The bike spent the night in Sherborne in a freshly decorated hallway (!) being trusted not to drop oil like most other bikes might, before we retraced our steps to a warm welcome on a drizzly morning at Ariel’s works in Crewkerne. While topping off the battery we were treated to a history of the company from the bicycles of the late 1800’s through DeDion-engined quadracycles to the company’s reformation to build sportscars in the ’90’s, all exhibited in the on-site mini-museum. After this, we moved on to the future and got a sneak peek at the much awaited ‘Hipercar’, or Project 40 as it is called internally; an all electric 1,200hp battery-electric supercar that we were not even allowed to film… When we discussed the design with Tom Ward, one of Ariel’s chief engineers, and the choice of all-electric drive: were they thinking of the low emissions? Nope. They want to make fast cars and this, they reckon, is the best way of doing it. Interesting.
We headed North from Crewkerne to lunch at the excellent ‘Pip’s Railway Carriage Cafe’ in South Petherton with our Sponsor, Ben Field of Vintage Tyres, who stopped in for a chat and to see how we were getting on. From there we headed North, filming a little at Burrow Bridge as we crossed the Somerset Levels before it got too dark and we headed to the George Inn in Wedmore who, as well as letting us charge for free, gave us free cups of tea all round – genuinely nice folks. From there we once again split up for speed, Finn and the van heading on ahead to our planned stop in the suburbs of Bristol while I made my way on the Bullet over the Mendips under a sheet of stars.
Friday’s weather was awful. I donned full wet weather gear for the mile ride from Finn’s pals’ house to the First Bus Hengrove Depot where we popped the bike in their workshop and climbed inside their first biogas powered double-decker to hide from the rain. Once aboard, and being driven around the scenic centre of Bristol, we interviewed James Freeman (MD) about their experiences of running a bio-bus and their plans to expand their renewable fleet. Once again, we asked about their motivation and while the initial idea had been to improve air quality and reduce CO2 emissions (by over 80%!) they had found the buses cheaper to run and more reliable than their diesel counterparts. They have an order in for 110 more, over a quarter of their entire fleet!
With the rain cleared after lunch we shot some ‘Bristol’ footage around Brunel’s famous Clifton Suspension bridge before heading North. At this point our plans were derailed as high winds meant both Severn bridges were closed to motorcycles. This meant a detour round by Gloucester, an extra charge stop and 15 or so more road miles. We made the best of a bad job with a hotel cuppa in Falfield while hiding from another rain shower followed by a quick booster charge in a Gloucester Asda, where we had the chance to pick up some groceries for the evening as well. Eventually, and at least knowing the local back roads, we rolled into Hereford at 10pm. Tired, but warm and dry and looking forward to an easier weekend.
On Saturday we went to Hereford’s home-grown h.Energy festival and talked about our trip, as well as listening to others discussing the merits of electric vehicles, along with trams, buses and the like and leading to some very interesting, informed discussions, before the compulsory trip to The Barrels to unwind after a busy first week. Sunday was wet but cleared up later, when we joined a 20 mile Vintage Motor Cycle Club run around the hills above Mordiford, including a couple of wet patches as the river was extremely high after all the heavy rain. Finn used the opportunity to great effect, filming a horde of a dozen classic machines roaring around the countryside with one distinctly quieter than the rest! Now it’s Monday and, due to a rescheduling by one of our filming contributors, I am in the workshop giving the bike a quick check over before we head to Redditch in the morning. Taking the bike back to it’s birthplace for the first time in 57 years.