Saturday, 23 May 2020

When we were young

In the early 1980's whilst browsing in a used book store I came across a little book entitled The MOTORCYCLIST'S POCKET BOOK.
Published in 1954 and costing five shillings the book is full of useful advice on a a range of motorcycling topics from buying a bike to foreign touring.
I have picked out a few of the snippets of from a bygone age.

From the Buying section. Regarding Trailers
From New Machines Currently Available


  From Personal Kit.

No Dermot I don't know where you can buy 'waterproof shorts'

On taking money abroad


And on Petrol prices in Europe

Friday, 22 May 2020

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Gordons Singapore motorcycle tale.

In 1966 I found myself on an RAF Bristol Brittannia, ( whispering? Giant ), heading out on a 24 hour flight to a new posting to RAF Tengah in Singapore where I was to help run a microwave relay station, ( all very hush hush in those days ). The system was capable of carrying 1750 channels of military and diplomatic sensitive information which would be subject to easy sabotage if sent down landlines, anyway I digress so on with my story.
After a few days to get my feet under the table as it were, I headed to the local bike showroom ( hut ) to purchase a second hand machine. I naturally asked to see what Triumphs they had but was informed that British bikes were few and far between but they would put my name on a list should one turn up, meanwhile the owner felt sure I could find something in his stock to suit. A quick glance along the bikes stood up on the earth 'forecourt' revealed a mostly sorry state of motorcycle machinery, in fact there were only a few that I felt would suit. Of these, a Honda 175cc twin of 1963/4 era with pressed steel frame seemed most likely so I took it down the road for a trial and was pleasantly surprised, such that I returned and took the bike on. Clearly a 175cc Honda was not going to burn up a motorway but since Singapore boasted no more than I bit of dual carriageway I felt it would do me well.
The Honda did indeed do me well, I used it to travel all over Singapore island it being my only means of transport. I visited Singapore city a number of times, the Kranji war cemetery, they had English grass, Tiger balm gardens and a host of other places to many to mention.
I should have stuck with the Honda, but a year later I chopped it in for a Suzuki T10 which I thought would be faster and slicker on the uptake, it certainly looked more sporty and had such advanced features such as a hydraulic rear brake, but it seized a number of times when pushed, I would sit on the roadside for 20 mins or so then restart and set off again. I used the Suzuki to venture across the causeway into Malaya and journey through the rubber plantations and Kampongs to empty beaches for a swim and sunbathe. I travelled to the Cameron highlands and beyond, all very idyllic.
I became aware that my bike was 'rattling' or 'knocking' in the engine department, there being no facilities in my billet for engine stripping, I went to the bike shop to ask what they thought, I was pulled in for a cuppa and the malayan technicians set to work, in no time at all. The engine was out and stripped and I was shown a bent conrod!, I asked when they could get a spare but they just laughed and told me to go look around the shops for an hour or two. When I returned the bike was out for a test ride which after another cuppa was returned with a smile and a small bill, apparently much heating and hammering fixed the conrod!.
Since those days I have steered clear of 2 strokes and when offered one a few years ago I did not thank you.
I wonder if I'm still on the waiting list for a Triumph?.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Dermot's Tale

Interesting tale Dermot. Strange how the humble GTP can convince an otherwise sane person that only single cylinder machines are worthy of the term Motorcycle. Or was it the shopkeeper?

Friday, 8 May 2020

Dermots lesson for learning

For weeks I had been coveting this exquisite artefact through the grimy window of the seedy bike shop. Against the background of the oil-soaked wooden floor and cobweb-festooned rafters, the externally flywheeled wonder shone like a diamond of incomparable magnificence; well, I imagined it did. Never before had I wanted something so much. Eventually, I was able to find the £4 deposit on the purchase price of £12/17/6 - an absolute fortune for me and much more than I thought the machine was worth but I was determined to have it. And the curmudgeonly proprietor knew this so, despite the length of time which the machine had been on his books (and that should have told me something), he wouldn't budge. After a couple of weeks hedging and ditching for the local council and with some cash provided by a kindly uncle, I raised the balance and became the deliriously proud owner of a 1936 GTP Velo.
Of course, it was not long before the euphoria of first love began to evaporate in the light of reality. The machine puttered along satisfactorily enough for a few weeks and I enjoyed my ownership of what, in truth, was a pretty horrid contraption although it was evident that it once had been a much better bike. Our progressions were attended by an increasingly dense plume which would not have disgraced a vessel of Her Majesty's Grey Funnel Line; the little Velocette "made smoke", the volume of which, even in the days before we discovered we had an environment, was embarrassingly excessive. Trips did not necessarily end at the chosen destination but more usually when the spark plug cried "enough!" and all went deathly quiet. The machine had form in this regard because an erstwhile owner had fitted a plug adaptor so that those lovely old 18mm plugs which could be dismantled for cleaning might be used. It didn’t seem to help much.
A friend who was an apprentice diesel mechanic and therefore infinitely more knowledgeable than me, suggested the bike needed a "decoke". I had no idea what this process might be nor how to perform it but armed with what I could remember of his instructions given in a dimly-lit corner of the pub (I was under 21 at the time) and some borrowed tools, one Saturday morning I set about undoing every nut and bolt in sight until, spannered into submission, the engine surrendered its head.
Judge then, if you will, of my astonishment when I discovered that there was but one cylinder; I was mortified. Clearly, the man in the bike shop had seen me coming and had palmed me off with something different from what I was expecting - I had been tricked. However, I was upset about having been duped so easily and determined to tackle this duplicitous fellow. Thus, early Monday morning found me back at the bike shop as the proprietor was opening up. He saw me coming - again!
"I told you that there was no guarantee."
"I know that, but I do think you should have sold me a machine with its full complement of cylinders."
"Oh? How many cylinders does it have?"
"Only one."
"And how many cylinders do you think it should have?"
"Why two?"
"Because it has two exhaust pipes."
"And two exhaust pipes means two cylinders?"
"Well, Sonny Jim . . . . . . "

