top of page

John Harrison: First Bike

Sideburn ambassador and blog contributor, John Harrison, is back with more tales of his personal bike history. Click the John Harrison tag at the bottom of this post to read more of his posts.

1972 and my first motorbike. It was a Villiers 2T (250cc twin, two- stroke) in a rigid BSA D1 Bantam frame; Raleigh Wisp or Norman Nippy tank; tiny seat; ribbed front and trials rear tyres and no brakes. It was built by a local dad for his son to learn how to ride speedway on. By the time I bought it off him, the son, Mel Soffe, was riding for Reading juniors on a full blown, dope-burning, 500 Jawa. Mel was about three years older than me and had a Raleigh chopper that he could do little endos on, except that we called them front wheelies then. My mates and I were in awe of him, so naturally I bought this bike. It instigated an interest in and appreciation for speedway. I bought Barry Briggs' book, visited his workshop under some railway arches in the backstreets of Southampton and watched the racing whenever it was shown on Grandstand [Saturday afternoon BBC TV sports programme]. Ole Olsen, Ivan Mauger and Briggo were names scribbled over my schoolbooks whilst my schoolmates had footballers in theirs.

Being a knackered two-stroke it rarely worked, and with no kickstarter I always needed a push from a mate to start it unless it was on a slope, but then of course I couldn't stop it. When it did fire up I thought it sounded great on open pipes, but our neighbours had differing views.

It went like stink when it ran, but I was a bit frightened of it, having at that point never ridden anything quicker than an terminally asthmatic 125 Bantam. I remember thinking I was going as fast as anyone could go on the grasstrack up at Butlocks Heath when a local 17-year-old rode around the outside of me on his C90 step thru road bike! I realised then that I wasn't much of a motorcycle rider.

I see I have picked off the centurion X sticker from my helmet and replaced it with a BELL one. Already succumbed to that brand association!

At the age of 12 I paid my life savings of £12 [the equivalent of £160 now] for the bike and sold it after 18 months or so for £15. I reckon it looks pretty neat now, but back then it was just a bitsa with no brakes and wonky mudguards.

bottom of page