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all uncredited photos are by Simon Banwell


 Berlin - Beirut - BSA

Not an awful lot to say right now, as I'm still getting to know her, but she's a B.S.A W20 built in 1940. When I decided to do this trip, I started looking for a bike. I knew what I didn't want - a new BMW - but knowing what I wanted was harder. The bike needed to be old enough to be interesting but also capable of travelling a long way without breaking down too often, taking a lot of luggage, coping with whatever roads are available and had to be very British! After talking to a few people who knew a lot more than I ever will, I stopped talking about it and bought this beautiful bike from Anthony at Pembrokeshire Classics. The W20s do not have a reputation for speed (according to Anthony that's just as well as the brakes are purely for show) but I wanted something that was able to trundle along all day and she should do very nicely. She has a 500cc engine and is a single, so not too complicated when things go wrong. I also love the fact that it is an ex-military machine I am riding to raise money for a campaign against land mines - it just feels right.

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He wanted to ship it out to me but I was adamant that I wanted to pick it up from him - only problem is that I live in Berlin and the bike was in Wales! I finally got to see it on a very rainy day in August. I drove over to Wales in an ex-GPO van which was overheating and arrived at a service station at the end of the M4. Being a bit early, I went inside to grab a coffee and a paper and coming back out into the rain, saw that a van and a bike trailer had pulled up next to mine and Anthony had already unloaded the bike. A true enthusiast, Anthony explained the bikes workings to me, oblivious of the rain and I listened, oblivious that my coffee was getting colder. After having talked me through starting it, it then refused to do so - something that I think it quite enjoys as subsequent attempts eventually succeed but never first time - but we agreed that it had probably got some water into the works as it really was a miserable day. We then loaded it into my van, strapped it down and I drove back to Surrey, worried that someone was going to steal it overnight, and then onto Berlin. Since then it has sat in the garage along with a couple of other beautiful bikes but it is now insured and ready to assault the sensitive ears of my neighbours and make its presence felt on the streets of Berlin.

Anthony told me what he knew of the history of the bike. The last owner had painted a lot of it a strange sort of second-world-war colour and unfortunately thereby ruined the patina, but in a way it does not matter, as it is going to have to put up with a lot of use and abuse over the next year and it would be a shame if I was to take a bike in concourse condition. I will not change anything on it, just give it a service before I go and see what happens. Cross your fingers/press your thumbs or whatever to bring me luck!