YOU NEVER FORGET YOUR FIRST BIKE
Well that’s what BMW said in their ad for the mid-size bikes and scooters. And that got me thinking; it would be interesting to hear about people’s first bike. We’ve already read about some of them in a couple of the “My Bike” stories, such as Paul, who told of how he went from a Honda step-through to a Goldwing; and speedway legend, Keith Cox, who started riding in 1936 on a Douglas 350. But I thought I’d throw this question out there and see what people had to tell us. I reckoned we’d get some interesting stories, and indeed we have! A big thank you to all those who responded! To kick it off I suppose I’ll start with mine. I mentioned on the “Who Am I?” page that I bought a friend’s road-bike to use as a kind of “paddock-basher”, but so that I could ride to the “paddock” (actually a friend’s farm) I kept it registered and got my licence on it. That bike was a Suzuki A100. I bought it in January 1977. Not surprisingly, I found it less than ideal as an off-road bike! (My friend had actually sold it to buy a Honda XL250 to do this off-roading stuff). So a few months later I went looking for a more suitable bike. I saw a 2nd-hand Suzuki trail-bike (I forget what model, probably an early TS) in the window of a local bike shop and went in to check it out. The shop was a Yamaha dealer and they had a special discount price on the then current DT125. The Yamaha DT looked a much better thing, for not a lot more money, so I ended up buying it. That was in September 1977. After I bought the DT125, my wife started riding too – on the little Suzuki. She was only riding it off-road and, knowing its limitations as a trail-bike, I modified it to make it more suitable for off-road. That included replacing the front mudguard with a high plastic one, fitting wider bars, lowering the gearing, and fitting more suitable tyres. That made it better for the fire-trails, but after she fell off it a couple of times I realised something more suitable was required, and replaced it with a 2nd-hand DT175. She got her licence on that. But enough of me, now to our readers. It seems that a few of our readers began their two-wheeled motoring life on a 100cc machine too. Grant had a Yamaha YL1 twin 100, while a Honda CB100 was the bike of choice for Martin, and also Peter who had a blue and white one. But some started out smaller than that. Paul began on a Bridgestone 90 with a rotary gearbox.The photo is not of Paul’s particular bike, but the same model, with the same gearbox. These rotary gearboxes could get you into trouble! Paul sent me a copy of a piece from the Owner’s Manual that describes the shift pattern. Keep shifting in either direction as far as you could go and you’d end up in neutral. The common trap was to shift all the way down at the lights so you were ready for take off when they went green. But when you let the clutch out you didn’t move, because you were in neutral! Or at the other end, if you “changed up” from top (thinking you weren't actually in top), you got a revving motor and a slowing bike – yep, you were in neutral again! What fun that must’ve been! Also chancing his luck with a rotary gearbox, which he said “could be a trap”, was Theo, his being fitted to a red Kawasaki 85cc road bike which he says was his “first love”, in 1969-70. “My little bike had its own way of mixing the oil into the fuel, from separate tanks. The two-stroke thing did not bother me, it was economical, we (my Dad and myself) mostly rode it around on the farm at Marrawah (North West Coast Tasmania) etc. Apart from plugs, and cleaning out the baffles occasionally, it caused very little trouble. It had 5,000 miles on the clock when I purchased it and 13,000 when I parted with it. Maybe a chain adjustment occasionally, that was enclosed which was just as well because there was a bit of sand on the farm. It only had a top speed of 45mph and that was down hill with a tail wind! I never had a chain snap or even had the motor apart. Headlight was reasonable. It was quite a reliable bike really. I think the bike was about a 1968 model so fairly well thought out for its day. The ‘posi force system’ they called it.” Yes Theo, I remember the term “posi-force” being