5th November 2011
The main roads may be a little less hectic, but this autumn's Ardingly event was the busiest yet. Stars of the show included Norton Nomads and a brace of BSA Bantams...
At the risk of going against the flow of doom, gloom, despair and despondency, we're delighted to report that this autumn's RealClassic activity at various classic bike events has been remarkably chipper. The RC Roadshow has zigzagged around the country in the past two months, taking in Shepton Mallet, Kempton Park, Compass Challenges, Stafford, Netley Marsh and finally the South of England RC Show. And while it's obvious that all is not boom and bonanza in the general economy (has anyone else noticed how the volume of traffic on the motorways has declined over the past couple of years?), it seems that plenty of people are still happy to put their classic motorcycles on display, to share their barn-find discoveries, to ride out with their club branch and meet up with other old bike enthusiasts, and to spend a shekel or two on autojumble gubbins and semi-precious spare parts. In short, classic bike life goes on…The Abergavenny Hall
As if to underline that sentiment, the autumn Ardingly show featured more old bikes on display, more traders and autojumblers and more visiting motorcycles than ever before. At the risk of ruining a good cliché, the show really was bigger and busier. Over 150 motorcycles lined up in the main show hall while the trade stands and autojumble sprawled over three further halls, with indoor refreshments and seating for those who needed a quick five minutes off their feet.
Guest of honour Gordon May didn't get a chance to grab a break himself, as he seemed to be chatting to people every time we glanced in his direction. Gordon rode his 1952 BSA Bantam on an epic Egyptian exodus in 2010, travelling 5000 and more miles through Tunisia, Libya, the Sinai, Jordan, Syria and back across Europe to Blighty. The D1 Bantam, still fully loaded and covered in oil and sand, attracted much attention and no little admiration.
Similarly, there were some fabulous big beasts on display - some of them being unveiled for the very first time. Anthony Curzon has been rebuilding his pair of extremely rare Norton Nomads for what feels like at least a century and, finally, they're complete and running and gorgeous. We'll be featuring these dashing desert sleds at length in the December issue of RealClassic, and Tony went home with a much-deserved award for his efforts. Nice job by the NOC, too, with their flashing display and posh spot-lights.Norton Nomad
Sidecars also caught the eye of our judge, the magazine's editor Frank Westworth, who couldn't resist a 1939 Panther Redwing with Steib sidecar which took top honours in the Pre-1950 class. The Best Overseas machine was a 1961 BMW R60, also tugging a Steib chair. This bike is owned by Mrs Pat Piggott - one of two ladies to win awards at this autumn's event. Nice to see the girls going home with some trophies: congratulations to Jill Jackson for her Bantam D7 which won the Best Lightweight category.
A rather tasty cammy Norton also collected a trophy - this 1946 machine was uprated to take the 1949 suspension set-up, and has been maintained to an extremely high standard. It also sounds gorgeous: the owner bump-started it on his way out of the hall at the end of the day and it growled and snarled out of the showground, turning heads all the way. Another star which was recognised in the awards was the 1925 Indian 'wall of death' bike (which apparently isn't too easy to start if you're wearing loafers), displayed on the Indian Riders' MCC stand.'Wall of Death' Indian
Speaking of clubs, it was wonderful to see so many excellent display from a range of marque and riders' organisations - especially good that the TR3OC came along for the first time. They were narrowly pipped to the post for Best Club Stand by the BSAOC, whose East Sussex branch reconstructed an entire 1960s café for the day, complete with jukebox, a nice cuppa cha, and rock cakes. We promise that the rock cakes in no way affected the judge's decision!BSA Owners Club Cafe
A key component of the RealClassic ethos is that we don't just feature posh, shiny bikes, and we recognise the historic and intrinsic value of un-mucked-about-with motorcycles. So this autumn's RealClassic Award went to Chris Harris for his 1949 Ariel Square Four; an original and unrestored example which spent 35 years being buried in a shed before being returned to its rightful place on the road. The owner didn't waste a moment in turning down Frank's generous offer of £100 for it. Odd. (Not).Chris Harris' 1949 Ariel Square Four
Thanks to everyone who made this event such a great success, especially all those who displayed their bikes for all to admire. Even more thanks to those generous people who dropped by the RC stand and delivered snacks and coffee to keep the RC Crew on their feet: it was lovely to see you all.
Let's do it all over again in six months' time, shall we?
The next RealClassic South of England 'RealClassic' Show is on Sunday 11th March 2012, at the South of England Showground, Ardingly, West Sussex, RH17 6TL.
To enter your classic bike into the display, see www.elk-promotions.co.uk
Words: Rowena Hoseason
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