No, we didn't forget actor Christopher Lee who died this month. How could we? In fact, we wanted to save the last gasp of June for the most prolific actor in history, a legend in his own lifetime, and a cult icon.
Christopher Lee was most famous for playing Dracula, one of the roles he least liked, and a role that's been played more times by him than by any other actor.
But you can remember Lee for any number of characters he played including Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man, 1973; the Comte de Rochefort in The Three Musketeers, 1973; Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, 1974 ; or (more recently) Saruman in Lord of the Rings, 2001.
He also appeared on screen a few times as Sherlock Holmes and took a role in one of the Star Wars sequels. He played Fu Manchu, Grigori Rasputin, and Frankenstein's monster. He took numerous voice-over roles, lent his image to Paul McCartney's Band on the Run album (arguably one of the best albums ever recorded), and he also cut a few platters of his own. He had a great singing voice, and regretted choosing acting over opera.
▲ Christopher Lee got top billing, but this was Edward Woodward's movie playing the role of Police Sergeant Howie. Nevertheless, Lee gave a disturbing performance in this classic horror, and there were some rare and interesting glimpses of Britt Ekland too.
Christopher Lee appeared in more than 270 movies and admitted that he was quite simply unable to stop working. "I have no idea what I'd do with my time," he's been quoted as saying.
He was born in Westminster, London to Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Trollope Lee (who had fought in the Boer War and the Great War) and Countess Estelle Marie (née Carandini di Sarzano); hence Lee's full name of Christopher Frank Carandini Lee.
His mother was descended from Italian nobility, and Christopher Lee carried that aristocratic bearing with him in his height (6 feet 4 inches), his composure, his general presence and (not least) his cool, calm and perfectly modulated voice.
In 1939, he volunteered to support the Finnish Forces in The Winter War against the Soviet Union. By 1940 he was in the British Home Guard. Soon after, he volunteered to join the RAF, and he subsequently moved into British Intelligence.
▲ Taste the Blood of Dracula? We always thought it was him who had the bloody booze up. Seems we were misinformed. The Hammer Films were pretty awful. But Lee's talents, we feel, were never fully exploited—and he admits that he often missed opportunities.
It was the legendary Hammer Films that "made" Christopher Lee's career. But the typecasting that followed arguably also put a brake on his prospects. He starred numerous times with distinguished actor Peter Cushing, and they became lifelong friends until Cushing's death in 1994.
During his career, Lee received numerous honours and was knighted in 2009. He married once and fathered one child. He was also a staunch supporter of the British Conservative Party.
Above all else perhaps, the monsters and villains played by Christopher Lee were in stark contrast to his genial, good natured, gentlemanly personality.
He was loved by his fellow actors, adored by millions of fans, and we think he was pretty cool.
During his long career, Christopher Lee died dozens of times. He succumbed for real on 7th June 2015 in Chelsea, London. He was 93.
We like this book. Might as well get that out of the way. We like it a lot actually. It arrived in the post a few days ago and we've since been thumbing through it and comparing notes and nodding agreement.
Written by long established motorcycle writer Ian Falloon, the book is published by Motorbooks, an imprint of the US firm, The Quarto Group. As the title suggests, the material covers everything built by Triumph Motorcycles since Edward Turner's groundbreaking Speed Twin first made the news.
And that includes the Hinckley bikes which have rightly earned their place on the hallowed Triumph podium—and we've no doubt that if Turner was around today, he'd nod approval at what John Bloor has managed to achieve, and in such a short time frame.
Falloon is certainly no buffoon. Born in New Zealand, and now resident in Australia, his writing style is economical and unfussy, but not stale. He doesn't drone. He doesn't pad. He simply gets on with the narrative, and he's taught us a few new facts to add to our collection (after we've checked them out, of course). But as it stands, we can't see that he's put a foot wrong.
There are over 250 colour pages in this book. It's a heavy volume stuffed with images, many of which we've seen numerous times, but many new snapshots too. The dimensions are 255mm x 310mm. The cover is hard (with a book jacket).
What we especially like is the fact that you can simply dip in and out of this book as and when opportunity allows. There's some celebrity Triumph owner stuff inside (James Dean, Steve McQueen, Brando and so on). There are some racing heroes too. And it all adds up to a useful publication that will make a nice present.
