A TASTE FOR RUDGE
Dave Redgate and his old school mate Terry Cook have amassed a sweet selection of Rudges – and it doesn’t stop there. They’re happy to turn their hands to preserving other British bikes for posterity, too
How an ex-british championship racer has become utterly obsessed by Coventry’s finest
I’ve ended up with this group of really nice Rudges because of my dad’s involvement with the marque,” says Dave Redgate. “He had a bike shop, Rodsley Motorcycle Company on Queen’s Road in Peckham and prepped racing Rudges. He built them himself – and a guy called Steve Cooper raced them, but he never talked about racing at home. I only discovered dad’s racing licences once he had died.”
Like father, like son, as they say – and it’s even more apt in this case, because this son followed in his father’s tyre tracks as a motorcycle racer. Dave was a top British Superbike privateer between 1989-94. He worked on his own bikes, thrashed the daylights out of them – and then fixed them when they got smashed up or blown apart. On a good day, he could stick his bike on the front of the grid and embarrass the ‘factory’ riders.
Dave’s aptitude for spannering classics developed in the pits at races, as he explains. “Guys who used to come along to help as race mechanics all grew up on British bikes and still rode them, so we used to pitch in and help fix them – I gained a lot of experience working on British stuff. And if I wasn’t sure of something, I could always ask dad for advice.”
As for why he preferred to race-prep all his own bikes, Dave says: “I was much happier doing my own stuff because I knew exactly what had been done to the motors. I’ve always worked on them myself. I’d strip my Yamaha OW01 superbike engine after every race.
“When I finished racing I messed around with Kawasaki ZXRS – I had about six in bits lying around from racing, so I started breaking and selling. Then I got a 1938 Rudge Sport in 2009 to restore – I was going to give it to dad as a present. But he was in his 90s by then and I knew I’d never quite finish it quickly enough, so I bought a completed one and gave him that instead.”
That emotional experience of reuniting his dad with a Rudge was the catalyst for a life in classic bikes for Dave, who now he spends a lot of his time restoring old British iron in partnership with old mate Terry Cook.
“Terry and I have known each other since school, playing footie together. He used to help at race meetings. Now we’ve built a collection of bikes together. Terry’s the one who has found most of the bikes, though. He spends hours on the internet late at night and can’t resist buying – especially after a couple of drinks! We’ve got them purely for fun... with the added bonus of them being a bit of an investment.”
Terry owns a business called Hunter Security and reckons he’s gearing up to hand over the day-to-day running to his son, which means he’ll have more time on his hands to play with motorcycles.
“I’m planning to move to France,” says Terry. “I can take the bikes over there with me and do what work on them that I can do, then bring them back to let Dave finish them. Having these old bikes is a good excuse to get out of the office and work on them. I love to take them to shows and just enjoy the whole experience. I’ve had two back operations and need a third, so I can’t ride – but I can enjoy the bikes I other ways.
“It’s not a business, we’re having fun. We did the Kempton jumble for a laugh – we took the camper and aimed to have a relaxing day chatting with friends, hopefully selling a couple of the bikes we took there. But we were under pressure from the minute we got there. People descended on us like it was a car boot sale – and we got so much hassle from traders. We sold one bike; the bloke wheeled it around the corner and hiked the price tag up. Didn’t matter to us, but it was the pressure he put on us to sell. It was a good lesson. We will take more time in future if we go to a jumble like that.”
Dave nods in agreement: “Yeah, it’s a lifestyle for us, just being around old bikes. We love it, especially the older machines.”
Terry adds: “I’ve got a friend in France who does the classic track days out there and they are so much
more relaxing than the events here. We’ll go and enjoy those.” That would suit Dave, mixing classics with a bit of racing, albeit a bit more low-key than the cut and thrust of British Superbikes!
For years, to help pay the bills and fund his racing, Dave worked as a mechanic at a fruit packing company in Woolwich, where his father also worked. When a change of management happened, Dave was given the option of redundancy – and jumped at it.
“Talk about one door closing, another opening,” he says, “I got talking to John Campbell, who had an exhaust pipe business just up the road. He’d started the company in 1978 and was talking about selling up, but he knew he’d only end up messing with bikes if he quit the business. So I ended up buying into the business and joining up with him. We agreed we’d only do bikes and we’d only work half days – so I do mornings there and afternoons on bikes here at Terry’s.
