Tuesday, 12 February 2013

A motorcycle season warm-up in Telford


The Telford Classic Off Road and Road Racing Show

Last weekend was the Telford Classic Off Road and Road Racing Show - John Newman went along to see what was what and here is his report on the Show.

"Telford has an International Centre!" Exclaimed my friend, with the kind of mocking incredulity that might greet an announcement that you were considering moving to Milton Keynes.


It has a very fine International Centre, and on a cold, drizzly and dreary February Saturday a good crowd queued patiently to pay their twelve quid entry to this show announced as 'the largest racing show in Europe'.  They came to gaze and photograph an array of competition machinery, wander the numerous stands, listen to an engine chorus of race bikes of yesteryear being cranked up for just the sheer pleasure of the noise, and hear a succession of champion racers and pundits in conversation and being interviewed. There was a feeling of 'let's get this winter over and get on with our bike sport' buzzing around.

Telford - a UNESCO World Heritage site!


Telford was one of the new towns conceived and built in the 60's and 70's primarily to give people who lived in sub-standard accommodation in Birmingham and the West Midlands better housing. And, despite the fact that it is the gateway to the wonderful Ironbridge Gorge museums and tourist destinations – and a UNESCO World Heritage site, it has never quite shaken off a prejudicial reputation as an 'overspill' town for the working class.

It's worth remembering too that the person it was named after, Thomas Telford, the prolific civil engineer of road, bridge and canal building fame, came from very humble and poor surroundings in his native Scotland, and grafted as stonemason from the age of fourteen.

The show was laid out in three halls; road racing bikes; off road bikes; and trade stands. There was also a significant off road auto jumble and bike sales section in one of the car parks, but these exhibitors had to endure the aforementioned weather, while the insiders experienced the pleasures of huge ceiling suspended heaters.

A kid in a sweetshop


It's always like the proverbial 'kid in a sweetshop' when you walk into show halls. Where to start? What's the walk around plan? It was made slightly easier as the organisers had handed out a useful timetable for the day. For example the starting up of the classic racers was timed to the minute. At 10.27 Sammy Miller's V8 Moto Guzzi was allowed to yowl; then in succession through the day you could hear (and smell) Mick Grants Kawasaki KR750, Suzuki Square Four, Walter Zellers BMW, Robert Dunlop's Rotary Norton etc.

Motorcycle stars a plenty

The stars appearing and talking on stage among others were Sammy Miller, John McGuinness, Bryan Wade (five times British Moto X champion), Eric Boocock ex speedway star and classic trials rider, and Julian Ryder the entertaining motorcycle journalist giving his predictions for the upcoming Moto GP season.




Captivating pictures

Looking for captivating pictures as well as what interested me, I was drawn to a bright blue and white sprint bike with the lower fairing removed revealing a veritable art work of two stroke expansion pipes, and named Frankie's Monster. The builder and rider Alan Tinnian told me that the power unit for this creation was a Yamaha TZ500 engine gleaned from one of world sidecar champion Steve Webster's bikes. The cranks were always the weak spot with this engine, but before releasing the power in sprints Alan had modified and strengthened them. He'll be giving the bike an outing at this years Festival of a Thousand Bikes at Mallory Park. 


Classic shows and racing is one area of motorcycle market and activity that appears to be bucking the recessionary trend. The age and disposable income of the blokes who support and enjoy these events is a key element in their success at attracting a healthy following. Plus the almost inescapable penchant for nostalgia.

TT winners


As I looked at a row of immaculate Bultaco racers and production racers that notched up a number of TT wins; noticed that Eddie Crooks, one of the people who made the two stroke Suzuki in its various configurations go very fast, was still in business; and wandered past the stand of the club who provided my first experience of track racing; the BSA Bantam Racing Club. The memories of those years floated pleasurably through my mind.


There was a line up of Jawa ISDT (International Six Day Trial) bikes. A reminder of how this event was the pre-cursor of the long distance rallies of today. And how the Czech factory, at the time when the country was under the political and economic influence of the old Soviet regime, dominated off road and speedway with their rugged and reliable engines.

Affordable grass roots racing

It wasn't all about famous and recognisable bikes and people. Grass roots clubs which are encouraging the sport and providing opportunities for affordable racing were displaying their own bikes and promoting membership. The Early Stocks Racing Club hold eight meetings per year for pre '87 bikes. Keeping those big old Japanese fours in Tarmac business. While the Peterchurch Grasstrack Club had a row of bikes, presumably belonging to their members, and were displaying a video to demonstrate this increasingly rare but exciting branch of bike sport.

Help to part with your cash?

If you were looking to part with cash there were opportunities to spend some serious money. I spotted a 2002 Spondon Yamaha TZ250, the lap record holder at Aberdare Park circuit in Wales. A beautifully turned out machine, but £14K? The same makers popular TY trials model attracts a lot of restoration attention. A TY 250 was up for grabs at £6K. If these bikes shift at these prices this section of the market is in good health.

One of the abiding mysteries of classic bikes and restoration shows, are the stalls laden with unidentifiable and unlabelled old bike parts: tanks, wheels, hubs, brakes, rusting sprockets, fork legs, seats, part dismantled engines. For these independent dealers/stall holders to survive there must be throughout the land a small army of knowledgeable enthusiasts who can sift this 'junk' and spot the very part they need. Marvellous.

Can there be a better way to spend a pre-season weekend than being reminded of the motorcycling and sporting activity in store when the days turn longer and warmer? I don't think so!


John Newman
for Wemoto News

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