Suzuki’s name for oil-injection. My little A100 had that too. Going down the capacity ladder slightly, Tim started out on a Yamaha MX80, which he got for Christmas when he was 8. “I rode it for 2 weeks then it stopped. I asked dad to fix it but he never did, so 2 years later I pulled it apart with a mate. Dad said it had broken rings or something, so we got Mum to get a top-end rebuild for it. We stuck it all back together and away it went! And was still going until I got my next bike which was a Suzuki TC 125.” Now that we’ve come to off-road bikes, they – and trail-bikes – were a popular choice as a beginner’s bike. Chris began with a Yamaha AG100, Lisa started on a Honda XL185, and Craig a Honda MT125. Ian started out young, at age 10 on a Honda XL170 he shared as a Christmas present with his brother. The off-roading continued with later bikes, as he explains. “I went to an XL250, Yammy XT550, Honda XL600 before venturing to road bikes (Currently a 1100 Guzzi).” Paul began on a Yamaha DT175, which was bought new in the 1970s. He writes, “My parents did not want me to get a bike, but they even helped with the dollars, as parents do. After riding other guys’ mini bikes, scooters, the scout master’s trail-bike, and a neighbour’s step-thru, I finally had my own. A shiny new Yamaha it was, delivered to my house. So excited, I rode to work the next day … and it broke down, can you believe it!! Out the front of this old house with a big gate and this guy comes tearing out on his MX motorbike. Yep I had a 2-stroke and the plug fouled. He was a mechanic – how lucky was I! It then took me another one hour for the 15 min journey to work as I got lost several times.” Yes, Paul, the bane of 2-stroke trail-bikes was fouling plugs. I fitted a one-stage hotter plug to the Yamaha trail-bikes that I had and adjusted the oil delivery so that it used less oil at low revs and wide throttle openings – such as would be used in the bush. The bike pictured here, a 1975 DT175 bought mainly for my wife to ride, seemed more prone to plug-fouling on the road. I always carried a spare plug! Paul continues, “This small size bike filled me with huge enjoyment for years to come and so much fun getting down and dirty every Sunday trail riding. “But you have to watch those knobby tyres on wet slippery bitumen though – my first off – how was I to know?” Yes, not good for the road, Paul! I used to run what were termed 80/20 tyres; 80% road and 20% trail on the front, and 50/50 on the rear. No, they weren’t as good off-road as full knobbies, but they were safer on-road. (I hadn’t got around to fitting those when this photo was taken). Geoffrey also began his riding on a Yamaha DT175. “It was used almost exclusively in the bush, but I got my licence on it too as you need a registered bike and a licence to ride in the bush. It was really capable - it got up all manner of gnarly hills more easily than my current more ‘advanced’ 2-stroke KTM dirt bike does, so long as the KTM's suspension advantage doesn't come into it. However it didn't have much power so I geared it down a ton. For a bike that already didn't have much of a top speed, it became a bike that was flat out at about 100kph, but at least got there faster.” (I geared mine down too, Paul, although only slightly. Elwyn). “Its main limitation when I was learning was that it wasn't much chop at jumping off things. Well, to be precise, its suspension wasn't much chop at landing. Apart from that, it handled everything I threw at it. If you found yourself stuck in an awkward spot on the side of a challenging hill you could even ‘kick start it’ with your hand due its small engine size and low compression. Auto lube meant no pre-mixing fuel either.” Probably not many of us get the chance to ride our first bike again, but Geoffrey did. “I had the chance to ride one recently. What a pile of crap! I think it was a great first bike and was suitable for taking you from your first ride through flogging it at redline all day long, but it still has its limits and wouldn't suit a more experienced or faster rider.” Karen’s first bike was a Honda 175 trailbike, a 1978 model. “After blowing the seals on a few trips to Tweed Heads and back to Newcastle