PUB TALK

250,000! The lat­est RC cir­cu­la­tion (we wish), the price of the lat­est Brough or Vin­cent at auc­tion (not this time), or just last year’s im­mi­gra­tion fig­ures (bor­ing)? No, it is the dis­tance that the PUBs (bike and rider) have trav­elled to­gether in the last

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250,000! The lat­est RC cir­cu­la­tion (we wish), the price of the lat­est Brough or Vin­cent at auc­tion (not this time), or just last year’s im­mi­gra­tion fig­ures (bor­ing)? No, it is the dis­tance that the PUBs (bike and rider) have trav­elled to­gether in the last 50 years (ap­prox­i­mately). Un­for­tu­nately both are begin­ning to show their age

PUB335 was man­u­fac­tured very late in 1951, in­deed so late that Christ­mas was ap­proach­ing when it left Steve­nage. How­ever, it re­mained in stock at Mars­den’s of Leeds for an­other 6 months be­fore be­ing sold – which was not as long as the next num­bered bike which did not get reg­is­tered un­til 1953! For its early years it was trea­sured and well looked after, in part courtesy of the Na­tional Coal Board where its Wake­field owner worked. How­ever, be­fore long it got to be just an ‘old bike’ and was less well treated un­til it ar­rived at Ross Mo­tors of Hinck­ley in the early 60s. The lack of its first log book means that that/ those owner(s) re­main mercifully un­known.

At this time PUB’s fa­ther was run­ning an Ariel Square Four, courtesy of an in­come tax re­fund. How­ever, he was a bit afraid of 4-cylin­der main­te­nance, and then one freez­ing win­ter morn­ing it failed to start (pos­si­bly due to the un­fa­mil­iar SU carb) even when bumped down the hill. He then had to push the heavy com­bi­na­tion back up the hill,

where the last straw was dis­cov­er­ing that his many months dis­carded old 16H (no longer road-le­gal) fired up in a cou­ple of kicks. Quite soon he was back at Ross Mo­tors, where he swapped the very tidy Squar­iel for what turned out to be a very tired Rapide about ten years old. The rel­a­tive con­di­tions may be guessed be­cause they not only did the swap, but trans­ferred the side­car over too, for lit­tle or no money!

Nev­er­the­less, the Vin­cent, an un­af­ford­able dream to most of his gen­er­a­tion a decade ear­lier, pro­vided pretty re­li­able daily trans­port for a cou­ple of years – un­til some drunken passers-by van­dalised it – bikes could be parked, un­locked, at the road­side in those days. An­other low priced ex-WD banger re­placed it. How­ever this old bike was not dis­carded in the usual way but dis­man­tled for the myth­i­cal ‘do­ing up’. The orig­i­nal speedome­ter was used on some­thing else, so its mileage will never be known, but the engine dis­closed that an ear­lier ma­jor over­haul/re­build had been done, and the engine sub­se­quently be­come extremely wornn again, prob­a­bly in­di­cat­ing most of 100,000 miles in­clud­ing PUB se­nior’s own mileage.

Since big-ends for Christ­mas failed to spur any ac­tiv­ity, PUB ju­nior even­tu­ally got stuck in at week­ends, when home from col­lege, do­ing a cheapo re­build on less than stu­dent money (grants were not as au­to­matic as mod­ern stu­dents seem to think). By the time it was done se­nior’s rid­ing days had come to an end, so pass­ing a small sum over, rep­re­sen­ta­tive of its orig­i­nal pur­chase price, ju­nior took it over com­pletely a lit­tle be­fore 1970. The re­place­ment speedome­ter was re­set to zero.

Com­pared to her ear­lier two-strokes (the best of which was the Fiery Fran­cis Bar­nett), this was PUB’s first ‘long legged’ bike, and with few ex­cep­tions a re­li­able one too. It did stag­ger back from Brit­tany with an au­di­bly knock­ing big-end one time, and with a col­lapsed camshaft bush on an­other oc­ca­sion, but when the engine shock ab­sorber nut dis­in­te­grated it had the kind­ness to do it out­side the front door! That is not to deny that lit­tle nig­gles like Miller electrics and clutch is­sues were fairly fre­quent un­til some ‘ex­per­tise’ was learned in man­ag­ing them. Then mileages be­gan to climb at about 10,000 per an­num, with the long­est sin­gle year mileage be­ing in 1974, when the ‘Round Bri­tain Rally’ ex­tended nor­mal ral­ly­ing and com­mut­ing up to 20,000 miles – but it was a tired old thing at the end of that (come to think of it, it has been a tired old thing for most of its life).

