An Introduction to the World of Motorcycling for Spotty Teenagers . . .

. . . This is another article that was originally published in the June 2007 issue of Classic Motorcycle Mechanics Magazine, here in it’s original and unedited form . . .

An Introduction to the World of Motorcycling for Spotty Teenagers

“What is the first thing that enters a fly’s mind as it hits the windscreen? Its arse!” Ah, the old ones are the best.

In my case, the first thing to enter ones adolescent and bewildered brain, had been the mental image of two front-seat occupants in a Ford Cortina. To this day, frozen in time like a snap-shot, I vividly recall how they sat, facing each other, giggling and staring into each others eyes, he (the driver) with his hand on her thigh.

Fair enough you may think, but surely inappropriate behaviour, whilst overtaking an asthmatic tractor, on a blind bend?

Rolling off the bonnet and crumpling to a heap on the road, I quickly became aware of the `concerned` driver’s, rubber-necking as they crawled past, still hindered by that darn tractor. Thanks for the assistance!

“Oh, what’s this, I appear to be rising?” Mr Driver from said Ford has helped me to my feet. What a nice chap. “Thanks, you can let go of my jacket now!”

Original artwork from the published article.

The Gorilla’s grip didn’t diminish, preferring instead to drag his `kill` to the front of the car. With his one remaining free arm, I was privileged to a close-up inspection of the damage. Primitively indicating the cracked windscreen and modifications to the front grill and bonnet, I noticed the green stripes. `Oh, it’s a Lotus Cortina?!`

A quick lecture followed, concerning the value of these cars and how he would pursue me for every penny I didn’t have. Yes I was insured TPFT, though he failed to realise I was moving the next day. Maybe I should have given my new address and the correct insurance details?

Later that day, sat at the roadside and smoking a therapeutic cigarette, my attention wavered towards the bike leaning against a hedge. Yamaha’s FS1-M had signalled my entry into the wonderful world of motorcycling. She was a mean machine indeed, 50cc and knocking out at least 4hp courtesy of Allspeed Exhausts, with a disc brake up-front and painted an attractive shade of decaying `stormy sky blue`. Lying flat on the tank, downhill and with a `nuclear holocaust` behind, she could almost hit 45mph! All this for just £45.

Furthermore, with help from the Cortina, a new modification joined the growing list of `hot-up` parts. Rearranged steering geometry. As a 16-year-old, front fork angles were just beginning to join the simmering `stew` of ideas constituting a teenage conscience. Recently discovering that a steeper fork set-up would increase flickability through the corners, I had `stumbled` across an excuse to save the expense of straightening them?

That Fizzy and I went everywhere together, even a 300-mile round trip to visit my slightly eccentric Grandmother.

Sadly, the era of Goretex jackets, trousers, gloves and stylish Roof helmets were not even a twinkle in my spotty delinquent eye. An old motocross lid without a peek or goggles, ill-fitting and paper-thin leather jacket with denim jeans and trainers, was the order of the day.

After piling the essentials for my weeklong holiday into a battered and mouldy rucksack (such as one pair of socks, underpants and a worn, tatty pornographic magazine found behind a supermarket), I was ready for the off.

Whilst departing, my concerned mother `just` managed a thinly veiled wave. Poor woman never did like the idea of a moped and I realise now, she must have feared I would never be seen alive again?

Still, who cared, I’m a teenager? The Fizzy ran like a supreme sports machine. The new front-end transformed the handling, the slightest input through the ‘bars causing a buttock clenching change of direction. Slightly less amusing, was the tendency for the Micron handlebars to shimmy constantly in a straight-line.

Now at least 70-miles into the journey, the bike and myself were as one. On the main carriageways we were hopelessly outclassed, yet on entering villages and towns, the roles were reversed. Queues of cars became easy prey for my killer machine. `Oops, sorry `, as we swiped a wing-mirror! How about a `stoppy` as an inconsiderate pedestrian stepped out between two stationary buses?

Not to worry, even as we were treated to a `tropical` summer storm. On arriving at my Grandmothers’, the look of bewilderment and horror on her wizened and wrinkled face was confirmation enough that I was indeed, a super-hero! Soaked to the skin and on the verge of hypothermia, I relished the attention.

An enjoyable week of lounging in the sun and visits to nearby towns on the bike, were a highlight. Quiet five minutes spent `reading` the incomprehensible porno-mag and stealthily stolen swigs of Grannies’ homemade liquor helped to pass the time. Less welcome were the regular offerings of her favourite snack, raw black-pudding sandwiches and weak tea with condensed milk! To this day, I have failed to recreate a `brew` with half an inch of skin on top!