I upgraded.” Not surprisingly I suppose, starting out on a dirt-bike often led to road machines. Cheryl says that she, “Learnt to ride on a 70cc Indian dirt-bike back in the late 70s, but the first bike I owned was a 2007 250cc Arqin Bruiser.” John says that the first bike he ever rode was a Yamaha DT125, that was owned by friend. The first bike he owned was a Yamaha SR500. “It cost me $2,200 brand new. Wish I still had it!” Getting back to road-bikes, Peter said that his first bike was, “A Yamaha 125cc model AS1, which was a twin, two-stroke road bike. I had this as a spotty youth and sold it when I found that cars were a much better option for taking girls out.” Understandable, Peter! Bruce started out small and, like most of us, worked his way up from there. “My first bike was a Honda CL175, high pipe model, followed by a Honda CL350 and then a CL450. A CB750 followed that and then a Yamaha XS650 (loved that one!). A TX650 was next and then a CB900. A Yamaha 1.1 4-cylinder and then the mighty XJR1300.” That bike was smashed (as was part of Bruce!) when a car turned across his path and slammed into him. After a long recovery, Bruce is back on the road again, on another XJR1300. The BSA Bantam featured in a few people’s early bike history. The Bantam, which was an icon of small British motorbikes during the 1950s and 60s, was actually a “spoils-of-war” knock-off of a German design, the DKW RT125. The Brits did a mirror-reverse swap of the mechanicals, so that the gearbox was on the right-side of the engine as was the way with British bikes. Engine sizes ranged from 125cc in the first model, released in 1948, to 175cc in versions from 1958 onwards. Michael began on, “A BSA Bantam bush-basher”. Steve began with a Bantam too. “I learnt to ride on a BSA Bantam 125cc but the first bike I actually owned was a CB175 Honda.” Co-incidentally, Possum followed the same path. “First bike fell off - BSA Bantam. First bike owned - Honda CB175, twin.” While the Bantam was popular as a beginner’s bike, for some people, like Patrick, it was a step-up from what he started out on. “I started on a 1959 50cc Raleigh moped. A triumph of British engineering! Two levers on the left handlebar, one for the clutch and the other for the back brake. On the right hand was the front brake lever and the throttle. Pedals with two chains to the back wheel – one from the clutch and the other from the pedal sprocket. No gears at all. I tell you, the infant Japanese motorcycle industry was quivering in its boots when it saw the Raleigh, with laughter, that is! Then it was on to bigger things with a 1955 BSA Bantam D3. 150cc of raw power put down through a 3-speed box. Plunger rear suspension, for total luxury. I can still remember the thrill of the first kick down to 2nd gear and a genuine overtake of a car. Marvellous!” Martin began with a moped too. He lived in Britain at the time, and as you’ll read later, mopeds were a popular beginner’s toy there. He also graduated to a Bantam. “I had 4 bikes in my youth, the first was the Power Pak which you had to help up steep hills with the pedals. I traveled daily from S.E. London to the city. It took 40 minutes each way and used just over 2 litres of fuel a week and only had to clean the plug once a day! My second bike was a BSA Bantam Major (150). I passed my test on the Douglas 80 Plus and on this day had my one and only true accident on a ‘proper’ motorbike. It went from under me down a steep hill on wet cobblestones as I braked for some pedestrians on a crossing. I stayed with the bike and the ‘pot protectors’ saved my leg. I came to a stop straddling the crossing, picked up the bike and continued to my work place. Martin said his love of Triumphs blossomed with the 1952 sprung-hub Thunderbird. But he says he would probably have avoided them if their ad “Go Gay with Triumph” had today's interpretation! You can see the ad pictured here, although the bike is obviously a “pushie”, not a real bike. Same company though. He says, “I was particularly pleased with the T'bird because my policeman father rode a Triumph 500 Speed Twin and he couldn't catch me.” Martin had some recollections of his first car too. “My first car was quite unique and would probably fetch a fortune today – a 1933 Wolseley Hornet Special. 