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Woody's Finland Trip

 I Have added this article to The Blog in answer to Gordons request and in the hope that some of you may find it of interest. If you have any news, articles of interest or relevant opinions to express please email them to Gordon or me.

This is a copy of an article that I wrote for the VMCC detailing a trip to Finland that I made in 2000.

Finland had always been one of the countries that I had wanted to visit so when I saw the advert for the Veti Ralli in the club magazine I made some plans. A call to a member in Finland for more details and advice helped with the planning.
From a choice of routes I chose the ferry from Harwich to Hamburg then ride north to Copenhagen, over the Oresund bridge to Sweden, up to the Aland Islands and island hop across to Finland and north to the Rally site at Tampere.
Telephone calls to various Tourist offices produced camp site lists and a Swedish camping card was bought to cover camp site insurance. From large scale maps overnight stops were planned and a route avoiding motorways where possible chosen.
When departure day came in June the weather was fine and sunny. With an early start I was onto the A303 before there was much traffic about. Apart from the M25 the ride to Harwich was quite pleasant with no need to rush.
The 4 am sailing docks in Hamburg at 9 am. This was the bit that most worried me but a German motorcyclist kindly offered to lead through the city to the road running north. There was a long queue of cars waiting for the ferry at Puttgarten for the crossing to Denmark but motorcycles go right to front and are let straight on. The ferry takes about Fifty minutes and after travelling about twenty miles further I stopped for the night.
Avoiding motorways where possible I set out the next day for Copenhagen and the Oresund bridge to Malmo in Sweden. This bridge is the longest in Europe. The approach is via a 4km tunnel to an artificial island then up onto the bridge which is 8km in length and looks like the new Severn crossing at Bristol. The rest area on the Swedish side offers the usual services apart from petrol and a bank so a trip into Malmo was required.
The day was warm, sunny and the traffic light, and I reached the planned overnight stop early so kept on going. About 30kmfrom Vaxjo heavy rain set in making riding uncomfortable for a time but it cleared as I got to the site.
The next say started sunny again for the next leg to Katrineholm. A lot of the main roads in Sweden consist of a single lane with a hard shoulder on the right-hand side, the rule is that you drive in the left-hand lane and move onto the hard shoulder if something needs to pass you. As there is so little traffic this seams to work quite well. After lunch it began to rain, persistent, heavy, cold and very wet which began to seep in everywhere. At the camp site they thankfully had a cabin free, the first in three weeks apparently. It was not cheap as it slept four, but it was heated, had a cooker and fridge and the bed linen was provided. The site did have a restaurant which only served a sort of meatball stew as the main meal, a phenomenon I seemed to encounter everywhere I went. I phoned home in the evening and my wife told me that the television
news had shown pictures of flooding in central Sweden due to the heavy rain.
In the morning I did the daily checks of the bike and topped up with oil. My clothed had dried out overnight and the rain had eased off a bit. By the time I reached Grissleham ferry terminal the weather was perfect for the two hour crossing to Eckero on Aland. The price for the return trip was equivalent to £8. The passage has to be booked in a building adjacent to the car park before a ticket can be purchased from a kiosk on the quayside.
After lunch in the ships restaurant, meatballs again, I sat on deck in the sun as we passed though the Aland archipelago. The Alands comprise approximately 6000 islands, most of which are small rocky outcrops sporting a few stunted conifer trees. I met a group of Norwegian riders who advised me that the camp site in Mariehamn was a good one, which indeed it is. The facilities are excellent, even extending to under-floor heating in the shower block. I spent two very wet days there before riding to Hummelvik to board the ferry for the island of Brando. The Voyage takes two and a half hours and costs £2 for the bike, passengers go free.
I am not generally fond of sea crossings but this one was moat enjoyable, with lots of sunshine and the sea as smooth as glass. The ship calls at several islands before reaching Brando which is why the voyage took so long.
Brando consists of more than one thousand small islands scattered around ten larger ones. Almost
all the islands are just above sea level and connected by causeways and low bridges, some of wooden construction. Most of the roads are just earth with, in places a scattering of chippings.  It's a beautiful place and I would have liked to have stayed longer.
