Back in the early Eighties a seventeen year old could legally obtain their car or motorcycle licence with one test and job done.
You could rock up on your old Honda C90 chicken chaser or your mates mums battered Ford Escort and drive around the roads near the test center and if you didn't run any one over or slide down the road on your arse you passed.
Not now, you have a variety of different tests to sit, theory, practical and road awareness are all included in the exam to let you loose in your steel and plastic box or on your two wheeled organ donor machine.
I could never be bothered with a car licence, I loved my bikes too much and cars were for wimps who hated getting wet, freezing cold and loved taking birds home after a night out.
Truth was at seventeen the insurance would have killed me for a car that was capable of the speeds my old bikes could do and anyway my mate had a full car licence that I occasionally borrowed when needed.
I had just turned seventeen and it was January 1985, My old Fizzy moped was due an upgrade,
I needed a larger bike to take my test on so I looked around for the quickest 125cc bikes on the road that i could ride on a provisional licence.
One was the Honda CB125 twin or the Yamaha RD 125 twin,
After reading up,about the tuning possibility's .. fuck all for the Honda and a bigger engine swap to 200cc for the Yamaha It was a no brainer and I decided that when I had enough money I would try and get hold of a Yamaha RD 125.
There was a bike shop along the old Sandling road in Maidstone called Laguna's,
This was a bike breakers that i had spent many a day mooching around for parts and they had on occasion a repaired bike in their shop window for sale.
I was on a ride out one Saturday in January, It was freezing and the old fizzy was struggling to stay above 30mph, I took the trip to Laguna's to try and find another barrel and piston in the piles of spares hiding around the back of the shop.
As I pulled up outside there it was in the window, The holy Grail, my dream bike,
A blue and white four year old Yamaha 125 twin with the 200cc upgrade already fitted and Micron expansion pipes...bloody hell this was meant to be
There i was dribbling like a lemon outside the shop, dreaming of speed and the looks from my biker mates when i wheely down the road in front of them when one of the owners came out and asked if i was interested.
I rushed into the shop and completely forgot about my old moped outside and without hesitation put a £25 deposit down on the bike, The rest was on finance and would workout at around £40 a month for two years...
The only snag was my age, I was only 17 so my dad would have to be a guarantor... bollox...I was quite good at faking his signature and used this skill to get me out of many a religious education lessons and P.E
I told Andy the owner that I will go home and get my dad to sign the paper work, A trip down the town and a coke in the cafe was all it needed for me to sign the necessary higher purchase agreement and return to collect my new ride.
When i arrived back at the bike shop the beast was parked up outside with a brand new set of L plates on it and half a tank of fuel, Now the fun begins but firstly I had to convince my dad that I swapped it for the Fizzy and a few quid.
I fired the rocket up and revved the engine, the Mircron exhausts crackled and sounded so sweet it made my nuts tingle.
A twist of the throttle and I was on the rear wheel, staring at the sun, my arsehole was clenched tighter than a vice and I was hanging on for grim death, This was a lot quicker than my old moped and I couldn't wait to show it off but the first stop was home to give it a good polish and remove the baffles from the exhausts to make it even louder.
With my chin on the petrol tank I was flying up The A 229 Blue Bell hill showing 90mph on the speedo and to say that I was in a state of ecstasy was an understatement.
Going home took no time at all and it was the fastest I had ever been on two wheels
When I arrived back I was greeted by my dad who when told of the deal that I had struck with Laguna's did not believe a single word of it.
He made me ride the bike all the way back to the shop and followed me in his car,
I parked up and was escorted into the office where he asked how I had purchased this nearly new bike on my apprentice wage. My dad was then told that HE had signed the hire purchase agreement for the bike.....Fuck I was in the shit now....
My dad calmly explained that i didn't have a pot to piss in and he had never signed any agreement, He said that the contract was void and to have the bike back, He also said that as a good will gesture they could keep the £25 deposit for their inconvenience.
