The outside of a motorbike engine seen up close near the exhaust

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How It All Started

Blog Date 4 December 2020

We might be out of lockdown but here in the grim, grimy and allegedly disease ridden North West "tier 3" is barely any different. As such I shall tell you another story from the dim and distant past. In the interest of historical accuracy some of the details herein might have become embellished with the passage of time.

Once upon a time, long long ago. My calculator tells me it would have been 1989. Mikhail Gorbachev's Glasnost and Perestroika are shaking the soviet bloc to the core. Apartheid still has several years to go in South Africa but that too is looking shaky. In a small village south of Preston, out towards Southport, there's a 17 year old yoof.

This yoof has a car licence and sometimes can use his mother's ageing Ford Escort. He'd like his own car but he's too lazy, feckless and ineffectual to actually do some work and get the money together to buy one. He's presently failing at college, preferring to spend his time at the student come alternative come biker's pub in Leyland. This pub and the people there would change the course of his life.

This yoof is a metal-head, a rocker, a kneb, a greaser. Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin are, well, OK for "old" music but he's much more into Anthrax, Slayer and Metallica. This taste in music takes him to the rock clubs and pubs at the weekends (if he can borrow mother's car or cadge a lift). Here he mixes with other long haired leather clad rockers. 

Among this collective are the bikers. Rock-n-roll and bikers are intertwined, part of the same scene since before the dawn of time as far as our yoof is concerned. This yoof though has never really considered motorcycling. He's seen bikes, he kinda likes them but they're dangerous and despite our yoof's mean and tough look deep down he knows he could hardly fight his way out of a paper bag and if he hurt himself he'd cry. A lot. Not exactly the image he's desperately trying to portray.

And yet, despite this fear of both pain and failure, being with the bikers this biking this is slowly creeping it's way into his psyche. He spends more and more time with the bikers in the pub. He becomes friends and listens to them talking of rallies and engines and going to different places. But no, he doesn't want a bike.

Then two things happen. At a friend's house he watches the film "The Lost Boys". The super-cool anti-heroes of the film, the vampires, they ride motorcycles. There's a scene where they ride along a beach and up through some woods. To the easily influenced, naive and angst-ridden yoof this is the coolest thing ever and he yearns to be that bad-ass.

Around the same time one evening an old helmet and leather jacket are brought to the pub, specifically for the yoof's first ride. With much trepidation inside but acting as steeled as he can be on the outside, he dons the smelly, worn out kit. He's sat upon the back of a GSXR 750 slabsider and heads out. Both terrified and enthralled, he returns to the pub an hour later a different person.

With his birthday in October and a few quid earned here and there pretending to be a landscape gardener he's mustered together about £300. He buys a cheap helmet from a shop in Preston. He acquires an old leather off a friend. He gets a lift on the back of a FJR1100 to Vin Ducketts on the Fylde Peninsula where a Honda H100A is for sale. By hook and by crook he has insurance, a motorcycle that is being delivered in a week and his own kit.

It's early November 1989 and the nights are cold and long. The yoof, now 18 years old, can barely sleep with excitement. He dreams he's a vampire, cool and sexy with women throwing themselves at him. He dreams he's a Hell's Angel, hard as nails and takes no poop from no-one. He dreams he's a grizzled nomad, wandering the American deserts and sleeping under the stars next to his 'sickle. He's gunna be the coolest person to ever walk upon this earth.

The used (and later he learns, bent) 99cc 2-stroke diminutive commuter arrives on the back of a truck one frosty evening. While the old cynical yoof can look back to see a cheap, nasty and abused stroker the young excited yoof sees the keys to freedom, a life on the open road and lots and lots of sexy rock-chicks desperately clamouring over each other to get on the back. 

The yoof's friend arrives and the beast of a bike is wheeled to a back street. "This is the clutch, that's the front brake, there's the back brake and them's the gears. You know how to drive a car so off you go..." is the entire training the yoof receives. About 15 minutes are spent stalling and kick-starting in the back street until movement is achieved. "Right, ride it home, I'll see you at your place." The yoof doesn't even know how to change into second gear, he rides home in first.

