"BRIT IRON" takes you behind the scenes at
September 2011 - Issue #10
IN THIS WEEK'S ISSUE:
* SAN LUIS OBISPO CLASSIC MOTORCYCLE SHOW - I went & took pix.
* THE FINAL DAYS OF TRIUMPH MERIDEN - I got the book.
* I GO TO "THE TUBES" CONCERT
* MORE WIERD STUFF - I can't stop...
SAN LUIS OBISPO CLASSIC MOTORCYCLE SHOW
Actually, the show is called "The Central Coast Classic Rally" and it's the 4th year. Sponsored by the Central Coast Classic Motorcycle Club, the show is set in the hills above San Luis Obispo CA, with serene views in every direction. It was well-attended by an enthusiastic crowd, and there were perhaps 100-or-so classic bikes there, covering the whole gambit: Classic American (Harley & Indian of course), European (BMW, Laverda, Moto Guzzi & others), Japanese (you know who) & of course, lots of our beloved Classic British Motorcycles.
One of my personal favorites at the show: Delicious 1957 Norton Dominator. WOW!!
There were field events as well, and they're always fun to watch. Like the one where everyone is standing 30 feet from their bike, the starting flag goes down & they all have to sprint to their bikes, start them & get off the line first. Or the one where they have to be 'the slowest' rider in the bunch, not the fastest. They have to be able to keep balance at very low crawling speeds without putting a foot down. The little bikes did better at this. All great fun to watch & even more to compete in, I'm sure. There were also lots of vendors & some amazing BBQ! My good buddies from Raber's Parts Mart (the greatest Classic British Motorcycle Shop on the planet) were there with their tent, lots of cool stuff for sale & some cold beers for the faithful, like myself.
Another personal favorite of mine, one looks & execution alone, if nothing else, this love 1959 Triumph 650 Chopper was all the rage with the crowds. Very nicely done.
This was a judged show & trophies were awarded. This was just Saturday & I haven't gotten the results yet. But I will be putting an entire page together on this show within the next week or so, so look for it in my MOTORCYCLE SHOWS section.
I was hoping to ride my '79 Triumph T140D Bonneville Special there with the group from Rabers, who left from Rabers Shop in San Jose CA on Friday morning. But alas, I'd broken my right foot just 8 weeks ago & only got the cast off about 2 weeks ago. While I'm walking around pretty well now & it's heeling perfectly, my doctor advised against me kickstarting a 750 twin with it. Probably sound advice. So, I opted to drive my Prius down on Saturday morning instead, spend the day at the show then drive home that evening. 6-1/2 hours of driving for 3 hours of show, but it was worth it. Definitely check out the pictures when the page is published.
TRIUMPH'S FINAL DAYS AT MERIDEN-THE BOOK
As you know, CBM now has a BOOK STORE, and I was anxious to try it out, so I bought a new book. Now understand that, in the process of researching this website, I have had to acquire dozens of books on the subject of Classic British Motorcycles. That said, I'd never read anything like this.
SAVE THE TRIUMPH BONNEVILLE!
The Inside Story of the Meriden Workers' Co-op"
It was written by John Rosamond, a man who started out as a welder welding up the new oil-bearing frames for the 1971 Triumph 650 twins, and ended up as the Director. Very few people know as much about as many aspects of Triumph's final days at Meriden (ie: the old Triumph, as opposed to the 'New Triumph' whose factory is in Hinkley). The circumstances that led up to the worker revolt & their takeover of the factory in 1974, the ragtag formation of their workers' co-op, undercapitalized from the very start & their ongoing struggles to stay afloat amid a crumbling motorcycle market, a major recession in England, withering competition from the Japanese, and an uncooperative & sometimes hostile British Government, are all covered in copious detail. And much more, almost too much. I'm not through it all yet, I'm about to 1981 & Triumph ceased production in 1983. There were glimmers of hope in there at times & of course the bulldog spirit of the scrappy Brits never ceases to impress.
