Motorcycles

Where Am I?

Finger post  Hillesden

The Monday Photo

I parked up the bike on the junction's grass triangle, so I could take a picture. I had just visited the lovely Hillesden church,  and I didn’t realise I was still in the parish, though I had ridden well over two miles from the church.

It was a Sunday afternoon in March. The day was sunny, but even today, two years later, I remember how cold it was. I would head home after this stop.

I like these old cast iron finger posts. There are quite a few left in North Bucks; there’s one at Swanbourne just across the road from the church, and another one at Mursley.

This type of sign began to be installed in the 1920s, and this example has a mistake. In the Polo mint-like circle at the top, it says “Cowley Road” (this bit might be correct), and underneath it says “Preston Bissett”. It should say “Hillesden”, because that’s the parish the sign is in.

The parish border is very close, though; about thirty feet from the finger post, out of shot on the left. A mile further on is the county border with Oxfordshire.

The other two finger posts are different. The circle on the Swanbourne finger post says “Swanbourne Bucks”, and the one at Mursley says “Bucks County”. Perhaps they were made in different years.

If you know of other finger posts in North Bucks, please let me know in the comments.

I’m looking forward to being able to go out on bike rides again, and it looks like that’ll be allowed fairly soon, as the lockdown rules change. The riding season doesn’t really start until April anyway, so until I can get out on rides I’ll be spending time in the shed, getting the bikes ready.

That’s quite satisfying, too; all part of the biking experience.

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Late to the Party

Clown costume

 

The Barrel Bikers, a local motorcycle club, usually have a Christmas party every year. It’s always held after Christmas, on a Saturday near the beginning of February. This doesn’t stop them giving out raffle prizes wrapped in Christmas paper!

Continue reading "Late to the Party" »

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Cruising Speed

BSA M33

The Monday Photo

Ten years almost to the day that I borrowed a bike for a photo in this same lane in Clifton Reynes, 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.

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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.

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Track Bike

Levis Motorcycle

The Monday Photo

It was July 2010. I had borrowed this bike from its owner Graham and ridden a short way up this track at Clifton Reynes, which leads to footpaths that go across the river to Olney.

I wanted to photograph the bike for a range of biker’s greeting cards I later went on to produce.

I moved the bike around a couple of times, then settled on this composition for the card. To get a nice low viewpoint I lay in the middle of the lane. I thought I would be safe enough as the track doesn’t see vehicles from one month to the next.

Then from behind me I heard another bike. Two vehicles in one day! It was Graham. Some comedian we both knew well had told him that I had a tendency to fall off borrowed bikes (a lie!) and as I’d been gone quite a while, Graham rode up to see that all was well.

He was very relieved to see that we were both okay. I had already got my shot, so we rode back down to the pub garden where we’d started.

Graham tells me that the bike is a 1932 Levis (pronounced Le-vis, not Lee-vize like the jeans). It has a 350cc 4 stroke, single cylinder engine with overhead valves; quite high tech for the times. You might have noticed that has two exhaust ports and two exhausts, even though it’s a single cylinder engine. This was quite common on bikes between the wars.

The bike was built by Butterfields of Birmingham, who made bikes between 1911 and 1940. They built competition winning 2 strokes up to 1928 which did very well in road racing, including the TT, while the 4 strokes took to the mud with trials and scrambling.

This bike was hill climbed with great success by Pete Robson from Market Harborough.

Pete competed in motorcycle trials and scrambling all his life, and was a leading figure in the Vintage Motorcycle Club before his death a few years ago.

Graham still has this Levis and it’s close to 90 years old now. But remember, we don’t own old motorcycles, we just look after them for a while.

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Mystery Club

BDMC&SC

The Monday Photo

If you’ve heard all the stories about mods and rockers doing battle on the sea front, you might think bikers and scooterists were once all mortal enemies. But that wasn’t always true, and here's proof.

In (it’s thought) the 1960s, the Buckingham and District Motorcycle and Scooter Club met in the Woolpack pub in Well Street, Buckingham. This cast metal badge would be fixed to a member’s bike or scooter.

In the 1970s the landlord of the pub, a Mr. Steers, found a small heavy box full of these badges, tucked away in the pub. He thought that they dated from the previous decade.

The badge design is based on the county coat of arms. There’s a red and black background, and the county swan is wearing a duke’s coronet and a gold chain.

That’s all I could find out about this club. Does anyone out there know any more?

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