Bitten by the bug: a biker's life (part one)

Today's post is part one of a reflective look back at life as a biker, written for us by Frank Roberts. Next part on Monday morning. Enjoy...

NSU Quickly (not author's own!)

I first got the bitten by the bug for two wheels as a teenager, like most of us. I used to borrow my Dad's moped with his permission. It was an NSU Quickly, probably a misnomer seeing as its top speed must have been 45mph downhill with a following wind. It gave me the freedom to go out and see my mates down town and not have to rely on buses or walk in all weathers.

Dad insisted I had a crash helmet and was given a second hand Everoak Racemaster. I must have looked good in my gear, denim jeans and jacket, old black flying boots, and the crash helmet which I painted white and was probably three sizes too big. What a dashing figure I cut as I pedalled furiously to get the thing started while the helmet wobbled up and down, nearly obscuring my vision.

Racemaster helmet - a life saver

I lived in Reigate at the time and occasionally went up to Rykers on Box Hill to admire the bikes. I was painfully aware that the other bikers took the piss, but I like to think it was good natured. At least I was on two wheels and free. I used this little moped for many months as a form of transport, Dad only used it for work. I went out with my mates who had other forms of two wheeled transport; Lambretta, BSA Bantam, Honda 50, and a rich mate that had a new Triumph Tiger 100. All of these bikes (apart from the Triumph) were in various stages of dilapidation, but we thought we were the local Hells Angels chapter.

I did not have a girlfriend at the time, which was nothing to do with my mode of transport - I still looked cool. One or two of the others did but girls were not really a priority. I think we just enjoyed our inflated self image. We normally went out on a Friday to the local pictures or to a pub for a game of bar billiards and a pint or two.

Then catastrophe struck on one summer evening, as a car pulled out in front of me and I slammed into the side of it at break neck speed, 20mph. I somersaulted over the bonnet and landed on my knees. I can still remember seeing the nearby trees upside down. I slid down the road a short distance and stopped, feeling a bit stunned I got to my feet but felt a bit wobbly; it was when I tried to walk I guessed something was wrong. My left kneecap was shattered. I was taken to hospital where it was removed, and I spent six weeks off work.

Initially I was told I could never walk unaided as my leg would never bend sufficiently, but my initial thought was 'f**k off, just watch me.' Since then I have competed in cross country, and not once have I had to use a stick. Mum insisted that I had driving lessons - boring. It took three goes to pass my test, and even then I wasn't allowed to borrow the car; odd one that.

A year later I was back on two wheels - an Aerial 250 Super Sport, on which I passed my bike test first time. I no longer got the strange looks at Rykers and my sartorial elegance had improved. I had a real leather biker's jacket, still the wobbly crash helmet and flying boots but I looked more the part. My mates also had better bikes; the rich bastard had a new Bonneville, while the others had a sporty looking Panther, a BSA 500, and (would you believe it) a Sunbeam.

We all had girlfriends as well. Our 'rides out' were much the same but went further, as we met other bikers from various places and swapped stories of mechanicals, near misses or accidents. I always had to show the battle scar on my left knee.

All was well for a while, until another catastrophe. I did a U-turn in front of a car and the inevitable collision occurred. Despite being unconscious I was not as badly hurt, as the wobbly helmet saved my life. My right leg was in plaster for a short time and my lovely face looked a mess. My nose still looks like a pink shark's fin which has been a source of amusement to my three wives and many friends over the years.

BSA 650 (not authors own!)

Fortunately the rich bastard came to my rescue and temporarily fitted an extra leg rest on his Bonneville so I could still go out with them until I got my next bike, a BSA 650. Once again I was mobile and my bike attracted more interest, my dress code was the same but this time a new white helmet... what was it with me and white helmets? As well as my knee, I was now quizzed by other bikers about the state of my face; the short answer was always "yes, in two years I fell off my f**king bike twice."

Frank Roberts be continued