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I guess that since I started this site I should begin with my story.
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My Motorcycle story
When did my story with motorcycles begin? I loved riding bicycles from a very early age and as soon as I could pedal without stabilisers I would be riding my bike everywhere. I grew up in a small village in Surrey England. The nearest town of any size was a bus ride away so all the kids tended to stay in the village and the push bike was the best transport. I would literally ride it all day and into the night until late in the summer evenings.
The first motorcycle I can remember paying any attention to was a Norton Commando owned by a chap at the top of our road. I remember cycling past it most days. It was bright red and immaculate with lots of chrome.
I was about ten years old when an older boy that I knew who lived locally got a Suzuki TS50.
All the local kids who knew him went to his house one sunny day to see this new bike. He lived on one of the posh roads and had a long back garden with a concrete path running up from the big lawn at the bottom. I guess he was about twelve or thirteen and knew how to ride the bike but I had never been on anything except my push bike. He was giving kids rides on the back up and down the long path and it then came to my turn. I was a little nervous but I climbed on to the back of the bike, no helmet! and off we went. At first just pootling around the lower lawn, but then up the long concrete path. The feeling was amazing. I was scared that I would fall off as we were pulled up the slight hill with what felt like amazing force at what seemed like crazy speed. I know it was only a 50cc bike but to me it was super fast. When we stopped, my heart racing, he asked if I would like to try riding it. I admit I was scared but there were other kids there and I did not want to lose face. Also I really wanted to give it a go.
Ok. So I sat on the bike which felt really big compared to my Raleigh Chopper.
My friend explained the throttle clutch and front brake and then kick-started the engine for me.
“Pull in the left lever all the way and then push the left gear pedal down until it clicks” Ok done that!. “Then open the throttle a little bit and slowly ease out the clutch lever.” With the smell of 2 stroke in my nostrils and the ting ting ting of the engine in my ears I released the clutch. Clunk, then silence as I stalled the bike. Oops! “Ok try again but this time give it more throttle” Right. Engine re-started clutch held in with shaking hands. I opened the throttle quite a bit wider and released the clutch a bit too quick. The bike shot forwards, the surprise of this and the acceleration caused my throttle hand to twist even more and with panic and no real knowledge of how to stop the thing I quickly covered the 10 meters to the nice soft privet hedge!
After extracting myself and the bike from the hedge my second try was better. I was soon putting around the garden in first gear and even managed to change into second. That was it, I was hooked! I was moving without peddling! Fantastic! I had an engine !
A couple of years later my elder sister “loaned” me her moped so that we could ride it around another of my friend’s large garden. It was a Raleigh Runabout. Fifty cc’s of automatic pedal assist power!
I remember walking to the petrol station to buy petrol and two stroke oil. I think the petrol was about 50p a gallon. Yes, a gallon! That’s around 10p a litre. It took some fiddling about to get it going. You started it by putting it on its main stand, turning a selector on the external flywheel that switched between pedal propulsion and motor drive, flipping the choke lever and then peddling like hell to turn the motor over. If you were lucky it would splutter into life and we spent the summer whizzing around a small course we had marked out trying to go as fast as we could. Trailing clouds of two stroke smoke.
Fixing it when it would not start and cleaning the carb every now and then gave me some grounding in my mechanical skills. It was great fun. We sort of inherited it as my sister was now getting driven around by boyfriends. We spent most evenings and weekends doing this until his mum got fed up with us using her washing line as a start / finish marker and also with the fact that her once beautifully manicured lawn now resembled a well-used motocross track. So our fun had to come to an end.
With no wheels of my own I had to content myself with drooling at the shiny new bikes in the local bike shop during school lunchtimes. Then one day my good friend Paul who was also into bikes told me that he had just got a new Gilera 50. After school I rushed to see the bike. It was a lovely red Gilera 50 Trail complete with headlight guard and knobbly tyres.
It looked fantastic and was great to ride. It was a proper bike with 5 gears. Paul also lived in a house with a good size garden but even better it backed on to a large field that was owned by my friend Nick’s farmer father. Nick managed to get us permission to ride there. So we marked out some courses and spent all the time we could zooming around.
We did some crazy things on it too. Like seeing how many people we could get on it at one time and still move. I think the record was seven or possible eight.
This was where I really learnt to ride and looking back it was a fantastic benefit to cut my skills off road with no danger from cars so that when I did get on the road I didn’t need to worry about learning to ride the bike and I could pay more attention to cars and other hazards. I think it would be great if all new riders had this kind of opportunity. I am sure it would reduce novice accidents.
For some riding tips. Please visit out Tips page.
These were the days of the Suzuki AP 50 the Yamaha FS1E and the slightly derided Honda SS50.A four stroke machine and down on power compared to the others.
In those days the definition of a moped was.” A motorcycle under 50 cc equipped with pedals by which it can be propelled” No power or speed restrictions. The manufacturers cottoned on to this and saw a market to sell these sports mopeds to all the eager 16 year olds. These bikes did have pedals but usually they were both locked in the forwards position and became foot rests. If you really had to you could flick a lever move one pedal backwards and “propel” the bike forwards. But the ratio was so low that the max speed with pedals was crawling pace and you looked like John Wayne on a horse doing it. So it was only ever used for comedy value. But hey! It met the law and who pedals when you have power!