Saturday, February 22, 2020

Panel tank Norton Model 18

'Your loving Les' is astride a Norton Model 18. I'm not exactly sure of the year of the bike but it sports the rare instrument panel tank which, I believe, was an option. The handlebar levers are of the inverted type which would date it to very early thirties. An interesting accessory is the pneumatic air bag type strap on pillion saddle (made by Camden?).

Old time riding gear intrigues me and this chap's outfit is no different. He has a very cosy looking storm coat and a great pair of gauntlets but on the bottom half regular slacks and shoes. Riding my old nails I usually find that a good pair of boots is one of my most important bits of riding kit, if only to keep the oil splashes away from the rest of my clothes. Was it any different back in the day? Of course the bike was newer but it still had open valves and leaky pushrod tubes..

Lovely early thirties Norton Model 18.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Velocette Venom vinyl petrol tank cover

Well farkled '55 Velocette Venom.
I've got a bit of a thing for period correct farkles and my '55 Venom has been the recipient of several. The latest of which is this petrol tank cover. The need to farkle is an enduring one for the motorcyclist as tank covers remain popular accessories, though modern ones such as the Baglux are infinitely more useful with their capacity to clip on a useful tank bag. The fifties version has rather less utility, it's purpose is really as a tank protector though they  are derided by many as a moisture collector that can rot your precious tank away.

The Velo tank is greased underneath the new cover so rot shouldn't be much of a problem, even if it is the bike currently runs with an Indian repro tank so it's not a big loss either way. Personally I like the look of the cover and it adds a touch of authenticity and individuality.

I'm not sure who the maker of these tank covers was, at one time they were fairly frequently found and produced for most makes and models. Midland is my guess for the brand though if there are any old timers reading who can remember them from new please do let me know.

The Velo is a bit more understated with its new tank cover.

The cover required a bit of remedial work before fitting.
The straps were missing and needed to be repalced with stiched
on black cotton tape and buckles.

The Midland map case is another period accessory and,
frankly, equally as useless as the tank cover!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Rocker's Thunderbird

A cracking photo courtesy of James Kelly. So many neat details in the photo. The bike is a pre-unit Triumph 6T Thunderbird and customised in a very period evocative way - whitewall tyres, leopard print seat and chromed headlamp peak. All we know about the photo is the chap aboard the Triumph goes by the name of 'Gray Bailey', his outfit is of a level of awesomeness to match his bike: drainpipes, turn ups, snazzy socks, pointed toe loafers and, hard to say from the photo, but that could well be a velvet jacket.

And compare our chap Gray and his Triumph to the background. The bike is a colourful ton up flying machine, he is a snappy dresser. In the background are dull fifties steel box cars merely capable of wheezing along at 40mph whilst the Triumph flies past them and their dull grey occupants. Post war fifties optimism and youth culture in one crinkled old snap.

Gray Bailey and his Triumph Thunderbird.
By the way the numberplate is a
Portsmouth one and the location may
well be Bournemouth.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Early Road Trial with Morgan and Combo

Another photo the context of which is lost in time. This just leaves us to make up our own narrative as to just what was going on and where. The time is early twenties, the aft vehicle a Morgan trike and the combo has a competition number. You make up the rest...

Early twenties sidecar outfit and Morgan tricycle in the
middle of the countryside, but what are they up to?

Friday, February 14, 2020

Stanley Schofield's Sound Stories

An unusual concept to modern sensibilities, Stanley Schofield's Sound Stories were once very popular. Vinyl recordings of motorsports were released swiftly after events and sold in decent enough quantities to keep the concept going for a good number of years. In days of less immediately accessible entertainments if you were a true dyed in the wool motorcycle sport enthusiast you had the opportunity to relive the sounds of great events in your living room any time you wanted.

Sound Story records are rather rare nowadays and seldom heard. I've got a couple knocking about but no means of playing them... I'll try and see if any friends have vinyl to digital players and post up the results.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

BSA combo

Four pictures from a family album, the origins of which are lost in the mists of time. The bike is a BSA, a 4.25hp Model (H2 or K2 perhaps), dating from the early twenties.

The chap is very dapperly dressed and the snaps more playful than many of the era.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Four valves four speeds three wheels

A bit of a faded photo this one but the shape is the unmistakable one of a four valve four speed Rudge. Looks like the couple aboard the Rudge are on a holiday? The tents in the background are rather uniform, is it a holiday or is it a scout or army camp?

Mid twenties four valve four speed Rudge combination.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Flat tanker leather knee grips

These leather knee pads were once a fairly popular accessory on more sporting flat tank machines of the twenties (or at least the machines of owners who had sporting pretensions).Whilst I would never claim that my '27 Triumph N is a performance machine it does have quite racey handlebars and the knee pads certainly add to the look.

