21st October 2016
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Sand and Motorcycles 2016
Richard Jones visits the Leighton Buzzard Railway where he finds trains and classic motorcycles aplenty, but a strange absence of sand. Not many buzzards, neither...
One of the advantages of Jones Towers is that itís fairly centrally placed for all sorts of classic bike shows. So it was that Mrs Jones and I set out for Leighton Buzzard for the Sand and Motorcycles show one sunny Sunday in September. I have to admit to some confusion over the name of the event Ė although I saw loads of motorcycles I saw not one grain of sand. However, to be fair, I have never seen the buzzard in Leighton Buzzard either.
As you can see it was a busy old event, despite the lack of sand, with several hundred people and bikes in attendance. Itís an annual occasion masterminded by RC regular Neil Cairns at Leighton Buzzard Railway. If you get tired of motorcycles Ė perish the thought Ė you could go for a ride on the train or even try your hand at driving one for a very reasonable £5.
I have to say that I was very taken with the white CX500 you can see in the foreground. It was immaculate and I donít understand why these machines donít have a greater following.
Over to the girder fork area where this Triumph was sitting looking rather splendid and, when I came back later, it was wearing a red winnerís rosette awarded by the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway and well deserved too. The DVLA tells us that it was manufactured in 1926 and is a 500cc machine which, and I stand to be corrected as always, means itís a Model P which was launched in 1924. The sidevalve single was sold for £42, a low price to build up market share which it did with a vengeance. Production numbers reached one thousand per week, quality was low to achieve the sale price and the inevitable occurred Ė bikes broke down and blew up, damaging Triumphís reputation severely. Nearly 20,000 of these machines were sold before the Mk2 was made available to address the weaknesses of its predecessor. I suspect this is one of the Mk2s as the originals had a length of asbestos rope as a front brake which acted by contracting against the front rim. Scary or what?
The award for originality and patination should have gone to this 1937 P&M Panther Model 100 which was a replica of one used by fitters working for Garsides, owners of the local sand quarries during WW2 (aah Ė now I see where the sand comes in). Apparently the fitters had to get to some inaccessible spots to carry out repairs so two BSA M20s of 1937 vintage and a Panther 100 from the same year were acquired to transport employees around the area. Aggregate Industries still have a Garside Sands range but whether Panther motorcycles are provided is not recorded. The ohv 600cc Model 100 was perhaps best known as a sidecar tug but this one seemed to have lost its accompanying chariot or perhaps it never had one. Whatever the case, itís a fine example of the Cleckheaton marque.
One of Milwaukeeís finest was also on display in the girder fork area and Iím once again indebted to DVLA for informing me that it was first registered in on the 31st October 1946 and its capacity is 750cc. Does this then make it a WLA sidevalve manufactured for the military and then returned to civilian use?
Of course this was on the girder fork stand too Ė where else could it be? As I learned last year, the Mosquito engine was produced by Garelli (I canít help thinking that this should be a Welsh, as opposed to Italian, marque) as an attachment for making cycling far less labour intensive. Originally introduced after WW2 with a 38cc capacity, it was subsequently uprated by a whole 11cc and given a centrifugal clutch. The 38cc engine was not without stamina though Ė eight riders rode for 55 days and nights around the Pau circuit in France, covering 25,000 miles at an average of 19mph using it. The interesting thing here is that the Italian engine has been mated with what looks like one of Mr Marstonís bicycles from Sunbeamland in Wolverhampton. Iím not going to try and speculate what model the cycle is other than to say that the absence of the characteristic Little Oil Bath chaincase and Raleigh Industries name on the pedals suggests itís of later, post-WW2 vintage.
The machine of the show for me was this 348cc Velocette KTT production racer which, from the engine number and owner Ray Thurstonís helpful placard, dates from 1938 when it was supplied to Billy Wing from Daybrook near Nottingham. I came across this racer from the 1930s when researching the original Donington circuit where he first appeared on August Bank Holiday in 1931 aboard a 497cc Ariel in the race for machines up to 1000cc. He also raced the following year on the Ariel and took second but by 1934 he was riding a Velocette. Whilst he won his heat in the Whit Monday 350cc race, he lost control just after the start of the 500cc race and managed to bring a banner down across the track. In 1935 he came overall second in the 350cc race, beating the renowned Harold Daniell into third place, and got a third in the under-1100cc class.
In 1938 Billy rolled out his KTT on a windy, drizzly June day for the Whit Monday meeting where he came second in his heat for the 500cc class at 66.01mph, marginally slower than winner G Bensley on a 490cc Norton at 66.15mph Ė a great ride considering he had a huge capacity disadvantage. Then in the Unlimited Solos he scored a first in his heat at 65.02mph. He competed in the Ulster later that year where he came ninth, before hanging up his helmet at the end of the season. Itís marvellous to see the actual machines that raced in the 1930s and Mr Thurston is to be congratulated for his restoration of this iconic motorcycle.
At the age of 16 this was the bike I wanted Ė a Norton Commando 750cc. Whenever I see a really good one I am forced to photograph it as was the case here; although older Iím not a lot wiser and still pine after one of the last British greats. However with my (lack of) mechanical ability it would be a travesty.
Both I and another photographer were taking shots of this bike and both of us had Sammy Miller OBE in mind Ė why I did Iím not sure as Iím not what you could call a trials aficionado. This one was first registered in 1952, some 14 years before Mr M rode in and won his last SSDT on an Ariel before transferring his allegiance to Bultaco. How original this example is anyoneís guess Ė it certainly looked well used and you can just imagine it forging its way through the Scottish countryside.
Itís Italian, itís red, itís a V-twin and Ė itís an outfit?! Who would have thought that a Moto Guzzi Mille GT would have made such a handsome three-wheeler? Yet with 949cc, five gears and shaft drive it starts to make sense, particularly when you add 65bhp and 54ft/lb of torque. In 1988 Motorcycle Magazine said of the Mille: ĎAs long as thatís the case, its appeal will remain with a dwindling band of oldsters who remember what this sort of motorcycling was all about and who can afford to indulge their nostalgia and whimsy.í Nearly 30 years later itís still being appreciated so yah boo sucks to whoever made this ill-considered remark.
I confess to including this XBR500 for selfish motives Ė if anyone out there reading this has or knows of a spare rear seat cowl then please contact me via RealClassic. My XBR is devoid of said cowl and would look so much better with one so please take pity on me.
Weíve had a Norton and a Triumph so letís have a BSA too, in this case a rather handsome 1949 C11 rigid which may even be a deluxe model if the rather spiffy blue tank is anything to go by. It belongs to the president of the Busy Bee motorcycle Club who owns a BSA from each decade between 1920 and 1950 Ė the 1960ís example, a Bantam, was sold but he had no regrets as the new owner makes much use of it.
Letís finish with this Triton for no other reason than it looks so good.
Leighton Buzzard Railway: www.buzzrail.co.uk
More images from this and other classic bike events can be found at Richardís photo-feed
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