Saturday, 30 June 2012

Continental Circus

I came across a mention of the film 'Continental Circus' on the Mechamotors blog and thought I'd see if I could find out more about it. There's a small entry on IMDB that mentions that the film was made by Jérôme Laperrousaz, was released in 1972, and is 120 minutes long.
I had a look on YouTube and parts of the film are available there. These total about 45 minutes, so are less than half the film. It centres around Australian rider Jack Findlay and his French wife Dominique as Jack competes in the 1970 Grand Prix Championship. Jack was a 'privateer' without any factory support, so it's amazing to see how well he does on his Seeley against the likes of Agostini on his factory MV.
(Would I be right in thinking that his Seeley would have had a Matchless engine?)
As the film was made by a French film maker, any dialogue not in French is subtitled, but it's not too hard to follow. Note that Jack and Dominique sometimes converse in English and sometimes in French.
It's an insight of the end of an era in racing when bikes had no sponsors' names on their fairings and a talented privateer could compete with the factory teams. However, it was also an era when safety was given a low priority, and riders in thin, unarmoured leathers and 'pudding bowl' helmets could hit unguarded trackside objects, and there seemed to be a lack of marshals in attendance.

The film doesn't appear to be available on DVD at the moment, only VHS, if anyone buys it please let us know what the rest of it is like (or even post it on YouTube). There is also a picture book.

YouTube clips:

Part 1 – An introduction and a run down of riders killed racing during that era, followed by some footage of the horrendous crashes riders experienced. The reaction of Santiago Herrero's wife when he (presumably) crashes says it all.

Part 2 – Isle of Man TT

Part 3 – Assen, Netherlands

Part 4 – Spa, Belgium

Part 5 – Sachsenring, East Germany

Part 6 – Brno, Czechoslovakia

Part 7 – Imola, Italy

Also, it may interest mr combo, or any other hippies out there, that the soundtrack was by Gong and is available here.

The following season, Jack switched to Suzuki TR500s, and a sculpture of him was erected in his hometown of Mooroopna, Victoria.

Sadly, Jack passed away in 2007.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Friday bike

You all know of my love for 'street scramblers', so here's one of the rarest.
The 1973 MV Agusta Electronica Street Scrambler. Much more famous for their very exotic (and expensive) sportsbikes, MV built a small number of Street Scramblers for the Italian Market. I saw one at the Coupes Moto Legendes, but forgot to photograph it, so these are pictures and videos found on the Web.

Looks like a Japanese numberplate on that one.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Deep water

Saw this on a BBC News report on flooding in Northern Ireland. It's near the end here.
I've only ever ridden in water as deep as this once. Many years ago there was a queue of stopped traffic on the approach to the Clyde Tunnel in Glasgow. I made my way to the front to be told by one of the Tunnel staff that their was flooding ahead, and I could 'go through if you think you'll make it'.
Of course I had a go at it, and at first the water wasn't too bad, but got deeper the further I got into the tunnel. I rode the bike (an MZ ETZ 250) at full revs (to stop water blocking the end of the exhaust) and slipped the clutch. Soon the water was up to the footrests, the exhaust note dropped as the end of the pipe was covered, and a there was a lot of steam from the pipe. When I reached the middle of the tunnel (the deepest part), I looked down and the water was over the top of the crankcases but the bike kept going. Eventually I got out the other side and on the 10 mile ride home the rear drum brake didn't work and the gearchange was a bit clunky.
When I got home I dried out the brake and drained the gearbox oil to find a lot of water in it. I also found some leaves in the rear springs as an indication of how deep the water had been.
Probably not a very clever thing to do as the water in the gearbox wouldn't have done it any good, but at least I proved how waterproof my Alt-berg boots were!

Monday, 25 June 2012


Sorry for being so quiet recently. I've been meaning to write a 'Looking back on my holiday' article as well as some general touring pieces, but time just seems to have been in short supply recently. In the meantime, here's one of the best touring videos I've seen for a long time. A couple of guys on Moto Guzzis touring in Switzerland, Italy, and mostly France, riding through the Alps then on to the south coast, and returning through some of the gorges.
This is why I like going to France....
Approximate translation of description (I don't speak German, so thank Babelfish for this):

A genuine road movie! Starring: Moto Guzzi 1200 sport and my California EV. Starting in Central Switzerland (Susten, Grimsel, Furka, Gotthard, Nufenen), on the Italian-French border (large and small St. Bernard, Isèran, Izoard, VARs, Restefond/Cime de la Bonette, Cayolle, Allos, Champs and the Col de Turini) to the French Riviera/Cote d ´ Azur. Part of the Route des Grandes Alpes. Through the Gorges of Cian and Daluis, as well as the Grand Canyon du Verdon. We pay a visit to the "Citromuseum" in Castellane. Along the coast between St. Tropez, Eze, Monaco, and Nice.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Er... perhaps not....

