Living in the past

Hiring the TRF for horse events
November 22, 2015
“It looks like a kids bike”
December 6, 2015


Hi Bo. The first time I came across you was at The Bike Shed where your Peugeot bike got a ton of attention. It seems to have really struck a chord with the custom bike scene that is becoming so popular. What is the story behind the bike?


The Bike Shed event in london was its first public outing though its build has been running on my Instagram feed and website for a couple of years as a hobby extension to the day job of classics and historic race cars. Its an early 1930's Peugeot Racer 'evocation' in the style of the early 20's Boardtrack machines that are currently very popular with serious collectors and enthusiasts alike. I made it from the donor 1930 peugeot and its original parts, vintage components from the era collected over a few years, and a modern scale engineering copy of a ww1 aircraft radial engine.......... the fabulous loop frame and original teardrop tank were screaming 'race me' so the machine evolved from there..... Its still a 100cc 'autocycle' but now has 9 cylinders and period 3-speed gearbox rather than the very limp 100cc single-cylinder and no gearbox.


Bo showing off the Peugeot on his Instagram feed


Also the methanol/nitro/oil premix fuel now of course adds a little extra 'punch'.

I think it has struck a chord as its the only thing like it out there and the unusual or unique always seems to appeal to everybody whether they understand the engineering involved or not, they can still appreciate it as a thing of interest rather than something to go very very fast and hurt oneself on.


What struck me is that the bike wasn't really tarted up and made perfect, it seemed connected with it's history. Is that something that is important to you?


I am often accused of living in the past...... Its a very nice place to be! I am firmly of the opinion that things are made to be used and used well whether chromed and tarted up or simply preserved and maintained in an original barn-find fashion.

Marks and scrapes and scars are part of the story of the machines life so much better to celebrate that than hide with new paint and perfection meaning that you're afraid to use it as intended. Over-restoration is over-used in many inappropriate situations! The Peugeot 'evolved' with this all in mind, its past was always going to dictate the style and condition of the parts created to fit on it, thankfully it has turned out difficult to tell what is original '30s or what is freshly made in the style of the era adding to the 'preserved' rather than 'created' feel.

Another thing to go in room 101...... We all know style sells and the manufacturers are jumping on this moneymaking bandwagon with gusto.....but lacking any substantial looks at or understanding of their trialling or military heritage back when they actually built machines for a purpose rather than simply adding insubstantial styling that never gets used. Show and no go. Enough said!


Old meets new. The perfect combination?



There seems to be a real trend at the moment for custom build bikes designed to be ridden off road. The new Ducati Scrambler, or many of the bikes on BikeExif. I wonder however how many actually make it off a tarmac surface though. You recently joined Herts TRF on a ride out on a bike that certainly didn't fit the picture of a modern trail rider.


I was kindly invited on a recent TRF Beginners ride out by Mario, I came along on my '53 James Trials Rigid expecting to be laughed off the hardstanding by all involved, but from the outset EVERYBODY was supportive enthusiastic and welcoming.

A highly recommended start to what was a fantastic day out with a brilliant bunch of people. Mario told me about the TRF some years ago and has been sending me invites for quite a while so I am VERY glad I managed to make it along, should have done years ago! I was initially cautious as I assumed the events to based on the horrible view many of the public have of 'off-roading', namely the 'its gripped mate' crowd but was pleasantly surprised by the low-key, highly organised and massively responsible approach to not only usage of the countryside but also inclusion of all people into use of the countryside in an accommodating and understanding fashion, whatever their interest or form of transport.


And how did the day go? Did man and machine make it?


The James was a perfect out-dated but still perfectly-relevant steed for the day. It kept up well on-road despite its trials gearing and only 3 speeds, and kept up (ahead?) well on the non-grippy stuff i think by being built for that purpose originally, albeit low speed not high!

A blackthorn puncture was swiftly deal with, the whole group coming back to offer help and advice helping get us all going swiftly again. The only real damage from the day a bruised calf from the kickstart and a tweaked front rim from a massive tree root encountered at speed, even drowning in the Redbournbury Mill 'bikewash' only required a couple of decompressor kicks to clear the ingested muck out. The 88km route was a perfect route for a beginner, the structured leading, following and direction men making for a smooth continuous loop of some truly fabulous byways and views all within a previously unknown spit of home.

The fellow riders I found to be just the sort of bunch one would be happy to spend the day with, supportive, encouraging, interested and above all 'normal'.


Obviously not running mousses then?



The interesting thing is that seeing your James Motorcycle on green roads is real link to the past, to the heritage of green roads and the way they would have been used in the past. Is this something that you are conscious of at all?


Yes, a good amount of smug satisfaction was gained thinking about how machines like mine were the commuter's machine of choice in the day with slightly tweaked versions being used for weekend sport and trial competitions, and being able to travel on roads that have been unchanged since well before those times that the James would have run on when new was just perfect.


So, will we be seeing more of you and your vintage bikes on the green roads of Hertfordshire? Would you ever be tempted onto a shiny new plastic one?


I think it is fair to say the appeal of the vintage machine will always far far outweigh any interest in a shiny plastic 'modern', and when the shiny plastic moderns are vintage in coming years you can be guaranteed machines like The Famous James will still be able to pop-pop-pop their way through anything that can be thrown at them while the 'plastics' will have long given in to electronic obsolescence or build longevity issues. Modern? Nah, vintage is modern enough for me.


You don't need vintage bike to join the TRF, in fact most members ride more modern machines. If you are thinking about riding Green Roads, this is a good place to start.