By Quasar to the BMF Show

© Paul Blezard 2007 - Return to Paul Blez’s stories and snaps

 

 

Last weekend I paid my first visit to the BMF Show for several years, and my first in the Quasar.  Long time members of this list and/or the BFF will know that we used to have an FF stand there for several years in the late ‘90s and early Noughties. (When was the last, I ask myself?)

 

  In the past I’ve been to the BMF on the Flying Banana, a John Bruce Honda SuperDream FF,  Keith Duckworth’s Voyager, a Honda Helix and sundry other superscooters. Last weekend’s trip was my first out of town ride on the Quasar since I had Punctureseal fitted to both wheels and I had a nasty surprise on Friday evening when I rode down to Elspeth’s place near Guildford. On the fast section of the A3 the Quasar’s front end started juddering worse than it ever has before, with 90mph apparently being the worst speed. Below 75mph, everything was fine.

 

Before leaving for Peterborough the next day I checked the tyre pressures and found that the rear pressure had dropped from 40psi to 30 in the three weeks or so since the Punctureseal was fitted, which is a vast improvement on the previous leak; before, it would dropped below 10psi in a matter of days. Elspeth left about half an hour before me in her immaculate 1979 VW Kombi camper, which would provide our overnight accommodation.

 

 

  I filled up with LRP at the Cobham Sainsbury’s (just off Jct10 of the M25/A3) and was disappointed to find that the Quasar had used 7.6 litres of juice in only 89 miles (a worst ever 53mpg). I had a few bits of vibration on the M25, but the traffic was dense enough to keep speed below the critical 90mph for much of the time. I took the enjoyable dual carriageway short cut from Jct21A of the M25 onto the A414, which joins the A1 at Hatfield.

 

  I don’t know if there’s something about the A1 and the prevailing winds, but as with my last trip up it for the Harley launch last September it seemed pretty damn windy. Not quite as bad as last time though. I made ‘good progress’ but the front wheel vibration came in with a vengeance several times. It was really thumping hard, making it quite painful to hold on at times, and was bad enough to blur the left handlebar when I took my left hand off. The worst moment was when I rolled the throttle going into a fast S-bend at an indicated 90mph and the vibration suddenly kicked in so badly that I could barely see where I was going and wondered for a moment whether I’d even make it through the corner. Returning to a more sedate 75mph restored everything to peace and quiet, as did accelerating up to 100mph. Hmmm.  What’s bizarre is that the vibration is not consistent. It doesn’t happen every time you hit 90mph, only sometimes, but shutting off at any speed over 80mph does now seem to bring it on even when it’s previously been behaving itself.

 

 

  It’s funny how sporty cars rarely seem to be driven quickly; on this journey it was a Hyundai 4x4 which was the quickest thing on that particular stretch of the A1. We passed and re-passed each other several times over about 20 miles.  He backed off in the fast corners, but had much more stomp up the hills, while I could sneak past on the brakes into the roundabouts. I’d clocked up 118 miles on the odo by the time I got to the East of England Showground at about 7pm and was just about to turn through the gates when I spotted double Quasar owner Tudor Thomas, wife Suzy and the 4 kids parked up with their immaculate 1962 split screen VW Kombi camper. Seconds later, as if by magic, Elspeth was right behind me in her Kombi, complete with Nick Sanders on board. Spooky.

 

  We adjourned en masse to a nearby pub where the two round-shape Kombis and the Quasar drew plenty of attention from passers-by. Before we went in I persuaded Nick to have a sit in the roofed FF. The multiple round-the-world biker, mad balloonist and kamikaze canal boat transporter quoth: "I don't know how you do it; I couldn't possibly ride this thing". Last summer Nick filmed me riding and briefly talking about the Quasar for his forthcoming DVD and TV series ‘Biker Britain. (For reasons best known to himself it wasn’t deemed to be suitable for inclusion in the coffee table book version, available now from a Hein Gericke store near you). Elspeth agreed that she’d found the A1 pretty windy, so it wasn’t just me and the Quasar.

 

 

Next morning I parked the Quasar next to Nick’s RTW-in-19-days R1 at his stand and went off for a wander round the show. I watched the start of the moped race, still going strong 21 years after I helped to organise the first one at the BMF for BIKE magazine and competed on the trusty NVT FF moped with the likes of Andy Tribble, Julian Bond, Ian Dunn and Neil Vass. Now that it’s held on the loose-surfaced speedway track in the main arena, rather than on a square of tarmac side, an FF moped racer is somewhat less suitable….

 

 

 I returned to the Quasar to find Barry W waiting for me. Turns out he’s the owner of the Gold Wing Phasar previously owned by Richard Baughan, which I rode briefly in Coventry in about 1985. (For FF minutiae and memorabilia collectors, a photo I took of it on that occasion was published in a special edition of, I think, Motorrad which was devoted exclusively to unusual Hondas). Anyway, the bike is currently lacking an engine but he’s hoping to get it all up and running eventually. He mentioned the unfortunate design fault which requires the engine to be taken out of the frame just to remove the sump plug…..And to my astonishment; Barry said that early Gold Wings should have their oil changed every thousand miles, which seems ridiculous for such a car-like engine.

 

 

  Lots of people came up and reminisced nostalgically about the Quasar although there was the usual confusion in their memories between Royce and Malcolm.  And of course there were lots of people who’d never seen or heard of anything like it. 2007 was the 30th anniversary of the BMF’s annual bash being held in Peterborough and as part of the celebrations they invited a couple of former ‘Miss Federations’ from the ‘70s to the show whom I met in the press stand. A local photographer wanted a photo of them with a bike and I suggested that the Quasar, as a ‘70s icon, would be just the ticket, so I went and fetched it.  I persuaded Vivienne and Anita (Miss Feds ‘76 and ‘78 respectively) to squeeze themselves into the Quasar, although it sagged down so much on the rear suspension that the photographer and I had to take it turn to prop it up, otherwise it would have fallen off its wooden block! (Note to self: must check the air pressure in the rear S&Ws).

