Wheel alignment

Thursday 1 December 2011

How it all started

In response to Gary's Flies In Your teeth post, I guess that my story is typical of many riders.  Also like several other bloggers, my early posts are a chronicle of the early days but as many people won't have gone back to the late 2009 posts, I'll summarise the earliest here.

Here's a photo of the earliest remembered association with bikes when I was aged 5 or thereabouts.  I hope that you appreciate the courage it took to post this!

Oh my God!!! Me on the right

In my early life, Dad spent a lot of time working overseas and kept a 2 stroke James (Appropriate given my surname!) in the shed for running around our Northamptonshire village on when he got home.  If I was lucky, I'd be given short rides and I suppose I was hooked from then on.  Mum was dead against them though as Dad had a serious accident, breaking his jaw.

My conscious memories of bikes surfaced again when I was about 15.  At that time, the UK was heavily influenced by the American "biker rebel" culture and near where we lived was a cafe where the local bikers hung out on their Triumphs, Nortons and BSA's.  As wannabe bikers, we used to go down on our bicycles, complete with ape-hangers and tassels hanging out the end of the bars (more groans of embarrassment!).  The bikers used to put a 45 on the juke box and the challenge was to ride from the cafe, round the town centre and back again before the record finished.  Never mind about antisocial and dangerous behaviour, we  wanted to be just like them!

My first bike came a couple of years later as a reward from my grandparents for passing all my national school exams - couldn't believe my luck!  The fact that it was a Suzuki 50 with about 5 bhp and had the aerodynamics of a house thanks to the massive aftermarket windscreen they bought mattered not one jot - I was independently mobile!  That little Suzuki carried me over several counties in company with close friends on a Lambretta scooter, a Triumph Tiger Cub and an Ariel Arrow.  I'm pleased to say that I still stay in touch with most of those friends and one of them is still riding bikes.

The rest of my early biking history is in those early posts, but just thought I'd repost a photo of me and my Tiger 100 taken at the 1969 Isle of Man TT.  The young lady is Anne McGregor from Glasgow, who was holidaying in the IOM at the time with a friend.  Lovely girl and I hope she's had a wonderful life. (If any reader from Scotland thinks that they know her, her friend was called Rosemary Gilseanan).  It was a source of amazement that she even bothered with me given that my dress in the photo was a green cardigan with a bright orange T shirt, brown cord jeans and suede ankle boots.  I suppose I was the only person in the Isle of Man that thought I looked cool - aaarrgh!

Well at least Anne and the Tiger 100 looked good......


  1. Geoff:

    Here's the first thing that comes "off my mind", Does Jenny know you have a stash of hidden photos ? what else is in that box ?

    I hardly took any photos back then, I don't think cameras were invented yet. Either that or we ran out of flash powder.

    You looked so handsome back then . . .

    Riding the Wet Coast

  2. Bob, you silver-tongued charmer!

    We have boxes and boxes of photos, but that's the only one with a female from pre-Jennie days, haha. No dramas as I knew her past boyfriend :-).

    Somewhere I have boxes of 35mm colour slides from the Isle of Man TT and other places. My grandparents bought me an SLR for my 21st birthday and that's when my photographic interest really started.

  3. "It was a source of amazement that she even bothered with me given that my dress in the photo was a green cardigan with a bright orange T shirt, brown cord jeans and suede ankle boots. I suppose I was the only person in the Isle of Man that thought I looked cool - aaarrgh!"

    Seriously......I despair. I so need to take you shopping, well Terry does!

    Love the picture of you with the googles......what year was that Geoff, 1919,......1923........help me out woud you?

    Bloody great though that you got to ride around the IOM, it is on my bucket list!

  4. Rog:
    I'm much better now, honest!!! Well, when I can be bothered to scrub up, anyway. I promise to look smooth when we visit Auckland this weekend :-)

    Yes, I will help you out... the polite version is "Go forth and multiply" ;-)

    Did several laps of the TT course but the one with a mate at 6am with nothing on the road is the one to tell you about over a wine or two!!

  5. Geoff, first of all I have to correct Bob: you still look handsome.

    Very brave of you to expose yourself right down to your 5 year old self.