The next re-re­build had to be un­der­taken at a dis­ap­point­ing 87,000 when the big-end went, al­though a burned ex­haust valve had re­quired the front head off some 20,000 miles ear­lier (hav­ing stag­gered around the Is­land and back home again in that state with­out break­ing down). PUB was dis­ap­pointed, be­cause by that stage she had been hop­ing for 100,000 with­out a ma­jor re­build – as per the fa­mous Tony Rose ‘100,000 mile road test’. How­ever, to be fair, hers was noth­ing like the nearly new bike Tony had when she started rid­ing it. That time it got a ‘proper job’ re­build, since by this time PUB her­self also had a ‘proper job’, and also friends in the trade. So she had things prop­erly blasted and painted, with sheet metal re­pairs as nec­es­sary, and the bright­work all re­plated. It shone so much that peo­ple of­ten wouldn’t be­lieve that it was PUB335 – front num­ber­plates no longer be­ing re­quired. That is why the bike gained its funny lit­tle black on white num­ber painted onto the mud­guard va­lences!

Un­for­tu­nately the shine was a con­sid­er­able dis­cour­age­ment from tak­ing it out in poor weather, with the tatty Fran­cis Bar­nett be­ing used in­stead. But then dis­cov­ery of a fault in the new main­shaft, which broke off the oil feed quill, re­quired some con­sid­er­able re­work, dur­ing which the tank got dented. So then when win­ter rid­ing even­tu­ally be­gan to take its toll, with the fin­ish fray­ing at the edges, it was back to nor­mal, and rainy days were re­garded as a free wash!

Even­tu­ally (at a bit over 200,000 miles) yet an­other re­build was de­manded – with oil con­sump­tion ap­proach­ing that of petrol – and this time it re­ally was ‘com­pletely worn out’ as the time hon­oured phrase goes. For ex­am­ple, when new valves and seats had been fit­ted the pushrods no longer reached the rock­ers – they had only worked be­fore be­cause wear pat­terns par­tially can­celled each other out! Un­til then the Rapide had been PUB’s basic trans­port for over 30 years, but those sort of prob­lems held up get­ting it back on the road for a more than a year or two. Nei­ther the worn and ne­glected Fanny B nor vintage bikes could re­ally substitute for that long, so re­luc­tantly a more mod­ern bike was pur­chased for the daily com­mute. Elec­tric legs, lights, and brakes are ad­dic­tive, so al­though the Rapide has been back on the road for over a decade, and in reg­u­lar use to boot, nev­er­the­less it has never gone back to be­ing the ‘front of garage’ bike or re­turned to its for­mer large an­nual mileages.

Nei­ther has it logged most of PUB’s for­eign tours, be­cause many of them have ac­tu­ally taken place on her 1926 HRD (or even less ap­par­ently suitable ma­chines). Nev­er­the­less the PUB Vin­cent has roamed fairly far afield over the years. At first trav­els were mostly UK

based, with the IoM TT be­ing an an­nual out­ing for some years when PUB was a scru­ti­neer. That used up most of the an­nual hol­i­day al­lowance though, re­strict­ing con­ti­nen­tal trav­els to week­end ex­cur­sions such as VOC ral­lies in Ger­many, France, and Hol­land, and one or two Ele­phant and Lion ral­lies. Only later, hav­ing given up the TT fort­nights, was it pos­si­ble to do longer jaunts such as FIM ral­lies in Lux­em­bourg, Fin­land, and trekking through the Baltic States (Lithua­nia, Latvia, and Es­to­nia, re­turn­ing via Scan­di­navia). Prior to the fall of the Ber­lin wall it even took a jaunt into the Soviet Union for a rare East German rally opened to Western visi­tors.

