Royal Enfield Bullet 500 Trial Trail
Royal Enfield Bullet 500 Trial Trail

June 2011 Classic bike news

Above . Does the world really need another variation on the Royal Enfield theme? Well, yes, actually. We’ll take ’em any shape, size, or colour.

This model is the firm’s new cunningly-named Bullet 500. Fitted with RE’s ultra lean-burning, 84mm x 90mm, unit construction, single-cylinder motor (c/w 5-speed gearbox), the bike also offers both electric and kick-starting. The price? Ј3995. The quality of these bikes is constantly improving.

And the fuel consumption is still over 70mpg.

May 2011 Classic bike news

Don Godden:


We’ve only just heard the news about grasstrack racer, engineer, and businessman Don Godden who died on May 28th this year—but that doesn’t mean we can’t give him a belated mention.

We first met Don more than 20 years ago, and the man was nothing if not interesting, amusing, generous and a gentleman. He began grass track and long track racing way back in 1953, and spent over two decades in the saddle notching up victory after victory and winning dozens of awards including three British 500cc titles and the 1969 European Long Track Championship.

In 1958, Don founded Godden Engineering and quickly built a reputation for its high-quality speedway and grass track-framed racers powered by JAP engines. When JAP could no longer cut it (or was not prepared to invest further in a diminishing market), Don worked with Weslake and helped develop a four-valve, 500cc single that was to the seventies was JAP was to the fifties and sixties.

When the Weslake tie-up soured, Don developed his own 500cc GR500 engine which became the basis of a successful 1000cc V-twin sidecar racing powerplant.

Kent-based Godden Engineering employee, Gary Drake, bought the business in 2003. Following his retirement, Don kept busy working as an advisor and honorary ambassador for the sport. It’s said that his funeral, on June 14th, was attended by over 400 friends and fans.

In his day, Don was unquestionably one of the best of his breed, a man who understood the mechanics of grass track and long track racing as well as he understood the methods. He was 72.

— The Third Man

Ted Simon


It’s been a long time coming (38 years actually), but now that it’s here, it seems like the obvious move forward — and long overdue. It’s the Ted Simon Foundation; named after one of biking’s best known globetrotters, not that Ted would ever call himself a biker. But in view of the fact that back in 1973 he rode around the planet on a 500cc ex-police Triumph Tiger 100 (and wrote a much loved book called Jupiter’s Travels ), a lot of people would disagree.

Regardless, the foundation will officially be launched on 6th October 2011, which will mark the 38th anniversary of the start of the original global trek. But the website’s up and running, and you can take a peek now.

What’s it all about? It’s about pooling information and knocking down national fences and promoting world understanding, etc. Sounds dull?

Well take a look before you write it off, especially if you’re a traveller yourself and want to network with other people of a similar bent.

If you want to attend the launch, you’ll have to pootle along to the Coventry Transport Museum, and you’ll need to book sooner rather than later if you want to ensure a place. See the website (below) for details.

Meanwhile, check out our Ted Simon page for more on one of the most intrepid travellers (in various senses of the word) of our age. There’s a lot more to Ted than most people realise.

— Girl Happy

Norman Vanhouse 1916-2011

The late Norman Vanhouse (pictured left, with Fred Rist and Brian Martin) was laid to rest on 2nd June 2011 at Robin Hood Crematorium, Shirley, Birmingham.

Born in 1916, Norman spent 35 years in motorcycle competitions and experimental departments before joining BSA in 1952 as a sales representative. Throughout his life, Norman was a significant competitor in motorcycle sporting events winning over 150 awards, notably for hill climbs and trials.

But perhaps his greatest claim to fame was being part of the 1952 International Six Days Trial team that won both the Team Award and captured the coveted Maudes trophy.

Riding 4500 miles from Birmingham to Vienna, then through Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, the 500cc BSA A7 team—which included Brian Martin and Fred Rist—put on a faultless performance and returned safely to Birmingham, thereby securing the Val Page, Herbert Perkins and David Munro-designed parallel twins’ reputation as a competent, reliable, all-weather tourer.

Norman, who had seen active service with the British Army riding (notably) BSA M20s, later published a book entitled BSA Competition History . a down-to-earth. amusing and highly insightful tome that’s still available through various online and offline outlets, and of course autojumbles.

Norman Vanhouse will be missed.

— Del Monte

Romney Marsh Bikejumble

Okay. Here’s the pitch. It used to be the Hamstreet Bike Show, and now it’s the Romney Marsh Bikejumble—which makes it the same, but different, and bigger and better.

It’s on this Sunday 3rd July 2011, and you can find it all happening from 10.00am at Marsh Road, Hamstreet, Kent TN26 2JD (A2070 6 miles M20 J10).

So toddle along there and watch motoball, and enter your bike in the prize-giving, and stuff your face, and drink whatever you feel like drinking, and generally do what ya gotta do. The point is, it’s a decent show and still building, and the days are already getting shorter and you ain’t getting any younger.

There’s a motorcycle only jumble, by the way, and there will be plenty of clubs and whatnot. What more do you want on a bloody Sunday?