'...bound to win over some broad'...????

Born to be Mild

Now we know where Fantic got their idea from!

Get your motor running,
Head out on the highway.........

Friday bike.

Continuing on with my theme of cool looking bikes, here's another Art Deco classic.

BMW built a prototype 'R7' model in 1934, but never put it into production. The prototype had some of its parts removed, then it was put into a crate and forgotten about until it was rediscovered in 2005. When it was found, the bike was 70% complete, but in a very poor condition due to rust and corrosion caused by a leaking battery. However, BMW fully restored the bike and it is not only on display in their museum, it is also taken out for bike shows.
More details: here, here, and here.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Return of the Friday Bike

I've missed this with being away, being busy, etc., but after the trip to France, there can only one Friday Bike, the 'Majestic'!
And majestic it is. Have you ever seen a cooler bike? When I got home I did a search for information about this bike, but there's very little out there other than an article on Vintagent and a small entry in the French language Wikipedia.
The Majestic was designed by a Georges Roy, who had owned the 'New Motorcycle' brand of bikes. He contracted the manufacturers of Dollar motorcycles to build the Majestic for him between 1929 and 1933, and approximately 100 machines were believed to have been built. Seems to have been a variety of engines used, mostly 350cc singles, and the ones I saw in France were singles.
What can you say about the styling? Wonderful Art Deco, with 'cooling slots' down the side like racing cars of the era. They also had a suitably styling 'dashboard'

Note clock with Roman numerals and the ammeter says 'Amperes' rather than just 'Amps' - cool!

Rather than type a mechanical description, it's probably best just to link you to the Vintagent article, where they have written a better one than I could!
Some pictures of Majestics I saw in France:
This is possibly the same bike that was in the Vintagent article. Note the 'New Motorcycles' in the background.
This one went out on the track. Note petrol filler.

I found this picture on the Web. Like the groovy exhaust!

However, the coolest thing I found about the Majestic was that it's been featured on a postage stamp!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Britain - Day 11 (the journey home)

Awoke to an overcast and cool day as the ferry headed towards Hull. Had been woken through the night by the ship moving around a lot, so the crossing hadn't been as smooth as on the way over. I'd all sorts of fears of the bike having fallen over and broken bits, but when I got down to the car deck it was still upright. Ferry docked and we unloaded, and it was strange riding on the left again. The traffic was fairly heavy, so it was good to get onto the A1 north. This was just as busy (Bank Holiday weekend), and traffic was very slow, sometimes grinding to a complete halt. All the time it was getting colder and more overcast, and as I approached Scotch Corner, drops of rain had started to fall. I stopped at the services at Scotch Corner to put the waterproof liner back into my suit and change to warmer, waterproof gloves, then it was westward on the A66. This proved to be just as busy, with frequent stops, and here were signs warning of 'Horse Drawn Vehicles'.
It was a slow, wet, cold ride across the A66, with strong sidewinds and I saw 8˚C on the exposed high part in the middle, so cold that I had to switch my heated grips on. Just think, less than 24 hours ago I had been eating ice cream in Blankenburge at 25˚C!
The traffic holdups were caused by travellers (no, not the Skorpion kind!) gathering for the Appleby Horse Fair, and as I passed Appleby there were hundreds of caravans and horses.
Once I reached the M6, the weather had improved and it was dry and slightly warmer for the rest of the journey home.

In total I had done 2028 miles/3264 km, the bike had used just over a litre of oil, and I would have loved to have said no mechanical failings, but I had noticed that one of the screws holding the footrest rubber had fallen out! Not bad for a 14 year old bike.

I'll write more about the journey later when I've collected my thoughts, but it was of the best holidays I've ever had, and you CAN tour on a single!