At Brando Stugby (stugby means camp site with cabins to rent) the camping field was empty because it was a sea of mud. Inquiring at reception I was told that all of the cabins had been taken but that they had some vacancies at some new cabins further along the road. The cabins were indeed new, not yet having electricity or water connected but the location was marvelous, picturesque views over a rocky inlet towards the setting sun.
Walking along the by the rocky shore that evening I met a fisherman who was busy smoking the days catch in a large tin box. He told me he was from Sweden and that for the last fifty years he has been coming to Brando each summer to fish. He gave me a little of the smoked shoal bass that he had caught and told me how he thought that pollution was decimating the fish stocks.
Another ferry ride the following morning took me to the Finish mainland where I was relieved to find petrol, but disappointed to find that the weather had turned much colder. With a full tank and dressed more suitably I set off through increasing traffic to the Ralli site at Tampere.
The annual Veti Ralli is run by the Veteraanimootoripyoraklubi, and takes place each year in July at Camping Harmala which is close to the centre of Tampere. The site is ideal for such a gathering with spacious tenting areas and cabins for those requiring a bit more comfort.
On Saturday morning most riders joined the parade though Tampere. Club officials helped the police to block off side roads so the dozens of motorcycles could make their way smoothly through the city centre. I was surprised to see so many members of the public lining the route. The parade ended in a heavily wooded park at a disused racing circuit. Regular racing ceased here years ago because of the closeness of the trees and spectators, but permission had been obtained to hold two races/parades for the benefit of the rally participants. A selection of British and European bikes from the Thirties to the seventies took part.
On Saturday afternoon went for a sauna in groups of about forty crammed into one very hot steamy room. Here I learned that by mixing beer with the water to be heated on the stones creates a very relaxing atmosphere. As and when we felt ready, singly or in groups we left the steam and walked down to the lake to swim, ignoring the public promenading near by. There were some interesting old bikes at the Rally many of which were flat tankers, some with skis fitted like stabilizers. Some of the BMW's like mine had red and white badges instead of blue and white. One owner told me that this was because they were made in the old East Germany.
After the Rally I stayed for a couple of says with some friends I new from the VMCC near Helsinki. Then it was time to head home back the way I had come. On reaching Sweden it started to rain again. To save time I rode to Stockholm and took the motorway south to Denmark, five hundred miles of the most boring road I have ever seen. There was very little traffic with nothing to look at but fir trees on either side of the road, with the occasional service station. I passed one man driving a van who was reading a magazine at the same time.
From Sweden I took the ferry from Helsingborg to Helsinger in Denmark just to try a different route. The traffic was heavy around Copenhagen but the sun came out and after camping near Koge I rode on the next day in sunshine to Travemunde in Germany where I stayed for four nights and visited the beautiful city of Lubeck.
Back in Hamburg in torrential rain I got lost. I had just stopped to find a dry place to read the map, when a young chap on a motorbike stopped to see if I was OK. He invited me up to his flat where he made out a list of the streets I needed to follow to get me back to the ferry. He spoke very little English but his help saved me a lot of trouble and I boarded my fourteenth ferry back to England.

Chairmans AGM address

Hi all, hope you are ok watching these nice riding weather days slip past!, Dermot has asked me to publish the address he was going to give at our AGM which of course could not happen due to covid so here it is:


I recently have been pondering the apparent health of the club and our section in particular.

We, or at least I imagine most of us, voted a few days ago in the club national AGM. There was a couple of things in this process which stood out for me. The first was that every one of those seeking election sought to promote his individual talents in respect of halting the decline in club membership. This is a fine aspiration worthy of support. But again in every instance, it was claimed that the remedy for the our ills in this regard is to be found in the club embracing younger generations.  This I found rather disturbing.

We are dying off – that’s disturbing too! - and it has been clear for a long time that this natural wastage is not and will not be offset by younger people signing up. It seems amazing now, but the Japanese have been here since the late ‘fifties, firstly with small, utilitarian machines that Edward Turner and other manufacturers’ board members (notably those at BSA) thought would never offer any challenge to the British industry.  Well, they got that a bit wrong! Not only did the Orientals conquer British Industry but have all but annihilated that of the rest of the world as well.