Crap, that was a right kick in the bollox, I had no money now for the parts needed to repair my moped and I had to ride it back home at 20mph in the dark and freezing cold...That was a lesson learnt in finance and a bigger lesson learnt in the art of trying to kid your parents.....IT DOES NOT WORK
I was still on the look out for a bigger bike, It was legal for me to ride up to a 125cc as I was seventeen and the old fizzy was as good as dead, I had lost 2nd gear and 4th gear kept jumping out so it had to go,
A lad at work wanted it and gave me £100 for the unrestricted moped,
I was as happy as a dog with two dicks, the only problem was i had to resort to shanks' pony for a few days until I could find another bike
Unlike the youth of today, the tech generation, I had no internet to scour through , There was no Ebay, Gumtree or Market place........
How the fuck did I survive this caveman world we lived in.
Easy, We had a shop on nearly every corner and these sold papers and magazines that had adverts in them,
There were also an array of adverts stuck in the shop windows and if that was not good enough for you then a trip out to the nearest town was called for and a mooch around the shops that sold what you wanted.
Comets sold electrical Items, woolworths sold all sorts of shit, Finefare sold grub, C&A sold togs and CAT motorcycles in Ashford sold bikes
My dad drove me the 30 miles to Ashford to have a look at a Yamaha RS 100, He said it would be better than my previous purchase .. the RD 200 ..because it was legal and cheaper to buy and insure.
When we arrived at the huge glass fronted shop there was a large collection of Barry Sheene look alikes in full multi coloured leathers hanging around with their fully faired race replicas and I wanted to be one of them, only thing was I had to pass my test first and then the sky was the limit.
We went into the shop, the floor was polished, the bikes were gleaming and the staff were greasy....your typical stereotype sales man came slithering over like a slug on oil,
He knew fuck all about motor bikes and I expected he would be selling double glazed windows next year.
He asked me what i was looking for in the way a patronising teacher would ask a child if they needed to take a crap.
I told him that i wanted to have a look at the red Yamaha RS 100,
It was up for £350 and i had a hundred pound deposit.
The rest would be on finance and my dad was going to be my guarantee on the HP.
The bike was rolled outside amongst the race replicas to a giggle from the superbike riders
The salesman kicked the bike over and it bubbled into life, nothing like the RD 200, this was embarrassingly quiet and sounded fucking horrible.
Even my dad looked at me with that oooooh that sounds shit look and said that I could always change the exhaust for something louder.
Reluctantly I put my skid lid on and took the bike for a test ride around the industrial estate, It didn't go as quick as my previous purchase but it was a lot faster and smoother than the old Fizzy.
I rode back to the shop and gave the slippery salesman the £100 deposit he needed for the logbook to be transferred into my name , papers were signed, HP agreement boxes ticked and the red Yamaha was mine.
I got the rest of my bike gear out of dads old Ford Cortina and wrapped up, second hand bike jacket that i needed to grow into, black military boots that took ages to lace up and thick woolly gloves.
The bike fired up straight away and we set off back home along the A20 towards Maidstone and up the now very dark Blue Bell hill.
My dad was in front and we were doing around 50 mph, the freezing cold night was making my visor mist up so I had to un-clip it and tuck it into my jacket,
Now my eyes were stinging due to the bitter wind and my fingers were frozen to the handle bars, As we approached the top of Blue Bell hill a traffic jam had formed to take an exit off to the left.
I did not notice the line of stationary cars and trucks until the last second as my face was as screwed up as a prune trying to stay warm
Bollox...I grabbed the brake lever and stamped on the rear brake pedal with the force of a tonne weight...the brakes locked up and I proceeded to slide very quickly towards the rear end of a Talbot Horizon....Shit Shit Shit .....CRUNCH.....
There i was airborne staring down at the roof, bonnet and then tarmac.
My newly purchased ride had covered just 25 miles and it was now on the deck pissing out petrol and revving its tits off.
With the speed of Usain Bolt i picked myself up and ran around to the rear of the car and lifted my bike up onto its wheels and examined the damage.
Fucking dog shit..the head lamp was smashed , the mudguard broken , the forks bent and the handle bars were twisted.
Good job nothing serious and it was still usable.
By this time i had a crowd of folk milling around me and asking if I was ok and should they call an ambulance,
The very nice man who now had a bike size dent in his rear end of his car asked for my insurance details and after numbers and names changed hands I continued on my homeward journey, A little shaken up and now riding extremely carefully and slowly due to having no lights and bent forks.
