Tales of a Cafe Racer when BSA Triumph AJS Vincent ruled the roads
Things in the 1950s were alot different for the youngsters to what it is today.Myself and none of my associates would dream of going down the pub like the kids do toady. Pubs were not cool!
The place to be seen and hang out with your mates was the local cafe. If you had a bike that was good , a big bike , even better. to be honest the expression "Cafe Racer" wasn't used back then but many of us would cruise around (at various speeds) to amuse ourselves (and upset the local "Old Bill") .
I worked all the overtime I could get my hands on for nine months to get the money together to buy my first bike. I took the tube down to Stockwell and marched in to Pride and Clarke's and collected my very own BSA Bantam. I cant now remember exactly how much it was but to be honest the could have taken £100 off me because I was overawed by it all. I slapped some L plates on and gingerly rode my new steed home . Back then I could have picked up a 1000cc Vincent , no training required and away. How times change .
I loved my little Bantam , was a great bike . Even two up it wasn't too bad, well thats not what the law told me about not taking pillion passengers. I got away with a warning ,the girlfriend ruined her stilettos by having to walk home . That was another dressing down!
When the summer came a whole bunch of us (all on Bantams of course) made an epic trek down to Somerset to see the Cheddar Gorge. It took a while but out trusty little machines didn't miss a beat . There were no cheap hotels back then (even if there were we just about had enough for fuel and fags) so we would find a dry field and crash for the night. We always took the our spark plugs out because the early Bantams had no ignition key and the magneto was always engaged . All any potential thief had to do was "kick it and go "!
After about a year and at the ripe old age of 17 I felt id outgrown my Bantam and wanted a bit more speed and class.
I rode back down to Stockwell and stopped by the tube station . There I felt such a feeling of nostalgia for my little bike , that
I nearly headed home. Could I really part with her?
Part with her I did and after filing out the appropriate documentation at Pride and Clarke I took my Black BSA Golden Flash
for a spin through the mean streets of Stockwell.
As I was still living at home I still had to "run the gauntlet" of getting this new much faster machine past passed my mum.
She was shocked to see me arrive on this newer looking chrome covered twin. She marched down the garden path and said
" I hope thats not a 650 ?" They say honesty is the best policy, this certainly wasnt going to cut it here. "No mum, dont be silly!"
"Its only a 250" I said . I thought Id got away with it until my dad said wryly "I aint ever seen a 250 with two exhaust pipes son".
After that nothing was ever said about it being a bit on the chunky side. I didnt take liberties on my Flash as the power it had
could be quite frightening , I only ever really fell off the Bantam.
Every Sunday morning would involve myself riding round the my mates Freds place for some hard core "Autosol" action.
The bikes chrome had to be like mirrors for the lunchtime meet down the caf. Fred had been shot through his right leg in Korea and me and me mates would take turns at kicking his bike for him. He never seemed at al bitter at this and the very obvious limp
it produced . Then again he was such a charmer it never got in the way of him pulling birds. His "Little Red Book" was like the yellow pages!
One of our little pranks was to fly at high speed to a viaduct and then with our lights off (to avoid been clocked by the police) ride back to the caf. Like most youngsters we thought we were the first people ever to think of this. This delusion was shattered when we were just turning for home when a Wolseley Police car blocked our path. I thought we were going to really cop it and collect a pile of endorsements. To our surprise the copper led us in to the our small local hospital. None of us understood what was going on but didn't question the officer. After we were led into a wooden outbuilding it hit us . He pulled the sheets off four dead bikers al with their boots still on and leather jackets.
" Take a good look fellows!" said the copper. We were so shocked and paralysed with shame, we didn't utter a sound.
The officer continued " All from tonight, just one night!" We were told we were free to go and we didn't get nicked for any of
our skulduggery. Looking back it was a very god bit of police work because the officer got his point over and after what we saw we behaved ourselves. Well for while .