The full title, by the way is: The Complete Book of Classic Triumph Motorcycles, 1937-Today. The RRP is £35, but already we see heavily discounted books on offer here and there. But pay the full price, we say. Ian Falloon and Motorbooks have earned every penny.
— The Third Man
We rarely report any news unless and until we've checked the facts with two or three sources. But on this occasion, we're going to take what we've heard at face value. Why? Because we've been expecting this for some time (see Sump June 2011).
The upshot is that Roy Bacon, prolific motorcycle author has died. The last we heard, he was living on the Isle of Wight, his home for many years. Indeed, he lived in the village of Niton which gave its name to Niton Publishing, Roy's company.
He was also a great fan of the BSA Bantam and for many years he both raced the bikes and flew the promotional flag. One of the great appeals of Bantam racing was, to Roy, the fact that it could be done on the cheap. Not that he was a cheap man. But he was realistic to know that not everyone had deep pockets and money to burn. And most guys liked to race.
He wrote hundred of motorcycle books and developed a well known series entitled: Monographs (images immediately above). There are still plenty of them kicking around, and at reasonable prices. The production of his books was never great, and was often poor. Additionally, there is plenty of crossover between titles leading to duplicated copy, and there was a lot of confusing repackaging of the core material.
But he was always well respected, not least for his accuracy, and his prodigious output helped many riders make the right choices with their motorcycle acquisitions.
Roy Bacon wrote for one or two of the classic bike magazines, but journalism was not really his forte. He was primarily a book author and preferred to work at his own pace and driven by his own interests.
We never met him, but on numerous occasions we spoke to him on the phone. He was always genial and helpful, but it was clear that he was slowing down and had better things to do with his time than repeat information that was printed in black and white in his books, if you just cared to ferret-out the info.
A few years back we tried to catch up with him, but he'd moved home. He was still living on the island, but had moved into a new home (close to Ventnor, we think). For many years, he offered a machine dating service and was recognised as an expert by the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency).
Beyond this, we can't tell you anymore about the circumstances of Roy's death, and if we knew the details, we'd keep most of them to ourselves anyway. Some things are personal.
If you were a friend or acquaintance of Roy, you can explore your own thoughts and feelings. If not, you can simply accept that he was a decent bloke, and now he's gone.
... and headphones too. But only for riders and drivers. Passengers and pillions can do what they want. The ban takes effect from 1st July 2015. After that, you'll need to unplug your Walkmans, MP3 players and mobile phone hands-free devices. Ditto for motorcycle intercoms—except for those pieces of equipment that employ separate speakers built into the helmet or otherwise deployed around your vehicle.
If you get caught flouting the ban, the French rozzers will be apt to relieve you of £95. That's €135.
But what's it all about? Well, French road accident numbers have lately been rising. The high water mark in recent history was 1978 when 18,000 people were involved in traffic accidents (we don't have a reliable breakdown of the stats).
Since then, fatalities have been falling steadily. But then they jumped to 3,388 in 2014. That's a rise of 3.7 percent, and it represents 120 more deaths.
In particular, it seems that pedestrians and cyclists in France are at higher risk these days (see the following story on UK road stats). So the Le Government Francais decided to bring in 26 new measures aimed at cutting the carnage (and possibly bikeage), and among the measures is the aforementioned earphone/headphone ban. This move, it's claimed, will help reduce the sense of isolation caused by earphones and thereby improve concentration. But not everyone agrees, and a high percentage of French citizens don't understand the need for the new law.
It's not clear yet if ordinary earplugs fall foul of the new law. And whilst these are clearly designed to protect hearing on the move, it can also be argued that earplugs increase motoring isolation. We wonder therefore if the new demands have been properly thought bthrough.
How the French police are supposed enforce the ban on helmeted motorcyclists isn't clear. Chances are, you won't get caught. But if you do, you'll have to pay the tax.
And watch out for French speed cameras too. There are, apparently, no significant plans to introduce any more of them. However, many of the existing cameras will now (or soon) be capable of snapping your number plate whichever direction you're travelling.
The government is also planning to lower the speed limit on single-lane minor roads, down from current 90km/h to 80km/h. And younger riders/drivers (18 - 24 age group) are facing a slightly lower motoring alcohol limit.
