A friend and I had a cracking ride around the roads and lanes of North Wales last Sunday. Theme for the day was 650 twins with John aboard his Cagiva Raptor and myself on the ’64 UK-spec T120 Bonnie. Despite the difference in technology and years, the bikes were pretty well matched performance-wise and the weather stayed fine throughout.
The scenery around this part Wales stands comparison with anything the rest of the world can offer and should well be on the bucket list for all discerning motorcyclists. A lovely little loop, from Ruthin we followed the B5105 South which skirts the Clocaenog Forest until meeting the A5 at Cerrigydrudion. Following the A5 for a short way towards Llangollen we then turned right onto the B4501 which takes you down towards Bala. Turning right onto the A4212 is a stunning road that takes you past the National White Water Centre before following the right-hand B4391 fork towards Ffestiniog. The loop back up to the A5 at Pentrefoelas is completed by taking the right-hand turn onto the B4407 towards Ysbyty Ifan. A fabulous road that was amazingly deserted across the open moor. After a quick blast down the A5 we had a welcome pit stop for a cup of coffee and slice of Bara Brith in the café at Cerrigydrudion then carried on towards Llangollen to tackle the Horseshoe Pass.
Although the Bonnie is a flying machine it is currently suffering with a smokey right-hand cylinder which will need attention over the winter. The bike is not ridden with kid gloves but as the maker intended. So, I’m quite happy to deal with the consequences of regular flat-out blasts and runs on the dyno . With its slightly raised compression it is also prone to pinking on the regular pump unleaded that passes for petrol here in the UK. This means keeping the revs up rather than lugging in the higher gears which of course is a good principle to adopt for a spirited ride. After stopping at the Ponderosa Café we came across this rather lovely 500cc Moto Guzzi which if I remember right is the rare 1938 GTS.
Having been restored many years before by the rider’s father it had apparently acquitted itself well on the climb up the hill. The bike featured a combination of over-head inlet valve and side-valve exhaust which was something I did not realise was common practice for certain manufacturers. With the luxury of rear suspension controlled by springs located under the engine-gearbox the bike may well be the “De-Luxe” model and must have been a revelation back in the day.
I’d like to share some photos of this rather special Petite Metisse-Triumph that has been put together by fellow Sunbeam enthusiast and engineer extraordinaire Tony Pashley.
The bike was initially a 1967 Petite Metisse scrambler powered by a 250cc Bultaco engine. Tony clearly wasn’t happy with this state of affairs and, being well known as author of “How to Build Motorcycle-engined Racing Cars”, he had the skills to do something about it. This book is the industry standard text for builders of hill-climb and sprint cars condensing many years of building and racing experience. A decision was made to create his own dream bike based on an idea he had back in the mid ’60s, a time before he had to give up scrambling for more serious things.
With Tony’s dream bike needing Triumph-twin power presumably one of Spain’s finest two-stroke engines is left propping open a door somewhere. However, fitting the considerably larger 1960 500cc Triumph 5TA engine was not without complication. Tony had to remove all the lugs from the frame, move the pivot point for the rear suspension swingarm and eventually make a new swingarm. This incorporated the chain adjustment mechanism for which there was no room inside the perimeter of the frame due to the size of the engine.
Steering geometry was altered by lifting the back of the bike up and making new fork yokes which shorten the wheelbase slightly. The forks themselves are 35mm Marzocchi items dating from around 1970 and, as the bike is to be used regularly on the road, it is fitted with a 8″ diameter twin leading shoe front brake from a sixties BMW. The rear hub/brake is the original fitment.
The Mk2 Metisse aluminium fuel tank nominally holds 3 gallons and was made in Southampton for the American market. The tank needed a new bottom to accommodate the different tube arrangement of the Petite Metisse frame hence the vagueness in capacity. The fibreglass seat base and mudguards are from a guy in Farringdon near Oxford who supplies the current Metisse builders. The colour is one of the original colours in which the bike was available when new.
The bike was finished in January this year and received its registration number about three weeks ago. So far it has done about 150 miles whilst slowly whittling down the snagging list that is inevitable with any new build. Tony is obviously pleased with the results and reports that it is the nicest bike he has ever ridden. The light weight, short wheel base, pedigree chassis combined with Triumph power and decent brakes must make the bike a dream on back roads. I for one can’t wait to have a go some day.