by John Lonergan
Further to my last musings of my early motorcycling years look what I found in an old album , me and my younger brother sitting on the said Bantam , he would be about 7 or 8 and me about 12 or 13 the photo is mid repair , I had removed the head , cylinder and piston , I remember well ( and I'm laughing now) I had read somewhere that if you polished the ports the engine would run better and faster …..it didn't 😂 . If you look closely you'll see it is minus the top end , this was also before the we fitted the large sprocket , anyway it did get a good decoke and it did run a little smoother.
Now in our street there were a couple of the dad's who were actually motor X riders and rode competitively each Sunday and usually one or the other sometimes both would take myself and my mate Brian to the Scrambles boy did we look forward to Sundays , they also gave us many second hand parts such as part worn tyres old alloy guards and anything they could spare that would help us out . These weekend trips would continue till after we left school and the highlight of the week , top blokes and I'll never forget their kindness.
Now it's 1970, I'm 15 I've left school and am working as an apprentice HGV technician but still get the odd lift to the Sunday Scrambles meet . So this day Brian and myself got a lift to a grass track event and as I was working and had cash in my pocket I was pretty well dressed and was enjoying watching the practice laps when in amongst the sidecar outfits going round the bends I recognised two local lads a couple of years older than me and unfortunately they came a cropper on left hand bend and the older of the two the rider John had broken his wrist so it appeared their entrance money was wasted , John was taken to the St John's Ambulance station while Terry the passenger ( PASSENGER no such thing on a competition outfit it's damn hard work) walked about trying to find someone to ride the chair while he took to the controls of the bike ( a Norton 600 I think it was) well there was no one available ……. Until well dressed idiot (me) stepped forward " I'll do it Terry " I shouted eagerly , " you'll have to tell the scrutineer you're older " he said "ok" said the well dressed idiot grinning from ear to ear , I borrowed John's helmet and gloves and so it came to pass on a fine summer's day in 1970 I became the best dressed sidecar rider( idiot) in the land . So there I was best togs and boots on at the start of my very first (and last) sidecar race .
And we're off 😂 I never to that point felt acceleration like it and in seconds was on the first left-hander , my right hand through a leather loop and me hanging way out of the left side left hand almost trailing the ground ( I knew what to do - I'd watched many races) back up for the straight and seconds later throwing myself over the right side for the right hander and so on it went till the race was over , we didn't qualify for the final but we weren't last either.
It was the most thrilling ride of my young life and the most hairy but absolutely the most fun I ever had , we rode gently back to the pits where I jumped off slightly shaking and totally exhilarated. I looked at my mate and Charlie the bloke who brought me they were laughing fit to bust and I was grinning from ear to ear , I was no longer the best dressed idiot on a sidecar but I must have been the muddiest , the only parts without mud were around my eyes where the goggles were and my teeth when I grinned .
I really did have the time of my life - my clothes were ruined and my fancy boots in a right old state but did I care? Not a bit though I did have an embarrassing ride home as Charlie made me strip to my boxers for the ride home .
Oh what fun we had ,
young and daft and just a little mad .
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