Now aged 81, serial motorcycling globe-trotter Ted Simon, famous for Jupiter's Travels, is back in the UK promoting his new book, Rolling through the isles.
Ted lives in the USA now, but being British, this is naturally where his roots are. And deep roots they are.
On the 5th April this year (2012), the new book was published by Little Brown.
It's a nostalgic tome detailing Ted's early life, his romances, and a world that's changed almost out of all recognition. Expect an intelligent, shrewd, insightful read from a man who can best be described as a humanist.
The book is £20, hardback. ISBN: 9781408702185. For more on Ted, see our link here: http://www.sump-publishing.co.uk/ted%20simon.htm
— Del Monte
Here's another reminder about the dangers of satellite navigation systems.
Twenty-one year old Lauren Smee from Chichester, West Sussex, died on the A27 near Worthing (also West Sussex) when her Ford Ka collided head-on with a BMW saloon.
A verdict of accidental death has just been recorded by local coroner Penelope Schofield who heard that on December 11th last year (2011), Ms Smee had misunderstood the instructions on a satnav and made an illegal left-turn onto a slip road and then onto a 70-mph dual carriageway. The BMW coming the other way was driven by 49-year old Stuart Hope-Kirk from Bexhill-on-Sea.
The collision resulted in Ms Smee dying in hospital that same night, while Mr Hope-Kirk suffered a fractured spine, and a broken ankle.
Ms Smee, who had passed her driving test just three months earlier, was travelling at night on her way to a friend's house. It was a sixteen mile journey. The exit slip road from the A27 was marked with a NO ENTRY sign, but it appears that the sign—which has since been relocated—was placed a little higher than it might have been. There were two other warning signs.
In an age of cars equipped with radios, sound systems, TVs, DVDs, satnavs, mobile phones, miniature printers in the glove compartments, and various other electronic devices guaranteed to distract at some time or another, these kinds of incidents are inevitable. However, the techno-genie is out of the bottle now, and there appears to be little chance of the British government doing much about it.
Ms Smee, it appears, wasn't doing anything particularly stupid or driving particularly carelessly. It was just one of those ordinary errors that pretty much anyone could make.
The only immediately obvious way to stop this particular "wrong way" error from happening again is to "design it out" of the road system so that drivers are unable, or heavily deterred, from heading down an exit slip road onto a dual carriageway or motorway. But the expense, and disruption, would be colossal, and it's simply not going to happen; not in the short term, anyway.
It's worth remembering, incidentally, that these kinds of errors happened long before satnavs were invented. Additionally, the chances of a satnav sending a driver on a dangerous route are pretty slim—and it happens a lot less often than human navigators making such errors, or through ordinary map-reading mistakes.
More than ever, bikers (in particular) are advised to ride ULTRA defensively. And don't be fatalistic. In spite of the main satnav graphic (above), there's no such thing as; "when your time is up, it's up."
There's only circumstance, bad luck, malice, and human error.
— The Third Man
Actually, this cruiser footrest kit also fits the Speedmaster. But before we give you the details, we want to get the price out of the way because it’s not the cheapest bolt-on accessory ever designed and manufactured for a British bike.
So here comes that price ... £288 including VAT.
But as these items come from the stable of ex-Meriden man Norman Hyde, at least you don't have to worry about the quality—and in this world, you usually get what you pay for (and if you want to bolt some rubbish to your bike, you can still buy all kinds of nasty junk from China and India).
This kit, however, which is designed to bring the footpegs back 2.5 inches, is made right here in the UK, and Norman has a reputation that he intends to keep.
We don't have any more details, so talk to Norman on 01926 832345.
— Del Monte
Few people in Britain know his name. Even fewer know his face. But pretty much everyone recognises his creation. It was the seminal Raleigh Chopper bike, launched first in America (1969), and the following year in the UK. This quirky and quixotic machine sold over 1.5 million units and is still a desirable bicycle among collectors, lovers of sixties chic, and the merely perverse.
