Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hells Angel 1 (A Note From Ordinary Life)

I am still rummaging in my drawers for a picture!

Stepping way out of sequence I am going back to the first half of the 1970’s again.
john.g and kev ( who you probably can’t read..) both have recently written great posts full of biker nostalgia that put me in mind of my own life as one of the Brothers.
My earliest bike was an old BSA Bantam that my father left behind. I think we got it working once but I was only about eight at the time and my mother was never really going to let me die so young. I think that Melissa and I probably filled the oil tank with plaster before it was pronounced dead.
It wasn’t until I was able to race from house to lake, through the vineyards of the Entre Deux Mers that the bug truly bit me.
In the summer following I did a deal with my grandfather, who foolishly promised me the sum of ten pounds for every O’level that I passed, little realising that this would leave him out of pocket enough to purchase a brand new moped.

Paul and I had joined a local boxing club. I can’t imagine what possessed me, as far as I remember there were no girls there. The idea of being hit by someone else and having to connect with them in return, or rather more preferably first, meant that it was a very short lived affair. I think I enjoyed the training and the running round the hills in the dark. I might have done it as a favour to a friend to make a viable number for the trainer. Anyway…
Paul came down from Kingswood on his Puch MS50 moped, I hopped on the back, and we both went back up to Longwell Green for practice in pugilism.
And then, when I was able to cash in my grandfathers obscene generosity, Paul was ready to pass on his moped. So I bought it, thereby saving myself enough money to also go hitch hiking round northern France.

Placed on the centre stand, you pedalled like mad for a few seconds and then the angry wasp of an engine burst in to life. Burning a petrol and oil mixture that you had to blend yourself at around 35p a gallon. Helmet on, though the law was still a little lax on this point I think, and then push forward use the hand gear change on the left, throttle on the right and off in to the clear blue exhaust smoke. Pedal backwards if you really needed to brake and fingers crossed that nothing fell off.
Ah the joys of two stroke motoring. That bike and I covered a few thousand miles but I was never able to get the fuel oil mixture quite right. I stripped the head and everything downwind several times to clean sticky filthy black carbon deposits from the pipes leading out. I learned that cheap electrics vibrated themselves to death so the police would pull me time and again if I went out at night. I never could get the back light to last more than about half an hour and always had a handful of bulbs in my pocket. I found out about chains and tyres and the dangers of stripping your splines (a very nasty business madam). The mechanical skills that I, by the necessity born of poverty, acquired fixing that bike have served me well ever since.
We whizzed around Bristol and Bath. We climbed and descended the Cotswold escarpment getting metal pinging hot on the way up, catching flies in our headlamps on the way down. We travelled over the Severn Bridge to university together, though the seventy mile journey was a little unrealistic for such a small bike. We went in the guards van to London and traced the capital in times when you could still swing over and park at the side of the road.
I also had the first of two biking accidents. A true ‘sorry mate I didn’t see you’ in which I sailed over the bonnet of a complete tosser chap who pulled out without really looking.
After about three years we parted company as I forsook mopeds for a proper motorcycle with real foot change gears. The last I remember it was stashed somewhere in a barn by Dick who thought at the time that his wife Jean might like it. It may well still be gathering dust there. I know she never rode it.


headless chicken said...

Great post Meredic. For the last 13 or so years I have heard so many biking stories from Kev (even been in a few myself!)...I reckon that between yourself, Kev and John G you could write a very entertaining trilogy that would be a great read for bike fans everywhere!...when you've completed 'Ordinary Life' of course!:)

john.g. said...

Meredic, top post! I remember those old Puck(say 'puke') mopeds. What was the next bike?

Sally Lomax said...

Glad you were ok after that little contretemps!

I found this:

Try clicking on it for consideration of "Ordinary Life"

They published Blood Sweat and Tea amongst others and look for new internet based book writing talent.... Go to the "Author's Area" and follow instructions......

Anonymous said...

£10 per O level?
Are you sure about that?

Before O levels I was earning 15 bob every Saturday, and it went up to £1 when I went back between O and A levels.
Not a penny did I get for passing any of 'em - and I wasn't allowed to do the Saturday job for three months before exams.

DaveM said...

You have just reminded me of the joys of getting the petrol / oil mixture right. Remember you had to pump the oil from its container on the garage forecourt, I must have been too enthusiastic as I had a similar problem with my Lambretta 125.

buffalodickdy said...

As so many things do, this reminds me of a joke. What do Mopeds and fat girls have in common? They're both alot of fun to ride, but you don't want to be seen on one....
My first motorcycle was a 125cc Kawasaki with a Hooker header. It was what we called an "enduro" meaning it was street legal and could go 110kph, but really was a dirt bike for off road trails. Alot of fun was had on that bike!

Rosy said...

Interesting biking story even though it was a small bike.

My first bike was a Honda Mini Bike for at which I was only 12 years old at that time and I can still remembering riding that bike up and down the sidewalks which of course had led me into my very first traffic court at two weeks later and the ending result of that mini bike fun? My dad replace it with a bicycle.

sablonneuse said...

Interesting post but I always felt safer on four wheels myself. (That doesn't mean I never hit anything though. . .)

Stephanie said...

I dated a guy once whose entire bottom half of his right leg had been badly mangled in a motorcycle accident. After that, I could never bring myself to ride one. I saw what damage it could do.

meredic said...

headless chicken - I was a rufty tufty biker for fifteen years or so and am working up to the mid life crisis bike , probably next year. :-)

john.g. - a puke, LOL I had forgotten that was what they got slandered with..

sally - I shall be over them like a rash :-) thanks.

richenda - yes it was foolishly generaous of him. I think when I got past the eleventh we came to terms.

davem - yes thats right a pump dispenser. Or you could buy a bottle that you could mix in the tank as well.

buffalodickdy - I never knew before what enduro meant. well well. And give me a lady with errrm .... padding.....any day ;-o

rosy - rosy the rebel eh? Imagine you all in leathers....heh heh

sablonneuse - waht not even a mobylette? They are such fun.

stephanie - yes it does have a downside. I have lost friends ....