In My Blood
Post Date - 26 February 2017
By Tom McQuiggan
I bought my first motorbike before I could ride one! I'd never even “had a go” but when my cousin said he was selling a dilapidated Honda CB250 G5, I jumped at the chance to invent the concept of “Buy Now, Pay Later”.
It was a very cold wintery night at the start of 1976, with a fresh layer of snow on the roads. I was 17 and pretty dumb. I insisted that I could manage to ride the bike home and set off in my denim suit.
I surprised myself at how well I managed to make progress and despite my gloveless hands turning blue, I was incredibly happy. Until I came to a sharp downhill turn near Barrow Bridge when the bike failed to obey my command to go around the corner whilst maintaining an upright position. Whoooosh! Down I went onto the snow-covered road. I repeated this a few times more before eventually making it home with no injuries. Not bad eh?
The only other mishap I suffered around that time was when I was chasing my good friend Paul Dunne. I can't remember what he was riding, but I remember he had my sister on the back of his bike. We were going around an uphill left-hander (Turner Brew, Bolton) when all of a sudden I felt the back end lock up and was immediately thrown off the bike into the path of oncoming traffic - specifically a Selnec Bus!!
I could hear my sister screaming as I rolled and spun around waiting for the bus to squish me. Happily, it didn't. I remember getting up and being surrounded by bikers who were helping me back across the road to my bike which was being worked on by another set of bikers. Apparently the chain had come off the sprocket, so they managed to get it back on and got me going again. We all headed off to our original destination - The Castle pub. Once there the bikers bought me a couple of pints to calm my nerves. Ahh, the good old 70's, LOL.
Before I knew it, June was upon us and it was the famous year of the heatwave, so I decided to make my very first trip to the Isle Of Man TT races. Joey Dunlop also made his debut that year! While there I was embarrassed by the timid sounds coming from my silencer, so I borrowed a pointy screwdriver from a German in the next tent and proceeded to stab my exhaust until it sounded like a poorly Laverda :-)
Me (right) with my cousin drinking 25p pints
1976 felt like the year I was born. It was a special year because I was happier than I'd ever been before. I was an adult, I was free, I had an identity, I had a comb in my back pocket and I had a bike! What more could a young lad want??
Most of the bikers I knew opted for fast 2-strokes from the Kawasaki, Yamaha and Suzuki camps, but me, I was a Honda man from the get go. After the lowly G5 I ended up with another one and then in 1980 I bought a brand new SuperDream. God, I loved that bike and used to go to work on it in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. It was there that I met another SuperDream owner who ended up being a lifelong friend and the Godfather to my first born son.
Marriage, kids, work and all the other boring stuff got in the way of biking for a while until I surprised the wife 3 or 4 years later with a Kawasaki 250 triple. Once that little seed had been planted and accepted by her, I moved onto a Suzuki GT750 Kettle.
So what draws us bikers to the path of motorcycling in the first place? Growing up, I was actually obsessed with cars and it was my dream to become a car mechanic. Maybe it's a genetic thing? My father came from Northern Ireland where biking has always been widely accepted by the general population instead of being frowned on as it often is in other countries.
My Dad and Grandfather had motorbikes and and I wonder if some of that passion for two wheels is somehow passed on? Silly, I know. My Dad's brother Robert also had bikes all his life. Biking is also on my Mother's side of the family. In particular, my Uncle Dennis was bike crazy and according to my Mum, knew how to strip bikes down to the very last nut and bolt (and thankfully put them back together again). He became the Manager of a large motorcycle centre in London.
Dad in the 60s
I don't know for sure where it comes from, but I do know that it's there - inside me. I've tried on a number of occasions over the years to do without a bike, but it never lasts. It feels like an addiction. Thankfully, I've only had two “offs” in my biking life - the one in the 70's mentioned earlier and one in the 00's involving a Fireblade, a brand new tyre and a freezing Scottish road. No real injuries and no big deal. I did however have one very bad near miss in 2013 which led to me giving up biking (for about 3 months, lol).
Why do we risk our lives for the sake of having a ride on a bike? Well I guess there are a myriad reasons. Biking is so many different things to so many different people and despite the fact that we share “two wheels” in common, we are all usually guilty of belonging to one camp, (often mocking those who don't fit into our own idea of what biking is about). Personally I'm guilty of mocking scooter riders. They're not real bikers are they? Hell no! I see them as spotty young toe-rags who ride around uninsured while wearing inappropriate clothing (hold on a minute – sounds like me in the 70's).
