Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Bikes I have owned pt VIII. Suzuki T10

I think this was my second bike, bought when I was fifteen or so, a 1964 registered Suzuki T10. The T10 was a 250cc two stroke twin and the model before the legendary 'Super Six'.

The bike was registered in 1964 though I have a hunch that it came in to the UK in the first batch of Suzukis brought in by AMC motorcycles (Associated Motor Cycles - manufacturers of AJS, Matchless and Norton) in 1963 - talk about Turkeys voting for Christmas... The T10 was really an excellent bike and with 21 horses available it was fairly nippy and flexible too. Styling was slightly quirky and there was some neat unusual engineering. An electric start was fitted (can't remember ever using it though, kick starting seemed infinitely cooler to a seventeen year old), the gearbox was four speed with sequential changing (ie neutral was at the bottom and the rest of the gears up) and the rear brake was a hydraulically operated drum. Also particularly clever was the length of clear pipe at the front of the petrol tank that served as a fill level indicator. Oiling was of course automatic.

Suzuki T10 1964.

I tazzed around on the little Suzuki for a year or so. It was twenty five years old so I took it on a couple of Vintage Motor Cycle Club runs, it didn't really go down very well at the time (look how things have changed now, it would be near the oldest bike on a good few events). In many ways I don't think people appreciated what an interesting and important bike the T10 was, they probably still don't now either!

I guess I didn't really appreciate my little T10 enough either. It was a cracking original, unrestored example of a very rare bike in the UK. It developed a tricky misfire that I didn't have the urge or probably skills to sort out so was sold on cheap. I really hope it is still out there.

15 year old me trying to look nonchalant aboard the T10.

Near side view of the T10. Within Japan the T10
would have been a higher end and larger touring
machine. Twin carbs and 21 horses gave comfortable
cruising around 60mph, open it up and the two stroke
fog aft of the bike was very considerable.


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Royal Enfield Model 180 combination

Looks like three generations on one combo. And looks like grandad is a bit of a character too! The bike is Royal Enfield Model 180 from the mid to late twenties. The 180 was a long running model with a big v-twin motor that was generally used for sidecar pulling duties.

c1927 Royal Enfield Model 180 v-twin combination.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

The Hoskison Blackburne-engined motorcycle 1921

An extremely rare image here. The bike is a Hoskison with a Blackburne side-valve motor. The model was introduced in 1921 and the company stopped producing motorcycles early 1922.

Note the wheel discs fitted, these were a popular twenties accessory that is never seen nowadays. I'd love to have a set on one of my machines so if anyone knows a source for them please let me know.

1921 Hoskison with Blackburne engine
1921 Hoskison with Blackburne engine.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Charlie Lucas Royal Enfield hits the road

I've owned this machine for more years than I care to admit now. It was an unloved and unknown bike in a local auction and I won it as the sole bidder with a chancer bid. Purchase came with a first flush of enthusiasm, I started it up and took it to an event or two. Then I decided that if it was to be used in anger the motor should be checked out - the motor had been run on castor oil. As I was short on time and heavy on projects it went up to Paul Henshaw of Performance Classics in Wales. I collected it running, Paul had done a cracking job as expected in stripping, cleaning and servicing. Then a misfire crept in and it was evident that the mag needed rebuilding as well as the engine. In the meantime I managed to get the bike road registered.

The mag was duly rebuilt but I got the timing wrong. Trying to test run a bike with no kickstart when you live on top of a hill is not much fun so I got dispirited and wheeled it to the back of the garage for a period of contemplation.

1950s Charlie Lucas Royal Enfield 500 Twin.

From purchase onwards I had no idea who made the bike, I had a couple of leads but they got me nowhere. Then out of the blue I saw an original picture of the bike from back in the day in the letters section of Old Bike Mart magazine. A breakthrough moment for the bike and for my enthusiasm.

It was always evident that the bike was of decent build quality and a step up from something homemade and so it proved to be. The engine is a Royal Enfield 500 twin, not a particularly noteworthy sports engine but back in the early postwar club racing scene you made do with what you had. The frame is very similar to a Featherbed Norton but with a few subtle differences. The gearbox is a rare close ratio and the only real concession to tuning seems to be the twin carbs and megaphone pipes.

The ID of the bike is that it is a Charlie Lucas made machine. Charlie was a bike dealer in Watford who had a sideline in producing speedway frames and bespoke frames for road racing. It's unclear of how prodigious his output was but it is fair to say low. Charlie was famous for making the frame of the 'Melem Special' a successful one-off DOHC 250cc machine campaigned in the early and mid fifties.

1950s Charlie Lucas Royal Enfield 500 Twin.

The next breakthrough came in the purchase over the summer this year of a set of electric starter rollers from ebay. A total gamechanger in fettling something like this. I re-timed the bike and got it running sweet. Next step road tests. It's quite a buzz riding an original and unrestored fifties road racer out on public roads. Riding position is brutally uncomfortable for my six foot two frame, the footrests are ludicrously high and all my weight falls on to my wrists. The gearing is very high and to get a decent pace up the bike needs to be thrashed, brakes are standard Enfield and though fine for a Bullet or suchlike are slightly below par for this application. I took the bike along to a local VMCC run for fun but had to decline and head back home from the start such was the discomfort...

