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All Steamed Up - Bristol Classic Bike Show

Laurence O'Brien

Surprise shock - Women's section sweeps the board, or was it wiped the floor? - but more of that later.

When Bob came round and whipped down his trousers at the mere mention of "How are you?" to reveal a small but perfectly formed scar from his recent kidney operation I thought he was going to absent himself from this year's bash in the 'Wez Vinglun' classic bike show in Somerset Fields.  But no, he was as tipper as ever and quite remarkably declined a well-deserved back-seat throughout the whole week-end.

Our usual service bay by the Gents was not available this year but we did have a lighter and perhaps slightly larger area closer to the centre hall.  Post foot-and-mouth crowds jostled around our now well-established layout of peripheral entries plus a central square.  Going clockwise round the periphery we started with Mike Jones and his incredibly rare 1954 Teagle plus his Cyclemaster and pillion with only 4769 miles on the clock - I'll check next year to see if it gets an outing!  Dave Casper entered last year's highly successful Nassetti Brunetta - in a blue very close to that used by the Italian Rugby team - and not French as I have reported before.  We had our usual static exhibits of various cyclemotor engines and Ian's Cyclemaster framed blueprint - and I do mean blueprint, for those who have never seen one, these are quite substantial - measured in one of those bygone quantities of area.  So bygone that I've forgotten - Double Elephant, I think, or maybe Jumbo.

A 1956 German Triumph TWN Fips was exhibited by Irene Davies along with a rather becoming mannequin in period dress with a Triumph T-shirt.  Steve reckoned that this was one of the Bangkok mannequins and invited me to look under the skirt.  I was doing no such thing - the thought of being caught on all fours with my head up a skirt and 1,001 cameras ready to click, whirr and off to the internet, was just too much.  However, rumour is that the lower part is definitely male whilst the upper is most definitely female - although I have it on good authority that the key in all these cases is the Adam's apple.

A 1956 Britsh Salmson Cyclaid was put in by David Benn on a period Humber cycle - looking by the Somerset mud still clinging to the tyres as though it had been in a trials event - and Alan Hibbard had his 1952 VAP4 (although Bob tells me that it's really a Vap3); David Smith and Ian Edwards both brought NSU Quicklys.

Buzz Nowell's 1957 Her-cu-motor was another nice example of original and un-restored machine given little more than a wipe over with WD40 or 3-in-1, and Jordan Miller (MJ's grandson) presented his 1979 Honda Express in similar original condition.

Val Sowerby has done a fine restoration on a 1940 Rudge 98cc Villiers Autocycle - this is not just a show-piece - it is ridden regularly - and it was nice to see a potted history and details of the restoration project of the machine alongside.

Chris Bowden had his 1940 James Autocycle de-luxe in super fettle.  Alisdair Currie showed a 1951 British Salmson Cyclaid and had a quiet self-satisfied rave about the smooth action drive.  Geoff Warren rode in on his 1966 VéloSoleX 3800 and Keith Cook on a 1952 Power Pak.

Centre stage, however, we had Geoff Hudspiths' really quite brilliant steam bicycle made from scrap and mounted on a 1949 VéloSoleX frame.  It has taken over 30 years to build from original concept and is still being developed.  Dig out February 2002 issue of Buzzing for Geoff's own excellent article; at the end of the exhibition the organisers requested a demonstration in the car park and Geoff duly obliged.  The fact that the whole item was constructed in a space-challenged flat was impressive enough, but the additional fact that all the machinery was installed in there as well... and the fact that Geoff had to wait for his downstairs neighbour to go out before the lathe work could be started makes it all the more amazing.  His exhibit rode off with the Outstanding Technical Merit Prize and was something of a male face-saver.

Mike Rendall who in the past has shown a Di Blasi folding scooter, was on a caravan holiday with said machine when a fellow camper, a Welsh boyo with loads-o'money, took a shine to it and asked Mike what his price was.  "Not for sale", said Mike - several times - but to no avail.  Eventually Mike, as a bit of a gesture, suggested a ludicrously high price to deter the pestering - back to the van came the camper with a wad of notes.  They were counted out by Mike's wife and found to be somewhat short of the full load - no problem - out came an equally thick wallet and the amount made up and the deal done!  If the buyer has become a member I'd be pleased to discuss terms for a few machines I have going spare!  Mike then sought to re-invest a small amount of his booty in a Honda 90 which he'd spotted for £50 or so.  Bike looked a bit tatty with torn seat and holed mudguard but Mike offered £45.  Seller spluttered at this bit of brass neck but gave in.  Now Mike had no real knowledge of this machine and had asked how many gears the bike had, and was told "one" - sounded strange but Mike had no way of knowing otherwise - back home there appeared to be 4 perfectly operating gears!  Now it just so happens that the 90 was an ex-bike of Chris Bowden's son and the seller worked for Chris in a local quarry.  Chris confirmed that the bike in fact was in good order apart from the cosmetic faults and also added that the seller drives a £300k quarry shovel with more gears than fingers on a hand - and they just cannot get him to use any more than one!

Ian Edwards had been trying to thin out his collection, unfortunately some local villains had decided to help him out by breaking in to his lock-up and either stealing or damaging a number of machines - he didn't have the heart to bring along his fabled box of rare spares for greasy thumbs to pick over - but he did get the Avon Engravers Rose Bowl Award.

All-in-all another very successful event sponsored by Carole Nash - yet another female take-over bid from previous sponsors Footman James?

First published, April 2003

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