Sixties Biking

Sixties Biking


A nostalgic look at biking in the sixties

Written By BeamerBiker (Dave)

The ‘revolution’ happened in about 1962. Before then, most motorcycling in this country was undertaken by guys who had been dispatch riders in WW2, dressed in huge rainproof coats, wearing huge ex army gauntlets, and sporting ‘corker’ crash helmets.


Their bikes, Panthers, old Ajs, and ex military M20s/M21s, were strapped to sidecars the size of a modern single decker bus, all with yellow perspex in the windows (post war austerity didn’t allow the cheap manufacture of the clear stuff.) They could all be seen, every Sunday, setting off for Southport down the East Lancashire Road out of Salford, wife on the pillion dressed in a wool coat, headscarf, and clutching a huge handbag. The chair would be full of snotty nosed kids, arranged in rows from front to back, and sealed in under a folding roof, like fighter pilots. (some sidecars were actually old fighter cockpits.)

Such was the state of rubber at the time, that overbraking often resulted in the inner tube being ripped out of the wheel. Good stuff!!

And so, as a lad of twelve, I acquired my first bike from ‘Tommy Two-Stroke’, a strange man who rode around on a 1938 Francis Barnett, wearing a flying helmet. He ‘rented’ part of my grandfathers allotment shed, and repaired bikes and mopeds for a local shop. As a kid this bloke fascinated me, and I would sit for hours in front of the little allotment stove, watching Tommy fix bikes, and listening to his tales of wartime dispatch riding in North Africa and Europe. It was then that he presented me with the bike, a two speed NSU ‘Quickly’. Oh joy!! Of course, my riding was confined to the old deserted railway track that then went to Swinton, but that ran for about two miles, so much fun was had by me and my newly acquired ‘friends’……they of course didn’t have a bike!


These days it would be called simply ‘street cred’, but I soon swung it to my advantage by making them supply the two-stroke fuel….He He.

Then followed a succession of not-fit-for road bikes, (the MOT test had just been introduced, but then it was every ten years!) Passing through my hands were such gems as a Capri scooter, a Triumph Tina, Norman Nippy, Puch 80 etc etc….Until, on the 27th March 1966, I took my first road bike out for a spin. It was a BSA C11g, very old, but capable of the giddy speed of 45MPH…..downhill, of coarse. Petrol was now six shillings a gallon, (thirty pence) with another six pence if you needed two shots of two stroke oil. No self mixing then!

It was a few months later that I bought a 197cc two stroke Francis Barnett for the princely sum of five pounds, and it was this bike that carried me through my test at 9AM on the 27th March 1967, my seventeenth birthday. The hated ‘L’ plates were now discarded into the nearest bin, and that night, with girlfriend clutching tightly to my waist, rode off to the local ‘Rockers Café’, a seedy place that did not live up to it’s name, ‘Chefs Pantry’. No Chef, and definitely no pantry!

Here the local heroes hung out. Vinney Cleary, and Graham B……..He’s still alive, and so am I if I don’t give his full name.


Outside were parked such gems as Bonnys, Dommis, A10s with DOUBLE front acting brakes, rear sets, clip ons….WOW. My little Franny was stuck out of the way. Inside to buy a couple of cups of seedy coffee, sixpence for the jukebox, and pick up all the biker gossip, like who was with who, who had been chased by one of the new police ‘Panda’ cars…..fat chance of being caught then, and of course, who was the latest biker to ‘Do the Double’, and still be alive.

The ‘Double’ went like this. The applicant for the honour would be sitting outside on his warmed up bike. Sixpence went into the jukebox, and just as the tones of ‘Leader Of The Pack’ started its scratchy journey across the 45 record, a signal went out, and the bike raced away, usually in a cloud of sweet smelling Castrol ‘R’. The object of the exercise was to ride the three miles to Irlam on the new duel carriageway, (The Double), and then three miles back, before the last screeching tones finished. No mean feat, and one that claimed nine lives over the years. (not quite like riding to the Tickled Trout). I often wonder if it would still be possible today, with the modern bikes we have!

Clothing was another issue. My first leather jacket was a tenth hand one bought for a few bob, skin tight jeans, and winkle picker shoes. Some of the lads ordained their jackets with lengths of bog chain and studs. Oh, and the famous studded belt was a must, for “givin these mods some grief”. Never happened with me, but I still hid the belt from my stepdad……..

And so the Golden Sixties rolled on. The new Honda CBs were coming in, painted anything but black, with electric indicators, and wonder of wonders, electric starters!! No more setting the advance retard lever to stop yourself being hurled skywards by the kick-start… fact, soon no kick-start! No more bump starting on a cold morning, nor the telltale patch of engine oil on the path.

I joined the Army in late ’67, selling my bike to a friend, and so I suppose I was lucky to miss the death throes of the British Bike, my next ride being a Honda 305 Sport. Great times to look back on and remember. Biking today?? I wouldn’t miss it for a gold clock!!!

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