Dicko’s view

If only our other halves knew how much we al­most spend at these shows we go to… oh, they know do they?

Classic Dirtbike - - Contents -

This jolly piece is be­ing con­trived be­fore the Oc­to­ber Stafford clas­sic bike show, so you’ll be read­ing this af­ter it has all hap­pened. It mat­ters not, the point is it got me think­ing about shows, and peo­ple, and clas­sic bikes in gen­eral.

I love shows for all kinds of rea­sons. Firstly, I just like stand­ing star­ing at bikes, tri­als, scram­bles, road race, road, they’re all in­ter­est­ing in their own way. Sec­ondly, I am a bit of a peo­ple watcher and many of the folks who pop­u­late shows are ev­ery bit as in­ter­est­ing as the me­chan­i­cal stuff.

What they do mainly is make me re­alise how lit­tle I ac­tu­ally know. Yes, I have a pretty good gen­eral knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing of the whole scene, but it is mainly all skimmed off the sur­face. The peo­ple that fas­ci­nate me are those with the re­ally deep knowl­edge, usu­ally of a sin­gle mar­que, maybe even a sin­gle model. They can go to the show look­ing for a se­cond-gear layshaft pin­ion for a 1933 Grind­lay Peer­less and spot it from 20yds where it sits at the bot­tom of a rusty bucket.

It is for that very lack of fo­cus that I rarely buy any­thing at a show, as I am never re­ally sure what I am ac­tu­ally look­ing at.

‘They’ say for­tune favours the brave. Con­versely ‘they’ also say that fools rush in... We’ve all lis­tened to tales of how some­one took a punt on a bike and it turned out to be an ex-ge­off Duke fac­tory Manx Nor­ton worth a for­tune. The sto­ries we tend not to hear about are from the sucker who paid out that kind of money on what was sup­posed to be an ex-ge­off Duke fac­tory Nor­ton and it turned out to be a to­tal le­mon, com­pris­ing a col­lec­tion of duff parts in­clud­ing, you even­tu­ally dis­cover, a roughly carved wooden pis­ton.

I sus­pect there are ac­tu­ally far more of the lat­ter oc­cur­rences than the for­mer...

Mar­que spe­cial­ists are in­ter­est­ing cases to study. There is a well-known Bul­taco fan from north of the bor­der whom I fre­quently leg-pull and who (usu­ally!) takes it in good hu­mour. I just can’t help my­self step­ping in with a com­ment as I see him pull a face while pe­rus­ing the in­evitable Sherpa. “What’s the mat­ter,” quoth I, “don't tell me it has the cad­mium-plated kick-start cot­ter-pin washer and not the nickel fin­ish op­tion as used on the up­dated Mk.2 (lim­ited pro­duc­tion run) 1967 model?”

It’s all good fun – well, I think so – and I do ac­tu­ally ap­pre­ci­ate such dili­gence as I know I’ll never achieve that level as I sim­ply don’t pos­sess the at­ten­tion span.

While wan­der­ing round I of­ten idly won­der if the show bikes, and there are some won­der­ful restora­tions, go as well as they look. Dave Row­land­son, of Sap­phire Mo­tor­cy­cles, some of whose work has fea­tured in CDB, builds im­mac­u­late ma­chines that go ev­ery bit as well as they look – and that takes some do­ing. He even ma­chines bushes and fits twin ball­race bear­ings to Bul­taco Pur­sang rear brake piv­ots as he can’t bear the slop in the stan­dard pro­duc­tion set-up. Now that is at­ten­tion to de­tail.

On the other hand, while out and about I come across own­ers of bikes that look the part but are al­ways run­ning poorly or be­ing pushed back to the pad­dock by a red-faced owner. This is NOT aimed at any sin­gle per­son and you can all fill in your own per­sonal can­di­date in the blank space pro­vided!

This phe­nom­e­non was once mem­o­rably and per­fectly de­scribed to me by the sage that is Robin Lus­combe, a proper York­shire­man who says what he means and means what he says, as “shiny sh*te”. I laughed out loud at the time and giggled again as I just typed it out and I've laughed many times in be­tween. I am now to­tally in­ca­pable of view­ing a sparkly chrome and ally mas­ter­piece with­out the thought steal­ing over me, "Is it a real goer or is it just shiny sh*te...!" While chuck­ling like a ma­niac.

My ret­i­cence to ac­tu­ally back my own knowl­edge and judg­ment has prob­a­bly cost me over the years. I ag­o­nised over a Suzuki GT250 (£700) at Stafford sev­eral years ago. I told my­self I couldn't buy it as I had no trans­port, yet still baulked when space in a van that would be go­ing right past my house was of­fered. I kicked my­self all the way home. A re­ally nice 1977 air-cooled Suzuki RM125 was an­other bike I cir­cled the en­tire af­ter­noon I was at Stafford. At £999 surely I couldn't have gone wrong!

It re­ally is a good job for me that my bet­ter half has no idea of how many two-wheeled ob­jects of de­sire I have 'nearly' bought at shows. Frank Thorn­ton, New­cas­tle's mo­tor­cy­cle de­cal king, once ad­vised me to "only buy red bikes" ex­plain­ing that the lady in your (his) life will not know if the model you are stealth­ily un­load­ing from the van is new or not! This would, of course, work (or not, I strongly sus­pect) with any sin­gle colour.

As you can see, clas­sic bike shows are both a plea­sure and a mine­field for me. I'm sure by the time you read this I will have passed-up the op­por­tu­nity of pur­chas­ing yet an­other dream ma­chine... be­cause of that over­whelm­ing fear of be­ing duped by some dratsab stitch­ing me up with a wooden pis­ton... 

…While wan­der­ing around I of­ten idly won­der if the show bikes, and there are some won­der­ful restora­tions, go as well as they look…”

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