19 November 2004

Remember When (While You Still Can)

I wrote this a few years ago and thought I would share it with you and make up for ignoring TF&G all in one fell swoop. You are the first to get (?) to read it besides a few of my ol' mo'sickle buds. I hope you enjoy it, and I also hope it brings back some happy memories.

As we approach the new millenium, it is good for us to realize that motorcycling is about to enter its third century. While most of us can't remember much about the 19th or indeed the first half of the 20th century, a lot of us here at the Old Riders Home can indeed remember a lot about the second half, and marvel at the advances made in the last fifty years, such as self-starters, reliable engines, good brakes, lights that actually let you see where you are going, and no center stands to take off before you go racing.

As we sit here rocking on the porch, in our rockers made of Lycett saddles and '49 Chevy pickup truck springs, we would like to take you back in time and revisit our salad days (whatever that means). Younger riders will be slack-jawed and goggle-eyed (no, not like when you take your goggles off after a desert race), and older riders, well, you are welcome to join us here at the Home if you Remember When:

-Motorcycles were cheap wheels.
-You stood in line at the movies to see The Pace That Thrills or The Wild One.
-You could get a new battery for your bike, in a pinch, out of the flashing light on a "Road Work Ahead" sign, and knew to pick the brightest one.
-You would try to get one last ride out of a worn-out chain, and were introduced to dirt riding when it snapped on a windy road.
-You stripped the lights, fenders, and road equipment off of a brand new Triumph so you could go scrambles racing.
-You threw away those same parts to make room in your garage because you sold the bike ten years ago and they were "old junk".
-You lightened the same bike by ten pounds by replacing the skid plate made out of a coal shovel with one made out of an aluminum grain shovel, and knew, deep down, that you were putting one over on your racing buddies.
-"Lucas" and "Industrial Light & Magic" didn't refer to state-of-the-art movie-making, but rather to your bike's electrical system.
-"Whitworth" actually meant "not worth a whit".
-You used fingernail polish on fasteners because Loctite hadn't been invented, and the clerk at the drugstore gave you a funny look and told you that shade went well with your eyes.
-Racing the next weekend was painful with two broken knuckles on your throttle hand.
-You made an air filter cover out of an aluminum sauce pan, and tried to polish the brand name off the bottom so it would look "custom". You always installed it so the handle rivets wouldn't show.
-An AMA membership cost $2.00 a year and you only joined so you could race, or get points on "Gypsy Tours".
-You raced desert and scrambles with the same number plate, and got a brand new, hand-painted steel plate in the mail every year.
-Guys rode Sportsters in desert races.
-You rode a desert race (and only one!) on your bike's factory rear wheel with a Sprung Hub.
-"Dual Purpose" meant you had a non-functioning taillight and a license plate off of another bike on your racer. This was so you could ride out to Mulholland Drive to practice on the fire roads.
-If you got caught doing that, all you had to outrun was a fire truck, instead of a helicopter and twenty LAPD patrol cars.
-A factory "D-P" bike was a Triumph Tiger Cub, BSA Starfire, Matchless G80CS, or a Harley-Davidson XLCH.
-You bought the XLCH because you thought the spring-loaded seat post would be more comfy in the desert.
-You thought the Goodyear "Grasshopper" was the ultimate off-road tire.
-A set of "Ekins pipes" was the final touch on your desert racer, and they looked and sounded bitchin'.
-The next week, you learned the importance of re-jetting for new pipes and how to replace pistons.
-The "Demon Tweak" for your Tiger Cub was a "Swedish Army" lower end and a set of "pink spot" valve springs.
-You traded in your old bike for a new one because you thought you might be able to go faster on one with a swinging arm.
-The lightweight class was dominated by bikes with names like "Francis-Barnett", "DOT", "James", and "Excelsior". You knew that DOT stood for "Devoid Of Trouble". Ha!
-You went to the newsstand to get magazines like "The Green'un", "The Blue'un", "Moto", or "Cycle Action".
-The weekly motorcycle newspaper was called "The Scrambler" and your name was in it.
-You owned a JAWA 175cc road bike and got the "Czechoslovak Motor Review" in the mail free every month.
-Officer Filker of the Alhambra PD did the road tests for Cycle magazine, in full uniform with gunbelt, and tested everything in the dirt including Harley-Davidson 74's and Vincents.
-Floyd Clymer rode test bikes while sitting backwards on the handlebars wearing a business suit.
-You thought you could save money to go racing, and ordered a copy of Clymer's "How To Cut Hair At Home".
-You couldn't get a date because of your haircut.
-The hot Italian bikes had brand names like "Ceccato" and "Bartali". You bought a service manual for your Ceccato and found out you couldn't read Italian.
-You saw your first Yamaha at the Catalina Grand Prix, and thought they would never catch on because of the ear-splitting noise they made.
-Gary Conrad won a desert race overall on a 250 Greeves, the first victory ever by a lightweight, and opinion was divided between those who said it couldn't be done and those who said it was a fluke and would never happen again.
-Greeves had an exhaust pipe cum skid plate called a "blooey pipe" that went back about as far as the footpegs and emitted a racket that would blow the ear wax right out into your helmet when they went by you on your XLCH, i.e. lapping you.
-You liked to follow two-strokes because the Blendzall fumes smelled good and made you feel funny.
-The whole aftermarket consisted of the Flanders Co., Milne Distributing, and that upstart Webco.
-Your off-road riding gear consisted of a set of Knapp 16" lace-up lineman's boots, which were delivered to your door, blue jeans, basketball knee pads, a sweatshirt or jumper with your club name, leather sleeves (except on hot days), a kidney belt with buttons, work gloves turned inside-out so the seams wouldn't hurt your hands, goggles from the Army-Navy store, and an open-face helment with a bandana around your face. None of it had any logos.
-The "Diamonds", "13 Rebels", and "North Los Angeles M.C." were some of the hot competition clubs.
-You worked as a motorcycle mechanic to support your habit. The labor rate was $6.00 per hour and you made a living. You had a nice pad, a new El Camino, a pretty girl friend and could afford to go racing every weekend.
-The shop owner's kid hung out at the shop a lot, and being socially deprived, thought an oil can was a squirt gun. He also thought you put him in the dumpster a lot because you liked him.

Ah, those were the days, my friends. If any of those things ring a bell, come join us at the Home. Especially if you are still a motorcycle mechanic working to support your habit, still wearing your Knapp lineman's boots, open-face helmet and club jumper, have celebrated your thirtieth wedding anniversary (or your fortieth, or your fiftieth) with the same girl, still driving the same El Camino, still riding the same Triumph, Ceccato, or XLCH, still racing (probably in vintage events) and are trying desperately to order riding gear without a bunch of logos (you don't advertise without sponsorship, after all!) from Flanders Co. (Milne and Webco don't seem to be answering their phones of late). Come to think of it, if all these things are so, you probably always hear bells ring, and are perfectly happy right where you are! See ya on the trail!

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