Welcome to my blog, these are the ramblings and musings of an (upper) middle aged biker and if you enjoy braais, (barbeques) beers and motorbikes then hopefully you will enjoy what Janet and I do; we do lots of braais, we drink lots of beer and we tour South Africa on our motorbike, which at the moment is a BMW R1200RT. Join us, read about what we do and please leave us your comments.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Iconic Ace Cafe visited, another "bucket list" item crossed off

Just a week to go until we're due to head home and Janet was feeling the effects of a bout of 'flu, "I'm going to stay home and keep warm, you go." she said and I didn't need any more encouragement, I had "googled" my destination; Ace Cafe and found that it was only an hour's drive.
If you're a biker like me, chances are you have heard of the Ace Cafe and I was dead keen to visit and immerse myself in the history of the place. It started in 1938 as a transport cafe but with the advent of the motorcycle culture in the '50s and '60s it became a notable venue in Motorcycle culture, especially withe the then popular "Rockers".
Young men would strip their bikes of all "non-essential" accessories and parts and do tune-ups to try and get the magical 100mph or "the ton" and from there the term "Ton-up boys" originated, they would race their stripped down bikes from Cafe to Cafe on the ring road and there also was derived the name "Cafe Racer" which is still used today.
The Ace Cafe carried on the same until 1969 when it closed down but re-opened in the original site in 1997.
In 1959 Father John Oates founded the 59 Club as a youth club and after a visit to the then notorious Ace Cafe and a meeting with the "Ton Up Kids" the 59 Club was formed and thousands of young motorcyclists joined, the club continues to this day and is supported by the Ace Cafe to the extent that the cafe provides full support, membership administration, regalia and other areas of Ace expertise.
There is a lovely display of typical Brit-bike Cafe Racers on display inside.
It's a busy cafe, I was there on Tuesday but there were still ten or twelve bikes parked outside and a lot of tourists (non-bikers) visiting too, there is a souvenir shop where I purchased a couple of cloth badges for my leather vest to show I'd been there.
The food was bloody good too, this was my pork spare ribs which I thoroughly enjoyed. The Ace Cafe seems to be going in the right direction with many organised bike and car events on a regular basis and I was really happy that I had had the opportunity to visit that historic place.
We're heading back to South Africa on the weekend so my next post will be from there, I still have a lot of photos that I haven't shown you yet, Castles and old churches, pubs and food, snow and rain and beers and wine but I will do some more posts. I'll be back with my club soon so there will be more of those photos too, stay safe people.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum

Started by Sammy Miller MBE, 11 times British Champion and winner of over 1400 events including trials and road racing, the museum is situated in the beautiful New Forest area of New Milton in Hampshire. As can be expected it is a gathering place for bikers from all over the country, and indeed the world as can be seen in the visitor's book - and now they have had a visit from a biker from the western cape, South Africa!
The Museum holds over 460 motorcycles, both rare and classic including a wonderful collection of  Nortons and is apparently the home of one of the finest collections of fully restored motorcycles in the world, almost every motorcycle is in full running order.

The museum is laid out in clean and tidy consecutive rooms and as you would imagine it takes a good couple of hours to take it all in, in fact rather a couple of visits would be better, a luxury that I did not have.

There are no modern bikes on display although there are some fairly recent classics such as this beautiful Honda CBX;

and this iconic Suzuki Katana 1100, both highly desirable motorcycles.

Move through to another room and you'll see fabulously restored bikes such as this Vincent Black Shadow or the BSA Bantam.

On the left is the Bultaco Sherpa T designed and developed by Sammy Miller who won every major trial and championship on it including the Scottish 6 day trials, the British Expert trials and the Scott trials in 1968. On the right is the 250cc N.S.U. Sport Max with full fairing which he rode to 2nd place in the Ulster GrandPrix of 1955 and '56, to first place in the North West 200 in '55, '56 and '57 and over 35 Irish road race victories, so as you can see, the man knew his racing!
I spent a happy couple of hours there taking it all in but I still had a two hour drive back to Dorking ahead of me so I had to call it a day, hopefully I will visit this fascinating place again someday because as they say; it is a living museum with knew machines being added all the time. If you're ever visiting the UK I would encourage you to add this museum to your list of must-see places.