The creator was, arguably, Alan Oakley, head of design at Raleigh. Arguably? That’s because Ogle Design, the people behind the styling of the “breadbin” Triumph Trident T150/BSA Rocket 3, claim the Chopper as evidence of their own handiwork following a commission by Raleigh to work on some concepts for the project. Additionally, the US firm Schwinn has a few design claims of its own in the shape of its 1963 Sting Ray.
Oakley, it’s said, had the idea during a Stateside trip when Raleigh had been desperately trying to break into the US market. This, note, was before the movie Easyrider hit the screens when the motorcycle chopper craze (as distinct from the bobber fad) was in its infancy. Oakley, with one eye on the Schwinn, saw how American youngsters were modifying their bicycles, and realised that the UK Nottingham factory could do that too. So he flew home, put it to the board of directors, and the rest is history.
Soon after the launch, however, news of Raleigh Chopper injuries began arriving at the factory. The “wheelie bikes” (in US-speak) were prone to toppling backward at the slightest provocation, and in a shunt, riders were also in the unfortunate habit of sliding forward along the fashionable banana seat and landing atop the foolishly located gear shifter. The odd size wheels (16-inch front, and 20-inch rear) certainly did nothing to help rideability. If ever there was an instance of form absolutely refusing to follow function, this was it.
The Mk2 version (main image above) appeared in 1972. By now, Raleigh had stuck printed safety warnings on the seat and had made various other modifications in an effort to keep this cash cow rolling. The seat was moved forward slightly to redistribute weight; the handlebars were welded in position to reinforce that critical fore-and-aft stability; and the gear lever (previously a knob) became a T-bar.
The last Choppers were built in 1982. Oakley left the firm that same year and moved on to the Department for Trade. He died on 18th May 2012 aged 85.
Overall, it was the most successful bicycle Raleigh ever produced—and makes you wonder what Meriden Triumph was thinking of a quarter of a century later with the machine below, and even more so in the case of Norton with its ill-fated, and ill-feted Hi-Rider (immediately above) ...
We remember well when these came out, and frankly we were a little shocked, especially at the garish stick-on graphics. It smacked a little of desperation, which was the awful truth.
The first one we saw up close didn't even have a kickstarter. Just a blanking plug on the gearbox cover, an electric foot and a little green button on the right-side switchgear. But once we had a pint or two, things began to look better, and after that we decided that they were kinda cool, in a tawdry way.
The Triumph Workers Coop needed hard cash more than the Greek government, and they bashed out an unknown number of these 750cc Bonneville variants (thought to be a few hundred, but probably much fewer) in the forlorn hope of keeping the T140 franchise alive—which, at the near-death Meriden factory, was the only product they had (albeit served up in a dozen or more ways according to customer whim).
These bikes weren't wildly popular. At that time, few T140s were. The TSX—with its 16-inch rear rubber,/19-inch front and apehangers—didn't handle well much above seventy or eighty. Never dangerous, mind. Just a little less surefooted than its 18-inch rear wheeled brethren.
And the press reports weren't exactly glowing. But today, interest in the TSX is increasing, and we think it's one to watch. You'll probably never get rich trading them, but there will most likely always be a market.
This example is on eBay right now (22nd May 2012) priced at £6,750, classified. There's a telephone number too if you want to try an offer; 07985 375166. A little steep? Maybe. But like we said, they're sorta cool (in a tawdry way). We certainly wouldn't kick one out of the garage.
Meanwhile, check out the (correct) Morris cast wheels, the (correct) wire headlamp brackets, the (correct) shorty front mudguard, the (correct) seat, and what looks like the correct exhaust system.
And if that's still a little too hard to stomach, the Jack Lilley (Hinckley) Triumph TSX homage below might help put things into perspective. Jacks' got that on eBay too right now. It's brand new and unregistered and he's asking £7,299.