Next steps are light fettling and further investigating the bike's history with the leads I have. It's remarkable to have a period race bike in such unmolested and original condition, this perhaps means that it wasn't used much and will be hard to trace in race results / programmes? Some time in the bike's life 18 inch rims have been fitted, I have the original 19 inch ones and shall fit these back on soon. That should improve the grace of the bike and make it look slightly less chunky. Moving the footrests will be tricky but changing the handlebars is not, so a pair of swan-neck clip-ons will be substituted. Lowering the gearing with a smaller gearbox sprocket should make it slightly more manageable (I barely managed top gear on test runs). That should all be easily achievable by next season. After that it's just to get out and enjoy using it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Morgan Family Model 'Runabout' three-wheeler

A rare period photo of a Morgan Family model three-wheeler. Budget motoring for the family man, none-the-less still a considerable luxury for the time.

It's rather difficult to date a two speeder Family Morgan as they really didn't change much from year to year. There was a re-style to the bonet in 1931 but asides from that very few changes happened in the production run from 1919 to 33. This particular one has acetylene headlights, most pictures you see they are fitted with electric, but electric was an option so that doesn't help in putting a year to it. Beaded edge tyres are fitted which should date it to 1925 or earlier. There is a slight up-kick in the bodywork at the tail, this changed through the years. Overall I'd put this car as c1924 but am happy to be corrected by Morgan experts.

For those not familiar with Morgans the two-speeders had a v-twin engine up front with a cone clutch behind it. This drove a shaft to a bevel box and gearbox that formed part of the swinging arm rear suspension; this ensured that chain tension remains a constant. There are two chains to the rear wheel with different sprocket sizes on each: this gives the two speeds. Which chain and sprocket is driven is controlled by sliding dogs in the gearbox with neutral in the middle. There is no reverse.

c1924 Morgan Family 'Runabout'.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

National Cycle Museum pt1

I've been to Llandrindod Wells several times but have only just recently managed to make it to the National Cycle Museum situated in the town. The first visit to the town was as a useful halfway stop off point from home up to the Dragon Rally held in North Wales every February.

Since that first visit I've developed a real affection for the place; Llandrindod Wells really is, to use a cliché, an overlooked gem. Llandrindod is a nineteenth century spa town that was once as oppulent as the likes of Harrogate, the architecture remains but the pump rooms operate no more and there is but one Victorian era hotel still open. If faded grandeur is your thing, Llandrindod has it in abundance. Despite its decline Llandrindod is still a lovely place to have a walk around, the architecture is impressive, the gardens and bowling green well kept and charming and the views of the Brecon Mountains impressive. As a bonus the one grand hotel left, The Metropole, still keeps standards high and is a great place to stay and eat. If you like the film the Grand Budapest Hotel you won't be disappointed.

The Automobile Palace, Llandrindod Wells.

The above may read like a sales spiel but it comes from a genuine fondness. Visit the place, it's a good base for a holiday in mid-Wales. On to the Museum which occupies a portion of The Automobile Palace of Llandrindod. The building itself would be worth a visit even if the Museum was not there. Imagine, a small town such as Llandrindod once able to support a palace of automobiles! Be also sure to take in Pritchard's Garage a little down the road.


The Museum is enthusiast and volunteer run, it is well laid out so that one walks along a set route taking in the development of the cycle along the way. I guess a non-enthusiast would spend less than an hour inside but if you want to pour over the exhibits allow half a day. Absolutely no criticism of the Museum and the volunteers but I felt that it is a sad indictment of the low esteem of the bicycle in the UK that the Museum does not have a higher profile and funding. Think of the National Motorcycle Museum at Birmingham or the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, both very different kettles of fish and essentially commercial operations but both very high profile and attracting tens of thousands of visitors a year. Maybe that is the fate of the bicycle in Britain, to remain the preserve of the enthusiastic amateur, and perhaps that is not a bad thing?

Anyway, on to the exhibits and apologies for the quality of the pictures - all done on a smart phone, the visit was rather unplanned and last minute...

1880 Starley Salvo tricycle.

Peyton & Peyton 'Improved Bicycle' of 1869.
This machine was aimed specifically at lady riders
and is technically a 'lever operated boneshaker'.

The Museum has a tremendous collection
of ephemera, advertising, accessories and parts.

c1890 Girder Star solid-tyred safety bicycle.

Reverse penny farthing. Designed to reduce the risk
of 'coming a cropper' over the handlebars that was
something of an inherent risk with conventional
penny farthings.

This remarkable hub centre steered safety cycle
is an 1889 Quadrant.

And here the tricycle version of the
same though from a year earlier.
1888 Quadrant.

1898 Humber ladys cycle fitted with Simpson Lever Chain.

Close up on the Simpson Lever Chain. Great claims
were made for the chain by the manufacturer but really
it was just a snake oil product. Read more about the
Simpson chain on the its wikipedia page.

It ain't a proper museum in my books
unless there are dioramas. Here's an
early post war cyclo camping scene.
It leaves me feeling thank God for modern
camping equipment!

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Unidentified veteran combination

Update 10/10/21 - Big thanks to Nick Smith for identifying the bike as a Humber 3.5hp of between 1909 and 1911.

A challenge for the veteran experts out there. I've personally completely failed to id this combo, best I can say is that it probably dates from 1912-1914. All images on this site are scanned to 600dpi so as a tip right click the image, open in a new tab and click on the image to enlarge. If you can put a positive id on the bike please do get in touch by mail or comment to share your knowledge.