Way back when

Have you ever sat and thought about what your life was like when you where a teenager? At a recent weekend break, I did just that comparing my life to date to the hotel that we where staying at. Like myself the hotel was still functional and did the job, but if you looked closely you could see that she was getting a little old in the tooth and probably in need of a refurbishment. I closed my eyes and imagined the hotel as it opened brand new, easy on the eye and full of promise, “just like a teenager” After a number of years of constant use however things start to sag, a paint job is in order and there is a definite deterioration in the structure.

Looking back now, being a teenager where probably the best days of our lives. Lets face it what did we have to worry about apart from passing exams and ensuring your acne was kept under control. A number of things stand out from my high school days in the early 80’s. Things like my first illicit cigarette, the excitement of ordering a drink at sixteen at the local German club and not being thrown out, the first serious but clumsy fondling of the opposite sex and listening to Heavy metal music like ACDC, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest (just to mention a few), this was the music that we where told by adults would play satanic messages if played backwards, I wonder how many of you, like me destroyed countless Sony C 90 tapes by trying to turn them inside out to listen to those messages, that sounded like Klingon in slow motion “Yok nah yeh mug suom paragney” I was also flummoxed as to how you play a record backwards and badly scratched many a LP (for those younger readers an LP was a long playing record, something like a CD but much larger and like the model T Ford only came in black), I suppose English speakers where lucky as we had so many groups to choose from to try and expose these messages, if you where Afrikaans however then your choice was limited to Bles Bridges or Ge Korsten. Rumour had it if you played their music backwards you got Potjiekos recipes.

If you where the average standard eight schoolboy perhaps the one thing that played on your mind the most in those years was “will I be getting a motorbike” and what would it be. Why was this so important some of you may ask, well a “fifty” was more than just a mode of transport it was my passport to “coolness” it was a teenagers equivalent of a Ferrari 308GTB for some fifty something “poser”. It represented many a teenagers first uncertain steps to manhood and freedom; visions of fast bike and loose girls clouded the mind.

My first bike was not a brand new “out of the box” Suzuki RG 50 or a green Kawasaki AR 50 but a second hand “in the box” Honda SS 50, seriously it cost a princely R50 00 and comprised a frame with three checkers packets as well as a box full of parts, the money having been earned working in a local steakhouse, but that is a story for another time.

To say I was disappointed when my dad took me to collect the bike is an understatement, his words “it’s a project that will not only bring us closer together but will let you understand the engineering of the bike” had no meaning as my immediate dream of donning a open face helmet and a pair of goggles seemed to disappear faster than you could say “Freddy Spencer” he was the eighties version of “Valentino Rossi” the two nights I spent polishing wheel spokes was almost enough to put me of motorbikes forever, but I am proud to say that my dad persevered and while I watched TV he not only got the bike running but it looked almost new, it was not quite as fast or cool looking as the other bikes mentioned, but it was the most beautiful piece of machinery that I had ever set my eyes on. Not that I knew how to ride it and if you had a dad like mine, “everything had to be done properly or not at all”, so it was of to the local field and after a few hours of shouting, swearing and crying, (yes I am not ashamed to admit that my dad cried) I was able to keep the bike in a straight line and change in to second without falling of, or crunching the gearbox in to oblivion.

Roadworthy was a breeze, but then it was the big test of getting a learners licence, now in those days the traffic cops looked where menacing and I am not sure if it was because of the uniform (big black boots, black jolper pants tucked in to the boots, khaki shirt and an a official/amptelike cap) or the fact that none of them could speak the queens English very well, or in some cases at all. I remember one particular officer telling my mom after she had parked the wrong way in a one way street (in her defence we had only been in SA for about a month) “ R lady you’s R not in England now hey”, my mom re-payed his kindness of not giving her a fine, by riding over his feet about a month later, while he was performing traffic duties on a road near our house, it was the first time I had seen a traffic cop break dance, but with my mom driving a large Ford Taunus, it would not be the last.

As luck would have it my moms favourite cop was the gent giving and marking the learners test and I have to say even in the early 80’s Rooineks where still not the flavour of the month in Vanderbijlpark, in fact I think we where still being blamed for the camps that Kitchener and his henchmen had set up in the early 1900s that saw so many innocent women and children (black and white) die unnecessarily. It was there fore with great trepidation that I paid my five rand, had my eyes tested and was ushered in to a room with about thirty other pimple faced short haired 16 year old hormones on legs. If I remember correctly the exams where a tad easier than the current K53 and one question that sticks in mind was. “You are allowed to stop at the side of a national highway if”

a) You want to take your dog for a walk
b) You have an emergency breakdown
c) You want to have a picnic

As you can see the questions where tricky and that was probably the reason that twenty-four of the thirty failed the test, “really hard those multiple-choice exams”. I arrived the traffic department on a bicycle, but with a motorbike at home that could do 80kms an hour “with a tailwind down a mine shaft” and now some brain dead government official had given me a licence to ride it on public roads. I was now officially one of “the Manne”. 80kms an hour is fast especially if you have been riding a bicycle most of your life, but once you get used to that heady speed you start looking at ways to get more speed out of the machine, the easiest and cheapest method was to find the longest downhill stretch that you could, open the throttle and lie as flat on the bike as possible, with this method it was possible to get it an extra five to seven kms per hour on the clock, “I know I also used to wonder, why did they put 100 kms per hour on the speedometer if it could not get anywhere near that”.

Most of my friends looked at ways of permanently “souping” up there steeds, ideas included adding additives to the petrol, like cooking oil and methanol to converting the engine with cylinder heads being ground, sprocket ratios being changed, and fairings being added. None of this really helped, but we did it anyway.

One thing for sure is that during those years the different manufacturers where able to create a bond and a loyalty between themselves and there customers many an argument was had about which bike was the best, I was a Honda man and took a keen interest in Super bikes (the CBR 1100R was doing well) and the Grand Prix series, with Freddy Spencer being the man. I often wonder how many of my friends and teenagers of the early 80’s still ride today, hopefully all that left the biking scene when they got married and had children are riding again today.

Today I ride a 1200 Triumph Trophy and belong to the world famous “Goromonzi Farmboys International” motorcycle club. I am sure the antics of the gents that make up the membership will feature prominently on the blog from time to time. The legendary Wingman, “Mighty rocket rider”, “Hurricane tamer” and “Road warrior of considerable note” is our fearless leader and you will defiantly be reading about his birthday party next Saturday, it’s a combined sixty (Wingman) and fourty (his 69 Triumph) birthday “Paartay”. As the invitation states its going to be a Goodtime boogie, beer drinking hoooowwwwl at the moon bash with a band called Grumpy old men providing the music. I for one I cannot wait, dress is sixties biker, rocker or hippy, (no mods allowed) there will be twelve of the fourteen Farmboys at this bash and I am sure there will be plenty of beer drinking and howling at the moon from everyone attending. “Let the good times roll”

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