If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Vintage meet

Today I went to the Vintage Motorcycle Club's "Pendine Get-together", an informal meeting on the sea front at Pendine, Carmarthenshire. The forecast was good and, sure enough, the day was clear and sunny, and the roads were almost dry. I felt that the XT had had a bit of a hard time of it recently, taking me to work and back, and standing about in the rain while I got on with things, and it deserved a bit of a treat. So I packed a fleece and camera in the top box and off we went.

Pendine sands

Pendine, with its 7 mile stretch of flat, firm sand was the scene of numerous car and motorcycle races and the first speed record attempts in the UK. Malcolm Campbell set the world land speed record here in 1924, covering a measured mile at an average speed of over 146 mph in the first 'Blue Bird'. Three years later, in a new Blue Bird with a 500 hp aero engine, he broke his own record with an average of 175 mph. A month later, a Welshman, J. G Parry-Thomas, in a car called Babs, attempted to beat Campbell's record. On the final run, a drive chain broke and partially decapitated him. The car went out of control, rolled, and was destroyed. Parry-Thomas was the first person to be killed attempting a land speed record. The remains of the car were buried in the sand dunes but recently (1969) the car was excavated and, after 15 years of restoration, now lives in the Museum of Speed in Pendine village. These attempts, and others, are commemorated on a plaque on the outside of the Beach Hotel, who also sell a decent pint of Felinfoel (otherwise known as "Feelin' Foul").

Click for bigger

As the 'Get-together' title implies, this wasn't a formal bike show, just a chance for a rideout on a decent Spring day, and an opportunity to ogle some nice old bikes. Some of the Triumph Owners' Club were there, and it was good to meet, and have a pint and a chat together. There were perhaps a hundred bikes on view, although many were modern and merely 'transport' to get there (I would include the XT in that category). There were one or two immaculately-restored examples, with better-then-factory detailing and paintwork like a freshly-sucked toffee, but my eyes were drawn to bikes which were obviously used and cherished, rather than mounted behind plate glass with artistic uplighting. These ranged from a tidy 1970s Suzuki T500:

to an immaculate but understated black BSA Bantam:

a very tidy Norton Commando:

and a well-used but cared-for Norton 16H:

Not forgetting my own little post-vintage relic, which had a great time blatting round the lanes of South Pembs and Carmarthen, and delivered me home in time for a cup of tea. After the last little hiccup and consequent input of cash and fettling time, it's running very strongly and I'd trust it to take me to Cape Town and back. The feeling will be temporary, I am sure.

Note to self: no matter how sunny and warm it looks, March is no time to be setting off in leathers with only a T-shirt underneath. That fleece earned its keep on the way home.


  1. Seems like the sun keeps shining on the righteous Richard.

    Ah the (in)famous Suzuki T500.

    Went like a bat out of hell; or, if it didn't, was susceptible to hydraulic-lock with subsequent re-sculptured con-rod(s).

    According to a mate who had one.

  2. I wanted one of those badly, but out of my reach at the time. The T500 (and the short-lived GT500 that followed) were in a fairly soft state of tune - they were more tourers than sportsbikes, which was a good thing, as I was told they handled like a pig on stilts. And yet the motor was the basis of Barry Sheene's 500 race-bike, so there was a lot of potential. I never heard of one with hydraulic lock, but pehaps a combination of poor float valve seating and a failure to 'switch off, fuel off' after a ride caused an epidemic of non-kickable motors.

  3. Incidentally, that motor looks great. The GT550 that came after (with the dreadful Ram Air System) loooked like a toy in comparison. I had the GT250A with the proper finned motor (follow-up to the GT250 with Ram Air) and it was an ace bike. The wide ports meant that the rings had a hard time, and it was new pistons every six months, but it went like stink. And drank like a sailor on shore leave.

  4. "....perhaps .....failure to 'switch ... fuel off' after a ride."

    Now that's a pretty-good prognosis / diagnosis Richard.

    From a very distant memory of my mate's cursings, I believe you could well be right.

  5. Unless he had been riding through water, a hydraulic lock can only come from excess fuel in the cases. I was taught to cut off the fuel when stopping for more than a few minutes when I first learned to ride, and it's a habit now. With modern float valves (with Viton tips) it should be necessary, but ... It's one of the reasons I distrust FI on a bike: no fuel tap (and also no bloody reserve, as my Ducati taught me one day).

    He would have had to be kicking it over hery hard indeed to bend a conrod :)

  6. "it shouldn't be necessary ...

  7. Looks like a good time. Here in Royal Oak there are two bike nights each week. Wednesdays for Harleys and Thursdays for everything else. Don't get to see too many classics. The odd Bonneville or Commando every now and then, a few Jap classics here and there. I love the old British singles, the Manx being my favorite, followed by the G50

  8. Hi Gymi! Two bike nights a week sounds good to me. As for the Manx Norton - sex on wheels, a rutting stud of a bike. I had one as my desktop (in a computer sense) for a long time.


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