Second to riding motorcycles, and well second too, in terms of recreational activities I do like sailing small, high performance yachts. It’s a good pastime and your wind sensitivity becomes seriously acute. That’s why I was becoming increasingly aware of the roof ridge bending ever more sharply in the big, aluminium framed tent the TR3OC club had erected for their 25th Beezumph Rally.
Outside, the gale registered a Force 9 on the Beaufort Wind Scale – 50mph plus winds, 20-foot waves and a generally sparky experience for anyone camping. Welcome to the Anglesey Race Circuit in September.
Twelve hours later, I was sitting in the shade of our trailer trying to avoid sunburn as a Californian sun beat down from a cloudless sky. Welcome to the Anglesey Race Circuit again – and one of the most beautiful settings for a motorcycle event anywhere in the world.
The Beezumph is my favourite motorcycle rally – bar none. The TR3OC, established in 1979, represents the three-cylinder motorcycles produced by the BSA group in its final days: hence the Beezumph name for the rally, combining BSA and Triumph names.
The clever thing about the TR3OC, and it is really smart, is that the club is super well organized – well up to professional standards – whilst being completely relaxed and welcoming to those who don’t know that a Triumph Triple has three cylinders. And yes, there was a lovely gentleman at Beezumph in this category.
The theme of this year’s rally was the Triple in special form. In some ways this was rather odd since the hallmark of the BSA/Triumph Triples has always been racing and there’s not a race bike in existence which is not special.
Therefore, it was not surprising to find the Anglesey paddock packed fence to fence with three-cylinder race bikes ranging all the way from some lovely, original Doug Hele built Triples dating from 1971 to some highly modified machines used in current racing.
Naturally, most of the race Triples used the Rob North “lowboy” frame still very much in production thanks to the efforts of MCS.
These noble folk also provided the frame for Guy Martin’s World Record, Wall of Death, Triple-engined bike – although you would never know it with the raked-out front end which would look more at home on a chopper than a race bike.
Not that all race bikes were Rob North reps. One of the neatest Triple-engined racers was the Metisse framed bike of Nick Foster who had shoe-horned a three-cylinder engine into a space originally designed for a Bonneville – proof positive, if this were ever needed, of the neatness of Doug Hele’s incredible home drawn, 1964 design.
Nick races the bike in serious classic race meetings and it looks every inch the serious racer. He reports that it is not quite as quick as the best Rob North framed bikes but it was very beautiful gleaming in the early autumn Anglesey sun.
Gorgeous as Nick’s Metisse and the bike I would have most liked to take home was Tony Howard’s interpretation of the road-going flat tracker which BSA should have made at the time of Triples’ launch.
The bike was, and is, very much a labour of love and showed the special builder’s art at its supreme best. Tony toiled to get the best selection of parts for this motorcycle and then had the assembly and engine tuning carried out by the legendary P&M Motorcycles.
Richard Peckett remembers the bike well. “Tony had a very clear idea of what he wanted from the project and so we followed his ideas closely. The engine is lightly tuned – a slightly sharper cam to give a bit more bottom end and a gas flowed head – but we wanted to build reliability into the motor. This is why we fitted one of our belt drive conversions to replace the original chain primary drive.
“The belt drive is much cleaner and frees easily in traffic so that you can find neutral. Also, some of the replica primary chains being sold at the moment are not of good quality and a primary chain breaking on a Triple is always going to be expensive – not to say very dangerous.
“We did all the little trick things from our race bikes, like dished nuts and milled-out engine plates, and these look right because they are honest – they’re just what we would have on our race bikes.
“I think that this is why the bike has turned out so well. It’s a very honest bike and looks just like what it is, which is how all motorcycles should be.”
For the paintwork he turned to another great name in the British classic bike scene – FD Motorcycles in Great Dunmow, tucked away on the south coast of England. Nick Rowe specializes in painting classic bikes and has the same sort of intuitive sense of what a classic special should look, and almost feel, like as Richard Peckett does.
Instead of paint piled up in great, thick, garish layers, Nick applied the plain BSA red and black with supreme care and the results have all the purity of simplicity executed to perfection. This is much harder to achieve than might seem at first glance. Nick had no protective shield of fancy airbrush work or metallic finishes behind which to hide. Simple red and pure black was either going to be very, very good – or second rate – and both results would be readily apparent.
Do you need dished bolts, marginally lightened engine plates and perfect paintwork on a road bike? In practical terms, no – but there again Michelangelo could have painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in a nice, plain limewash and it would have covered the plaster just as well. Care and beauty does make a difference to our lives and Tony’s machine made me feel better about my place in the multiverse just as much as any other cultural experience.
Something else which made me think about issues wider than just motorcycles was the presence of Guy Martin. From being just a very good Isle of Man TT racer, Guy Martin has become a media superstar in Britain thanks to his innumerable non-motorcycling TV appearances. He plays the part of the bluff, honest man-of-the-people-folk-hero very well but professes to loathe the publicity which comes with stardom: not enough to refuse being a multi-millionaire but sufficient to avoid talking to the media.
On Sunday, Guy was, sort of, in evidence with his world record Wall of Death Triple. I’ve never been famous, not even in my own lunch-time, but I must say that it doesn’t look like much fun to me. “Selfie, please Guy”. “Picture Guy, for my daughter.” “Autograph.” “Look at my bike.” “Smile, please.”
Will you? Can you? Have you? Can I? It’s no wonder Guy looked furtive and harassed.
Guy is very, very wealthy and a media star – but I got to sit next to our trailer in the sun, eat some lovely salmon sandwiches with Carol and admire our Manx Norton. Then I went for a play on the track without being harassed. I can’t guarantee which one of the two of is the richer – but I’m fairly sure that I know the answer.
The final philosophical thought – I really was in a serious Zen frame of mind at Beezumph – was the social harmony of the event. In the paddock, there was a gentle, courteous, kind atmosphere which reminded me, very strongly, of my hippy days in the early 1970s. We were one tribe together bound by common interests, an agreed social structure and shared beliefs.
What was perhaps even more impressive was that the same spirit of unity and harmony extended to the track sessions. The Anglesey circuit is unknown outside Britain because it only hosts smaller events. This is a real yin and yang situation. Its joy is that the track officials know the riders, and car drivers, personally and have an affection for them which is completely unknown at the bigger venues. If Anglesey had a huge paddock, media centre and all the other trappings of a sophisticated modern venue then it would instantly lose its home spun charm.
As for the track itself, again yin and yang become apparent. The track sticks right out into the Irish Sea and, when a south-westerly storm blows up from the Atlantic, it is a truly grim place to be.
But, as with Beezumph, the weather can turn in the blink of an eye and then the 2.1 miles of twisting tarmac is utterly sublime and the equal of anything in the world. Here’s what it looks like:
On the track, yes the quicker riders did get on with the job but at the same time there was the same kindness and courtesy which exemplified the rest of the Beezumph and this, more than anything else, is the magic of the event.
Our thanks to the TR3OC www.tr3oc.com for a wonderful weekend and a reminder of why we all love classic bikes so much.