Dazzling the opposition
When painter and decorator Roger Simkin wanted a Beezer that looked good and went even better, it was Mick Bennett he went to.
It pays to take time to do a job right and Roger Simkin’s Cheney Victor is a shining example of this credo.
Ever regretted selling something? I bet you have. In Roger Simkin’s case it was a neat Triumph engine Cotton, reputed to be an ex-arthur Lampkin machine. Roger was approached by someone who called his bluff when he put a gulp-inducing price tag on his Cotton.
“I didn’t really want to sell it and thought that would put him off, but the bloke came up with the cash and that was that.” Luckily, Roger had been discussing a BSA Victor with ace Beezer guy Mick Bennett and with his shed soon to be a bike down, the deal for Mick to build the bike went ahead. It took a bit longer than originally expected, but eventually the bike came along. “To be honest,” the Staffordshire painter and decorator told me, “I don’t know a great lot about the inside of the bike other than it’s well put together and has a lot of NEB bits in there, you’re better off talking to Mick Bennett who built it.”
Roger and I crossed paths over a year ago and the offer was made to feature the bike before it was ridden in anger, but life isn’t straightforward, time stretched on and the feature never happened. Then, during a recent email cull, there was one from Roger, so I zapped one back asking how the bike was. It turns out Roger’s life wasn’t that simple either and he hadn’t ridden the bike in the intervening year and it was still in his kitchen… we were there in an instant.
Now, nice though his kitchen is, it’s not quite right to photograph a motorcycle in, so we headed out into the countryside and parked up the good-looking bike. Roger elaborated on his brief comments and said the frame was an original Cheney with Marzocchi forks fitted and Reiger rear dampers. “I know Mick had the petrol tank made specially for the bike, which is a sister one to the Victor he backed Piers Dowell on, and when he’d got the seat done for it there was a gap and that didn’t sit well with Mick, so he hauled the bike along to the upholsterers, who resculpted it to fit properly. This sort of detail is what Mick is noted for,” Roger told me. He went on to point out the lengths the builder went to in this attention to detail using the threaded fasteners as an example. Where threads protruded from the nuts all had exactly the same amount sticking out.
So Roger, what do you know about the spec of the bike? “Well, it’s an NEB three-speed box with an NEB clutch, crank and piston. The barrel has been definned, so it doesn’t clog with mud so easily and this was what the factory was doing into the late Sixties. The petrol tank was made for the bike, as was the seat… anything else,” laughs Roger, “you’ll have to ask Mick.” Which is what we did.
The basis for the bike was one that Mick bought in Denmark and on the original
machine Piers Dowell had 35 starts in 2005, 28 wins and one DNF thanks to a needle roller bearing breaking up in the gearbox, then in 2006 the lad took the hill record at Red Marley Freak Hill Climb, so not a bad bike.
However, times move on and things need updating, so the bike was modified and the frame put to one side until Roger wanted something building. The engine, originally a 441cc Victor, was used in Mick’s Walwin BSA and while a 500cc version now it has also been a 475cc one. “NEB uses Omega pistons and they’re excellent,” says Mick. I wanted to know what went into building a Mick Bennett engine. “Just careful preparation and assembly,” he tells me, “for instance the first task for me is to check how it all lines up in the cases and invariably I’ve to have everything line-bored to make sure things run true. The earlier the engine, the more accurate it is.” He added quietly that the worst he has seen was a late model B50, which was so out of true it could never have run to its full potential.
Once everything is trued up in goes a three-speed NEB gearbox, an NEB crank and piston with an NEB clutch. NEB – Nigel Bower – is legendary in the Midlands and though his main work has been in speedway, there’s more than the odd Mxer with his bits on. “They’re good and the back-up is excellent,” Mick adds. Moving on to the chassis, Mick called up his notes on his computer and said the bike had all new bearings, his own air box and filter design – with a K and N filter in it – as he’s not that keen on the Cheney one, “nothing wrong with it just it’s not right for me.”
Zipping through his notes he added the rear hub is a Rickman conical one and the front
is a Grimeca, which was available and looked the part. I asked about the Nordisk rim and it was apparently on the original Danish machine. “I just polished it up,” he says. “There’s not a lot more to say about it really,” Mick tells me, “my real forte is knowing where to get what I want making actually made to the spec I want and then just careful assembly after that.” Such careful assembly went into the exhaust system, which is part-cheney, part-walwin and part-mick Bennett and all nice. “I like to have the front held in place with a spring so I welded a tab on the pipe and the spring keeps everything in place. Other than that it’s a case of making sure anything that can fracture with vibration is rubber mounted.”
Mick did allow that they’d had an ignition system on which he could start the bike with but Roger struggled. “With high compression and methanol it does take some firing up and I have a technique, but it was even easier to put an Interspan total loss system on. It has a much fatter spark and this is a boon for methanol fuels. At first it was going to be several months before an ignition could be built as Fred Stonham makes them all individually, he said he’s had a long-track ignition come back as the rider couldn’t get on with it and that it could be modified to suit a motocross bike if a kit was wanted urgently. It was, and it’s on and everyone is happy.”
How does it go? It goes very well and Roger has ridden it twice with decent results and the bike is settling down nicely. Roger added after taking a year out to sort his house out he’s itching to get back on track so, 2017 is set to be Simkin’s year.
There are any numb ber of rear shocks on themarket these days, Reiger ones are Dutch and come in a range of sizes. Yes, a new one on us too.
Go on Roger, go round the other side of the bike and look this way. ‘Do I have to pose or anything?’ No, just stand there. Front suspension is by Marzocchi and a popular fitting for classic Mxers. A nice slim profile so the rider can move around with ease.
It’s built to go but the builder likes his bikes to look nice too.