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
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)!