My dad had not seen or heard anything and was at home with a cup of tea wondering where i had got to,
As I rocked up outside mum had decided to come out have a butchers at my new bike, dad followed with mug in hand and couldn't believe his eyes when he saw the state of what used to be a piece of Yamaha engineering an hour earlier.
After having a right ear bashing I rolled my wounded ride to the shed and with a tear in my eye or was it the salt from the road I went in doors for my re-heated re-heated dinner, that's not a spelling mistake it was heated twice and as dry as an Arab's flip flop.
The next morning I got up early so i could take the bike to work and with the proper equipment straighten the forks, fit new handle bars and replace the broken front light with another one I had in my shed.
The front mudguard was repairable with fiberglass so it shouldn't cost me too much to get it looking good again.
I pushed the bike to the road and after a few stabs on the kick start we were off, again quite slowly due to the lack of a front light and bent front end, There were hardly any vehicles on the road at 6am EXCEPT one bloody car driver that pulled straight out in front of me from a side road
No not again, I smashed in to his front wing at around 25mph and slid slowly off the bonnet like a jelly.
I jumped up and screamed at him
" didn't you fucking see me "
He replied with a stutter
" No, Its dark and you have no lights on "
Bollox, can't argue with that and how can I explain to the insurance company what has just happened, so I calmly strolled around to my now really bent bike sat upon the seat and shot off as quick as i could go leaving the poor bloke in the middle of the road with a dented wing and wondering what had just happened.
I did feel guilty about the whole thing but he was driving an Austin Allegro and after all he was the one that had pulled out on me and in the eyes of the law he was in the wrong...well sort of
I fixed my bike over the next few days and avoided that route to work for months...... just in case he ever saw me again.
The moral of that story is ..... well there isn't one really... just avoid riding with no lights on.
The expressions are … built on a Friday, you brought a lemon, it’s a dog, It’s a Jinx
No none of the above describe the RS 100 Yamaha that I had brought, It was worse than that, It had let me down on so many occasions and I referred to it as the shitter.
I had to take my bike test and buy something bigger, faster and more reliable….( after my I passed my test I brought a 250 Jawa but that’s another story )….
As an apprentice for the national bus company I was sent to Coventry to study, They had a college there that was linked with Jaguar and I had to spend Two years of my teenage life away from my mates welding and spannering.
The bus company issued me with a bus pass so every Monday I would get on a coach, head for Victoria .. chill out in the staff café and then get the coach to Coventry. This journey took around 4 hours, On a Monday it did not matter however on a Friday afternoon this was valuable drinking time lost.
That was it then, pass my test and buy a bigger bike, It was a no brainer, the pile of shit that I was riding had to go, I couldn’t sell it because there was still finance on it and as I was getting more money now .. college expenses…I could just buy another bike and flog the shitter later.
I applied for the bike test only to be told that this was the first month of the new two part test, fucking bollox, If I had only done my test a few weeks earlier I could have avoided this.
The test involved part one..bike control, a car park or school playground laid out with cones in a figure of eight and then a length of track from the cones to check on braking and stability.
This was followed by an hour on the public highway with instructors following you around a few roads observing your indication and other road users awareness.
Part two was a trip to a test centre where an examiner would hide behind a parked vehicle or fence and take note of your riding skills as you circled around a block of roads.
I needed to pass my test ASAP because boozing with my mates was being cut short, I knew that I could take my test anywhere if I was prepared to travel, I asked where the next part one was being held and the test centre told me it was this weekend near Lydd airport and run by Cinque port training services,
That was it, £50 of the Queens notes was handed over and I prepared myself for the test by riding as fast as I could all the way home.
I had to be at the training ground by 9am, It was a good hour and a half away so I needed to set off at 7am, motor bike leathers slung on and helmet polished (behave) I went to start the bike, Kick Kick Kick fucking piece of Japanese shit, Kick Kick Kick true to form It let me down when most needed,
A change of the spark plug and it fired up, now running late I had to make up lost time, like a bat out of hell I thrashed the granny out of this little two stroke all the way to Lydd airport, getting lost on the way a few time (No sat navigation then) and arrived with 5 minutes spare.
