Follow that coach – on a 88c James Comet!

The letter in OBM (June) about bike shop tours of Liverpool rekindled memories of 1958-59 and my first bikes as a 16-year-old apprentice mechanic on £3 per week.

This 98cc James Comet was Ted Bemand’s first ‘proper’ motorcycle – but if SKD 114 is still around, he doesn’t want it back!
This 98cc James Comet was Ted Bemand’s first ‘proper’ motorcycle – but if SKD 114 is still around, he doesn’t want it back!

All the big car dealers, Watson’s (Morris/Jaguar), Garlick Burrell and Edwards (Vauxhall) as well as Blake’s (Ford) were intermingled with the bike dealers, so while running for spares collection (as a lowly apprentice/dogsbody) I also did a bit of sneaky window-shopping.

A Cyclemaster from Victor Horseman’s came first. It had probably been a traded-in ‘banger’, and I spent more time pedalling the darned thing than riding it! After a memorable nine-mile ‘pedal’ to Tech College, I gave it to another student in disgust and got the bus home!


Two weeks later, Mr Plod was banging on our door because the new owner had done something wrong – certainly not speeding, but forgetting to put his name in the log book.

Next came a Mk.1 Corgi, which was good fun and reliable. My mate fancied it, and I quickly found a two-speed Mk.2. We rode around the housing estate like typical teenage lunatics. I put old ball races on the ends of the hinged footrests and flew around corners with lines of sparks and whizzing noises… `innocent if noisy fun!

Then came my first ‘proper’ motorbike, a tired secondhand 98cc James Comet – absolutely not the best description of this baby! I bought it from Ray Fay’s racing emporium in Holt Road.


That November, a coach
had been hired for the annual youth club bonfire and barbecue at Formby, 15 miles along the coast from Liverpool, but I had a motorbike, and was going to ride to the event by following the coach (stupidly missing out on the fun and games on the back seat, as I learned later).

Never having ridden out of town before, I discovered that there were no street lights, and that the coach was faster than the Comet’s 35mph combat speed. Suffice to say that I soon lost the coach, then lost my way and had to crawl home with the miserable little headlight.

The following week I had to eat humble pie at the youth club when I was taunted about the fun I’d missed out on.


The registration, if it’s still around, was SKD 114, but I don’t want it back!

Ted Bemand,

Read more letters, opinion, news and views in September’s issue of OBM


Enjoy more Old Bike Mart reading in the monthly paper. Click here to subscribe.