But which bike are you gonna pick? We've made up our minds.
— Sam 7
Robin Gibb, founding member of the Bee Gees, died yesterday (20th May 2012) at the age of 62 following a long battle with the Big C.
There was a time back in the late 1970s, in the wake of the group's huge success in the disco musical genre, when it was definitely uncool to play Bee Gees records in public. Except that to anyone who remembers the 1960s heyday of the group, the Bee Gees were always cool and penned some of the most memorable pop tunes ever including Massachusetts; Gotta Get a Message to You; World; Words; First of May; and New York Mining Disaster (1941).
Their songs were recorded by a huge A-list of musical celebrities including Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand, Gram Parsons, Janis Joplin, Nina Simone, Rod Stewart, Frankie Valli, Dionne Warwick and The Animals.
But arguably, it was Robin's quavering—and often haunting-—voice that most people will remember as the quintessential sound of the Bee Gees. For an example of this, you can't do much better than listen to Odessa (City on the Black Sea), and epic song from a trio of truly epic performers.
But singing was always secondary to Robin. Along with brothers Barry and Maurice, he was primarily a songwriter with a tremendous gift for catchy melodies and thought-provoking lyrics.
As a British export, Robin, Barry and Maurice Gibb are up there with Triumph, BSA, Norton et al, and for many fans they made an equally enduring sound that carried a generation through their teenage years and all the way into middle-age.
When it comes to enviable musical back-catalogues, you have to look to the Beatles, Kinks and the Stones to find comparisons.
— The Third Man
Back in November 2011 we reported that this was on the cards, and now it's official.
From 18th November 2012, the UK MOT annual inspection test will be scrapped for vehicles manufactured before 1960, unless used for hire and reward (carrying paying passengers). The reason is simple: owners of classic vehicles are generally "meticulous in their care and maintenance", and "historic vehicles are very rarely involved in accidents", least of all due to mechanical failure.
That's the opinion of Mike Penning, Roads Minister. So until 18th November, classic owners will be obliged to have MOT tests as and when due—assuming the vehicle is to be used on the roads. But after that date, it's all over.
It means that collecting that free "road tax" disc from the post office, or even applying for it online, will be just that little bit more straightforward. However, owners will still be obliged to keep their vehicles in good mechanical order, and such vehicles may be subject to random roadside checks (assuming anyone can find a public servant in the wake of the cuts coming at us).
Whether or not there will be a rise in the number of pre-1960 classic vehicle accidents remains to be seen. And how it will impact the classic bike trade is another unknown. But in general, classic vehicle enthusiasts (if you check out the forums) are happy.
However, for anyone who welcomes the current MOT test (as a means to help ensure vehicle integrity and safety), it seems likely the trade will rise to the occasion and introduce a voluntary inspection test. Which could raise an interesting legal question; what would be the legal standing of a vehicle that fails a voluntary test? And following such a failure, how will insurance companies treat related losses or accidents?
Meanwhile, the name MOT is an acronym of the Ministry Of Transport test—which isn't as old as many might think. It was actually introduced in 1960 and was applied to vehicles ten years old; hence its name, the Ten Year Test. After the initial test, vehicles aged ten or over were required to be inspected every year.
In 1967, the regulations were amended, and vehicles were subject to an MOT test three years after their registration.
The underlying fear now is that the UK government might at some point, in return, restrict the number of days such vehicles can be used on British roads, or introduce some other regulation pertinent to their use. Except that there isn't the slightest indication of this from Whitehall. Regarding "old vehicles", successive UK governments have proved to be among the most tolerant in the world and recognise that these old heaps add to the "colour and texture of British culture".
For those riders with a large collection of classic bikes, the end of the MOT will be a Godsend. However, there are bound to be unintended consequences attached to this change, so better keep at least one eye on the rear view mirror, so to speak.
