Thursday, 23 January 2014

Cum On Feel the Noize

If you work on and run obscure old motorcycles like I do, you need a good local, trustworthy machine shop and engine guru, and I'm very lucky to have Thatch. Thatch (not sure why he's called that, maybe because of his impressive thatch of hair..) runs E.M.S, and his shop is one of those rare places nowadays where you can turn up, have a cup of tea and a quick natter, leave whatever you need sorting/fixing/boring/welding/honing, and be told to come back at the end of the week, and it'll be done.  Thatch has helped me recuperate parts for my old Italian bikes that I simply wouldn't find easily anywhere else. He rebores any cylinder you present to him, and can sort out broken heads, valve seats, cranks - anything you want. I never ask him how much it'll be, and when he's done the job, I pay him what he asks without quibble - because someone like him, to me, is worth his weight and experience in gold.

What's even better about Thatch is that he leads a double existence, because on weekends he turns into Noddy Boulder - lead singer and doppleganger of Slade's Noddy Holder in his own Slade tribute band called Slyde - and they're brilliant live. And he definitely has more than a passing resemblance to Noddy, in both look and voice. My generation of kids who grew up in the 1970s loved Slade, so it was great the first time I met Thatch to be able to reminisce about the good old days. Thatch and his band rehearse nearby in a purpose built studio, and the level of detail goes down to his guitarist's fantastic  replica of Dave Hill's 'Super Yob' guitar. So I go along and we chat about engines, guitars, music, metal - absolutely perfect.

You can contact Thatch at E.M.S for any engine or machine work on 01296 655885, details here - he's based not far out of Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, UK.

Check out gig dates and more information for Slyde at their website here:

This is Thatch in impressive action with Slyde, he's the singer!!

Friday, 10 January 2014

Down in the Tube station at midnight

I grew up in North London and spent many years going backwards and forwards to school, to work or to socialise on the Northern Line of the London Underground. These fantastic photos by Londoner Bob Mazzer mirror my memories of the Tube and the people who used to use it, especially in the evnings and weekends. It's hard to imagine now we used to smoke cigarettes on the Tube, and the stench of the fag smoke would mix in with the smell of the stuff that they'd use for trains' brakes - like burning clutch material, probably aspestos.

I haven't used the Tube for years now, apparently you need some new-fangled thing called an Oyster Card. Mind you, in my youth, if you could bunk over the barrier and not get collared you wouldn't pay anyway...

The song 'Down In the Tube Station at Midnight' with its late-night Tube sounds and tale of getting a kicking still evokes powerful memories.

See more of Bob Mazzer's photos here, and read his memories here

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Post-Christmas winter Guzzi Lodola shakedown ride to Epping

Me and best mate Adam met up on the Sunday after Christmas as it was the only decent day forecast in between the constant storms that have been rolling in off the Atlantic for what seems an eternity. He lives a 40 minute ride from High Beech in Epping Forest, famous bikers' cafe' and spot to meet, and where we used to ride to when we were both still living in London. Decent weather it was indeed, but also bloody freezing, but we both set off on our Moto Guzzi Lodolas, both 235 Gran Turismo models (not 'Lodolo Tourismo' as a recent new book about Moto Guzzi has shockingly decided to rename them..). This was the first ride of any length of mine after I had worked on it after discovering sitting under a lean-to for many years - and it went superbly. Testament to the Guzzi's innate robustness, and slightly less so to my mechanical abilities. We had to take the country bends easily as there was a buildup of snow/ice sort of slush as well as the usual load of farmers' mud spread hear and there, and in fact I was laughing to myself about how gingerly we were taking the corners. But besides having to watch out, both bikes ran superbly and we were soon getting up to our old tricks of trying to out drag each other on the straights - fearsome fun at 45mph tops.

Eventually we got to Epping and a coffee - handy for defrosting the ice covered benches. Only other bikes there were a few full-spec BMW GSs, and several Jap crotch rockets with camo-clad riders. The Lodolas got some attention as people wondered what the hell they were, and wondered how especially mine even ran. Why is it that people expect to see only restored Italian motorcycles around? One German grizzled old biker (escaped from East Germany he told us) loved them though, rust, oil leaks and all.

On the way back, the footrest on my bike decided it had enough after 50 years and snapped. Luckily I caught the errant bits and had it cable-tied back on within minutes. Oh how we laughed. We got back to his safely, both old bikes having run faultlessly.

Best time I've had on a bike for a long, long time. There's something about riding smaller and older stuff that just makes you smile.