6 cyl overhead camshaft and twin S.U. carbs which I could never tune properly. One of the first cars to feature 12" hydraulic brakes. Also had a non syncro crash box.” Peter began his riding in the UK also. “I owned a three wheeler called a Frisky Three back in the Uk when I was 16. It had a Villiers 197cc engine and motorcycle gearbox. The little car was that low on the ground, and was always breaking down but I had heaps of fun with it. My first bike though was a Francis Barnett 125cc two-stroke. It also had a Villiers engine but had a terrible clutch that was constantly breaking down. I can't remember what year the bike was, but it was the mid sixties when I owned it. I believe it had a trial clutch and gearbox by Francis Barnett themselves and it was a failure against the models with the full Villiers set-up. Or was it the other way around? Anyway it was a beauty when running and I had heaps of fun lying flat on the tank, no helmet back then or safety riding gear. I could get it up to 50 - 60 mph. My mate had the twin cylinder version with a 200cc motor. It went like a rocket for those days.” Michael began on a tiddler too. “I started riding on a semi-auto, step-through Suzuki F50, back in 1969. I could get up to 80kph on a flat straight stretch, hunched behind the handlebars!” After many years of riding maxi-scooters he now owns a Harley. Not everyone started out on small machinery though. As you might expect, a 250 was the weapon of choice of quite a few people when they started out. Russell writes, “My first bike (of many) was a Yamaha Virago 250, with saddlebags woohoo!” The Honda CB250 was a popular beginner's bike. The photo on the left is is of Ian’s CB250, a mid-1970s model. He got this when he got his Ls in 1980.
Aaron began with a Honda CB250T, a 1980 model that was light Blue with Honda Stripes. It had electric as well as kick-start, which he thought was, “A novel idea!” Kevin says that his first road-legal bike was a Honda VTR250 from 1986. Cyndie, a newer rider, also began with a 250 and still has it. It is a 2011 Suzuki TU250X. She says she is, “Looking to upgrade now.” Sherona still has her first bike too, a CF Moto 150. “Yellow and black, I still love my Bumblebee!” Getting back to Honda CBs, Bill also started out that way. “A gold 1972 Honda CB 350 twin. I bought it from a friend in November 1973 when he upgraded to a Honda 750. “Two weeks later, in December 1973 while still on my L-plates, I took my first spill on it when trying to avoid a car that stopped unexpectedly in front of me (besides me not paying full attention to the traffic!). I missed the car but because I braked unevenly, I went headfirst into the oncoming traffic which obligingly swerved around me while I was sliding down the road. The bike ended up on top of me and was removed by passers-by. I learned a valuable lesson that day and managed to stay upright on it from then on, at least while I was doing the riding anyway! “Two weeks later with my arm bandaged up, I was a pillion passenger on my own bike (unregistered...rider was unlicensed...tsk, tsk, the things young people get up to!) when my clumsy friend hit the rear of a moving car and trailer on the highway near Goulburn. The driver of the car didn’t want to report the accident for some unknown reason and offered to transport my smashed bike in his trailer and us (bleeding wounds and all) in his car. Needless to say, we both survived but the bike never fully recovered and I sold it in 1974. By the way, the clumsy (but much-loved) friend died in a bike accident in 1993, drink driving without a helmet.” Richard jokingly observed that a lot of riders, “Started on toys!” He said, “I manned up and started on a Matchless 500 Single. Hondas were still only a dream. (Pun intended? Elwyn). We used to call them Christmas Trees because they had so much shiny chrome and lights! “And most were, dare I say it, two-strokes. Aaagghh! Oil spewing stinky klinky zing-zing machines! But you know, despite the oils spewing and pistons breaking, chains snapping, tyres blowing out, very bad headlights, getting covered in two stroke oil, breathing two stroke fumes, always