As a teenager I rather fancied myself as a road racer, but as someone who managed to fall off a Garelli moped two mornings running while attempting to corner, knee-out, a la John Cooper, it became evident that I didn’t have a natural ability in that department.
“I paid the proprietor the five pounds for the rolling chassis then asked if I might borrow a hacksaw...”
Fast-forward a couple of years and it’s early on a sunny Sunday morning and I’m driving the 100 miles to Duxford in Cambridgeshire, to watch my first sprint. But after no more than thirty minutes watching the riders, and perhaps another half an hour wandering goggle-eyed around the paddock, I jumped into my Reliant three-wheeler and headed for home – eager to start building my own sprinter. That was 1974, and I was smitten.
I began constructing a low and light frame for my 250 Ariel Arrow, but I needed lightweight forks. For these I went to Abbey Spares, the breaker’s yard that used to be in Merton High Street, South London. Outside the premises stood a Mobylette moped, sans engine. After I had paid the proprietor the five pounds for the rolling chassis I asked if I might borrow a hacksaw, and without further ado I cut through the moped’s frame just behind the headstock. And then, leaving the rest of the decapitated moped on the forecourt, I carried the forks and front wheel assembly home on the bus (the Reliant had broken a half-shaft on the previous day).
The newly built Arrow and its rookie rider made their debut at Merthyr Tydfil, in South Wales, in 1975. The bike misfired on one cylinder, and the rider’s starts were utter rubbish. But what fun!
Almost thirty-five years on and now a different bike – and infuriatingly the rubbish starts still outnumber the better ones. But that’s sprinting, I guess.