Back in the Jurassic period of motorcycling when men were men and even women were men only two types of people lived or built on hills, one the Church and the other was motorcyclists so you could roll start your machine, "hook it into second" and bump start it easily. Houses on hills were in demand especially if a huge garage was attached and not for the views either it was eagerly sought after for most of the two wheeled brethren who were a practical lot.
Anyway in those days to accessorise your steed it was always down to Pratts motorcycles in Elizabeth st to purchase crash bars front and rear and leather saddle bags, older guys bought a windscreen and Pratts did a roaring trade in lap-rugs to them as well and rabbit fur lined mittens were sold in abundance, the go faster guys wanted clip-ons fibreglass tanks and seats with a race hump and rear-sets, megaphones and "swept backs". I bet by now half of the people reading this won't even know what all these "goodies" were as lots of these terms are lost to the industry, clothing was the biggest factor and since helmets were mandatory since 1962 we will start with them.
Peer group pressure has played lot on our hobby since most of transgressed from bicycles and there was bicycle clips to stop your "flares" being caught in the chainwheel, otherwise you pulled your socks over the cuffs not a good look I have to say and no helmets of course you wore jeans and boots riding to work the accessory to have was a pump and a puncture repair kit that went in a little leather pouch that hung under the seat and of course "skid bars" (handlebars) no other parts were needed except a lighting set that ran off the front tyre by AC dynamo and dropped you pedal power by half. The I-ties (Italians) rode with leather racing caps and were mocked by us juveniles to such a degree they rarely wore them, heaven help them if they wore shorts.
At the magic age of 17 and 9 months everybody I knew had a motorcycle already and booked in a the local Police Station for their Learners Permit, your clothing purchased or borrowed if you were lucky enough, months before so you usually dressed up in front of a mirror to check yourself out, man I looked good a strapping youth of nearly 18 summers in the Disposal store "Flying Boots" with a AGV helmet and the split lens aviator Stadium goggles with mittens lined in rabbit fur on my hands and a leather jacket fleece lined that was given to me by my dad, great bit of kit but dark brown instead of black! This jacket gave me a complex as real men wore black leather jackets cut in the Brando style after the famous "Wild One" movie also if it was wet "the boys" wore ex Army Great coats that took four days to dry and when wet weighted a ton, and exuded a smell, reminiscent of a old Wolsley car interior no wonder so many died in the world wars I thought, and I saved for the coat as winter was coming. My AGV jet helmet was low crown and leather lined and sat closely to the skull no unnecessary padding it was white as were most helmets although Stadium helmets had a blue or red stripe but only tight arses wore these at $8, my helmet was a vast improvement on a "pudding basin" Cromwell I thought, and it lasted a couple of years till I bought a Stars and Stripes polycarbonate helmet like Peter Fonda wore in Easy Rider which was much lighter, my mate Billy Auton bought the alternative Stars and Bars Confederate version which looked really good I was slightly jealous, he rode a 1928 Ariel single 500 and it was painted and lined by Vic Bogner the master painter, Bill was into looks more than function. I kept this riding gear till 1975 when I tried Belstaff Egyptian waxed cotton it was WARM and dry when new was quite attractive in its own way, it did get grimey and smelled (what motorcycle gear didn't) when hot and the worse thing was if you leaned or rubbed up against a painted wall you left a smear! Bill bought one as well and after a year it turned shiny with all the ground in dirt his mother was disgusted and stuck it in the washing machine and after spin drying it it came out White he was crestfallen but it caused no end of comments when he turned up anywhere in it
Other 1% bikers wore belts made from worn out primary chain which were handy in a fight except your pants kept falling down under the weight when fitted to your jeans when you pulled the belt off to wallop someone with it. Gloves with the fingers cut off and sleeveless denim jackets never ever washed were de rigour and the colours were hard to read as they were filthy as well, helmets were usually black old and gutted of all lining and they sat so low on the crown you had to peer up under the brim to see anything but that never was a problem with 12" or 18" ape hangers, the jeans with mandatory rips were in favour as well as wrap round mirrored shades or sunglasses, wallets chained to your belt and slipped into a pocket was the uniform of choice.Things have changed now as the bikers wash their colours and jackets & they have more tattoos, less teeth and all ride the same make of motorcycle Harley and in black of course, in the old days they sneered at Jap bikes and rode Triumphs and if there was a Harley to be had it was a ex Army WLA 750 eventually they got later models as they started to be imported by Stanco's and starter motors were shunned, real men kicked their bike. I remember when yuppies started buying H-D"s and one older patch member was disgusted as he'd started on a Walla and worked his way up to a "Fatboy" anyway one day he told me about a yuppie with a mobile phone attached to his belt (as you did then on a brand new H-D) this bloke gave him a peace sign to the bikies disgust, he said to me " I had to bash him at the next set of lights" people like this give us a bad name!
As the eighties come and went new clothing came i.e. Dryrider hot and sweaty and when you got a jacket that fitted the sleeves were to short so two sizes larger did the trick, Fool Face helmets came in a big way after "Stone" the movie and Shoei white full face-helmets were sold with tinted dark green visors to match, good riding boots like Rossi's, Alpine-Stars were common and of course waterproof pants that all leaked in the crutch! You could even buy a Nolan intercom to play a cassette tape from a Sony Walkman and communicate by slowing down to 40 klms to speak to your passenger as you could not hear anything above that speed, things really got into gear with rudimentary heated clothing that either flattened your battery or shorted out and burned you! The problem now is motorcyclists that are dressed obviously safely but riding with skin tight leathers and knee scrapers in the city and a coloured helmet to match the machine seems over the top to me, call me old fashioned but on a race track you are easy to see and check times but on the road? I notice that Aldi produce motorcycle gear annually usually black and reflective panels seems to be a good alternative to me, I asked Guido Allan (the journalist) recently about his clothing and he informs me he wears a jacket with a wide orange stripe which I said "I will wager you must have had it given to you as nobody in there right mind would buy that" he sheepishly agreed it was a gift and justified owning it by being warm and dry!
So dear reader we now have groups of fellow motorcyclists wearing clown suits that glow in the dark and are every colour under the sun usually heated or cooled, covered in scrapers on the knees and elbows with a helmet starting at $1000 and Kevlar gloves for falling off which you do when riding on the limit all the time, your boots match your leathers which match your helmet this year only and if you sell the motorcycle you can't keep your old gear as it won't match God help us, get the clown suit off its time for black, it's the new black!
I wish Pratt's were still in business.
Phil. Pilgrim 2015