Just as, by and large, we now ride the machines we would like to have owned when we were young but could not then afford, so younger people, quite naturally, behave similarly. But in their case, two generations of them have grown up since the appearance of the first Japanese machines in this country.  Due to the rapid demise of the British manufacturing industry, these people have had little choice but to buy Japanese.  As a consequence and not surprisingly, membership of the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club is burgeoning whilst that of the VMCC  is declining. All very predictable.

There just is no appetite among younger people to engage with older bikes of a European tradition wholly alien to their experience, so it is pointless the VMCC chasing what for us is a non-existent market. I regret that despite the copious amount of writing on the wall, Allen House still fails to recognise this. In my view, pursuing the current course will have the same level of success as King Canute’s confrontation with the tides.

As is well known, I have long been a detractor of the 25 year rule; the rule being introduced to address the problem of declining membership. But as will become increasingly evident with time, this merely tries to mix oil with water. Ultimately we shall see the complete eclipse of the type of machines we currently enjoy. It’s partly natural evolution and partly the influence of such instruments of change as the Greta child and the obsessive green lobby.

The second observation arising from the national AGM was the extraordinary spectacle of a recently-joined candidate putting himself forward although never having attended any club event. Regardless of whatever commercial expertise he may have offered, he failed to get my vote.

It was with all this in mind and with wanting to gain a sense of direction that I took a look back at the degree of support attending some of our past events.

Perhaps one of the most obvious changes in the section’s involvements in recent years is the apparently reducing level of enthusiasm for club activities. Certainly, the Scrumpy Run has fallen from its position of eminence but participation in this had been declining for some years before the Committee decided to pull the plug on an over-weening Ilfracombe council.

At our last Christmas lunch, we awarded 3 trophies for outstanding performances. By contrast, in 2009, 9 pots were presented by Ray’s grand-daughter – The Chairman’s Shield, the Ron Ley Cup, the Thelbridge Trophy, the Reed’s Motors Tankard, the Woodman Shield, the Francis Cann Cup,  the Les Soper Tankard, Jean’s Trophy and the VMCC Post War Cup, currently on my shelf.

A couple of years ago, the committee decided that so many trophies no longer were appropriate – few could remember who donated them or why. It has been a long time since we could field a decent turnout of girder forks and now, with Ray’s going, there are none, so the Jeans’s Trophy and Thelbridge Cup for example, can no longer be awarded. And so the obscure and forgotten were weeded out to leave the few for which we now compete. But I think this is an exaggerated view of decline.

Back in 2010, we staged 31 club runs. The average annual total for the last 10 years is 30. In 2018, we had 29 runs; last year we managed only 24, almost exclusively due to rotten weather.

So the general level of organised activity has not significantly diminished.  What have fallen are the numbers attending these events. Admittedly, at 33 guests, we were fully subscribed for the last Christmas lunch but the one held in 2010 attracted 45 to the Fingle Glen Golf Club.

What has been noticeable during my time is the turnout for many of these riding events which regularly used to attract attendances in the upper twenties. Now as few as six is not uncommon. I think this is a reflection of the changed personal circumstances of many of us rather than a declining interest.  Inclement weather also has been a major factor. I’m quite content to be seen as a “fair weather biker”.   60 years ago I had no choice but things are different now and I am able to avoid the wet and cold. I make no excuse for doing so and I don’t criticise others for taking the same view. We do however, need a better means of communication to alert people of ride cancellations and so on.

However, in most respects, I have been surprised to see that things generally have changed not nearly as much as I had expected. In looking back, it seems that our activities are not very different from those in which forebears like Merv Pearce, John Brunyee and Mick Glossop engaged.   Steve Griffin and Mick Addison no longer ride with us and others have become absent for any number of reasons, most of which are consequences of advancing age.

But I suspect the original ethos lives on in a section largely independent of and not much interested in the goings on up the road at Allen House.

The quiescence of the rank and file of local membership might suggest that the Committee, in seeking to steer the fortunes of the section, has got the balance about right.

Turnout on club nights has followed the trend of reduction in numbers and continues to be a disappointment, but there’s not a lot we can do about that – these things are what people care to make them.

But all in all, I think we have reached a point of balance which satisfies most people and provides a platform for continued enjoyment of club activities, so I’m relatively sanguine about the section’s foreseeable future.

We have yet to have our first run of 2020. I hope this and its successors will be in super weather. Perhaps the millions wasted on the new super-computer at the Met Office in Exeter will be able to provide better than the rotten fare served up recently.

Anyway, here’s to it!

Thanks Dermot, now it occurs to me that we do not make enough use of this medium at this time so if antone wishes to have a story published here why not E mail it to me at and if suitable I could publish, it would be a way to keep in touch until we all ride again.