    I can imagine you desperately wanting to be the bad boy back then, because you were probably just the opposite.

  6. Sonja:
    Hahaha - have you been drinking too much of the Xmas spirit?? ;-)

    I'm glad you qualified "exposing myself"!

    **Blush**. I think you're right. Being bad was probably limited to stealing apples from the neighbour's tree!!

  7. Great post! You looked cute in the goggles and very dapper young man on his bike with his girl. Some people are lucky like you to have bike passion and enjoy it. I imagine you have gone on many great adventures.

  8. Thanks Dar = "cute" is not a word I hear very often :-)

    It's the adventures still out there to discover that really interest me!

  9. Geoff, lovely post.

    I was given a helmet much like the one you are wearing in the little boy pic when I got my broken down Vespa at around age 13-14 years. The owner had worn it commuting for years.

    Cheers Jules.

  10. Okay, I'll have to agree with Dar - stinking cute in the goggles.

    Judging by the description of your outfit in the last picture, I think I'm glad that the colors haven't come through as vibrant as they sound. Ms. McGregor must have known there was a bad boy lurking underneath.

    Me thinks Jennie knew what a catch you were too. Or is that you knew what a catch Jennie was?

  11. Sounds like riding on two wheels was somewhat gentic ... spectacular helmet, not so sure about the 5 year old's riding pants/boots. Okay, so I really have to say ... adorable!

  12. "Cute", umm......cough cough.

  13. Geoff,

    I will not review the clothing I wearing at that same time in my life. I grew up in a different era, but I will claim that any photos of my young life have been photoshopped, and not for the better.

    Nice bike, by the way. I'm feeling a bit flushed after seeing it. Sexy sexy.

    Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

  14. Jules:
    Nice to hear that someone else looked like a muppet in one of those helmets - made by Kangol in the UK if I remember correctly!

    Oh Trobairitz - you say the nicest things ;-)

    I don't think Ms McGregor sensed a bad boy, more likely that she was colour blind and also left her spectacles back in Scotland!!

    Oh, and I still have no idea what Jennie saw in me! It was her birthday yesterday, so she got spoiled.

  15. VStarLady:
    Yeah, ATGATT had slightly different standards then! The coat I was wearing featured in some other family photos of the period. I still remember it because I hated the darned thing for some long-forgotten reason but my folks always insisted I wear it.


    Never mind mate - we can blame it on our parents or any other reason which deflects blame from us!

    Thanks, that Tiger was a beauty and I covered thousands of miles on it, including snow and ice getting to engineering school as it was my sole transport.

  16. Geoff – Only Mr James could find two photos like those, both classics!

    I can just picture you and your mates riding to the local cafe on your bicycles and skidding to a halt trying to look as cool as possible! Good for your grandparents for getting you that first motorbike. I felt the same way about my Honda C90 and it didn’t matter that it was probably the un-coolest bike ever made, it was the independence it gave me that no doubt you and I both needed.

    Going to the IofM back then must have been great fun. I don’t know what I would have enjoyed more, the Tiger 100 or the girl on the back of the bike.

    Great post!

  17. Gary
    I blush to think what most of the bikers at the cafe thought of us although there was one who was always kind and happy to answer my no doubt stupid questions.

    I think your C90 would have given my Suzuki 50 a hiding, haha!

    Anne McGregor was certainly a massive boost to the ego, particularly as I was so darned shy at the time!

  18. What wonderful old photos! A little cutie when young, and quite dashing on the bike with Anne :)

  19. Kari:
    Thanks very much but I suspect that you have your tongue at least half-planted in your cheek, haha!

  20. I love the photos. Love how you have the helmet and goggles and your brother has the gloves. ;)

  21. Lori - I wince at that photo! Actually, the other person is a guy I've known since we were about 3 and we still stay in touch. He still lives in the village we were born in and I'm half-way round the world!

  22. Don't wince. Be happy that someone captured a cool time. Would you have remembered it if there wasn't evidence? :)

  23. Lori:
    You're very wise and right on the money! Every memory is a treasure - it's what defines us.


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