An M20 adventure

I thought your readers may be interested to see these pictures, taken 50 years ago, in August 1970.

I graduated from teenage bicycle-rebuilding to the joys of motorcycle ownership when, at the age of 15, I bought a wreck of a Francis-Barnett Kestrel for £5 from a mate.

My parents weren’t happy about this but probably thought the F-B was beyond repair. To cut a long story short, I passed my test on the Kestrel at the age of 16 in 1968.

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Subsequently a thirst for something bigger developed but my only income was from my paper round so I had to set my sights accordingly.

I became tempted by this old BSA M20 (NBU 186), which I bought for £10 from another mate.

Again, this one also needed fettling so I stripped it down, hand-painted the frame in blue Hammerite, with the tinware in Black Kingston Diamond and the rusted wheels in aluminium paint and then rebuilt the bike.

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Fortunately, back then, ex-WD parts were widely available and very cheap to buy, so the machine had cost me comparatively little to complete.

There was no thought of originality, I just needed a reliable bike! I had naively set myself a target of August 1970 to finish the bike and have it ready to ride to the Pembrokeshire coast from my home near Manchester to join my family at a rented cottage.

Well, it all took longer than I thought, but I managed to get the bike through its MoT literally the day before I was due to leave for Wales.

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But the timing wasn’t quite right, and the dynamo had stopped charging on the way home from the MoT. Determined to go I worked on the bike until 2am to get it ready.

Well I bravely (foolishly?) left the next day with a measure of confidence that all would be well and I still remember thoroughly enjoying that ride.

But it was a long run and as it started to get dark, to my dismay, I discovered I had no lights as the dynamo was again not charging. With around 30 miles to go I just pressed on in the dark, and by the time I arrived I just counted myself lucky to still be alive!

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The first picture is of the M20 parked up on the coast road, just above Druidstone Beach near Haverfordwest. It was such fun during that two-week holiday, charging around the Pembrokeshire roads. Happy days!

I still really enjoy reading OBM after all these years and often wonder what happened to NBU 186.
Steve Jump, Salisbury

Read more Letters, Opinion, News and Features at and in the September 2020 issue of Old Bike Mart – on sale now!

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