After the most re­cent re­build it was used to tour around Bri­tish Columbia (Canada) in con­junc­tion with an­other club rally, al­though that was quite a few miles ago now. So the PUB Vin­cent has been a ‘magic car­pet’ for a lit­tle short of 50 years. It cost very lit­tle (they were at their cheap­est in the 1960s), and run­ning costs have been very low – in fact if sold now it would re­pay all that has been spent on it in­clud­ing fuel! That’s al­most a bar­gain. PUB ac­tu­ally broke into am­a­teur jour­nal­ism with a Mo­tor­cy­cle Sport ar­ti­cle de­tail­ing those costs dur­ing the first 87,000 miles be­cause she had kept a log. Mem­ber­ship of the own­ers club has fur­nished her with world­wide friends, many of whom helped her in her trav­els in the days be­fore breakdown ser­vices, mo­bile phones, or all the other things we now take for granted be­came avail­able.

It is hard to con­sider such a faith­ful com­pan­ion as a mere ma­chine, in­deed PUB isn’t even go­ing to try. In just the past few weeks the bike and rider mileage to­gether has fi­nally passed the magic quar­ter mil­lion – surely wor­thy of cel­e­bra­tion? Not that this is an es­pe­cially out­stand­ing fig­ure for a Vin­cent, for as early as 1964 The Mo­tor Cy­cle car­ried an ar­ti­cle re­port­ing Peter Ger­rish’s achieve­ment of that fig­ure, and other ex­am­ples could be quoted since. Nor is it ex­clu­sive to Vin­cents, as a few well-known trav­ellers have stuck to their faith­ful air­head Beemers for long pe­ri­ods. Of course the PUB Vin­cent it­self has those early un­known miles to its credit too, but even with them it adds up to less than half of re­cently re­tired Stu­art Jenk­in­son’s fi­nal tally of 740,000 miles on his one-owner from new ‘Vin­ny­lon­glegs’! That one, reck­ons PUB, will never be beaten – not even big mileage rid­ers stick to the same ma­chine for 40 or more years.

RC read­ers will know that last year the ma­chine was be­ing slightly trou­ble­some, not in the sense of break­ing down, but just enough hic­coughs to make long for­eign or motorway trips too wor­ry­ing to risk. It al­most seemed as though it was try­ing to say ‘I’ve had enough, 250,000 miles to­gether is too much!’, but the mile­stone is now passed. It has run OK over the cold win­ter, on short runs, but whether the prob­lems are over is yet to be re­vealed.

Ac­tu­ally, the last thou­sand miles have taken quite a long time to ac­crue, not least be­cause PUB the rider is also old and tired. Long trips now prove dif­fi­cult (even on newer, eas­ier bikes), and al­though she can push on for a sin­gle day, she does not re­cover to re­peat the ex­er­cise next day any longer. For the time be­ing she can still start PUB, and man­age its weight, but for how much longer is not at all cer­tain. Read­ers may have no­ticed that the Dragon was dif­fi­cult, the Pi­o­neer prob­lem­atic, now she re­ports that PUB is slightly test­ing of her ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Sadly, this sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian has to face re­al­ity – there may be no more HRDs to Hun­gary, Tri­umphs to Tallin, or Fire­flies to other far-away places. Mo­tor­cy­cling ac­tiv­i­ties may have to be a bit more lo­cally ori­en­tated, and event re­ports a bit more parochial in fu­ture (as some read­ers may have al­ready de­tected). Would that it could be oth­er­wise, but for­tu­nately she does live fairly cen­trally in the coun­try, where some of the ma­jor events which may be of in­ter­est to read­ers take place, and in­deed they will still present the op­por­tu­nity to meet read­ers.

So there is still more rid­ing to be done, and some of it will still be on the Vin­cent for a while to come. PUB, the bike, could prob­a­bly do an­other 250,000 miles, but it will never be asked of it, not least be­cause PUB the rider cer­tainly does not have it in her.

But fi­nally, this is not one of those puff pieces, aimed at in­creas­ing the po­ten­tial price when the bike is shortly of­fered for sale. PUB is not for sale, not even for £250,000.

