1951 BSA C10 250cc Side Valve Single
June to December 1964
My shaky first few months on the road.
I can remember other kids at my high school telling me how dangerous motorbikes were and how only undesirable "hoods" would be seen riding them. I therefore asked my Dad about getting a car drivers licence when I would turn eighteen. He responded that I would not be permitted to get my car licence until I had completed twelve months of consecutive daily motorbike riding without falling off the bike. As Dad's word prevailed in those days (you were not considered to be "adult" until your twenty-first birthday), I agreed to do so. Besides I had many very pleasant memories of riding pillion behind my Dad and other people, all of whom seemed to me to be normal, respectable people. And I had enjoyed those rides!
When my age eventually reached 17 years and 9 months, my dad took me in to the Police Station and I walked out with my motorbike Learner's Permit. Dad then took me to Sale in the ute and we bought a BSA C10 250cc sidevalve single, registration number DA-690, if I remember correctly, for £40 - my first motorbike! I also bought my first army-surplus flying suit to keep out the rain and wind. A "pudding basin" style helmet and a pair of leather gloves were also necessities. The old BSA (pronounced "beezer" for those of you too young to remember) was very reliable, but we did have a few breakdowns.
The most memorable breakdown was the day she caught fire. We lived on George Baillie's farm at River Road, Tyers at that time. I was all set to ride to work at the LVWSB in Traralgon. It was a dull Friday morning, but the sun was trying hard to break through the fog. I straddled the bike, tickled the carby (splashing copious amounts of petrol everywhere as usual), and gave her a kick. She coughed, but didn't start, so I prepared to give her a second kick. Suddenly my Mum and Dad were yelling at me at the top of their lungs, "Get off the bike ... get off that bloody bike ..." My legs were warming rapidly. I glanced down and bright yellow flames were leaping up all around my legs. I very rapidly leapt off and laid the bike on its side on the lawn. Dad ran out the garden hose in order to wash all the burning petrol down the sloping yard away from the bike.
That weekend I had to strip down the whole bike, paint it, re-wire it, and put it back together so I could ride her to work on Monday. The BSA never had a speedo, so I don't know how far I rode her altogether, but there were several rather slow trips across the state, so somewhere around 5,000 miles would be a good guess.
Sadly, I do not possess a
photograph of my Beezer. In those days, if one could afford an 8-shot black and
white roll of 620 film for the Brownie, one used it very sparingly, only birthdays and
Christmas, and then, even when the roll was eventually finished, one often had to wait
before one could afford to have it developed.
One of the best things about the BSA, to my young mind, was the freedom it gave me to ride just anywhere I liked. I no longer had to rely on my Dad to take me anywhere . . . Yahoo! . . . I was free!
Early in those BSA days, my front mudguard broke away. It turned out that it had been roughly spot welded in an approximately appropriate position by a previous owner, but the suspension movement had been causing the welds to flex. They broke. One of the metalworkers at work fabricated a steel hoop to more correctly mount it and from then on it gave no more trouble. The suspension also worked much better from then on.
That old bike leaked oil pretty well and I used to repeat the excuse that it helped the council to keep the dust down, since most roads were gravel in those days anyway! It also leaked petrol and I was always very sure to turn off the petrol tap whenever I stopped the bike. One day I was riding along near Yallourn North and bounced over some very severe ruts that had been caused by recent flooding. Shortly thereafter, the bike suddenly stopped. No amount of kicking would make it start, so I leaned it against a guide post (it had no side stand nor centre stand) and walked up to the home of Les and Ruth Hibbert, the first house in Yallourn North, and asked to use the phone. I rang my dad who came out in a ute to pick me up. He took one look at the bike and immediately spotted the problem: the tank had bounced as I had crossed the ruts and the fuel line had pulled off the carby. He pushed the fuel line on and started the bike on the first kick, so I rode it home. Dad was very mad at me for calling him out to fix a simple problem. However, from that day on he taught me how to carefully check over every part of the bike. It was then that I learned a bike engine only needs three things to run: (1) a mixture of petrol and air in the right proportions, (2) a spark at the right moment, and (3) sufficient compression to allow it to fire.
During the time I owned the Beezer, my Dad taught me all the steps necessary for greasing and lubrication and how to keep a chain adjusted correctly. He also showed me how to remove the head, decarbonise it and grind in the valves, etc. Mechanic Joe Brown taught me how to "feel" the right tension when tightening up the head bolts and the correct pattern for tightening them so that I would never ever have a leaking head gasket. These early lessons geared me up for a lifetime of knowing how to correctly look after and maintain motorcycles, although I have to confess that I was not always perfect with my maintenance, and at times some of my bikes let me down because I had failed to correctly apply what I had learned in these early lessons.
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