I was sweating like a pig on a spit and the Yamaha was pissing out petrol and oil from the carburettor, a thump of the float bowl and this eased to a drip.
The class was made up of a variety of people, Rich Richer and wow how can you afford that, I looked like I had just ridden from Afghanistan and my bike was the oldest there.
We had our briefing with a mug of tea and went out onto the carpark which as described to me by the test centre was laid out in road cones and white lines.
The figure of eight was at one end and then there was a clear stretch of around 100 yards towards a green mesh fence, this is where you were told to accelerate up to 30mph and stop on the white line just in front of the examiners … No problem
The first rich kid set off on his brand new Yamaha RD 125 LC , that was a beautiful bike, gleaming white and blue paint work and chrome allspeed expansion pipe, that was bike porn to a 17 year old.
He wobbled around the eight, crawled up to the finish line and stopped a few feet away from the two blokes at the end, they asked if he could stop on the line and he moved forward a few feet more and parked up .. well done they said.. What a fucking joke he was,
I will show them how you ride a bike
It was my go next, I had a lot to prove, there was no way any rich kid and their flash bike was going to make me look bad.
There I was, bike revving, adrenaline pumping through my veins, waiting for word to go, The Instructor nodded his head and I was off like Eddy kidd, I cracked open the throttle and with a slide from the rear wheel that would impress any teenage chick outside McDonalds rounded the first cone, banked the old bike into a 45 degree lean and ripped around the second cone, I was on form.
The figure of eight was completed in seconds and now for the 30mph brake test, I stamped the gears into first, popped a crowd pleasing wheelie and accelerated towards the shocked looking examiners stood just behind the white line.
I looked down at my speedo and it was showing 45mph .. Bollox .. I anchored up the brakes like a fat bloke passing a pasty counter and lifted the rear wheel into the air whilst stopping bang on the white line…fuck that was close.
The two instructors/examiners both gave me that look you get when you fart in a lift, they wanted to laugh but had look shocked and disgusted, One of the men lent over and whispered into my visor that he had never seen anything like that before and if I had ridden like that on the road he would have to fail me.. However that was good bike control, now go and grab a cup of tea before we do the road test.
The other members of the training group completed the bike control course and at 1pm we were told to suit up and this time we had to wear a Hi-Viz jacket to warn other road users we were being tested.
As a precautionary measure the examiners had to check your bike over to make sure everything worked and nothing was going to fall off….wonder why they came to me first. I run through my lights, brake light front and rear, lights on and indicators,” put your indicators on” I was told, “ they are on “ I shouted back,
Bloody bike had failed again, just when I needed it most the shitter had broken, It had got to the point now where I was going to torch the fucking festering piece of Jap crap and walk the 40 odd miles back home.
The examiner must have seen the disappointment in my eyes and offered me a brand new Honda CG125 for the rest of the day so I could complete my part one, the test centre had brought six of these as hire bikes for trainees to use and at £40 for a few hours it had to be done or I could not carry on with the days exam.
This was a completely different bike to my old shed, It was shiny, everything worked, it was a four stroke so had a lot more pull from low revs and the clutch was a bit snappy… Yep snappy
With the Honda ticking over and me last in the convoy of Barry sheene wanabes behind the rich kid on his spanking new RD 125 LC we set off, I let the clutch out a tad too quick and unlike my old dog it bit straight away and sent me crashing into the lad in front, Shit shit shit, his right hand indicator was now dismembered from his bike and swinging in the breeze,
Before he had time to jump on my head ( he was rich but also VERY big ) I said I would rent him another Honda and pay for a new indicator….this was a very lucrative day for Cinque ports training.
We were now running late and after more beer money was extracted from my wallet we set off onto the roads, I tell you now .. I have never ridden that careful and slow in all my life, every indication was used and every junction was crawled up to whilst double checking that I had double checked a few seconds before.
That hour on the road seemed to take days and when we eventually checked back into the test centre hut we were all awarded our part one certificates, That was a day to remember and part two was just as mental.
