70's Biking 70's Biking

70's Biking


PART 2: (by Popular Demand)

Before I leave the mad biking sixties, I must mention a couple of characters I knew. Tommy Rudka was an ex WW2 Polish Soldier who had lost his right leg in Italy. Never to wear a prosthetic leg, (wooden to the unknowing,) he rode around on an Aerial Square Four and sidecar, leaning down over the tank to change gear! Long dead now, he became a sort of local hero to us kids, swearing constantly in Polish at all and sundry. I did hear many years later that he had been in terrible pain for years following the clumsy battlefield removal of his leg, which probably accounted for his mood.

Another guy was a close friend of mine, (and still is), called Dave N. He had an old Triumph Speed-twin, which he totally rebuilt, attached a plank 'chair' to, and then, by fair means or foul, 'found' an old coffin. Bolting this to the plank, he then screwed an old candelabra to the lid, which was hinged. Bars changed to a set of 'ape-hangers', and then, complete with a top hat and morning suit, rode the damned thing around the town, offering a lie-down lift to any mate daft enough to try it.

Yes, I did!
Right, onwards and upwards. The Seventies. There were still loads of British bikes around, and most were pretty cheap. Frantic moves by the home bike industry to catch the Japs resulted in some really weird conversions, with extra cylinders added,stupid looking bolt on starter motors powered by open chains, wacky exhaust systems......the list was endless, but hopeless. The British could never hope to compete against the smooth and fast bikes now coming into the country in an ever increasing torrent. The old BSA Bantam was replaced to a larger extent by the Honda 50, mainstay of the working man. BSA C15s, Barracudas, Starfires, all went west to the 250 Honda twins.

Which is where I come back in. I went into a little bike shop in Amesbury, Wiltshire, to buy a clutch cable for my Tiger Cub, and walked out with a second hand Honda 305 Sport. It was love at first sight....The gleaming chrome, big bulky Benley tank....Ali nearly throttled me when I got home for committing the cardinal sin, hire purchase!! Rape was a lesser crime in those days, but I just HAD to have the bike. And what a complete and utter DISASTER it was.
I had just done 49 miles when the gearbox seized at speed. The chain didnt snap, and I came to a halt with a bald spot now on the rear tyre.

The shop didn't want to know, (they were under no legal obligations in those days,) but after a lot of shouting, and a few heavy threats from my Para mates, they finally agreed to fix the bike if I bought the spares. That meant a trip to London. No internet ordering, or postal stuff, you picked it up yourself.
So after about a month, off again. 37 miles later, the head gasket blew. 47 miles after that, the cam chain went...and on, and on.

I swapped my lovely heap for a caravan and a mini. Right, I'm really off all things Japanese. So I went to look at a BSA A10. "Just had a full engine rebuild," said the owner. And so it had, but after about 30 hard miles, it started to slow and seize. After the third time, barrels off. Wrong piston rings, fitted upside down!! With this bike came an alloy head and twin Amal carbs, which did make it fly a bit.

And so, on a lovely Sunday evening in 1973, Ali & I jumped on the bike, and had the most wonderful ride-out of our lives. It was the last ever 'no helmet' day, the new law started at midnight. Out along the A303, across the rolling Wiltshire plains, through Salisbury, and then back through the dusk shrouded country roads, nothing but a pair of Mk8 Goggles. Windblown hair, (yes, I had some then), flies stuck to your face and jacket, just simply heaven. Nothing for me will ever take the place of that fantastic evening. The Bizas reg. number was SOB 4. Wish I had that plate now!

On moving back up North to Gods Country, and having sold the A10 to pay for cots, baby food and a new cooker, (bloody kids), I started work as a fitter with Greater Manchester Transport at Ashton -under-Lyne. A few bob in the back pocket sent me once again on the bike hunt. Anything then 250 and below was two stroke, and after a brief flirt with a Yammy YDS3, I walked into a shop and saw the new Kwaka 900...PHEW. It was in that Kwaka lime green lolly-pop shade that just made you want to lick the tank! (Bloody pervert) It was on this bike that I had the saddest time ever, when my friend Chas went under the back of a truck on his Norton Dommy.


We had been out for a Sunday Spin up to Rivington, and were coming back down the East Lancs Road , no M61 then. It happened at the 'Greyhound' round-about near to Astley, and he went right under the back of this thing doing 80. He was stone dead, still upright on the bike, wedged under the rear of the flat bed. I was inconsolable for months. We had gone through three tours of Northern Ireland together, and I owed him my life. I sold the Kwaka, and didn't touch another machine for five years.

My last bike of the 70s was a four-across Honda 750 F2, ex GM Police, with fairing and panniers. The 'Ram Air' bikes of the decade were coming to an end, and build quality was getting much better. My next bike would be a Honda CX 500 Custom, but thats another story altogether!!

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