Sunday, 3 June 2012

France and Belgium - Day 10

After I'd written the last piece and posted it, I went to my bed thinking that was the end of the day. Ho, ho! I was woken in the early hours of the morning by loud, obviously drunken people, speaking English in the corridor outside my room.
As the Formule 1 hotels are the cheapest in France, most of the guests work in the building trade judging by their vans. This has the advantage that as they have an early start in the morning, they go to bed early so the hotel is usually very quite. This also means that the next thing that happened was a lot of angry shouting in French! Eventually I heard someone speaking in heavily accented broken English, and I worked out that the English speakers were so drunk that they couldn't operate the entry keypads for their rooms. The other person had to open their doors for them, and at last it was quiet and I went back to sleep.
I got up reasonably early and went for breakfast. While I was eating, three black teenagers about 15/16 years old came into the breakfast area dressed and acting like rappers or 'gangstas' or whatever they're called this week. They wandered over to the food but looked baffled by it. They picked up pots of jam, looked at them, then said the name in English. At that point one of the staff came over and asked them their room numbers in French. They clearly couldn't understand her, and she didn't speak English, so I went over to translate. They then looked at me and asked 'what do we do?' I explained that the breakfast was self-service and you could eat as much as you liked. I also explained what all the food was. They answered me in very polite standard English with London accents, and it turned out they were a school party and were surprised that their teachers weren't there. Some of their friends were starting to appear, so I told them to tell their friends what to do and that their teachers had probably 'been up late organising things and would be down soon'. I was trying very hard not to laugh at that point. The boys thanked me then turned to each other and started talking in completely bogus 'rap speak' like a cross between 50 Cent and Ali G! I did feel like saying 'you do realise that Ali G was a parody of people like you', but they'll find out soon enough!
I went back to my room to change into my bike clothes and to pack, and when I came down to put the luggage onto the bike and leave, there were more teenagers having breakfast or kicking a ball about in the carpark, but still no sign of their teachers! I would imagine that the parents wouldn't be too pleased if they found out that the teachers had been out drinking and leaving the children to fend for themselves.

Back on the road, and as it was only a three hour or so ride to Zeebrugge even by back roads, I had plenty of time. I decided that I wanted to go to the coast, so headed towards Dunkerque. It started off as a very pleasant ride through small villages with a very welcome cooling breeze, but went downhill a bit as I got caught up with lots of trucks heading for the channel ports. Once in Dunkerque it was very busy, so I didn't stop and headed for Zeebrugge along the coast. I crossed into Belgium and soon arrived in Zeebrugge, with still about five hours to kill before going for my ferry.
I rode around Zeebrugge, but was unable to find either a town centre nor a seafront, so headed 6 km along the coast to the resort town of Blankenberge. It's a very busy seaside town with lots of holiday apartments, shops, restaurants, etc and is, judging by the people, where elderly Belgians go on holiday with their small dogs. It's got a really laid back and pleasant air to it, and although it was starting to get very sunny and warm, there was a gentle breeze off of the sea.

I'd parked next to a small park with tennis courts, mini golf, crazy golf, and something that I'd never seen before. We're led to believe that the game of pétanque is quintessentially French, but this was the first time I'd seen it and it was being played by groups of elderly Flemish speaking Belgian men.

I sat and watched them for a while, and I think I got the hang of the idea of the game, but one thing I learned – the older the player, the better they were! Men in their 80s and 90s were experts at throwing the balls with pinpoint accuracy, and seemed to be able to always beat the 'youngsters' in their 60s!
It was also only men playing, as their wives sat at the side chatting and eating ice cream, but at no time playing.
As Blankenberge is very flat, cycling is very popular with the all the roads with segregated cycle lanes and even separate bicycle traffic lights. Some of the older riders had electrically assisted bicycles and I saw this free charging point next to a major tram stop.

It was strange but this was the only time on the trip where I felt a bit 'alone'. Not because I was on my own, but because it was the only time I'd been somewhere that I didn't understand the language at all. Flemish seems quite impenetrable to an English speaker, and I gave up trying to buy food from a café after reading the menu and not understanding a word. I saw a small supermarket so went to buy something there with mixed results – I got some very nice cakes, but mistakenly bought undrinkable butter milk instead of ordinary milk. I did manage to buy an ice cream by just pointing and smiling, so that made up for it.
It was soon time to head to the ferry terminal and boarded the boat with a large group of Swiss and Belgian riders who were heading to the Isle of Man for the TT.

I had a wander round the boat until it was time for bed, and tomorrow I'd be back in Britain.
 I must have killed about a million flies on this trip!

More pictures here. and 'Song of the Day'.

Day 11