France is still a great place to visit. But the law is getting tougher. If you plan on travelling there, get fully acquainted with the new laws, take some extra Euros, and make sure you carry a reflective vest for your good self and your passenger/s.
— Big End
Statistics are pretty boring, so we'll keep this as straightforward as possible. Here are some simple (government) facts relating to 2014 UK road accident figures that have just flown in on a press release.
Overall, road deaths in the United Kingdom have risen for the first time since 1997; 18 years ago.
Cycling deaths are up (113 killed and 3,401 seriously injured).
Over 60s pedestrian deaths are up 16 percent.
Child injuries are up 6.2 percent to 16,727.
Total road deaths were up 4 percent to 1,775.
Serious & minor injuries were 200,000 (up 5 & 6 per cent respectively).
UK traffic levels rose 2.4 percent in 2014.
There was no special mention for motorcyclists, car drivers or commercial vehicles. The trend for these groups has been steadily going down.
Car safety, thanks to improved crash protection, ABS, traction control and automatic warning systems, has dramatically improved. In fact, near-zero fatalities are on the horizon.
Motorcycle safety, thanks to increased rider awareness, traction control, ABS, "THINK BIKE" campaigns and improved safety clothing (not least airbag tech) is also improving.
But the average age of bikers (and drivers and pedestrians) is rising inexorably, meaning that our reaction times (as a group) are getting worse, and we all break a little easier. However, we're generally healthier, and most of us will be biking into our seventies and eighties, and some of us way beyond that.
Happy days, huh? Well, maybe. Just don't get complacent.
— Del Monte
John Steed is dead. Yeah, we know that we ought to say "Patrick Macnee is dead". However, it's all but impossible to see this man as anyone other than John Steed, the suave, urbane, sophisticated, quintessential British gentleman made famous in the cult 1960s British TV series, The Avengers.
The Avengers was, of course, a pretty stupid name for a show that was about ... well, pretty much anything, just as long as it was surreal, amusing, witty and unlikely. But loosely speaking, the avengers were a pair of British government agents answerable to the enigmatic "Mother" (played by actor Patrick Newell) who often turned up in a London bus-cum-office to brief and debrief his intrepid underlings at the roadside.
Part sci-fi, part spy fiction, and part unclassified hokum, The Avengers was always a quirky drama and never aired without comic undertones. Patrick Macnee played the part of John Steed from the beginning (in 1961) until the end (in 1969). Later however, when The New Avengers was created in 1976, Macnee returned to the screen. He reprised his role, and in 1979 finished his tour of duty and forever hung up his legendary bowler hat.
But his John Steed character was never intended to be the leading role.
Macnee actually began as the co-star to actor Ian Hendry playing the lead part of Dr David Keel. But Hendry left after the first series, and Macnee seized the opportunity and made John Steed a British icon.
▲ The Avengers girls (Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg, Linda Thorson and Joanna Lumley). Everyone's got a favourite, but we love 'em all. Now put that tongue away, boy. You look ridiculous...
He famously starred alongside a clutch of leading ladies such as Honor Blackman (as Kathy Gale), Diana Rigg (as Emma Peel), Linda Thorson (as Tara King), and Joanna Lumley (as Purdey). The show was always sexually charged, but there was never any overt on-screen hanky-panky. It was all terribly decent and was left to the viewers to simply wonder about the implied romance between Steed and whichever leading lady was at his side.
Patrick Macness was born in London. He attended Eton school and was expelled for flogging pornography and operating as a bookmaker. He served in the Royal Navy on motor torpedo boats and later studied acting in Canada.
If you saw the 1956 movie, The Battle of the River Plate, Patrick Macnee was one of the RN officers dressed in tropical whites standing alongside actor Anthony Quayle. During that same decade, Macnee gravitated to the USA and enjoyed various minor and middling roles. He became a naturalised American citizen in 1959 settling in California.
▲ And then there were three. By the time The New Avengers was created, the franchise had lost much of its original charm and chemistry. But there was still some fun to be had, and some amusing plotlines and dialogue. The final episodes were filmed in Canada. That's the late Gareth Hunt (as Mike Gambit) in the centre of what was a professional ménage à trois.
In the 1970s, he starred in an episode of Alias Smith & Jones, the essential classic TV western series. In the early 1980s, he had a leading role in the movie, The Return of the Man from Uncle effectively taking over the "Mr Waverley" role once played by the late Leo G Carroll (another Brit, incidentally, who had relocated to California).
