Motorcycles and Scooters
I officially started driving like most others at age fifteen and one-half learning in my parent's family cars. Once I got my learner's permit, I started collecting motor scooters and cycles quickly building up a stable of different kinds of bikes. My regular commuter was a brand new Lambretta 125cc 2-cycle motor scooter purchased as a kit from Montgomery Ward. After an accident I decided to customize mine. I repainted mine from light blue to a white epoxy trimmed with candy apple red metallic engine covers and matching front steering post cover as pictured. This scooter served me well all through college.
I so enjoyed driving my scooter, that I spoiled myself with an off-road Hodaka motor cycle (pictured on left) and actually did a little racing. The racing left me beat up and bruised in more places than I could count, so I shifted from off-road to track racing.
I started with a tame well used Honda 160 dirt bike, meaning a little different frame and exhaust pipes from the normal road version. I turned that bike loose with my good friend who grew up building race cars and motorcycles. By the time he finished the bike was barely street legal, but oh did it fly. There used to be a big track at Vacaville and on that bike, I set and held their track records for that sized bike.
I liked to take many road trips and bought myself a used Yamaha that had pretty good power and was fun to drive even long distances. Unfortunately, that two-cycle two-cylinder engine had constant problems loading up its spark plugs. There was no known fix and I got tired of having to stop who knows when to clean plugs. It got so bad I kept an extra set with me, but it was still impossible to change plugs without getting greasy.
Greed took over and I upgraded the Yamaha to a big nasty looking black Norton Commando. Although that was a smooth-running bike, it did not run well or often as it was constantly plagued with mechanical problems from poor quality design and parts. Unlike most motorcycles it had a strange magneto spark system. The heart of this magneto system appeared that they poured molten aluminum over an iron bar and electrical coils. That hot metal did bad things to the insulated wire, so this unit shorted constantly. When it shorted, which was often, the bike did not run. After replacing my expensive magneto system three times, I finally got tired of it and replaced the whole motorcycle.
I purchased a big 1962 Triumph Bonneville motorcycle because the price was really right, meaning it was a basket case that a friend gave to me for helping him do a little work on his farm. That was a fun bike, but it was so unreliable I quickly understood why he had finally parked it and just let it sit. I enjoy riding, not fixing the same things that keep breaking over and over, so also decided to let it go. Fortunately, I found a serious affection ado who paid me enough that I could get a really nice bike that only needed a little repair.
I purchased a big BMW that a friend had wrecked. It needed new handlebars and a couple of covers, but once repaired was smooth as glass and so quiet that people could not hear that bike at all. I barely rode it at all before I finally said enough. In high school a careless driver turned left in front of me. To avoid her car I crashed my motorcycle into a tall square curb and ended up going over the handlebars. My leg caught on a handlebar bolt which ripped a pretty good gash in my leg saying nothing of ruining my suit as I was on my way back from church. From then on, I was far more careful of other drivers. That care saved my life about four years later. It was a misty winter day on a wet and bit sandy road. I was still restoring the BMW so was riding my older scooter I was also restoring. An elder couple made a right turn at a yield then slammed on the brakes thinking they may have run a stop sign. I was right behind them, so laid my scooter over and dug the starter petal mount into the asphalt. I had it easily stopped when I looked over my shoulder to see a panicked fellow in a pickup truck closing fast with zero chance of being able to stop. I dove off and caught a sign by the side of the road just as that pickup slammed into the back of the stopped car with my bike in between. The impact lifted both vehicles. My bike was unhurt except the right handlebar got bent straight upward but the throttle still worked. Otherwise it was unharmed and I could drive it home in spite of having to work the throttle which pointed up instead of out. About four months later on a very pretty spring day I woke up and realized that as much as I loved my motorcycles, someone would eventually end up killing me if I kept riding. I sold the works. Strangely, I caught a severe bout of the flu a few weeks later and ended up sharing a hospital room with the fellow who bought my race Honda. He was wrapped from head to toe in bandages just like a mummy. He tried to take a right angle turn way too fast, lost it and tumbled himself and the bike in a farmer's field after snapping through a barbed wire fence. He was lucky to be alive and even luckier to survive with no major scaring or problems. I still judge vintage bikes for fun, but no longer ride.