Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Death Fork Rally

I'm writing this, of course, in the euphoric aftermath of the Tour de France bobbing and weaving though the hills that are the heart of my bit of England. Superb as it was, it doesn't overshadow the mighty lane conquering bike behemoth that was the Second Annual Death Fork Rally. But before we get to that, you might be thinking to yourself, why "Death Fork"?

Well, there's a story there of course.

The Death Fork Rally is for Viscounts, like my blue and silver Aerospace Pro. The first generation of Aerospaces were built with a fork made out of a very beautiful bare aluminium casting, joined to a steel stearer tube. The persistent rumour that follows this design of fork is that the aluminium casting can separate from the steel steerer tube. If you tap "Viscount" and "Death Fork" into Google, you don't have to go very far before you come across stuff like this, from bicycling legend Sheldon Brown.


There was a recall of Aerospaces in the US too.

Which all sounds a bit scary. doesn't it?

Fortunately, Viscounts have a quietly spoken hero on their side. His name is Steve, and he lives an hour or so up the A6 from me. Steve loves his Viscounts, and when faced with this death fork legend, he dealt with it in the best possible way: he found and spoke to the people that made these bikes back in the seventies. There were, in short, three versions of the aluminium fork and the last version (which is the version fitted to my bike) has no recorded failures.

Still, that recall notice and Sheldon's stern warning add a certain something to the time I spend with the Aerospace. Just occasionally, when I'm on a fast descent, I'll sneak a look at the fork flexing and moving to take up all the bumps in the road and wonder about whether it and I understand each other's requirements...

So that's why its called the Death Fork Rally. Jem did the organising this year, and sorted out a brilliant route through the beautiful countryside to the north of Burton-on-Trent.This turned out to be a land of steep little hills, oak woods and villages built out of warm red brick. In the middle of the ride was a very good pub, and at the end was another one along with tea and bacon butties courtesy of Mrs Jem. My day pass from Mrs Langsett expired at about tea time, but I left behind a campsite full of Viscount owners planning their second pub mission of the day.

Stella brought her top secret, newly restored pink "Viscountess"; John rode his incredible 24 karat gold plated Lambert; and Whippet's essentially brand new, ruby red Aerospace Sport proved once and for all that if you make your bike clean enough it will eventually become so clean that dirt just slides right off it. There were plenty of other beautiful bikes there, but also a brilliant, kind and warm hearted group of people riding them.

Here are a few pictures from the day:

Team photo. Keen eyed readers will spot The Langsett's confused pairing of shorts with long sleeved top. The weather hadn't made up its mind yet and neither had I.

John and Rhona, quite possibly thanking their lucky stars that the sun wasn't bright enough to light up John's golden Lambert.

Whippet's beautiful, better than new Aerospace Sport, set up for time trialling: the cogs on the back wheel ready to provide five slightly different sorts of pain and suffering to the rider.

Rhona and Stella's bikes having a rest before the off.

Jem and his world tour ready Deore 18AX.

Thirsty Viscount owners being attracted by the gravitational pull of the pub, Timothy Taylors' Landlord and lovely, just made pizzas.

The Aerospace getting its post ride wash.

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