Blez in the Isle of Wight FF (1985)

Another blast from the past from the Blez archives. This machine was built in the Isle of Wight around 1985. I couldn't even remember which engine it had but feedback from the Facebook FF group, followed by Ian Kew's unearthing of a photo in MCS, has reminded me that it was powered by a kick-started XS650 twin. It represents a cautionary lesson that I've never forgotten and have passed on to anyone who will listen: it's always a good idea to have some adjustment in your backrest until you find the right angle, and you definitely don't want it fixed and vertical, as this one was!
The Westland Aerospace sticker on the bike is intriguing...
The creator of this machine was A.J. Curtis-Horsfall of Newport.

Photo: © Paul Blezard archive

Blez in the Isle of Wight FF (1985)

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Paulk Mercer?

I think that's the guy that used to make disc brakes, although obviously I'm too old to have a reliable memory.

I chatted on the phone with him once, about his front end (Arm and Wishbone, a la Tony Foale/Yamaha GTS) and he confirmed that it was stiff enough under braking not to 'brake-steer',the main question over this system, with it's assymetrical structure. I don't think anyone else did an FF with this system despite the Yamaha system being available as a production item.

It looks quite simple but the deeply offset wheel is difficult, the single brake disc is a limitation and the fatter (than two) single arm gets in the way of one foot. However the Yamaha example is out there along with various Hossack-system units, including BMWs production copy. I've even seen one on an electric bicycle!

Any of them would be an improvement on tele's.

Not Paul Mercer of PFM

No, it definitely wasn't Paul Mercer of PFM discs fame, although Paul did own the Difazio White Eleffant for a while. I've now posted a photo of the creator of this machine, along with his unusual Reliant-based steering system, plus a view of the machine from the left hand side, in a new 'Isle of Wight FF' folder. PNB

Never say never, Royce!

Morning, Royce. My ex Tony FOALE BMW QL FF has a Foale single sided front suspension. However, it is fair to say I haven't had it on the road, but I have seen 25mph down my track, when I lived in Dorset. I must redouble my efforts to get that back on the road. Colin.

So it goes!

Ok, so Pauls Mercer's FF, with Arm and Wishbone, remains unknown here but Colin has an FF with that system. This is what happens when you spend time building the things, you lose track of what everyone else is doing.

So, have you ridden this IoW single-arm FF Paul? I obviously didn't look at the photo closely enough, thought I saw a top wishbone. Piaggio did a a scooter with this system, chiefly notable for wearing out very fast but it would be interesting to hear how a full-size system like this works on a two-wheeler. Apart from the assymetrical load issue, in theory the rapid changes to rake and trail, with suspension movement, would introduce instability but various innovators have demonstrated that rake doesn't really matter and "The difference between theory and practice is greater in practice than it is in theory"

I guess the ultimate question for all these systems is whether they intrude on use, how long they last and whether they're attached to an ff that's good enough for gerneral use.

I did ride it, I think!

It's such a long time ago that I remember very little about this machine. I'm pretty sure I did have a ride in it, but only a quick spin up the road and back. As I've said above, my chief impression was that the seat was much too cramped and vertical. I'd forgotten about the Creasey-esque handlebars and can't remember anything about what they were like to use...I can't even remember which engine powered it, but looking at the photo I've uploaded of the left hand side, I'm pretty sure it was a Yamaha, and might even have been a single cylinder Yam with twin carbs – an XT550 or 600. Looking at that kickstart in this picture, it might even have been kickstart only! I should dig out my paper records...

Ian's picture

It was an XS650!

I remember that bike and I met the chap by chance in Southampton (or was it Yeovil?) at one point - probably in the late 80's

Look at the other picture of the L/H side - it's a twin. I think it was an XS650. Pretty sure it was pictured in an MCS at some point (probably in one of your articles, Paul)

I knew the bloke but can't remember his name. Might have been double-barrelled - Horsefall-something?


Well-remembered Ian. As your unearthing of the photo in the March issue of MCS has now confirmed, this XS650-powered FF was built by A.J. Curtis-Horsfall of Newport, Isle of Wight.