Macnee popped up here and there as a voiceover artists/narrator. He appeared in a couple of pop-rock videos (for The Pretenders and Oasis). In fact, he was always pretty busy as both an actor and a personality. But after The Avengers, it was all anti-climax, professionally speaking.
He married three times, fathered two children, and remained lifelong friends with Diana Rigg (Ms Peel). He died at his home in California aged 93.
It's news to us, so it will probably be news to a few other people. But it seems that on 1st April 2015, Tri-Cor-England Ltd (to use its full legal name) is now Andy Gregory, sole trader (albeit Andy and Julie).
Tri-Cor has a long history of supplying interesting parts for Meriden-era Triumph motorcycles, including some unique items and kits. But that's come to end as Tri-Cor has downsized, retrenched, and (presumably) re-armed. The firm is still a Triumph parts dealer, but now also sells manuals for other marques.
Today (25th June 2015) we spoke to Andy Gregory who advised us that the change is simply due to business considerations with regard to his legal trading status. The company is (officially) open for just three days per week (Monday to Wednesday, 9am - 5pm), and will be operating from home in Herefordshire. The telephone number is: 01432 820752.
This kind of rationalisation and downsizing is becoming more and more common in the classic bike world as dealers age/die/wise-up, and as the wrecked economy continues to erode profits and business viability.
You might want to consider stocking up a little on those hard to find items while there are still recognised traders willing and able to supply. The new breed of internet trader doesn't always know what the hell he's talking about (not that the established classic bike dealers always do either).
It's later than you think.
— Del Monte
We're grateful to Andy Bufton of the British Motorcycle Charitable Trust (BMCT) who contacted us today (23rd June 2015) via email regarding the above Matchless-Vickers 8B2/M Russian Military Motorcycle Combination (see main image on this page and check the caption top left).
The outfit was auctioned on 20th June 2015 at the Bonhams Summer Sale in Oxford and sold for £46,000, including premium (which is some way above the £25,000 - £30,000 estimate).
The BMCT bought the bike thanks to a bequest from the late Martin Tiller, "arch motorcycle and steam railway enthusiast of Southampton". It's a shame that Tiller isn't around to see that this rare and important machine has "been saved for the nation" thanks to his generosity. But it sounds like money well spent.
▲ Lot 312: 1967 Triumph 200cc Comerfords Trials Cub. Sold for £5,175 including premium. This bike is said to be one of 100 machines (or less) custom built by Comerfords, the well known (and huge) motorcycle dealer that occupied a very big spot on the Portsmouth Road, Thames Ditton.
▲ Lot 318. A circa 1913 Indian 7hp big twin. Sold for £17,250 including premium, and that's a very good price for this pioneer-era motorcycle. Honest injun.
▲ Lot 324. Ex-works, Hugh Viney 498cc ISDT trophy winning 1953 AJS Model 20. Sold for £16,100 including premium. After the ISDT win, the bike was displayed at the Earls Court Show and was bought off the stand. The registration number is AJS 6, and that's likely to be worth a few bob as a personalised registration plate. Shame to separate it.
▲ Lot 340: 1975 Norton Commando Special. This motorcycle sold for £4,600 including premium. Sounds cheap, but there are various "issues" with this bike related to engine numbers and cubic capacity (recorded as 850cc). All the same, it's a good price for a Commando.
Bonhams, which supplied the images, fielded 47 motorcycle lots of which 36 sold. That's not a bad result, and the auction house will be satisfied, if not ecstatic. There are not enough bikes in this sale to form any conclusions about price cooling or warming. But certainly there are no consistent price shifts up or down.
We want to make it clear that we had this bloody idea ages ago. But okay, Samsung beat us into production (we were trying to first sort out a broken speedometer on the Sump BSA M20).
The upshot is that Samsung has equipped an unspecified number of trucks (mostly down in Argentine, we think) with a CCTV camera at the front, and a giant screen on the back. So when you're bimbling along on your bike or in your car and are faced with a mobile barn right in front of you, you can see exactly what the barn driver is seeing before you attempt a stupid overtaking manoeuvre.
It seems that Argentina was chosen as a testing site because there are hundreds of single carriageway roads upon which one driver is killed every hour. A cynic might also add that life in Argentina is historically cheaper than life on the topside of the planet, so if anything goes wrong with the experiment, etc ....
