15 September 2011

On Two Wheels, Part 1

I drove to work tonight because it was raining, HARD. It's the first time I've had to drive a steel cage to work in over a month. My round-trip to/from work is +-70 miles, depending on the route I take, and I figure I save at least $4 per round trip by riding, depending on which bike I happen to ride on a given night. My seven-night work shift also means I can exercise each of the four bikes at least once in a shift, weather permitting. All four have full-fairings and provide pretty good protection from the wind. My head sticks up higher than the windscreen on the Moto Guzzi and BMW, so I have to put my faceshield down if I'm caught in a rainshower on those machines.

I started riding "bikes" with motors when I was twelve. At that time our community was pretty rural and the county was geographically fairly large, so I suspect our Sheriff's department was stretched thin... we didn't often see a brown and beige Sheriff's cruiser, and we saw even fewer State Troopers. Those I did see seemed to ignore me... I think stopping us might have required calling out someone to deal with Juvenile offenders, and already overworked Deputies probably said, "I don't need the hassle". For four years I rode a Cushman Scooter similar to, (but not as nice 'cause it was OLD and WELL-USED), the one pictured above. It would go 35 miles per hour at full-throttle with a good tailwind, so although I have no idea how far I drove that thing, with daytime-only riding, nine or so months per year, I MAY have put 1000 miles on it in four years.

It was dependable. In addition to flitting around the neighborhood I used it to deliver "The Indianapolis News" to my customers for a couple years. Powered by a five horsepower Cushman Husky engine, it would start on the first kick when it was warmed up. Cold starting took two or three kicks with the help of full-choke. It had a centrifugal clutch... it was like an automatic transmission... there was no manual clutch to deal with. It would sit motionless until you increased the throttle. If you added throttle, (and you added throttle in the opposite direction of today's motorcycles), two spring loaded "shoes" attached to the end of the engine's crankshaft would be pushed by centrifugal force against the inside of a drum similar to a brake drum and the scooter would accelerate slightly faster than a turtle.

At the time many of our roads were barely "improved", meaning they were gravel-covered and graded whenever the county could get to 'em. These roads were traveled infrequently, and automobile wheels would cause gravel to be pushed aside so that there were two "paths" with very little gravel and a lane of gravel in the center in addition to the the sides of the "paths". Tiny wheels on scooters didn't negotiate these gravel roads very well... crossing from one path to another or meeting a car and being forced to the side of the road was like balancing on marbles.

Take a close look at the picture and you can see a little pedal on the right side of the floorboard. That's the rear (drum, of course) brake pedal. No speedometer/odometer. No tachometer.
Look again at the handlebars... no levers. Not only was there NOT a manual clutch, there was also NOT a front brake. It's a very good thing these little scoots would only go 35 or so, 'cause with only one (rear) brake they took a long time to stop, even from that sedate speed. Trying to stop quickly on rain-soaked pavement was an invitation to possible disaster.

I paid $50 for it with money I had earned on my paper route. I sold it to a friend for 50 dollars just before I turned sixteen when I started contemplating buying my first REAL motorcycle.

Looking back now through the eyes of a Dad, I'm surprised parents allowed teen-age kids in our community, (and in my case a PRE-teen), to ride a motor vehicle on public roads.
Strange feelings...
I wouldn't have allowed my kid to do it, but my son was 12 in 1995, and 1995 sure as heck wasn't 1959! But I have fond memories of riding that old "putt-putt", and I'm sure glad my parents didn't stop me.

I'll write about that first (and other) real motorcycle(s) later.


Anonymous said...

I think an equally -- or perhaps more -- interesting post would be a discussion of why your parents thought it'd be okay, and why you wouldn't have, and what that says about our society these days. I don't get the feeling you wouldn't have out of fear of what the neighbors would've thought, it seems more intrisic than that. But I'm just guessing.

Greybeard said...

Pretty much discussed in the post, Anon.
Hard word to spell, isn't it?

Scotty said...

I was raised in what many would call "the sticks". Dad had quite a bit of property.

Us boys, they raised four of us, worked pitchin' hay for the farmers, picking cherries, etc. Took that money and bought what we called "lot cars". We'd scream them around the fields in the back of my parents property.

Learned a lot with those old junkers, first thing was, how to stop a car with NO brakes!!

First thing dad made us do was, put seat belts in them....came in handy as every now and then we would manage to roll some on their sides.

What fun it was back then!! I feel sorry for anyone that didn't have that "lot car" to bomb around in!!

You paid fifty bucks for the scooter? I don't recall any of us paying more than 75 bucks for those old cars.

We were too stupid to think far enough ahead to realize some of cars would be worth some serious money now.....a couple I had and managed to destroy? A two door 37 Chevy sedan, another was a two door 53 Ford with a flat head V-8.

Those were the days!

Old NFO said...

My first 'bike' was a 50cc Yamaha... It looked something like this one http://motorbike-search-engine.co.uk/classic_bikes/YAMAHA-Y20.jpg

Flamingo 91 said...

Oh, the memories of times gone by, yet still very today. The same yet not. Enjoy the ride.

cliffy said...

I just find it amazing that my old toys and cars are either in a junk state or in MUCH better condition than I ever had them in when I find them as an adult! Also they cost a lot more than I could afford or justify if I want them now.

Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Cushman scooters -- man, I remember those, except the ones I saw in Fornicalia didn't look quite like that one.

I started out with a Honda Mini Trail 50, then a Honda 70, then a Honda 90 with a tank kit, then a Yamaha 125 and many others. I've always had bikes. Then I got the chance to teach cops how to ride on various LE BMWs, Harleys, Hondas and now the new Kawasaki -- which, darn it, I haven't yet ridden.

CHP has a couple in the South Sacramento area, but they're not yet out in bulk.