Nostalgic Moped Memories

If you're in your mid-40s this feature will move your soul and bring back floods of memories so vivid you can almost touch them. Just turn the key and push the pedal...

Posted: 26 November 2010
by Grant Leonard

"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

The Iconic Peds

Yamaha FS1-E
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...).
Specs -
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).

Garelli -
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...
Specs -
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).
Specs -
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.
Specs -
Engine: OHC 4-stroke single, 2.5bhp@8000rpm, four gears. Colours: red, yellow, green. Price (1975) £210.

Odd peds

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...

Gilera -

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

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Discuss this story

I had a blue AP50 in June 1979, thrashing the tit's off it everywhere, once me and a mate Mark on his Fizzie were thrashing around Bracknell and at the Sperry roundabout i had the inside line but my pedal got caught on the kerbing, had to do nearly 3 laps until i eventually managed to lean the other way hard enough for it to unhook, i then shot left and up a road i didn't want to go up, all in front of a Police car.

He pulled me over but was wetting himself with laughter and just did a tiny bit of finger wagging about us racing.  

A while later we were racing down Peacock Lane and i screamed the Suzuki up to 40mph in 4th and just as i changed into 5th it broke a ring.

I limped up to Binfield to the motorcycle shop i worked at and left it there over night, next day took the barrel off and the man from Feridax was there and had a 65cc barrel and piston kit in his car, which i put on, after running it in for 100 miles i let rip, it didn't increase the top speed but the acceleration was much improved ( relatively speaking obviously ).

Sold it on a couple of months later restored to 50cc for exactly the same money i paid for it and got out on my RD250DX on my 17th .... that's the start of a whole lot more fun and frolics. 

Posted: 29/11/2010 at 15:40

What a fantastic article, brought back loads of memories and laughs.

I had a purple Fizzie and my mate had a gold one, both bought for the same reasons (to get girls) but it didnt work, oh well at least we had lots of fun. Befor I turned 17 I had an RD125 waiting in the garage, but thats onother story.

Posted: 30/11/2010 at 00:03

That brings back memories, I had a FS1E DX, daytona yellow, wicked machine. Me and my mates went everywhere on those things. every two or three weeks they would get stripped down and decoaked. great times.

Posted: 30/11/2010 at 10:03

ye good times, i know one lad whos parents had plenty of dosh so soon as he turned sixteen he got a brand new one, it was yellow and looked the dogs gonads

Posted: 30/11/2010 at 15:11

Sheesh - what to say?  In 1977 there were about 10 of us with 'peds of all makes and models.  I had a Gilera 'Touring', but it was actually a 50cc motorbike, didn't have pedals, and made about 1.5BHP more than all my mates 'peds.  Never would start though, and if I did manage to get it running and it happened to rain (and I lived in Bradford, where I've seen it snow in June), my Dad would have to come out to collect me, sticking as much of my bike as we could in the boot of his old Austin 1800 ... bless him.

My mate Cav had a Gilera Trial, Mark had an AP50, Gary, Sean & Sweaty had Fizzies, Briz had a Garelli Tiger Cross (fast as f*ck that), 2 lads who's names escape me had the those Carballero things, and another had an SS50 (poor sod).  The lads one year older were mainly riding GT250 Suzuki's, and one guy (god) had a GT380 - wow!!  I clearly remember not being able to comprehend how he could take off so fast without looping it.

I remember the last day of school, being a little pissed having gone to the pub at lunch time (aged 16 of course), driving around within the school grounds 4 up for some reason.  Great times.

Me, Cav & Briz got GT250s when we turned 17, and Mark got an RD250  -s'pose the others got cars.  Me and Cav have pretty much had bikes ever since, and get to the TT most years.  Now my eldest son (and wife actually) have passed their tests, and recon their riding to the TT too - hope so.

Posted: 07/12/2010 at 21:12

At 16 I got a third-hand Puch Grand Prix. Bought off a mate for £50, he'd paid £50 to the original owner when he bought it one year old. No ignition key and no steering lock (not functional anyhow), just ride it and park it, nobody pinched stuff back then!!

