Four Seasons in One Day: Bikers Cafe Run – 02042022

Four Seasons in One Day

The Facebook group has been running for years now having emerged from a couple of old style internet forums everyone used to be members of. However unlike the forums the FB group has rarely got together. So we decided to put this right and arrange something.

An event was posted on the group and twenty-five folks said they were coming along. Thunderbirds are go!

As the day drew nearer the weather, which had been pretty good worsened. Temperatures plummeted and much of the proceeding week was wet and miserable. But what the hell; let’ see who turns up!

I Was Not Alone!

I rolled up at The Food Stop Cafe and initially thought I was the first one to arrive, but I wasn’t sure who was actually coming, so I didn’t know that for sure. In the end five other  lads arrived on bikes and two lads and a lass arrived on trikes. I must admit That hadn’t expected to see trikes, but it’s all good and interesting stuff. I particularly liked the one based on a Austin Maestro 1.6 Auto of all things! It even had MG wheels! Very cool

My R1200RS at  the good old Food Stop Cafe

Austin Maestro Trike: Obviously!

The solo bikes were good mix, my old mate and former Thundercat owner Paul rocked up on his spangly new BMW F800X. There lots other people also called Paul on the ride too oddly. I am terrible with names so it suited me! The other bikes were a Honda CB500X, a Thundercat, and a brace of Honda Rebels, one an 1100 the other a 500.

Honda CB500X and proud pilot

Shining new BMW and my old wreck spoiling the shot

Mild Confusion: Standard Ride Out Procedure

As we set off from the cafe we caused a bit of confusion on the A442: It wouldn’t be a group ride out without a sprinkle of chaos and confusion. But we quickly sorted things out and got underway. I decided to take the group of one of ‘my’ standard loops and headed off towards Bridgnorth, but headed off on the A448 before we got to the town itself. From there we quickly turned on to the fantastic, but challenging B4364 towards Ludlow heading for Clee Hill, a local beauty spit that boasts some of the best vistas that you will see anywhere.

What a Road!

This road combines twists, turns, bends, dips, rises and straights whilst picking its way through some truly beautiful country side. The pace was relatively gentle as people had not ridden together before and I didn’t want the trikes to get dropped; it’s a group ride out after all. We formed up for a few photos on route too before getting off the bikes once at Clee Hill. Despite the weather being a little iffy; it was very chilly and we had even had flurries of snow at one point! That completed the set as we had rain, sunshine and now snow! The view from the hill was spectacular as always.

All the Bikes and Trikes On Route

Getting Along Famously

What was as pleasing as our surroundings was how well the group seemed to be getting on. Well that’s biking for you: People who were strangers an hour before now chatting away and sharing banter and memories of a cracking ride so far. This is as much part of the joy of motorcycling as the riding and bikes themselves in many ways.

The compulsory group shot

Team Rebel and friends

Got to love a Thundercat

Heading Back

Back on the bikes and trikes we headed away from Clee Hill, passed through Cleobury Mortimer, another quintessentially (c.Henry Cole) English country village before making our way through the middle of Bewdley, a charming market town on the River Severn. It often features on the national news when the river is in flood. No such excitement today thank goodness.

Skirting the outskirts of Kidderminster we headed back to the cafe via the sinuous bends of the A442 as it cuts a swathe through the glorious Severn Valley. This includes one fabulous long, long left had sweeper as you climb away from Kidderminster. This one is a particular favourite of mine. Such a glorious bend!

All back safe and sound

Everyone rolled back into the cafe not too far apart. I was pleased to have held a line of solos and trikes together reasonably well. Once back everyone had a bit of a natter and some enjoyed the excellent food and drink the cafe serves. I caught up with my old mate Paul properly over a cuppa and he attacked a bacon and egg buttie whilst I picked at a light salad…

I counted them all out and I counted them all back in again

The perfect way to round off a great ride out. My salad is out of shot…

All in all a very successful ride out that everyone seemed to enjoy as much as I did. So thanks to all who turned out, rode so well and mixed so easily. Here’s to the next one!

Bobbing Around: Building a Bespoke Harley Custom. Part 3

Time to see how Tom Shaw is getting on with his Bobber build again:

You’ve Been Framed!

Now my work in the garage starts to get a little monotonous. I want to clean up the welds from hard tailing the frame, and remove the ugly neck gussets that the factory put on.

Let’s talk tools. Angle grinders are great and have plenty of uses, but I find them a bit cumbersome for some of the finer detailing work I like to do. A lot of it comes down to personal preference, for some people a quick wiz over the frame welds with a flapper disc will be enough, but for me I like to go one step further and really get all of the welds on bike frame clean and tidy. And for this you need something a little more delicate.

