Motorcycle News (UK) - - Front Page - James Whitham EX-BSB, WSB and GP rider turned TV pun­dit

Few bikes, no mat­ter how good, man­age to de­fine a whole class. Fewer still are not just re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing that class but be­come hugely sig­nif­i­cant to a whole gen­er­a­tion of rid­ers. The Yamaha FS1-E, or ‘Fizzy’ as it – and the whole cat­e­gory – came to be known, is just such a ma­chine. Per­haps it’s the only one.

De­signed specif­i­cally to meet a new Bri­tish li­cence reg­u­la­tion in­tro­duced in 1972 which re­stricted 16-year-olds to 50cc mopeds, Yamaha’s in­spired re­sponse was to in­vent the ‘sports ’ped’, a ma­chine with all the style and sports ap­peal of a full-sized mo­tor­cy­cle yet with the 49cc and ped­als to ad­here to the new law.

The re­sult was more pop­u­lar than Pan’s Peo­ple. The Fizzy in­spired a whole host of imi­ta­tors from the Ori­ent to Italy and cre­ated the ‘cult of the Fizzy’ where gangs of ‘ped-mounted teens smoked the High Street in their quest for two-wheeled free­dom.

BSB, WSB and GP rider-turned-TV com­men­ta­tor James Whitham was one of them. “From the age of 14 on­wards all I wanted was a Yamaha FS1-E,” he says. “Pass­ing my test at 17 was the dream and then I wanted the big­gest bike pos­si­ble... for £300!”

He was just one of many. Yamaha Mo­togp boss, Lin Jarvis was an­other: “When I was 16 I got my candy gold FS1-E, which was the door to free­dom and started it all.” DJ Carl Cox and rac­ers Phil Mc­callen and Ian Simp­son three more. “From about 11 un­til I turned 15 I raced push­bikes,” Mc­callen told MCN. “Then when I turned 16 I got my first FS1-E and very quickly sold all my pedal bikes!”

In truth, though, the lit­tle Yamaha might have been called some­thing else en­tirely. Orig­i­nally des­ig­nated ‘SS1’, for ‘Six­teener Spe­cial’, Yamaha changed the name of its new­comer to FS1 af­ter be­ing chal­lenged by Honda, who had their own four-stroke SS50. The English vari­ant be­came the FS1-E.

The ge­nius, how­ever, was in sim­ply be­ing a great-look­ing, ‘proper’ bike that ful­filled the 16-er law and came at an at­trac­tive price. To this day few ma­chines look more pur­pose­ful.

Thou­sands of MCN read­ers thought like­wise. Ge­off Gard­ner re­mem­bers his vividly: “When I turned 16 in 1976 I had a Day­tona yel­low FS1-E DX as my first bike bought by dad for £780. Boy I had fun. My mates also had Fizzys and it taught me to ride and grasp the ex­cite­ment of rid­ing. Wish I’d kept it.”

So too did Tom Ja­cobs, be­low left: “My FS1-E was my first bike and will for­ever re­main the cru­cial first step on the lad­der of my en­dur­ing love of bik­ing. It was quick, easy to ride and I had many small-scale epic ad­ven­tures. I of­ten won­der where it is now!”

Mark Leach added: “I had a pur­ple FS1-E which my par­ents bought for me on my 16th birth­day. It was my first bike and I rode (and crashed) it ev­ery­where.”

Mean­while the mem­ory of his DX was enough to turn Nick Man­ning all po­etic: “Hello to rid­ing past Ac­tion Sports in Cam­bridge to ad­mire my­self in their win­dow. Hello, too, to a geri­atric Centurion lid that weighed the same as a bowl­ing ball. The DX in­tro­duced me to not only free­dom but the world of work also, a new world which has led to some of the best times in my life.”

It could never last, of course – the best times never do. In 1977, in re­sponse to the hordes ram­pag­ing around at, oh, all of 50mph on a good day, the 16-er law was tight­ened to re­strict 50s to 30mph and the al­lure of the Fizzy was never quite the same.

Or, at least it wasn’t, un­til that gen­er­a­tion of teens be­came all menopausal in the early Noughties, sought to re­live their youth and orig­i­nal Fizzies sud­denly went from aban­doned junk to in-de­mand restora­tion projects thanks to a com­bi­na­tion of their nos­tal­gic ap­peal, sim­ple, af­ford­able me­chan­i­cals and Ebay.

As a re­sult, plenty of re­stored Fizzies are now around with prices of good ones ap­proach­ing five grand. You may re­mem­ber the likes of The Grand Tour’s Richard Ham­mond and James May each own­ing one re­cently. So, too, have rac­ers Ian Simp­son and Ian Lougher. While, af­ter a metic­u­lous restora­tion of his own, Whitham fi­nally got the FS1-E he al­ways craved.

The FS1-E has that ef­fect on peo­ple. Lots of them.

‘My mates all had Fizzys and it taught me to ride and grasp the ex­cite­ment of bikes’

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