Kick start and go with a four-speed 'box. Baffles out and rag it everywhere. Always carry a spare sparkplug as it would foul and refuse to start, but just bung in the spare and off you go. Didn't even need to clean the fouled one, for some reason it was just happy to have it changed over. It didn't pedal and to my knowledge nobody ever managed to actual work the pedal mechanism, it didn't engage into the drive train, so just was for show and legality I guess. But it was my first transport and opened a door to a whole new world. 16, independant, and out for fun.

It was fast for a 50cc too, everyone around would come into our village from surrounding area and race, but it was never beaten. Actually got a genuine ticket for 52 (in a 30) on the flat. Sold it at 17 to another mate for the same £50 and bought a real bike;and so it continues...

 Happy days, good times, great memories. Thinking of all the mates lost along the way. The downside of biking. Fondly remembered, RIP.

Posted: 09/12/2010 at 00:37

Teenage opera Pt1

Remarkable coincidence that Novemeber would see two of us musing mopeds!

Posted: 14/12/2010 at 15:41

  i just love sites like this. these were the days eh! im 52 now but still a teen at heart. it was 1973 . that was the year for me. an apprentice paint sprayer for a coach bulding company in cardiff. it was the time that all my mates were getting bikes. what caught my eye was a puch vz 50. the yellow 2 stroke peril. i had it on hp. it cost £160 on the road. not bad when you think that at the time i signed up. or should i say my aprents did! i was on £ 28.00 a month?????. i had some great fun on this bike. mates had fizzys, ap50,s  ss50,s tiger cross etc. they were wonderful carefree times. petrol was on ration. i remember having coupns sent for this bike. even remember the reg no. PNY 166L.  today i still spray for a living, and got a bmw r80 now. if i could turn back the hands of time i would. wonderful days.

Posted: 18/06/2011 at 22:48

LOL , I actually knew someone that owned a Fantic Chopper, he even took his test so he could carry passengers!!!



Posted: 13/07/2011 at 20:07

i had a garelli tiger circa 1973 and had it up to 60mph but as said had great fun no worries when 16 just riding the streets,my mates had a fantic chopper another tiger and a record what a sound round our town.
As said the spark plugs needed to be replaced on a regular bases and also i had a coil go on me leaving me stranded with a mate on a record,there were only about two fantic choppers i remember and i did see a 125 chopper once but it didnt sound as good as the 50cc.
Those were the days until nanny gov stepped in and that made a lot of biker shops lose bussiness many went bust as sales went down.

Posted: 29/01/2012 at 12:14

The Suzuki was called A50P, not AP50.
The Suzuki AP50 is a late 1990s twist and go scooter!

Posted: 27/09/2012 at 00:53

But did you get a go on Julia Brown's bosoms then?

Posted: 06/11/2012 at 17:10

In 1965 [age 15] I bought an NSU Quickly moped off the manager of the place I worked. I was still 6 months shy of my 16th birthday and couldn't wait for the great day when I could get out on the road. I spent those 6 months getting that little bike up to scratch, new tyres, a lick of fresh paint and lots of elbow grease. Finaly June 10th 1966 came round and armed with a brand new provisional licence, a new MoT, insurance and tax I was off. MAGIC!!!! The freedom of the open road at last. I thought I was a God wizzing along at 35-40mph leaving a 2 stroke haze in my wake.
Now age 62 and with ill health making it look more and more likely I will have to soon hang up my helmet and leathers for good I often think back to those wonderful far off days of my teens when I first started out on the road on that blue funky moped that cost me the princely sum of £10. Happy memories.

Posted: 07/11/2012 at 09:22

Nice one, Peter ! An NSU quickly was my first also...mine was in 1960 though. My Mum and dad owned a Transport Cafe with a bloody great carpark where I rode round and round annoying all the truckies. At six o'clock on the morning of my sixteenth birthday, I was out on the road. I had fun with that little 'ped and at 68  I'm still riding...Bandit 600S now !

Posted: 07/11/2012 at 12:35

doesnt anyone remember malagutis? the olympique GT with twin port exhaust system , ,the cavalcone supercross?,

Posted: 16/09/2013 at 00:38

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