Motorcycle cheater start
I subscribe to the theory of old cars and enjoy the company of people who own and drive them but I don’t think I’m cut out to be one of them. Rather like motorcycles.
Back in the 1950s in New Zealand you could buy and ride a motorbike for six weeks to decide whether you wanted to go for your licence. At that point you had to fit L-plates and behave like a learner. Nothing over 40mph. No pillion passenger. I used to buy a motorbike at the start of the Christmas holidays, ride it like I was on the Isle of Man TT for the six-week trial period which also coincided with the Christmas holidays...and then sell it.
My first bike was a 197cc James single while I was working at the ANZ bank in Timaru around 1958. I remember rather vividly its habit of bouncing its plug lead off under what passed for power surge but this came with a major bonus. This was in the days of six o’clock pub closing. Us teller chaps hurried through our cash balances and then rushed to the Hydro Grand Hotel where we beered until six and then headed for home usually suitably over-refreshed. The James winged it down the Bay Hill and then zoomed up the climb of Wai-iti Road... where the plug lead usually detached itself and without thought I would lean down to reattach it. This meant I got the total electrical charge up my arm which apart from gathering my total smarting attention for some distance, achieved the miracle of delivering instant total sobriety. Amazing. Should have found a way to patent and market it!
Six weeks was probably long enough with the James. The following year came a handsome 350cc twin-cylinder Triumph 3-T. By way of difference the Triumph usually ran slightly lumpily on one cylinder – but on occasion chimed in on two to deliver its smooth catalogue lusty performance. They were the bonus times, strangely opposite to the James.
Twenty years later in Surrey, my mate Denis Jenkinson – famous as the journalist who had ridden with Stirling Moss when they won the 1955 Mille Miglia in a Mercedes and ridden side car for Eric Oliver when the won the World Championship – talked me into buying a Honda 400-4. It was smooth performance personified but my interest waned and the Honda went. A while later I was in Jenks’ company at a pub lunch when someone asked why I had sold the 400/4. Jenks said “It rained...” On reflection he was probably right. He was right.
Oh yes, and when Mike “The Bike” Hailwood shared a house with other F1 harum-scarums like Chris Amon, Pete Revson and Tony Maggs, I was Mike’s manager. He was always happy to come home from a race in the far corners of Europe with his race boots crammed with foreign banknotes. Never mind how many, just lots! So we talked him into insisting on getting paid what he really was worth to bump up the crowds in Czechoslovakia rather than the least the promoters thought they could get away with. He suggested it wasn’t a very good idea to keep his boots-full of cash under his bed, but the happy-go-lucky Hailwood’s reason was that no thief would ever look under his bed... and if he did he wouldn’t want a battered old pair of boots. Mike leaned his bikes so far over that he scraped the leather from the sides of his boots... and would tape the holes after each race. Long races = bleeding feet!