— Girl Happy
They used to repair classic motorcycles and classic cars, but headmaster John Wilkinson wanted to give his students something a little more challenging than adjusting drive chains and lapping poppet valve seats, so he found them a dead Crossley SD42 bus which they brought back to life.
And that's only appropriate because St Margaret's High School in Liverpool is a Church of England school, and raising the dead has always been high on the Christian agenda.
It took 10 years, mind, which means that some of the students probably didn't get to work on the project end-to-end. But it's nevertheless a major accomplishment for all who helped carry the baton, and it looks a lot more fun than algebra.
The 60-year old half-cab bus was found derelict in Chesterfield, Derbyshire and hauled back to Liverpool. There, the school's "Bus Club", founded in 1971, set to work.
The vehicle was stripped, inspected, and required new panels which were hand formed by the students. Spares were sourced from other busmen and enthusiasts.
The enamels used on the coachwork were supplied (at a huge discount, we hear) by HMG Paints Ltd in Collyhurst Road, Manchester. The finish is all hand-applied using paints with a long "wet edge". Two coats of synthetic primer and three Polyurethane top coats were applied. It took nine months.
HMG, by the way, is Britain's largest independent paint supplier. If you're working on a classic bike project and simply have to have that hand-finished sheen, check 'em out. What they don't know about paint, you don't need to know.
Crossley Brothers, meanwhile, was founded in 1867. Initially the firm manufactured engines, presses, and pumps. Later, Crossley built cars and buses, and has since been absorbed into Rolls Royce plc.
Interestingly, Crossley's assembly line methods once interested a certain young visitor named Henry Ford, who went on to found a car company or something.
Almost as interesting, the Crossley Brothers (Francis and William) were both staunch tee-total Christians. They refused to flog their products to breweries and other agents of the devil, and adopted the Coptic cross as their radiator emblem.
The bus is now being used by the school for day trips and historic vehicle gatherings and suchlike.
— Del Monte
Here's a big life, well lived. A designer, racing-driver, entrepreneur, and all-American Texan muscle-car hero, Carroll Shelby died on May 10th 2012 following decades of battling chronic health issues.
Most closely associated with the Shelby AC Cobra, the Shelby Mustang and the Dodge Viper, Carroll also campaigned and raced for Maserati and Aston Martin (for whom he won the 1959 Le Mans).
Even as a child, Shelby had suffered with heart trouble. Later, during his racing years, he regulated himself with nitro-glycerine pills. Later still he underwent major surgery and struggled on whilst continuing to head the business he founded in 1962, Shelby American Inc.
Pictured above with a Maserati 450S, Shelby also briefly became involved in a speedboat project, the Donzi Shelby 22 GT.
Naturally, there's a hell of a lot more to the man than this. Suffice to say that he lived fast, died hard, and will be remembered as a legend in his own lifetime. The man was a classic.
— The Third Man
These ain't exactly our thing, you know? We figure that you've got to have a pretty good reason to drag a chair around on the side of a motorcycle, least of all a Ducati, and we've never found that reason. But a lot of guys, and girls, can't live without 'em, and that's okay by us.
In case you haven't spotted these before, Motopodd is currently knocking out some dangerously cute little cubicles with fittings for everything from BMW Boxers to Vincent twins.
They handle custom painting too, and the word is that they like a challenge. These designs are fresh and stylish, and they're made right here in the UK. We don't have prices, but you can make your own enquiries.
But what's this got to do with MPs? Well, David Lidington MP (Conservative, Aylesbury) has picked Motopodd to represent his constituency in the Made by Britain scheme launched in July 2011 by Vince Cable, business secretary.
All 650 British MPs have been asked to nominate a likely candidate to help promote British manufacturing (whatever the hell that is).
More seriously, we're glad that a fledgling business like Buckingham-based Motopodd is getting some attention. The firm is looking for dealers in Europe, and possibly elsewhere. So if you're interested, start wiggling that mouse.
