Opinion: AMC Anorak 25

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Great Things Are Afoot. Is Frank Westworth really going to sell a classic bike? Or even two classic bikes? Stranger things have happened. But not many…

It’s all true. Although I hate selling bikes, and although I am absolutely no use at all when bikes need to be sold, I am going to change things around in The Shed. This will involve … gulp … selling bikes.

I really enjoy buying bikes. I enjoy everything to do with buying bikes. Buying bikes is fun. Even when I fail to buy the bike I’ve been trying to buy, it is still great. Even when the bike I’ve bought turns out to be a pile of something unpleasant … well, it’s all part of life’s rich tapestry, and therefore fun indeed. Buying bikes is such fun for me, in fact, that at one stage I decided to start a magazine called exactly that: Buying Bikes. Couldn’t fail, I thought, and indeed I imagine that it wouldn’t have. Failed, that is. Buying Bikes – how could you fail to buy a magazine with a gripping title like that?

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Selling bikes, however, is something entirely less great. I hate selling bikes. I am no use whatsoever at selling bikes. The very thought of selling bikes brings me out in a rash. The reason that The Shed is packed with so many bikes is because although I love buying bikes I hate selling bikes. I could never ever even contemplate a magazine called Selling Bikes. Which is possibly why the nice man who invented the Autotrader (which is all about selling bikes and other, lesser things) is a multi-millionaire, and I am not.

1947 AJS Model 16

It is possible that I have bought too many bikes. In times of tension, I have been known to give bikes away rather than sell them. No, chuckle not; this is true. I have given away some perfectly pleasant bikes over the years, and last year I tried to give my most favourite-ever car away, mainly because I couldn’t face the thought of selling it. Happily, Rowena, my much Better Half, would have none of this, and realised £511 from the sale of the mighty planet-destroying, gas-swilling but entirely wonderful Deranged Rover which had been my bestest wheels for a whole decade. I couldn’t sell it. She could. And she did. So there.

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When I decided that I needed to out a couple of the bikes from The Shed, my natural post-hippy, post-intelligence and post-affluence inclination was of course that I should give them away. As I said, I have done this before. I know how to do it. Giving things away results in a nice rosy glow which is only slightly sullied when the undeserving recipient sells the bike for an enormous sum a little while later.

It is like selling bikes to chums. I hate doing that. If selling bikes generally is an unhappy experience, rating, say, 8 out of 10 on a scale of unhappy experiences, then selling bikes to chums rates about 28 on the same scale.

I am planning to sell two bikes, and replace them with a single bike. So there. See if I don’t. Happily, only one of those bikes is an AJS, and I have a few others, but all the same, I do hate selling bikes.

Snarley pannier bullet holes hint at starting frustration. Probably.

1953 Norton 600cc Big Four

There is of course a reason for this sellingfest. I hate to admit this, but I have increasing difficulty starting some bikes. Which is why I shall soon be waving a tearful but manly farewell to a splendid old Norton Big 4, which has shared space in The Shed for some years. I just cannot start it. And what use is a bike which I cannot start?

Exactly. It’s excellent to look at, but is even less of a conversationalist than Agent Orange, my robust and faithful tomcat, whose ironic wit never fails to entertain me during dark moments. And in any case, the Norton Big 4 is a Norton, and I have several others, many of them with notional electric starters, which guarantees them a place in The Shed if not always in my affections.

The AJS is a surprise AJS. I’m surprised that I bought it. I’m not entirely sure how it happens, as with most things to do with AJS models, but somehow it just did. One moment I was strolling inoffensively around the always excellent South Midlands Autojumble, held regularly in a cattle yard near Ross On Wye; the next minute I heard myself agreeing to pay A Nice Man an improbable sum for a very sweet 1947 AJS 16.

I already had a 1947 Matchless G80, which is almost identical but somehow different, and a moment of complete insanity saw me acquire the Model 16 to match it. Why? I have often wondered…

Did I desire the Ajay because AJS intelligently placed their magneto out in front of the engine and away from the inevitable drips of alleged fuel from the notoriously leaky pre-Monobloc carb? Did I want to complete the restoration which someone else had previously started, restoring another noble Plumstead plodder to the roads where it belongs? Did I just fancy another old AJS? We will never know. Memory is a moveable feast as age marches on.

Random AJS Stuff on eBay.co.uk

As sold. Apart from the tank embellishments, are there any differences?

1947 AJS Model 16

But the Model 16 has provided a load of fun. I fitted it with a new exhaust system, from the remarkably-named feked.com, which is indeed an email address to conjure with, and had a go at lining the handsome, curvaceous fuel tank with sticky tape, courtesy of Classic Transfers. Neither project was notably successful, although they gave me several chuckles (and provided laughter galore for visitors to The Shed!). I made it go and I made it stop. I registered it and retained its original numbers. I gave it a clean and sprayed it with Duck Oil, for reasons I cannot now remember. And to no effect, because it continued to corrode, lazily, as my bikes do.

But what is it for? I do, I confess, prefer the unrestored 1947 G80 to the rather more shiny Model 16. And, rather strangely, I can start the G80 more easily. Compression is a worrisome thing; the AJS has loads while the Matchless has little. How can this be? Who knows?

By the time you read these weary words, both bikes will have departed; gone over to darkest Somerset, where I know A Man With A Shop, a man who enjoys selling bikes, a man who will sell mine for me in a hopefully painless way. I shall then use the proceeds, all £511 of it, to buy the bike I should have bought before; a decent single with a decent electric start. A Royal Enfield with a history. The very same Royal Enfield which Rowena rode all over the country a couple of years ago. Hmmm…

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