We're in two minds about the benefits of this tech and can see all kinds of problems, not least the perceptual issues of watching/being hypnotised by a moving image ahead, and failing to notice that the truck driver has, for some reason, decided to slam on the brakes.
And what if the truck ahead is looking at a video screen on the back of another truck, and what if that truck is ... well, you get the idea. That said, maybe it's better to have a clearer view of the road ahead than taking your chances in the time-honoured manner. We're watching this one (pun intended) with interest.
But how long until Google and YouTube tap into the possibilities of a giant video screen and turn the mobile barn into a mobile billboard?
Makes you think, huh?
— Big End
His name is ... well, that appears to be one of Britain's best kept secrets, but whoever he is, he's just been fined £940 by Leeds Magistrates Court for "hogging" the middle lane of the M62 motorway whilst driving his Citroen Berlingo van. The incident happened in August 2013, but the case has only just been heard.
The driver's conviction, said to be the first of its kind in the UK, comes in the wake of new powers introduced on 5th June 2013 clamping down on dangerous and inconsiderate drivers. Spot fines of £100 are part of the new police arsenal, but this particular driver received a greater penalty.
Why? Because he "persistently refused to move out of the central lane", so a very large law book was thrown at him, metaphorically speaking. The traffic coppers involved said that other motorway drivers were "forced to brake and manoeuvre around him" (which to us sounds like part of normal motorway driving). But we ain't special friends of inconsiderate motorists.
Far from it. Kill 'em and eat 'em, we say.
However, it's perhaps worth mentioning that lane discipline in the UK (as we've mentioned before) has long since gone to hell. There was a time, for instance, when you simply NEVER overtook a vehicle on the "inside". But what with the proliferation of bus lanes in the country, plus the numerous slip roads and filter roads, undertaking is fairly normal these days. More than that even, undertaking is often necessary and required.
Meanwhile, PC Nigel Fawcett-Jones of the West Yorkshire Road Policing Unit has been quoted as saying that middle lane hoggers cause other drivers to tailgate them leading to accidents. If he really said that, he's a twit, because no one makes a tailgater tailgate. Most of 'em simply do it out of habit, and all of them (as far as we know) have a free will and a brake pedal.
Incidentally, the driver of the Berlingo didn't bother turning up in court. He was convicted in his absence and fined £500 with £400 costs. He was also ordered to pay a £40 victim surcharge—and he got five points on his licence. No doubt his name will turn up in the media sooner or later. But meanwhile, Mr Anonymous serves as a warning to the rest of us to clean up our driving/motorcycling behaviour, etc.
— Sam 7
The late Marlon Brando (1924 - 2004) bought the above 1969 FLH Harley-Davidson Electra Glide in 1970 shortly before he took on his most famous (but by no means his best) role, The Godfather.
The bike was sold before he died and is now coming up for auction with 13,859 miles on the clock.
Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills, California, USA will be handling the sale which goes down on 27th June 2015 (a little under 10 days into the future). The estimate is $200,000 - $400,000 (£129,000 to £258,000), which either suggests that Darren Julien hasn't got more than a hazy idea of how to peg and pitch this one, or that he's actually a pretty shrewd character and is nowhere near as vague as he seems.
The registration plate still has Brando's name on it, and the US Department of Motor Vehicle records will, apparently, be sold with the Glide.
A motorcycle purporting to be Peter Fonda's Harley-Davidson chop as used in the movie Easy Rider sold for $1.35 million in October 2014. See Sump October 2014 for more on this. The thinking is that Brando's bike could hit similarly big numbers. That's hard to imagine from where we sit, but Brando is almost as big in death as he is in life. So it could be that someone is going to make an offer that no one can refuse.
UPDATE: The bike sold for $256,000.
— The Third Man
This jacket is the latest thing to come down the pike from Speedwear, which is Chequered Flag rebranded.
The Pulford® jacket is designed with traditional wax cotton style in mind, but is being offered in "sand" instead of equally traditional black.
It could be the ideal thing to wear whilst bimbling around on your ex-army bike, or simply to ensure you stand out from the crowd at your local biking haunt.
