Archive for August, 2013

August 31, 2013

The Greater Ranges

Don took his power and skills further afield: The Alps, Himalayas, Patagonia. Again putting up inspiring first ascents on difficult lines that stymied his contemporaries.

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I’ve posted a similar image before, but here it is a a different light. A late fifties shot of Triumph Tiger pilot Whillans and pillion Chris Bonington setting off for an attempt on the notorious Eigerwand.

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This is recreated in the eighties about the same time as yesterdays posts subject. Both travel worn and aged but still a twinkle in their eyes.

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Here’s Don & Chris in the Alps at the Central Pillar of Freney, a severe rock face high up on the Mont Blanc massif.

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Exploits took him to the South Face of Annapurna.

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And Karakoram…

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He developed mountaineering equipment: the expedition box tent, Whillans climbing harness. A background as a plumber not only strengthened forearms..

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This image epitomizes his later years. An ’81 expedition to Gangotri – the ubiquitous monsoon season brolly strapped to his Adidas bag and approaching rake-thin yogi set the scene for one of Don’s tales:
Whillans rounded a bend and stood face to face with a mysterious Indian in a large turban. As was customary, the Indian held out his hand to receive a contribution. “Hmm, are you on some sort of sponsored walk?” asked Whillans and shook the surprised man’s hand.

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What a place to sit with a brew, smoking a fag after a good day on the mountain… A deepening shadow in the Chamonix valley and the Aiguille Rouges deepening in color of an Alpine sunset.

Though my favorite tale is this one while participating in the 1972 European Everest Expedition. The atmosphere was not the best among the various nationalities, no one wanted to carry loads because everyone was saving himself for a possible summit attempt. The German climbers heard on the radio that England had lost a soccer game to Germany. The conversation went “It seems that we have beaten you in your national sport”, said a proud German to Don. After a minimal pause Don replied “Aye lad, and we’ve beaten you at yours, twice.”

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August 30, 2013

The ‘ard little man in the flat ‘at!

“Is that to protect yer head or to keep yer fag dry?” Quips the great Joe Brown to a rope-wound motorcyclist as he dismounts from a damp ride along the craggy mountain bound Llanberis Pass in North Wales.

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The dour response in straight Mancunian: “me fag!”. This is none other than climbing Legend Don Whillans. These are captured scenes from a recently unearthed documentary from 1985 capturing Don’s last climb.

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There are some well filmed shots of the road up the ‘Pass’ . Don ever the motorcyclist winds his way along smoothly on a Kawasaki 440 twin.

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Coming to a halt in the layby below the imposing open-booked corner of Dinas Gromlech he meets up with his climbing partner of decades before and that day, Brown. His blue Belstaff jacket will have seen many damp miles across Northern England.

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Whereas Joe cuts a lithe figure for his, at the time, mid-fifties; Don is a heftier, pot-bellied, mountain of his younger and doughty youth. Back in the day they were a force to be reckoned with putting up the hardest routes, still test pieces to aspiring hard climbers, considering they climbed with rudimentary gear: hemp rope, M&S plimsols and sack loads of working mans bottle.

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The climb they were retracing that day was the steep crack system called Cemetery Gates, graded E1 5b (E for extremely severe).

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Joe strolled up it in fine style as leader, however Don needed a few tugs of the rope as second to help his 14 stone figure up the crag. He died two months after this was filmed at the age of 52. The Nepali Sherpas called him Tiger; he’s also been known as The Villain. Nevertheless he was the climbers climber.

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Whillans Last Climb

August 29, 2013

Eighteen Eighty Five

128 years ago today Herr’s Wilhelm Maybach & Gottlieb Daimler took their internal combustion engined two wheeled contrivance to the patent office thus ensuring their place as the fathers of the motorcycle.

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It was basically a boneshaker with stabilizing outriggers supporting their newly developed ‘grandfather clock’ single cylinder petrol engine, basically a test-bed for use in carriages and boats. It heralded a new age of transportation that wasn’t the commonly used but relatively inefficient steam engines and their hunger for coal which had ushered in the Industrial Revolution a century prior.