Some 31 years later and the yoof has seen well over half a million miles pass under his tyres. He did eventually work out how to get into second gear. 

Did he ever become cool? Nope. Mean and tough? Nope, he still can't fight and he still wants to cry when he hurts his delicate pinkies, he's just got better at pretending. Did he become a grizzled nomad? Well, he's been camping a few times and even made it into Europe occasionally, otherwise nope. Did he get all the girls? Nope. Well, the odd one or two but it certainly wasn't due to having a motorcycle. 

It seems he failed in all his goals and dreams. And yet his love affair with motorcycling is still strong. He might not have become cool, sexy, mean and tough but he discovered a passion.

Share your tales both old and new - click here.  

Reader's Comments

Bogger said :-
It's been a bit of a sad, traumatic, unfulfilling sort of life really, when all's said and done. But don't let it get you down.

Keep up the good work.

04/12/2020 12:56:05 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Just think of all the interesting (well, fill in your own word) people you've come across. Not to mention the sights, sounds and smells that you've encountered in your years awheel that you would have missed out on tucked up in that nice little car.

Having said that, there are some experiences that I could well have done without - I expect it's the same for most here.

But you can congratulate yourself (not to mention Sharon) for providing this little relatively sane corner of the wild and woolly web.....
04/12/2020 13:52:35 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Aaaaah Bogger, yes indeed. I cry myself to sleep most nights. As an old man now all I yearn for is a garage like Ross's where I can tuck my motorcycles to bed at night.
04/12/2020 13:58:32 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Yes there have been some lows Ian, but overall I'm glad I got into motorcycling and all that goes with it. I've certainly met some interesting folks although I maintain bikers, motorcyclists, scooterists et al are the same as any other folks. There's good 'uns and bad 'uns, dull 'uns and fascinating 'uns, we're just regular people who just choose to ride 2 wheeled vehicles with engines.
04/12/2020 15:09:22 UTC
Bogger said :-
On a serious note. I've met some cracking people, present company included, due to motorcycling. I've travelled far and wide with a select group of them and cried with laughter on every trip bar none. Long may it continue.

Bogger... the sentimentalist
04/12/2020 15:41:20 UTC
ROD said :-
Life.. Life is what happens when we are busy making plans.
04/12/2020 16:39:12 UTC
Ross said :-
Heh, nice tale, Ren, quite a bit of that sounds very familiar...except Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin wasn't 'old' music for me!
04/12/2020 19:43:12 UTC
Uppo said :-
Strange how motorcycles grab some of us but not others. I started with a BSA bantam d14/4 because a workmate at Yorkshire Imperial Metals (Smethwick) had one. I paid £70 from a dodgy dealer in Smethwick. Had to push it back home to Bearwood as I didn't know how to ride it. Taught myself by trial and error. Went everywhere on that bike. Was a nice machine even though the loom caught fire (£15 for a new one) then the big end went (£60 for a rebuild from Bob Joyners a great brit bike specialists). Always had a bike ever since. My brother's first bike was a Russian Voskhod 175 at 16 and it broke down so much that he got a car and never had another motorcycle. But at least he had a bike, a lot of people never try one out. Not all East European bikes were bad though my MZ ETZ251 was probably the beast bike I ever had. How I wish I never sold it! I do wonder if motorcycling is dying as you don't see many youngsters riding these days.
05/12/2020 00:29:52 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
What happened to my post?????
05/12/2020 14:37:00 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Which post Ian, I haven't edited owt.
05/12/2020 16:53:20 UTC
Snod said :-
I have a sneaking suspicion that pretty much everything about this story is deeply uncool, but I do like a bit of Metallic Breadfan.
05/12/2020 17:10:35 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Must have left the page without submitting. Can't be bothered repeating my pearls of wisdom now......
06/12/2020 09:49:34 UTC
nab301 said :-
Back in my day I think most of my peers were petrol heads . I started early with control line model aircraft and petrol powered lawnmowers , anything with an engine! I even bought some project bikes as a very early teenager, (Lambretta 150 3 speed, Honda moped with engine on back wheel , Honda 50. ) My first pillion experience was on the back of a Velocette 500 , I didn't do rock music or pubs though ,and the majority of my motorcycling has been a solo pursuit. I just liked ( and to this day still do ) the exhilaration of rolling open the throttle and changing up through the gears... . As soon as I turned 16 I was on the road with my brothers 1972 yamaha 80 , luckily I had mastered bike control in the previous years while doing speedway on the previously mentioned Lambretta around a rather small front garden..
As Uppo says though, I do wonder how long motorcycling will survive into the future? The youth of today don't seem interested and personal transport (or personal vehicle ownership at any rate) in general seems likely
to be legislated out of existence .

