Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Dispatch Rider from 1939

A British Tommy

For those who have visited the London Motorcycle Museum and listened to me my most used word is “interesting” what other word would you use when you are trying to work out a way of doing something that has not been done before? Think of those guys when motorcycling was in its infancy and people are trying to work out what to do. What were they thinking of? Many ideas were tried and their success rated by sales. Single speed motorcycles that had no clutch and were pedal assisted lasted until the 1960’s. I remember when the law was introduced about 50cc motorcycles and all the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers produced six and seven speed fifties. The law makers got it wrong with the specifications they only needed to have stipulated a single speed and that would have ensured the machines only did around 30 mph. Like the early engine makers who had to have a powerful and flexible engine. That restricts ultimate performance. Thinking about about what other people do I was in Norfolk last October and while at the Norfolk Motorcycle Museum I met a couple who lived near London and had not yet visited. I gave them a flier and left it at that. I was surprised when the couple, Peter and Rosie, came to pay us a visit last Monday. I had a very enjoyable time and I think they did too. Peter had good reason for paying us a visit. His father was a DR (Dispatch Rider) in World War 2 and rode a Triumph 3SW. 

We have an example in the Museum and he has kindly sent me a picture of his father. He was with the East Lancashire Regiment and was at Dunkirk with the British Expeditionary Force, was left behind, reported as missing in action then managed to get back by rowing home. Being a DR was not the safest job in the world and you would have to be quite smart to navigate unknown terrain to find the person you would need to get the message to. Not to mention avoiding being shot at! This particular team of riders were affectionately known as the Savage Saints.I guess that they must have looked a fearsome lot after being out all day on unpaved roads. We have, at the Museum the 1942 training video for DRs that covers every aspect of riding from learning to ride, maintenance to cross country riding and fording rivers. Although everyone thinks of the BSA M20 as the military bike every other manufacturer was used too. Most of the video has riders on Nortons.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Cantanhede Motorcycle Museum

Visit to Portugal.

After Luxembourg on the Buell the 2CV World meeting was soon upon me and a trip to Portugal in my little car was completed. It was not without drama with the car leaving an oil slick in Portugal and the need to replace an engine oil seal on the campsite. Having fixed that the rocker box seals started leaking from the new found crankcase pressure. Moving on to a better experiences I finally read my holiday book on the way back. This was another Zoe Cano book “Southern Escapades” and her experiences in Florida and Alabama. A charming book that reminded me of my visit to Orlando and Daytona beach in 2003 also for the Biketoberfest. My plan while in Portugal was to find a bike Museum to visit. There was supposed to be one in Lisbon but I could find no information on that and the other was tracked down on the internet looking through the Bike Museums in Europe website.

There is one in Cantanhede which is about 18 miles to the north west of Coimbra. Coimbra is full of respected Medical and Scientific Universities which makes it historically interesting but as there are so many students there food and beer are relatively cheap. I only had a one night stop there and the reason for the stop was the Ibis hotel that had secure underground parking. My car has a ragtop and was full of camping gear and stuff so overnight away from prying eyes is a good move. My visit to this private collection was after 6pm in the evening after the owner had finished work. Was an interesting place to find in that the town was hosting a County Fair so the place was full of people and traffic. After a few phone calls we met up and I was directed into a pedestrian area top park the car outside of the anonymous looking building. 

Henrique and Pedro

We received a very friendly greeting from Pedro Martins, whose English is extremely good , and Henrique Eqbral, the owner of the collection, who then took us around with Pedro interpreting. Paul Diniz, another member of the team, arrived almost at the end of the visit. It was a delight of Italian motorcycles with all the ones you can think of, Aprilla, Benelli, Cagiva, Ducati, Gilera, Harley Davidson (Aermacci), Laverda, Mondial and MV Augusta. I like the lightweights like the Desmo 250 Ducatis, the style of the 175 Gileras and MVs but the Mondial 250 dohc models take the award.

Have you seen one of these before? Henrique has five of the six in Portugal!!!
Henriques passion is for Italian motorcycles but he also has an appreciation for British motorcycles and has a selection of Panther’s, BSA’s, a Royal Enfield or two and a couple of OK Supremes. One of which is his favourite that he gets to take out regularly. 

