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In The Beginning

by Tony Blow

The fifties were the hey-day of the cyclemotor, autocycle and small motor cycle; anything that was reliable and would power you along was accepted, the criteria were that it was cheap to buy and run.  Some of the designs were awful; we think of re-cycling to be a modern idea but I bet the Tandon got through a few bean cans in its short production run.  This brings me to the point when I came on the motorised scene.  I was approaching my seventeenth birthday and I was an apprentice at the local Power Station.  My transport at the time was a pre-war Rudge cycle for the four mile journey each way to work.  Once a month an auction was held at Pearson & Sindells auction room in the centre of town (Lincoln).  The day before the sale we would nip down in our lunch hour to view the goods; on this occasion there were the usual piles of household goods and old cycles.  Then, at the back, we spotted something different; after moving the bikes out of the way it proved to be a 1947 Excelsior two-speed autocycle.  It was in good general condition except for the back wheel, which was buckled.  The autocycle had no rarity value at that time so I reckoned I could just about afford it with the £10 I had to spare.  Came the day of the auction and I was lucky, the back wheel put most people off bidding for it so I became the owner for the grand sum of £7.10s.0d.

The buckled wheel and documents took about three weeks to process, then the joys of the open road, no more pedaling four miles into a head wind or hanging onto the back of a lorry up the steep hill I had to negotiate when leaving work.  After a few months I was ready for some distance riding, so one Sunday I set off for Mablethorpe, a distance of around 42 miles.  This took me over the Wolds with some fairly large hills but luckily I encountered no problems.  But youth is fickle, after 15 months I took the autocycle back to the auction rooms and sold it for £13.10s.Od. (vast profit!)  My thirst for power led to the purchase of a 122cc Excelsior motor cycle.

Now move forward 35 years, after many years abstaining from the moped scene I visited Speedy's junk yard; he was a local house clearance man and I sometimes called in for a browse through his stuff.\ He had a large collection of old bikes in a dark shed, on one occasion I noticed the remains of a moped among the cycles.  Curious, I pulled the cycles away to have a look and, after wiping away the grime, I found it had a Villiers 3K engine.  Aafter a little more time the moped proved to be a 1959 Norman Nippy, which I bought for £25 and set about restoring it.  This brought me full circle back to the two-wheeled lightweight.

First published, October 2005

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