Bertie’s Top Tips For Stafford
Words: Bertie Simmonds
If you’re anything like me, there’s always a mounting excitement when the weekend of the Carole Nash Classic Motorcycle Mechanics Show is about to come around.
For the last five years it’s been the highlight on my annual biking calendar, and it’s a welcome respite from the chilly onset of winter. My first tip: turn up early – you’ll be amazed at how much there is to see if you’re just going for the day, which brings me neatly on to my second tip: camp and stay for both days! Oh and did I mention that I wouldn’t wear my Sunday best footwear if I were you? We know what the British weather can be like!
Now, I say get there early as the first thing I love to do is have a good rummage around the many hundreds of kit and autojumble stalls. As good as the internet and eBay are, I still love the thrill of finding that elusive part myself and having a good haggle with the stallholder. For me, this exploring what this part of the CMM show has to offer can take the best part of a day. If you’re easily distracted, like me, you’ll spend plenty of time working your way around the stalls, getting ever closer to the main hall.
We all know that these shows are best shared, so take a mate and you can both try it on with the many bike sellers who are clumped around the main arena. You know the ones. There’s a bike sat there with a crude ‘For Sale’ sign, and a price that’s a bit too rich. ‘Never begrudge a man a profit,’ my old man told me once, but suck your teeth, shake your head and try a cheeky bid. If he’s still there with it on Sunday, you never know…
The main halls are always buzzing and I love spending a good few hours looking at each bike that takes my fancy. The owners are always on hand to give good advice if you’re planning on a restoration of something similar, and it’s worth signing up to any of the owners’ clubs that regularly show members’ bikes at Stafford.
Do pop along to the Classic Motorcycle Mechanics magazine stand. We’ve got some cracking machines lined up for the stand, including a couple of our project bikes. Hopefully (completion allowing) we will have Steve Parrish’s Yamaha FZ750 Superstocker and the Suzuki Apprentices’ Suzuki GSX-R1100L. Niall Mackenzie reckons he may have his Yamaha RD400F done in time too! We shall see. I love the stands in the main hall… my weakness is old bike magazines and brochures, so I’m always picking up new reference material for both my work on the magazine, and my own projects.
If you’re back outside then the weather will decree whether you go for a nice ice-cream or a hot cuppa and a bacon roll. Or, do what I do. Have all three. You’ve walked for miles, after all. While you’re out there you can watch the bikes being paraded in the cavalcade in the main arena, hear a few roar in the Classic Racer GP Paddock, and watch a bit of the off-road stuff at the Classic Dirt Bike Hall. Both Saturday and Sunday are selling days for the Bonhams auction this year, and you can take the weight off in the Restoration Theatre and get expert advice from TV’s Pete Thorne. I told you, one day just isn’t enough. You’ll probably still be struggling with two!
For me the best bit is in the evening on day one, when the show is winding down. More people than ever camp to take in the full two days and I love it. The bar is always bustling with fellow campers and the tales are tall and the Tetley’s is terrific. Another tip: I always try and park my old banger near the loos, or at least remember the shortest route to ‘em. Five pints along with curry and chips waits for no man. Oh, and like a hang-glider pilot with high-tension power cables, learn to spot a guy rope at 50 paces. The amount of times I’ve tripped and almost taken down a tent doesn’t bear thinking about.
Whatever you do at this year’s Carole Nash Classic Motorcycle Mechanics Show, do pop along and say hello. I hope you enjoy the weekend as much as I do.
Bertie Simmonds is the editor of Classic Motorcycle Mechanics. You can see him and some of the magazine’s project bikes on the main stand in the main hall, where you can also subscribe, renew a subscription, or just pick up the latest issue.