“We used to do a Sidewinder exhaust which was sold to an American company for volume production, but it’s written into the deal that we’re allowed to produce oneoff exhausts here. We do a lot of slash-cut Motogp-style pipes, but also do classic stuff and have done quite a few for Garry Laurence’s various café racer projects [the most recent one, his Norton Gold Star, was featured in CB’S November 2017 issue]. We do pipes for any bikes from flat tankers to modern superbikes – generally we only do stainless steel pipes, except for the flat tankers which we do in mild steel so the owners can then get them nickel-plated.”
Work options just kept rolling in. Alongside the expanding bike collection and the exhaust-making
‘TERRY SPENDS HOURS ON THE INTERNET AND CAN’T RESIST BUYING BIKES – ESPECIALLY AFTER A FEW DRINKS!’
business, Dave suddenly found himself becoming a professional classic bike restorer.
“Around the same time I’d bought into Campbells, I went to the Festival of 1000 Bikes at Mallory Park and bumped into sidecar racer Roger Body. He had seen some of my Rudge restorations on Facebook and asked me to do some stuff for him. Then I talked to Gary Weston, an old racing rival and good friend. He had a mate who had an A-series Vincent Rapide restoration he wanted doing. He’d bought it for £50 in 1950 – but had stored it under a leaking roof, so it was rusted out. Conways are doing the engine, I’m doing the rest.”
Dave and Terry might be into restoring old bikes, but they draw the line at veteran machines. “I wouldn’t want to go any earlier than 1929,” says Terry. “I’m not into flat tankers,” Dave agrees. “I love the 1930s bikes, when the British were really getting into their stride as designers. Look at the stuff coming from Ajs/matchless and Rudge back then. But then Hitler came along and screwed the job for everyone.”
“I’d like to have a G45 Matchless,” says Terry, warming to the thoughts of expanding their collection. “It’s a nice iconic bike. But, as much as I’d love one, I don’t want to end up storing stuff for ever. We’ve already got stacks of projects.”
Dave retorts: “Yeah, but if another Rudge came up at the right price, of course we’d have it! I’d like Mervyn Stratford’s 250 racer. It’s so quick and so much like my dad’s old race bike.”
Terry expands on the big attraction of what they’re doing: “To me, its about learning how to work on the bikes myself. I want to learn how to lace wheels, how to plate parts. We’re just enthusiasts enjoying ourselves. Dave’s an engineer by trade so he’s confident working on the old bikes and I’m learning from him.”
“We use a guy called Mario in Hither Green to do our stove enamelling,” says Dave. “And we use Jeff and Steve Coker at Capital Chroming – but we do the regular stuff ourselves. The great thing is we’re well equipped to do virtually anything here and I’ve got an ultrasound cleaner plus MIG and TIG welders at home.”
“And we’ve a 1930s lathe here that we need to rig up – I want to learn how to use it,” adds Terry.
The pair of them have a great relationship – and a great outlook on classics. They both have their business interests to pay the bills – and Dave has extra income from the restoration work he does for friends, but still has time for him and Terry to focus on their own, growing collection of classics. And far from being static museum exhibits, it looks like if Dave has his way, the bikes will be getting regular workouts on track. What goes around, comes around...
‘IF ANOTHER RUDGE CAME UP AT THE RIGHT PRICE, OF COURSE WE’D HAVE IT!’
Dave and Terry’s Rudges highlight their enthusiasm and skills. See ’em all over the page...
1938 RUDGE SPORTS 250 Dave: “We got this bike from a guy in Bedfordshire. He does competition work and I bumped into him at the Ramsgate Sprint. I was buying an ice cream of all things and had a Rudge T-shirt on, so we got talking about Rudges. And I ended up buying this off the guy! The one I was building at home for dad was the same model year, so it was good to get this complete bike to see where all the components went and how they went together.”
1937 RUDGE ULSTER Terry: “This was a local bike in Croydon. The bloke had around 200 bikes but was seriously ill and his daughter was selling them off. He had five Gold Stars, but we just bought this.”
Dave: “It’s a dream bike for me – the ultimate Rudge. We just had to clean it up. Otherwise it was perfect apart from the front mudguard – it’s got an elephants ear front mudguard, that’s not very sporty is it?”
BELOW: Dave’s dad was the inspiration behind his accumulation of Rudges. Here he is on one of the collection
Dave (right) and Terry may have different skill levels but they share the same enthusiasm
This four-valve head was pretty pitted before the dynamic duo got to work on it...