Four Up and
Seeing Prince William pass his
motorcycle test recently reminded me of my own motorcycling days and
just how much has changed since then. Now of course the test is much
tougher with progression through stages. Back in
the late seventies things were a whole lot different.
Anyone who had reached seventeen
could go out and buy a bike with a capacity of up to 250cc bung a few L
plates on and that was it. A bike this size could do the ton. And
tons of people did which certainly kept the NHS and the undertakers
My first bike was a little Suzuki 100cc. I bought it from a shop in
Corby in the West Midlands which was about 80 miles from the RAF base I
was stationed at.
The instruction was a quick run up and down the back yard of the shop.
"Of you go then give it a try" the proprietor said. And wobbly off I
went, made it to the top in first gear. "That's fine your getting the
hang of it all right" he said. "Try changing gears this time" Seeing my
bewilderment he added "it's one Down and Four up" What? directions to
the local casualty that'd be it.
him. maybe he'd do a map so I could pin it to my chest. Just in case
the ambulance driver didn't know the way, after he peeled me from the
back of a truck. I could see the headlines "Airman in truck smash
horror" Bike shop owner said he was getting the hang of it all right".
"The gears, you really don't know much about bikes do you" never was a
truer word spoken. A half hour later and I was ready for the open road.
I pottered around all weekend gradually gaining in confidence. I could
stop in traffic with out staling the engine, or falling off and
everything. The first twenty miles of the journey back were very nervy,
but after that I started to relax. Wow this was great, and that was it
I was hooked. If you haven't experienced the thrill of riding a bike,
even a relatively small one on the open road then you haven't lived.
Then with about twenty Miles to Go disaster. The thing spluttered to a
halt and that was that. There was plenty of petrol in the tank I looked
, the spark plug was sparking but still the thing wouldn't go.
Fortunately a nearby house holder let store the thing in her shed for
the time being.
By now I was seriously overdue and carrying my helmet set of to hitch
back to camp. Almost immediately a bike pulled up and I was on my way.
I don't know what its like now but back then the posesion of a helmet by the roadside
made your a fully paid up member of the society of bikers. This
organization had a very loose membership policy. If you had a bike you
were in and that was it. Members always flashed their lights
on passing each other, and stopped for a chat when encountering other
members out and about. And always stopped to offer assistance to other
members in trouble.
When I arrived back with typical barrack
room humor they were running a sweepstake on which hospital I had made
it to. The next day a rescue mission was launched a car full of bodies
and enough tools to stock a Halfords. On arrival the Biker who we had
persuaded to come along gave the kick starter a prod. "hmm he said ,
You've tried it on reserve I presume" Reserve what reserve? with that
he reached down moved the fuel lever and she fired first time. Which
just went to show what I really knew about bikes.
My biking learning curve followed the same trajectory of most new
bikers at that time. You get a bike you ride it around gaining in
confidence all the time, till you reach Milestone Two. Millstone two
usually takes about Two weeks to achieve depending on the ability of
the rider. MS2 is of course where you start becoming overconfident and
fall off. How fast you are going and where you are when you achieve MS2
is very much the deciding factor in whether you progress to MS3. My MS2
involved an embarrassing encounter with the tarmac right outside the
Guardroom fortunately it was at a relatively slow speed so I progressed
If you imagine the "quickening" from the film Highlander then this is
what MS3 is all about. It's learning the hard way the road craft, you now have to have before
getting on a bike. It's gaining that six sense to know that some idiot
car drivers going to pull out of a junction in front of you.
Once you mastered MS3 progression to MS4 was usually rapid.MS4 is of
course when you buy a bigger bike this can however cause a regression
to MS2. I came through my learning curve relatively unscathed and
covered many miles over many years in
all weathers. I never did get around to taking my bike
test. If you were happy to stay within the 250cc limit you
didn't need to.
We've come along way from those days and. Motorcycle accident
statistics have shown a marked improvement which shows the tougher
licensing regime is having the desired effect. It's been about Fifteen
years since I was any were near a bike but suddenly the , smell of
leather, oil dropping on a hot exhaust, the lure of the open road , the
fly's impacting through an open visor. Sod it I'm off down the bike
shop . Only reminiscing of course dear. Did some one mention mid life