Jon and I had been looking forward to this event for quite a while. It takes place at Curborough Sprint circuit near Lichfield and the idea is that VMCC members with vintage bikes bring them along for the day and bravely and generously allow people they’ve never met before to try out their precious machines. As well as full VMCC members, non-members can come along and pay a nominal fee to become a day member but you do have to book early – it is usually advertised in the well known magazines for classic bikes. I was quite worried beforehand about the prospect of riding someone else’s bike with different controls to those I am used to – such as lever throttle and hand gear change and all those extra levers peculiar to vintage machinery.Well, there y'are, how do you fancy that? Sounds fun to me. Unfortunately, I probably won't get time to try the bikes as I shall be busy running around helping out and taking lots of photos for the collection, so I'll rely on you to tell me what it was like. Incidentally, SFB has her very own blog over at www.kittensandmotorcycles.blogspot.com but I shouldn't really tell you that 'cos she's a BSA fan!
My first ride was on a 1943 James with a Villiers engine and three-speed hand change. This was such a sweet, friendly little bike that I soon felt comfortable riding around the track and would happily have ridden for more than the four laps allocated to each person. Jon was far braver though and took his first ride on a Ner-a-Car!
In all, I rode eleven different bikes during the day and Jon rode fourteen or fifteen.While I most wanted to ride the BSAs – a military M20 and a couple of Slopers – I have to confess they weren’t my favourites. Among the men who were riding(everyone else but me!), the general consensus was that they felt really comfortable with the BSAs and this showed in the way they were leaning them around the bends on the circuit. The M20 had a beautifully precise gear box (in spite of warnings to the contrary from the owner) and lots of “feel” at the clutch, which was brilliant when strong gusts of wind blew lots of branches across the track and I was holding it in first gear, barely moving, while the marshalls were clearing the track – it just felt too big, but nothing that a bit of tweaking the handlebars and seat wouldn’t have cured.
My favourite bike, and one that I would happily have ridden off the track and all the way home and kept forever was a 250cc Rudge Whitworth, with a grip throttle and hand gear change, rigid frame and girder forks. It started incredibly easily and was
very confidence inspiring. I even overtook people when riding this one and couldn’t stop smiling – the marshall turned a blind eye and let me get an extra lap in!
Another favourite was a 250cc AJS with lever throttle and hand gear change and I found that the lever throttle really made sense as you could “set” it in position while you let go to change gear, something you can’t do with a grip-throttle. The owner told me I probably wouldn’t get into 3rd as “most people haven’t needed it on this track” so I just had to try and found that by accelerating quickly out of the bend at the far end of the track I could easily get into third and blast up the straight before slowing down for the Start/Finish point.
Oooh, is this SFB by any chance???
Amongst all the more exotic machinery, there was a shiny black single-seat 2-speed NSU Quickly. I thought I would be unusual in wanting to ride that one but everyone gave it a go and seemed to enjoy it. On a fairly short, bendy track and with everyone riding bikes that were unfamiliar to them, it was easy (but strangely satisfying) to hold the throttle open all the way and overtake everyone! The owner of the NSU also had a very nice Rudge 350 Special, another bike that made me feel I could set off down the road on it quite happily.
I struggled with a Triumph TT. I couldn’t start it myself and stalled a few times on pulling away. I would have given up and saved myself any further embarrassment but the owner was determined I should ride it and after much bump starting, I finally set off. I was pretty sure I’d stall it again if I changed up a gear so I bimbled very slowly around one lap of the course just so I could say I’d ridden it!
throttle. I was lucky enough a few months later to be loaned a 1936 BSA XO by a friend in the VMCC, which ticked some of the boxes although it had been converted to the more familiar foot change. Along with the Rudge-Whitworth 250 I rode at the vintage day, it was one of my favourite bikes ever and I would love to have owned it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for sale.
Thanks to the vintage day and the XO experience, I was convinced I needed something rigid framed and made the decision to sell my W650. I bought a 1946 tele-rigid BSA B31 which is still in need of some work and I look forward to the day it is road worthy.
I know the VMCC vintage training days have inspired others besides myself and
Jon to buy and enjoy an older motorcycle – I think that makes them a success and
shows that the VMCC have achieved what they set out to do.
Sunday, 14 February 2010
VMCC Vintage Training Day, Englandshire, 2008
As you'll no doubt know by now, Alford in Aberdeenshire, is playing host to Scotland's very first Vintage Training Day this May, run by the Vintage Motorcycle Club. We have a great collection of pre1930 bikes lined up for people to try (kindly 'donated' by VMCC members across Scotland), but there seems to be an air of nervousness amongst the potential audience. I know it's a bit daunting to think about hopping on an unfamiliar bike, with controls and levers you don't know much about, but that's the whole idea of the day - to offer you this opportunity to ride machines that you'd never normally get a chance to try. And if you like the experience, who knows, it might just give you the confidence or incentive to go and purchase a hand change or lever throttle bike. So, as promised, here's a report from one of the blogs regular readers, SFB, about her experience at the Curborough training day in 2008. Get yourself a cuppa, sit back and have a read. Then pick up the phone or tap out an email to VMCC HQ and book your place at the Scottish Training Day!!! Details to the left of this page...
Posted by Gorgeous Biker Chick at 12:04