It's an inspirational story in that vein. But, its also very hard to read if you love Triumphs & Classic British Motorcycles as much as I do. You see, I sort of lived through this stuff. I started working at a Triumph/BSA/Norton shop in Hanford CA in 1971 just as the new Oil-in-Frame bikes were being introduced. While anticipation of the new, much-improved models was high in the eyes of the public & of Triumph dealers, when the actual bikes arrived in showrooms, many were disappointed. Where was the electric start, where was the 5-speed, the disk brake? Who cares if the oil is now carried in the frame. Did you do anything about the vibration, or the oil leaks, or the shoddy electrics? It was a dismal time to be a British bike nut. Unfortunately, as good as Triumph might have been, their fate was being controlled by BSA, and those guys couldn't find their backsides with both hands! They screwed it up royally & went belly up, dragging Triumph down with them. Manganese Bronze, the owners of Norton, scooped them up in a government-backed deal to save the British Motorcycle Industry. This too went afoul & when Norton told the Triumph workers that they were going to shut down the plant & cease production of Triumph Bonnevilles...well, you just have to read the book.
It's loaded with info about all the cool bikes they were working on, how some of the special editions were developed, and there are tons of great photos that you won't find anywhere else. If you are a Triumph Motorcycle junkie, or a Classic British Motorcycle addict, then you really need to read this book. It not only tells the inside story of the final days of Triumph, but also shows what happened to the British Motorcycle Industry as a whole. As much as I thought I knew about the subject, I didn't have a clue! And I certainly had some of my facts & assumptions wrong. This is an important read. I hope you enjoy it as much as I am.
"THE TUBES" CONCERT
If you don't know who "The Tubes" are, then just skip to the next article, because there is no way of explaining them. I'm a 70's & 80's rocker, what can I say? I love Rock & Roll from that era. And The Tubes were on the outer fringe of that movement from the mid-70s to the mid-80s, never mainstream (sometimes almost), always wild & crazy, yet their music always had a social message that was intelligent. Hard to explain unless you're into it. Of course, they're still at it, wilder & crazier than ever, despite being in their 60s today.
Well anyway, The Tubes were playing at The Firehouse Theater in Pleasanton CA (where I live) & its just a 272-seat venue, so it promised to be very up close & personal...just the way you want to see The Tubes, if you can. So my wife & I went & we had a blast!! Fee Waybill, while straining at 60 to hit those high notes, never fails to entertain, surprise & even shock the audience. He did 5 costume changes including the his insane alter ego "Quay" in 2-foot platform shows & a silver fright wig. Roger Steen, the original lead guitarist, and Rick Anderson, the original bass player, are still in the band & kicking ass. It was a great concert & an incredible show overall. And it was nice sharing it with such a small group of fellow Tubes fans.
The concert was great, the venue was excellent, the people were wonderful. It was especially nice being able to attend a concert like this so close to home (about 2 miles from my door), and not have to hassle with parking & long lines. Just great. And to make things even better, true to form, The Tubes did a "meet & greet" after the concert, chatting with fans & signing autographs. Several hardcore devotees like myself brought old album cover jackets. Mine was the 1976 album "The Tubes, Rich & Famous" & showed all the band members on the back as they had been in the 70s. Big difference from today & everyone in line got a real kick out of it. So, both Fee Waybill & Roger Steen signed the front of my album jacket. It will treasure it always.
MORE OF ANDY'S WEIRD STUFF
That article about The Tubes almost qualified as my Weird Stuff entry for this issue, but never let it be said they I left you wanting. So, here's the latest:
One cold, but sunny morning, I got up to leave on a day-ride on my Harley with some friends. I warmed it up then rolled it out onto the street to behold a cascade of toilet paper hanging from everything in sight. What a spectacle. Apparently my neighbors daughter, in high school at the time, had friends who thought she would really like this. I must say it was very impressive. Probably one of the best TP jobs I've ever seen. Not wanting to waste a photo op, I had the wife come out & take some shots before I rolled out. By the time I got home at the end of the day, my neighbor had removed most of it. All in good fun...
Hope you enjoyed this issue of "BRIT IRON". Please tell your friends about it, and my website, Classic-British-Motorcycles.com. And please urge them to subscribe to this e-zine. It is my hope that the right people will discover this website & tell the right people, who will then pass it along to more of the right people, and...well, you get the ideal.
Thanks for all your interest & support,
PS: I'd love to hear from you, get your comments, ideas, suggestions, criticisms, whatever. Please contact me.
And above all, enjoy the ride...