I will always reply to comments and always re-reply to re-replies.

Monday, May 23, 2016


It is 1958 and a young man sits nonchalantly on his first motorcycle. A 1956 BSA Bantam 150cc, I bought after a bad and financially costly experience with an ancient Ford 8, mentioned in an earlier post.
At this time I was doing army service and went to the local dealers with a knowledgeable mate to choose. I bought it and the next week went with the same mate to get it. We rode back to barracks through Canterbury with him on the back shouting instructions. I had never ridden before, but youth has confidence. Training and crash helmets were not yet compulsory, so hearing was easy.
It was such a pleasant revelation that I rode it 30 miles to Maidstone that very evening to see my girlfriend. A lifetime's love and devotion were formed (with motorcycles and the said girlfriend, who has now been my wife for over 50 years). Here she sits astride the little bike:

she too was to get the bug and loved being on the back, subsequently owning her own machines for a number of years until rheumatoid arthritis put paid to it.

Came marriage and eventually children started to arrive. With two, we invested in a sporty looking sidecar combination

Really it gave the impression of a bishop arm in arm with a tart as the bike was a rather staid BSA 600cc sidevalve attached to the sports child/adult chair. Nevertheless our first holiday was spent touring Devon and Cornwall, wife with very young son on her lap in front and 4 year old daughter in the back. Here we are crossing Exmoor on a "moist" day.(Note the pushchair, carried for said son)
As the family increased with another son, so we went up the combination chain until the chairs began to look like small buses.

Eventually the two eldest kids began to get interested in rides on the pillion of my small Velocette LE 200cc although the boys never really took to it,

only my daughter, taking after her mother and loving it so much that she eventually trained and rode on her own moped.
We got a car, but I always had a motorcycle in the garage. My love for big single Royal Enfield Bullets started about now in 1965
Then, in the '70s I deserted to East European two-strokes, the MZ 250 being a favourite
here a rather older daughter shows her approval

Numerous SJF s (standard Japanese fours) followed, but in the '80s I began an enthusiasm for BMW flat twins. My second, a 1000c model I kept for over 25 years, only reluctantly selling it as arthritis began to make handling it painful in 2012
So it was back to a first love Royal Enfield Bullets, only now made in India, but having an updated fuel injected engine
I had hoped that this would see me through to my dotage, but a couple of strokes left me with reduced use of my left arm and leg. Motorcycling was impossible for a few months, but as soon as possible I managed to get back on two wheels with a "twist and go" Honda 125cc scooter which has no left hand clutch or left foot gear change to operate
I shall hang on to this as it is so useful and easy to ride (and who knows what the future will hold), but it is not the same as motor cycling. On a scooter one sits primly upright, knees together, rather like a spinster at a vicarage tea party. This will give you my view of motorcycling!

But even the Enfield is now too heavy for me to push around when off it, particularly backwards due to poor balance (only off the bike thankfully) and lack of muscle tone, so I have invested in a "tiddler" - only 114 kgs. A Honda CG125, owned by a mature rider who sold it to another one (me)
So, as T S Eliot has it in his Four Quartets, "In my end is my beginning" (Although I see that Mary Queen of Scots got there first when she embroidered, "En ma fin git mon commencement."

I started my motorcycle life on a 150cc machine and I end it on a 125cc one! Over that time I have owned 51 bikes. During those 60 years I have tried to put back into what has become a wonderful hobby. I was for many years the chief instructor of a training centre, County co-ordinator of 14 training schemes and helped to set up the first advanced motorcyclist training scheme which has subsequently been taken up nation-wide.
An old motorcyclist, John Masterman once said,

"Cut your miles a day down from 300 to 200, and 200 to 100 or even less.
 Ride and rest - and ride again. Never give it up. Never say die.
 Never part from an interest and love that is life itself."

I believe I may have posted the following link before but it is so appropriate that I shall repeat it, with no apologies.  


Anonymous said...

Ah,so many memories with this post. To this day you are the only person I trust to drive if I ride pillion. Although I do remember once closing my eyes as we tore down Detling Hill. I am rather proud that I remembered to lean into the bends and not just cling onto you for dear life! Happy days!
Love daughter x

Kay Cooke said...

An inspiring glimpse of your life down through the motorbikes. What a rich history of chasing and catching your dream and love of bikes. Thank you.

The Crow said...

I am smitten with the Royal Enfield in photo 11. It's a beauty!

Thanks for reposting the vid link. I had watched it before and added it to my favorites, but hadn't seen it for two years. Glad to see it again.

Ride hard. Ride long. But ride!

pohanginapete said...

