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Monday, 19 December 2011

When the government encouraged motorcycling (by accident of course)

There's an awful lot of people out there who owe a great debt of gratitude to a chap called John Peyton. He was the Transport Minister who, in 1971 introduced the law which restricted 16 year olds to ride mopeds. Hilariously, it had exactly the opposite effect than the one he was hoping for.

Whilst government ministers quaffed their brandies and imagined a few die-hard spotty kids persevering with Raleigh Runabouts, manufacturers both small and large drove a steamroller through the regulations and designed the flashiest, fastest, coolest mopeds imaginable. The 'sixteener special' was born.

By 1974, the big players were Yamaha's FS1-E and the Honda SS50 (AP50's came later). Then there were oddball European makes like Casal, Batavus and KTM(!). Even Mobylette got in on the act. But the real glam, the bikes that were discussed in hushed tones, and the ones that were rumoured to hit 60+ were the Italians. The Fantic TI, Malaguti Olympique and Garelli Tiger Cross had ultimate street credibility, that is of course when they were actually working.

Presumably rattled by this blatant disregard at their attempts to spoil everyone's fun, the government eventually amended the law to limit mopeds to a top speed of 30mph. Amazingly, it took them 6 years, but when they did, the bubble burst almost overnight and the craze was over. Mopeds went back to the uncool wall, and soon kids copped out and were buying cars that previously their Mums wouldn't have been seen dead in. Big exhausts and anodised wheel nuts were still years away, but the trend had shifted.

So, it gives me great pleasure and genuine pride (in this context) to admit that I am 53, and that my motorcycling career began on a full fat, no holds barred sports 'ped.

My first road bike was a Puch VS50, yellow and chrome, with 3 speed hand change. This was soon realised to be a mistake and was quickly chopped in for a Fizzy (it's funny, I don't actually remember anyone calling them Fizzy then).

Yes, CUP 28L was my dream come true. It really was a lovely little bike. Candy gold, with optional indicators, it was one of the very early FS1-E's which had SS50 on the side panels. I think that this badging was quite short lived as presumably, Honda took offence. Anyway, as I was saying, what a lovely bike. It took me everywhere, it made me some lifelong friends, it impressed the right girls, it made me feel part of something, and most of all, it made me fall in love with motorcycles.

So - if you've ever wondered why a very large proportion of bikers are now around 50-55 years old, it's because literally hundreds of thousands of kids like me rode mopeds between 1972-1977. If you are also a member of that short lived unofficial club, then I suggest that you buy this absolutely brilliant book.

144 pages of technicolour 1970's memories can be yours for only a tenner. I bought a copy and I love it. Do yourself a favour and click on the link below.

Now all I need is about four grand plus for an original mint early Fizzy. It's genuinely tempting.

1 comment:

  1. Casal SS4, fastest by far. shite gear change, regular seizures, but nowt could touch me :)