License Test

Motorcycle License Test On A Bridgestone 90

It was the Summer of 1967, July I believe. I was a whopping 14 years old and needed to get my Texas 5 BHP (Brake Horse Power) motorcycle license. I needed the license because I was starting 9th grade at Irving High School in August and I didn't want to ride the 'yellow bus'. Back in 1967, taking the 2.2 mile bus ride to school was considered very uncool. Being dropped off and picked up by mom in the family grocery getter was even uncooler. Walking to and from school was only for nerds that otherwise got harassed off the bus. I didn't even think about riding my bicycle to high school. No way, no how!

It was becoming obvious to me by the Summer of '67 that my only option for being considered one of the cool guys on campus was to ride a motorcycle. Driving a car legally was out of the question until my junior year because a teen couldn't get a motor vehicle operators license until 16, and that was only after attending a 6 week after school $35 Drivers Ed program. However, I could get a motorcycle license at 14 without Drivers Ed. Granted it had a 5 BHP restriction but it was better than riding the bus.

My best friend Terry Moore and I met in 8th grade at Bowie Jr. High School wood shop class and we really hit it off together. I didn't have a motorcycle yet but I learned how to ride a 'motorcycle' on Terry's red and cream colored 1963 Sears Allstate moped. The moped had a 2 speed transmission that was selected by pulling in the left hand clutch lever and twisting the left hand grip. I later learned that the shifting of the Allstate moped's gears was similar to that of a Vespa. That moped was notoriously undependable. Terry's dad rescued it from the heap a few weeks prior. It had a connecting rod that somehow got bent into the shape of a question mark"?". Terry's dad fired up his acetylene torch, got the bent rod cherry red hot and slowly straightened out that curled connecting rod. He did this without removing the engine from the frame, splitting the crankcases or even draining the gas tank. This was redneck motorcycle maintenance at its very best! All he did was stuff a water soaked rag around the base of the rod. The repair took only about 30 minutes or so. Something odd then happened to the engine, I believe the rod was lengthened a bit because the engine had a LOT of compression afterwards. So much compression in fact that the spark plug began popping out of the cylinder head whenever the engine was fully revved out. Naturally the engine didn't get many high revs after the first incident. Whenever the spark plug did get launched, it never hit the pavement. It always stayed tethered to the plug wire and would arc up and bang into the bottom of the moped gas tank. The spark plug always had to be regapped after it's flying trapeze act. What's a feeler gauge? Us expert teenage mechanics always eyeballed the regap. We also never left Terry's driveway without a ratchet and 13/16" socket in our pockets.

Terry quickly outgrew the moped and a few months later his dad brought home a black 1964 Yamaha 125 YA6 Santa Barbra. What a drastic change, and for the better! Compared to that wimpy Allstate moped, the YA6 was a screaming sport bike! Terry now had a real motorcycle and I still rode my bicycle.

I also needed a motorcycle license because both me and Terry had recently become 14 year old teenage businessmen. Yes, we were real somebody's! We had afternoon Dallas Times Herald paper routes. Terry averaged about 129 customers and I averaged about 96 customers. Huffing around on a bicycle and delivering papers was becoming a real drag for us, especially when riding (and occasionally peddling) the moped was so quick and easy. Everything was relative from the perspective of a bicycle. Delivering papers on Terry's hot dog YA6 made quick work of both of our paper routes. After delivering papers on a motorcycle, riding our bicycles became instantly obsolete. I was raised pretty much by my grandparents. My grandpa didn't know I was riding Terry's moped OR Yamaha and told me sternly many times that I needed a license before even thinking about riding a motorcycle on the street. Oops!

Terry's dad soon put him on notice that he needed to get a motorcycle license if he was to continue delivering papers on his motorcycle. Me and Terry then decided to get our motorcycle license's together. After all, we mailed in our application for our social security cards together in the same envelope and received back sequential SSN numbers. Small problem though, Terry's Yamaha 125 YA6 developed considerably more than 5 BHP and the cops wouldn't allow a 5 BHP license applicant to test on such a 'big motorcycle'. We collectively weren't smart enough at the time to simply buy some 'Yamaha 80' side cover badges from the local Yamaha dealership and stick them over the 125 badges. We simply needed a smaller motorcycle for the riding test. Perhaps a rental?

I let my fingers do the walking in the Irving, Texas Yellow Pages and found a motorcycle rental shop a few miles from our houses. The shop was named Sport Cycles and was located in a small turquoise tin building on Hwy 183 in mid Irving, TX. I dialed them up and they had just what we needed, a 90cc motorcycle for rent and it met the 5 BHP rule. The motorcycle rented for a ghastly $7 per hour! After we recovered from the rental rate shock, Terry and I figured we needed the rental for about 2 hours to take both riding tests. That week we raided our pantries and sold empty 3 cent coke bottles back to our neighborhood 7-11 Convenience Store and 'collected' from a few of our paper customers and came up with the needed $14 by the following week.

