by Paul Grace
If you have a big pile of bits which could possibly be built into an Enfield off-roader, and no experience of riding in classic scrambles whatsoever, then it seems only natural to take on a classic motocross challenge. Anarchy did just that, and then he wrote a book about it…
Before saying anything else, I must declare an interest: I am a lifelong scramble / motocross enthusiast, and have myself competed in both modern and classic motocross.
After getting that out in the open, let me say right away that I think this book is a fantastic read, and I genuinely believe it’s one that should appeal to anyone with an interest in old motorbikes, whether or not they have any interest in competition.
This book is, on the face of it, a narrative of the author’s decision to have a go at Classic Motocross, and to do so by building his own bike out of a pile of spare parts he had laying around, and other bits he could source as cheaply as possible.
However, it’s much more than that. Regular readers of RealClassic will know that Paul has a true writer’s way with words, and is not afraid to go beyond pure statement of facts to descriptions of feelings and emotions, and this aspect is very much part of this book.
His approach to this venture was, in itself, quite remarkable. Most participants in classic motocross are born again racers who competed in their youth, or who maybe never stopped at all. Some are former works riders with Grand Prix experience.
Most classic motocross riders don’t have star backgrounds of course, but almost without exception they’re experienced scramblers with a background in the sport. By contrast, Paul had never ridden motocross before in his life, and decided to have his first attempt in his mid-40s.
The other exceptional element was his choice of machine: he decided to build a motocross bike from the remains of a 1959 Royal Enfield 350 Bullet he had laying around. Now the Bullet has a proud record in off-road competition, but mostly in trials, and isn’t generally regarded as a motocross machine.
So not only had he decided to go for the toughest class, Pre-60 (where the bikes are big and heavy, needing very careful handing over the ruts and bumps, and in setting up for jumps), but he’d also decided to home-build a bike from a manufacturer not generally associated with scrambling, and for a class where he’d be competing with thoroughbreds such as BSA Gold Stars and Matchless G80Cs, as well as very powerful and competitive TriBSAs and the like.
Enfield stuff on eBay.co.uk
What you’ll be able to read in his book is a fascinating story of how this project progressed. For those interested in technical details there’s a wealth of information on the changes he made to the bike, from initially getting a pile of semi-scrap parts into a functional motorcycle, though the various tuning options he followed as he sought to turn a humble workaday bike into a racer. There’s also moments of comedy as circumstances at race meetings called for ad-hoc solutions that seem to be too ridiculous to be true, yet really happened and worked.
What you also get is an honest, no-holds barred narrative of the writer’s experiences. His thoughts and feelings throughout the period; moments of optimism and of depression, cold and pain, achievement and satisfaction.
If you’re at all interested in old motorcycles then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this book. The author had a plan to have a go at building a bike himself in order to have a first try at an exciting, exhausting and dangerous sport at an age when many would consider a round of golf the most taxing thing they’d undertake. He did so with no background in the sport, and having very much to feel his way on every step of the journey. Despite all the trials and tribulations, Paul reached his goals; he raced on his home-made bike and he more then held his own against the other riders all on much faster bikes. As a bonus he can now always say that he did it – he got out there and raced, pitting himself shoulder to shoulder against a wide variety of other riders, some famous, most not, who have in common a love of old bikes and a willingness to ride them as fast as possible over punishing terrain.
As I said at the start, this is an engaging true-life tale and a really good read, thoroughly recommended!
Reviewed By David Mace
‘No Way To Treat A Classic British Motorcycle’ by Paul Grace costs £9.95 plus delivery from the author. Order online at www.greenlane.biz/book.html
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