I'm not a motorcycle commuter - I'm a pleasure rider. I like to go out on bright dry days and prefer cold temperatures to hot. In years gone by I would go riding in ridiculously bad weather including snow and ice and sideways rain, just to prove to myself how much of a “real biker” I was. These days I can find lots of other interesting things to do if the weathers too grim and I don't feel like I'm losing out in any way.
Some bikers only play out when the sun is at it's highest point in the sky and the temperature is in the 80's. They ride 3 miles to their local bike-meet and sit chatting bikerstuff for 8 hours before taking baby back home to a heated garage. Naw, that's not me
either. I like riding!!
Some bikers want to go ripping up the roads at great speed, acting like they're on a track day, racing one another and putting themselves and other road users at risk. Naw, that's not me either.
I like riding to places! I like choosing one or more destinations and setting off nice and early and getting home late, allowing time for proper stops to explore the place you've just ridden a hundred miles to see! I like to have company too, so going with other riders is a big bonus as long as they stick (pretty much) to the speed limits. I also like to stop frequently to take photos - the only way that my old brain can recall where I've actually been.
I'm not a bike snob or a speed snob or a CC snob - in fact, I've found that most snobbery comes from those who ride small bikes and feel the need to justify their choice. Why?? Ride what you want for me - I don't give a damn, lol. I've had everything from a KH125 Kawasaki to a Yamaha 1700 MT-01. From a Deauville to a Fireblade. I've got nothing to prove to anyone. If someone asks me why I felt the need to buy what I'm currently riding, I tell them it's simply because I wanted it! No science, no evaluation, no budgets - just a desire to own it!
So what does drive me to choose a motorbike? Well first and foremost it has to be the appearance of a bike. It has to give me feelings of desire. And a pride of ownership too. Ideally it has to be special in some way - I want to open that garage door and think “Yeh, I love this bike”. And I don't care if everyone else hates what I bought - it just has to please me. I still to this day want a mint plastic maggot even though most people think they're awful. Biking is all about the passion it inspires in us as individuals, and depending on the biker, that could come from an FS1-E or a Fireblade.
Secondly, I like acceleration. I'm not one to chase top-speeds but I do love the thrill of acceleration. The feeling that you just cannot find in a car unless you spend many tens of thousands of pounds. That initial arm-wrenching pull from standstill. That incredibly urgent roll-on from 60 to 100. The sheer grunt that you can only get from cubes.
Finally, my choice of bike has to suit my current situation. I might be skint or I might have earned a juicy bonus. I might be a solo rider or I might be a pillion carrier. Circumstances change all the time. And there's a bike out there to suit every circumstance.
Biking is a part of my life. It's not all of my life, but it's there in the background all the time. Often time I can be found aimlessly tinkering in the garage, just happy to be surrounded with my bike and associated paraphernalia. I can be sitting comfortably at home doing some painting or watching TV and suddenly get an urge to go out riding. So I do. Just as my Dad did. And his Dad too.
What's your biking history? What motivates you to get out on 2 wheels? Big or small or anything that's going? Modern or classic? We'd love to add your contribution so please Click Here
Garth said :-
I love seeing these old pictures and imagining what life was like back then.
27/2//2017 11:21:05 AM UTC
Tom McQ said :-
I'm not that bloody old Garth! LOL
27/2//2017 12:30:03 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-
Glad you said that Tom. I am only a couple of years behind you and Garth is making me feel ancient.
27/2//2017 12:36:50 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Haha! You're not old to you Tom but to Garth? Maybe he's 18 in which case you and I are ancient.
27/2//2017 12:47:29 PM UTC
Garth said :-
Sorry guys, no offence meant. These pictures remind me of the ones my dad shows me and he tells me stories. He makes it sound so good. Maybe it will be the same for me one day.
27/2//2017 1:07:25 PM UTC
Tom McQ said :-
Anyway, nevermind all that. Not ONE person has mentioned my AMAZING hour-glass waist in the 2nd photo!!
27/2//2017 1:08:08 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-
And we shall continue to not mention it. :-)
27/2//2017 3:40:50 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
We were trying to avoid saying 2 things Tom. Firstly why did you have such a lady-like figure? Secondly, where did that lady-like figure go?
27/2//2017 4:07:46 PM UTC
Paul Dunne said :-
Very honoured to be in your roll call, and Pete as well, I remember he came off the GT250 and snapped the foot rest just before going to the TT, awesome write up Tom, awesome.
22/5//2017 9:38:52 PM UTC
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