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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...



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.


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!


Another highlight was piloting Geoff Brazendale’s Sunbeam sidecar outfit, with Jon in the sidecar and Geoff on pillion. I’ve never ridden a sidecar outfit before and was keen to try it out. We enjoyed a fairly sedate lap of the course and when it was time to stop, my fingers couldn’t reach the levers quickly enough – they seemed to have been designed for people with very long fingers - and Geoff had to reach round and grab a handful of brake for me.



Everyone I spoke to agreed that this was an excellent day out and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone. It convinced me that I needed a different sort of bike – preferably a rigid-framed, girder-forked single with hand change and a lever
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.

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!

21 comments:

G at 'Boe said...

AND she has an Ariel! Even if it is a three!

Anonymous said...

Nice job SFB.....Someday on a trip over, I'd like to participate in a training day. The only tank-shift or foot-clutch bikes I've ridden were choppers in my motorcycle mechanic days. The oldest bike that came through the shops was an old 30's flat-head BSA...it was a "get-running" job, basically a frame,forks,wheels and a motor. We got it running, and when we pulled the rear head to look at the bore, Tim the service manager , decided to see if it would run on just the front cylinder. It did, and we got to watch the rear piston going up and down. Fun days those were....Hairy Larry

sfb said...

Yes, that's me - probably wondering how far away I could get without being noticed!

kawa said...

Nothing wrong with BSAs GBC, you should try one some day.......
Enjoyed your write up SFB, looking forward to getting out there and having a go. That pic of the wee James reminded me of bike I bought to do up one winter, a 1932 Federation that was built by the Co-op in the Midlands. It was fitted with a small Villers engine and three speed hand change gearbox, although I never had it legally on the road I did manage a few miles on a private test track (the back roads in the area) and was suprised how well it went. Did try and track it down a few years ago but with no luck.


kawa

sfb said...

The James was a lovely little bike, Kawa, I would like to own something similar. Perfect for bimbling.

The Chief Bodger said...

BSAs are mighy fine piles of scrap... I mean machines...I have one it bits right now.

SFB, that was a good write up you did there on the vintage bikes. Look forward to seeing more like it as well as GBCs Alford do later on.

Tim

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for the training day report SFB :o)

Graham B

Anonymous said...

hello Scotland...went up to the snowy Calif. mountains...back-country skiing and took a few pics...sent a couple cel-pics...now to see if I manage to send some of the "real" camera pics.....Hairy Larry

Mrs. B.C. said...

Isn't bimble a lovely word. I'm sure it's a Womble word. I'ts one of those words which sounds just like its function, but it escapes me as to what they are called. I think it's probably my favourite biking word. Hands up all those who have a bimble bike.

G at Boe said...

Several bimbly bikes here!

Anonymous said...

think I've got a 'bimble' bike some where Mrs BC..... yip the Chang jiang 750, top speed of 50mph and happy at 30mph, just got to plan the route to stay off anything more than a B road


kawa

Anonymous said...

would a 1966 Cotton single be a bimble bike? Or a 60's Honda 90 pushrod-engined bike be more of a bimbler? Hairy Larry

sfb said...

All mine bimble. Bimbling feels like being on holiday!

Shorty said...

Lots of Bimbling bikes around here, The Classic Club arranged a run last year called the Brechin Bimble, and yes it started and finished in Brechin and a good time was had by all.

Gorgeous Biker Chick said...

That would be the Brechin Swim then Shorty.

Anonymous said...

I am on holiday , (or as they say in that strange land of California, ...Chief Bodger...vacation) .ha ha...tried about 5 times to comment at your blog....maybe at least one got through. Even though I've owned some extremely fast bikes...it seems I've had a lot of fun poking along on smaller bikes. Especially on the dirt I prefer smaller bikes...seems like a lot more fun. Hairy Larry

Anonymous said...

me again. GBC isn't the Chief Bodger blogging out of the same place as yours? I went back and tried to post a comment again...no dice. Oh well, I'll try tbis weekend from my mother's place on her new computer. Been getting through to Scotland alright from my "poor man's I-phone...though it is pure tedium typing with a pen on a touch screen....but getting faster. Did my cel phone pics make it through to ya? When I get to ma's I'll try to send the pics off the real camera. Hope the new Kodak file format is sendable without jumping through hoops. Heading up into the foothills later, I'll bring the camera and see what presents itself. Hairy Larry

Mrs. B.C. said...

Maybe bimbling is the future as well as the past.

Mr SFB said...

Mrs BC, according to my Shorter Oxtail English Dictionary, the word is onomatopoeia. Bimbling opportunities are few and far between, do it whenever you can. I always like the stuff SFB writes but I am biased.

Gorgeous Biker Chick said...

I was gonna say that, Mr SFB, but you beat me to it. Nice to have you on board. Now, where's your photo for the competition?

Mr SFB said...

May have to wait for a photo, I've only just found out how to post a comment. Its also summer now in Englandshire:only -1, snow has melted on the Ariel 3 & its still almost light at 6.

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