A More Delicate Approach

I have invested in a Milwaukee M12 die grinder, as it’s small, powerful and battery powered. You could use an air powered die grinder, but then you need a compressor, and therefore space for a compressor, and how often are you actually going to use that compressor and how often will it be sat there taking up precious garage space collecting dust? But it’s down to personal choice, and my choice was a cordless electric power tool.

Milwaukee M12 die grinder

What’s great about die grinders, is that you can get loads of different heads for them. I’ve got a big box full of all sorts of abrasive attachments that I can use to tackle the welds on my frame with, and because they are no bigger than 50mm across, you can get a much lighter touch than the big 115mm angle grinder. It’s only con is its short battery life, so you need to have something else on the go while you wait for the batteries to recharge.

Let’s Talk Gussets. Stop Giggling at the back!!

Removing the neck gussets is a right pain, I have to use a combination of the cutting disc and the flapper disc to tease them away from the frame tubes. And I didn’t do a very good job of it, in some places I was overzealous and cut into the actual frame tubes underneath – more welding for me.

Just ask Mrs Slocombe about Gussets (Those under 45 might have to Google this!)

Eventually though they do come away and I am presented with much more tidying up for my little die grinder. And before you start complaining that these were essential structural frame supports, I will re-strengthen that area of the frame at a later date. The tank and the engine will play a part in how I do it so I am going to park that decision for now.

Gussets Gone!

The Devil is in the Detail

Now let’s finish by talking about this sort of work in general. It’s not the glamourous side of customising bikes, it’s not making a cool sissy bar or re-tunnelling a tank. It essentially comes down to how many hours you are willing to put into your build. It’s also what people don’t appreciate when they ask you to make a part for them. Cleaning and tidying things up takes time, it will sap hours and hours from you, and it’s a decision that you have to make for yourself: how much do you really care? I do care, and I like to invest time in the little details which unfortunately slows down my builds. Now it’s worth saying that this doesn’t make me any better than people who leave their welds on show, it’s just down to personal preference.

Worth taking the time

Look Closely is the Moral Here

For me when I’m looking at other people’s bikes I notice whether they have cleaned up the welds, or removed that ugly stock bracket. Admittedly it doesn’t make much of a difference to the overall look of a bike when it’s finish, but when I get close to a bike and can see that someone has invested time and thought into tidying up all those little bits it adds up. And I think “wow, what a nicely finished bike”. Have a look next time you are around some custom builds and see if you can spot what I’m blathering on about.

Time for the Traditional Cuppa again…

Back to actual bike work next time I promise!

Words and Pictures: Tom Shaw

Part 1:

Bobbing Around: Building a Bespoke Harley Custom. Part 1

Part 2:

Bobbing Around: Building a Bespoke Harley Custom. Part 2

Free Bike Show Everytime: The Joys of Your Local Cafe

You Can’t Beat a Free Bike Show:

The great thing about our local biker’s haunt, The Food Stop Cafe at Quattford near Bridgnorth isn’t the food. Nor is the friendly staff, stunning views across the Severn Valley or the fact it is on a fabulous strip of tarmac (the A448 by the way).  No it is the fact it’s like a free bike show every time you ride up.

The House of Dreams: Inside there, is Bacon, white bread, strong tea and red sauce…

The Severn Valley provides a suitable backdrop for even the finest buttie and mug of tea

Today amongst the usual suspects: GS type adventure bikes and R1 class sporting machines there was a wide variety of machines for the fan of the quirky or classic to admire. I actually popped in twice as neither of my bikes have turned a wheel for a little while. Both needed the cobwebs removed! First I wandered up on my R1200RS and was quickly reminded of its calm, quick and measured way of covering ground.

BMW R1200RS: First trip transport…

Next up was my 98 Thundercat, which has seen very little use recently. I was speedily reminded just how much fun this bike is to ride. Especially when the revs rise past a certain point on the tacho.  A naughtier bike than the BMW somehow.

Trip 2 Transport. Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat. Great bike, silly name…

Back to the Bike Show:

Anyway back to the free bike show. The point here is that there was abut 30-40 minutes between my two visits. As a result the bikes outside the cafe had rotated and I had an entirely new selection to delight in. Fantastic!

I will let the pictures tell the story from here:

BSA Lightning. Not quite as quick as the one that English Electric knocked out. But you can’t expect Mach 1.5 from a parallel twin without extensive mods…

Yes we know the one in Top Gun was a 750

I think this Guzzi might have been responsible for the low temperatures: It was that cool

So cool in fact the rider had to resort to the integrated glove heating system! If this was a Japanese bike it would have an IGHS graphic somewhere on display!

Jawa 350. The Warsaw Pact’s answer to coffin tank RDs and X7s!

Yamaha MT-01: Rolling Thunder

A totally different take on that 1700cc Yamaha V Twin engine 

A Sparkly Norton

Neatly done Hinckley Triumph Cafe Racer

Is your local cafe this good?

