11th April 2011
They came, they saw, they drank some coffee and then went home again. The Ace Cafe was a sea of constantly shifting classic motorcycles yesterday, and Martin Gelder was there taking notes and trying to keep his head above water...
The plan was to give people a bit of an excuse to get their bikes out for the first run of the year. A target to aim at, a deadline for sorting the MOT, the tax, the niggling oil leaks from last year and that funny top end rattle could mean impending doom or just the horn bracket working loose.
The sun gods did their stuff and by nine in the morning it was already a beautiful day; it's just a shame I'd had to set off at seven thirty, wearing summer gloves. Brrrrr. By the time I'd had a restorative coffee the Ace's bike park was filling up with bikes; Harleys to the left, classics in the middle and modern stuff near the road. Pity the poor bloke trying to direct traffic; is a Katana modern or a classic? Is an Aermacchi Harley single a classic or, well, a Harley?
The other part of the plan was to give out some awards. We didn't want to do the usual "Best Brit", "Best Italian" concours type of thing, so a hand-picked crack (I said crack) team of RealClassic message board regulars were volunteered to go forth into the throng of old bikes and pick their favourites.
Here's what they chose, and why:
Best Everyman Classic
Al O'Newbie picked this frshly restored 1972 Honda CB450K6 as the Everyman Classic; "Sympathetic modifications to make it usable on the road, but it shows that ordinary Japanese bikes can be RealClassics"1972 Honda CB450K6
Owner Neil Emery from North Kent has had the bike about 18 months, and rebuilt it from the ground up about 800 miles ago. "It took forever because it's not a UK model, so parts aren't that easy to come by. It was brought over from America and then sat unsold and unregistered until I bought it; it had no registration papers but the DVLA were fine about getting it back on the road."
Best Tear to the Eye
This 1979 Moto Guzzi T3 California almost brought a tear to Paul the Destroyer's eye; "I wanted to give it an award because I miss my own so much, and because it's flipping gorgeous".1979 Moto Guzzi T3 California
"Nothing whatsoever has needed doing to it", says owner Dave from Ruislip, who is looking for a suitable screen but is otherwise very happy with the bike he's owned for about a year.
Best Former Furniture1963 Triumph Tiger90
Gay Crommelin was dazzled by Roy Gilbey's 1963 Triumph Tiger90, quite possibly the cleanest bike of the day. Roy bought it as a box of bits after it had spent several years of its life on display at the Hard Rock Cafe, and has slowly restored it to as be as authentic as possible. The RealClassic Spring Shakeout was the bike's first proper run after its rebuild, the trip from Henlow going without any problems.
At the other end of the scale, this used-every-day Bantam looked like it hadn't been cleaned for decades but was a first-kick starter. Still commuting after 40 years...Bantam - Still in use every day as a commuter.
Best Use of Wood
Best Ridden In
Will's 1926 1000cc Harley Davidson Model J was ridden in to take its place in the Warr's Museum display. The bike had originally been owned by Bruce, a friend of Fred Warr, before being bought by Will 10 years ago, and is the sort of machine that Warr's would have sold when they first opened.1926 1000cc Harley Davidson Model J
Luxuries like the speedometer and front brake were optional extras, but the bike came with a syringe type device fitted to the fuel cap, designed to prime the cylinders with neat fuel before starting. The foot clutch, hand-change bike will cruise at 50ish, and it was a real pleasure to see it ridden in and parked amongst the trailered museum pieces. A Real Classic.
EVGuru nominated a 1937 Ariel Red Hunter for a Best Fishtail award after it swept majestically into the Ace's bike park. Well, it was either sweeping majestically or he was having trouble stopping. The Ariel's been owned by Dixie from London for the last couple of year, in which time he's done bits and pieces to it - renovating the forks and wheel spindles, and so on - but mainly "just replacing bits that have fallen off". Unfortunately, I forgot to photograph it. Sorry :o(1937 Ariel Red Hunter (Not illustrated)
Best Less is More
The Less is More award, chosen by yours truly, had to go to this minimalist 1971 Harley XLH1000 Sportster. Owned by Sharpeye from Camden, it was rebuilt a couple of years ago with help from Tash at Bell, who did the fabrication.1971 Harley Davidson XLH1000 Sportster
The BSA tank has a hand-worked half-tone logo, and the bike was dotted with odd and one-off parts that added to the simple look of the bike rather than detracting from it. Tidy.All done by hand...
Best Living The DreamThe Warriner's Norvin
And last but not least, Kevin the Bodger nominated this NorVin for the Living The Dream award because owner Mark Warriner had ridden it down from Linconshire, and after a coffee and a smoke was about to ride home again; a 260 mile round trip.
The bike's wideline Featherbed frame houses a C series Vincent Rapide engine that has been rebuilt with Black Lightening internals. Mark's father bought the bike - registered as a NorVin - as a box of bits in 1975 and built it up over the next 11 years. It's been on the road since, but was rebuilt again about 4 years ago. Unusually, the frame top rail on the left has been replace with a curved tube which allows the carb for the rear cylinder to sit at a more upright angle, but setting up the fuelling has still been a problem, with Mark switching from Concentrics to TTs in an effort to get the bike responding smoothly; "it's still a bit like an on-off switch".
If there was a bike of the day the NorVin was it, but the reason we didn't go for a conventional concours competition was because we didn't want to pick a single winner; everyone who was there enjoyed themselves and rode home happy, and that's what it's all about.
Thanks to Mark and Linda at the Ace Cafe for providing the iconic venue, and inviting us to hold an event there.
Words and pictures: Martin Gelder
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