Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Classic Chatter

Have you noticed that the pages of the UMG have become more and more clogged with the dreary dribblings of those who think that they had something relevant to say about British bikes? You had? So have I. Here are some more.

The saddest thing for this writer is the increasing number of, I Bought It For £n In 1986 And It’s Now Worth £2n, and this is a good thing so I’m going to buy another. And another, etc. Next we have the Brit Bikes Are Simple To Maintain types. What an odd reason for buying a bike!

Bloody hell chaps (substitute your own expletives as you will)! Buy and RIDE a British motorcycle because you enjoy it. Hells teeth, if you want simple home maintenance buy a CZ; if you need an investment, buy a Vincent. Both have little relevance to enjoyable motorcycling (or biking if you’re under 40 — I am under 40 but feel twice my age when I read the overspill from the pages of Investors Chronicle), and both will cost you far more than they will repay in terms of smiles per mile. Which is what it’s all about, isn’t it?

If you are bored with your weary CB750 (I was), appalled by your BMW (I couldn’t have paid out all that dosh just to be terrified, could I?) and unwilling or unable to hock your soul for the flavour of the month, go out and buy a Brit.

Follow Robert Garnham's excellent advice in the last Classic Chatter and avoid glossy A4 classic monthlies. Do the sensible thing, look in your local paper (my AJS cost £450 and is ACE) where the dwindling number of folk who don’t realise that the oily heap they threw into the shed seven or eight years ago is a valuable and fast appreciating cash substitute tend to advertise.

If you’re feeling really bold, place an ad yourself in the wanted column of the local free press. I tried this a year ago and was offered more Triumphs than Les Harris builds in a year. Why do people sell Triumphs? No-one offered me a Norton (except one dim individual who had, inevitably, put a Triumph engine into the poor thing).

When you have obtained your passport from tedium, go out and thrash about the scenery. This is what the wretched thing is for! Fall off a bit; if you're careful and choosy about where you do it, it needn’t hurt too much (hell, you might even enjoy it. People do buy CZs, you know), and you will get a pleasant surprise when you find that you can usually bash it straigh-tish again, without too much expenditure.

You should then join a club. Don’t be put off by all the super-clubmen, types who will sneer and giggle when they are confronted by your set of wheels. Smile apologetically and buy a couple of pints for them. Nod appreciatively when they suggest you consign the beast to the canal; befriend them all. But concentrate your charm and sad murmurs on the ones with the never-seen relics, my friends, because they are those who have all the bits you need, and they will give them to you for next to nothing...

They don’t want the tatty remnants of the original fittings, do they? Oh no, they prefer shiny bits from the pages of the dream purveyors, which look jolly smart, but don’t work properly (have you ever tried to use a set of pattern brake and clutch levers? Dear, dear). Be nice to them and you can have the chrome-less originals. A bent and beholed tool box is still a tool box and will still hold tools, as we say...

If you are wise, don't suffer from nostalgia and are prepared not to be regarded with awe by small boys as you do the Nimrod bit down the High Street, you should be able to buy a good set of British wheels for under £500, it could even be legal.

Buy a BSA or a Triumph - a 500cc twin, forget the flashy ones, a BSA A7 is only a little slower than an A10, and a Tiger 100 is much sweeter than a Bonnie (but a lot smaller - if nature afflicted you with a fat arse, buy a BSA).

Ignore the oddities - the Velocette Viceroy may be all things beautiful in your eyes but who can you con spares from? They also have odd wheels.

For a good intro to the other Great Experience, buy a BSA Royal Star, make sure that it works at least sometimes and ride it. If you hate it, polish it up and trade it for a new MZ. Can’t say fairer than that, can we?

Frank W

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