The Glory Years of the 1970’s and 80’s, but Why?

I constantly see references to the 1970’s and 80’s as being the best days for biking, but never an explanation. Well here goes: We saw the dawn of the ‘Superbikes’, the dream machines on posters pinned to our walls that became real as we left school and got jobs.

Rites of Passage

Initially  we rode mopeds that could hit 30mph, perhaps 40mph if we were lucky. Then maybe a 125 & 250cc bike that struggled to 70/80mph. Next step were 250s/350s/400s that could crack the magic 100mph barrier.

The Honda SS50, this battled with the likes of Yamaha FS1E for the crown of top 50cc bike

Yamaha RD250LC, typical of the fast 250’s we all progressed to

Finally we graduated to reliable, fast 750s or 1000s and even bigger bikes that would do 130/140 if we were lucky. However, they generally didn’t handle too well. We could take all these bikes and use them as our daily riders to and from work, then go for a proper ‘ride’ at the weekend. Roads were generally in good condition. Bends hadn’t been straightened out. Speed limits existed but were ‘negotiable’.

Suzuki GT750, the legendary kettle

Bikes had chrome and paint, noisy pipes and character. We met other groups and compared our bikes. We’d go back to our pub in the evening, occasionally commiserating with a mate who had crashed.  Occasionally mourning a fallen buddy.

Simple Times

Police were out there; you took your chances: I lost my licence!  Not many speed cameras and I’d never heard of an average speed check!

We wore leather jackets, jeans, a helmet and shoes (usually suede in my case). You could leave your bike outside your house and just jump on it and go.

Then we grew up: Some of us had commitments, families, mortgages etc and departed the fold. Some were more lucky, either remained kid free or earned enough to keep a bike.

Then we came back, but it’s not the same. Bikes are faster and handle better, but I don’t think there will be a generation who can step off a 70mph 250 onto a 1000/1100 superbike and get the buzz we got.

All too Complicated?

These days it takes the best part of 1/2 an hour from deciding to go out and actually getting out:  Unlocking the garage, getting the bike out, locking the garage, getting into ‘safe’ clothing, wiping the sweat of my head, putting my helmet on and off we go.

Sometimes it’s just so much easier to jump in the car to get a pint of milk, but that’s what not I’d do back in the day. Any excuse, sun, rain, wind, even snow and ice! Out with the bike!

I missed not having a bike in the garage, I’d get goose bumps reminiscing with my kids.

There’s too much learning now, not a bad thing I suppose. But we learned ‘on the job’.

Now there is too much plastic. Too much red tape. I guess there’s maybe too much power in today’s bikes. Maybe it’s just me but I thought I’d have a ramble about days gone by.

Words: Eddie Kerr

Pictures: Tony Donnelly

Reproduced with permission. Originally post here