06/12/2020 16:25:09 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I think there is "new blood" coming into motorcycling but not in the numbers we may have had in the past. I can find plenty of YouTube videos by folks both young(ish) and old on a variety of motorcycling topics. A quick cursory look online finds the graph linked to below which (if you can get by all the cookie disclaimers etc) suggest sales since 2000 have been steady, if not a slight increase.

Motorcycling was once the defacto mode of transport for working class families who couldn't afford a car. When I wur a lad it was the vehicle of choice for teenagers who couldn't afford a car. Today it is primarily a toy, a plaything and sometimes a status symbol. Can motorcycling survive on this kind of client? It has done so far in the wealthy west, but previous success is no guarantee of future success.

It's good to read your own tales, thanks folks.
06/12/2020 17:02:54 UTC
Bogger said :-
You say that! I went to Devils bridge yesterday and of all the bikers there I would say that only three were under fifty five and everyone was over fourty. Apart from me. I'm only twenty seven...............stone.

07/12/2020 07:50:50 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
It's very true Bogger. When I started riding I was, logically enough, one of the youngest riders. As the years rolled by I have remained one of the youngest riders these last 30 years. There are of course exceptions and perhaps some perception questions too.

Is it possible the types of places we now old folks visit are same places we've visited for years? Are younger riders going elsewhere? Maybe younger riders don't "hang out" at the biker hang outs but meet online and ride to different places with different reasons?

I suspect you're right though. I *KNOW* there are younger riders out there, I've met them. But their numbers are small because as has been mentioned younger folks' attitude towards transport is generally different to ours. Equally, our attitude is different too. How many readers started out riding because they needed transport to get to work and visit friends but now their motorcycles are a leisure hobby, a pastime?

Bogger, you don't look a day over 55. Plus VAT and income tax.
07/12/2020 09:02:30 UTC
Bogger said :-
I think the young uns generally use bikes/scooters for the commute and not as a lifestyle sort of option. They use their bikes Monday to Friday, put them away and wheel them back out after the weekend is over.
I must admit that over the past three or four years I've not done as much riding of a weekend as in previous years. Possibly a couple of factors are affecting this. I am a bit older, but still as daft as a brush. Also the commute on the bike for the past five years is a greater mileage than previous. So although it's only commuting, I am getting my biking fix during the week so to speak?
I have missed the European trips over the last two years (sad face)


07/12/2020 10:35:16 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I spent around 2.5 years dispatching and around 3 years as a full time instructor. For myself this started to ruin my riding pleasure. I'd arrive at the bike club on a warm summer's evening and a member would pipe up "Why don't we ride up to Blackpool, go to the cafe?" My heart would sink. I'd already spent all bleeding day on the bike and the last thing I wanted was another 80 mile round trip of an evening.

When I stopped instructing I started to enjoy my bike time again.

With the lockdown I'm barely covering 100 miles a week and most of that mileage is the trip to Sharon's and back. On the one hand it's tragic, on the other hand the time I can spend on the bike is much more appreciated. I suppose it's a balance thing and everyone's balance is unique. Some are happy with 1,000 miles a year, others will find 20,000 miles still unsatisfactory.

But yeah, I wanna do some trips, even if it's Wales and Scotland and England.
07/12/2020 11:47:06 UTC

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