I am an enthusiastic browser of charity shops, especially for old books. A happy few hours harmlessly trolling among boxes of dusty hardbacks donated by the next of kin from grandad’s box room can unearth gems of long-out-of-print wisdom.
….as witness this little offering from 1976 or thereabouts…..
Mr C J Dibworth, our county correspondent writes:-
“I receive many missives enquiring how best to ‘spot’ and identify the common types of motorcyclist which throng our Island. Now that the summer months are with us, there is nothing so beneficial to the aesthetic and physical development of our youth as a day profitably spent in the healthy open air in seeking, observing and comparing the diverse species of these popular genera.
Those who already are acquainted with the delights of biker spotting will of course need no persuading; but for my readers who are novices at this pursuit, or who perchance need some gentle convincing of the intellectual satisfaction it affords, I offer the following essential notes of guidance.
(I should emphasise that I concern myself solely with the species commonly to be found in the British Isles. We do indeed sometimes enjoy the presence of more exotic ephemera, but they are few and far between. I should not wish my readers to suffer the extinction of early enthusiasm in vain endeavour.)
The observer is often first alerted to the presence of the 2-stroke sub-genera by its song, before it can be seen, especially in the narrow lanes of the countryside, where it congregates in the hours between 17:30 and sunset, and at weekends. The tinny, brittle note is followed by a raucous throaty warble, repeated. The upper plumage is usually of indeterminate colour, but the lower is distinctive, being of faded blue denim, invariably of the “drainpipe” variety. The throat sports a white scarf with trailing fronds. The same is not so of the 4-stroke, which is a rather dignified bird and shuns its brasher cousins, preferring its own kind.
One of the most numerous visitors to our shores, it comes in many guises, but there are certain common factors which will enable the enthusiast to distinguish the breed, even from a distance. The lower plumage has a great tendency to flare around the ankles, plainly visible when it is at speed. The lower extremities have distinctive thickened surfaces of the platform type, which gives a peculiar waddling gait when the creature is off the wing, together with a tendency to avoid low doorways unless they lead to the public bar. The upper plumage is often bright yellow, with a unique pattern of black bars on a white ground, somewhat soiled.
The song is generally less raucous than the Suzuki, but often deeper in tone, especially with the larger species. It seems to have a greater tendency to have its mate accompanying it, often bedecked with bright, clashing colours.
Something of an oddity, and relatively rare in its larger forms, chiefly because of a high mortality rate. The plumage is invariably brightly coloured and often variegated, with unusual combinations of colours. Certain respected experts have postulated this to be the result of indeterminate inter-breeding, but no reliable data exist. The song emanating from its triple throat is unmistakeable and indeed unique. In the upper registers or when the creature is animated, it rises to an eldritch howl. This is often followed by a screeching sound and a resounding crash. The more mature species is often seen with a copy of the Lord’s Prayer affixed to the headstock.
Vies with the Yamaha for ubiquity. Seen all year round. Has probably the widest variety of sub-types. An interesting feature is the tendency, only noted by observers in recent years, to a certain consistency in plumage, with the smaller species appearing to ape the colouring of the larger, more dominant types. It is open to speculation whether this is some kind of developing urban camouflage, or perhaps an attempt to obtain recognition by association. The creature is marked by its general tendency to more sedate, unhurried behaviour than its fellows. It is more often to be seen undertaking long journeys, when it will sometimes carry remarkably diverse loads with no apparent means of security other than the balancing of physical forces. One can usually state with confidence that if leather boots are in evidence (as opposed to baseball shoes, trainers, sandals or DM’s), it will be a Honda.
The smaller, single cylinder species, with its knobbly protruberances and miniscule size, is best avoided. It can be unpredictable and snap without warning.
Rarely to be found outside the environs of the Home Counties, and even then a shy creature which prefers to remain in its own locale, sometimes to the extent that it loses completely the ability to travel, although this is compensated for by extreme perfection of plumage. When it is seen in flight, it is an inspiring vision, with a delightful call, especially at speed. It is, however, a fragile creature and unsuited to our harsh winters. A few bedraggled individuals are sometimes spotted in the Northern latitudes, sad remnants of the proud species they were when the made the trek from their sunny land of origin.
Becoming increasingly rare with every year that passes. Dramatic failure of every breeding programme attempted since 1968 has virtually eradicated the species. Although of sterling longevity and seemingly indestructible, their stamping grounds have been severely circumscribed by Asian interlopers, far more successful at breeding and adapting. The few hardy examples that remain in circulation are of uniform dun colour, produce significant amounts of excrement in flight and are identifiable by pudding basin skull cap and hirsute growth around the chops. The upper plumage is invariably of black oiled cotton.
Smug and arrogant in nature, it redeems itself by is undeniable superiority at long-distance travel. Accompanies stock brokers and wunches of bankers. “