Doing The Ton

  • by Rob North


My first 100mph "event" was a little while in coming as my first motorcycle was a 350 MAC Velocette bought from the famous Velo tuner Doug Beasly (Beasly Velocette) for 12 pounds. My mom loaned me 7 pounds to add to my my savings at 15 years of age but you had to be 16 to ride a motorcycle.

When 30 June, 1956 came round, I was ready.  I couldn't afford a "pudding basin" helmet, so I painted my dad's Home Guard "Tommy" helmet black with gold lines over the top and Velocette transfers on the sides.  What a sight it must have looked and what a mess it would have been had I fallen off and landed on my head.

Well, the Velo would do a scary 75mph, tucked down, so The Ton was a still a long way off.

My next bike was a '36 Rudge Ulster "Bronze Head" in an Excelsior Manxman frame into which Doug Beasly had built an unusual swingarm from I-beam steel with swingarm bushings made from some large squishy rubber plugs. It took me about 9 months to get the Rudge put together and running but it worked extremely well.  I could get this big beast up to 95mph on the newly-opened M1 motorway.

The motorway had only been opened the previous weekend and we were racing up and down the 91 miles of the three-lane "race-track." My Rudge was flat out at 95mph on the speedo and people were lined up on the bridge across the motorway waving at us as we blasted through.

I was so tired on the return trip that I forgot that I had tightened the Webb steering damper down. So, on coming to the end of the motorway at Coventry, I almost ran over the dreaded "round-about." The terror of going straight on woke me up and, luckily, I was able to wrestle the Rudge between the curbs and stay on.

About this time, I had a friend named Ray Gregory who had a Vincent. We used to ride together everywhere.  One day, on the new Meriden by-pass, he came by me at 120mph. The wind practically blew me off my Rudge and into the ditch.

Anyway, Ray was building a sprint Vincent.  It had lots of engine work done and had 16 inch alloy rims front and rear shod with Dunlop sidecar racing tires. They were a square-looking tire with no tread on the sides which was OK for sprinting.  He also had one of those big, long, pointed fairings, that George Brown and Alf Hagon used on their sprint bikes, fitted on.  It looked fearsome.

When Ray took it to the local dis-used airfield at Church Lawford, I naturally went along.   I watched him run up and down a few times.  The runway had a slight rise so Ray would go out of sight making this beautiful sound.  A few minutes later, he would reappear like a white projectile.

Finally, he said what I wanted to hear.  "So, give it a go, Rob," Ray grinned...

It was the most amazing experience to accelerate, change gear, accelerate, change gear, and accelerate while feeling this tremendous strain and noise, all the while trying to tuck in out of the wind.  Turning around at the other end and doing it again is a feeling that only a group like us understands.

The tach went to 6500rpm which Ray said was a good 130mph.

I daren't tell my mom.

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