Largest sin­gle year mileage was in 1974 (20,000), when the usual ac­tiv­i­ties were ex­tended with a max­i­mum score ‘Round Bri­tain Rally’, which re­quired vis­it­ing places in ev­ery county of the UK main­land (and a mis­take in Scot­land meant a re­turn visit) This is the fourth time that the speedome­ter has reg­is­tered 50,000 miles, once in the prePUB own­er­ship, and three more times since. Ac­tu­ally, the read­ings have not all oc­curred on the same speedome­ter, as the Smiths in­stru­ments rarely reg­is­ter up to their max­i­mum with­out re­quir­ing re­pair or re­place­ment

Left: At the end of 1974, with nor­mal an­nual mileage of 10,000 dou­bled for the one year, the Vin­cent (pre­vi­ously sub­ject to a cheap­skate re­build) was get­ting tired and near­ing a ‘proper’ re­build. Pan­niers were home-made

Right: Be­fore breakdown and re­cov­ery ser­vices the com­plete Vin­cent rider car­ried a spare. Ac­tu­ally PUB was car­ry­ing the Fire­fly pow­ered BSA fold­ing bike to a VMCC ‘Lon­don Run’ Above: PUB was lucky enough to meet the great man early on in her rid­ing ca­reer. Un­for­tu­nately, by this time PCV had al­ready suf­fered dis­abling strokes, so was not as flu­ent as he would oth­er­wise have been

Be­low: The PUB Vin­cent was once in shiny ‘conkers’ con­di­tion as proven here in this pic­ture. Read­ers may doubt it is the same bike – as did oth­ers at the time, hence the lit­tle black-on-white front num­bers it now sports!

Cana­di­ans have strange ideas about suitable high­ways to take their guests along. This is a junc­tion some miles from the last tar­mac, with PUB in the mid­dle, it was rain­ing, and there is wa­ter not dirt ahead. PUB had just wimped out and de­cided that it was time to turn back, whilst the pools of wa­ter al­ready ne­go­ti­ated might re­main pass­able. Sadly she was one pool too late in calling a halt, be­cause a fol­low­ing bike, two-up, had al­ready fallen Al­though pri­mar­ily used as trans­port, with the 1926 sv HRD do­ing many of the tours, the Vin­cent has been to ex­otic places – here pho­tographed on the Lat­vian-Es­to­nian bor­der

Left: Most re­cent ‘ex­otic’ trip was to western Canada, seen here in com­pany with Morini Alan and Judy with their 1947 se­ries B out­fit

Right: The PUB Vin­cent has oc­ca­sion­ally been bur­dened with a side­car, as in­deed it was when PUB se­nior orig­i­nally ac­quired it for com­mut­ing and fam­ily trans­port. This side­car may be an as­set when the bike weight is fi­nally too much to man­age The PUB Vin­cent is not be­yond vis­it­ing fic­tional places too, such as the Ai­dens­field of TV’s ‘Heart­beat’ fame

Rollover at the PUBs’ first 100,000 miles – which awk­wardly came up in the dark on a motorway (PUB stopped and dis­con­nected the speedo so as to be able to take a photo next morn­ing!) 200,000. The sec­ond rollover also oc­curred awk­wardly, need­ing an­other tem­po­rary dis­con­nect. Old fash­ioned film cam­eras were still the norm in those days This is ‘Vin­ny­lon­glegs’, at the time with about 500,000 miles, but even­tu­ally clocking up 740,000 by the time owner Stu­art Jenk­in­son fi­nally had to recog­nise that his days of rid­ing it were over. Orig­i­nally a se­ries D Black Prince, Vin­ny­lon­glegs re­mained a one owner bike, rid­den by no-one else. Stu­art was an en­thu­si­as­tic vis­i­tor to for­eign shores, and clocked up many of the miles lead­ing his ‘Bike and Sun’ tour groups An­other 49,999 warns that the 250,000 is fi­nally about to show up Above: As early as 1964 The Mo­tor Cy­cle re­ported that Peter Ger­rish’s Vin­cent had passed its 250,000 mile mark. They were not all done by Peter, but mostly by Ken Pet­te­ford, of Avon tyres. Ken was renowned for his con­ti­nen­tal tours, and is still re­mem­bered with a VOC tro­phy in his name, and a pat­tern of re­place­ment sus­pen­sion springs that he pi­o­neered.

Be­low: And now for some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent. Spot­ted in Rugby was this unique ‘mono­car’, styled like a minia­ture and very nar­row car (with no floor)!

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