More details on: 01797 344277

— Dexxion

2000 visitors at Enfield weekend

Royal Enfield importers Watsonian-Squire are said to be highly chuffed about the attendance at their recent Open Weekend on 25th-26th June 2011 at the Watsonian-Squire factory in the Cotswolds.

Two thousand visitors, we hear, turned up to enjoy a couple of days of chin-wagging, curry-eating, drinking, tyre-kicking—and, of course, test-riding RE’s range of 500cc Bullets, with a new variant being launched at the event and priced at Ј3995.

Special guests included motorcycle adventurer, author and Royal Enfield expert Gordon May, and ISDT gold medallist Johnny Brittain. Meanwhile, the Motorcycle Action Group, were busy drumming up support for their Get a Grip campaign (see Sump April) .

Prizes were awarded for the best motorcycles ridden to the factory which included the above rare 1953 Royal Enfield Meteor twin owned for fifteen years by Mark Mumford and said to be painted in a fetching shade of Dulux/Great Western Railway brown. Vive le difference, etc.

— Del Monte

Gold Star number one on eBay

It’s on the eBlock now (Wednesday 27th June 2011) and has six days to run. The seller is claiming it’s the first production M24 Gold Star built way back in 1938, and he’s got a certficate signed by John Gardiner who was a Technical Adviser to the BSA owners club who actually owned a 1938 Goldie.

We’re not arguing about the provenance. We’ll take that at face value (although the details certainly warrant closer consideration). We’re just marvelling at the auction start price of AU $288,888—which converts to Ј150,462.

The bike is said to be unrestored and unmolested (nothwithstanding a touch-up brush on a few scratches), and was allegedly first sold on 15th February 1938 by Bennet Wood, Birmingham.

The first owner was a Mr Rogers (no Christian name given), who passed it down to his son Malcolm, affectionately known as Curley. Hidden (or overlooked) during WW2, the 500cc, race-ready, all-aluminium single resurfaced in 1955 and again in 1994 (when Curley died). The current owner states that the engine (number: JM 24 101) was glued solid with hardened Castrol R, but after sympathetic rebuilding, it’s in full working order and ready to rock’n’roll.

If you want to buy it now, the price is AU $248,888. Unrealistic? Cheap? A misplaced decimal? A bitsa?

Fact is, the blue-chip classic bike market has never been stronger (particularly with regard to pre-war exotica), and continues to surprise — and there’s no doubt that this one will raise a lot of eyebrows. But if you’re looking for top dollar, is eBay the right place to offload a machine like this (assuming it’s genuine)? We’ve got our doubts and wonder what Bonhams would have to say about this one.

— The Third man

Ugly Fish biker specs from Down Under

Okay. There are already thousands of makes and style of shades on the market. You’re pretty much stuck for choice.

But getting the right ones ain’t always easy, especially if you ride a bike and want to keep the windblast and road grit out of your swollen peepers.

These shades are from Ugly Fish and have removable arms allowing you to strap ’em on instead. And they’ve got gasket thingies on the inside to seal you in. They’re said to be Australia’s leading brand, and they’ve passed all the usual safety and UV standards, or so we’re told.

Prices are from around forty quid to sixty-five quid depending on what package you buy (various lenses, etc). Strap, gasket and hard case is included. Check ’em out.

— Girl Happy

Ј45,600 for a British Anzani

Is this a record price? We don’t know for sure. But it seems likely. Bonhams estimated it to sell at between Ј10,000 and Ј15,000. And Bonhams is usually pretty accurate.

But this time, their expectations were (pleasantly) shattered when a buyer stumped up over forty grand.

The 1098cc eight-valve lump was sold at Bonhams’ Third Annual Sale of Collectors Motorcycles held on 18th June 2011 alongside the VMCC’s Banbury Run. The auction house turned-over Ј427,500, with 85% of lots sold.

A circa 1950 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow/Rapide at Ј31,050; a 1952 Vincent 499cc Comet at Ј10,350, a 1949 Vincent-HRD 500cc Meteor at Ј11,500; a 1966 Velocette 499cc Thruxton at Ј18,400, and an unrestored circa 1919 Triumph 550cc Model H at Ј7,475.

But if you want an investor tip for the future, Bonhams is looking very closely at BMW.

— Del Monte

Road Safety Minister Penning launches new Think! initiative

According to Mike Penning, nine bikers were killed in the UK each week during 2009 (the last year for which reliable figures are available, we’re told). These numbers, although relatively low, and generally falling, have nevertheless got successive governments in a lather. Why?

Because motorcycles make up only one percent of UK traffic, yet account for twenty percent of fatalities; a hugely disproportionate statistic.

Mike’s remit as Road Safety Minister is to get those numbers down, hence a new Think! campaign unveiled on June 17th 2011. Sounds good in principle. And Mike, being a biker, no doubt has his heart in the right place.

Royal Enfield Bullet 500 Trial Trail

So we’re not complaining per se —except that it seems we’re hearing a lot of government propaganda these days about bike safety which might well be the prelude to a new round of anti-bike legislation, perhaps in the form of compulsory daytime lights, mandatory reflective clothing, more restrictive access for learner riders, and even power limits.

