Manky Monkey Motors Roadshow

“Never again -ever”. I’d pulled up behind Darren’s old LandRover in yet another layby somewhere on the A303 & we went round the trailer once more in the gathering darkness, re-attaching all the ratchet straps that were supposed to be holding our cargo of trikes in place. Spots of rain began to fall as we set off again -”Ever” muttered Darren.
A week later & that long journey home, with the Landy wheezing up the Wiltshire hills at a sedate 25mph & the trikes threatening to tumble off the trailer on every bend has almost been forgotten & we’re beginning to say “Well, actually, it was fun wasn’t it. Maybe we could do it again”.
So how did we end up there, trundling slowly home from Bike Show South West down in Shepton Mallet, Somerset?   

I’ve been building & riding bikes for some 27 years now. Everything from café racers to chops. Some great, some bloomin’ awful, but for the last 10 years or so my passion has been trikes. I started off building a his ‘n’ hers matched pair of single seater XS750 Yams for an ex girlfriend & myself, before moving on to Reliant based machines. I rode my latest mint green one for over 4 ½ years, picking up Best Trike & Best Engineering, (& even a Best in Show), trophies all over the South of England. Somewhere in the middle of that I hooked up with Darren. He’s a fellow Basingstoke Postie & shares my interest in all things automotive, owning a 30 year old LandRover. We did a couple of shows together. He took me off roading in the Landy, I took him to
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a couple of custom bike events. Well to cut this preamble short, he decided he’d like a trike of his own, so I put together a basic design, based on how I’d like my own to look if I ever rebuilt it, made a few phone calls to blag some spare parts from various friends, & we were underway. That was 2 years ago. It’s almost finished now. To be fair, Postie’s wages don’t go very far & Darren only has a couple of hours free each week to work on his creation, but it has been a long & laborious process. Along the way we’ve recruited a few more Monkies.
While sourcing the parts for Darren’s I’d managed to acquire enough components to make a start on a second trike. The plan was to quietly piece together another while we worked on his & sell it for a vast profit. That one got sold part-built to Simon, yet another Postie working in a different sorting office a few miles away. He’s always had an interest in custom bikes but never built anything from scratch. The how-to chapters in the Motors section cover the building of his frame, which was welded up in his brother in law, Nigel’s garage. Around that time I decided I’d done all I could do with my own trike & the frames we were building were looking very attractive, so I took a
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deep breath & stripped mine apart for a rebuild. Until that point Nige had been a scooterist but he’s spent as many long nights as I have in his garage, running up his electricity bill with the welder & grinder, so it was only fair to donate my old rolling chassis to him.
So then there were 4. A year ago I met Sara at a bike show in Bordon & as well as a long term relationship that’s also led to a fifth trike. 6 months ago I bought her a 300 quid ratty triked GS 850 Suzuki -all matt black paint & chequer plate. The plan was to give it a quick spruce up & get it back on the road, but the more bits I took off it, the worse it became. It wasn’t very well built at all. In the end I threw away everything except the headstock & front down tubes & started again.
Now there’s 5 spread around various Basingstoke garages. None of them are finished.
My green trike & the previous red one have both been on display at the Shepton Mallet show at the Royal Bath & West showground so I’m on their mailing list. Every year they automatically send me an entry form. I didn’t pay it much attention when it arrived this year cos I’ve got nothing on the road at the moment, but as we worked on the various projects we began to say maybe we could enter as a sort of club display. We’ve got 5 on the go, at least 4 of which could be put on their 3 wheels & displayed.
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Hmm, why not! If you enter a machine in the show you get 2 free tickets so all we’d have to do is find some way of getting them there. Eventually after much discussion I rang the organisers to see if they’d have us. No problem. If you enter as a club you’ll have to pay public liability insurance, so we can just enter you all privately but bunch you together. Great. A few more phone calls & emails & we’ve got a pitch in the trike hall 50 feet long by 12 feet deep! Jeez, how we gonna fill that?!
The entry forms duly arrive & we fill them in as best we can with none of the trikes finished & 2 still just a pile of tubing & some wheels. So it’s on then. We’d better get crackin’. Much feverish garage activity ensues. Although we’ve said from the start none will be completed, everybody wants their own machine to look as good as possible. Parts are bought, parts are made, parts are borrowed from my own stockpile of old & new components. I spend each day after work running back & forth between the various projects, welding, grinding, fixing & bodging where needed.
Darren’s orange trike gets a new black stripe on it’s tank, courtesy of Marcus at
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Lunatic Fringe paintwork. Simon’s has all manner of bits & pieces fitted, including the headlight that was put by for Sara’s. Nigel’s has it’s old green powder coat shot blasted off & a fresh coat of bright blue put on. I order tyres for Sara’s & spend a week filing the welds on her frame smooth. Parts are swapped around from one trike to another, borrowed, reclaimed or just downright pinched.
Less than a week before the show Sara’s wheels are powder coated metallic silver, along with the framework for my Jaguar sofa project. So what are we taking then? How are we going to fill our pitch? Darren’s trike’s virtually done, so is Simon’s. Nigel’s is rapidly going back together with a new front end, new wheels & the engine from the Reliant that’s been sat on his driveway. Sara’s will be a bare metal rolling chassis. And mine? Mine hasn’t progressed. At all. It’s still just a half built frame, still in it’s red oxide finish. Bugger. O.K, not a problem. We’ve said from the start that we’d display them as on going projects to show people how we put them together. We thought it’d make an interesting change from all the shiny painted, glitzy chromed show bikes. So I borrow a bike lift from Aztec Bikes to
put mine on. Nige & I have also been tarting up my old spare Sportster petrol tank. Nige sprayed it red & I took it to Bob, the guy who prints our T shirts, for some last minute graphics. He comes up with the black outline logo from the website & some lettering across the tank explaining that we’re not a business or a club, just a bunch of mates monkeying around with spanners. The night before the show Nige & I cobble together a display stand for it, using off cuts of frame tubing & the base from an office chair I had in my garage. Talking of chairs, we’re gonna need something to sit on all weekend -I have the very thing! The Jaguar sofa I’ve been putting together for my flat
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gets added to our list of stuff to take. A fresh stock of MMMotors T shirts are collected from the printers & we’re all set.
I rented the biggest trailer I could from a local company. 16 foot by 7. It’s huge! Several times bigger than Darren’s poor old Landy that’s got to pull it. It weighs nearly a ton before we even load it up. I’ve also booked a rented Transit van for all the other bits & pieces. We have to have everything set up in the show hall by Friday evening. Fortunately Darren, Nigel & I all have the day off & it’s also my weekend off. Friday morning dawns & we’re off to get the trailer & van. Our cheap weekend show trip has ended up costing several hundred pounds in rental charges but it’s worth it. Several hours later, with anxious owners hovering nearby, all the trikes are safely loaded up. Sara’s is stripped down & stowed in the van along with my frame & a large box of tools.
Away we go. Off down the A303, through Wiltshire & into Somerset. Nige waits for Simon to finish work & they follow us down in his car, overtaking us on the way then taking a different route & arriving half an hour after we do.
It doesn’t take us long to book in, receive our passes & show numbers & offload everything. We roll the trikes about until we’re happy with the way they look, then move them around again. Sara’s is bolted back together & my little frame’s set up on the bike lift. Bob’s printed us some A3 laminated copies of the website logo so we put one under each machine along with the show information cards. That’s it. All done. We’re ready. Back home for a good night’s rest then we drive back the next
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day. Simon & Nigel are camping for the weekend, Darren & I are there as well on the Saturday, then Sara spends the Sunday with us to complete the team.
So how did it go? Actually, very well. I’ve shown bikes before but as far as I know, it’s a new experience for everyone else. It’s fun -hard work, but quite rewarding. It’s not a huge show, but we had a steady stream of people coming up to ask questions & chat all weekend. They were genuinely interested & seemed to like the machines we’re producing. Lots asked for business cards & we had to constantly tell them we’re not a business, just doing it for our own amusement. Several people have joined the forum since & one or two have expressed strong interest in having frames built, so our little band of Monkies may well grow. Triker Pete & his wife Chrissie arrive with a large supply of fresh baked cake. Wizzy brings more & we find ourselves awash with the stuff to the point where we start handing it out free to the show goers.

