Didn't You Learn To Ride?

Riding a motorcycle is basically quite a simple feat, despite the apparent difficulties of this very British invention. Imagine, dear reader, if you can, the scene as a Martian might see it.

A fine summer's morning and young James, just turned seventeen, wheels his birthday present out onto the front drive. Yes, it's a gleaming 175 Bantam (well my old Bantam used to gleam if you didn't look too closely at it).

Jim rolls his racing steed onto its centre stand and dons his helmet and gloves (sensible lad this young Jim). Then came problem number one. Bantam stands aren't that good when a motorbike stands on them especially on a gravel front drive. However, it's only a bent footrest and that's soon straightened with the help of a Birmingham screwdriver (well that's where they make Bantams isn't it?)

Still undeterred, our alien friend might settle down to watch act two, the start. Of course, since the bike won't stand on the gravel Jim has to stand astride the speedster. (that's what my Bantam was anyway). After a quiet wrestling match with the petrol tap, the tickler, choke and ignition switch, Jim gives the bike its first tentative prod at the kickstart.

After five minutes our space visitor might be excused for thinking this Beeza (like all others) was some sort of clockwork machine, wound up via some complex lever on the side of the machine. But not so, for in a cloud of blue smoke Jim hears the familiar phut-phut of a flooded two stroke.

Within hours of this first experience of the joys of two wheels our intrepid beginner decides to purchase some fuel. With a display of riding talent rarely seen in one so young, Jim slipstreams the No 47 bus and overtakes just in time to miss the first entrance to the garage, but he's still on a good line for the second exit (except for that stupid car coming out of the filling station).

Eventually the pump attendant finishes the chapter in his copy of Lady C. and peers out of his cabin with a cry of "Sorry lad, we don't sell that two stroke stuff my more, no-body wanted it."

Worry not young Jim, the next station down the road does a good line in two stroke. Trouble is just down the road is a bit farther than the Bantam's tank, but the salesman's blurb about light weight machines isn't that far off the mark, as Jim discovers after half a mile of pushing.

"How much will it take lad?"

"I don't know, just fill it up please."

"Don't try to be funny with me lad. I asked how much will it take."

"Oh I don't know, try two gallons."

"Bloody kids, must think we're some kind of try-it-on place."

"Whoa better leave it at that, its about full."

"But you asked for two gallons and I've only put one and seven eighths in. Anyway that'll be 62p."

Our hero pays the attendant and watches him walk off cursing all motorcyclists as trouble makers.

Jim puts on his helmet and looks up at the sky. Then back at the bike and then once again at the sky. He decides its not pigeons wetting the bike but rain, but he argues to himself it's only a couple of miles back home. Couldn't have been Jim's day however, because he learnt the hard way that it takes a lot less than a few miles for rain to soak through a pair of jeans.

Never fear little Jim, if you can put up with cold hands, wet necks and vibrated feet for a few months you'll soon become immune to logic and then you'll really enjoy the thrill (?) of motorcycling. In fact you'll be a fair candidate for Phoenixisation.


Richard Taylor aka Dickymint