The Flying Millyard: Five litres of eccentric joy

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When the judges at the exclusive Salon Privé show awarded Allen Millyard the Best in Show for his exquisite Honda SS100 V-twin, an idea formed in his mechanically mischievous mind.

“I thought, if I’ve won this year with the world ‘s smallest V-twin, I’ll come back next year with the world’s biggest!” And within the space of seven months, the bike you see before you was created out of thin air.

The Flying Millyard is 5000cc of V-twin – two cylinders of a radial Pratt and Whitney aero engine – mounted at 60 degrees to home-made crankcases, nestling inside a chassis completely hand-fabricated at home by Allen, in his ever-so-ordinary single garage.

Bruce Dunn rides the Flying Millyard

Needless to say, Allen was invited back to Salon Privé the following year and the judges were bowled over by the Millyard Flyer, so much so that it came away with two awards; the only vehicle in the event’s history to ever do so.

Former GP star and Salon Privé judge Steve Parrish had aligned himself first in the queue for an exclusive test ride. Ever so sorry Steve, MCN has beaten you to it.

That’s right, Allen Millyard has given me the first ride of this truly bonkers beast, and my knees are trembling with fear and delight. As an MCN road tester I’ve ridden everything from the latest, greatest sportsbikes, to full factory racing machines – yet nothing I’ve ridden could prepare me for a morning with the Flying Millyard.

Starting the Flying Millyard

It all starts with a brief from Allen on the controls and the start procedure. The throttle and brakes are where they should be, so too is the clutch. Then it all gets a bit weird; the gear lever is on the right and is hand change (four-speed with reverse). Mild panic washes over me.

But the interaction with the bike doesn’t end with the gears – just to the left of the gearchange are two levers, one to advance the ignition, the other to adjust the fuel air mixture richer or leaner.

These two values need fine tuning most of the time depending on throttle opening, engine rpm and Ioad – everything that a conventional bike’s ECU does for you.

Fully briefed on the controls, we are ready to start. Set the ignition to full retard, the mixture to six, turn on the oil and petrol, set the throttle to about a quarter, turn the engine over twice using the kickstart to prime the cylinders.

The Flying Millyard's 5-litre engine

It’s at this point the enormous motor takes in a massive gulp of air and I get the sense that I’m sitting on the chest of a giant that’s suffering sleep apnoea. It sucks in another couple of litres of air and breathes again as the crank lines up with the timing marks for compression.

Then jump on the kickstarter with everything you’ve got and 5000cc of aero engine bursts into life. The huge carbs, again home-made by Allen, create an impressive induction noise as each stroke of the engine guzzles large amounts of fresh morning air allowing it to respire at a thunk, thunk, thunkingly pleasant 200rpm.

Riding the Flying Millyard

A crowd has formed on Hungerford Common, and to be honest I could really do without it. “This happens a lot,” admits Allen as the cameraphone-wielding awe-mongers gawp at the Flyer, leaving me to take my first ride on this behemoth, packing two cylinders out of a WW2 bomber, in front of an audience.

To make matters worse, the FM is pretty top heavy and its swept bars give it tiller-like steering. It’s like nothing I’ve ever ridden before.

I take a deep breath and let the clutch out slowly; accelerate and manage to change into third gear. As per Allen’s instructions I lean off the mixture and advance the ignition, the engine immediately responds as it becomes more efficient, then change into top where I hold the speed at around 70mph.

The Flying Millyard's unorthodox controls

I feel like a runaway freight train – the size of the bike and the swell of power from the incredible engine make me feel like king of the road.

All of a sudden, I feel compelled to have a blast on the horn as I’m completely immersed in the spirit of this bike. I refrain from doing so and glad I did as a bump in the road pops me up and off the seat.

The only suspension on the rear of the bike is the two seat springs. As the road ahead is clear I open the throttle wider and the ignition and fuel need further fine tuning as the rpm rises to 1200.

For the size of the engine, the power delivery isn’t intimidating. The rhythmic nature of the engine, combined with that manual fuelling keeps you occupied and there is almost never a moment that takes, your mind away from riding, except the need to honk the horn.

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Riding the Flying Millyard