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Bonjour! Bienvenue à Shepton Mallet. This year's theme was autocycles and Bob Waite laid out an elaborate backdrop of a French café scene complete with red checker cloth covered table bedecked with vin, baguettes, moules, grenouilles and escargots. Clustered around the centre of the display were two Vélo 3800s from Mike Rendall and Geoff Warren. Les escargots were tinned - which is novel - and discussion went on at some length as to their precise purpose. There were suggestions that they were some kind of abrading material akin to crushed walnut shell, or maybe the slime was used as degreaser or aluminium polisher. Then somebody suggested that they were actually for eating, well my stomach turned - dégolàs! Along with the fresh aroma of garlic and the faint tang of 2-stroke oil was more than a whiff of humbug as yarns from the bygone year were exchanged.
The weekend was the warmest, nay, hottest February weekend on record, and the crowds were really piling into the stand, and despite fielding more club members than ever before we were still seemingly non-stop in answering queries or plain chewing the cud. With all the appearance of a bank holiday, Mike Rendall and his wife made the trip up from Exeter with 3 bikes in his camper. He swapped his Cyclemaster powered Postman's bike for a somewhat dubious looking Peripoli in that orange colour which is something of an acquired taste and very redolent of the sixties. Some discussion took place over the purpose of a small platform in the well of a rather small frame. "That" informed Philippa "is for resting one's feet when speeding along" and promptly demonstrated how to hunch over the handlebars with feet on platform minimising drag. Mike of stockier build and getting the hang of his new machine showed a highly implausible supine position by sitting back on the luggage carrier with his feet far forward, leaving the saddle free for his wife (whether she would face forwards or backwards and the consequences thereof is pushing the limits of publishing licence).
Mike Jones was displaying his sympathetically restored '51 Bown and '50 James Comet (retained in Bristol since new). Whereas most exhibitors attach the piece of card that the show organisers give them to provide details of the entry, Mike has to be different; in the same maroon colour as his bikes and in gold lettering, he has made a plaque with all the details in copperplate. Now Mike had an unfortunate accident earlier in the year when a Volvo tank totalled his Kawasaki and almost its rider - fortunately he is now recovered but it appears that in his concussed state or shortly thereafter Steve Waite tapped him for a Cyclemaster and unbelievably succeeded. The tales of the contents of Mike's garage are part of folklore, although nobody has actually witnessed the alleged fabulous riches therein, but Steve has succeeded where all others failed. The full details (ie: price) were never revealed but Steve did not look too unhappy with the result.
Armed with this engine and wheel Steve went in search of a bike - and decided on a new ATB frame - approaching Fred Baker (a local Bristol cycle dealer) with the engine under his arm and a wild tale of how these were once used for transport, the YTS assistant gave him a sizeable discount on a new bike (probably believing this was some care in the community project). As with all of Steve's restorations this combination was to very high standard, down to the silver cable sheaths to match the bike frame, and a very well worked piece of engineering, marrying the original style rod brake to cable pull callipers mechanism. Steve has made much noise about how he intends to ride this around Bristol, by the end of the weekend this had turned into how he was going to attempt the "Wall-of-Death" attraction at the Show: "Ah, yes" said Ian, "but he'll have to be towed".
Readers may recall from a previous show that Ian Edwards has a penchant for trying to slip in the odd foreign motor cycle onto the club stand. This year, however, he presented his Motobécane Super Sport (with pedals), although some people were rude enough to point to the loose side panels on the floor as evidence that it was falling apart. "No", asserted Ian, "that's to display the mill - that's what everybody wants to see".
Philippa Wheeler has remounted her Lohmann compression ignition engine, into a folding Micro bike and has it set up in touring trim (and not just for show). Dave Smith re-entered his award winning butcher's bike from last year, and promptly won this year's prize as well. The meat in the wicker carrier had been boned in the meantime to comply with current legislation - no flies on Dave! Bob was heard to mutter something along the lines of banning it from next year - but that's not the spirit is it? As a counter, Bob had persuaded a local company, Avon Engraving Services, to sponsor a prize in the form of a silver rose bowl; visitors to the club stand were invited to give their vote to the best entry, and it was won by ... (later, later)
Prior to the show Bob had called round cock-a-hoop about his latest acquisition: a Vincent Firefly which he is currently restoring. But the really galling thing is that he dragged it out of Richard Smith who had it stored just round the corner from me, well within spitting distance, which is what I felt like doing when I heard of it. Richard turned up with a Trojan Mini-motor in an early James cycle frame.
Richard Woodbridge of Wiltshire loaned a Zündapp Combinette circa '52 and a '62 Phillips Panda. All this talk of autocycles instead of cyclemotors prompts the observation that, in our first year at the Bristol Classic Bike Show, some established quarters questioned the validity of our entries. Now, however, we have the self-same clubs sporting cyclemotors and autocycles on their stands, particularly if they demonstrate some label connection, eg: BSA Winged Wheel, Vincent Firefly, Ariel Pixie (Bob Pike provided one for the club stand), etc. We still had a good representative selection of cyclemotors including Roy Best's Power Pak in a most attractive green (attractive enough to win the sponsor's prize - well done) and an original condition Her-cu-motor.
Such was the success of the show, and though it's always a team effort there has to be a catalyst and Bob surpassed all previous meets. It's only at this time of year that many of us get together and it was suggested perhaps a regular local chapter meeting in convivial surroundings maybe once a month would be in order. By Sunday evening the grapevine and gossip control had transformed this into Bob organising a barn dance and pig roast. We look forward to it.
First published - April 1998
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