourite rides.

Enfield stuff on eBay.co.uk

In the summer the trestles on the Green are usually inhabited by people - today they are deserted. I park up in the same spot as usual away from reversing cars, remove the helmet, comb the hair and enter. A warm welcome, a table by the window with a radiator and a pint of black stuff (other beers are available) - this is Heaven.

Should have gone to Specsavers....

I later look out to the Green and the Christmas tree and grabbed a picture of the Bullet in front of the Christmas tree; looking for all the world as if that's where I found it. A great memento of a smashing ride, at Christmas 2007


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