If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Saturday, 21 August 2010

West Wales Motorcycle Show, Day 1

Held today and tomorrow on the Showground at Carmarthen in West Wales. Here's a few thoughts about Day 1.

Rain overnight, kind-of-dry at 8 am. So I set off with waterproofs in the panniers, but otherwise dressed for a dry ride. Correct decision - the rain didn't start until 9 am, when I was safely tucked in the exhibition hall with a cup of coffee from someone's flask. But then it bucketed down. The attendance early in the day was poor, both bikes for the show and day visitors. The hall I was in was half empty of bikes. The low day visitor numbers are understandable - anyone looking out of the window at 9 am would have reconsidered any plans to spend the day walking round a large field watching people get soaked. The absence of bikes, too - if you have spent the last three years painstakingly restoring a 1934 Blenkinsop Bastard 350cc side-valve to better than original condition, you aren't likely to want to ride it through a rainstorm just so some other people can stand around criticising the quality of the work ("no, the original black was much blacker than that") and then have to spend a full week cleaning it afterwards.

However, there were some completely superb bikes there. Half-way through the afternoon, I got a mate and took him to the centre of the hall. "OK," I said, "if you could have any of the bikes in this room, which would it be?" He named his three choices, and his order of preference, and curiously they were exactly the same as mine. We both loved a very tidy Yamaha RD400, which would remind us why two-strokes are such stonking fun:

Second place went to an immaculate Triumph T110 Trophy, with a fabulous, if optimistic, registration number:

And for us, the Best In Show was an 850 Norton Commando from 1977:

This bike was described as unrestored - in other words, the immaculate condition of the entire bike was due to years (33 of them) of careful ownership and obsessive cleaning and maintenance. It even had the original paintwork. If that is all true, then the bike is an astonishing example of how well a bike can last if looked after. I have seen six-month-old modern bikes looking in worse order. We agreed that it was a true icon of motorcyling history - a proper man's motorbike. Even so, the relatively puny 65 claimed bhp and the skinny rear tyre would put it in the also-rans today. I can remember when these bikes were first introduced, and we all stood back in awe of their sheer size and potency. Today, it doesn't look particularly big (it's about the same size as the Bonnie) and the power output is modest. Just for comparison, a modern equivalent might be the new BMW S1000, which has a massive 193 bhp and weighs just 404 lb compared to the Norton's 440 lb. That's over three times the power-to-weight ratio.


The Triumph Owners' Club stand attracted a fair bit of interest. We all had our bikes on display (which was great as it meant they were near at hand and in the dry for the whole day) and plenty of people stopped by for a chat. We gave out application forms and think we may have a couple of new members as a result.

Here's some of the crew:

Other features of the show were an excellent display by the Royal Artillery Motorcycle Display Team, which was both spectacular and amusing, a falconry display (these are getting to be a bit of a cliché now), and a Wall Of Death which curiously I never heard and therefore missed seeing. Maybe tomorrow.

Rain late in the afternoon meant full wets for the journey home. The weather forecast for tomorrow is good, so I am hoping that attendance will be better.

Oh, and I can't leave this without mentioning a gorgeous little Triumph Tiger Cub, which was guarded by a Cub-sized Cerberus:

Awwww - for the dog and the bike.


  1. I like those old school bikes! Sure would be fun to take one for a ride. Thanks for sharing.

  2. It's possible, you know - find a nice one, wave some plastic, and you're a classic biker.

    Must get round to this one day.


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