My Wheels – Chapter 9
Honda 65

Honda 65The Honda 65 occupied, but didn’t really fill, the space between the ultra-popular 50 and the more powerful 90. It just wasn’t as cool as either of those other “groovy little motor bikes” which meant it wasn’t as desirable or pricey. And that, of course, is the reason I could own one. I don’t recall how I came by the Honda or how much I paid but it couldn’t have been much. I didn’t have much. I acquired it at roughly the same time as the Austin-Healey and had it for a short while after the Healey was gone. While my wife drove the car to work, the two-wheeler was my transportation to and from campus.

This was not a vehicle for long distance travel and I don’t believe I ever had the bike out of the Clifton area. It was involved in no big adventures and the only mildly interesting incident I can recall was the one time I laid it down.

I was heading west on Ludlow in a light rain. As I approached Clifton Avenue, the light changed and I tapped the rear brake. The 65 was much closer to a Schwinn than a Harley so a little slide was not a big thing at all. With the bike leaned to the left, I no doubt had visions of a smooth sideways stop at the intersection when the rear wheel reached the manhole cover. The surface of the cover was kept dry by whatever source of heat was below it and the difference in traction between wet pavement and dry steel is significant. The slide stopped and the Honda immediately went from leaning slightly to its left to laying completely flat on its right. The two of us slid together to the curb. At higher speed, the curb might have made a real impression on my un-helmeted head but there was no damage at all that day. I stopped at the feet of two men standing by the street. I’ve always thought they must have been waiting for a bus but I don’t really know that. They didn’t move but merely leaned forward with their umbrellas and asked if I was alright.

At the time, I’m sure intense embarrassment kept me from laughing but the memory of those faces calmly chatting with the kid who had washed up at their feet will always bring on a smile these days.

My Wheels – Chapter 8 — 1957 Austin Healey

My Wheels – Chapter 2
1948/9 Whizzer

WhizzerIt was 1962, I was 15 years old, and I was going mobile. Fourteen and fifteen year old Ohioans can still ride two and three wheelers with “helper motors” but both vehicle and and rider require a license. Plus the motor must be under 50 CC and 1 HP and incapable of moving the rig faster than 20 MPH. Shish!

Back in those comparatively lawless ’60s, anything that had pedals could be ridden by anyone fourteen or older without a license of any sort. I believe there was a displacement limit of 125 CC and there may have been a horsepower limit as well. My freedom machine was just under the size limit, produced 2 1/2 horsepower, and could reach 40 miles per hour. It cost me $35.

My Dad took me to pick it up. He followed me for a mile or so than got tired of poking along and pulled on by and headed home. I was on my own on the familiar State Route 49 moving along effortlessly at a pace that my most frantic pedaling could match for only a brief moment. Could life get any better?

Why yes. Yes it could. Even in those far distant times, motorcyclists (I don’t recall hearing the word “biker” until years later.) waved at one another when they passed. I passed one motorcycle on that first six mile ride. From a distance, a Whizzer looks much like a “real” ‘cycle. The approaching rider’s arm moved out and toward the road in a low salute. I mimicked him as best I could. He might have been a little embarrassed when we actually passed and he realized he had just waved at a kid on a moped. As for me, I tried to look manly and roadwise while almost certainly sporting a grin as wide as my handlebars.

The Whizzer lasted one summer but what a summer it was. My best friend, who lived about two miles away, had a moped. I think his acquisition came before mine and probably helped me convince Dad that I needed that Whizzer. We had often gotten together via bicycle but now we didn’t have to hang out at one place or the other; We could head off on far ranging adventures. Dale, with a tank of his Dad’s tractor fuel, and I, with some gas from my Dad’s lawnmower supply, would visit friends or go off for a root beer without a second thought. We traveled huge distances (like 10 miles) in (compared to pedaling) an instant.

allstatempDale’s moped had a capital ‘M’  — and a hyphen. It was a real Mo-Ped sold by Sears under the Allstate brand. They were made, apparently, by Puch in Austria. Our two mopeds did the same job but they sure had their differences. The Mo-Ped had a two-cycle 50cc motor with a two speed transmission and chain drive. Power from the Whizzer’s larger four-cycle reached the rear wheel through a belt. Belts and pullies slip; Chains and gears don’t. Compared to the Whizzer, the Mo-Ped was a jackrabbit off the line. The Whizzer would slowly lumber into motion usually helped by my feet on the ground or on the pedals. The Whizzer’s top end was well above the Mo-Ped’s so I’d usually whiz by, to show I could, before settling down for a side by side cruise. When first setting out, the Mo-Ped could be started on its stand with a little pedal pushing. The Whizzer could, in theory, be started by pedaling but it was a real chore. The method of choice was to start pushing it, release the clutch, (‘pop’ is not a word often associated with the Whizzer belt idler.), and jump on after the bike started but before it ran away.