No, we’ve heard nothing specific. But clearly the government bean counters are hard at work trying to get healthcare/accident costs down, and it might well be that rider accident figures have pretty much reached the practical baseline—until, that is, automatic bike-recognition devices are fitted as standard into cars, if they ever are fitted (and if they ever actually work).

Which, arguably, might leave the government with little option but to target the victims of motoring stupidity rather than tackle the perpetrators.

That, at least, is so often government thinking—and new legislation is, after all, generally cheaper than putting more coppers on the streets, or funding high-profile road safety campaigns.

So what can you do about it? Not a lot, except watch out for those first rumblings of approaching anti-bike legislation and react accordingly. The current road safety programme is laudable.

But you can be sure that the government is going to want a return for its money.

Think bike!

Think car!

Think government!

— The Third Man

Draganfly’s 35th birthday

Draganfly Motorcycles has to be one of the greatest successes in the classic bike world in terms of enthusiasm, service, customer respect, and plenty of quality parts for Ariels and BSAs.

The company has just celebrated its 35th birthday, which is no small milestone. We prefer to write our own copy for Sump news features. But in this instance, we’re happy to let Draganfly tell you in their own words what all the fuss is about.

Happy birthday, guys.

Thirty five years ago this August Roger Gwynn began Draganfly Motorcycles. The summer of ’76 saw the beginning of a business that started with a vague plan, no real capital and crumbling premises. More than three decades and a 100 mile move later ‘Drags’ is a specialist company delivering parts (and advice) worldwide.

Roger only knew that he wanted to work for himself, having had trouble fitting into moulds in ‘conventional’ jobs, and that he wanted to work with bikes. He also wanted to become synonymous with some facet of motorcycles, to be the company to go to – what for, hadn’t been decided yet. He had Ј400 from the insurance his stolen Triumph had afforded him and a lock-up shop due for demolition.

This, combined with the fact that he had no other ideas of what to do with his time, eventually led to the Draganfly Motorcycles we know today.

“This is where I hoped we would be” says Roger “We’ve got the balance of small family business and world domination just right! I don’t want us to get much bigger!”. On his nickname ‘the Ariel guru’ he is a little sheepish – “it’s flattering when people know who you are and what you do, but when you’re introduced to new people like that it can be a bit embarrassing!”

When asked about high points in the company’s history he responds immediately with “marrying my wife Janet” – who now works at Draganfly too – “she showed me that I could leave work before 10pm and still keep the shop going!” And in all the 35 years not one employee of Drags has had a serious accident on their motorbike. One broke their arm, one broke their clutch lever arm and Roger hit a manhole at 20 mph and bumped his head. Storeman Mick did have an altercation with a large white van which ran over his BSA WM20 but thankfully he jumped off quickly enough to escape damage himself.

And low points? “When we had to move premises in the early days. We spent three months with our stock and equipment in someone else’s premises without their knowledge so we couldn’t do any business for all that time, but had no other choice! They didn’t want to sign their lease and were stalling as they were in liquidation but the estate agents took pity on us and gave us the keys anyway.”

Over three decades later business is still booming – despite the recession it is clear that people still have a passion for vintage bikes and Draganfly looks set to continue for many years to come. Roger’s son Iain has just become a partner in the business, replacing brother Graham who has just retired after 33 years. He hopes to update the old computer system and improve speed of supply among other things, while retaining Draganfly’s friendly traditional service.

— Del Monte

It’s Ј145 plus VAT . That’s the important bit out of the way. Andover Norton say that this little doo-dah replaces the cylinder head isolastic top mount on all Commandos and is shim-adjustable in various planes for ease of installation. It’s made of zinc-plated steel with a machined aluminium alloy clamp. If you’ve got a Commando, you’ll know exactly what this is all about.

If not, don’t fret.

Roy Bacon dating certificates doubts

We’ve been alerted to the fact that classic bike dating expert Roy Bacon is longer contactable at his previous address of:

New T120 T140 pistons from Norman Hyde

Okay. Here’s the story .

Ex-Meriden Development Engineer and Trident specialist, Norman Hyde,

has commissioned a batch of pistons for 650cc and 750cc Triumph Bonnevilles.

They’re also available in + .020 and + .040 oversizes, and are designed to offer standard compressions of 9:1 (T120s) and 8.5:1 (T140s).

However, keep in mind that most T140s are probably running slightly lower compression engines at between 7.5:1 and 7.9:1 to cope with lower octane fuels, etc. So talk to Norman about this if you’ve got any concerns. Chances are, of course, that Norman’s already considered this, but it pays to check.

Kits include a pair of pistons, rings and circlips. The price is Ј151.99 which includes UK VAT. Overseas customers can get them for Ј125.99

— Del Monte

First Daventry Motorcycle Festival

DBP general manager Sally Halson said: “We were very pleased with the attendance, both from motorcycle enthusiasts and the general public. We aimed to keep this first event fairly low key so that we could understand the needs of those attending better and address any shortcomings before going larger next year (19 May 2012) with local dealers and other exhibitors. We are planning trade stands, a parade, and entertainment linked to motorcycles such as simulators and motorcycle fashion.”

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