Not far from Le Mans, on my bike & it’s the last day of my holiday in France & tomorrow I make my way of towards Paris to do a Davida stand at The Montlhery Circuit. It’s been a good decade since I’ve been there.
30 minutes south of Paris & reminiscent of the Brooklands Circuit in the UK, the majority of the Montlhery circuit has frighteningly high & steep concrete banks. At points I’d guess they reach 40-50ft high – dwarfing bike and riders to small black blobs against a huge green, grey mass. It reminds me of the Brooklands image submitted to Davida MotoPhoto of Eric Fernihough on his 996cc Brough Superior, taking the ‘bump’ on the Brooklands Outer Circuit. He took the Motorcycle World Land Speed Record to 169.8mph in Gyon in 1937. He died there attempting to retrieve the record in 1938.
Built almost 100 years ago and with the surface receiving very little maintenance, this circuit is now severely pot-holed & ‘ rough’ to say the least. A considerable challenge to the classic machines racing, sorry parading here this weekend.So much so that UK BSA rider, John Preston decided that gaffer tape was the best solution to stop his glasses vibrating off his face.
Full of classic bike enthusiasts on their non-stock machines these sort of events are always brimming with ‘Bon Homme’ and here refreshingly some ‘Bon Femme’ too, with more than handful of women taking to the track. French chicks also provided the best music this weekend.
The lead singer of Demi-Mondain, ( translates roughly into nearly worked out how society works), preformed a seriously cool set on Sunday. The previous boy-band threw out tunes sounding like Captain Beefheart with a bluegrass twist.
Once a regular host to classic bike meetings, Montlhery has been closed for a considerable number of years. Taking advantage of its re-opening this year the French Magazine ‘ Cafe Racer’ jumped in to launch their new festival. Considering it’s been a full decade then since Davida Representatives, ‘ Pete of England’ came here to sell Davida products, it was surprising how many customers came to the Davida stand to tell us how satisfied they are with their Davida lids they bought in the early 2000’s from ‘Pete of England’. Hearing my appauling ‘Franglais’ many of the French ‘ Davidaphiles’ willingly stayed at our stand to tell interested French natives why they not only preferred, but how they even loved their Davida helmets.
About 30 or more Custom Bike Builders from across France gathered along the main drag to exhibit their non-stock machines. The ‘Anglophile’ from Italy, Mr Martini and from Spain, Radical Ducati made it from further afield.Having spent time at 24 hour Endurance racing over the past 25 years it was good to see the famous French frame building company ‘Martin’ display their expertise. Apparently in the ‘hay-day’ they evolved a sectional frame system which unbolted just around the engine section to allow it to drop out and be replaced. One day someone will have to explain how this seemingly delicate Martin frame works with such a huge engine mass.
The smaller cult outfits exhibiting in between the custom bikes builders provided as much, if not more interest. As we’ve come to love and expect Sideburn Magazine spun their eclectic range of vinyl, whilst David of Daddygraph just made the art of Pinstripping look effortless. Most notably though it was the demonstration of the considerable aluminium casting skills from Gianluca Curulla’s fully operational foundry at the Tredici Custom Castings stand that gained the most admiring crowds. As well as fabrication of bike parts he displayed his handmade half Fixi, half Stunt pushbike & an ali cast skateboard. ‘ Wow’ said Gary Inman.
Cafe Racer Magazine awarded three prizes for best in show. Andrea Chardin, The President of The Club Triton France, won a Davida Jet for his bike. Despite being surrounded by the sights and sounds of some of Europe’s best, for me it was Gianluca’s little TR55 SS Street Scrambler that won my heart as the star of the show. Only in the hands of the inspired can necessity be the mother of invention. More than a rolling display of his metal forging, beating, casting and machining skills, this bike is his ride and it oozed his passion; the kind of spirit some professionally built custom bikes lose when built for a customer rather than the builder.
It would even outshine those at the Southsider’s Wheels and Waves event. Modified stock wheels, frame, forks and engine are all that remain of the original Triumph. Almost everything else Gianluca has created himself using all his metalwork skills, and with such attention to detail that even the most professional Photographers found it challenging to capture it’s character. Evidence of inspiration from his other interests were displayed in many other bits and bobs on the bike; drum parts to tension the rear fender taut to the frame, a push bike pedal on the kick start….etc etc. It’s only been running a month so a work in progress & once all detail images are published by Cafe Racer it’ll cover the internet like a rash.
So, great to revisit and support the re-opening of the historic Montlhery circuit. If you’ve half a mind to go to next year’s Cafe Racer Festival, don’t hesitate, just go. If you’re not up for going out onto the vast pot-holed, banked, concrete track then Rung-What-Ya-Brung and enter The Sprint.
Highlights: Bon Homme of John Preston, Jim Hiddleston,Gianluca of Tredici Custom castings,Daddygraph, getting 4 more days in France riding the Ducati, and all the sounds of the all the bikes on the track.
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