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My interest in cyclemotors stems from a very early age when my father up-graded his push-bike with a Mini-Motor in 1952 (EVG 145, did it survive?). At six years old I was used to riding on the cross-bar seat and we carried on doing this after the motor was attached, which I found very exciting. We were once stopped by a pedantic policeman who quoted some regulation about passengers not being allowed in front of the driver, but I think we carried on until I was physically too big for him to see where he was going. We could always tell when dad was home by the 'sneezing' noise of the de-compressor and the Mini-Motor soldiered on for many years. A de-coke must have been easy as I remember it was sometimes done in his lunch-hour with a penknife. There always seemed to be several drive rollers of various designs in the shed and different tyres were tried to avoid the dreaded slippage in the rain. Lights were operated by clipping a wire onto a bell battery in the saddle-bag and the only time it went to the cycle shop was to repair the free-wheel in the hub, as they wore out quickly due to the constant free-wheeling.
This machine was eventually part-exchanged for a BSA Winged Wheel on the proper BSA bike with sprung forks, which we all thought was a very classy machine. Unfortunately, many engine and gearing faults soon became apparent. As these were beyond dad's mechanical ability to repair and he could not afford a professional overhaul, it was sold at a loss and he returned to his push-bike ("good for my health" - perhaps it was, as he is still going strong at 83).
While all this was going on, a maiden lady a few doors away was going to work every day on a Cyclemaster, which I thought was an amazing machine and couldn't quite work out how it worked. It was made more interesting because the badge on the bike itself also said "Cyclemaster" and I vowed that one day I would have on of those. Some years later, when I was fifteen, a friend at school mentioned that his dad was clearing out his shed and had "an old bike with an engine in the back wheel" that he wanted to get rid of, did I want it? I was round there like a shot and it turned out to be a 25cc Cyclemaster on an old rod-braked Hercules bicycle. They lived about four miles away on the other side of Norwich, so I went on the bus, pumped up the tyres and pushed it all the was home. Well, nearly all the way... There was a quiet road near our house, which went nowhere in particular and the temptation to try this thing out was too much. It had some ancient and strange-smelling petrol in the tank, but after some stiff pedalling it spluttered into life. I will never forget the sensation of whizzing down the road without pedalling - such power, such speed - made even more exciting by being totally illegal.
I spent the next few months cleaning and oiling it in preparation for my 16th birthday, when I was able to use it legally. One day I was riding through a re-development area where the road was full of potholes and the thing got slower and slower, as if all the brakes were being applied. It eventually stopped and that is just what had happened, because the frame had fractured where the down-tube joins the headstock, so the two halves of the bike were only connected by the crossbar, which was gently bending and applying the brakes. While I was looking for another cheap bike, I found a 32cc Cyclemaster in a junk shop on a Cyclemaster bicycle, just like the one I had known years before, so a part-exchange deal was done and I didn't regret it. This very comfortable machine performed faultlessly in my ownership.
It was eventually sold to a friend, (who also used it for some considerable time) so that I could buy a 1957 Mobylette, at the same junk shop, for £5. Although the automatic clutch didn't do anything until I had pedalled it up to about 5mph and the back brake would only hold the bike, rather than slow it down (but this was enough for the MoT test 'hill'), I had 18 months of trouble-free riding, until I passed my car test and embarked on a life of Morris 8s and Austin 7s, but that's another story...
First published - February 1998
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