stopping while they changed the fouled plugs and having to mix fuel & oil, then having to rebuild your engine after every 200 mile weekend run, they were bloody good fun days!” “Motorcycling today is rather boring by comparison, not that I want to breakdown each ride, or ever, I just think that the tinkering was always a part of being a biker.” That’s probably true. Most of us wouldn’t like having to always be tinkering and fixing now (I know I wouldn’t!), but back then it was part of the motorcycling scene! Aussie is another who began on a Matchless 500. “1949 Matchless 500 engine in a ‘56 sprung frame. A heap of junk thrown together for a quick sale and I was the wet-behind-ears sucker. Spent more time fixing it than riding it. But what the heck, it was a real motorcycle! I was a bit of a hero to my car-driving mates, and when I was riding it, I was king. I should have been turned off motorcycles with the trouble it gave. Instead I became addicted.” Yeah, it gets to you, doesn’t it Aussie! Back in those earlier years a 500cc bike was considered a “big” bike; now that is termed mid-size. And a few people began riding on what we today term “mid-size” bikes. Ian began riding on a Honda 550 4cylinder, in 1973. Steve went the Suzuki route. “My first was the Suzuki GS500 with the fairing. A simple low-powered bike, but I was on my L plates, and I learned a lot with it.” Chris began riding on a 500cc bike too, but under different circumstances. It wasn’t his bike, but a police-bike. Yes, he was a motorcycle cop, and his introduction to the world of motorcycles is an interesting story. “After joining the NSW Police Force in 1967, and disillusioned with general duties in Darlinghurst, I applied to undertake the motorcycle course about a year later, starting in February 1968 at St Ives. Three weeks later I was a freshly minted motorcycle cop and ready to get out there and fight crime and or evil on any bike that came my way. At the time most young police cyclists aspired to be attached to the Special Traffic Patrol (STP), working out of North Sydney and riding Triumph Trophy 650s. As luck would have it, 1968 was the year Clearways were introduced to Sydney and I found myself transferred to Rockdale Police Station with the task of patrolling the Prince's Highway from Tom Ugly's Bridge to the Cook's River at Tempe. Look out anyone who dared to park between 6am and 9.30am north-bound and 3.30pm to 6.30pm south-bound! I seem to recall there was a two week period of grace allowing hapless motorists some time to get used to the idea. But I digress. “Opening the shed at the back of the police station, there sat gleaming in their silver and green livery, two lovely Triumph Daytonas. (Similar to the one in the photo here. Elwyn). Baby Bonnevilles really, with a 500cc vertical twin motor and two Amal Carbys. They were a terrific ride. Light, responsive and quick for their day. Keeping the carbys balanced was always tricky, similar to their big brother the Bonnie and one of the reasons the STP kept to the Trophy and its more easily tuned single carb. “I rode those Daytonas for only 6 months, but enjoyed every minute of it, dashing up and down the Prince's Highway; attending accidents, clearing traffic congestion on that old bridge and of course moving on vehicles stopped on the Clearway, the driver of which was 'Only there for a minute officer while I got my dry cleaning' or similar. Eventually I got my call up to the STP and the bigger, although less nimble Trophy. But to this day I still remember those little Brit bikes with very fond memories. Oddly enough, my very first personal bike was actually an ex-police bike too. “In 1972 we were issued with the ground-breaking, and at the time sophisticated, Honda CB750. (Again, not Chris’ bike, but similar. Elwyn). I was captivated with this amazing machine. It went like the clappers, stopped reasonably well with its new-fangled disc brake, never broke down and didn't leak oil. What's more, bits didn't fall off from the vibration! I had to have one so, I bought my bike back at auction. Kept it for a couple of years and what a great bike it was too. Wish I still had it today. “My second bike, if you will indulge me for a bit