If you're a constituent of Lidington, you might want to drop him a line supporting his support. He's currently up to his neck in the HS2 (High Speed 2) rail controversy and might quickly lose sight of the more important things in life, such as motorcycles. And their appendages.
— Girl Happy
...and you can't blame 'em if the stories are true. It seems that Honda recently "dumped" a batch of VFR1200 DCT ex-demo bikes onto a dealer who promptly offered them at the knock-down price of £7799, thereby drastically undercutting the normal retail price of £12,975.
The dealer in question is Doble Motorcycles of Coulsdon, Surrey, and the number of bikes involved is said to total seventy—although it's not clear that Doble got them all.
Regardless, for the rest of the Honda dealer network, the move is akin to dumping gold onto the world markets, thereby devaluing not only dealer stock, but customer-bought machines too.
Had the bikes been spread around the network, the prices would most likely have stayed at "credible" levels. But when you pile 'em high, they usually get sold cheap.
And it's by no means the only complaint we're hearing these days about Honda UK and its disagreeable (but no doubt entirely legal) practices. One dealer (who was happy to be named, but we're not going to make his life any harder) said that the sales margins are so small, and the petty demands from Honda UK are so high, that he just wants to get out of the industry now.
Our advice is to do it. We're pretty sure that Triumph could use a little experienced blood, and we're equally sure that you wouldn't get this kind of own-goal crap from Hinckley.
That said, Yamaha UK is currently highly spoken-of. But keep that quiet, will ya? This is a British bike site. We don't want to be accused of sedition.
That would be Honda of North Hollywood (HNH), California, USA who has been bouncing around the legal system like a pinball due to an action by Audrey Medrazo.
Who is Audrey? And what's it all about?
Audrey is an HNH customer who bought a bike on finance back in 2005, and has since taken the company to court alleging violations under the state's Unfair Competitions Laws.
The dealer in question, claims Audrey, was obliged to hang a tag on all its bikes clarifying a full breakdown of the purchase costs (including recommended retail price, accessories, pre-delivery assembly charges and whatnot). In that respect, HNH put its hand up and pleaded guilty.
The judge said "okay", slapped their wrists, and ruled that Audrey was not actually misled; certainly not to the extent that she suffered any damages, financially speaking. And that more or less let HNH off the hook.
Only, Audrey has appealed, and the game is afoot once more.
Don't get us wrong. We know that plenty of bike dealers are crooks. But as a proportion, they're in a very small minority. Most are just hard-working Joes trying to make a buck. Or two. But California has some pretty petty and punitive idiot-protection laws that make you wonder why anyone these days would go into any kind of business—and much the same pettiness is rife right here in the UK.
So okay, consumers need a certain amount of protection. But for some consumers, the deal is never done, and any slight irregularity is enough to send them off squealing to the bureaucrats and lawyers in the hope of getting some cash back.
That might not be what Audrey is up to in this Hollywood blockbuster. But at the point where the contract was signed, it seems pretty clear that HNH had all the charges right there in black and white. But this is now a "class action", and that means that many other people are in the scrum; 4100 actually. It could cost the company $4 million to $5 million, and that's an expensive sales ticket.
Next time you're down at your local bike dealer, look out for fat birds of prey soaring overhead, Seems that while the rest of us are struggling to eat daily, the legal eagles around the world are still fattening up nicely.
— Sam 7
That's the UK big bike sales league, actually, which sees Triumph Motorcycles return to the number one sales position in the over 500cc class.
In March 2012, the firm sold 1354 units, thereby knocking rival and runner-up BMW off its perch (1230 units).
In the same month last year (2011), Triumph sold 1422 motorcycles, so March's figures aren't quite as rosy as John Bloor would like them to be—and show a 5% fall. But set against the general backdrop of continuing diminishing sales, Triumph's doing okay.
The new Triumph Explorer adventure model hit the showrooms in late March this year, so that no doubt helped boost the numbers. But mostly the improvement is simply down to having the right range of bikes for the market, and at prices people are prepared to pay.
