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.

Classic Dirtbike - - Contents - Words and pics Tim Brit­ton

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.

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