longer, was also an ex police bike. “We later moved onto the fantastic Kawasaki Z900, also went like the clappers but not renowned for its handing capabilities. Yep, bought that one back at auction too. Worth a mint today - should have kept them both. Great memories.” Thanks, Chris, it’s interesting to hear from someone who began riding as a job, and obviously continued riding for recreation as well. Pino’s first bike was a Hyosung GT650R, which he describes as, “The poor man’s Ducati.” (I said the same thing when I tested the S model). Other people came in on larger machines. David began on a 1977 Suzuki GS 750, while Daniel says that his first “real” bike was, “A trusty Kawasaki GPZ1000, 1987 model. Had to leave her in South Africa when we moved here.” Did I mention scooters? No, not yet, but that was a starting-point for some people. Simon started riding on a Lambretta in 1970, while Mark chose a Triumph Tigress 175cc.
A BRITISH PERSPECTIVE
I am a member of the Yamaha XJR Owner’s Club, which is based in the UK. (Some of the members are also readers of this web-site). So I thought I’d pose the question on their forum, for an international perspective. There were a lot of replies, and they did indeed present a different lot of bikes – some that were never available in Australia. All fascinating stuff! So take a look at what some of our British friends started out on. Like Simon, above, Lampy also began on a Lambretta. But his first foray into two-wheels didn’t go well. “Trouble was, I wasn't old enough to legally ride it. I lost my licence before I had it! Judge said, ‘I ban you from this day.’ I was 15, so when I was legally entitled to a licence I only had to wait 6 weeks. My first legal on-the-road bike was a Garrelli Tiger cross.” Honda step-throughs were a popular way into the world of the two-wheeled transport, and we have some people here who started on one. Martin’s was a yellow and white C50. “It had C50 badges but as the nice policeman pointed out, it had 72CC embossed on the cylinder. So, first bike, first summons and first endorsement.” Skyrider had a C70. “Blue with full fairing. All plastic. Started every day. Had it for 3years, never let me down once.” And Wigwam had a C90. Quite a few people began on 100cc machines, as in Australia. Jax’s first bike was a 100cc version of the Honda step-through, the C100. He said, “Ended up in a pond and it sank. Probably the best place for it.” Montydog’s first bike was a Kawasaki KH100, which came with a top box, which he reckoned was nice. The first bike JT owned was a Yamaha YB100. “I was 15 so rode it in the field at my Uncles farm at first, progressed into the forestry nearby and ended up riding it on the road, at 15.” Adam started smaller and quickly progressed to a 100cc. He writes, “My first bike was an Batavus Go-Go.” These were a moped – a small motorbike with pedals. The one in the photo here isn’t Adam’s, but a photo I found of one similar. Adam says, “I rode it through crippling embarrassment for 2 months before getting a new CB100.” You shouldn’t have been embarrassed Adam, you’ll see that quite a few people started out on a moped, as revealed in the following replies. Many of the mopeds that people began with were the Yamaha FS1-E. This pedal-powered machine had a 49cc single cylinder two-stroke engine with a four-speed gearbox. Originally produced as a small motorcycle, for the UK market it was fitted with pedals, as this was a requirement for it to be registered as a moped. (The “E” suffix stood for “England”). In the UK it gained the nick-name “Fizzie”. The pedal cranks allowed both pedals to be rotated forward so that the pedals would form motorcycle-style footrests when under engine power. To engage the pedals, the left pedal was rotated forward and locked. A drive gear then engaged allowing the rider to pedal. A short chain connected the pedal drive to the main engine-chain drive system. Pedaling was said to be hard work because there was no freewheel and the gearing was very low. Xjrmike started with a 1976 model. “What a machine, 50mph flat out and smoked like a chimney!” Teedy had a red 1977 model. It sounds a bit more sophisticated than the earlier models, having a front disc brake