John Dunn

John Dunn original writing
Book sales
Blog
Thought Pieces
Oxford to Cambridge
Something said
Archive
Links
Contact

Sheer joy

Alan Watson's former shop on Dr John Dunn. Once Watson's Motorcycles of Dewsbury until 1995, now Adam's Carpets, on the corner of Bradford Road and Upper Street South

It must have once been a corner shop that had served the needs of millworkers in the rows of nearby terraced houses. Victorian and stone-built, on Bradford Road in Dewsbury, just on the corner with Upper Street, my Dad led the way in to Alan Watson’s motorcycle shop. A photograph of Watson, racing in black leathers and ‘pudding basin’ helmet, was proudly displayed on the counter. The man himself emerged from his workshop to stand behind the counter, accompanied by a very obviously dutiful and, seemingly to me, very capable daughter and a verytalkative and perhaps not quite so capable son.

I have no recollection of how the conversation started, presumably I didn’t say much at all; but the next thing that I recall was Watson advising that he had just the right motorcycle for me, a barely used, low mileage Honda CB 175 twin cylinder, with bright red petrol tank. The CB was all-important. This was the sporting version, to be distinguished from the more mundane CD 175 commuter. My Dad agreed the price and the motorcycle was mine. I had never sat on a motorcycle before, hardly ever looked at one before, let alone ridden one before. But my next recollection is of walking across Bradford Road to a back street where Watson stood sagely by as I sat astride this new gleaming steed. An electric start, yes even back in 1973, and with this Watson got the engine idling. He pointed out the throttle, brakes, clutch and gear changer and looked on as I slowly released the clutch lever to pull away in first gear only for a hundred yards or so. Apart from resting my right foot on the engine casing instead of the foot peg, he thought that I had done sufficiently well; and that was my only lesson in motorcycling.

The amazing thing is that I do not recall having any trouble riding that beautiful motorcycle, despite a distinct lack of tuition. Whilst I must have been oblivious to danger, that motorcycle opened a brand new world to me, as I covered miles and miles just for the sheer joy of riding it.

© John Dunn.

The Forest of Bowland on Dr John Dunn. Great idea

It had been my Dad’s idea from the start. I do not no why he introduced me to motorcycling. He had never ridden one. I suspect he thought a motorcycle would give me the freedom and independence I needed to leave my gauche and awkward early teens behind and enter adulthood. He was right; this was the earliest stage in a very slow awakening.

I passed my driving test on Friday and my motorcycling test on the following Monday. It was all uneventful really. Praise from my Dad was always hard to come by. He just seemed to assume that I would always succeed in anything I attempted. I had his confidence in my abilities and I just lived with this. If anything this left me with a trait of quiet diffidence in any personal successes for the rest of my life.

But I lived for motorcycling. When I wasn’t on the bike I was reading The Motorcycle, a weekly tabloid and the Motorcycle Sport and Motorcyclist Illustrated, both monthly magazines.

I progressed to a larger Honda twin, a CB360, and explored the north of England on it, especially the Yorkshire coast, the Dales and across the moors to the Lake District, always alone on these occasions, seeking out towns, villages, roads, lanes and landmarks that I had read about in mygrowing pile of topographical books. Ever the late starter, the world of books was finally opening up to me.

I did have a couple of motorcycling companions in those early motorcycling years. Speedway was a regular Saturday night ride out in the summer. We would ride to the Shay stadium in Halifax and race back home after watching Eric Boocock and his team of Dukes power-sliding at speed on their single cylinder JAPs and Jawas around the banked gravel track.

I only recall less than a handful of other shared rides in those teen years, to the Yorkshire seaside town of Bridlington, Windermere in the Lake District and the Forest of Bowland (pictured above) on the Yorks-Lancs border. Shared rides were not for me. I needed the geographical objectives that I sought out in books to give shape and purpose to a ride. I did not ride as a means to company and friendship. Iwas a loner.

© John Dunn.

Website design and CMS by WebGuild Media Ltd
This website ©2009-2021 John Dunn