Private passionsand public pleasure


There was an impressive and much-varied entry at this free to the public French event.

Words and photographs: Mike Davis

An eclectic range of two-wheeled machines, spanning more than a century of motorcycling, were put through their paces over the 1200 metre street circuit that plays host to the Chinon Classic each June.

While many are modern machines, from Japan, there were enough older machines, of European provenance, to make the event of interest to classic motorcyclists.

The event’s increasing popularity is evident from the fact that whereas only four years ago it attracted barely 40 entries, this year that number had more than tripled.

‘Why are we waiting?’ could have been the chant from the group of vintage motorcyclists anxious to start their session on a very hot day.

And what’s more, it now attracts marque club stands and vintage motorcycle dealers beneath the plane trees – a coveted location on a day when temperatures were in the 30s – in the moto village stretching along the banks of the Vienne.

All that and no admission charge too makes the Chinon Classic a top attraction in the French motorcycling calendar.

The oldest machine present was Jean Louis Naveau’s 1905 FN.

The operational idiosyncrasies of this machine meant that Jean Louis decided against using it on the circuit.

Jean Louis Naveau’s 1905 FN with, in the background, a six-cylinder Honda.

But so great was the interest in this seminal 362cc four-cylinder inline machine that, probably, he wouldn’t have had the time to get it onto the circuit in any event! It is only one of five early FNs that Jean Louis owns. “For many years I searched worldwide for this specific model – 1905 was the first year FN manufactured a four-cylinder machine – only to find it in 1979 close to my home in Le Mans,” Jean Louis explained.

Jean Michel Cohidon taking it easy on his 1929 BSA Sloper.

“However the purchase wasn’t easy and took five years. Its previous owner shared my passion for FNs but, he told me, at 90 rarely was he able to ride it and he was anxious to ensure that it would pass on to someone who would care about it as much as he did. I was able to persuade him that I was that person.”

Read more and view more images in the September 2019 issue of TCM – on sale now!

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