meum est propositum in taberna mori  **

Bikes – 3

The first bounce!

A motorcycle Hooligan at rest!

Even before I had bought my own motorcycle I was starting to get into it by riding on the back of Graeme bike. I had met Graeme while working at the London Air Traffic Control Centre around 1972, but at this point had only known him a few weeks.

Now, I didn’t know it at the time but he’s an absolute hooligan when it comes to motorcycles so in my innocence I happily accepted the offer of a lift somewhere with him one day. I think the machine was a Honda 250, very new and impressive in those days.

I’d no idea what to expect really, as I hadn’t been on the back of a motorcycle since I was a kid, but off we went, with no protective clothing other than a borrowed helmet, zooming along the streets of West Drayton.

Everything seemed fine and I was hanging on tight and looking around with interest when all of a sudden the scenery seemed to shift and the next thing I knew I was bouncing along the pavement! There didn’t seem to be any particular reason for it but it seems he had drifted into the gutter and we had hit the kerb and fallen off.

Fortunately we were only going slowly so it was more embarrassing than dangerous and after picking up a couple of loose bits we fired up the bike and carried on.

Never mind, I wasn’t going to let a little thing like that put me off and we’ve remained friends ever since. In the intervening years Graeme has had many bikes, frequently Italian exotica like a Moto Morini 350, or one of the first Ducati Pantahs in the country. He’s also managed to put most of them into the hedge at some time or other!

The Bantam Racer

Formula Bantam

Some time after this first motorcycling event Graeme moved in to the house we were renting in Watford and our interest in bikes took a new turn. Having decided that we would like to try racing we talked a bit about buying a sidecar outfit and racing together. Needless to say this was far too expensive for us at that stage so we looked around for something cheaper.

A friend of a friend put us in touch with someone who had a formula Bantam for sale. This looked like a much cheaper way of going racing and although we couldn’t ride it together we decided that we could take turns at race meetings.

The bike was duly purchased and a fine sight it was too, as you can see from these pictures (note the sophisticated paddock stand). I’m not sure if it is still going but Formula Bantam was a single make series for highly modified BSA Bantam 2-stroke motorcycles. They had high-compression cylinder heads and unsilenced expansion chamber exhausts. Ours had a very natty tank fitted, which I think came from a Ducati single. It was tiny, light and made a tremendous amount of noise. All we needed than was a van and we were off.

Unfortunately fate intervened before we actually made it to a race meeting and after a road accident which resulted in me breaking my neck I came back to the Isle of Man to recuperate and never went back to Watford. Eventually the Bantam was sold on.

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