'53 AJS 500 single

It's not a car, but hell...

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humblescribbler owner picture

Current Owner Tim Slade - PRESENT

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The old sod
November 2020
Posted on: November 2020
over 20 years of cursing.
About twenty years ago I hadn’t been on a bike for twenty years, but I had to have one. I thought if I bought something like I’d ridden in the past, I might not become a statistic. I ended up with a handsome 1953, 350 AJS. It was rubbish.

Slow and mechanically noisy, it didn’t like starting, and wasn’t very keen on running, either. All sorts went wrong and I took it to a couple of reputable classic specialists for repairs. Sometimes those repairs didn’t even last till I got home. I didn’t enjoy having the piss taken, and eventually I decided to ignore the ancient lore that said you had to be a seventh son who had worked on British bikes since you got oil on your nappies, to have the right to pull them apart.

I tore it down, and it really was crap. The bore was scored by an errant gudgeon pin, hence the racket. I took it to an old boy who converted it to a 500, complete with trials cams. All four chains were losing rollers and were changed. A new clutch was needed, the mag rebuilt, etc, etc and etc.

In this form it was my London transport for many years. Bits carried on falling off and falling to bits, but I just kept on fixing it.

Then a few years ago I decided to rent out my flat and go travelling. I dragged the AJS round Europe on the back of my dangerously slow Merc camper, for three years. I rode it in ten different countries. It went off roading down Portuguese open cast mines, and along the Atlantic cliffs. It went up passes in the Julien Alps, did a lap of the Targa Florio course and a lap of Etna. My best ever day’s riding was north of Cortina, above the snow line. I rode from a long way north of Split to Dubrovnik and back, in a day. Through all of this it kept going. The one time it stopped was when it, and I, went over the front of a Golf that pulled out in front of us in Ronda, in the Sierra Nevada. The bike proved tougher than my leg. The worst crash of my life.

Emma came to see me in France and had her first ride on the front, on the seafront at Cannes.

I carry on working on the old sod, but even an expensive electronic mag hasn’t made it an easy start. The quality of the engineering annoys me, the vibes make the mudguards split, and it’s still never seen 70. But I suspect that even when I’m too old to ride it, I’ll still keep it as a garage ornament.