It was the start of the 70s, I was an engineering apprentice with a very limited income. I had had a variety of old British learner bikes since 1968 but the main thing I was learning was how to fix them so that I could get to work and back the next day.
I needed something to take my test on that would be guaranteed to start. My friend Fat Barry Warrener had joined the dark side and bought a new red CD175 Honda. They will never catch on, these Jap whizz bangs, but I thought why not do the same, pass my test and then get a decent British bike?
So I bought myself a CB175, it was a revelation. It would start on the button, cruise at 70 miles an hour whilst doing 70mpg, it never used or leaked any oil and other than a service interval of 1500 miles, never needed any other attention. But it was a Honda.
Niece and Teddy ... and Honda CB175
I used it to go to work and back, to race out to the Tomato Dip Cafe to go to the Denholme and District Club every week and even managed to do some rallies on it, I went up to the Reivers, and down to the Muffin the Mule. It was great fun but it was still a Honda!
As soon as I had passed my test I managed to scrape together a few hundred quid. I rode across to Whittaker's bike shop in Blackpool to buy half a Vincent (a Comet). He showed me two well used examples that he had in stock. I wasn't too impressed but decided I would go for it if he would offer a reasonable price trade in for my little Honda. When the salesman came out he looked around for my bike and almost spat on the floor before he said they weren't interested in my Honda. He turned on his heel and left me standing in the car park.
On my way home to Bradford, somewhat disillusioned by my lack of success, going through Preston I heard the unmistakeable sound of a Rocket Three race bike being warmed up. I followed the sound down a side street off the A6. It was coming from Bill Head's Honda dealership. Of course I went to have a look and it was their racer, the mechanics were trying it out, riding it round the block. I was well impressed.
I told the lads there about my experience at Blackpool and they said I should have a look upstairs. 'There are some good bikes and you will get a good trade-in here'. Upstairs was a showroom with a row of the newly introduced 500 four Hondas. They were out of my price range, or so I thought. It turned out that they were a fleet of bikes they had supplied for the marshals at that year's Milk Race, hence the white paint job. Now they were for sale, low mileage with a good discount. Before I knew it I had bought one!
When I said what I had done at our next club meeting, my workmate Bill Stephenson said 'That's a shame'. He knew I was looking for a bigger bike and had intended offering me a swap - my Honda for his ride-to-work bike - a 650cc T120R Bonneville which Tony Jefferies had raced at the Production TT when it was new, all complete with Thruxton pipes etc. But I had done the deal and it was the start of my serious rallying career and I doubt that would have happened on a semi-race Bonny, or a 500cc Vincent come to that!
- Ted Trett