What started my off-road dirt bike experience?
My dad had an old car that had failed it’s MOT test, the chassis was too rusty and would cost too much to repair, so he gave it to me and my pals to drive around on the field behind our house. This was my first off road experience.
Soon after that, a boy who lived across the way from me who was a couple of years older, about 15-16, showed up with a moped, more like a bicycle with an engine attached, in fact it might have been a bike with a BSA Winged Wheel bolted where the back wheel would have been, not at all like a dirt bike. Anyway, I digress, he was chugging around the back field on this thing and I remember thinking “that looks a lot more fun than the car” so after a lot of begging on my part he reluctantly agreed to let me have a go. So after a brief explanation on what the controls did, off I went at a breath taking pace, must have been all of 10 mph, hey c’mon that was fast for a 49cc 2 stroke of about 1940 vintage and don’t forget that this engine was only bolted on to a push-bike, anyway, I was heading for the footpath and road and hit both before the engine stalled and I came to a halt only to be berated by the owner who went on and on about the perils of riding a vehicle on the public highway, without the necessary documents (what ever they were). I suppose he had a point…
Is this my chance to ride a dirt bike now?
I didn’t get to ride a bike on the rough for another couple of years, although by this time I had acquired an old static two stroke engine that I pulled apart and reassembled on numerous occasions, just to try and figure out how it worked, when one day, my pal Ian, introduced me to his friend who had bought an old 1930’s ex British Army BSA M20. This was a beast of a machine and unlike the puny 49cc thingy that I had ridden briefly before, this boasted 500cc,s and had a gearbox and everything, with a girder type front fork and a solid rear end which meant, by today’s standard, no suspension to speak of at all, all stood up on a couple of worn out road tyres, not really a dirt bike by any means. The first time I had a go, I was in awe of this fearsome charger, I mean, it went faster on tick-over than the moped went flat out, well, you get my drift.
In a short space of time my friends and I could ride this would-be dirt bike as fast as it could go along a mud track beside a stream (or creek, if you live in North America) in fact we would hold a sort of timed trial to see who could get up and back the fastest, one would finish and then the next would hop on and race off down the track and back only to hand over to the next rider. That poor old excuse for a dirt bike would run from dawn till dusk in the school holidays, stopping only to refuel and dodge the local policeman, and in the dusk you could actually see the header pipe glow because it got so hot. We thought we had killed it one day because one of the boys lost control of the whole plot and landed in the stream which resulted in lots of hissing and sizzling noises together with clouds of steam, BUT NO, we dragged it out, had a good laugh at the riders expense, kicked it over, it fired up, and off we went again! Boy, what a machine, eh?
My version of a dirt bike!
My pal’s version of a dirt bike rather over-shadowed my own which was another moped, but at least it had a whopping 98cc motor AND 2 gears, but it was all I could afford, so I took a hacksaw to the peddles and inserted a short length of steel bar through the hole where they had been, and fastened it in place with a couple of hose clips so that it resembled foot-rests, you know, like a real off-roader (in my dreams).
Some time later, I took a hacksaw and a couple of spanners, a screwdriver with lots of hose clips, the moped, an old bed frame, some pram wheels, a couple of used floor boards, an old car seat, an inverted plastic bottle (for a fuel tank, eeek) and some chewing-gum, then turned it all into a sort of 5 wheeled go-cart, pictured here on the left. But that’s another story for another day.
It was a couple of years, following those exciting carefree days, before I bought my own proper road bike, I had all the legal documents I needed now, and a couple more years, again, before I started my offroad experience having converted the road bike for use in observation trials.
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