The evening passed by very quickly with discussions about why the British Motorcycle industry failed and how to approach restorations. I had a great time and need to return, perhaps next year with one of my Velocettes to be a part of their motorcycling scene. If you get the chance it is a great place to visit, not only Portugal but this museum, a tribute to Italian motorcycles.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Pendine Sands

Pendine Museum of Speed

I’ve been a bit busy over the last few weeks and there was no time to sit down and get events recorded. I was due to be at a few events that included Cassington and Chinnor Byke Dayz but never made it. I think the weather for Chinnor was the best yet and I visited the site with flyers for the Museum on the preceding Tuesday, also MAG club night. I do hope that all went well and perhaps I’ll get there next year. A trip to Tenby was arranged and that was not without drama. Two days before I noticed oil coming from the car 2CV derivative, on the left hand cylinder and discovered the banjo bolt on the oil feed to the head had stripped its threads. I repaired this with a home made helicoil and all was fine on the Saturday. Off on the Monday and a distinct smell of oil pervaded the car. Stopping at a services beyond the Severn Bridge I found the engine bay covered in oil. Checking the oil and only needed a one litre top up. It should get me to Tenby to effect a repair. 


The oil warning light came on as I approached the place where we were staying making a right turn. It went out when I straightened up. Slow progress and arrived with somewhat reduced braking power. Oil was dripping everywhere. I made an environmental sheet from a couple of bin bags so as not to make too much mess and left things to the morning. Next morning it was up early to find a car place that I could get some more oil and drive way cleaner. It started to rain. Later that morning I stripped off all the necessary bits to get access to the banjo bolt I had done the thread repair on. It was still good. I could not see where the oil was coming from until I started the engine and it was the oil feed pipe to the cylinder head was gently pulsing oil from a small hole. By three in the afternoon I had ordered parts needed with next day delivery and then went off to a local pub for some refreshment in the dry. It was still pouring with rain. The parts duly arrived around mid-day and all was back together and I was at another pub by four in the afternoon after replacing the offending pipe. It fell apart as I was removing it. Rusted away! Many of Tenby’s Brewery best ales were consumed that evening! Now it is Thursday and time to visit Pendine Sands and the Speed Museum. 

The beach-7 miles of sand

It is only small and a £2 entry fee does not do it justice. They had over 50 people pass through that morning…. If only??? The museum is due to close at the end of this year and the site redeveloped with a bigger and better museum on its way. The main feature there is Babs that had been restored after being buried in the sand for many years after the fatal accident that killed Parry-Thomas in 1926. Motorcycle speed records were also made there during the twenties but didn’t continue for long as the wet sand was a bit too soft for bikes to go really fast. 

Now we have Pendine Speed Week to relive the past glory days. Weather permitting. The little car made it home with no more drama and I was back at the London Motorcycle Museum on the Monday on the LE with visitors from New Zealand and Canada for a little international flavour. Trusty has returned from the Whitgift School display and the 1911 Rudge has been out for a show. For those who were at the Beezumph event I hope enjoyed our display.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

More Museums in Belgium

Museums on the way to Luxembourg

It is that time of year when the Wey Valley Advanced Motorcycle Club have their annual French Trip. It is not always to France! This year it was to Vianden in Luxembourg. Once again on the Buell, and with no rain to upset it, it was a pretty uneventful trip. Sunshine almost all the way with one thunderstorm in Liege while sitting in a cafe during an afternoon to remind us of previous years. 

Our first stop over was in Ieper (Ypres) with a visit to the sculpture of Elsie Knocker and Marie Chisholm sitting on sand bags at the Ariane Hotel, more on that another time with the following day going off to the village where they set up their treatment stations and a visit to the Old Timer Motorcycle Museum near Oostend this is run by Johan Schaeverbeke former rock musician and entertaining character who has collected motorcycles and mopeds over the years and now has them on display. 

The site also has accommodation and known as the Biker Loft. It is a very interesting place that has recorded the history of how Belgium got to work over the years with many mopeds and lightweight motorcycles. It even includes a tandem that has an engine and went to get wed on! She must have been an interesting person to. 

It reminds me of the PG tips tea adverts of the sixties! “Can you ride tandem?” There are some interesting machines there that include a Dresche that has leaf spring handlebars and a Praga BD, double overhead camshaft 500 of 1927. 

Many machines I have not heard of but have Douglas or Villiers engines. I had not realised that some manufacturers badged models and sold them as the competition to increase sales. No different than today. During that evening I went to the solemn ceremony at the Mennen Gate and found a possible reference to my fathers elder brother who was killed by a stray shell miles from the front in the First World War at the tender age of 15. He had enlisted lying about his age as many did. 

