"When I get me moped out on the road I'm gonna roid, roid, roid"
-Funky Moped, Jasper Carrot 1975
Jasper captured the zeitgeist perfectly. In 1975 I was 15 and had only one thing on my mind - well, two actually, but I naively assumed that the acquisition of the first would naturally lead to the second: Julia Brown's bosoms. I had to have a moped.
Nobber, my mate, had already got a Fizzie, or Fizzler as we called them in Leeds. Gassa had a Garelli Tiger. Our big brothers were hooning around on Yamaha twins, Suzuki GT250s, Honda 500-4s. They were heroes, gods.
It was the summer of '76, the longest, hottest ever and we'd just finished O-levels. The month I turned 16 my mum and dad said they'd pay for me to join 5000 other sulky Kevins on a Mediterranean cruise - cost £50. But there was an advert for a red Garelli Rekord in the paper - cost £75. Pleeeeez can I have that instead? I mythered for two days solid. Eventually they gave in. And I got it for £50; well, the old bloke selling it had cancer so he was open to offers...
Julia Brown's bosoms were mine. And that was it. No previous experience necessary. At 16 you could get on a moped on a provisional licence, which you earned by simply filling in a form at the post office.
The bikes were mopeds, but looked like 'proper' motorbikes - sports mopeds. Sports mopeds were a clever response to new road safety legislation of 1972 which restricted 16-year-olds to 50cc mopeds. The government imagined those to be naff, impotent, safe step-thrus. But the manufacturers, facing a huge loss in motorcycle sales and, potentially worse, an effective squeeze on young new bikers into the market, rose to the occasion. They started building sports mopeds - hugely attractive bikes which looked like proper motorbikes, would go like stink and conformed to the letter of the law, rather than the spirit.
Continue for more and a gallery of mopeds
AKA Fizzies. Or Fizzlers - a motorcycling icon that hooked a generation on bikes. A moped in nothing but name, it had two pedals you could lock forward as footrests and forget. It was technically possible to pedal, but not practicable. Four gears, all down. Introduced to the UK in 1973, the FS1-E SS (Sixteener Special) became Yamaha's best selling UK bike within three months. A disc brake model was introduced in 1975, the FS1E-DX. How was it to ride? Dead easy, but bland (unlike my Garelli...).
Engine: disc valve, two-stroke, 49cc, four gears. Power: 4.8bhp@7000rpm. Top speed: 48mph (oh yus...). Price (1975) £215. Colours: Candy orange (1972), Popsicle purple (1973), Baja brown (1974), Competition yellow (1975).
Mine was a red Mk1 Rekord. God it was ugly, but it looked like a real motorbike. I even took the left pedal off, just leaving the right for starting it. They were the fastest, well potentially - 60mph was possible (down-hill); a Fizzie simply couldn't go over 50, it'd run out of revs and gearing. Garellis had all the traits of Italian bikes in the 70s, crap electrics, unreliability, rust. They started best from cold as once the flywheel was hot your spark would be weak. No battery, you see. I probably pushed mine further than I rode it. I don't think I ever made it from first to second without hitting neutral. Beerrrrp... Ying! Booooorp...
Engine: two-stroke, 49cc, four gears (r/h change). Power: 6.5bhp. Top speed: 60mph (rules, okay?). Price (1977) £246.
Suzuki AP50 -
Johnny-come-lately of the sports ped scene, Suzuki's AP50 somehow lacked the cred of the Fizzie and Garelli when it arrived in 1975 - though the tank was reminiscent of the GT250/380/550 models (v. cool) and it was a bit quicker than the Fizzie (not the Garelli of course - ha!). It also had five gears and a separate oil tank for the two-stroke oil, which meant you'd forget to put oil in it and seize it rather than having to mix it in the tank (as in: "Half-a-gallon of two-star and a shot of 16-to-1 please..." - that's about 40p, if you were wondering).
Engine: rotary-valve two-stroke, 49cc, five gears, 4.8bhp@8500rpm, 3.05lb.ft@8000rpm. Colours: Maui blue metallic, candy rose.
Honda SS50 -
Dad! Can I have a moped? Pleeeez... How many hapless 16 year-old birthday-boys got landed with one of these back in 1973? The SS50. Oh no. No. A Honda. Nice. Smart. Sensible. Four-stroke. Reliable. S-L-O-W!!! Super Sport my arse. Four speeds - yeah, all slow! Ha! 2.5bhp!! My Garelli could have one of these in third. If I could get it started. Mind you, they came out with the 5-speed ZB2 model in 1976 which could just about do 50mph (and 138mpg!). But too late to recoup any cred.
Engine: OHC 4-stroke single, 2.5bhp@8000rpm, four gears. Colours: red, yellow, green. Price (1975) £210.
Puch GPS -
Puch (Austrian) probably kicked the whole sports moped thing off with the yellow VS50, until Fizzie & friends arrived. Quickly superseded by the much more desirable Grand Prix, then the Grand Prix Special and then, the ultimate rich kid's ped, the Grand Prix Supreme, or John Player Special as we called it. Had everything a Fizzie had - 5.2bhp, 48mph top whack, even alloy wheels as an option on later models. But wasn't as popular as a Fizzie, therefore less of an object of desire.
Fantic Chopper -
Well, we all talked about them. Everyone knew what a Fantic Chopper was, but no-one knew anyone who actually bought one.
Fantic Caballero -
Arrived in '74, very clattery and noisy, used a Minarelli engine. It was a fairly capable off-road bike, ie across people's back gardens with the feds on your tail...
The RS Touring and Trials models were reasonably popular. Like the Garelli, Gileras had a pukka motorbike look. Bit slow though, managing 42mph from their 4.2bhp motors. £210 in 1974