A bit of history - I first started getting interested in bikes in the late Sixties
Visits to a slightly older cousin put me in close proximity to his daily transport, usually a large capacity single cylinder British bike. I remember being more threatened than excited by his bikes. They seemed to be massive unweildly things and I could not see the appeal in actually wanting to ride one of them. Things were to change ........ Then there was the day that my father, a vintage car owner, took me to a classic car race meeting at Oulton Park race circuit in Cheshire. As well as the car racing, in which I was moderately interested, there was also to be a classic motorcycle race. We were viewing from a few hundred yards past the starting grid and as the bikes were wheeled out, accompanied by thier black leather clad riders, I had an idea that this was going to be something worth watching. Soon the bikes were fired up and the race got under way. As this ear splitting, mobile black cloud of smell and noise passed across the front of us and into the first corner I turned to my Dad and shouted 'Did you see that!', a phrase which has lived with us both ever since. I soon started buying motorcycle papers and magazines. I also littered the house with sales brochures and road tests in the hope that my Dad might show some interest in the subject. Of course the only time he did actually comment was just to point out how dangerous bikes were. In those days you did not need to take up official motorcycle training. At school one of the teachers started a motorcycle club. This was a breakthrough as it gave me a bit a lever regarding the safety argument. 'They can't be that bad can they? The school wouldn't be running a motorbike club would they' became a well used line. The class which was run on one evening a week gave us reprobates an insight into bikes work and gave us an opportunity to actually get our hands dirty by taking them apart and trying to put them back together again - but what we really wanted to do was ride them ...... It was time to start learning to ride! The club's only running machines were a Triumph Tina scooter and a 200cc Francis Barnett 2 stroke motorbike. After stripping down, rebuilding and probably ruining a Lambretta scooter engine for some weeks we were finally considered qualified to move on to the actual riding stage of the procedure. It was agreed that we should start with the Tina simply riding round in a circle in the yard before being allowed to take the Barnett on an unsupervised run along the half mile lane which led into the school. The scooter was automatic with a twist and go throttle so the proceedings went without a hitch apart from one poor lad who tried to replicate the opening scenes from the film 'American Graffiti' ( a must if you have not seen it). A couple of lads took the Barnett out without any problems then the big moment arrived - my first ride on a proper motorcycle. We had been shown where the gears were, one up two down, so I decided just to leave it in a gear and not bother changing so the clutch lever was pulled in, a gear was selected and the clutch was slowly released whilst gently opening the throttle. I think maybe the throttle opening was a bit excessive as the bike lunged forward leaving a trail of blue smoke but all seemed well and I was actually riding the thing. It went so well that I even managed to change up a gear and increase the speed. I can remember riding merrily along watching the end of the lane looming up and thinking 'How the heck do I stop? I need to turn round'. Eventually I cleared my head, pulled the clutch in and gently applied the brakes coming to a nice smooth stop. I kept the engine running and sorted the gears out whilst stationary. I then rode back and pulled up as if I'd been riding for years. Great stuff - I wanted more. To me this was truly beginning motorbike riding in the seventies uk.
My next 1st hand encounter occurred when my parents took me with them to a friend's party. I really did not want to go as I could not think of a worse way to spend an evening. My saviour that evening came in the form of the hosts' son, a long haired, laid back lad of about 20. ' Would you like to have a look at my bike? ' he cautiously enquired. Before you knew it we were standing in the garage admiring a sparkling blue Yamaha YASI 125 twin. I had recently read the road test on this bike as I already considered myself to be something of an expert. ' This is the bike which will lift it's front wheel in the first 3 gears without using the clutch ' I remember thinking. Shortly afterwards the ignition was turned on and I remember being totally impressed by the illuminated instrument cluster particularly the green neutral indicator lamp. In due course the bike was fired up and I was offered a go on the back. He was obviously out to show off a bit so corners were taken fairly quickly with a large angle of lean but the bike was ridden sensibly and I was suitably impressed - to such an extent that I decided there and then that I had to have my own bike, sooner rather than later.
Experiences of a 70's biker