The next day we travelled on to Liege in glorious sunshine and arrived early enough to explore the city and found a Blues Bar with live music in the evening. Great to listen too, but the audience was quite small. A taxi back to the Campanile on the north west side of the city completed the day around midnight. A day off in Liege to enjoy the culture and miss the thunderstorm. Time to travel again to meet up with the guys from the club at Vianden in Luxembourg and a visit to the circuit at Francorchamps and then on to the track museum in Stavelot. They have some interesting bikes there and many more cars that famous drivers had driven. I spotted a bike and sidecar that had done a circuit of Africa during 1926 to 1927. Raid Robert Fabry on a Gillet Herstal.

 Travel was easier then as few countries were that interested in people traveling through and letters of introduction were your visas. All too quickly we had gone around this museum that was in the grounds of Stavelot Abbey and we were on our way again. This time arriving at the Belle Vue Hotel in plenty of time for some pre dinner drinks and meet up with Oz who had brought the thunderstorm with him to Liege. I knew he had arrived because of the big black clouds that broke the blue sky!

Sunday, 4 June 2017

After Kempton Park

After Kempton Park 2017

I met up with Fred, another of the volunteers, at the Southern Classic Bike Show and asked him for some pictures of his 250cc BSA Gold Star. A question you will ask is that BSA didn’t make a 250 Gold Star. In that you would be correct, but they do exist. What stirred my attention was a 250cc Velocette made from a 350cc KSS I saw in an article on racing Velocettes from the sixties.

250 KSS

Both use the 350cc barrels but with a short stroke bottom end. There was even a Norton ohc modified in the same way. Post World War Two there was nothing being produced by any of the manufacturers to go racing with in the lightweight category.

Jones Edward Special

It was not until the mid sixties that Greeves got the ball rolling with their Silverstone race bike using Villers engines. Greeves made a lot of parts to make these go better. This was at the time when two stroke engines were ruling the roost in the lightweights and massively out-performing the four strokes of that era. Honda had a 250cc four and Suzuki and Yamaha had equal numbers of cylinders on their two strokes with MZ joining in too!
In the fifties there were a number of British engineers that were doing some impressive things like REG who made a dohc 250cc twin that was based on the racing NSU of 1951. Sammy Miller has got that one on show. 

New Imperial won the best club stand with some excellent turned out bikes As always DOT has something interesting to talk about, as with this lightweight. 

A racing version now being restored at Brooklands has the barrel turned around and the exhaust ports facing rearward. More on that another time. 

 Around the show was a very rare Rover and some Italian masterpieces with this MV and the Pesaro Aermacchi. I think the Italians have some very stylish  bikes from the fifties and sixties that went extraordinarily quickly.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Southern Classic Bike Show 2017

Southern Classic Bike Show


After getting back from Bristol and at the Museum on Monday and picking up more fliers for later. Tuesday saw me meeting up with Chris for him to borrow my trailer so he could get his Police LE to the Show on the Friday. Nothing happened on the renovation front with the LE engine and gearbox but I did check over my LE in preparation for the ride to Kempton Park. Friday we set up the LE Club stand with Chris, Phil with his Valiant, George and myself getting the banner up and drawings and photos attached to the false wall. 

Chris, me, Steve and George. Phil is taking the picture.

I used safety pins for the wire brackets to hook into and support the banner, Wire coat hangers and masking tape held the drawing in place and just masking tape for the smaller pictures. Everything stayed in place this year. Last year things just kept falling down. Perhaps its because I had new tape that had some sticky stuff on. George arrived on his KSS and me on my LE Special to complete the display on the Saturday morning. Great fun talking to people and handing out fliers for the LMM. Phil had brought several boxes of old Bike magazines and was giving them away. They all disappeared before end of the show. My usual mission is to get oil for the next year and photo some of the more interesting machines on display and around the auto jumble. 

There was a remarkable AJS  M10 500cc ohc single and an even more pristine Zennith Gradua for sale. 

I usually go for Morris oil but this year I was too late in getting out and around because of the heavy showers that sent people scurrying inside to stay dry. No 20/50 anywhere except one stand selling Heritage oils. I was surprised that a gallon was only £14!! Too cheap to be good you might ask. When I had tested it out I’ll report back. Apparently Heritage blend the oil themselves and have a range of oils to suit everyone including fork oil SAE 5,10,15,20,25 and 30!! You can find them on-line www.heritageoils.co.uk
Back in the display hall I went in search of the New Imperial stand to ask a question. New Imperial made a 250cc inclined single and I had a thought that may be one of the engines that had no identification on it in the Museum was a New Imperial. The inclination and shape of the barrel and ports looked a possibility. On the stand Mike was very helpful but he didn’t know of a New Imperial that had a surface cam engine. I showed him some pictures of the engine that I had on my phone. He offered to go in search of information. The picture on the phone were not that good and I said I would get some better ones when I went to the Museum on the Monday. I e-mailed what I had to him on Sunday.