I said farewell with a last loving look at the collection of Triumphs and BSAs, some of which I used to ride as a young man and headed for home.

I could not resist a brief stop for just the one beer in the White Swan in the centre of the New   Forest on the way, it had been a great day out, I programmed the GPS and followed her directions back to Dorking. Remember to click on the photos to see them full size.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

A day out for petrolheads

For Christmas my son Simon, my son in law Andy and I received a wonderful gift from the family; a supercar driving experience with "Car Chase Heroes". From an extensive list of mouth watering supercars you choose three that you would like to drive then you take those cars out and do three laps of a small circuit set up at an airfield, very similar to the track on the TV series; Top Gear.
We had booked the day for Friday 9th March which was very fortunately after the huge storm; the Beast from the East had passed over. As it was it was a wet day as we headed towards the town of Cirencester and the Kemble airfield.
We were in time for a nice lunch (with only one beer each!) at another charming old pub called the Elliot Arms in Cirencester before finding the airfield. There was quite a large crowd of driving enthusiasts despite the rain and the cars were lined up waiting.

As you can see there were many cars available, I was careful to choose cars that I could still get into and out of with a degree of dignity so I decided not to drive the Ferari or the Lambourghini, both of which are too low and cramped for my rather large frame!

My son in law's first drive was in this lovely old Camaro SS whilst mine was in the fabulous "Barricade" Police Mustang, my first time driving a Mustang and a goal fulfilled, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
The fact that it was left-hand drive wasn't an issue, it was automatic, extremely powerful and loads of fun. Three laps were over too quickly and I headed back to the pits a happy man.

My son's first drive was in this lovely old race-prepared Mustang whilst my second choice was the absolutely mind-blowing Nissan GTR. Incredibly fast with paddle gear change on the steering wheel I really pushed this one, especially since I now knew the track!
"Get outta my way, I'm coming through!"  

By mid afternoon we were pretty wet but all extremely happy, Simon and Andy both drove the Lambo and declared it amazing, my third drive was in the elegant and powerful Aston Martin Vantage.
Extremely powerful but very comfortable, a driver's car this was the only one with a "stick-shift" that I drove that afternoon, but I am used to that anyway so it was no problem. This was the only car that I actually slid a bit coming out of a fast corner. Again, three laps were over too quickly but it was an amazing experience.
It would be very difficult for me to say which of the three was my favourite because they were all so different and I loved them all. Perhaps if I had driven the Mustang last I would have had more confidence to push it a bit harder once I had track knowledge, as it was they all had their good points.
We drove home that evening happily comparing stories, the last ride of the day however was as a passenger in a fast car just to bring you back down to earth! We thought we were fast, but that guy was really fast!
Thanks to my wonderful family for a truly memorable gift and if I were a rich man I'm sure I would buy the Aston Martin, or would it be the GTR? Hang on, what about the Mustang? Oh well, back to my little Chev LUV.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A day out, we visit the nearby villages of Gomshall and Shere

