I had my first ride on a bike in 1946. A workmate, just demobbed, spent his demob money on a new Matchless G80. I had my first ride on this bike with less than a hundred miles on the clock. Wembley speedway became a weekly pilgrimage. Over 50,000 spectators for a weekly league match and the sight and sound of thousands of bikes leaving the vast car park – it made me a motorcycle disciple for life.
I disagree with the DfT conclusions (from the survey mentioned in Members’ Enclosure) on the criteria for taking up motorcycling in the 1950s. The first was certainly never ‘fun’. The most desperate need was for wheels. Out in the sticks the nearest bus stop could be two miles away, the nearest railway station twenty.twenty The cost of eveneve the cheapest secondhand bike was daunting for apprentices who earned £50 a year. Unless you had generous parents, overtime and weekend jobs were the only means of saving enough money. Success would probably just about coincide with call-up, when your income dropped back to four shillings a day, less deductions.
I bought my first bike at an auction of exWD vehicles in Hong Kong in the early 1950. Squaddies were not allowed to bid, so one of our Chinese mechanics bid for me and got a 1940 Matchless G3 for HK$150. At the time a Hong Kong dollar was about 1s 3d. I had to risk taking a Bedford QL into an out of bounds area to pick it up, but when we got it back to base in the New Territories we found it was in quite good nick except for scrap tyres and tubes. There was a Matchless agent in Kowloon, but everything had to come from the UK by sea, so that it took over three months to get new tyres. Small components for G3s could be scrounged from REME workshops but tyres were like gold dust.
Home in 1952, I spent every penny my mum had saved for me on the first day. Among the hundreds of bikes advertised by dealers in the Motor Cycle was a 1950 Triumph Speed Twin. It cost £215, which was only about a tenner less than a new one, but the waiting list was a mile long and I needed it that day. In the next sixty years it was followed byy Triumphs,p, Nortons,, singlesg and twins, AJS 350 singles, a James, a Velocette MOV, AJS 650 twin, Gold Star BSA, AJS 650 sidecar outfit and in 2007 by a BMW R100RT with a Squire ST1 chair, initially with a Yamaha XT225 Serow and now in company with a Yamaha 125 scooter.
No car nowadays but the BMW has clocked over 30,000 miles since 2007. Nearly seventy years of great motorcycling. Doug Almond, member 126
Thanks to everyone who has shared their memories of how they started motorcycling – some great stories and wonderful photos. Speaking of which, here’s Helga on her grandad’s bike. See how she’s reaching for the lever! A natural, plainly. And Terry Edwards still has his first bike, 50 years later. Great stuff! Rowena