I’ve written this post in a Q&A stylee as that’s exactly what I’ve had from people when they’ve heard that I got this bike, so here goes……
Q: Why has it taken so long to buy a Brit’ bike?
A: Hmmmm, at school, kids were either ‘Jap-crap lovers’ or ‘Brit’-oil-leaker lovers’. I was one of the former and continued to be to this day, with a few Spanish, Italian, Austrian and German bikes thrown in. I have never really got excited about any Brit’-bike with the lack of (in my view) excitement and big hassle with running one. I haven’t even been tempted by any of the modern day Triumphs, Royal Enfields or BSAs. However, I will admit to always wanting a 580cc CCM motocross bike, but starting a beast like that was, and is, never easy.
Q: Why buy one now?
A: I do like riding and learning about different motorcycles, and as I like two strokes as well, an early Brit’-bike two stroke is attractive. This one is THE most attractive Brit’-bike in my view.
Q: How did I find it?
A: This probably answers the above question better, because I found it, or it found me, by chance. I had entered the annual 2 day trial run by the Scarborough & District Motor Club (UK). My first ever trial 12 months ago was this event and I had great fun doing it on my 350 Bultaco. Apart from the great location and people, the event is aimed at pre-1965 and twin shock (pre-1990-ish) bikes. I entered again this year on my Bultaco and turned up to register at the office, only to come across this Greeves Scottish. At trials events like these, there is usually a bike chained to the fence with a ‘for sale’ sign on it, and it was obviously the turn of this bike to be put in the shop/fence window. I wanted to buy it there and then, but didn’t for a million reasons. However, I did take a photo of it and one of the ‘for sale’ sign that had the all-important contact phone number on it. I considered calling the number the following week, but didn’t, until about 6 weeks later. I called the number expecting the bike to have been sold, and luckily, it hadn’t, so I arranged to go and see/buy it.
Q: What is it?
A: It is a road registered, 1961 Greeves Scottish trials bike with a Villiers two stroke engine capacity of 197cc and a gearbox with 4 gears in it. There is a dating letter showing that the engine in it now is not the one that left the factory in the bike back in ’61. It originally had a slightly larger 250cc engine in it. The seller had owned the bike for 3 years and hadn’t done much with it apart from a few local road rides. The person who owned it before the current seller was the person that restored the bike. Neither of these two owners had ever trialled the bike in an event.
Q: Did I get it for a good price?
A: Back in 1961, this bike cost about £150 new. I think I paid a fair price for it (roughly, the average rate for one of these bikes is about £3000). You can’t buy a mid range (non-electric) mountain bike for this money, so great value in my view!
Q: Did it need anything doing to it? Note: As is always the case with a new-old-bike purchase, there are some jobs that the new owner will want to/need to do, and I was no exception to the rule.
A: Long Answer: In the first 48 hours of ownership it had lots of polishing (this is how I look at a bike in detail) and checking/tightening up of all bolts around the bike. The fuel tap was leaking and couldn’t be fixed so I put a new one on it. The kickstart got a rubber sleeve on it as it didn’t have one. The chain was stretched beyond imagination, so I put on a new one. The bike had a homemade and plastic sprocket/chain guard which goes under the swinging arm, so I removed it and put on a new, pattern metal one. I adjusted the controls to suit me. I broke the (weird) side stand mechanism whilst putting the bike on a workshop stand and had to get a friend to help repair it. The throttle got the missing rubber sleeve where the cable enters the twistgrip. Both front and rear brake adjustment was required because stopping performance was really crap. The ‘too long’ front mudguard bolts were rubbing on the tyre when the suspension got compressed, so I fitted shorter bolts. The exhaust needed sealing and tightening at the silencer-header pipe join, and as the clutch cable was getting caught between the frame and the forks on full lock, I fitted a rubber cable protector. I also fitted a front brake cable guide, and the last job to be done soon, will be to fit a kill switch as just letting it stall to stop it isn’t right in my book. So, apart from these smallish jobs, which I like doing, it’s really great!
Q: What’s it like to ride?
A: I’m actually very impressed with its capability. It climbs really well considering the engine size and performance, the suspension is more competent than I imagined and it’s quite happy finding its way through dry, rocky stream beds and over slippery tree roots. It starts and runs very well, but the brakes are still a bit crap, although a lot better following adjustment. The right hand gear change and left hand brake is interesting for me and requires quick adaptation from my other bikes. It is louder than I expected and it exceeded my wife’s acceptable noise level. The exhaust silencer can burn my right leg when standing on the foot pegs unless I’m in my trials boots. Talking about the foot pegs, they are the worlds smallest and the most slippery, but hey, that’s what they used in the day and I don’t really want to put on modern, folding foot pegs (yet, maybe etc…).
Q: Am I pleased with it?
A: I am absolutely pleased with it. It has soul! No leaks (so far), it looks stunning and it is a pleasure to ride.
Q: What am I going to do with it?
A: Ride it! Trials definitely, maybe take it to the Bridlington Race the Waves event (UK), and it would make a great vintage tractor run support vehicle. Regardless, it’s going to get used, washed, polished, used, washed, polished etc etc
Q: Anything else to add?
A: Yes. It’s about the Greeves global community. In a previous century, if somebody bought something like this bike and needed to get help, support, advice etc, they would naturally join the owners club. Whilst you can still obviously do this today, it’s actually the community Facebook group that provides the real source of stuff with no continental barriers other than timezone differences. For example, as soon as I had got the bike, I joined the ‘Greeves Motorcycle Enthusiasts’ Facebook group, to which I was welcomed. Whilst I knew the chain was ready for the bin, I thought the rear Talon sprocket was also going to follow it. I contacted Talon who quoted me a big number to provide one as it wasn’t a common part and would need specially making, and it would take at least 6 weeks. I understand this, so I asked the group if anyone had one and within 48 hours, I had lots of suggestions to source one quickly and crucially, a member (Thanx David W!) had put a picture of two sprockets that would fit on my post that would fit and I paid for one of them straight away. Having this type of platform for a global community makes ownership of bikes like these even more special.
Watch this space for more on my Greeves journey and why not take a look at my other stuff and even subscribe. Thanx!