12 July 2020

Ride360 for Adventure

Guest post by Paul Davies

Looking for adventure after a hard few weeks led us to an awesome company called RIDE360.

Twenty-two middle-aged men met in the pouring rain early on Saturday morning. Armed with route waypoints rather than directions we dispersed into the south coast Highlands with a halfway point at Braidwood bakery and final destination the pub at Batemans Bay.

David and I found several lookouts along the way to Braidwood and early lunch enjoyed at Cambewarra Mountain lookout cafe.

Dirt roads dominated our moist afternoon and the countryside changed from dusty 4x4 roads to wet muddy trails.

Smiling, exhausted and thirsty we checked into the Bayview hotel in Batemans. If you're ever in Batemans DO NOT stay here. ($40 rooms should explain it all.)

Up early for new routes and the group disappeared into the morning mist for another day of screaming into your helmet. Today was some of the best offroad riding I have ever experienced.

Gravel, mud, clay and some sort of hard-packed super smooth dirt with a fine slippery powder on top. We followed majestic rivers and crossed their tributaries. We rode to the top of mountains up near-vertical tracks (not really but it felt like it).

I almost died. Sort of. 80kmh on a clay road straight into a hole covered in loose clay kicked me out of my saddle. I had my girl airborne more times than I should have.

Grinning from ear to ear and doing the Dangerman dance David and I had a ball.

New South Wales is amazing. Get out and get lost, its the best.

03 July 2020

World's First 250cc Four - which bike?

ASK any race fan which make first went to four cylinders for a two-fifty and he'll probably answer, Honda. Such was the tremendous impact of the stranglehold those high revving Japanese fours put on the world 250cc championship in the early 1960s.

But the answer's wrong. Benelli were first with a two fifty racing four. What's more, it was supercharged and water-cooled. The reason it was not better known is that classic racing had already been halted by the second world war when the beautiful little Benelli was unveiled at the Milan Show in the winter of 1939.

At that time, Italy had yet to be drawn into the war; and Benelli, along with Gilera, Bianchi and Moto Guzzi, were proudly showing the racers they had developed for 1940.

The Benelli four shocked fans and technicians alike. Only a few months earlier, Ted Mellors had convincingly won the Lightweight TT on the 30 bhp, double-ohc Benelli single - the only unblown four-stroke in the 250cc class that could hold a candle to the supercharged DKW two-strokes. And experiments with a blower on the Benelli single, though incomplete, had already pushed the power up to 45hp to 8,600 to 9,000 rpm and top speed from 110 to 125 mph (unfaired).

So the blown four with 52 bhp at 10.000 rpm and a top whack of 130 mph seemed not only bold and brilliant but unnecessarily premature too.

Technically, such small cylinders were heresy in those days, for outside Italy it was widely held that 250cc was the optimum cylinder capacity. Not for another quarter-century were Honda to show that, despite the law of diminishing returns, miniaturisation of cylinders was still paying off down to 25cc.

Alas, the Benelli suffered the same fate as the blown 500 cc Velocette Roarer, insofar as its potential dominance in its class was thwarted, first by the war, then by the subsequent ban on supercharging.

Save for the power unit, the Benelli four was identical with the singles (blown and unblown). The front fork was of girder pattern, the friction damped rear springing an amalgam of pivoted fork and plungers; and the horseshoe shape oil tank wrapped around the front of the rear wheel.

With its long tiny-bore exhaust pipes, the engine was a gem of neatness and compactness. The 42 x 45mm steel-sleeved, light-alloy cylinder block was set across the frame and inclined forward 15 degrees from vertical. The head had 24 mm valves, set at 90 deg to one another and 8mm central plugs.

On the right, a train of gears drove the two overhead camshafts. The water and oil pumps were bolted to the outside of the timing case and a half-speed drive was taken forward to the Scintilla Vertex magneto. The small radiator was mounted on the front down tube.

On the left, the drive for the large, eccentric-vane supercharger above the gearbox came off the transmission Fed by a carburettor installed on the right, the blower ran at half engine speed and delivered the mixture to a heavily ribbed, cylindrical intercooler, flexibly coupled to the four induction stubs.

With such an exotic racer built by a factory of no great size, is it any wonder that fans with long-enough memories deplore the present FIM trend to restrict the number of cylinders and gears for the world championships?

Photos by Roderick Eime (c) 2018. Bike shown is located at the Peterborough Motorcycle Museum, SA.

- text from HISTORY MAKER, Motor Cycle Magazine, by Vic Willoughby, 24 February 1971

07 June 2020

My First Harley: Tony Middlehurst

Long-time motoring journalist and former editor of SuperBike Magazine, Tony Middlehurst, recalls his first Harley-Davidson.

I'll never forget my first ride on a Harley.

It was the back end of the 1970s, when the summers seemed so much hotter and the roads so much more open. I was a callow youth then, still buzzing with the adrenalin - and the disbelief - that came from having landed a job as assistant road tester on a motorcycle magazine. I'd been 'broken in' on a succession of mind-numbingly quick Japanese superbikes until finally, I was ready to be trusted with my first 'hog' - a cherry red 1000cc Sportster.

Nothing that I had sampled before could have prepared me for the otherworldliness of that Sportster. Crimson peanut tank set off by acres of chrome, crude V-twin motor leaping about (rather alarmingly, it seemed) inside an impossibly spindly frame, freeway forks plunging and heaving in protest at the English A-roads, rock-hard seat and suspension pummelling my spine... Right then, the Sportster seemed about as inaccurately named as any motorcycle could be. Agricultural, noisy, thirsty, uncomfortable - it was the ultimate in excess. And I loved it.

I loved it even when, less than two miles into what was supposed to be an uplifting ride down to the Sussex coast (shared by an at-first reluctant lady passenger), the clip holding the exhaust pipes together fell off. One piece of bent wire and several burned fingers later, the bike sounded disturbingly like an ailing World War II bomber, but at least we were rolling again. The lady was less than impressed, so I cut my losses and headed home. Just since the clutch lever was so unbelievably heavy that I had been in some serious doubt about the long-term health of my left wrist.

Before the Evolution motor came along in the early 1980s, it had never been an easy job defending Harleys against their many detractors. Things are different now, of course. Now H-Ds can stand comparison with a surprisingly wide cross-section of competitors. But in nearly 90 years of continuous manufacture, the world's most famous and charismatic motorcycle company has always had a devout following among motorcyclists who recognise (and can afford to pay for) that certain indefinable quality which sets the Milwaukee machines apart from the rest.

In my time on SuperBike magazine, I lost count of the number of times photographic sessions involving test Harley-Davidsons were interrupted by members of the public. Misty-eyed men seemed to appear from out of nowhere, each of them with an H-D anecdote to retell. No other test bikes ever aroused anywhere near the same level of awed curiosity as Harleys did.

I always listened to those fellows, on the basis that I'll end up the same way when I'm an old man ... and then I'll need someone to listen to my anecdotes.

Did I ever tell you about the time I was riding an '84 Low Rider across the Arizona desert, for example? Now, that was an adventure...

Words: Tony Middlehurst from his book ‘Harley-Davidson’ Bison Books 1990

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