Wrinkled Weasel's comment on a recent post has set me thinking.
Cadwell Park is a racetrack in the Lincolnshire Wolds. It's not big-league, like Donington or Silverstone, but it is a challenging and interesting track. There's a section called The Mountain where riders regularly get airborne, and plenty of places to stand where you can see a lot of the action.
I have only visited Cadwell once, even though I lived only about 25 miles away for several years. It was some time in the late 1980s, and I was in a rather unhappy domestic situation. The bike I had at the time (a 1979 Moto Guzzi V50II) was the only thing that was keeping me sane. One sunny day, and to my intense surprise, my then wife suggested that I take the day off and go somewhere. I knew that there was Classic racing on at Cadwell that day, so off I went.
The ride there was a delight - sunny and warm, with dry roads and little traffic. The Guzzi was at its best on B-roads, where its light weight and easy handling made it very satisfying, and the lack of monster power was irrelevant. When I got there, it was fairly crowded, so I parked where I could and found a place to watch the racing. After a while, I had seen all I wanted to see (I've never been a big fan of racing, if I am honest), but there was no rush to go home, so just lay on my back in the sun and relaxed. If you've ever been in a 'difficult' relationship, you will know how few those moments are, and how you treasure them when they occur.
I can only have lain there for half an hour or so, but the memory is so vivid it seems as though it lasted all day. The race was a Classic, and as is so often the case with Classic races, more than one class of bike was allowed on the track. As long as the bikes were roughly competitive, what's the problem? So there was a race between the large 4-stroke singles and twins like 500cc Nortons and 650cc Triumphs, and the smaller 2-strokes, mainly Yamaha 350s and 250s.
If you are not familiar with the technology, a word of explanation. Four-strokes twins play in the bass register and sound, depending on the level of silencing, like the bass grunting at the end of each chorus of Leader of the Pack (remember that?) up to a kind of bull-like bellow at full revs which makes the hairs on your neck stand up.
The two-strokes, in comparison, rev a lot harder and tend to scream and howl. In addition, for the musically-minded, the four-strokes could make useful power from just above idle right up to peak revs, so a 4-stroke on a charge would start low and rise like a charging rhino before dropping a whole octave on the next gearchange. The 2-strokes, on the other hand, made almost twice the power (per engine size) as the 4-strokes, but could only do so in a narrow band towards the top of the rev range. The challenge for the rider is to keep the motor on the boil and in the magic powerband by clever use of the gears.
Where the 4-stroke was bellowing up and down the scale like the two pianists in Carnival of the Animals, the 2-stroke was wailing in a limited range at the very top of its voice, constantly rising and falling as the rider frantically changed gear to keep the motor on the pipe.
Lying in the sun, staring at the sky, and just listening, I realised that I was hearing a kind of counterpoint. The bass of the Nortons and the treble of the Yams, rising and falling independently but in a kind of rhythm, so that a sonic pattern was weaved on the Lincolnshire air and tweaked all my synapses into a thrill of delight. I was, for a day at least, deeply happy.
The Guzzi was the only bike I have ever really regretted selling, and if I could track it down I would buy it back in a heartbeat. Small (it was a 500, but physically the size of a 250) and very nimble, it was the ideal companion for any journey where sheer power was not a requirement. I think it made about 40 bhp, which is very tame, but the way it made its power, with a slight shake and rumble of the transverse V-twin, was addictive. Leaned over in a corner, it was a steady as a rock and flicked from side to side with ease. On the winding lanes of North Lincs, it took a very committed rider of a bigger bike to keep up.
There are plenty around on eBay, but Guzzis were not built for the British climate and most are sad old wrecks by now. Even so, if I had the time and facilities, I would get one (it would have to be 1979 and in that lovely flame-orange) and take a couple of years to bring it back to its former glory. And then I would ride it.