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The original was destroyed by fire in the early 1900’s however reproduction illustrate its simple efficiency.

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With zero rake and no trail the self balancing and gyroscopic marvel of the motorcycle we know today wasn’t experienced; but hey! You gotta start somewhere!

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Any way: Happy Birthday Motorcycle! Daimler lives on as the parent company to Mercedes Benz, however the Maybach marque went defunct this year.

August 28, 2013

I have a Dream

Today marks half a century since Dr Martin Luther King Jr. gave his inspiring speech on the pursuit of happiness to a quarter of a million strong crowd gathered in DC from all corners of the ‘States.

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Well… At that time there was another Dream hitting the roads of the Nation: Hondas 305cc twin that gave a new level of reliable easy and fun transport. Not quite red, white and blue… But near enough!

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As a side note a Dream was the moto Robert M. Pirsig rode, subsequently enabling his classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to be written. I think we’ll cover those philosophical meandering about the pursuit of quality another time.

August 27, 2013

Best Foot Forward

An interesting magazine advert with the outline of a shoe framing a couple of collegiate fellas looking at a Triumph Tiger Cub. “It’ll be a hoot to thump around on; the gals will surely be impressed; sweet independence!”

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The ideal starter bike, nimble, smart appearance (it was the Baby Bonnie) and fuel efficient. Here’s the real deal a fifteen year old Tom Foote on his ’59 Cub in ’63 with his friend Jim. Happy Campers both.

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Half a century later they recreate their youth. Same bike too!

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August 26, 2013

The Ace Bar Perch

A good view to have when haring along your favorite curvy lanes ~

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August 25, 2013

The Old Bush Road

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DEAR old road, wheel-worn and broken,
    Winding through the forest green,
Barred with shadows and with sunshine,
    Misty vistas drawn between.
Grim, scarred bluegums ranged austerely,
    Lifting blackened columns each
To the large, fair fields of azure,
    Stretching ever out of reach.
See the hardy bracken growing
    Round the fallen limbs of trees;
And the sharp reeds from the marshes,
    Washed across the flooded leas;
And the olive rushes, leaning
    All their pointed spears to cast
Slender shadows on the roadway,
    While the faint, slow wind creeps past.

Ancient ruts grown round with grasses,
    Soft old hollows filled with rain;
Rough, gnarled roots all twisting queerly,
    Dark with many a weather-stain.
Lichens moist upon the fences,
    Twiners close against the logs;
Yellow fungus in the thickets,
    Vivid mosses in the bogs.

Dear old road, wheel-worn and broken,
    What delights in thee I find!
Subtle charm and tender fancy,
    Like a fragrance in the mind.
Thy old ways have set me dreaming,
    And out-lived illusions rise,
And the soft leaves of the landscape
    Open on my thoughtful eyes.

See the clump of wattles, standing
    Dead and sapless on the rise;
When their boughs were full of beauty
    Even to uncaring eyes
I was ever first to rifle
    The soft branches of their store.
O the golden wealth of blossom
    I shall gather there no more

Now we reach the dun morasses,
    Where the red moss used to grow
Ruby-bright upon the water,
    Floating on the weeds below.
Once the swan and wild-fowl glided
    By those sedges, green and tall;
Here the booming bitterns nested;
    Here we heard the curlews call

Climb this hill and we have rambled
    To the last turn of the way;
Here is where the bell-birds tinkled
    Fairy chimes for me all day.
These were bells that never wearied,
    Swung by ringers on the wing;
List! the elfin strains are waking,
    Memory sets the bells a-ring!

Dear old road, no wonder, surely,
    That I love thee like a friend!
And I grieve to think how surely
    All thy loveliness will end.
For thy simple charm is passing,
    And the turmoil of the street
Soon will mar thy sylvan silence
    With the tramp of careless feet.

And for this I look more fondly
    On the sunny landscape, seen
From the road, wheel-worn and broken,
    Winding through the forest green.
Something still remains of Nature,
    Thoughts of other days to bring
For the staunch old trees are standing,
    And I hear the wild birds sing!

