Cruising Speed


The Monday Photo

Ten years almost to the day that I borrowed a bike for a photo in this same lane, I came back to photograph my own classic British bike.

It wasn’t until I got home that I looked at that other shot and checked the date on it. I hadn’t realised that yesterday was the closest Sunday I could have chosen to that other Sunday, a whole decade before.

The 1932 Levis I borrowed that day was built as an off road sport machine, for trials and scrambling. My 1953 BSA was built for the road, and to have a sidecar attached. It’s known as an M33.

Bike ownership for both solo machines and bikes with sidecars hit its peak in the 1950s, so there was also a B33 for solo use, very similar but lighter. Both had a 500cc single cylinder engine.

There are a few differences between my bike and the B33.  On my M33, there are attachment points for the sidecar chassis, built into the bike. The gear ratios are different; more widely spread to cope with the weight of  ‘the chair’, (the sidecar) yet still give a reasonable cruising speed. The frame is braced underneath, but there’s no bracing on the B33.

My M33 is the version with the plunger frame. An advance on the older rigid frames that gave no rear suspension, the rear axle plunges up and down on two strong rods, more or less controlled by big springs.

It gives a gentler ride than no rear suspension at all, but gets a bit confused at modern road speeds on bumpy back roads. If you ever follow an old bike like this and the rider slows down where you wouldn’t, it’s probably because the road is a bit too bumpy; they are doing their best!

The top speed on this BSA, without a sidecar, is about 83 mph. That probably doesn’t seem very fast compared to a modern 500, but back in 1953, a typical family car would only be good for 70 mph. Much of the traffic in those austere days was pre war, and slower.

I cruise around at 50 or 55 mph, but when the bike was new 50 was more likely to be the maximum cruising speed for private vehicles, on good roads. I’ll never take it up to 83 mph.

The Distance Project 9

Social Distancing Project 74Dave Beckett sits in his back garden. and his next door neighbour Roger Ash has come to visit, bringing his own cup of tea. We have met Dave Beckett before. He was very pleased to know I remembered his dad Cyril, who was the baker in Winslow when I was a boy.

Little Horwood

There’s a huge amount of community spirit in the small village of Little Horwood. The villagers have pulled together to make life as pleasant as possible under lockdown. I have more photos from the village, which I'll most likely show you next week.


Social Distancing Project 75Chrissie Beckett, wife of Dave, has put out chairs so that villagers can come and chat while remaining at a safe distance. This is Penny Davis (left) and Karen Jones (right) Chrissie has organised quite a bit for the village, but is too modest to be in any of my photographs.

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Flying at Ground Level

Flying Millyard

The Monday Photo

This motorcycle is the Flying Millyard, built by the very clever Allan Millyard, with parts from an aircraft engine.

He used two cylinders and pistons from a nine cylinder Pratt & Whitney R1340 aero engine, to make a five litre V-twin motorcycle engine. Inside, each cylinder is as big as a two and a half litre paint tin. Inside a typical 1.8 litre, four cylinder car engine, the cylinders are only about as big a coffee cup.

The bike isn’t built for top speed; it’s good for about 100 mph. It came about almost by accident. Millyard had won an award for his tiny 100cc SS100 V-twin, built with Honda SS50 moped parts, at the prestigious Salon Prive motoring event.

They asked him what he was going to do next, and he just told them on the spot that he was going to build the world’s biggest V-twin. Eleven months later, he had finished making the Flying Millyard. He has made many other unique engines, so many that there isn’t the space to go into them here. But here’s his Youtube channel.

The R1340 engine was Pratt and Whitney’s first engine, and powered aeroplanes and later on even helicopters, from the 1920s on. It’s a radial engine; the nine cylinders are arranged around a central crankcase, directly behind the aircraft’s propellor. They are fitted with a supercharger, though the Flying Millyard doesn’t have one.

I photographed the bike in 2018 at the annual Ludgershall Bike Night, which is always (but not this year) held in the village on the first Monday in July.

Distance Project 8

Social Distancing Project 67A woman takes a child to school, past posters in a Church Street window.

Wolverton, mostly

I’ve been having a look around the railway town of Wolverton for the project. There’s a cluster of houses on Church Street where most of the houses have lockdown posters in the windows, and nearby a shop has a big painted design, though it’s closed under the rules. The town is quiet, and just a few shops are allowed to be open.

I’ve also got three shots from other places in Milton Keynes to show you.

This week’s photos were taken a little over two weeks ago, but I’ve held them over to cover two events, or rather the absence of those events, in Stony Stratford. That is, Stony Live, and Folk on the Green.

You can see all the other Distance Project photos I’ve put on the North Bucks Wanderer here, but there’s many more from this project that I haven’t published.

Some would not come over well on the NBW because the photos are rather compressed here; they lose fine detail. Some are too similar to pictures already published on this blog, but I took them to make as complete a record as possible.

The project continues.

Social Distancing Project 66On what would normally be a school day, the car park at the Radcliffe School is almost empty.

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Bowing to the Buddha

Bowing to the Buddha

The Revd. Nagahama (first right) bows to the Buddha at a Peace Pagoda ceremony in Milton Keynes. He came from Japan for the ceremony.

The Monday Photo

Ten years ago I was proud to be the official photographer for the 30th Peace Pagoda ceremony in Milton Keynes. Monks and nuns of the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist order came from all over the world, to this most important event at their temple by Willen lake.

They are the ones in white and saffron yellow. Monks or nuns from other Buddhist orders wear different colours.

It was a great day but a long one. Photographing an event like this meant I was on duty nearly all day long, then in the days following were hours of editing and processing.

I think I took about 700 photos that day, but in the end I gave the temple 366 photos, all on CDs and ready to print.

A few weeks later, one of the nuns went up to Boots the chemist in Central Milton Keynes with the CDs and had hundreds of prints made, to send out to anybody the temple knew that had been there on the day. In those quantities the prints cost pennies each.

I believe the Revd. Nagahama received a full set, as the Milton Keynes temple and Pagoda were under his control back then; they still are.

Everyone else would be sent any photos they appeared in, plus maybe a few general shots. I took the photos for over forty temple events and enjoyed it, though in the end I felt it was time I had a break.

Why did I choose this photo for today? Because the long awaited 40th Pagoda Ceremony should have been yesterday.

Oh well. Maybe next year I can take the ceremony photos again; it’s bound to be a great event.

The Distance Project 7

Social Distancing Project 53A few locals walk by the closed Cock Hotel. In previous years there’s barely a parking spot to be found on the High Street, but tonight the street is almost empty.

Not Live in Stony, and few folk on the Green

Last week should have been the nine day annual Stony Live festival with bands and other live entertainment in Stony Stratford, Bucks; there were over a hundred acts last year. But the pubs are shut, the streets quiet. There are other venues too, but here are some pubs in the town that usually have live music during those nine days.

On Sunday 14th June, another regular event had been planned to take place in the town, on Horsefair Green. It’s called Folk on the Green. In previous years the green is filled with people, there’s a stage half way down one side, and stalls line the edge of the green and the road that goes by it.


Social Distancing Project 52The Plough is dark, the front patio is empty. All is quiet. In previous years during Stony Live the outside tables would be full of drinkers.

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