We’ve said since that we were the only club display that bothered to talk to people. Most of the others simply sat & stared as the punters filed past or chatted amongst themselves. Each time I looked around everybody was busy fielding questions or explaining their trikes to onlookers. Maybe we’ve actually inspired a few would-be builders. It did make a refreshing change to see bikes still under construction & to be able to talk to the builders.
We sold a dozen MMMotors mugs over the weekend, plus a T shirt & a teddy bear keyring. The only low spot being the realisation on Sunday that someone had stolen one of our embroidered work shirts, but it’s not the end of the World, just bloody annoying. So all in all, a success I think. Everyone on the team came away pleased at the amount of interest shown in their respective machines. Even Sara’s rolling

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chassis & my own half built frame had been photographed & discussed dozens of times. Darren turned down the chance of a photoshoot from 100% Biker, (later upgraded to a cover shoot), in favour of Wizzy’s tempting Back Street Heroes feature & cake offer. It’s nice to know all those hours spent toiling away in the garage have been worth it.
So by Sunday evening we were tired & ready to go home. The trikes were pushed back up onto the trailer & we set off back to Basingstoke. 2 miles down the road, just after Nigel & Simon had waved us goodbye & disappeared in their car, the retaining straps worked loose. A quick reworking of them all & we carried on. A few miles further & everything began to move again. We did 7 miles in the first hour. In the end we stopped maybe half a dozen times, resorting to simply tying knots in the ratchet straps to keep everything in place. We made it safely home some 5 hours later, very tired & very stressed in the dark & the rain.

Was it all worth it? Of course it was! Maybe we’ll do it all again!