Saturday, June 29, 2013

America, We Have Been Invaded!

The Tiddler Invasion: Small Motorcycles of the Sixties  
 (616 pages - 6/29/13 - $28.95)

My latest book project just went live an hour ago. This is a copy of the front and back covers of the largest book project I shall ever dare to undertake. This monster began with a small idea for my first book back in 1985. The oldest story in it was typed on my 1959 IBM. The latest material was created with my IBP (I Buy Power) computer. The IBM had one KB of RAM, me. The IBP has four GB attached to a 2 TB hard drive. These attributes came in handy while I was creating the monster. The Tiddler Invasion was partially created from 5.5 GB of files of old motorcycle photos. The  7" x 10" format 616-page book is crammed to the exhaust pipes with detailed information. There are 180 charts of cycle models and 430 photos. The Bibliography alone is huge. This book is priced higher than my earlier books because the project and the finished product were and are sizable, to say the least. Thousands of photos were considered for inclusion, and of course most were left on the hard drive. Hundreds of books, magazines and brochures were read and thoroughly examined countless times to sort out the foggy details from as far back as fifty years ago. Take a ride on the wild side back to the magical days of the Sixties. Here is one of my favorite poignant excerpts from the book:

Whiffs of Magical Memories...

...I Remember Them Like It Was Yesterday

I could not wait for each new Sears catalog to arrive. There was that Allstate Moped that maybe one day I could afford for only $179.95 in 36 easy payments. No more pedaling uphill! The hardtail 125 would prepare me visually for the Super 10 I would meet in 1960, but I choked on the thought of its hand shift. It had only a single seat so I could not carry a passenger. What I really wanted was that Allstate 175 in black with a dual saddle!

A couple of young punks I knew in high school, identical twins actually, rode these strange, gangly, antique-looking Simplex machines. They were identical, just like their pilots. Those belt drives looked weird, man.

Some of us had a scooter, usually an Allstate Cruisaire. The kick starter had no cache. The bulbous body had no style, at least not any we wanted to be seen with, and the ponderous hand shift was klunky, but at least it had a clutch. The innocent putt-putting exhaust and small wheels rolled us to school without pedaling, but it just wasn't quite a motorcycle!

That Harley-Davidson Super 10 was so American, so stylish with its big wheels, Buckhorn handlebars, swoopy Buddy Seat, and hardtail non-rear suspension. I remember the way the oversized footpegs flopped down loosely, not spring-loaded. The handgrips were large, fit for a real man. The kick starter was on the left side where you had to stand beside the machine, holding it off the stand with those tall bars, and kick it vigorously several times to start it.

There was one guy in town who had a Sportster. He was a real guy, a man's man. Of course I don't really remember him, his name or what he looked like. I don't even remember his girlfriend. But I remember the swoopy style of that rolling thunder he rode.

The first time I saw a Honda, I wondered if the name was meant to look and sound American. Some of the local rednecks mispronounced it as Hondo, like the old John Wayne western. This was a Benly Touring 150 with bodywork that seemed so modern at the time. The kick starter folded, but you did not even have to use it.

The first time I saw a Honda Super Sports Cub, I marveled at its tiny jewel-like presence. Its handgrips seemed too small, like its quiet sound, yet it was a real motorcycle nonetheless. The footshift was only a three-speed, but you had to learn the process of starting and shifting with a clutch.

Just as some of the local yahoos thought a Honda was a Hondo and a Yamaha was a Yammahaw, I the super nerd, thought it was a YaMAha.

There was a Honda dealership in the small town, but one bigger than the town I resided in, that was famous for having a virtual motorcycle junkyard out back, behind its little building. There were the remains of Honda 50's and Hawks, Dreams, and Benlys. Deceased Yamahas and even the occasional Suzi lounged in that graveyard of adolescent dreams. The man and his wife who owned the shop were legendary as Mr. & Mrs. Grouch, two selfish old critters who could be so nice, if only they would allow a punk like me to make a meager bid on a few of those wretched, disassembled bodies. I wanted so desperately to put together a tiddler I could afford and ride! Years later, when I was almost an adult, they gave me the best deal on a new Honda that would travel far and wide below my Captain America helmet.

My mom would drive me over there on a Sunday afternoon when the little dealership was closed, just so I could cup my hands around my eyes and stare through the glass into the dimness, ogling the machines therein. When the shop was open, I could smell that special whiff of the two-stroke oil in the dingy little Yamaha shop on a back street in a small town. I think the flavor was DA Speed Sport.

One lazy summer afternoon, a fellow tiddler buddy and I went over to see Dub Terry. That was his real nickname and he was the official Fonzie of our little town. He owned a beautiful red Honda Hawk that had been developed into what I would later come to know as a flat-tracker. It had a Super Sports 50 gas tank painted red, semi-knobby tires and open exhausts. The legend was that he would challenge some kid to a race. After the kid had zipped off down the road, Dub would come howling by on that fierce machine on one wheel. We later called it a wheelie.

You can never forget the first time you heard a Honda 250 or 305 Scrambler unmuffled in the distance. There was a special underwater warble to it that has never been duplicated to this day. When you rode one of these beasts in the dirt, the seat and suspension were misunderstandably stiff. That is the best way I can describe it.

The first time you sat down on a Hodaka and the soft seat and suspension went squish! you knew that dirt bikes had matured into what they were supposed to be.

The CL-350 was much softer and sweeter than its immediate predecessor. It had an electric starter, but I didn't use it much. I liked the feel of kicking it alive like a real man. The stroke of the kick starter seemed a bit short as the engine went thump-thump only once whenever it failed to fire on the first kick when cold. It always seemed to fire on one cylinder first for a few seconds before the second cylinder kicked in.

No one ever forgets his first Mach III experience. Two pipes on one side and only one on the other? Cool! And then there was the alien sound of dub-dub-drubble-bub. And then the carbs sucked so much air so fast that you completely forgot about the exhaust noise.

We all knew what a Ferrari was and that it had this sound of ripping silk shriek, but we had never heard a motorcycle that made that sound. The first CB-750 we encountered impressed us with its four pipes, front disc brake, and oversized instruments properly tilted back to stare us in the face. We knew it was a new kind of speed when we heard it scream down the street.

No comments: