My ‘tireless horse’ that just kept going

Reader Perran Newman fondly recalls his regular long-distance travels on a single-cylinder BSA.

Although my dad had no interest in mechanical things, I have to thank him for arranging for me to learn some of the basic skills of motorcycle maintenance.

In this offside view, EEJ 920 looks a proper cafe racer, but those clip-ons could cause a bit of stiffness after a long, cold run.

A local garage in Bexley supervised me while I repaired a 1949 D1 Bantam, and a month later, in 1962, I rode home with my L plates attached and knew I was hooked.

At school we pored over the latest issue of Motorcycle Mechanics edited by ‘big’ Bill Lawless, and dreamed of the 500s and 650s beyond our reach.

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Before going to university, I did a year in industry with AEI at Rugby, learning the basics of the machine shop and staying at their student hostel – Coton House – with about 200 other apprentices. By this time I had a 1952 plunger frame B31 in Devon Red (PJH 10) and I still feel that this machine has the timeless classic lines that are near perfect.

Those of us with bikes had a wonderful time riding the Warwickshire highways and byways, racing with each other, sampling the local pubs and not worrying about the effects. Remarkably, we all survived unscathed.

A young Perran Newman proudly sits astride his so-called ‘Goldie’, EEJ 920, in the car park of the Hand and Spear at Weybridge – a pub used by the Brooklands drivers. The rear brake had been over-adjusted and was rubbing slightly, causing overheating of the drum, and the bearing grease can be seen thrown out on to the tyre!

The temptation to ‘customise’ one’s bike was irresistible, and the heavy BSA mudguards were replaced with alloy
ones, rubber fork gaiters replaced more heavy metal, and even the dual seat was scrapped for something that looked vaguely like a racing seat. The old girl served me well during the many journeys I made between Rugby and the North Downs above Westerham, where my parents lived.

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Read more in the August issue of OBM – available now!

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