Learning to ride is pleasure and pain

Learning to ride is pleasure and pain

Like riding a bicycle as the saying is "you never forget" the reason you don't is all the crashes and they hurt, I vaguely remember riding trikes and always toppling off them as a infant and I never did like them at all, the next thing I had was a Cyclops scooter, you remember them similar to the Razor things kids ride today but made of steel and larger wheels shod with solid rubber tyres I really liked the scooter and had one up till about 12 yo unlike the metro-sexuals today who start riding them at 20. I remember riding down hills at breakneck speed sitting on the footboard to beat mates riding bicycles and loosing lots of skin!

Being a only child my mother was dead against me riding a bicycle, we lived in a court at the time so after a really long time harping on her, my parents relented and a re-built 27" Malvern Star with Sturmey-Archer 3 speed hub gears was under the Christmas tree that year on the proviso that I was not to ride it out of the Court! Well this was a pain but after my father taught me to ride by holding the seat and running beside me I wobbled off to a shaky start on two wheels, the problem was that my mate lived in the next street and although just around the corner I was banned from riding there, annoying but I used to sneak out and tell Mum I went to say another neighbour over the road and as the excuse of the bike being out of sight worked. It took sometime to "crack" the problem but one day she relented when I was going to be late getting to Mass and that being a altar  boy the priest or God would not forgive me, she relented and after that I went everywhere.

 My father had been a motorcyclist in earlier years and his stories about riding seemed to me like straight out of a Boys Own Manual, I went out and bought a Sturmey twist grip gear change option instead of a "trigger" change lever to "ape" riding a motorcycle, man that was way cool  the playing cards clipped on the forks to rub on the spokes gave the right noise of a engine I thought but my neighbours didn't, and the cards never lasted all that long. Meanwhile the kid over the road was a little older than me and he got a mini-bike, and I seriously wanted one after I rode it, this took over 2 years of "harping" on my parents but eventually they relented and  I got a 1959 Triumph 3TA 350 twin.

At the tender age of 14 summers I was to young for a licence and again my long suffering father taught me how to ride a motorcycle in our backyard which fortunately was quite large and I found I could lap a figure 8, inevitably I went faster and in winter months riding with Avon Speedmaster ribbed front tyre fitted I slide off, the only thing I wanted to do was get into top gear and a year and a half honing my skills clocked up 650 miles, I was "chuffed" that was the same as a ride to Sydney only with fruit trees and bird averies all along the way every lap!

Everyone knows bigger must be better so before I hit the road at 17 and 9 months licenced I needed a 650 at least, starting work at 16 helped with the money so I sold the 3TA in the Trading Post and bought a 1965 Triumph 650 6T ex police bike and patiently waited for the day. This bike had all the police bits except the siren and lights and remarkably was rear-ended by a Chev Impala while I was waiting to do a right hand turn with the blinkers on and me giving a hand signal in daylight fortunately with little damage to me but I knocked the rear wheel out of the Triumph, and these were days before mobile phones or texting.

A few years later I had a lapse after selling my motorcycle and buying a Valiant I realised after 3 months a crashed BSA 500cc B33 was all I could afford, this bike had been T-boned in the middle and could stand up without a stand! My long suffering father helped straighten the frame with a oxy torch ( big no no here) and after that it loved going around left handers but right turns it fought like camel with a broken back, I rode it to Echuca one Christmas and that was a adventure in itself with a Lithgow 22 single shot bolt action rifle strapped across the handlebars (imagine doing that now) to go spotlight shooting that worked well till the 6V electrics failed to charge the battery at idle speed and it went flat, it still ran with the magneto but in a forest with moonlight as your lighting it is nerve racking. All was well till I hit a bail of overgrown fencing wire and dropped the plot, the worse thing was yet to be discovered when I had to untangle the mess in the dark as it was wrapped all round the rear wheel, many hours later I was free and never shot a rabbit.

 This BSA had worn fork bushes and my mate Alby worked at Sheriden Lathes in Alphington he told me that if I bought some bronze bar he would machine up a set after hours on the weekend so a trip to Wearwell Bronze in Fairfield and removing the fork tubes, he dutifully machined up a set, the tubes were worn so he had to compromise and machined the bushes a little undersized to suit the worn area, they looked a "treat" and I rushed home to fit them. Upon being fitted the fork action was "stiff" so I decided a ride down Sparks Ave that would help run them in a bit, now in those days dear reader Sparks Ave Fairfield was sealed only on the crown of the road  and at the sides of the tarmac were like Dresden after the allies had bombed it! My ride involved not on the sealed area, the trusty BSA went fine, then bottomed out and locked the forks down, the next pothole had me and the BSA sliding, after surveying damage to myself mainly gravel rash and the bike the same I went home and filed out the fork bushes.

Sometime later I bought 1963 Velocette Thruxton 500 it was the epitome of singles and I enjoyed looking for Yamaha SR.500 singles to obliterate them in third gear, the Velo had the reputation of 40bhp and winning the IOM in 1967 at over 127 MPH so they were a cinch to beat. Boxing Day 1975 I was coming home on the Velo and at 3-00 on a clear sunlit day on the corner of Elizabeth st and Queensbury st Melbourne I was waiting for the traffic lights to change when all of a sudden I heard a car locked up behind me, it rear ended me across Queensbury st and fortunately no cars were coming, the Velo was launched at supersonic speed and flew across the intersection in mid air we crashed to the ground and it was written off in that hit. The Wog Boy in the Valiant never saw me and it took several months to get the money from him to repair my beautiful Velo

My life was affected with another Velo Venom in 1980 a customer had given it to me to fix and I was road testing it one evening, I waited at traffic lights in Brunswick and a little old lady did a right hand turn in front of me I broke my wrist and she asked me "where did you come from"? In both circumstances on the Velos I rode them home, takes a bit to kill them.

 In 1984 I bought my first new motorcycle on a whim a BMW R100 RSR it was a boxer and black as all real Beemers are supposed to be, in the first few days owning it I was riding down to Abbotsford and following another Wog Boy when all of a sudden he hit the brakes, slapped the Valiant in reverse and although I had managed to stop, backed into me breaking the front guard, I wasn't impressed and again weeks later got paid, I sold this BMW after 16K as it was and is motorcycle  that I have never missed until recently when I bought it back and gave it to my son. Recently. I bought a R80RT and converted it to "S" specs, which I'm still wondering why I did this!

After 46 years on the road I'm still learning and everyday is as good as the first, would I change anything except buying a BMW or keeping away from Valiant's driven by Greeks, well no to be truthful I'd do it all again.

Phil Pilgrim 2017