Sunday 12 April 2020

A Personal Motorcycle History....Or A Misspent Youth?

Another Me, Me, Me entry..with no apologies for the self indulgence. This could get a bit wordy.
 Not the usual type of post on this blog, but life changes and sometimes it's just time to reflect. So feel free to click elsewhere....there will be more walking/cycling etc posts along in the near future. This post will be one of a series..of I'm not sure how many!

 So as Lewis Carroll said "Where should I begin". The start would be as good a place as any...

 My first memories of a motorbike are from perhaps age 5ish. Most Saturdays I would be collected by my Maternal Grandad from Windermere and taken through to Ambleside for the day. No doubt to give my Mother a rest, (Dad worked Saturday mornings then) we didn't have a car. looking back I was probably spoilt by my Nana and Grandad, Uncle Ray was still "at home" then...and in the shed was his motorbike an AJS 500cc Twin. This was his everyday transport, I was allowed to sit on the AJS (whilst on it's stand). Sometimes it was started so that I could hear it run, always being told not to touch the exhaust pipes as they would burn me.

 My Grandad and my Father had both used motorbikes as transport in the late 1940's and 1950's as many people did, cars being pretty much out of reach financially for most people. When Mum and Dad got together his triumph 500 Speed Twin was not only used for his daily commute from High Oxenfell to Windermere (in all weathers), but for trips to watch races and scrambles all over the country with their mates. Silverstone and back (2up) there and back on a Sunday...before any Motorways!
 I was regaled with stories of a group of them all heading off to these race meetings, some of the antics and breakdown service in those days. Dad had done his National Service in the REME and was a motor engineer (specialising in automatic gearboxes later) so punctures and breakdowns were not the trauma they cold have been and something could usually be fashioned to get them home.
 Of course motorcycles were dangerous (they still can be!) and both Dad and my Uncle Ray spent time in hospital with broken limbs. But to me hearing of the freedom and fun that you could experience non of that mattered.
 By the time I was 6 or 7 Mum and Dad had bought and converted a Standard Atlas into a campervan. This and future campers would give Mum Dad my Sister and I many future fantastic holidays and fuel my love of the outdoors and adventure. If there were local Car or Motorbike events we would go to spectate..many of those venues are no longer used...Silloth was a favourite I remember.

 My Uncle Ray had sold the AJS, so there were no motorbikes to see and dream of. There was then a period when other things filled my free time. Like other kids I kicking a football about ( I was never any good). We now lived in Bowness, so riding my bike, exploring the hills, woods, fishing and generally messing about beside and in/on Windermere was were I would be found most of the time I wasn't at school or asleep.

Motorbikes were all but forgotten, I'm sure my parents and Nana were very pleased.

Skip on a few years and age 16 I'm on the ferry across Windermere with my bike off fishing to Rawlinson Nab. There next to me was a Honda the one below. Wow I thought, how cool is that? It was clearly out of reach , mainly because would have been limited to 50cc capacity but also by its likely cost (I had no idea how much it was anyway). I had a small amount of money saved up from work at weekends and school holidays, On the way back from fishing I called into the newsagents and bought the Motor Cycle newspaper...Oh dear!!

 I was still at school and had elected to do an extra year to obtain some extra GCE's (that dates me). I had no clear idea what career I would like to follow so more qualifications seemed like a good idea. Looking back with 20/20 hindsight this was a mistake. I didn't enjoy that last year, most of my schoolmates had left and were earning "proper" money. By now I was 17 so I left with my 6 GCE's and off I went.
 Jobs locally were hard to come by anyway, so I did the weekend/holiday job "fulltime" for a couple of months. Then a fulltime job came up in Kendal, decent enough money, and I was taken on.
 Only one problem, getting there...a motorbike was the answer of course. In those days no test required as long as it was below 250cc (madness looking back, its a wonder any of us survived!)
so off I went with Dad to "James Walker's" motorcycle emporium with £200 burning a hole in my pocket. Long since gone, and run by his son Frank (in his 60's then) he was a real character. It didn't take me long to decide on the steed of my dreams, I'd seen "Easy Rider" I knew what I wanted....

Please accept my apologies for the image quality and to whoever owns the copyright
Yep...a Honda ST70 Monkey Bike!
Mine was exactly like the one pictured, bought used for the princely sum of £170 the remaining £30 was enough to tax and insure the beast. We loaded it in the back of Mum and Dads camper and off we went home.
Now bear in mind at this point I had never ridden a motorcycle......
Thanks for reading
Tek care and Stay Safe.

To be continued....

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