Whilst sorting through some old files the other day I came across a couple of old pics which I thought I’d share with you. Let’s start with the fresh faced young man above showing off his newly acquired Cagiva 500 Baja. That’s me back in the 1980s on Southport sands. I’d bought the bike on a whim from Cliff Barton motorcycles in Eccles who was selling them off cheap. A job lot of five had been brought into the UK as part of an unsold consignment of bikes from the USA. The Cag 500 came in a crate as a turnkey desert racer complete with an optional long range tank and a wide ratio ‘box. Quite what I was thinking when I handed over my money to buy this thing I don’t know. Buying the Cagiva doesn’t rank of one of the most rational buying decisions I’ve ever made. It was a malevolent two stroke brute built for the wide open desert races popular in the US at that time and could nudge 100mph if you were brave enough. It was a bike with no purpose or business being in the UK. But that didn’t matter to me, I just liked the look of the thing and, having assembled it, I wanted to ride it.
The nearest thing to a desert in the north west of England is Southport sands, a bleak, desolate expanse of hard packed sandy coastline famous because at low tide you can’t actually see the sea from the shore. In this day and age anybody new to motorcycling in the UK would probably find it incredible [and irresponsible] that somebody could just rock up at a public beach unload a full fat , open class motocrosser and max it just to see how fast it would go. But this was back in the 1980s when things were a bit different and that’s exactly what I intended to do.
What is incredible is whilst we were unloading the bike at 6am on a misty autumn morning two young cops came over and asked me what I was doing. In all innocence I told them I’d just bought the bike and wanted to test it. As I write this I find my self breaking into a broad grin because I clearly remember one of the constables saying, “Well if you’re going to be riding it fast make sure you keep to the south side of the pier”
My pal Dominic who was a frequent co-conspirator in these enterprises, heard this and chuckling under his breath said, “You’d better make sure you give this bike a very thorough test ride because you’ve just been ordered to do so by a police officer.”
Spurred on by Dominic and buoyed by what I interpreted as words of encouragement from the police officer [who had by now driven off in his panda car], I cracked the bike up, rode it briskly down the promenade past the handful of locals walking dogs or buying Sunday papers, calmly turned the bike around and rode at full chat back down the prom launching it straight off the seawall onto the beach before heading left under the pier and southwards across the sands [as instructed] in the general direction of Liverpool . Skimming flat out across scattering flocks of waders was an exhilarating albeit completely irresponsible thing to do. However, in my defence ,I’d been ordered to do so by a police officer. Things were definitely very different back then.