It's a heavyweight waxed cotton construction with a waterproof membrane between that and the (tartan) liner. It also features CE approved shoulder, elbow and back protectors as standard. And if you really want it in black, you can bloody well have it in black.
Other features include:
Brown corduroy inner cuffs and collar.
Inside zipper pocket.
Dual storm flaps to front pockets and front zipper
Storm flaps to cuffs.
Reinforcement to critical wear areas (shoulders and elbows)
Brass zipper and roller buckles
Twin needle stitching
Removable Quilted Liner
Water proof & Breathable Reissa lining
The jacket also boasts "interchangeable flags on the pockets to suit [your] geographic location" (we don't know why you'd really want that feature, but there's probably a very good reason).
We haven't seen this jacket up close, so we can't comment on the quality or lack of. But we can tell you that the price is £149.99. Meanwhile, you might want to remember that Chequered Flag is history, and that Speedwear is now where it's at.
— Big End
Firstly, we have to say that we bloody-well hate the bloke, musically speaking. But you gotta admire a guy who can rack up over 100 million albums and win 17 platinum and 206 gold disc awards. And the only man who sold more albums in the UK was a certain Mr Elvis Presley.
The king of elevator music and lord of easy listening? Self-styled band leader James Last wouldn't deny either of those charges. Indeed, he was proud of his achievements and worked tirelessly to add to his catalogue whilst touring the world's concert halls, theatres and clubs.
In fact, James Last—born Hans Last in the German city of Bremen to an English father and German mother—gave over 2,000 live performances during a career that effectively began way back in the 1940s and ended the moment he finally fell off the perch.
As a youngster, he performed live for the Nazis. In later life he filled the record boxes of thousands of British charity shops with his relentless musical output. Since the 1960s, almost as soon as a new hit record climbed the charts, James Last would wind up his orchestra, rearrange the melody for strings, woodwind and horns, and serve up his peculiar brand of ear candy that satisfied the needs and wants of millions of laid-back folk who felt they could happily live without rock'n'roll, reggae and rap.
"Happy music" was what some critics, commentators and fans called it, the sweet mercy being that if you didn't like it, you barely noticed it as you wandered around your local furniture store. As his confidence grew, he flirted with mild disco rhythms and was always ready to take on the might of Beethoven or The Beatles.
For thousands of "ageing" Sumpsters, James Last provided much of the soundtrack of their lives. Maybe you're one of them. Maybe you even hummed along occasionally when your mates weren't listening. He had that kind of effect on people.
He officially retired in February this year (2015), which for a guy like that is pretty much a self-imposed death sentence. He had been ill towards the end, and he knew that time was rapidly running out. But this champion of "acoustic porridge" made it all the way to age 86, and as far as we know, nobody ever died as a result of directly listening to one of his tunes.
Way to go, James.
▲ 2015 Suzuki GSX-S1000. £8,999 basic, or £9,499 with ABS. Aggressively styled and competitively priced, the firm is busy touring the nations cafés trading bacon baps for test rides. But is anyone out there hungry?
Suzuki GB is taking to the streets in a desperate bid to woo back lost customers into its showrooms. The long established motorcycle manufacturer has in recent years lost a lot of sales ground to the likes of Triumph, Yamaha, Harley-Davidson et al, and plans to re-take some territory by visiting six UK biker cafés and fielding its current range of bikes, many of which are available for test rides.
The first outing was today (Sunday 14th June 2015) when Suzuki visited the Super Sausage Café, off the A5 near Towcester, Northamptonshire. Everyone who took a test ride was eligible for a free cuppa and a sausage or bacon bap. Vegetarians, we note, didn't get a mention.
▲ Cheeky marketing ploy by the Super Sausage Cafe. No doubt the Ace Cafe lawyers are watching this one carefully.
Suzuki will next be out in force at:
Squires Café, near Leeds, West Yorkshire on 26th July 2015
Food Stop Café, Bridgnorth, Shropshire on 1st August 2015
Oakdene Café, near Wrotham, Kent on 9th August 2015
Loomies Café, near Petersfield, Hampshire on 16th August 2015
Green Welly Stop, Tyndrum, Stirling, Scotland on 13th September 2015
If you fancy a Suzi and are up for a test ride, you'll need to be over 25, and you'll need to bring either the paper counterpart to your motorcycle licence, or recite your national insurance number to generate a DVLA code (see the news item further down this page for more on this thorny issue).
