Ya Can Ride A Pushy Can’t Ya?
Last century, an enterprising bunch of teenagers, the local tough guys, brought an old Honda Cub Step-Through down to the paddock where me and a bunch of mates would congregate. The bike was unregistered, uninsured, and probably “borrowed”.
We all gathered ’round, and took turns at critiquing the thing. A few bragged that they had an RM125 or something at home, while others boasted that their dads’ rode Kwaka Z9’s; A bike made popular by the Australian cult bikie movie Stone (1974).
It was the typical “mine is better than yours” scenario.
Some boasted that they could chuck wheelies a mile long, while others claimed to have jumped a dozen buses like some kind of Evel Knievel
To shut the hubbub, the tough guys decided we should put up or shut-up.
For the sum of 50 cents we could have 2 laps around the paddock to prove that we could ride. Most of the guys could ride, but stretched the truth a bit when they said they had a RM125’s at home.
What they really had were clapped out mini-bikes, handed down to them by their big brothers.
The paddock was near the local railway station, some of it had been reclaimed by developers for a shop and a gravel car park. We rode BMX bikes, played British bull-dog, climbed trees, and generally got into mischief there.
A well-worn track that meandered around the perimeter, complete with the occasional poorly constructed jump, several bog holes, logs, long grass and snakes. Add to this all the broken timber, loose bricks and a huge pile of builders rubble that stood about 3 metres (10 feet) high on the edge of the car park, and you could see it was a place waiting for an accident to happen.
No cotton wool kids in them days!
The tough guys posted lookouts in case the local constabulary happened by, and my mates all started taking turns on the Step-Through, boasting about how great it was and how good they could ride. No one fell off which was a good thing.
Eventually it was my turn. I handed over my 50 cents and sat astride the bike, not really knowing what to do next. Yep you guessed it, I’d never ridden a motorbike before, and all my mates knew it. Some gave me a hard time about it too, saying that if it had training wheels I might be able to keep the bike upright.
“Ya can ride a pushy* can’t ya?” asked one of the tough guys.
“Yeah, ‘course I can, been ridin’ em for years.” I replied as convincingly as I could.
“Right-o-then. See this thing here?” Started the biggest tough guy.
“Yeah…” I replied.
“This is the brake, that is the gear change, and this. This is the throttle” He continued, giving me a run down on the basics.
Finally, it was time to put up or shut up… I started the bike.
Everyone gathered around surprised that I’d managed to achieve that much. I was instructed to watch out for the ruts on the other side of the paddock and to keep it slow. They didn’t want any accidents.
“Right. Pull the throttle around, and push the gear lever down one click, you won’t need to change-up, so don’t. OK?”. A voice from behind me called.
I nodded and I did as I was told. I pulled the throttle around to the stop, and dropped it into gear. In hind sight I was probably a bit too enthusiastic with the throttle.
Did I mention there was no safety gear?
No helmet, jacket… nothing. I was barefoot, wearing a pair of shorts and T-Shirt.
As soon as the gears engaged the bike lurched forward, and the front wheel pointed skyward. I was heading towards the 3 metre high pile of builders rubble on the back wheel of this Step-Through. All the while my mates were cheering me on, not realising I had absolutely no control of the bike.
When the bike took off, I’d slid back on the seat. My arms stretched so much I thought they were going to pop out of their sockets. Somehow my feet were… no word of a lie… under the ‘bars. Maybe I though putting weight forward would bring the front of the bike down, I can’t remember. As it turned out this didn’t work, but it looked awesome.
The pile of builders rubble was getting closer and closer, and all I could think about was what my old man would do to me when he found out I had crashed a motorbike, let alone ridden one. I wasn’t worried about the tough guys. They were too busy rolling around on the ground laughing their heads off. I could easily have out run them.
Suddenly my mates realised that I was in a spot of bother, and through fits of laughter started yelling at me to take my hand off the throttle.
Doing this would have left me with two points of contact on the bike. My left hand and my butt. I deduced that I was going to crash anyway so what the hell, I let go of the throttle.
The front wheel came down heavily and miracles of miracles, I didn’t fall off… or stop. I managed to straighten myself up, put both feet back on the foot pegs, re-grip the throttle and coast around said pile of builders rubble as if nothing had happened.
I completed my two laps around the paddock, too quickly I thought, and enjoyed every second. It was like a pushy, but different. It was a feeling I wouldn’t experience again for many years.
When I finally returned with the bike, everyone came around to congratulate me on my impromptu wheelie. Asking me how I managed to sit so far back on the seat with my arms stretched out and both feet in the air. I told them I planned it.
No-one believed me though.
Word spread around all the kids in the neighborhood, and for months afterwards the talk at school was about the wheelie some kid did down at the paddock.
That paddock has been built-out now. Last time I saw it, there was a row of shops, and the gravel car park had been sealed with bitumen. The rest of the paddock was having some construction done on it. More shops probably.
The price of progress I guess.
Anyway, I’ll always remember the times I spent with my mates in that paddock, and I’ll never forget that day, and my introduction to motorcycles.
Pushy = Push bike