I picked the pads up from a chap at the Stafford Show who was making reproduction vintage leather items. Lacing the pads on took a little bit more head scratching than I anticipated - in order for the leather to sit nicely over the top of the tank each eyelet must have the leather string laced over it in order to pull it flush with the tank. The pads do need to age a little bit to blend in but overall I am very happy with the result. An unexpected bonus is that the pads act as stops to the handlebars: there are no stops fitted to the forks and the low pattern type bars can make contact with the petrol tank at the extremes of lock. Now the bars are neatly brought to a stop by a cushion of soft leather.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Punctures galore

Thanks James Kelly for this great triptych of wholesome 1950s puncture-themed cycling photos. The captions are taken from the reverse of the pictures and all is quite self explanatory really.

'Trouble keeps me cheerful'

'John - as usual trouble'

'Somebody else's turn'

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Two Million Villiers Engines

A Villiers flyer from 1956 that is very self explanatory. As they say two million is indeed a gigantic quantity of ring a ding stinky little two strokes. Of course as motorcycle enthusiasts we think of their bike engines but the bread and butter was small industrial engines of which many many were made. Cheap and cheerful they may well have been but Villiers engines were always rather nicely made and of sound design and possessed of endearing characteristics. I've had several Villiers engined machines myself and have loved each and every one of them!

Friday, January 31, 2020

Early Japanese Police Motorcycle

Another mystery bike photo. All I can say is that it is Japanese and looks to be from the fifties.

Is there anyone knowledgable on early Japanese bikes that can identify the marque? I'm guessing from the chap's uniform and the way the bike is accessorised he is probably a policeman and this is his work mount. The bike looks to be quite American flavoured but is too small to be a Rikuo.

Personally I'm fascinated by early Japanese machines from the days before the big four. They are a whole parallel universe of motorcycling, so many styling cues and engine formats borrowed from European models but mashed up together and subtly changed and in many cases improved.
1950's Japanese Motorcycle Cop.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Original early Velocette Venom rev counter mount


Here's something to sort out the true rivet counters from the wannabees.

Personally I'm not massively bothered if something is exactly correct on a bike or not, as long as it looks right then it is good as far as I am concerned. If it is a massively rare or highly original piece of machinery then it would be a shame if it was wrong, but if it is one of many hundreds of examples out there in my mind it is good if it has a bit of individual character.

In the case of my '55 Venom I felt that in the case of one particular part what is actually original gives character as you won't see many of them out there. And the part in question? The rev counter mount..

The earlier Venoms were not offered in specific Clubmans spec as a separate model but there were a number of sporting options that could be chosen. A rev counter was one of these options. When a Smiths tacho was supplied as an option it came with a bracket that was made from the handlebar clamp from a set of Webb girder forks. The handlebar end of the clamp goes on to the bars and the smaller diameter side holds on to a short length of tube onto which is welded a flat plate drilled for the tacho to mount onto it. It is a slightly cumbersome arrangement that was correct through to (I believe) 1959. I have seen the same arrangement on Norton Dominators of the era and undoubtedly several other marques used the same fitting.

I am guessing that the early tacho fitting is so rare nowadays partly on account of it being rather ungainly and easy to upgrade to a later Thruxton style mount. I presume too that many bikes did not actually leave the factory with a rev counter and enthusiast owners upgraded machines later in life with parts that were current at the time.

When I became aware that this esoteric early bracket was correct for my bike I felt a yearning to find one. It has taken quite a long while (a couple of ebay near misses on the way stymied by too shallow pockets, or perhaps an unwillingness to go three figures for a little doodad) but whilst at the Stafford Show last October I found a chap who was making replica ones for Mk VIII Velos - actually the same part. And now several months later I have gotten round to fitting it, and very chuffed I am too. Behold.....

Proof for the doubters - this is from a 1958 road test.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Surrey Sidecars brochure c1960

Another brochure for Surrey Sidecars, this one from around 1960 and very kindly provided by Richard Barnes, grandson of Edward Ford - the chap behind the company.

More on Surrey Sidecars to come...

As an aside to two wheelers, Edward Ford joined the Merchant Navy after leaving school and there is a fascinating account of his adventures here: His maritime career began coinciding with the beginning of the Second World War. The account gives an amazing insight in to the rigours of life at sea at the time and encompasses travel across the globe as well as the rigours of the Atlantic convoys. Well worth a read.


Thursday, January 23, 2020

Twenties sloping top tube cycle

Thanks to James Kelly for this pic of a chap with his sporting cycle. Really not the first idea as to the marque but there are a few interesting details to pick up.

