Saturday, 22 October 2016

John Harrison: The Early Years, pt2

As we explained ahead of part one of John Harrison's look back at his early biking years, his attitude and style caught our eye at DTRA races, so we invited him to share his thoughts on the blog. We're glad we did, and here's his latest instalment.

I was really lucky when I turned 16, because I coerced my mum into getting me what I reckoned was the best moped of the lot, a Fantic Caballero. She wasn't best pleased when my O level results came through a while later, though.
It was a proper little trail bike. High-level pipe with a natty heat shield, knobblies, enduro-style pouch on the tank, satin black with Italian stripes and raised, polished guards. Most of the lads went for FS1-Es or the rather more sluggish four-stroke Honda SS50, but me and my mate (who got me onto bikes with his BSA Beagle) both had Caballeros and never had trouble outrunning the other mopeds. The rings went at 3000 miles and it blew tail light bulbs weekly, but that was worth living with. We rode them down to Cornwall for a week's holiday and I thought nothing of riding 50 miles each way to visit my girlfriend every weekend. Great off road, too. My ride to work took in some green lanes so it saw plenty of trail action.

At 17 I traded it in on an RD250C Yamaha, but I couldn't keep up with the repayments and had to let it go after nine months or so. Still, I had it for the fabulous summer of '76. A lovely, good-quality bike. I've liked Yamahas ever since.

Pics of the RD and Caballero from the internet, they're not my bikes.

A little later I bought a clapped out 250 Bultaco Sherpa and rebuilt it. I had the frame nickel plated and replaced all the knackered bits.
But, much as I love trials I'm no good at it and trials bikes are not much use for daily transport. So I bought a DT250 that had been stripped down and used as a common basher. Luckily, the road equipment had been kept so I put it back on and it was a fun road bike, really rideable. I'd love it now to convert for DTRA racing.
This is the only picture I've got of it, peeping out from behind a project that inevitably never got finished. A friend and I went halves on the Capri,  which was going to be a high-steppin' gasser with a straight-tube front axle. We got as far as the chassis and bulkhead work seen here, and bought a flip front and a (supposedly) hot small-block Chevy before running out of steam. JH 104R

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