HAVE YOU EVER owned a bike for well over a decade yet never ridden it? Never even fired it up? Sounds stupid, no? And – take a deep breath – have you ever truly lusted after a bike, resigned yourself to never riding one, never mind owning one, and then somehow acquired exactly that bike? Can you imagine combining these two scenarios, odd though they are?
Well… let me share this. I’ve been an AMC – AJS and Matchless – nutcase since about 1971, when I bought a 1961 G12 Matchless on a Thursday and rode it from Ayrshire to Somerset overnight Friday. It ran perfectly. Remember at this point that the M6 was a short thing and the M5 mostly didn’t exist. On the Sunday, I rode it back to Ayrshire, ready for work the following morning. You can do this when you’re 18. I doubt I could manage it today.
Anyway. One of the Matchless machines I always fancied was their V-twin. Not the little jewel that is the Silver Arrow – a 400cc very narrow vee would be just too slow, I reckoned. I rode an Arrow once. It was indeed slow. Very lovely… but slow. The Matchless V-twin of my dreams was the Model X, a 1000cc sidevalver of resolute performance and truly handsome looks. Very basic, very robust, not fast but… resolute, as I said. I even borrowed a couple and delighted in their gentle and gentlemanly way of progressing. But they were always simply too expensive to justify.
Enjoy more Classic Bike Guide reading in the monthly magazine.
Click here to subscribe & save.
Then I saw an ad in an old issue of OBM, which was probably being used to wrap chips or something. An affordable X. Not too far away. Heaven favours the bold, we’re told. I called the number given and discovered that the bike was still unsold. Lots of viewers, all of them discouraged by the fact that it was nowhere near a runner and although it turned over on the kickstart there was no life – and no compression. And the wiring was hanging off – not that we care about that, do we? I made a bold offer. There was the traditional sharp intake of breath. Another figure – a higher figure – was suggested. And after a little while, an entirely polite little while, we reached a deal and I carted the old beast home on a trailer.
I could see no reason why the X refused to fire. It had sparks and it had fuel… but it had no compression. None. This is a bad thing. During the negotiation the vendor mentioned, in passing, like you do, that he might have ridden it from Bristol to Plymouth with the engine’s oil supply turned off. Okay. The price reflected that. I’d already decided that this bike would be my retirement restoration, so I parked it in the house and left it. For over a decade. Retirement still seems too far away, so I spoke to a pal and he applied spanners and…
it’s a runner.
Roll on summer, then.
That’s it. See you out there.