Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The tale of an Autocycle tyre

Nearly 10 years ago I was with my '55 Bullet in Nairobi, Kenya.The bike had taken a real battering riding the infamous 'Moyale' road down from Ethiopia. The rear subframe had snapped and I needed a new front tyre.

Finding parts and engineers in an unfamiliar city brings adventures of its own. To fix the subframe I detached it from the bike, took the two now separate parts of the frame to a machinist in the industrial bazaar area to get an internal sleeve made to hold the two pieces of tube together. That done I re-assembled the bike and asked around to find a friendly bike shop with a welder. I rode gently to the shop with deference to my interference fit subframe. I pulled up to find the proprietor who was an elderly Indian gentleman unexpectedly waiting for me. He was welling up and emotional as he told me that he had heard the bike coming from up the street and it had reminded him of his years road racing around Nairobi in the fifties so he had come out to watch the bike pass by when I rode in to his shop. As his welder fixed the subframe he regaled me with stories of riding British racing singles in Kenya.

Shopping for a tyre led me to a wonderful tyre emporium in downtown Nairobi. Though a well stocked and brisk modern business the shop itself was a throw back to the nineteen thirties. On asking for a nineteen inch tyre I was taken to the stock room at the back and shown a selection, of which I selected a sturdy block pattern 3.25 x 19. The stock room was dusty and there was obviously some stuff that hadn't moved in a very long time. I was allowed to have a peek around and spotted a 26 x 2.25 Dunlop Motorette Balloon tyre. For some reason I felt the urge to purchase it as a souvenir, the price was very moderate. Why I bought it I am not quite sure as I did not have the space to carry it on the bike so had to post it home which cost more than the tyre in the first place. Something just tickled me that a War Grade autocycle tyre should still be sitting there after sixty odd years. Maybe I should have left it to stay there a while longer but I didn't.

When I returned from the pan-African travels the Motorette tyre was there waiting for me. Slightly a lame duck souvenir; very interesting it may be but it is not something easy to display or particularly welcomed by my better half as an ornament, understanding as she generally is. So the tyre languished under the bench in the workshop. That is until I heard from local military vehicle enthusiast Ron, who is restoring a 1939 James and was on the look out for tyres. It seemed like more than a good idea to pass the tyre on to someone who would use and display it on a machine rather than it sit under the bench for several more years. Thus it is how a tyre made in Fort Dunlop, Birmingham, England made its way to Nairobi and back to England again to finally be used as originally intended. 

New old stock Dunlop Motorette Balloon tyre.

Genuine War Grade!

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