Friday Confessional: I swapped a bike for a cigarette and ten minutes on a TZR125

Every Friday we’ll publish a motorcycling confession. This is a chance for you to get a secret off your chest. Complete anonymity is guaranteed. Change names and places in your stories if you feel the need to. Email your confession to Letters@superbike.co.uk

 

It’s 1991 and I’m eleven years old. I have no interest in football, girls are weird and all I want to do when I grow up is buy as many packets of crisps as I like and look at motorbikes.

To say that I was obsessed with bikes is a bit of an understatement. Like, saying that a Monster Munch is only a little bit better than a Frazzle. I don’t come from a motorcycling family, I’m not sure I can remember the ‘lightbulb’ moment when I realised that bikes were my thing. I’ve just always liked them more than pretty much anything else. 

Anyway, I’m eleven and I’ve decided that I’m going to skip school and stay at home for the day with my best friend, Tom. I say stay at home, I actually mean hide in Tom’s house. There are many great things about his place, at the top of that list is the Yamaha RD50 that belongs to his older brother, Simon.

Not the actual bike, but one just like this.

The RD50 is basically a factory prototype racer. It’s so tall that the bar end could have my eye out and it smells like petrol and oil and danger. I fucking loved that RD50. 

Tom and I are plotting how to spend our day. If memory serves, I think we were planning on eating a loaf of chocolate spread on toast, then nipping up the woods to smoke some fags, lunchtime was for making bombs out of milk bottles half filled with gravel and petrol and then we’d tidy up for three ish, where we’d go and join the losers that had been to school as they came off the bus to go home. Living our best life? You’re goddam right we were. 

I’m not sure which one of us suggested it first, but somewhere around the eleventh slice of toast, we realised that there was nothing stopping us from taking the RD50 up the woods for a run out. Giddy with excitement, I was less than an hour away from my first solo ride on the RD. I could practically feel myself becoming a man. We pushed the bike through our estate and up the single track road that lead to the woods. We lived on an Army estate (picture a council estate, but with better fights and cleaner shoes), Salisbury Plain training area was our playground. With the bike safely parked on the side stand, we lit our last cigarette and started figuring out how to make it work, so that we could ride it and become heroes. This process went on for longer than I expected and before I knew it, it was lunchtime. 

I didn’t know at the time, but I was moments away from having my life changed forever.

Tom and I are chucking gravel at gravel while we try and remember how to get the RD running, when in the distance we hear engines. My ears instantly honed in on one bike in particular, it was a two-stroke, all the best bikes were two strokes. It was the bigger boys.

These out of towners had ridden in from near Andover. Ten miles as the crow flies but pretty much on the other side of the world to me. Who were these foreigners and what did they want? While I was trying to figure these things out, my eyes stopped dead at the sight of a blue and yellow Yamaha TZR125. Shit a house! It’s a TZR125! I slide over and instantly start touching it up. 

Tom is dealing with the bigger boys and their questions. Where do we live? What school should we bet at? Do we have any sisters? Blah blah blah. I’m busy feeling the heat coming off the exhaust of a TZR125. I am a god.

The blonde guy that rode in on the TZR has picked up on my trance like state thanks to his bike. He asks me if I’d like to sit on it. I don’t need asking twice. I am sitting on a fucking TZR125! He asks if I can reach the pedals and if I know how they work. I’ve read magazines, I know how they work thank you very much. I point out what does what, I believe he’s impressed.

Here comes the part that changed my life. Blonde guy pulls a Benson and Hedges from a crumpled packet, lights it and blows a couple of rings into the sky. He looks me dead in the eye and offers me a ten minute ride on his TZR on my own, in exchange for the RD50. I said yes before he’d flicked his first ash. I was in. I woke up that day just a regular schoolboy, by half ten I was a renegade with a RD50 but by lunchtime, I was that guy that was about to ride a Yamaha TZR125. 

I could see Tom’s mouth moving up and down but I couldn’t hear a sound. I think he was pissed that I’d decided to give his brother’s RD50 away, I’m not sure. All I knew was that I was about to ride the bike of my dreams and if Blondie required me to chuck in Tom’s kidneys to get this deal over the line, I was down with that too. 

Blondie is blipping the throttle for me while I tuck my jeans into my socks (I still don’t know why I did this, maybe for better aerodynamics?) He looks me in the eyes as if to give me one last chance to back out of the deal. My heart doesn’t know which way to beat and I stare him back in the eye. Before I know it, words are tumbling from my mouth. Not even I know what I’m about to say, I hope to god it’s something cool. “Give us one of them Bensons mate!” 

Blondie fishes a fag out of his crumpled pack, lights it up and pops it between my smiling lips. I climb onto his  Yamaha TZR125 and pull away like I own the place. I’m eleven years old, I’m riding the bike of my dreams and I’m smoking a cigarette while I go about my business. There’s a good chance the rest of my life will be miserable existence after this moment. 

At one point, I’m on the main road that leads to my school, it’s dead straight and I’ve dreamt of what riding a bike up it must feel like. I get the Yamaha TZR125 screaming in second gear, I must be doing at least 45 or maybe even 50 mph. It feels, insanely good. The cigarette is long gone and before I know it my time on the TZR is over, I pull the clutch in and roll back up to Blondie and his mates. I expect they’ll want to give me a jacket now or something to welcome me into their awesome gang. 

Strangely, they don’t seem to care about me any more and they’re busying themselves around my best friend’s brother’s RD50. They’re tinkering with it and within minutes it bursts into life, right around the same time that Tom bursts into tears as it slowly dawns on us both that the bigger boys are about to take the RD50 away. The heartless group of foreigners mount up, someone has been promoted from the back of a C90 to the front of my best friend’s brother’s RD50. Bikes wail and wobble up the road and our last sight of my best friend’s brother’s RD50 is as it tucks into a 25mph peloton, one ahead of a C90 and two behind the Yamaha TZR125. The blue and yellow one that I rode.

We walk home in silence. Tom has nothing to say to me. When we get back to his house it takes a matter of seconds before Simon puts two and two together and punches me straight in the face. Time to leave. I walk home smoking a dog end I’d stashed in my jeans earlier that day. Rubbing the new bruise that was forming on my face, I blink at the sun. I know I’m smiling because the first thing my mum asks when I get home is where I got the smile from. I ask her if she knows what a two-stroke is, she slaps me hard enough for me to know that motorbikes are on the eternal naughty list. Where do I sign?    

 

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