My Motorcycling Life Pt 2 from George Smith

April 9th, 2020

My Motorcycling life Part 2

After posting last email I realised that being a recent member to Essex section not many would know who I am.

Mug shot added. VMCC Brough, photo taken at Curborough training day

Thought I would go back to when I was sixteen, the most exciting age for many of us. Invincible and all potential race winners.

Easter 1959 I started work as a craft apprentice for two years in training school Ford Motor Company Dagenham. The Easter intake comprised about 25 boys,  girls not considered in those days, and most of us were motorbike mad. We did one week in three at barking College with one day at Arden House opposite Barking Park to learn all things Ford.

My memory is not what it was but I wonder if any members were at Ford’s at this time.

I remember the bikes more than names. Below a list of what I can recall, might jog someone’s memory.

Triumph Tiger Cub. Myself. lived in Dagenham.

BSA Bantam 175 then BSA Shooting Star. Name?  My friend we went riding together, lived in Hornchurch.

BSA C15. Colin Streams Little older than the rest of us.

Douglas Dragonfly. Name ? We once shaved half his beard off for a joke.

BSA Gold flash. Tom Bolton. Lived in Southend, Sadly had fatal heart attack at Southend swimming pool.

He had a friend who lived in Southend cannot remember bike or name

Talisman twin. Name ? Delighted in telling Ford lecturer why 2 strokes were better than 4 strokes.

Moto Guzzi Zigolo. Name ? A rare sight in those days.

Norton 350 single with ace bars. Name ?

BSA Bantam. Name Percival

Sunbeam S7 or S8 nickname Herb as in a right Herbert. Lived Belvedere Kent.

There were others.

Back to my first motorcycle    

With apologies to younger members who never knew those times.

The 50s and early 60s were exciting times for motorcycling with rockers. motorcycle cafe’s and more teenage freedom than ever before. With my tiger Cub I was Jack the Lad and spent a lot of time at the motorcycle cafe’s talking about what else but motorcycles, burnups and listening to all the tall tales from the older lads, believing most of them.

Must admit I was not very impressed with the Ace café but preferred the Transport café situated on a dual carriageway outskirts of north London half way between Dagenham and the Ace. Would anyone remember the name? Large car park and most nights anything from 100 plus bikes. And yes there was a burnup track (road) from café to a set of traffic lights and back although I was never tempted, to sensible or to scared?

My favourite café was at Havering, not sure of name but Woodlands comes to mind. Good ride from Dagenham across A127 through village with 30MPH limit and police waiting to nab you. Many a good night talking, eating sausage sandwiches and playing the juke box. There was a pub opposite and I never saw any bike riders go in there.

Many trips were with my friend mentioned above whose name I cannot remember. My friend was, shall we say, a little on the heavy side and helped with my only crash on the Cub. Going to my girlfriend’s the last corner I considered it compulsory to ground the centre stand. My friend on pillion  decided to straighten up and sent me straight into the ice cream van across the road, not only wrecking the front end but to add insult to injury didn’t even buy me a cornet.

When he passed his test on the Bantam the next week he appeared with a new BSA shooting Star and as soon as he had run it in he added all the go faster parts and became a maniac. I was his pillion going to work and he scared the s**t out of me, bravado meant I refused to hold on to him but my legs ached gripping on.

During my eighteenth year courting became serious and we started saving a deposit to put down on a house for when I got to twenty one. The Cub was sold and I was bikeless.

My Italian itch needed scratching and I dragged my younger brother down to South London and tried to brainwash him to buy a Ducati. All to no avail he bought a RE Crusader Sport for half the price. I of course borrowed it at every chance and even took my driving test on it in the pouring rain. The bike had a full fairing, when the examiner stepped out in front of me for emergency stop I went into a gigantic slide, panicking about what my brother would say jumped off hanging onto handlebars to save fairing, shouted at examiner to help lift it up. I FAILED.

   Passed at second attempt on the wreck of my 100cc pushrod Ducati. In spite of stalling three times due to dragging clutch examiner gave me pass certificate and told me not to use bike until I made it road worthy. Don’t think that would happen now.

Will move on to the 1990 Moto Guzzi era in next chapter

Stay safe and stay in

George