I bought my first new bike at the age of 19. Before that I owned with my brothers a mini-moped, a deadly trap with dodgy brakes. I spent a summer disassembling and reassembling it at least once a day and it always worked. I experimented with it my first bike crash (brake failure) after hundreds of bicycle crashes, which costed me a bruised knee and grinded hands. A spectacular flight. Some occasional spectators made me their compliments. I was 14. At the end of that summer the moped was written off. At the age of 16 I worked for some weeks in my father office making xeroxes and blue print copies to raise enough money to buy another moped. We bought a moped called Magnum, 50 cc and five gears. The maximum speed was 35 Km/h but after the break-in and few modifications it could reach a speed of 70 Km/h, largely illegal. My dad didn't allow me and my bro to ride without helmet. At that time nobody, not even bikers with sportsbikes, rode with an helmet. We were the joke of the town. Street kids threw stones at us riding by! I have no idea where that moped ended up. Maybe we sold it. When I was 16 my father one day showed up with a red motorbike. A '74 Honda CB350 Four!! I still remember the regs: CA98743!! A megabike for the time. I'm talking about 1979. The bike was very rusty and dirty and had 2000 Km on the clock. We were in holidays and my dad managed, without any riding experience whatsoever, to ride the thing for 150 Km without killing himself! Really tough! I was in charge of the cleaning and after several hundred hours washing and cleaning and polishing the bike was reasonably clean and shiny. Lots of chrome in those bikes, and loads of work to keep it clean. That summer my dad taught me to ride the thing. Amazing power!! The engine had 35 bhp and was capable of a screaming 10.000 RPM. Back to town after the holidays I was still in charge of the cleaning up, but while I was somewhat able to ride, I started to check the proper cleaning with short rides around the block. The short rides became bit by bit longer, but the fear of the cops was big. At that time in my house driving without license was just a step below the crime of killing a mate and disposing the corpse.
After a failed test, at the age of almost 18 I got the bike driving license. But I wasn't allowed to ride bikes of 350cc until 18. At the age of 18 plus one minute I started to ride bikes extensively and I never stopped so far. I've been without a car for long periods and without girlfriends for longer periods. I've never been without my bike for more that few weeks. Bikes will be the last thing I'll give up.
The 350 gave me lots of satisfaction. I modified it with fairings, extra instruments, extra lights, a stereo, new shocks, racing(!!) tyres, 4 in 1 exaust. At that time birds were mad for bikes, not like now that if you don't have at least a Mercedes women ignore you. The bike had a shitty frame, the single disc single pot front brake was mainly for the show and the handling for the actual standard was a nightmare. But it was great fun. I had my first slide. I went to a bikers meeting with some mates and kept all day bullshitting about the handling characteristics of my ironhorse. On our way back after a while I put some distance between me and them. They couldn't keep my pace. Every corner 10 grams of iron were gone from my footpegs and exausts. After few kilometers of mad riding I approached this hairpin at a slightly excessive speed. The footpeg started grinding, then the exaust, then the foot, then the knee, the elbow, the shoulder and my bum!! My mates arrived after a while. They were real friends. They didn't laugh. Took me a while to straighten up all the bent stuff. My left knee is still a bit numb. At the age of 19 I sold the CB350 and bought a brand new and almost fantascientific for the time Honda CBX550F. One of the first bikes with only one shock. A big change after the screaming but not really fast 350. The 550 could almost do 200 Kmh!! Serious stuff. The bike didn't have kick starter as well, because electric starters never fail. Mine did! I push-started the bike for almost 6 months, coz the part wasn't available (they never fail). Another characteristic of that bike was that the exausts lasted no more that 3 months. And costed like half bike. At least now bike manifacturers, after 20 years of pondering, are sensible enough to build exausts out of stainless steel. At the moment I'm the happy owner of a Cagiva Elefant 900 IE, a big offroad bike with Ducati engine. It's the third I buy. I'm very happy with it and I won't change it (can't afford it!!). Some pics.