Archive for the ‘Motorbike’ Tag

The Three Wheeled Samaritan

reliantThere was a time when owning a motor car was like being part of an unofficial club. Drivers would look out for each other, stopping to help when the new and unreliable form of transport broke down or just to give directions in the days when directional signs were far less frequent. As the numbers of motorists grew the camaraderie faded and it become an everyone for themselves attitude. Motorcyclist tended to retain the club attitude and three-wheel drivers even acknowledged each other with a raised hand as they passed.

Helping motorcyclists and three wheeler drivers was an ingrained habit for my father. When ever we passed someone stopped at the side of the road he would stop to see if he could offer any help. Carrying a significant supply of tools and spare parts was the norm and many a time he managed to get some poor motorcyclist going again, or at least give them a lift to the next town so they could summon help. His good Samaritan act was not without its consequences however; travelling to his brothers wedding we passed a lone motorcyclist stopped at the side of the road who obviously had a problem as his chain lay in several bits on the road.

Dad proceeded to unpack his tool kit to locate the chain splitter and some spare chain links of the right size. After about an hour he had managed to get the chain repaired and refitted to the bike much to the surprise of the driver who was far from mechanically minded. My mother was furious at this act of kindness, not just because we arrived late but because my father’s wedding suit was now rather creased and covered with strategically placed highlights of grease. His brothers and sisters thought the whole episode was hilarious and typical of my father’s attitude to life.

Ridding Pillion With Pride

For most of my childhood our family transport was a motorbike and sidecar. My father was a motorbike enthusiast and spent many hours tinkering with the engine, the garden shed contained a treasure trove of motorcycle bits, most kept just in case they may be needed, its a philosophy I continue to follow.

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Being the younger of two brothers, I had to wait until my sibling chose not to travel with us to family gatherings or on days out before the privilege and thrill of being a pillion passenger came my way. Being allowed to sit behind my father while wearing a small white crash helmet and an oversized trench coat from the army surplus store was one of those moments when I felt grown-up.

Up until then I generally rode in the back of the sidecar, first behind my brother and then when he was old enough to be allowed on the back of the motorbike behind my mother. Riding in the back of the sidecar was never the most comfortable of places to be. The foot well was always full of tools and spare parts to keep the bike going however serious the breakdown. Inner-tubes, clutch and break cables, spark plugs, points, leads, light bulbs, even major engine parts were stored in several ex-ammunition boxes.

The Sound Of Biking

A deep throaty pulsating roar harmonised with the metallic ring of push rod driven tappets give the distinctive sound of a British built motorcycle. Passing majestically by is a Panther Redwing the motorcycle my father drove for over 15 years before the cold and his advancing years made him retire to the comfort of a Reliant Regal van.

His skill as a motorcycle mechanic was legendary. The 500cc single cylinder engine would be stripped, overhauled and rebuilt in a weekend, including fitting new cork pads in the multi-plate clutch and lapping in the valves. Gunk, Red Hermatite and Swarfega are smells that remind me of the Saturday afternoons spent in the garage behind the shops helping with the work on the motorcycle and learning the skills of an engineer.

Today, riding a motorcycle on our crowded roads is a very risky business. In the 60sand 70s you could get away with a burn-up along the country lanes of England and even when a mishap occurred there were no other vehicles on the road to add to the disaster. Now its a very different story, young, inexperienced drivers with big egos have become a hazard even to those who are in a car. The sound of a British Motorcycle has become a rare event, the sound of a car crashing far more frequent.