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Puch Away

Peter Chinnery

This is a story of how I accidentally discovered the practicality and excitement of the moped.  It's another week day, a cold and dark morning in October, an early start, up out of bed as a result of the violent sound from the alarm clock.  My thoughts are to the journey to work; I have to be at work by 8:30am to have sufficient time to prepare for a meeting.  If I am late again, my boss will parade a quizzing expression: "where is he now?"  You see, my office is in London about 16 miles away, and my irregular time keeping is due to the unreliability of the buses and sometimes the train service.  It is the early 1980s, when industrial relations influence how the railways are run or not run.

The queue at the bus stop has now lengthened and contains the usual regulars waiting for the 6:50am red double decker bus.  It is known for a bus to be up to 60 minutes late depending on serviceability of the old Routemaster buses and whether or not a driver or conductor are available.  The BR station is about 40 minutes fast walk away, but carrying a heavy briefcase and wearing a winter coat means you get hot and bothered when you arrive.  It should be easy to get the bus.

The bus is already 15 minutes late and the queue is shuffling its feet and looking pensive in the direction where the bus should arrive from.  No luck, I'll be late for work again.  Now is the time to decide to walk or not.  The road is now quiet but with an occasional car going by, where, every so often the driver would look quizzingly at the bus queue.  Probably thinking, "thank goodness I have a car"!  But what is this?  The queue all look in the direction of a low rumbling sound in the distance, in view the vehicle looks like a motor cycle but is too slow.  Now appearing closer, we can see this is an elderly lady on a very tatty 4-stroke Honda Novio moped.  The rider is wearing a weathered white rain coat where the tails are blown back by the breeze showing her ample thighs, a white vintage Corker crash helmet tilted back on her head.  The rider buzzes past with a wide satisfying grin on her face and the moped leaves a faint odour of burnt oil.  The bus queue follows her movement into the distance with a puzzled look, and then in a silent motion resumes its nonchalant wait for a bus. 

"Why didn't I think of that!"  A moped - if this granny can ride one why can't I?  Surely this will resolve my predicament?  I had previously noticed that there was a gathering of motor cycles at the small station cark park, not cycles as they are too easily pinched.  The weekend could not arrive quickly enough; I searched through all the local newspaper advertisements in desperation for a moped, but with no luck.  "Why don t you pop around the newsagent and see if there is any thing on the advertisement board?", said my wife.  Like a rocket I run around the corner, and there on the board to my surprise was an advert showing for sale a Puch Maxi S at £50.  The address was a bungalow just around the corner.  When I enquired, the elderly lady showed me to a small garage door and revealed a Puch in almost new condition, although of some year's age.  The paintwork of Regal Purple looks like it has come fresh from the tin, and the chrome on the exhaust pipe you could use as a mirror.  This product was manufactured in Austria, close to Germany, which is renowned for its well made motor cycles; I assume this must be of the same quality.  The owner stated, "the moped had been bought for my shopping trips, and was eventually passed on to my son, who has now left home and was not required".  Included with the sale price was a crash helmet and panniers.  The asking price of £50 was quickly handed over, and the moped proudly wheeled home.

A check over the Puch, including a decoke to the head and exhaust pipe showed no real problems.  However, I found evidence that the owner's son had applied a hacksaw to the piston, which had increased the size of the port to alter the inlet timing in the hope of achieving higher velocity.  This modification did not appear to affect the performance of the Puch, which would whine along with the needle indicator against the stop at 35 mph.  Now taxed, insured and a MOT'd, I was ready for the regular trip to the station.

A look at the road map found suitable roads where I knew the traffic was not so heavy and I could bypass roundabouts and major junctions.  As a keen cyclist I knew that the careful choosing of roads could be a life saver.

That is how I began my experience with a moped; the Puch provided a reliable mount to and from the station with virtually no effort, only a slight LPA (light pedal assistance) on the hills.  It was very satisfying to move freely and bypass lines of congested traffic and bus queues, knowing that I would be home before they catch a bus.  My journey time to the station whether rain or snow was now 7 minutes.  Eventually, some years later my job changed and with regret I sold the Puch to a lady, who showed the same excitement that I had for her new purchase.

So where is SLA 35L now?  I hope my Austrian friend is providing the same excitement to its new owners.  Finally, since joining the NACC I am now keen to include a further moped to my collection and will be looking for a Regal Purple Puch!

First published, October 2003

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