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
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.