The time to leave came around all to soon and as I readied for the long ride ahead, Granny mentioned she had a present for me. `Oh lovely. A homegrown Cactus in a rather rude shape. Thanks Gran! `

With the comical gift safely stowed in the backpack, the journey home began. Again, the weather dawned hot and dry and my riding ability seemed to respond accordingly. Flicking left and right with faultless gear changes at the optimum revs, even the bike appeared quieter, the suspension (and the roads), smoother.

Upon navigating a roundabout, I noticed a queue of traffic ahead. Luckily, a footpath beckoned by the roadside. `That will do nicely`, I thought.

Altering coarse for the path with nary a drop in velocity, we soon found unhindered progress as the line of stationary vehicles sped past. Looking over my shoulder to face the traffic jam, I chuckled, `Ho, ho, ho, not so clever now, stuck in your tin boxes? `

The gods must have looked down at that point, as if to say, “Teach this young imbecile a lesson he will never forget! “

Turning to face the direction of travel, the cause of the `jam` became bowel numbingly apparent. Road works! Worse still, a portable generator had been placed on a 40mph intercept course with my front wheel. Whack!!!

Time does indeed stop during moments such as this. Somersaulting through the air, the queue of cars rotated uncontrollably and rapidly. All sound muted, with the exception of wind noise. `Wow, I’m flying! ` Then whooosh! Reality returned.

As I recall, my hands were the first to strike tarmac, quickly followed by my head and ankle. Cart-wheeling along the pavement for some distance, progress had been abruptly halted by a pile of gravel. Coming to rest in an inverted position against the mound of chippings, the road became the sky and vice-versa.

Clearly dismayed at the level of punishment delivered, the `powers-that-be` sent another demon to do its worst. Tumbling and bounding towards me like an excited puppy, the Fizzy joined the party. Moped and knees embraced with a sickening crunch!!!

The bike `curled-up` by my side, engine still running. Reaching over, I turned the ignition off and had the bizarre impulsion to remove the key and place it carefully in my pocket.

Petrol poured from a crack in the tank and onto the hot engine. My lovely bike burst into flames and I fell unconscious.

I was at home in the garden and throwing a stick for my soft-as-a-brush Doberman. She was clearly having fun picking up and retrieving it. I throw repeatedly but her barking appears somewhat curious, `Nee-nah, nee-nah`.

Now in the ambulance, a bright light shone in my eyes. Switching the torch off, the Paramedic smiled with relief that I had regained consciousness and set about examining the rest of my beaten body. “Does this hurt?” prodding my foot. “Arrghh!” He takes that as a yes.

Later, in the surprising comfort of a hospital bed, I learned the full extent of my injuries. The heavy landing had shattered my left wrist and fractured my right hand in several places. The thwack to my ankle split the bone and the bonding session with the Fizzy caused a clean break across both knees. At the bedside, my mother shook her head in disbelief. Clearly, `no more bikes` was on the cards.

Months later I’m walking, on sticks. My hand has sufficient movement to raise a middle finger at kids hurling abuse towards this cripple, hobbling down the street.

Soon and against my mothers’ wishes, a new bike arrived. An RD125LC, resplendent in a Kenny Roberts’ Yellow racing scheme. However, with the bike came a surprising sense of self-preservation.

Gone was the urge to race every car and bike encountered or attack each corner as though for a `championship`. I preferred to cruise, with courtesy extended towards other road users and a new sense of maturity becoming the norm’.

Now winding the clock forward to the present day, the amusing Cactus survives unscathed and continues to rekindle memories both good and bad.

My 40th birthday looms dark and uncharted and I find myself reminiscing about the `accident`. Shattered knees have long since healed, though the Arctic temperature of a British winter sadistically plays with the arthritis. Luckily, I know a sympathetic GP with magical painkillers.

Safely cocooned in the warmth and security of a Land Rover Discovery, actuality makes a sudden and unwelcome return. Why are we parked at the roadside, in disorientating darkness? Oh yes, the prop-shaft has just snapped, we’re miles from civilisation, my mobile phone is `usefully` sat on the kitchen table and I’m towing two horses in a trailer. Unsurprisingly, you won’t find a phone box at the top of `Corney Fell. `

Feeling somewhat like Michael Caine in the Italian Job (precariously balanced in a coach on the cliff edge, trying to retrieve the gold), I turn to my anxious wife in a pitiful attempt at reassurance, “Don’t worry, I have a brilliant idea, errr . . .”

Author: Kevin Shelley

Street Photography. Narrow Boat Documentaries. eBooks. Blog. Reviews cameras. Develops film.

2 thoughts on “An Introduction to the World of Motorcycling for Spotty Teenagers . . .”

  1. Tell me you rode the horses to town. Please. Those unexpected adventures become treasured memories over time.


    1. Hello Walter and yes, memories are our own little snippets of fun and adventure. At the time though the best ones are anything but fun. In fact I rode my Shire horse across a tidal estuary once to a local village pub. The horse enjoyed some dark ale as well. Great times.


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