Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ranting Stan's Sunday Drive: Yamaha FS1E

Once upon a time, when twist'n'go scooters were still recognised as being for girls who rode bikes in skirts and every red blooded teenage male yearned for a proper motorcycle, the Yamaha FS1E was pretty much the must have moped for any 16 year old boy worth his salt.

The FS1E was one of a new breed of sports mopeds that came out in the early to mid seventies - legal for 16 year olds to ride on a provisional licence and capable of 50mph or more these sports mopeds were like real motorcycles to a teenager full of testosterone.

With only a 49cc two stroke engine that buzzed like an angry wasp or (as some would say rather cruelly) like a sewing machine, the top speed of the FS1E was something of a contentious issue to be honest. I owned a second hand 1975 FS1E DX (DX indicating a front disc brake) in the summer of '77 which no matter how hard I thrashed it or how low I pressed my self onto the tank could not manage more than 50mph, but I had friends with newer models who swore blind that their bike could top 60 - even though none of them ever left me behind.

In fact my little Fizzy, as the FS1E was affectionately known, was a match for just about any other sports moped of the time with the exception of the frantic Fantic - a little Italian pocket rocket which was fast but exceedingly fragile with handling to match. As there was a terrific camaraderie amongst young bikers back then we would all get to try one anothers bikes while we congregated outside the chip shop. By the time I was 17 I'd ridden just about every sports moped there was to try and a good number of larger bikes.

In those days it was legal for a 17 year old to ride any motorcycle up to 250cc on a provisional licence so, for most of us, the FS1E was a short term first bike as we would usually move onto a proper motorcycle as soon as we hit 17, but I doubt that anybody who owned one of these little Jap delights will ever forget it.

I certainly won't. It was far from being the best motorcycle I ever owned, but as the machine with which I first tasted the freedom that owning your own transport can bring it was the bike that gave me my fondest memories.
The era of the sports moped was short lived though. Within a few years the government had introduced a restriction on them to limit them to 30mph and there was little point buying a sports moped with a restricted top speed of 30mph and five gears. Believe it or not, I agreed with that restriction as even in my short time as a biker I'd seen things change rapidly. While myself and my peers took our biking seriously, learned to ride properly and safely it was obvious that younger kids were more reckless - and were being killed as a result.
It was clear to me that the sensible thing to do - with even small bikes becoming ever faster and more powerful - was to restrict what people could ride until they learned to handle them. It's an approach which I think the government should use today on cars to stem the increasing number of young drivers killed or injured. Modern cars are incredibly powerful compared to those of 30 years ago and it is easy to buy a car capable of 100mph which can hit 60 faster than a seventies sports car cheaply.

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