During a recent discussion on the Ducati ST owners’ list about the relative merits of kickstarts and electric starts, I was forcibly reminded of a friend’s 1954 BSA B33 500cc single. Despite having the flywheel mass of the Brooklyn/Forth (choose according to domicile) bridge, it would frequently not-quite-make-it past TDC and kick back with the full force of its very long stroke. But in slow motion, as befits a very leisurely motorcycle (at ‘touring’ revs it was firing every other streetlight). Quite enough to cause any or all of: knee to hit chin (moral: don’t stick your tongue out while kickstarting a motorcycle); knee to hit handlebar with eye-watering force; or, and from the spectator point of view, finest of all, to fire the entire hapless and sweating human being into orbit – half a dozen of these things in sync and Britain would have won the space race years before Gagarin and Thunderbirds got in on the act. Landing was iffy – I’d arrive in the gutter, do a half roll and rise to my feet just in time to watch the thing gracefully keel over sideways and land with the metallic sigh of a job well done. I like – I REALLY like – electric starts.
One of the great shibboleths of advanced riding is that you should be, at all times, in control of your own destiny. In other words, you are riding for yourself, at a level with which you are comfortable, regardless of the behaviour or views of others. Remember that when you’re reading any of this — these are my own thoughts and opinions, so if you choose to incorporate anything herein as part of your own riding, then that’s entirely up to you, but please do so within the context of what is safe and comfortable for you.
Neither I nor any organisation to which I am affiliated can be held responsible for any outcome, whether it be god-like riding ability or close encounters with hedgerows. These are my own thoughts and opinions and not those of either my club or the IAM, with which they may however sporadically coincide.
It’s 6am on a Friday in June, and some sort of semi-conscious recollection tells me that this is D-Day for the annual club invasion of France and that I really should be heading for the nearest ferry terminal. After managing a state of denial about my increasingly frantic alarm, I finally give in to its electronic persistence and fall out of bed at 6:30. But by 7:20 I’m sitting on the loading ramp of the ferry in Portsmouth harbour.
Call me an antisocial git (form an orderly queue, please), but a 5am hack across 120miles of Southern England to reach the Chunnel with the main group is not my idea of wakeful fun. The fast SeaCat had been full (a P&O claim later denied by others) so I took the slow boat, arrived in Le Havre at 3pm and I was sitting in the bar in the Hotel Dauphin in L’Aigle by 4:30pm.
Which was probably a mistake, as I was cheerfully beered-up by the time everyone else arrived and great concentration was required to maintain conversation. Which of course explained my headache the next day – too much concentration, clearly. As before, the Hotel Dauphin was welcoming, hospitable and thoroughly pleasant. Pity then that I wasn’t there – along with the rest of the ‘disreputable bachelor’ contingent, I’d been booked into the only other nearby alternative, the Hotel Artus. L’Aigle is a small town and, it being national Musique week, everywhere was booked solid, so t’was Hobson’s choice. And I have stayed in worse: a flophouse in The Congo being about all that springs readily to mind. One night there was quite enough, after which bribery, corruption, luck and pathetic whimperings found me a place in Le Dauphin.
First Aside: when does a habit become a tradition? In each of the last two years a certain member of the club has entirely failed to finish the French trip on the same motorcycle he started on. That looks like a habit. Now it might be pushing it to claim that two years of expiring Ducati, BMW-hurling and deer attack can be called a tradition. Three I’d suggest lays a good claim. So, while sitting contemplating the joys of Biere pression, I heard motorcycles approaching. Particularly, I heard the sound of a v-twin exhaust playing continuo to the rattle of a Ducati clutch. “Aha”, thought I, “that’ll be either Malcolm or John, then”, just as a group of machines hove into view, led by Mr C’s Ducati. I’d just got as far as thinking, “Coo, he’s made it this ti…”, when I saw the state of the fairing. So let’s call it a tradition, shall we?