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
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.


Rebuilding a Velocette LE

Velocette LE

It has been quiet for me over the last month with not much being done for the Museum. I have been plagued with cars with problems including MOT’s. All needed work being done on them either by me or a garage so I’ve had little time to get out and about and when I did the Buell broke a muffler strap and I didn’t ride it for a couple of weeks until it was replaced. 

Riding it with the front strap broken would eventually fracture the down pipes as happened to me in 2011. Over Easter the Calthorpe and the Raleigh were fired up for the first time in ages. Great news for our enthusiasts. I’ve been reading and finally finished the book on Harry Baughan. Being in Gloucestershire and not far from from the place where Frank Whittles’ jet engine was first made it is not surprising that Harry Baughan’s company were involved in making parts for this engine. In much secrecy and everyone being kept in the dark, bits were made and no one new what for. Harry Baughan was enthusiastic about trials and much of the book is devoted to his efforts in making difficult courses that tested man and machine and very much part of the success of the Cotswold trial. He made light cars and motorcycles, all being hand built and his sidecar wheel drive a real special. There is some conjecture that Norton’s version was a rebadged Baughan set up as one was made for one of the Norton trials team on the hush-hush and a version of that was produced by Norton for the military in World War 2. This ended up on the market after the war with the sidecar wheel drive disabled as it was deemed unsafe for public use.
Being the resident LE expert I was asked if I would put the Museum LE back together again. After a long time I have got around to collecting the engine, gearbox and final drive from the Museum with a view on getting this ex-Greenford Police LE back together again. It is in a bit of a sorry state as the place where it was stored was not very dry and has caused a good deal of corrosion. I’ll update on the progress as it happens. 

In the box of bits I discovered a large envelope in which there was an article called “On the Speedway” published in The Oxford Annual for Boys 22nd Year by Oxford University Press 1929. This describes Speedway at its start in 1928 the stars of the day and the bikes and gear that went with it. Nothing about Greenford in it, other than just being mentioned, but still an interesting read. No thoughts about it being possibly a little “Dangerous” it was just “Thrilling”. Perhaps we should now replace every reference to motorcycling that mentions dangerous to be thrilling?

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Zublee Foundation

Zublee Foundation

At the Museum on Monday and another international experience with visitors from California and Philadelphia the rest of the week was quite quiet with preparations for a ride on the Buell with the ROG’s (Retired Old Gits) and Saturday at a fund raising event for organ donation in Assam. Sunday was due to be Classic British Bike day at the Ace Cafe but not wanting to get me or the LE wet I have stayed at home to get my adventures for the week written down. We have a new Norton on display a late fifties Dominator looking in show room condition and must be seen. 

 The week was a blurr of DIY and avoiding rain, getting another posting done and some planning for a bike ride that would visit Hive Beach and Sammy Millers in Dorset. Thursday arrived with a fine warm day meeting at Ryka’s then a short trip of only 50 miles to Finchdean and the George pub for lunch. I had an all day breakfast and couldn’t finish it neither did another fella. Mega sized sandwiches were just too deep to get your mouth around but someone tried.


I’ve got that pub on my list to revisit and they have a good selection of real ales too! Ending the day at Billy’s, a biker cafe on the A29 with a nice mug of tea before setting off home completing 176 miles for the day. A good start to my biking season.

You may ask what the Zublee foundation is all about and where does it fit in with biking then read on. The foundation was set up to get an organ donation established in India. There are a lot of people in India and you would have thought there would have been a surfit of spare organs, more than enough to go around. Not the case, it seems even in death, the owners want to hang on to them and the relatives want to keep them too! It is all about education. At the launching of this Charity a bike rally was organised in Guwahati in Assam, North East India. 

A ride around the city promoting the Foundation. This was in 2014 and, as in most cases, bikers will do almost anything to ride their bikes. India is no different and I have included some pictures of that event. As to the fund raising event two of the most famous Assamese pop artists were there to entertain us Zubeen and Zublee. Singing for hours popular songs from many eras. Last year Zubeen had a massive hit from a song that was used in a Bollywood movie. Zublee, also a successful singer, started the foundation for organ donation and gave an address at the end of the show to gather more support. 
The web site is

I am already a registered organ donor but as I am planning a ride in India next year I may as well join the other Indian bikers in support of a good cause.
From saving lives to a sadder occasion with the passing away of one of our Great British Motorcycling Legends, John Surtees, who won both 350cc and 500cc World Championships before moving on to motor racing and becoming F1 Champion. He was an ambassador for motorcycling and we remember him in a video that we run everyday “The Power and the Glory” as he presents some of the iconic British motorcycles of the fifties.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Henry Baughan

The Baughan.

Harry Baughan was an interesting man. He first made a light car 1919 in Pinner in Middlesex then, in 1921 moved to Stroud. In 1923 he gave up making cars and went over to making motorcycles and sidecars using Blackburn engines. The company made over 50 motorcycles and 3 with sidecar wheel driving. As there was no differential the set up had a straight on complex when driving. The shaft drive to the sidecar wheel was engaged via a dog clutch. 

To get around this Harry patented a differential but that never went into production. I know of a few manufacturers who did this, in World War 11 it was BMW and Zundapp, Norton also had a design and more recently the Russian Ural.

You can just see the bulge on on the casing  for the shaft drive to the rear wheel on this BMW.

The Ural has a 30/70 split on the differential to even out the drive for better cornering abilities. out the drive for better cornering abilities. design was very successful in sidecar trials winning many competitions going where no outfit has gone before but also excluded from many others. The company moved to larger premises in 1937 and made aircraft parts during World War 11. Harry kept his interest in motorcycles becoming a prominent trials organiser. The sole surviving example of a Baughan is to be found at the Museum in the Park in Stroud in Gloucestershire. Museum web site It is a Heritage Museum that shows the history of Stroud from the Jurassic to the present day with lots of interesting bits in it including examples of the first lawn mowers! Cutting the grass was changed forever and we now have the legacy of this most Sundays during the summer months.

Doing my bit to support the NHS to stop more cuts in services I attended a march on Saturday. It was so underplayed by the BBC with only seconds of air time. I was very disappointed with this as I had spent most of the day at this rally and some 200,000 people had kept me company. If you know Shaftsbury Avenue the column of people filled the road as far as the eye could see. I could not see the beginning of the march nor the end. It took more than an hour and a half for the crowd to assemble in front of the Houses of Parliament. The BBC only reported tens of thousands taking part not tens of tens of thousands! 

However I did encounter a very nasty animal in Tavistock square where the march assembled. Spotted here, camouflaged, and tripping everyone up were a complete family of trained orcas ready to catch unsuspecting pedestrians sending them sprawling. Beware of Tavistock square and its’ cycle lane marking!

Back at the Museum more fun on the Monday bringing my Velocette LE out for its’ first spin of 2017 it was a delight to have 27 children from the local Primary School visiting us. They were challenged by looking for the motorcycle that has a dog on the tank. Their final request was to hear a motorcycle running. Nothing noisey was available only the LE. 

My LE didn't look like this originally!

As people may know it was used by the Police and many a person has been caught by the quiet approach. It is one of the quietest motorcycles around. Nothing to scare the kids who kept requesting more as I blipped the throttle. How can you say no to that?