I had recently read about the involvement of Bill Hayward who rode his Baughan in his local motoball or as it was called then motorcycle football. Football played by riding around on a motorcycle and trying to kick a ball as well started off in World War One by despatch riders having a bit of fun. This proved very popular during the twenties and thirties drawing thousands to every match. In the sixties the game had all-but disappeared and is now having a revival, our local club is the Hayes and Southall MCC Motoball Club.

Zoe was on the next stand with her Triumph that has done a few adventures in America with books Bonneville Go or Bust and Southern Escapades that I have yet to read. This time she sold out of books! I commented that she would have enough money to eat today!
Steve, from the LE club helped us out on the stand and Peter, from the Museum was around handing out fliers. He had been on the main gate and had dropped around to the club stand so say he was on his way so I gave him more fliers to hand out. He had distributed them by lunch tome and was on his way home before it started to rain again. I was a great day talking bikes, although we started to pack up at 3pm it was 4pm by the time we had loaded Phil and Chris’s bikes on to trailers. After tidying up our display area it was 4:30pm when George and I and geared up and headed for home on our bikes. We’d had a dry runs this year.
At the Museum on Monday I was on a mission to take some better photos and do some research of my own about this odd engine. I found what I thought was the answer in the British Motorcycle Directory and then in British Motorcycles of the 1930’s. 

The motorcycle was a Dunelt model T that had used a 250cc Sturmey Archer face cam engine. The one in the picture was a single port model but the rest of it looks so similar it has to be. Mike sent me an email late that evening to confirm it was a Dunelt that had used this type of engine.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Kingswood Heritage Museum

Kingswood Heritage Museum

Being busy is one thing, but adding to it is just too much. I was in Chepstow a few days ago and visiting their local museum that had a special exhibition on antiquities from Assam. Also Gita was dancing at the cultural show that was organised along with the exhibition. Needless to say I was in the dance troop too! No motorcycles to see at that museum but not too far away from where I used to live is the Kingswood Heritage Museum. It is a small museum that traces the industrial development of that area of Bristol. Kingswood is where Douglas Motorcycles were made and the purpose of my visit there. The site of the Museum is an old brass foundry with remnants of the kilns and the slag heap that was turned into sculptured grottos. At the museum are 5 Douglas motorcycles and an interesting Vespa scooter with a big box sidecar on it. 

The Douglas Bantam is a lovely example of an everyman bike with panels to enclose the engine. In the course of production some were fitted with Villiers engines instead of Douglas’s own design two stroke. There was a very nice MK IV and a couple of Dragon Flys. 

I had never seen a Bartrun Fairee but there is a 1908 example of it and it was full of innovation with a clutch and coupled front and rear brakes. The brake lever is exceedingly long! Reading some of the information about Les Bailey who teamed up with, of all people, Granville Bradshaw  and in 1912 who helped build a 350cc racing Douglas.

Over the end of May Bank Holiday the Douglas Motorcycle Club along with the Vintage Motorcycle Club have an annual ride out that starts from the Museum so if you are around that weekend it would be worth paying a visit. The Museum is open Wednesday to Sunday each week from 2pm to 5pm. I found another book to buy, this time on Douglas motorcycles by Peter Carrick. I have read histories of the Mark from Jeff Clew, a view from when the people were still around to talk to and some of his personal recollections and that from Mick Walker a much less coloured transcript as it was written much later. I have yet to get started on the new book that contains a great number of interesting photos. I have an affinity with Douglas Motorcycles as my Father worked there in the machine shop for a few years and, because he had a driving license, would be pulled out to test the 80 pluses and 90 pluses when they were short of test riders. While at the Museum I had a good look at the Dragon Flys and made an observation of how long the induction tract was with that single carburetor. It was not surprising they were not very responsive. Velocette had a similar problem when they tried a single carb on the Valiant. Velocette had to use twin carbs, perhaps that is what was needed on the Dragon Fly?

Getting back to the London Motorcycle Museum on Monday the 1946 Triumph GP racer had returned from the Classic Race Bike meeting at Donnington as was in the Minter Cafe to get up close and personal with. I’m not sure how it got on but it didn’t look as thought it had been thrashed around a race track. No oil leaks!! I managed to take a few close ups before it gets back on its display position.