▲ The 73.4mm bore by 59.0mm stroke DOHC liquid cooled four cylinder GSX-S1000 features Brembo brakes, three-mode traction control, a new aluminium chassis" and a whole lotta attitude. Should Triumph be worried?
We don't ride Suzukis (although we've owned one or two in the past). But we keep hearing mostly good things about the new models, plus a few gripes from motorcycle dealers who feel that Suzuki has for too long taken its eyes off the ball. Well the company is looking to put that right, and it's roped in three-time British Superbike champion John Reynolds to lead a few ride-outs as part of its UK café tour.
Whilst we've got no axe to grind against the firm (Pearl Harbour and a few Japanese POW camps nothwithstanding), we might remind all you Sumpsters at this point that Triumph is currently fielding some excellent hardware, and Triumph is a British firm that keeps British workers in employment (and okay, also keeps more than a handful of foreigners in employment at its overseas factories in Thailand, India and elsewhere).
If you haven't checked out the above listed cafés, we'd encourage you to get along there at the first opportunity and spend some dosh. Times are tough, and your attendance and patronage will help keep your money moving around locally—and you'll probably have a pretty good morning or afternoon out on your bike to boot. You're a long time dead.
— Big End
▲ 1937 500cc Ariel Red Hunter. Historics at Brooklands had posted an estimate of £9,000 - £10,500, but this pre-war single was one of many lots that didn't sell. On reflection, that estimate probably was a little optimistic. But a week or so ago, we certainly didn't question it.
The auction house fielded 99 motorcycle lots and sold just 46 at its 6th June 2015 sale held at Brooklands Museum in Weybridge, Surrey. To rub salt in what must be a ragged wound, the star lot (Lot 351, a 1927 Brough Superior SS100 Pendine) didn't sell. It was expected to change hands for around £150,000 - £175,000 and thereby make a pretty decent headline. But that simply didn't happen.
Instead, the top selling lot was Lot 340; a Ducati 996 SPS 'Pre-Production' racer that sold for £48,160. Beyond that, there were no big surprises or significant numbers.
▲ 1927 Brough Superior SS100 Pendine. Hopes were high for this star lot. But Historics at Brooklands couldn't find a buyer for this estimated £150,000 - £175,000 motorcycle. Check May 2015 Sump for more on this Brough Superior.
You could look at this as evidence of further cooling in the classic bike market. But it's probably too soon to draw any conclusions. Nevertheless, there were a lot of bikes at this sale at reasonable prices that ought to have shifted.
You could also simply put it down to poor auction technique (and there really are techniques and approaches that make a big difference). But we weren't there on the day, so we can't comment.
And you could just put it down to bad luck.
Regardless, Historics is going to have to do a lot better if it wants to play and stay in the big league. Forty-six bikes out of 99 is only a 45.5 percent conversion rate, and that simply won't do.
See Sump May 2015 for more on this sale.
— Del Monte
According to the UK government, the new "paperless counterpart" for the British driving licence is "Simpler, Better, Safer". But according to thousands, if not millions of British motorists and motorcyclists, it's a retrograde step that's led to general confusion and car hire problems at home and abroad.
Here's the story. Back in 1998, the Driver and Vehicle Licence Agency (DVLA) introduced the photocard driving licence for residents of mainland UK (Northern Ireland had already introduced photocard licences, partly due to identification issues during "The Troubles").
The problem was, there wasn't sufficient space on the credit card-sized photocard to record driving endorsements and details of motoring offences. So the paper counterpart was dreamed up and supplied as part of the licence package.
In the "old days", UK paper licences contained all such endorsement information (valid for a limited period; usually around 4 years, but occasionally longer). But the cost-saving digitisation of the licence, and the need to "harmonise" with the EC, demanded changes. The plan was to scrap the paper counterpart in January 2015, but this was extended to 8th June 2015; i.e. today.
The government has since been advising all and sundry to immediately destroy the paper counterpart. If you need the information that the counterpart contained (for, say, car hire, test rides or employment purposes) you simply need to go online to the DVLA website and generate a code that you hand over to whoever needs to check you out.
Except that it's not simple at all. You also need your national insurance number, and the DVLA code is valid for just 72 hours. After that, you need another code, and so on.
