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Shipshape and Bristol Fashion

by Laurence O'Brien

15th Classic Bike Show, Bristol
28th to 29th January 1995
NACC Somerset & Avon Section

I was due to meet Bob Waite at the exhibition hall at 10:00am on the day before the show, since that's when the doors opened for exhibitors and Bob wanted a good start.  At 9:45, as I stood with a doleful expression contemplating the precipitation and idly kicking my Trojan-powered Postman's Bike, an air of depression settled down like the low-lying clag itself.  No waterproofs, no brakes, no traction, no go.  I abandoned the machine and set out to see what the others were up to.

The venue was in Bristol's historic dockland; across the water lay the Industrial Museum with its archive of local transport ranging from Douglas Motorcycles to Bristol Cars and Concorde, and surrounded by a purring of R-R engines (well, what is the collective for these beasts?).  Alongside the museum quay lay the oldest steam tug in the world, the Mayflower, restored in no small part by a latter-day Power-Pak-on-tandem-with-side-car riding Fred.  Sadly no steaming this week-end since it is out of season.  The Exhibition Halls were to take the form of four interconnected marquees on the dockside sandwiched between the Watershed, now a 'media' centre of some renown, and the prestigious Lloyds Bank development.  Well OK, if you insist, we were stuck in a tent at the wrong end of a draughty derelict railway shunting yard.

I arrived at 10:15 to be told by Security that the bikes were already in place (no slouches in this section); investigating the almost totally empty halls of the gigantic marquee erected for seemingly our purpose only, I spotted a neat row of half-a dozen well presented little numbers - nobody else was around so I assumed responsibility.  I was shortly to be collared by one of the organisers and a reporterette from BBC Radio Bristol - I puffed myself up with inflated self-importance and searched vainly for the microphone - none to be seen, this was just a recce - the real stuff was for the morrow when Bob was able to enlighten reporterette and house-bound enthusiasts all over the South-West.

Mere minutes later up turned Bob and his brother Steve, with three more tasty little morsels, space was filling, chalk marks on the floor delimiting our space were looking a little on the close side.  "We're not half-way there yet!", said Bob, his intention being to demonstrate as many different models as possible on this first outing.  Bob would have no lame excuses for members not presenting their own tackle, so Steve and I were despatched to collect mine, and a further two more held in Don's lock-up.  One of these being Bob's ve-r-r-ry smart original condition Cyclemate.

Back to the show: the furniture was arranged to set out the NACC regalia and show paraphernalia and various meaningful engineering exhibits like Steve's cut-away Trojan engine with simulated ignition by way of a flashing LED - Industrial Museum, ha!  Mike Jones completed the frame, literally as it happened since he produced the side screens embellished with the more famous marque names and delivered his rare breed pair of a Teagle and Mercury Cyclemaster.  The latter came complete with pillion, I might add, and both looked in fine fettle.

Further mechanical exhibits from MJ in the form of a Cyclemaster engine and wheel with bore-scope for viewing internals, and an out-of-body Power-Pak were produced to delight and amaze the crowd ("Gosh! They're just like real ones").  It goes without saying that the stand out-trumped the rest of the exhibition.  The Wiltshire VMCC were dwarfed, Norton left wallowing in their own morbid self-pity, Triumph smirks frozen on their lips, the cyclemotors had arrived.  I expect that these other stands saw a crumb or two from those unable to get through the milling throng.  "Yes", the mêlée chorused, "we too had one these." Many still had, and had been waiting for just this moment, although "What's it worth?" was a more prevalent phrase than "How do I get it back on the road?"  And yap, Cameron Balloons could have tapped into the hall and enjoyed free hot-air for the next month.  How we laughed.

A Winged Wheel powered Raleigh Marauder ATB proved a great draw for the younger element, until they realised that engine 'assistance' would actually reduce their top-speed.  One new recruit who had spent many hours musing over the purpose of a cyclemotor engine he owned was so delighted at not being alone in the world that he not only enrolled but bought a tee-shirt as well!

Another aficionado, having spent some time studying Steve's restoration of the Garelli Mosquito declared that he detected the hand of aerospace craftsmanship, for he had himself spent many years at British Aerospace - Steve is currently at Rolls-Royce Aero-Engines - quality work by one craftsman recognised by the other, and appreciated by all.

It would appear, however, that in spite of cyclemotors being an important and sizeable piece of British motor cycling history there was no recognition by the show organisers of this fact and hence Sunday ("Black Sunday", says Mike) saw not one rosette on the stand - the fact that there were classes for scooters and two-strokes of various hue meant nought, the fact that we fielded more machines than anyone else - irrelevant, the fact that the crowds were delighted with our presence - what do they know, we were award-less and there were more than just a few muttered oaths at this piece of insensitivity.

For the record, machines on display were:

At Sunday's end, Bob organised more transport to help the weak-willed and multi-machined home to bed; myself, all thoughts of wetness had been blown away by Jos Tetley, I'd spotted 100yds of not-so-wet-line in the road, enough to get the Trojan started, and I careered off across Bristol in the most cavalier of style, no waterproofs, no brakes, no lights, and seemingly no tax, but that's another story.  Now next year...

First published - April 1995

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