‘MY DREAMS CAME TRUE - FOR £300’
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’