One week day, about mid-day, we rode two up on Terry's Yamaha 125 to Sport Cycles to check out the rental. As we rode up, we saw about 20-25 brand new shiny motorcycles lined up outside the tin building and along the Hwy 183 frontage road. They were very impressive looking, however me nor Terry had ever seen the brand name before. They were all Bridgestones! We were expecting Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki or Suzuki rentals. What's a Bridgestone? Terry parked his Yamaha as I walked over and looked the Bridgestones over. The owner came out of the office and I told him that I called last week about a 90cc rental to take a license test on. He remembered me and lead me to the end of the row and pointed out a 90cc bike. It was a Bridgestone 90 Standard with a low pipe. The owner let me start the Bridgestone and get a feel for the bike. I instantly liked the bike. It was explained to me that it had a 4 speed rotary shift transmission. It was my first introduction to such a sophisticated machine. After a few laps around the lot I got the hang of the shift pattern.

The owner said we needed to prepay for the expected 2 hour rental and leave our drivers license with him. Huh? "But we don't have our license yet" we explained, "that's where we're headed". The owner then told Terry to pay up and also give him the key to his Yamaha as security. By leaving his key, Terry officially rented the Bridgestone. Oh, the times were so much simpler back then. Terry drove and I rode bitch on the Bridgestone 90, heading for the Irving Drivers License Bureau.

Our driving test's were almost uneventful. The Irving cop followed Terry as he rode the Bridgestone and I rode shotgun in the cruiser. After a few blocks of observation the cop had seen enough and hit his lights to signal Terry to stop. The cop told Terry that he had passed and it was my turn to ride the Bridgestone back to the License Bureau. This is when things got hairy. I mounted the Bridgestone and the events went downhill from there. Terry had had the benefit of riding and shifting the Bridgestone the 5-6 miles to the License Bureau. That was exactly 5-6 more miles of experience than I had. First, I was nervous just having a cop following me. Second, I wasn't as familiar with the 4 down rotary shift pattern as I thought I was. I kept going from 1 down (1st gear) to neutral? to 3 up (4th gear, 3rd gear, 2nd gear) just like the Yamaha shift pattern. By the second stop sign I was so confused, frustrated and screwed up on the Bridgestone's' shifting pattern that when I finally found 2nd gear, I stayed in 2nd for the duration of the test. Needless to say, the cop had to lay way back behind me to keep from choking on all of the blue smoke that a Bridgestone 90 produces at 30 mph and screaming along in 2nd gear! Terry and I both passed our motorcycle driving tests! I drove us back to Sport Cycles. We had about a

half hour left on the rental. We both handed over our temporary paper license's to the owner, Terry got his key back and we went riding around Irving for about another hour. It was a great ride, our first ever buddy ride as 14 year old licensed motorcycle riders, Terry on his Yamaha YA6 and me on a Bridgestone 90! I remember we got back late because the owner was really pissed off when we returned. We never went back.

I went home and handed my grandpa my paper motorcycle license. He was totally surprised and impressed that I had gotten my motorcycle license on my own, without any adult help or me having never been ON a motorcycle before ..... snicker, snicker. My grandpa was a real street smart guy and I believe he could see right through me regarding my no motorcycle riding experience claim, but he never asked and I never told. Within a week we went to Martin's Cycle Honda Dealership and picked out a mechanically challenged but otherwise mint black 1965 Honda S65. It was a trade in on a bigger bike. It had low compression, a burnt exhaust valve. We negotiated with the salesman and I bought the bike for $75 of which my grandpa loaned me. About $10 lighter and 2 weeks later I had the Honda running and oh what freedom I had riding my new motorcycle, and just in time for high school. I rode my Honda S65 all the way through high school until 1971. I finally took Drivers Ed at 17 1/2 to get my automobile operators license (and to help me score with the chicks). I soon wore out that little 63cc engine and modified the frame to accept an early Honda S90 OHC engine with a sidewinder intake manifold. I had built a Honda S65 on steroids, and I did all of this at 16 years old! Those were definitely my mechanical Wonder Years. I'm now a career aviation maintenance technician and I give full credit to my tinkering on the little Honda.

Fast forward four decades of motorcycle riding. I'm now in my mid 50's and you can see this old grey beard almost daily riding his Shadow or Gold Wing. However, Bridgestone's have always held a soft spot in my heart because I can look at the "M" endorsement on my Texas drivers license and remember when I got it and what I was riding, my first sweet ride on a Bridgestone 90, rotary shift pattern not withstanding. I currently have 37 60's era motorcycles in my motorcycle collection. I have a Bridgestone 175, 200 and a GTR and I am still looking for a nice Bridgestone 90 Standard. My Bridgestone's are the centerpiece of my bike collection.

Charlie Smith

Dallas, Texas