 

 

 I was just about to move the Quasar back to Nick’s stand when a chap on an immaculate Triumph Hurricane turned up. It was Malcolm Newell’s son-in-law Gerry Hedderwick, (husband of Michaela) who had been helping out at the (excellent) Short Track event in the main arena. I got a snap of the two ‘70s icons together. Jerry told me that poor old Malcolm was dug up from his grave in Field Cottage and cremated along with wife Janet (who died last September) and their ashes scattered in the garden of the prophet. Field Cottage has now been sold to someone local. Gerry’s back garden is full of Quasar ‘furniture’ including moulds for both bodies and panniers. I don’t think there’s any danger of anything valuable going into a skip. And I know Mark Crowson is in touch with Gerry.

 

 

  Tudor Thomas returned to the Show on Sunday afternoon, but by car rather than bike. Sadly neither of his FFs is currently road-worthy. I meant to give Quasar owner Stephen M a call since he lives in Peterborough, but I forgot to take his number with me. I suspect that LMW 660X is still parked in his garden as a non-runner, as it has been for several years. (Talking of which, it was only while checking Stephen’s registration number for this story that I realised for the first time that if you click on the registration number of any of the Quasars listed at http://www.quasarworld.com/quasars/index.htm you will discover a hidden world of photos and information about the Quasar in question. Some of you IT types may think this is bleedin’ obvious, but I think it should be made far more explicit in the accompanying blurb on that page, especially since the information in question doesn’t appear anywhere else on the website; to me it was about as obvious as the fabled land of Narnia being hidden behind a wardrobe. Mark C please take note!)

 

 

I somehow got roped into taking photos of the Girlbiker competition which was actually judged by the aforementioned Miss Federations, who, as serious bikers themselves, selected on bike credibility as much as looks, which is as it should be in the 21st century.

 

While we were waiting to go into the arena I found myself a few yards from Roy Pratt and his Imps whom I hadn’t seen since our ill-fated trip to the Sahara with trikes in 1985. When I looked at the photo I’d snapped of the Imps, I noticed a rufty tufty biker changing a baby’s nappy in the background – not something that I think you would have seen at the BMF in 1976!

 

 

 

  Just before the end of the show I bought a cover for my Burger King from a company called Specialised Bike Covers www.bike-covers.com. They’ve been making covers for everything from caravans to helicopters for 25 years and said that they could knock one up for a Quasar no problem (or a Voyager come to that), although they’d have to have the bike for a day at their Bradford HQ, or one of the original covers to use as a template. Their covers are supposed to be both waterproof and breathable so I’d certainly be interested if the price was right. (Their standard bike covers are Ł20-25).

 

 

  My desert racing and bike trading friend Tom Beckett also had a sit in the Quasar and I was astonished to see that his smart caravan is also called a Quasar, so I had to take a pic of the two Quasars together! Before leaving there was just time to have a look at the Sprinter van of my Big trailbike-riding buddy Andy Cadney. It would make a good Quasar transporter since it is a former truck tyre fitting unit equipped with both a hoist and a massive air compressor. Only the big step up at the back is less than ideal. Andy has decided that he’s probably going to hang on to the Merc anyway, but he also revealed that he used to lust after a Quasar in his youth.

 

  I finally left the East of England showground at 7pm and the sun was still shining as I launched the Quasar back down the A1. It went straight up to 100mph on the clock with no problems but the first time I shut the throttle ten miles down the road it went into ‘bar-blurring shake mode’ until the speed dropped below 80. Despite intermittent and annoying thumping from the bars all the way back to London, I made the 80 miles to the Ace Café on the North Circular in 70 minutes. The bike park was full of sportsbikes but no sooner had I parked than the Quasar was surrounded by rubberneckers, several of whom knew exactly what it was. One guy said “It’s great to see one being ridden”. Inside I had a chat with Ace Café owner Mark Wilsmore who turned out to have just returned from a trip to California with Steve Berry which was filmed for Men & Motors. He’d actually been chatting to Craig Vetter only a couple of weeks ago and talking about his extraordinary Harley-engined mega-scooter the Defiant, but he didn’t know about Craig’s Economy Run of the 1980s and the super-streamlined 500mpg bikes it spawned.  Craig was also of course the creator of Gerry’s Triumph Hurricane which I’d seen earlier in the day – one of the world’s first ‘production customs’. Far Out. (more at www.craigvetter.com)

 

 

 

The roadway outside the Ace was full of crazy Brazilians doing stunts on their despatch bikes, complete with top boxes still bungeed to the pillion seat! Almost inevitably, one of them looped it and left a trail of petrol about 100 yards long. No gloves, so it must have hurt. There was a nutter on a CB500 twin stunting in shorts, but with motocross style arm protectors. He was actually pretty good. Another crazy, who turns out to be Columbian, departed in a cloud of tyre smoke as he weaved his R1 through a chicane of traffic islands and parked cars in a frenetic rolling burnout. Impressive.

 

 

  I managed to get out of the Ace without being T-boned by a wheelie-ing Brazilian and made it back home to Ham just as darkness was falling. It had been an entertaining weekend. I’m thinking of doing the Kill Spills rally from Westminster to Donington Park on the Quasar next weekend, but only if I can fix this high speed juddering problem. The first thing I’m going to do is to try to get the front wheel balanced. If it won’t balance with Punctureseal in it I’ll drain it out and start again…..Any other ideas welcomed!

PNB