Pete’s Prattle

Letter after letter has come in to OBM in recent weeks, about the perceived state of the old bike movement, with many readers citing factors such as high auction prices, hoarding bikes as ‘nest eggs’ with profit rather than riding in mind, potential new riders being put off by stringent learner/riding test rules, and even the rather obvious ones of changing times and the passing away of increasing numbers of those who, like myself, enjoyed every second of motorcycling in the 1960s, starting off with a humble Norman Nippy moped.

The debate has raised all of these issues and more, but to the diminishing number of us who still enjoy reminiscing about the good old days, we have to face the realities of our own mortality and the fact that younger riders might have different ideas about life on two wheels.

If you were a motorcyclist from the mid-to-late 1950s onwards, now-revered classic machines such as BSA Gold Stars, Triumph Bonnevilles and Norton Dominators were not classic bikes at all, but rather the newest and fastest you could get your hands on.

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At that time, a 50-year-old machine would be something like a belt-drive Triumph of the kind that delivered dispatches during the First World War, and today would be taking part in events like the Banbury Run – but hand on heart, how many of us would even have considered riding one in 1960?

There is no shortage of motorcyclists on the roads of Lincolnshire, where I happen to live, but most of them prefer to ride modern machines as we did. Just as today’s older riders look back with such joy at the bikes they rode over 50 years ago, in time today’s riders will feel the same about the bikes they are now riding.

Another issue raised repeatedly is downsizing to smaller machines as ageing muscles can no longer cope with lifting behemoths on and off their stands – but if the purpose is
to continue enjoying two wheels for as long as possible, classic lightweight machines (Fizzies excepted) rarely cost the earth, and in any case the market is now crowded with brand-new cheap and affordable small bikes that are more reliable than they ever were in the ‘good old days’.

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It could be just like starting motorcycling all over again!

Pete Kelly

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