Although it’s too common to hear riders drizzling away about how the sun always shone in the Seventies and in the Eighties and how bikes were better then, and … add your own favourites here … the truth is that riding through a winter in the Seventies was actually far more unpleasant than it is now.
Modern riding kit is brilliant. It takes truly hideous weather to give a guy a good soaking. In much the same way, the improvements modern technology has made available to our favourite old clunkers have improved the pleasures of winter riding. Decent lights and reliable charging circuits; high-grip tyres and effective chain lubes, make the winter ride almost enjoyable.
Older bikes are often so effective at negotiating the worst of the winter that we need little excuse to use them while the heavy modern machine sits tucked away. Big wheels, narrow tyres with deep blocky treads are perfect for winter’s slush; drum brakes ease the stresses, and upright riding positions give maximum control at winter speeds.
My modern machine boasts shaft drive, ABS, power brakes and big wide tyres, as well as a low C of G and wide bars, so should be perfect for winter’s worst. Imagine my amusement when I found myself sitting on that fine machine, prior to heading out into deeper Devon, with the clutch home in first gear, stationary at tickover, with the rear wheel spinning on the sodden mud and grass route from shed to roadway.
Horses for those courses, then. The old AJS, with its unfashionable Avon SM Mk.II rear tyre, just pottered across the same stretch of field.
The ride is around 25 miles. In the summer, the modern machine takes a third less time than does the ancient. In winter, they take the same.
So, do not let the weather put you off. Enjoy the traffic-free roads, and delight in the astonished gaze of your neighbours when you head out for another ride. You know it makes sense. Mostly…
Frank Westworth, Acting Editor
Brough Superior, Panther Model 120
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