Real Classic - - Matchless G3lc -

When Scott and I met up for the G3LC’s test ride, I brought my own rigid AJS Model 18, so we could swap ma­chines and en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence to­gether. We thought it would be fun to com­pare the dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter­is­tics of these two bril­liant old clas­sics. I was pleas­antly sur­prised at how diminu­tive and light the Matchless felt be­tween my legs. Yes, we all know trials bikes should be light and small – yet this jam­pot-equipped sprung model doesn’t look quite so petite when pos­ing next to my rigid AJS.

The LC has a seat height of 31 inches (I mea­sured it). Low by mod­ern stan­dards but taller than many ma­chines of its time. When seated, both my feet were flat and se­curely planted with knees com­fort­ably bent. I soon dis­cov­ered I was able to ma­noeu­vre this light­weight sim­ply by ex­ert­ing knee pres­sure on the petrol tank. I’m no seasoned off-roader

– far from it – but I could cer­tainly feel the logic of this model’s er­gonomics. The wide bars def­i­nitely have the pretty lit­tle LC turn­ing on a six­pence.

Most G3 own­ers can feel re­ally con­fi­dent about the 350’s start­ing rit­ual. Warmed up, just one kick re­sulted in the LC purring like a do­mes­tic tabby an­tic­i­pat­ing its break­fast. Scott as­sured me that, even when cold, the Matchless only re­quires a tickle of the carb in or­der to fire up first or se­cond prod. Blip­ping the throt­tle pro­vokes a mel­low but pur­pose­ful growl from the Ar­mours hi-rise si­lencer. I was rar­ing to go! The clutch is de­li­ciously light and the B52 gear­box is the con­sum­mate per­former – al­though when we rolled out onto the main road, my first and se­cond gear selections were a tad crunchy. Let’s score this as pilot er­ror, be­cause as soon as I blipped the throt­tle dur­ing ev­ery gear change, the box de­cided to be­have. Be­fore long I be­came aware of a large gap be­tween third and fourth gear, and I be­gan to won­der if I had mis­heard Si­mon’s claim of hav­ing con­verted the box to road use. Per­haps I was ac­cus­tomed to the gear­ing on my own AJS 500?

An un­ex­pected char­ac­ter­is­tic of the 348cc all-al­loy com­pe­ti­tion en­gine is the com­plete ab­sence of tap­pet chat­ter. In my ex­pe­ri­ence this goes against the grain, and I be­gan to sus­pect that Si­mon had worked some mys­te­ri­ous magic to achieve such si­lence. Up to 55mph the en­gine de­liv­ers smooth and punchy power – in fact, I could have sworn I was driv­ing a 500. Bore and stroke is 69 by 93mm and the en­gine de­vel­ops around 18bhp. I no­ticed that the man­ual ad­vance and re­tard was very sen­si­tive to its po­si­tion, which sug­gests a well set-up en­gine and deadly ac­cu­rate ig­ni­tion tim­ing (and maybe some more mys­ti­cal trick­ery).

The Lu­cas am­me­ter showed a pos­i­tive charge on ev­ery out­ing, so we had a healthy dy­namo. Si­mon is well-prac­tised in the dy­ing art of mag­neto / dy­namo wind­ing. Car­bu­re­tion was spot-on and not once did the en­gine mis­fire or the carb spit back dur­ing our ex­cur­sions. Sev­eral long des­cents pro­duced no hint of bang­ing in the ex­haust un­der en­gine brak­ing ei­ther, and I was soon bristling in ad­mi­ra­tion at the fault­less per­for­mance of this de­fin­i­tive off-roader.

An­other big plus on the light­weight Matchless were its 7-inch drum brakes. Pow­er­ful and pro­gres­sive, they worked ex­tremely well and out­shone the pa­thetic an­chors on my AJS. The com­bi­na­tion of a light chas­sis and stiff sus­pen­sion meant that the Matchless re­mained ut­terly com­posed at all speeds, and the front fork ac­tion was ex­em­plary in com­par­i­son to my own Ajay’s bouncy Tele­draulics. (So much so that I’ve sched­uled a front end over­haul for win­ter). But it was the LC’s rear sus­pen­sion that re­ally im­proved the ride, and the jam­pot shocks trumped the rigid in this re­spect.

The LC’s min­i­mal­ist sports sad­dle proved to be comfy at all speeds. The rider doesn’t pogo around like a punk rocker OD’d on Red Bull – as is the case on my Model 18’s rather springy sad­dle. The LC han­dles bendswing­ing with com­po­sure, and the knob­blies gave no cause for alarm dur­ing spir­ited rides; ex­cel­lent grip was pro­vided at all times. And al­though the LC couldn’t quite keep pace with the AJS on some A-roads, we both agreed that the for­mer proved to be the smoother and bet­ter han­dling mo­tor­cy­cle, and by quite a mar­gin.

Limited by its 350 ca­pac­ity and 18bhp out­put, 65mph is pretty much the LC’s limit – al­though we did gal­lop to an easy 60mph dur­ing one sprint. Be­tween 30-55mph, the Matchless G3LC is king for com­fort and re­laxed rid­ing. It’s great fun to ride: ideal on Sun­day clas­sic road runs or, if you’re ad­dicted to clas­sic trials, then the G3LC is pretty much per­fect.

Scott feels much the same about it. ‘Rid­ing the Matchless is a sheer joy,’ he said, ‘al­though I feel I haven’t cov­ered enough miles to get used to the gear­box – I keep crunch­ing gears. In my opin­ion speed is not the LC’s best at­tribute. How­ever in the han­dling stakes, the LC is per­fect. I would de­scribe ev­ery­thing as be­ing “tight” and the Matchless feels like a brand new mo­tor­cy­cle.

‘ This G3LC is nicer to ride than my own jam­pot G80, and is bet­ter suited to quiet coun­try roads where you can ride at a re­laxed pace in top gear. As it’s a 350, I found it hard to keep up with Stu­art’s rigid 500 on oc­ca­sion. Con­versely, on twisty coun­try roads the 350 felt the bet­ter and more re­laxed ma­chine to ride. The Model 18 can be quite harsh over un­even sur­faces and in­tim­i­dat­ing on back roads that are rid­dled with pot­holes. The rigid AJS re­ally shows its age when up against the much nim­bler LC. The com­pe­ti­tion model gets my vote for looks, sus­pen­sion, brakes and han­dling.’

Scott and the Matchless. Sit­ting pretty in­deed

Right: Comp sin­gles have rather more ground clear­ance than the road­sters, fairly ob­vi­ously. Equally ob­vi­ously, they need ex­ten­sions to the cen­tre­stand legs to com­pen­sate. Most comp rid­ers threw the stands away, of course

Above: Orig­i­nal paint is al­ways a mi­nor de­light. You might just be able to make out the brush marks in the pin­strip­ing, a relic of one per­son’s skill a long time ago

Al­though of a dif­fer­ent bend to the road­ster bars, these are hardly ex­treme. Neat orig­i­nal dealer trans­fer can be found for­ward of the fuel filler

Above: Dun­lop rub­ber trials sad­dle is sur­pris­ingly com­fort­able, Stu­art re­ports Right: It is truly rare and un­usual to dis­cover a ma­chine of this vin­tage which re­tains its orig­i­nal tool­kit. Com­pre­hen­sive kit, too, com­plete with a set of cir­clip pli­ers

One of many fine orig­i­nal fea­tures is the QD head­lamp

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