I enjoyed seeing — and hearing — the Royal Enfields in India, although I never travelled on one. My own motorcycling was restricted to a brief period on a 175cc Honda during my University days, and while I liked that machine, I never really became totally comfortable on a motorbike. I do like the concept, though, and I think they're an excellent form of transport. And, while I'm looking forward to the development of truly efficient, long range electric motorcycles, if they ever dominate the world of motorcycles, I'll miss that distinctive sound of the Royal Enfield and similar bikes.

Avus said...

Daughter dear:
You were the perfect pillion passenger and went with the bike. I could forget you were there - true praise. Happy days, what?

Thank you. I see that you don't live too far from Invercargill, once home of another eccentric old motorcyclist, Burt Munro, with his "World's Fastest Indian".

Glad you like the Enfield. It's up for sale. Want to buy it?

Glad you enjoy the evocative beat of a big single motorcycle engine. Someone once suggested it is because we spend 9 months beneath our mothers' heart beat.
But I do agree that a truly efficient electric motorcycle will one day be the way forward - once a battery can be developed that will power it for at least 200 miles on a charge.

Roderick Robinson said...

I realise we are poles apart. My favourite vehicle is the present one - a turbo-charged, two-litre diesel car, fast and accelerative, hugely capacious, frugal despite its capacity, maintenance reduced to one annual dealer visit, a six-speed gearbox that works in both auto and manual modes. It represents (more or less) the acme of automobile development and I don't have to come up with dubious excuses to explain any shortcomings because (more or less) it hasn't got any.

I have no soul, you say, and it's true. I owned vehicles for what they could do rather than what they claimed to be. I had bikes when I could afford nothing else, three-wheelers (Bond, Heinkel) when I had the money, second-hand cars then new cars. For several years when I discovered, to my surprise, we were comfortably off I bought "status" cars out of curiosity to see whether they were worth the extra cash - a Scirocco, an Audi coupé, and three Lexuses. All had good points, all had failings. None of them could match the efficiency and the comfort with which the Skoda gets me from Hereford to the Languedoc. Or over shorter distances on crowded urban roads.

I admit that if I had more money and more garage space I'd have a bike as well, simply to remind me of the unique sensations of biking. But it would be nothing more than a hobby; I wouldn't be doing anything useful on the bike. For every fresh Spring day riding in adjacent deserted Wales, I'd remember the counterbalancing five or six days with rain hitting my cheeks and eyelids like buckshot, my hands gradually becoming numb, the eternal sense of vulnerability and insecurity, the palaver of dressing and undressing. Needless to say any bike I bought would incorporate the best in technology. The day I heard myself saying - regarding some defect or other - "Oh X bikes always do that." I'd reckon that somewhere along the line I'd renounced the power of rational thought.

Which doesn't mean I have renounced the past but for me the past must compete shoulder to shoulder with the present. Great books were written in the past, great music, great scientific achievements, feats of courage - all invulnerable to the passage of time. On the other hand other past phenomena were merely staging posts, quickly swallowed up by evolutionary forces. For the same reason that I would prefer to watch telly rather than attend a bear-baiting, I look back on my ineffably feeble BSA Bantam and thank - let's say - Honda and Yamaha that I don't depend on that mechanical wretch to get me anywhere important.

I may write a sonnet about the eloquence of a pool of oil on the floor beneath a crank-case: dark, used-up, an irritation, a memorial to those who seemed incapable of solving a comparatively simple problem.

Avus said...

Thanks for that interesting and enjoyable comment. I agree that the 2L Skodas are "Superbe" (Do you have that particular model?) They may even be better than my late SAABs (heresy!)especially since they have VW backup and SAABs have gone to the wall, having been eaten by General Motors who, the rumour goes, deliberately acquired them to starve them to kill off competition with their larger Vauxhalls.

"The unique sensations of biking" - I liken it to the nearest one can get to flying in a light plane without actually leaving the ground. I may be a masochist, but some of the "drawbacks" you mention I found quite enjoyable (the exception being the stinging needles of rain on face, which can be overcome with a full-face helmet). The dressing up palaver I have always found gives an adrenaline squirt of anticipation. The undressing a regret that it is all over until next time. Whenever I used to complete a 500 mile (say)ride the feeling was always, "how soon can I do it again".

Avus said...

A PS - motorcycle poetry - try "On the Move" By Thom Gunn.

Lucy said...

Very enjoyable, loved the old photos of HHB!

Avus said...

Glad you found it interesting. Yes HHB , too, liked motorcycling and made a perfect pillion passenger.

Vita said...

I so enjoyed your photo history, especially daughter on the MZ250 and future wife on Bantam and you on both. OK, I especially liked ALL the photos. I have to go now. Good thing or I'd rattle on.

Avus said...

Thanks. Glad you found it interesting. As a kindred spirit, I rather thought you might.