Lord of the Flywheels

From Cyril's memoirs dated 22 January 2007

What first set me off on this passion for motorcycles? I can still remember the day that started a lifetime's obsession.

It was summer 1945 and my brother and I were at Uncle Gilbert’s place near Uttoxeter. I was ten years old and distinctly recall emerging from the improvised swimming pool my uncle had made using hay bales and a tarpaulin. He was on the gravel path on a large motorcycle, watching us intently with a far away look in his eyes. I ran over and he picked me up in his strong arms and lowered me gently onto his big thumper. It was such a rich sensory experience, the smell of warm lubricant, the feel of ribbed rubber in my hand as I reached out and gripped tightly, and when he loomed up behind me and thrust hard with an animal-like grunt, the thing came to life between my legs with a pulsing throb and I was left breathless by the whole amazing experience. At that point something happened deep inside me. Yes, Uncle Gilbert had planted a seed. Five years later I was a messenger boy at Ariel and the rest, as they say, is sub judice.

Many years later still, in 1976, I was UK Sales Manager for Honda. It was my first time working for the Japanese after years with the British industry, and I was keen to make an impression. It was that memorably scorching summer and in those pre-Playstation days the streets and parks were filled with youngsters. One day, I stopped at the edge of a park in Chiswick to double check something on a new Gold Wing I’d taken for a spin from the Power Road HQ. Within seconds the bike was surrounded by chattering, goggle-eyed kids keen to know everything about it. That got me thinking; why not set up a special day for youngsters to introduce them to the wonders of motorcycles? Some might immediately take up off-road sports, others might start saving for their first road bike. It couldn’t fail. Or so I thought. I’d decided to keep a diary of events that day, to enable me to pinpoint the most successful areas for replication nationwide. What follows are extracts from that notebook.

09:30 Saturday 21 August, St John’s Park, Chiswick
Hot and sunny. Bikes all here and on display, including CB125S, CB750F1, CJ360T (though God knows why), CB400 Four, XL250 and GL1000 Gold Wing. People beginning to drift in. No sign of Bill Curtis [my Dealer Liaison Manager]. All bikes to remain strictly stationary with engines off!

10:40 Place filling up nicely and the kids love the XL and the Gold Wing in particular. Some rather fetching young mums around, too! Apparently Bill is organising a refreshments truck and will be along shortly. Small fat boy has just fallen off the stationary CJ360 and torn his shorts. Will have to placate irate father.

10:55 I take two aspirins for the pain in my cheek and although I cannot currently see out of my left eye I’m assured that the swelling should quickly subside. He really was rather angry. Bill Curtis has arrived, ushering in a large snacks wagon that appears to sell alcohol. Maybe not the best thing at this event, but still, I might have a quick snifter to help with the pain.

12:15 Marion is absolutely stunning, although her 15-year-old son, Wayne, is a little shit. Pain is easing nicely thanks to Mr J Walker. After much badgering, decide that starting the engines is fine. But definitely NO riding!

14:40 Luckily, it was the XL that was ridden into the ornamental fish pond and it showed its off-road ability to the full. Unfortunately, Wayne, flapping from the bars like a rag doll, found it all rather a shock. Perhaps I shouldn't have leaped from the pillion, but it seemed a hopeless and extremely dangerous situation. Bugger that!

16:20 Bill has totalled the Wing. I don’t know how it happened. Susan (or Sally?) and I were ensconced in the herbaceous border discussing the effect of crankshaft off-set on piston skirt friction levels. I emerged to see the bike on fire in the middle of the bandstand. The CB125 and XL250 are now wailing skeletons ridden by youths stripped to the waist, their bodies painted with ash from various fires. I appear to have created Lord of the Flies on wheels. What fun. Another drink, I feel.

23.15 Released on bail pending appearance at Acton magistrates court. I seem to have lost my trousers. Not the best of days. Whole thing needs a bit of a rethink.

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