As I have already said, there is plenty to see in this beautiful country and on a clear and sunny (albeit cold) day last week we decided to take a short drive to visit the villages of Gomshall and Shere which are only about half an hour away from Dorking, where we are staying.
 I chose a slightly longer route, "off the beaten track" and we drove along narrow, twisty country lanes through shady forests with moss covered boughs on either side. I love these drives but things can get a bit difficult if you meet someone coming the other way!
It wasn't long before we were back on roads easier to navigate and passing through the picturesque vilage of Abinger Hammer. The trouble with these villages is that they are all so wonderfully picturesque that one runs out of superlatives, bear with me.
Next was Gomshall and we stopped in a roadside pub for a cold pint,
from our refreshment stop we could see this older building next to the river, note the old red telephone box on the corner. We finished our beer and browsed through a nearby shop where I saw this rather unusual table;
made from parts of an old Royal Enfield motorcycle, I was torn between whether I liked it or not, whether I would have it in my house or not, Janet was adamant "No!" she said, but anyway I could not afford the price and the shipping so I left it.
Literally just around the  corner is the tiny village of Shere with its beautiful old church and graveyard and we briefly wandered the narrow streets, braving the chilly wind,
by then it was lunchtime and I was hungry, as luck would have it there was a lovely old pub in the village; the White Horse and we found a seat close to a roaring fire,
this delightful looking place was originally built in 1425 as a farmhouse and was converted to an Inn during the 1700s, this ancient history just blows my mind!
Apparently the area in those bygone days was the wildest in Surrey, with numbers of sheep thieves, poachers and smugglers who all found refuge in the nearby hills. The link with smugglers was confirmed during restorations in 1955 when a hidden cellar filled with casks of brandy dating back to 1720 was discovered!
In Victorian and Edwardian times the Inn was a meeting place for writers and artists and in 2018 I sat there and had a lovely lunch!
Seabass fillets on a bed of prawn risotto, delicious! Accompanied, of course, by a pint of lager. Another lovely day out and still plenty more to see.

Friday, February 23, 2018

I visit the MCN Motorcycle show in London, something to do with bikes for a change

On a beautifully sunny (but cold) winter's day my son in law drove me through to London so that I could visit the bike show, he had something else to do there so it was convenient to drive. We parked and took the "Emirates airline" cable car over the Thames, an interesting experience in itself.

From there it was a short walk past the luxury Dockside hotels and apartment buildings to the massive exhibition centre which was hosting a classic car show at the same time as the motorcycle show, so the crowds were huge.

Pretty much the first thing I saw as I walked in was a display of beautifully restored classics, I have a particular soft spot for the British Matchless and BSA motorcycles as they were the first bikes that I rode as a young policeman in the Rhodesian Police Force, I got my license on a Matchless in the Police driving school way back in 1968 and would probably give up a body part to own a Matchless like this one;
They were such nice bikes to ride, once you got them started! Kickstarting these beasts into action required a technique that we soon became adept at. Next I admired two classic BSAs which had been lovingly restored, I had lots to see so I reluctantly moved on.

I saw a modern remake of the old well known marque, the Brough Superior (left) and something new to me, "Mutt" motorcycles (right), this looks like a fun ride.

I spent quite a bit of time wandering around the numerous trade stalls, still looking for a specific type of cruiser/touring boot but I was unfortunately unsuccessful, I had hoped that this would be the place.

As you would expect, there were a lot of custom bikes on display, I particularly liked the "Green Manalishi" (right) by "Krazyhorse Customs". These bikes, as well as the impressive display of MotoGP bikes were roped off so that the people could not climb onto them. Understandable because all of the other bike manufacturers let people sit on their bikes, this had resulted in the BMW R1200RT having badly scuffed and scratched pannier cases and I wondered if perhaps that bike would have been sold off cheap after the show!

If I lived here in England I might have followed up with an offer because that certainly couldn't be sold as a new bike.

By mid afternoon the place had become very crowded and on my rounds I had noticed that there was a pub, I headed back that way in the hopes of acquiring a cold pint and a place to sit. I joined the long queue and got chatting to an English biker who, on hearing that I was a biker from South Africa, insisted on buying me a beer, thanks Julian! I found a place to sit for a bit and enjoyed my pint. It had been an interesting afternoon and I was in amongst my kind of people but it was time to go, I had a last look around as I made my way to the exit.
Biking is strong in the UK., I don't know much about their club scene but I do see lots of bikes out and about and they are, by necessity good at riding in adverse conditions. Not many of the roads here are suited to high speed riding, being quite narrow and winding, but they are lovely for tourers or cruisers and I would love to ride here.
We're off on another road trip down to the coast next and after that I intend visiting the Sammy Millar motorcycle Museum down near the New Forest, stay with me. Time is running out here in the UK, we head back home mid March where my bike is waiting for me.