After fixing the indicators and repairing the carburetor on the old shitter I put in for the second part of the bike test I wanted it to be as quick as possible so chose Folkstone as the test center as there was only a two week wait here for motorcycle tests
The Yamaha was behaving itself and didn't cause me any problems within the two weeks before the test so with baited breath I got my shit together, filled the bike with fuel and settled in for the night....big day tomorrow and got to be 110% It was pissing down the next morning, blowing a gale and not the best day to be riding a 100cc motor bike 40 miles for the most important day of my life (at the time) If I failed it would mean another wait and another test and even more hours stuck on the coach going to Coventry and more drinking time lost...I had to pass
I wrapped up like a north sea fisherman, two pairs of gloves and thick socks under my wellies, I had all the paper work needed and fresh clean L plates, Had to look the part for this one.The bike was running sweet all the way to Folkstone and I got to the test center looking like a drowned rat, The examiner came out, He was wearing a long black cape and had a huge black umbrella, He had the mannerisms of a Victorian headmaster and spoke in a deep un-nerving voice.
"take me to your motorcycle and start the engine" he asked me in a way which made me feel like I had done something wrong, I tried to start the bike and nothing happened...For fucks sake not again, I pulled the HT lead off and gave it another kick.... Note to myself....wet gloves and high voltage should never mix
BOLLOX a spark shot up my arm making me jump back, loose my balance and end up sitting in a puddle, To any normal person this would be bloody hilarious but not Darth Vader, all he did was lift his brolly above his head and say " You got 5 minutes to fix it or you have failed"
I quickly undid the seat and grabbed a new spark plug from my tool kit, removed the old one and fitted it, First kick and it started, I had every emotion surging through my body now, Anger, tiredness, excitement, my nerves were shot to shit and i had water running out my arse after taking a dip in that puddle.
I jumped on the bike and was told to head off down the road and take the first right turn, carry on to the next road and turn right again, follow the road to the end and take another right, Basically it was a huge square and after I had done this I had to do a safe U turn and complete the square in the opposite direction...piece of piss.
Whilst doing this the examiner would hide at different locations around the circuit and observe my indication and turning maneuvers ... also at any given time he said he would step out in front of me and hold a bright red card up indicating an emergency stop was needed.
Shit ..wet roads and crap tyres are not good in this situation and this made me a tad nervous, I pulled away and headed towards the first turn, indicator on, over shoulder look and turn right, done this for the next turn just in case the examiner was on the prowl there, On the third turn no indicator, I thumped the switch...nothing, I hit the indicator...nothing, then pulled the relay down from under the tank and bingo .. we have working indicators.
I finished the first trip around the block and did the U turn, just as i was accelerating up the road for the reverse route I spotted the unmistakable black umbrella of the examiner peeping up from behind a parked car, I slowed down to a little faster than walking pace and he stepped out in front of me showing the red card..with a gentle squeeze on the brakes I did a perfect emergency stop beside of him, Inside I was screaming WOO HOO and had that feeling you get when your first in the buffet queue at a wedding.
The rest of the test seemed to go as well and when i finally stopped Darth Vader escorted me to the test center. It was still pissing down when I went into the examiners office to be told the results, I had water running down my neck, through my skidders and down my legs but I could not give a flying shit because I had passed,
With a cheers and a soggy hand shake I left the building and set off on my way home, I was in a world of my own now, It was palm trees and sand on the inside and torrential rain and wind all around me, Bloody hell Ive passed so legally I can ride on the motorway, That will save me a good 45 minutes and top bragging rights to my learner mates.
I pulled over and ripped the L plates off my bike and launched them into the nearest field like a Frisbee, I got back on to the old Yamaha for my Motorway adventure and within seconds of pulling away had that noise and colour many a motorist dread
BLUE lights and a siren screaming at me...FUCK.. I pulled over and stopped the bike, Two very annoyed men in blue strolled over to me and asked in no uncertain terms what I was doing. In the poshest voice i could muster whilst shitting bricks I explained to them that I had just passed my motorcycle test and in the excitement of the hour threw my L plates away.
They checked my damp paper work and told me to retrieve the L plates .. So there I was climbing over a barb wire fence into a muddy field to get my plates back so I could dispose of them properly in the nearest bin, dripping wet, cold and covered in mud but I didn't care I HAD PASSED MY TEST and now to buy a bigger bike