The Bike Years

I was involved with bikes initially.  I had a Triumph Tiger 100, 500cc that was my road bike. I was a” Ton Upper”. The bike was dramatically modified from the original “bath tub” model it was. It would now be known as a café racer.

I used to hang out at the Nightingale cafe in Biggin Hill. In those days there were so many bikers that Biggin Hill had 3 motorcycle cafes, The Saltbox, The Squadron and my favourite The Nightingale. On weekend nights we used to ride to Johnson’s Café near Brands Hatch. This was a massively popular place for bikers. We would ride from the “Dutch House” pub, then along the” Mad Mile” as it was known, past the” Whicker Fence” and up Death Hill to Johnson’s café. Where the highlight of the evening was a “run by” that is: to ride past the café at over 100mph to an appreciative audience of like minded bikers watching from the safety? of the forecourt. Heady Days!

Around this time I met Bill Bragg who ran sprint bikes named “Yellow Peril” and “Silver Peril” in 1961/62. He was also into trail riding! Strange combo. He raced the”Perils”at Duxford and Ramsgate and other tracks in the early 1960s. I never raced at this time, but it was starting to bite. Bill helped me install twin Dell’Orto carbs on my Triumph, but as the carbs fouled the distributor I had to rework the distributor using an Ariel Arrow points set up which meant I had the bonus of a twin coil setup now. When completed the bike ran 120+mph at Brands and I sold it to a guy who took it off the road and circuit raced it.

I always remember when in 1961 we had a terrible winter, really deep snow. One evening there was a knock at the door and who should be there but Bill and Chris Buckingham (He was Bill’s passenger when they raced with a chair). Bill had ridden from his home in Thornton Heath, picked up Chris in Shirley and then called in on me in West Wickham. As he had just finished this his latest project and was keen to road test it. It was an AJS 31CSR with a trail chair. He wanted to go to the ‘Gale’ so I jumped in the chair and off we went. You can’t appreciate how bad the snow was, but Bill had no problems as his outfit had knobbly tyres and was set up to handle all conditions and terrain. There was a huge rooster tail of snow out the back as we rode to Biggin Hill. The roads were so bad that the airport road was closed, so we had to ride across the airfield. When we got to the Nightingale there was only one other person there and he had walked!!! I emigrated to the USA in 1965 and lost touch with most of my old biker friends.

Just recently I learnt that Bill’s sprint bikes ended up in a garden in Slough (for 40YEARS!). Yellow Peril was restored in 2005 and I saw it again in 2006 running at the North Weald track. It seems Bill had passed away some years before, so he would never know about his unique bikes restoration. I hope they find their way into a museum as he held world records with them and there are nothing like them.

I have had several bikes over the years my favourites are , my first Triumph, then a 650cc Triumph Saint- an ex police one(a white open face helmet and navy blue donkey jacket got RESPECT.) Triumph Bonneville, BSA Gold Star 500cc, a Harley Low-Rider 80 cube and my last bike a Honda Blackbird.  I have had about 14 bikes in all, so far.