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Berini M21 Story

Joseph Higgins

It was 1971.  I was 14 and the only thing in the world I wanted was a Yamaha 100 twin.  But Yamaha twins cost big money and you had to be 16 to drive a motor cycle.  A compromise solution however was at hand.  Another boy in my class had a moped that he'd rescued from his dad's scrap yard and was willing to sell.  I walked down after school and he told me to wait in the lane around the corner.  He returned shortly with the bike, a Berini M21, single speed with a manual clutch, no mudguards, bent forks and bald tyres.  I had never driven a bike with a motor before, but it was simple, pull in the clutch lever and pedal, then let out the lever and off you go.  And off I did go, it was heady stuff, going uphill without having to pedal, at least too not much, but even that seemed effortless.  I had to have it, and a deal was done.

Around the same time, my neighbour and friend had pulled his big sister's old Raleigh Wisp from the coal shed, where it had spent a few years unused.  A new plug and some mix got it going again, as it was in perfect condition.  Sitting on the Wisp and looking over the high handlebars into the little chrome headlight we saw, looking back at us, Denis Hopper holding on to the ape-hangers of his chopped hog.  We were cool.

The long summer holidays were filled with dicing around the back gardens of our houses, or if our parents weren't around, out on the roads.  I learned about ignition timing, carb jets, put the 23rd and 24th patch on the rear tube and got my first ring-spanner to take off the head and barrel where I found that the big end was suffering some major wear. That old Berini kept going though, and when school resumed I sold it to another classmate who continued the abuse.

32 years later and I suddenly decided to put an ad in the bi-weekly Buy & Sell paper which is the Irish equivalent of Exchange & Mart.  "Berini moped wanted".  Not expecting a response I was surprised when the phone rang one Friday evening and a man said he thought he had what I was looking for.  He described it over the phone and it was indeed a Berini M21.  I was delighted.  Then he said 'I have another one, a Raleigh Wisp'.  I almost hit the deck.  He said he'd call me back on Sunday to arrange a viewing.  I began to think it was someone who knew me and had seen the ad and was playing a trick.  But he did call back and of course I had to buy the two of them.

I plan to restore them and make up for the abuse we gave all those years ago.  At 46 going on 15, I'm happy to get a second chance.

First published, August 2003

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