My sister and I were still spending some of the summer with our grandparents but I could now get there and back by myself. It was on a long solo ride during a stay near summer’s end that I did in the Whizzer’s engine. The combined filler cap/dip stick had vibrated loose and all six ounces of oil had slowly blown off behind me. The engine suddenly locked up and a demonstration of the “safety” aspects of belt drive followed. Rather than the entire drive train locking and sending the bike into a skid or me over the handlebars, the belts started slipping and things came to a very rapid but controled stop.

When I got it home and looked inside, I discovered that the cap had actually been torn loose from the connecting rod and the crank had made at least part of a revolution before slamming back into the free floating rod and bending it into a shallow ‘S’. It was incredibly ugly.

I acquired some used parts including another whole motor but I never got around to repairing the bike. I’ve no doubt that one of the reasons was that I would turn sixteen in the spring and my mind was already on vehicles with more wheels. I sold it to a slightly younger friend who tinkered around with the spare motor, put it in the bike, and was himself mobile by the next summer. He used it for at least a couple of years because I remember loaning him my car while I rode the Whizzer on a summer of 1965 afternoon. It was still pretty cool.

My Wheels – Chapter 1 — 1960 J. C. Higgins Flightliner

Although we’ve long lived much more than a mile apart, I’m still good friends with Dale of the Mo-Ped. It was Dale who traveled with me along Indiana’s Lincoln Highway in 2009.

My Wheels – Chapter 1
1960 J. C. Higgins Flightliner

JC Higgins FlightlinerThis wasn’t exactly my very first set of wheels but it was the first with any sort of brand identity. There were probably three wheels in my very first set and they might very well be on the vehicle shown here. That’s the photo I use for my summertime “on the road” Facebook profile picture. The tricycle was followed by a peddle tractor that had its front wheels welded back on at least a time or two due to high speed crashes at the end of the sidewalk and a dimly remembered tiny bicycle with training wheels. The first two-wheeler that actually allowed me to hit the road was a 24 inch girls bike.

It was purchased at an auction or some other sort of sale and was very used. Dad made some repairs and we (at least I thought I was helping) painted it a dark purple. The color wasn’t carefully chosen because it was my favorite. It was carefully chosen because it’s what we had. That the bike was made for a girl barely registered with me. At first I could hardly reach the pedals from the seat and spent a lot of my riding time standing up. The lack of a horizontal bar turned out to be a major advantage. I eventually grew into then out of the 24 incher. A slightly older aunt had retired her 26 inch bicycle and it became mine. That was great initially but, as I became a teen, riding that light blue girly bike became less and less attractive. “Sure,” my Dad said. “You can have a new bike. All you have to do is pay for it.”

I set my sights pretty high. It took close to a year but through odd jobs and, no doubt, some gifts, I eventually accumulated enough to buy a shiny new bicycle from the Sears catalog. I couldn’t afford the Deluxe Flightliner with chrome fenders and “torsion spring-action fork” but I could afford the regular Flightliner and I’d still get dual headlights and a rear carrier that sorta kinda had fins. It came partially disassembled in a big box. Unpacking that bicycle and putting it together was the most exciting thing I’d ever done.

I rode it to the nearest town once in awhile but that was more than three miles each way and took some planning. I didn’t need a destination, though. That bike spent a lot of time going nowhere in particular on Ohio 49. During the summer, when school was out, my sister and I spent a lot of time at our grandparents. Somehow I frequently talked Dad into wrestling the bike into the trunk so I could ride it around the extremely small town where they lived.

J. C. Higgins FlightlinerThis is not a picture of my bike but one from the internet that looks pretty much the same. At some point I removed those headlights I’d lusted after to get the look of a big air scoop. The “fins” were pretty handy for tying down packages but not so popular with passengers. I moved on to motorized transport in 1962 and the two year old Flightliner lost its spot near the center of my world. Embarrassingly, I can’t even remember whether I sold it then or later. It would be 1979 before I’d buy another new vehicle.

Jim Grey rescued me again. OK, maybe rescued isn’t exactly right but only because I didn’t need rescuing at the precise moment he planted the seed for this series but I will someday. Back in August of 2012, when I had no post ready by my self imposed Sunday deadline, Jim gave me an idea for a series of articles that require very little time to prepare and can be used at any time. That was the start of the Trip Pic Peek series. Recently, he unknowingly gave me another idea. First, he turned me on to the Curbside Classics automobile website. I subscribed to the blog and find I read about half of the posts. Then Jim did a series of Curbside Classic posts himself as a guest blogger. He wrote about cars he had owned in the sequence that he owned them. That was the seed. His articles were fun to read and I’m guessing they were fun to write. I decided to start my own series along those lines though I won’t go anywhere near the depth of some of the Curbside Classic posts and, as you can see, I’m not limiting myself to cars. Trip Pic Peeks will remain the true safety net since they can be produced in just a few minutes. Like My Gear and My Apps, My Wheels articles can be prepared and stockpiled as time permits. This third My… series should come in handy as My Gear and My Apps approach the present and temporarily peter out. The first car is just a couple chapters away.