Saturday, 29 October 2016

Flathead

Another instalment from Sideburn ambassador, John Harrison.

My Harley found me sometime in 1983. The father of one of my friends had built it up from three tea chests of parts that he swapped for a complete and running V-twin BSA that was promptly sold to a Japanese collector. He'd built it but ran out of steam before finishing it off. It was copper metallic with white grips and running board rubbers and lots of chrome. I wasn't into Harleys, but saw those 'bars and fell in love. The fact that it had a hand shift and foot clutch added to the appeal.

I haggled him down to £650 because I had £50 saved and a two-year loan for £600 was all I could afford to pay off. Even then I knew I'd stolen it. I finished it off, which only involved wiring it and fitting a saddle.

This picture was taken in 1984, when it was my only transport and I was doing some weekend maintenance. My sister and her toddler were visiting. My girlfriend had recently passed her driving test and bought herself the lemon R5. She was evidently going for the complete French gamine look. We celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary this year. My little niece Emma, who is copying me by playing with spanners on the bike, grew into a bona fide rock chick with a group called Band of Skulls who are quite popular with the younger generations, I understand. Sometimes I look at this pic and wish I'd left it like that, with the lovely colour and 18in front wheel, but maybe it's just the atmosphere in the photo that I like.
In time it needed an engine rebuild, so I took the opportunity to paint it and fit a 16in front wheel. This pic was taken in about 1993, soon after I got it back together. My children loved getting rides like this, sitting in my lap. I would deliver them to their friends' birthday parties with them wearing a bicycle helmet. It has stayed pretty much the same since, except that I've let it get dirty and look its age.
The most memorable ride I've made on it was to Pendine and back to watch the VHRA racing along the beach in 2015. That was 220-odd miles each way. Fine weather, wonderful roads (the Welsh A40 with its endless, fast, long sweepers), good convoy company and the bike running well. I felt like I was flying. Vintage motorcycling can be slow, uncomfortable and unreliable and isn't for everyone, but it suits me fine. Pic: James Bad JuJu Mitchell

I rode it in the Harley class at Dirt Quake V and came in last in all three races. But I had the best seat in the house when Dimitri Coste lapped me at great speed on the inside with Wiggo chasing hard flying down my outside blatting into turn 3.

3 comments:

Andrew Charlton said...

yea yea! love this! care free motorcycling days gone by...really moving, Thanks :-)

bikegrim said...

Great little story

TexasChris said...

Love these articles, rad guy, rad bike...and Band of Skulls record gets played in my van regularly!