From the style of the cycle it is from the twenties or early thirties: current with, but outdated by, the 'Bastide' generation of lightweights. Most manufacturers offered a sloping top tube drop bars model like this, lighter than a standard roadster and definitely racier but still with rod brakes. Most were catalogued as 'road racer' models or something similar.

From the clothing style I would say the picture is taken in the thirties. Look at his heavyweight gauntlet gloves which are rather incongruous. On the cycle itself note the steep gearing, heavy rear rack (possibly a Brooks) and acetylene front light. I find interesting the position of the bell on the top tube, not something you see on old cycles nowadays, I think I'm going to replicate that on my own road racer.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Mystery v twin a mystery no more

A big thanks to Geert from the Netherlands for getting in touch about the mystery flat tanker picture published a week or so back.

It is a MAG engined Ariel, a model that I was completely unaware of, and Geert sent the below picture to confirm.

v twin Ariel combination with MAG ioe motor from 1923

1923 MAG engined Ariel v twin combination

Friday, January 17, 2020

Always keep one in reserve

A dry day has been a rare thing this winter down my neck of the woods. I needed to run an errand so it seemed like a good excuse to use a bike and of course I was running late. First choice for some exercise was the Velocette. Stuck carb float and petrol all over the floor. Next up Yamaha AG, low on oil. So out came the trusty Bantam and it did the job perfectly.

Somehow this experience justifies keeping multiple bikes in the garage. Don't even think of suggesting that just one reliable one would be a better bet....

The trusty D1 Bantam stops to take in the view.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Mystery flat tank v twin combo

Here's a challenge for the New Year. A rather tasty v twin flat tank combo from the early twenties, but what is it?

The engine looks like a MAG to me, but beyond that I'm not too sure. At first I thought Matchless but the forks don't match Matchless pattern.

The outfit is nicely accessorised with an electric lighting kit, legshields and handlebar muffs. The gentleman behind is dressed the part too.

If you can identify the bike please do comment or email. Tip - to see a higher quality larger copy of the image right click and open in a new tab.

Mystery v twin flat tank combination.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Exeter Trial 2020

After an involuntary break from long distance trials (due to work - boo!) I was scheduled to be at home for the 2020 Exeter.

The entry form duly went in and plans were made to prep the Yamaha to pop its trials cherry. As they say to fail to prepare is to prepare to fail and I really did set myself up for a no start. I thought I would have plenty of time to sort the bike out over Christmas but I had underestimated the time that would be taken up with familial duties. The Yamaha AG has some wiring peculiarities introduced by owners over the years, I thought that a couple of evenings would be enough to sort them out. Very much not so. I ended up getting the bike mot'd the day before the trial and the best I could do was to get the horn and stop light working so it scraped through a daylight mot.

Normally a daylight mot would spell disaster for a long distance trial but our merry band had entered the day trial with a start at the Crealy breakfast stop and missing out the night sections. Fortuitous as it turned out.

Somehow it felt a bit of a cop out turning up to start the trial whilst the majority of competitors had been on the road all night and were taking the opportunity of the enforced hour break at Crealy for a power nap. However the difference for me in doing the day trial is one day away from home versus three so it really does make it a lot more accessible for those with families and or a busy work life.

Yamaha AG200 at the top of the first section. Matt and Dan
with the Ariel outfit in the background.

The first section on the day trial was Tillerton Steep and I was surprised how easily the little Yamaha rode up it. Mind, up until now I have been used to competing on a road going Enfield Bullet.

And a full view of Matt's rigid Ariel outfit. It's definitely of
'the right stuff'.

All went well up until Simms. Weighed down by two portions of cake prepared by the wonderful ladies at Islington village Parish Hall I approached with too much confidence and too little speed. The re-start was easy, I cleared the slippery slabs but by then had lost line and rode it up the bank on the steep muddy section after the slabs and came a cropper.

Rich on Beta Alp coming out of the Tillerton
Steep mudbath.

Confidence knocked I then fluffed the next section, Tipley Hill, and footed. Back on form after that though and the last section , Slippery Sam, was a clean.

One section down and here's my boot. And that's with keeping
it on the pegs throughout.

We made it to the end point in Torquay roughly on time. Sadly though no time for victory celebrations as I needed to get back to the van at Crealy before sun set. 

All in a great day's sport. The AG bike proved its mettle and didn't let me down. A big thanks to all the Marshals, helpers and organisers and I just hope it isn't such a big gap as last time until I enter the next trial.

Toby and Honda XT250.

This chap entered a Zero electric bike. Not sure
how he did.

One of several Dellows entered.

Another Dellow. Love them!

A trio of red cars at Islington Parish Hall.

MG and cat.

The approach to Simms. Fairly benign looking from this angle.

One very muddy AG200 after the last section.