The Ones That Got Away…

Recently I have seen quite a few lists on various internet groups and websites of bikes that people have owned over the years. It is interesting when put down in an entertaining way, helping to build a picture of person and their life experiences. Of course, I have list of my own, engineers often love a list. You can see how I have progressed from a humble 100cc Honda on to rather more potent machines. It tracks your progress in life too and how your finances have ebbed and flowed: Relationships, houses, jobs, kids and all the other stuff that life throws at all of us over time influencing your biking choices. Doing well? Lovely new sports bike. Having a tough time? Fixing a knackered 600 Diversion in the pouring rain on the way back from another miserable shift.

Unrequited love

But what I have not seen so much of are the tales of the ones that got away. I do not mean the bikes we have idly pondered over on some auction website or another. That would run to literally hundreds of bikes for most of us! No what I really mean are the bikes have always longed for and wanted, but for a variety of reasons have eluded you: Money, timing and even divorce! That sort of thing. Bikes you have never owned but always wanted to.

For me, amongst the myriad of bikes I have lusted after but never owned, three stand out: First up is the Yamaha RD500LC. After passing my test in 1984 and buying a RD250LC before quickly (literally) progressing to a RD350YPVS it was the RD500LC that was ‘The Daddy’. I wanted one so much it almost physically hurt! After a ridiculously enjoyable 2-3 years on my LCs the RD500 was the natural end game.

The amount of attention and notoriety the V4 stroker got in the press just meant that I wanted one even more. There was an iconic image on the front cover of ‘BIKE’ magazine with RD500 pilot flicking the ‘V’s’ at one of the plod on a R80 with the by-line ‘How do you expect me to catch them on this???’

I can almost hear the exhausts crackling…

One lad I knew had one with the super rare red and black paintjob. It was also fitted with four expansion pipes that emitted an almost malevolent and evil guttural wail. Man, I was SO jealous! But the reality of apprentice wages soon tipped a bucket of stone-cold water of that burning passion. Redundancy finished off the job off nicely!

Do not worry I soon got myself back into a decent job, then bought a house, so sensible. Not only did I not get a 500 I had to sell my 350 as well and wound up riding an elderly and rather worthy Suzuki GS550. The moment had passed, the desire to own the 500 remains but they are moving target financially: Every time I think I could be in a position to afford one the prices take another leap away from my longing grasp. I saw an example advertised for £22k the other day! I console myself by saying they weren’t all they were cracked up to be, but deep down I still really want one. One day, one day….

Still ‘King of the Hill’ for me…

Next up: The Yamaha R1, but the one you might think. I know the whole world is going mad for the launch model 4XV in red and white. People are paying a bazillion pounds to turn them back to stock, but the R1 I have always lusted after is the 2002/3 model in silver and black. The one with the cool slim LED rear light.

This time I even got as far buying myself the official Yamaha jacket with ‘R1’ proudly emblazoned on the back. I lost count of how many times I was going to trade my YZF600R Thundercat in for one. But somehow it just never happened. Trying 2006 and 2011 examples only served to feed my desire for my own R1 but as the years passed my waistline expanded from the effects of one too many ‘light salads’ and as a result sports bike were not for me anymore. I wound up buying a FZ1S, a sort of sports-bike for old fat blokes as one of my lovely mates so delicately put it. Many more years have passed and desire for my own R1 in silver and black remains, but so does my belly! One, one day…

One day, my love…One day

The King of Cool

Last, but not least in my list of out of reach loves, a Moto Guzzi, any Moto Guzzi really. I have always thought of them as cool bikes for proper hard core Italianate bikers. Why a Guzzi? Well because despite the fact they are not technically all that brilliant on paper; they are slow heavy things to muscle about on,  they just have a certain something. Many years ago, I shared office space with a French or Belgian guy who was cool personified. He rode a care-worn Le-mans Guzzi in all weathers and would arrive in the bike park outside the office peel off his one-piece riding gear to reveal a bafflingly immaculate suit underneath. He would then fire up a Gauloises cigarette and head off to start work, practically leaving frost in his wake he was so cool.

Inspired by this vision of steely assured style I booked test rides on a variety of Guzzis in the rather nieve hope I could similar levels of panache merely riding a lump of Italian engineering. First was a V65 Lario and then a Lemans V. Both rides confirmed that I just wanted one. That agricultural, gutsy V twin combined with an industrial feel to just get you going and want to ride and ride. Fast forward a couple of decades and somehow a Guzzi is still yet to grace my garage. Even test rides on more recent models have left me smitten despite gradual development soothing off some of the rougher edges over the years.  I particularly liked a V7 Special, but the Guzzi remains of my dreams remains elusive. One day one….

Cool, calm, style….

So what are bikes your ‘ones that got away’?


Words and Pictures Tony Donnelly