Jennings (Grace) Carmichael 1868-1904

August 24, 2013

It’s a busy busy world

One of my favorite books as a young kid was Richard Scarry’s illustrated sort books. They all involved animals as people in all traditional ethnic roles. Cats, dogs, foxes, worms, rabbits, pigs and usually a large lumbering bear. So when I found this vintage photograph it reminded me of his world made real.

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It seems bears have good balance. And for a reminder of his loose illustrative style. Lively, chaotic, family, work, food: Busy.

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And here’s a fox on a motorcycle. Reynard seems like a better rider than Ursa…

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I learned about the wide wide world in this book…

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August 23, 2013

The Pale Rider at High Noon

Spaghetti westerner Clint Eastwood took time off in ’68 when filming Where Eagles Dare to enjoy The Big Smokes roads on a latest and greatest Norton P11 Rambler

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A trusty A to Z to ensure your destination is gained on the same day, rather than later that week. Otherwise when crossing The Thames ask a bobby instead…

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It seems that The Man with No Name liked the twin three quarter litre moto so much that he is later seen on a blue high piped Commando..

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Back to that Alistair MacLean adapted adventure war movie. Still one of my favorites; combining Clint with Richard Burton was inspired. “Broadsword calling Danny Boy, come in, over”.

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The delightful and beautiful Mary Ure and Heidi Pitt as Allied Agents playing Bavarian Fraulein look on as Schaffer (CE) and Major Smith (RB) sup at their steins of lager. Moments of respite during location shooting allow our Harry Callahan sitting in an Austrian snowfield looking over the nearby Alps.

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Let’s have another look over that Norton 750…a popular motorcycle of the time and used to some sucess as a desert sled.

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“Well punk? Are you feel feelin’ lucky?”

August 22, 2013

The Demon’s Ride

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This fair’d, sleek iteration of a Vincent Black Lightning will do a ton and a half easily, remember in stock trim it could make 150mph. However fettle it up sparely and feed it a high octane fuel, find a l-o-n-g straight road and let ‘er rip. Hold on sonny Jim yer leathers might flap around a bit! And the horns? Well the horns are just fer show…

August 21, 2013

30 thou over and lookin’ good

A barrel arrived today for the Triumph Cub project. In terrific shape with a clean bore, nearly complete fins and a piston too!

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Eye spy with my beady eye a hole of 63.75mm. Hopefully minimal hone and top deck milled then she’ll be good un for the job at hand…

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…some assembly required of course!

August 20, 2013

An Avengers chase

Our favorite 60’s TV duo john Steed and Emma Peel managed to get into all sorts of scrapes and escapades. It usually involved a fight or chase scene with our action gal Diana Rigg. Here we have a hunting redcoat clad Triumph Cub rider chasing her over field and moor. This is the nimble Mountain Tiger Cub model.

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They always managed to catch their guy, and conclude the episode with some quippy remarks.

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…and let’s not forget Cathy Gale, the original feminist sidekick …

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August 19, 2013

The Shadow

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Early morning rides can be the best! No traffic, cool fresh air, long shadows following you…

“Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance”
Carl Sandberg

August 18, 2013

Das Boot

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My trusty pair of 8-hole Doc Martens 1460’s are the perfect boot for the old bike. Hefty for kicking the engine over from cold. Non-slip soles when dabbing your feet down at lights amidst the occasional oily smear. High coverage over the ankle for protection. Chunky toe for solid shifting. And, above all else… They are The Business!

August 17, 2013

Done Good at Dundrod

Our lad Guy Martin pulled out a hat trick with his three wins this weekend at the Ulster GP. All being closely followed on his heels by the Dunlop lads amongst others.  With an unmatched average lap speed of 132.938mph on his second of seven laps in the Superbike he pipped Michael Dunlop by 0.054s. At that speed that is as close as you can get!

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The big Suzuki is running well, the team are on top form and Guy can celebrate with a good cuppa or two! “Well done wor Chief!”

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