and auto-lube oil injection. Bodman also had a 1977 model. “The one with a front disc brake and last one with pedals I think. Was in yellow block colour and I wish I still had it.” Really, Bodman? I’m tempted to ask “Why”, but I guess it would be good as a fun / classic-moped type thing. Cornishpirate began on a Royal Enfield when he was 12. His first legal ride though, was a FS1-E. “In red. Me and my mates all had them, rode them around with the baffles taken out. We thought we were some guys!” Ewan’s FS1-E was a 1976 model, and Ploots had a 1976 model too. “That was in 87ish. I bought it off my brother. It was good for 55mph. The only thing I couldn’t get past was my mate’s AP50.” The AP50 was Suzuki’s version of the 50cc moped; and reputedly the fastest of the common brands. Jake had a red one in 1982. JT writes that his first legal road-bike was, “A blue Suzuki AP50, (this isn't his, Elwyn) with pedals facing the same way, bought with money I made from 'Tatty' picking. I had a black Centurion 2000 lid, leather bike jacket, jeans and Adidas Samba's with white socks, chin on the tank, feet on the rear indicators. She fair flew! Had some great times with mates.” JT says that they didn’t get far, but enjoyed every moment, slip-streaming everywhere; which I’m guessing would help with the speed and reduce the need for pedaling perhaps? Skyscraper’s first bike was a Honda SS50. This was a moped too, although like the FS1, it came without pedals in some countries. And according to Skyscraper, it was originally released in the UK without pedals. However he never got to ride it. “1977 saw me at John Fischers in New road with my dad. Came away with a 1971 Honda SS50 (pre pedal version) needing work for MOT. Cost £40. Mates helped me knacker it in the process of ‘repairing’ it for MOT. Back to Fischers again where the old man would only sign the papers for a metalic red, Honda CD175 complete with front and rear crash-bars and fibreglass leg shields. I passed my test on this in 78.” Perhaps one of the less common mopeds was made by NSU. It looked a bit like the Batavus and was called the Quickly. That was a bit of a misnomer though. With the usual 50cc motor, and a 2-speed gearbox, it had a stated top-speed of 25mph. Janbobsemo had one in 1963. He then progressed to an Aerial Arrow 250. Hairy had his in 1976, “At the age of 12. That was a laugh!” The Honda MB50 had the same capacity as the mopeds, but was a “proper” motorbike – with no pedals. A sporty look, complete with Comstar wheels. Ferg had one of these and reckons he got 36mph top speed, “Flat out with head on the tank.” Rich-ex had a red one. “Not sure mine ever managed 36 mph.” Unrealedd said that the first bike he owned was a JAWA 50. “I didn’t have a licence. When I did get my licence I had a 1982 Honda MTX 50, and promptly fitted a H100S engine to it.” Off-road bikes were popular starters for a lot of people in Britain too, some being quite small. Pitstop started out on a Kawasaki AE50, “When I turned 16 in '86. My first 'big bike' was an XJ750 as soon as I passed my test in '88. Kept it too, for nearly 20 years.” Ryan began on a similar size machine, the Suzuki TS 50. “Brand new back in 1999. I wish I could find her. I went from Southampton to north Wales on it.” A popular starting-point with trail-bikes was the 125cc class, with the Yamaha DT125 being the choice for a couple of people. (The DT125 pictured here is one I owned, my first new bike, bought in 1977). Wilkie had one that he bought new in 1986. Geran had one too, back in about 1984. “It was stolen from a car park in Bradford; man I was gutted!” Allen had a DT125 too, but didn’t start out on that. His first off-roader was a Husqvarna 390, then a 1985 Yamaha YZ250. He said both were, “Great fun.” The DT125 he classed as an on-road bike. He said, “It was okay but lacked something - I know, a 1300 engine!” (Like his current road-bike has). Portsmouth went the Suzuki route, with a Suzuki TS125ER. “In white. Got it 2 days after my 17th birthday. It cost £300 and I had to get it on the never-never.” Stray also started on a TS125. “Red and white 1980s model. Lovely bike but I couldn't reach the floor. Used to climb up the side with bike on stand - funny thinking about it. Bought for £200. Binned it badly two years later.” Hooligan went Kawasaki, with the KDX125 in 1991. Moving up a little, Mick bought a Yamaha DT 175 in 1980. The 125cc engine size was a popular choice for road-bikes too, with the Honda CB125 being owned by a couple of people. Barmyfred had a green one. “1976 model, complete with top box and crash bars.” Parrotman had one too, although it wasn’t a happy start. “Cost me almost as much to repair as I paid for it (cam shaft went and chewed the cylinder head up).” In 1981 Brian bought a Honda CB125J. “I bought it as a basket case and rebuilt it. I shouldn't have bothered really!” Filo went European. “An Aprilia RS 125 in Chesterfield colours. Not cool when you’re a 25-yr-old! Derestricted to 31BHP; did 100mph with a good wind.” Riddlers went to Suzuki for his 125. “First bike I owned was a 1976 Suzuki GT 125 twin. It was gold and white. I had that for about a year, sold it and bought a new 1978 Yamaha RD 250. It was silver and black with the coffin-shaped tank. Boy could it shift! I really loved that RD, wish I still had it.” Ah, the famous RD Yamahas! A few people began with one of those. As Riddlers indicated above, they were a fast bike back in their day, especially when first released in the mid 1970s. Narked started on a 1978 RD200DX. Rfdemon’s first bike was a Yamaha RD250B. “Went all over the place on that thing during '75 / '76. Rallies every weekend. Went on to do the same for the next 9 years on various bikes but the year on the ‘stroker was never beaten.” Mick was equally impressed with his RD 250E. “In white with red speed blocks. Soooo fast!” Wolseley1800 began with An RD250 D. “The last of the spoked wheels. Blue with speed blocks. Then a Z650, green with glassed heads, no gaskets and z1000 chain & sprockets. Air filters were paint roller sponge socks set up with colour tuning.” Still on 250s, for Yamaha04 it was a Suzuki 250 GT. “A gold colour. Went like a bat out of hell, well that’s how I remember it. Loved it!” Karbonkid had one too. “Followed closely after my test by a Kawasaki Z1B. Oh the foolishness of youth! It lasted 9 months!” Steve’s 250 was a Honda CB72. “Back in 1971, at 16 years old and no crash helmets. All legal then.” Pablo started on a Honda too, but a smaller one. His was a Honda CB175, which he got in 1973. Harris chose a 1979 CX 500 "twin tub." “The plastic maggot was ugly, slow, slightly uncomfortable on long journeys, but guess what, it's still on the road with about 80k on the clock when I last saw it. Ultra reliable, but ugly, ugly, ugly. Still, I miss it.” Gwb began on a CX500 too. He said it, “Looked rubbish but started everyday and went on forever.” Villiers, now there’s a name we’ve read before in this. Freddy had “A Francis Barnett with a 197cc Villiers 8e 2 stroke engine. Stripped and fitted with a fibreglass tank, single seat, expansion chamber, rear-sets. Didn't improve the handling or speed one little bit, but still crashed it.” Symmo says that the first bike he owned was, “A James Captain with a 197cc Villiers 2 stroke in it when I was 12. My 1st legal road bike was in 1964, a BSA C15 250.” Chippy had a BSA C15 as his first bike too. Givitsum goes back to 1959 for his first bike. “A 350cc Velocette Mac - I passed my test on it that same year. My first ride (on a bike) was 1956 on a 200cc Ariel with girder forks and three-speed hand change up on the tank.” Wow, that must’ve been an interesting first ride! Remember these British replies came from a Yamaha XJR1300 Owner’s forum, and Willie had one of those as his first bike. “A 2001 Yamaha XJR1300.” Not exactly a learner’s bike! Well, a lot of interesting stories there! And I learnt about bikes that I’d only just vaguely heard of before. Thanks once again to all those who sent in details of their first bikes, making this article as interesting and varied as it has been. I hope you all enjoyed reading about the bikes as much as I did! P.S. A few replies from the XJR Owner's forum came in (or I got to them) just after I'd publshed this. So I posted them on the Feedback page. Scroll down to December, just underneath the photo of the car.
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