Pity Triumph can't do something about improving its lousy website.
Meanwhile, if you want to help the UK out of its economic gloom, make sure you don't throw your biking pennies at anyone else but Hinckley. Times are getting tough, and it looks like there's a lot worse to follow. Triumph is bringing a lot of money back to these shores. Pity we don't have a hundred other similar success stories to brag about.
— Del Monte
Actually, it's licensed by the UK DVLA as a quadricycle, and there ain't nothing new about them. But this is a modern spin on an old idea. It's called an Aixam (pronounced "ak-sam" according to the importers), and from January 2013, 16-year olds in the UK will be legally able to drive them on a moped licence.
Power is supplied by a twin-cylinder 400cc Kubota diesel and probably has the power of a decent hairdryer. Top speed is restricted to a miserable 28mph. But hey, don't knock it; transport is transport, and mobility is everything.
The model shown is the Aixam GTO, which will come across as a little pretentious to anyone familiar with Pontiac muscle cars. But you gotta sell 'em any way you can if you want to fill your belly each day.
That said, the asking price is £11,999, which is a huge chunk of change for the average 16-year old, many of whom are drawing dole money, never mind holding down a job offering anything more than minimum wage.
But then, these half-pint jalopies aren't restricted to the young. Anyone can buy, and these mini motors will no doubt prove interesting to anyone with city parking woes to contend with.
So who will actually be retailing them? Well, the importers feel that there's plenty of spare capacity/headroom in the bike trade which is currently struggling to meet its targets and/or simply make ends meet.
Manufactured by the French in a town called Aix-les-Bains in the Rhône-Alpes region, the chassis is aluminium, the skin is ABS acrylic, and drive is by CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) to the front wheels.
Aixam has been around since 1992, but has recently focussed on micro cars, some of which can be driven without a licence in many European countries from Belgium to Slovenia.
Supposedly, these vehicles are a stepping stone for youngsters coming into the motorcycle world. But we don't see it that way. If you start out on four wheels, the chances are that you'll stay there. Either way, these bikes/cars are here, and in the current economic climate, we can't see them going away in a hurry.
If you want more information, talk to Justin Bond on 01788 553330, or email: email@example.com.
— Sam 7
The AA have issued warnings to British motorists that if caught texting, they will at best see large hikes in their premiums, and at worst become uninsurable.
The warning applies equally to motorists caught using a hand-held mobile phone, or (take note) a similar device.
The offences are officially referred to as a CU80 and carry a £60 fixed-penalty plus a three point licence endorsement.
The AA contacted eight top British insurance firms and discovered that half of them are routinely refusing cover for anyone with such a conviction, while the remainder have raised premiums by an average of twenty percent.
Figures suggest that each year over 170,000 motorists are caught using a hand-held mobile phone. Insurers are increasingly taking a dim view of the CU80 offence, and treat the SP30 offence of speeding in a far more lenient way with insurance premium hikes of, on average, around ten percent.
— Girl Happy
It might sound like a storm in a pint pot, but it's no small beer to the people who care about the British pub tradition. And that, according to some, is seriously under threat.
The reason, we're told, is partly due to the beer duty escalator. Year after year, it automatically hikes the tax on beer by 2% above the rate of inflation.
Moreover, in this year's April budget, tax on beer was raised by another 5%. What it all means is that roughly £1 in every pint goes directly into the pockets of Her Majesty's Government.
That helps keep the chancellor of the exchequer liquid, but is leaving many others dry and thirsty and is forcing the traditional British boozer ("the cornerstone of English community life") out of business.
The chances of scrapping the escalator probably aren't very high, but that's no reason to ignore the e-petition that's been launched by CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale.
The organisation needs 100,000 signatures to trigger some attention in Parliament. So if you want to do something else with your right arm for a change, visit the address below.
— Del Monte