I think it was Evel Knievel who once said: “You wait ages for a London bus, then fourteen come along at once”. I was, despite owning a moped aged 16, never destined to follow the exploits of the master bus-vaulter.
In 1972, aged 15, my parents emigrated from Balham to Carshalton (it could have been Neptune, it seemed so far away). Transport back to family still in Balham would be a problem so my dad said he’d pay for me to get a motorbike.
Armed with a selection of Premium Bonds, illegal Singapore currency my dad had brought back after National Service and a handful of pretend coins from the Co-Op, I travelled back to SW17 to purchase a Harley Davidson. Sadly, they never produced a range of mopeds, so an Austrian-built Puch Maxi S was procured.
The shop I visited on Garratt Lane, Tooting was called Elite Motors. Growing up in 60s/70s south London, “elite” wasn’t a word we’d heard much, so we unwittingly called the shop “e-lights” (the shop is probably now selling vaping mechanisms).
Elites did well out of me; I bought three bikes there. However, I was more Mr Sheen than Barry Sheene and after a succession of minor accidents felt there was some supreme being telling me it was time to learn to drive.
On my travels back and forth from Balham to Carshalton, I remember vividly riding through Mitcham Common and the temperature dramatically dropping several degrees. I could have ridden blindfold and known exactly where I was – although this would have consequently entailed more arguments with the bridge over Mitcham Junction Station!
I miss not having a bike, although my most embarrassing biking moment is still etched in my brain: having toppled over at Amen Corner, Tooting, I was asked by a frail, old woman if she could help get my bike upright again? It was at this point when I realised that old people act as very good fulcrums!
I won’t ever be attempting vaulting over buses any time soon as my Red Rover is about to run out.