Monday, September 26, 2016

Royal Enfield to Ladakh 2005 pt1

Sifting through old CDs and eek! this is now more than 10 years ago. The three week trip was a quick test for us to see how we could handle riding a Bullet two up in prep for the planned trans Africa route. We flew in to Delhi, dropped in on old friend, now sadly passed, Lakhvinder Singh Chawla and hired a 350 Bullet from Gurdial Auto Engineers. I knew Gurdial and Bawa from way back having first bought a Bullet from them in 1996. The hire bike was one of the home market models, a regular classic 350 fitted with cdi ignition and a front disk. The petrol tank was a larger 22 litre job and it had the 'Ladakhi outifit' panniers as they were known locally with jerry can holders. It was a sweet bike, not much affected by the altitude up in the Himalayas and it pulled pretty much as strong as a 500.

The mission was to make it up to Leh in Ladakh via the Khardung La and back. We did it in August when the road was guaranteed to be open and there wouldn't be much snow around. The ride out of Delhi was, as always, hectic and things didn't really get less manic until we got to the Himalayan foothills. First stop was Rishikesh and then on to Dehradun. The ride from Rishikesh to Dehradun is great, a first taste of being in the Himalayas, the road just goes up and up, the town itself though seemed like just a thoroughfare.

Thence on to Shimla through heavy heavy rain. Within a quarter of an hour the water was up to the Bullet's axles in some places. Shimla is a great stop, very scenic: playground of the wealthy of the Raj and now a popular honeymooning destination for Indian newlyweds. Next on to Manali, for a while the road runs along a spectacular wooded gorge which is a taster of the head for heights you will need later on in the ride. The town of Manali is a tourist destination but its main offering is as a gateway to the high Himalayas and as such the urge was to move on.

After Manali is when the fun really starts and you start to get a taste of the high peaks. We overnighted en route in Keylong as the last town of any note, not a big distance from Manali but the roads are not quick going, you've already crossed the Rohtang La (nearly 4000m) and it's good to take it easy and enjoy the scenery.

Next overnight is the Sarchu tent camp, a good place to stop to get used to the altitude before heading over the Khadung La (5359m) and on to Leh.

Rohtang La top. Digital cameras have come on a lot in a short
time. These snaps look slightly poorly focused...

Roadside dhabas (food shacks).

Baralacha La top. (La is hindi for pass).

Sarchu tent camp.

Tanglang La top.

Rumtse monastery close before Leh.

Khardung La top.

Keen eyed will spot the lack of bags on the bike. We went back
up the Khardung la on a day trip from Leh.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Even more Gold Star fettling

The Gold Star improvement project is making steady progress. In the first round of fettling a couple of years back I changed the seat to a standard BSA dual one: it seemed a good idea to have the possibility to occasionally carry a passenger. Now the bike is running properly I realise that this is a solo machine, there's not a lot of compromise in the engine to take two. Not just that but the BSA dual seat has a hump between the rider and passenger; being fairly long of leg and taking the rearsets in to account I felt that I was not able to slide back as much as would be comfortable.

As it came to me the Goldie was fitted with an original Feridax racing seat. I still had the seat so why not give it a try again. At the same time I cranked back the clips ons slightly to improve the ergonomics.

Success all round. The Feridax seat allows the rider to slide back a lot further and feel far more a part of the bike. Just pulling the clip ons back slightly has improved looks and comfort. Next step gearing and electrics.....

Maybe I'm biased but it really is a good looking bike.

Feridax racing seat in all its glory.

And rider's eye view with tweaked clip ons.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Holden Motor Bicycle. Britain's first motorcycle

Here's something a bit special. The brochure for the first British motorcycle, the Holden. Not only the first British motorcycle but the first four cylinder bike too.

There's an interesting blog article on conserving the original pre-production 1895 Holden on the National Museums Scotland website.

There's discrepancy between sources but the Holden appears to have been in production between 1897 and 1902. From 1899 the motor was updated to being water cooled, though was not a great success. Top speed was 25 mph, a fair lick for the time. The Holden was built around a modified Crypto Bantam bicycle frame and with the cranks driving directly to the front wheel must have been a handful. The Crypto Bantam was a development of the penny farthing and carried gearing built in to the front hub to allow a smaller front wheel. Though a big success it was short loved and replaced by the safety cycle.

Holden brochure front cover.

Holden brochure page 2.

Holden brochure page 3.

Holden brochure page 4.

Holden brochure page 5.

Holden brochure rear cover.

Monday, September 19, 2016

1929 La Mondiale for sale

La Mondiale was a Belgian marque in business from 1923 to 1934 that used a variety of proprietory motors. This particular bike has a rather nice 500cc JAP motor fitted, dates from 1929 and is offered for sale in the Czech Republic. A machine like this is hard to value, this particular one was offered for sale on ebay in the US a bit over a year ago where it didn't find a buyer. The bike then made its way over to Europe in a deal outside of ebay and is now offered on the market again. The seller is looking for around 12,500 euro. It's a rare bike but there's no formula that says rare is equal to strong money. A few months ago the price would have seemed a lot better to a sterling buyer! I'd expect an on the road equivalent British machine like a Cotton with the same motor to be around the £14k mark. As they say, it's all down to supply and demand and just how much you want something. Make your own mind up as to value and speak direct to the seller.

The La Mondiale is unquestionably a very rare bike and any machine fitted with a 500 ohv JAP of the vintage era is instantly desirable. I personally am a big fan of the late twenties and thirties pressed steel framed machines, there's something very Art Deco and stylish about them though the design was seldom used on a sporting mount like this. There's certainly work needs to be done on this example, by the looks of it ideally a full restoration or be it a very straightforward one. I would be surprised if the bike was not supplied with lights from new, the handlebar levers are definitely of a later period and would need to be replaced, there's something wrong looking about the exhausts too but all in these are fairly minor issues. I would guess that the petrol tank panel originally held at least a speedometer and probably a switch for the lights too, replicating this part properly might be a slightly tougher task. I've seen a picture however of a racing La Mondiale which has no lights or speedo and there's a chance that the example in question here was originally built for the track.

The sale is in no way connected to this site, the owner has simply gotten in touch and I've posted up pictures as it is a fascinating bike. If you are interested I can put you in touch with the vendor via his email address. As with anything sold over the internet best to make sure 100% you are happy with the deal and have ideally met the seller and seen the bike in person before parting with any cash. Caveat emptor and all that.

1929 La Mondiale.

Overall not bad looking. Clutch and brake levers are wrong,
the twist grip probably too.

That tank panel may have held a speedo and light switch or it
could just be that this is a race bike.

I'm not 100% on my JAP engine numbers but I think KOZ
denotes a 500cc (K) ohv (O) dry sump (Z) and the next letter is
either a H which means 1931 or  R which is either 1935 or race.
JAP engine numbers have a set pattern but every so often they
seem to throw in a few off the wall variations just so you don't
get complacent.

Gearbox number seems right for a late '28 or '29 Sturmey LS.