Already the DVLA computer has crashed thereby leaving thousands of motorists and motorcyclists stranded at international car hire desks. But according to Oliver Morley, DVLA chief exec, if you're away from home and need that code, you can "simply" use your mobile and get online on demand.
But life, of course, isn't that simple at all. First you actually need to have a smartphone. Then you need a good signal. Then you need an internet WiFi connection that doesn't crash (and isn't suspected of being hacked). Then you need to find your national insurance number. Then you need to jump through the code-gathering hoops online. Then you need to collect/print that all-important code and hand it over. And if your plans suddenly change, you may have to do it all again 72-hours later.
So okay, these problems are not insurmountable. But an old fashioned scrap of paper with your endorsement details is by far the easier route to travel (for most of us, anyway). The upshot is that you'd be unwise to destroy or lose the paper counterpart any time soon.
Overall, it's a mess, and it's likely to get messier at moments of high demand. The DVLA, take note, has a track record for screwing up new driving licence systems (and similar). It wasn't so many years ago, for example, that UK motorcyclists were renewing their licences only to find that the DVLA had removed their motorcycle entitlement category thereby forcing many bikers to re-take their tests.
Therefore, we advise you to memorise your national insurance number, plan ahead for car hire or employment purposes, buy a smartphone, but keep that counterpart close.
So does it really sound like a smart move to entrust your personal information on a government computer without a paper back up? Remember that a computer can just as easily add information as remove it.
If you need more info, Google "DVLA" and check out their site. We'd give you a direct link to the relevant code-generating page, you understand, but we suspect (or at least hope) that it might not be valid for very long.
— Sam 7
Okay, we don't know anything about this product or the guys behind it except for what we've read in the press release. But we've been asked to help provide a little publicity, so here it comes.
Boken, apparently, is Japanese for "adventure". But the designers (Boris Moretti and Christian Mouret) are French guys heavily into classic bikes, bobbers, customs, modern bikes and whatnot. Basically, therefore, anything on two wheels. And it seems that one of them likes concrete too.
That aside, our Frenchie friends recently developed a yen to produce a face mask with "a radical new look", and they duly came up with the design shown above.
We checked the website. There appears to be six designs on offer, all constructed from black or brown leather, all hand made, and all containing an air filter. Prices are around €85.
That's all we can tell you, except that the masks look pretty good to us (if you like the beaky style). Eighty-odd euros is going to be a bit of a wrench for some of us. But it's not a bad price for a hand made item such as this.
Check the site.
— Girl Happy
The press release told us it's a new concept, but it seems that we've seen this before some time ago. Either way, the tech is apparently almost ready to be deployed and is set to radically improve road safety.
How so? Well, because in terms of road accident causation, falling asleep at the wheel is right up there with mobile phone usage, screaming kids, large breasted females at the roadside, and even drug- and drunk-driving.
So how does the wheelie-thing work? Well there's a little camera that clips to the rear view mirror and spends its motoring miles scoping the driver's eyes and counting the blink rate. When it detects lethargy or outright doziness, it vibrates the steering wheel and, supposedly, awakens the driver.
Naturally, it makes you wonder if interrupting a pleasant 40mph doze by sending minor shockwaves up a driver's arms is actually a wise thing to do. Maybe it would be better if a computer simply gently applied the brakes, flashed the hazards lights, steered the vehicle to the roadside, switched off the engine and reclined the seat. And mercifully, that technology is on the way too, which could be very good news for bikers because if and when a driver of the future fails to spot a bike, an array of sensors probably will.
The people behind the invention is ARM Holdings, a British multinational semiconductor firm based in Cambridge. The name "ARM", incidentally, stands for "Acorn RISC Machine", which was the processor used in the Acorn Computers of the 1980s.
But the firm has moved a long way since then. In fact, if you own or use a mobile phone, there's a 95 percent chance you've got a 32-bit ARM designed CPU (central processing unit) right there in the palm of your hand. You've probably also got another ARM designed CPU lurking in your digital TV, and if you've got a tablet device (or similar), there's quite possibly another ARM gizmo embedded within.
The steering wheel concept may or may not be a viable road safety device. But it's comforting to know that when it comes to world-class high tech electronics, Britain is still a major player and makes even Microsoft, Apple, Samsung, Texas Instruments, Hewlett-Packard and Intel sit up and pay attention.
— Del Monte