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Book Review

by Mark Daniels

Funky Mopeds - book cover

Funky Mopeds by Richard Skelton, Veloce Pulishing
8" × 10", 142pp
ISBN 1-84584-078-X, £14.99

If you were born between 14th December 1955 and 31st July 1961, and rode a bike in your teens, then you'll probably have been part of the brief era of this book.  Funky Mopeds is the whole ethos about a few brief yet legendary years in the motor cycling chronology.  Up to 14th December 1971, a 16 year old could ride a motor cycle on L-plates up to 250cc solo, or unlimited capacity with a sidecar, but the next day changed that forever as introduction of the notorious 'sixteener law' limited the licence to a moped for a year.  As it turned out, this was the formula to create a legend: The Sports Moped!

Even older motor cyclists like myself, unaffected by this law change could hardly miss the emergence of this new breed of furious buzzing mosquito 'tuck shop racers'.  Friends of my younger brother, all falling within the new law, bought many machines of the era covered by Funky Mopeds: the famous Yamaha FS1E, banshee Fantic TIs and Cabalerros, the howling Garelli Record, and extreme twin-exhaust Malaguti Olympique.  They're all there, and more, since the book very well covers pretty much every early sports moped make and model up to and including the early sports 'slo-peds' from the law revision of August 1st 1977.

Sports mopeds and mofas (kickstart 50s) had become much more popular across the continent long before the sixteener law popularised them in this country, and though some small numbers found their way to Britain, like Mobylette's S50 and Sport Spéciale models from the early 60s, and the Solifer Speed from the late 60s.  Even a couple of British manufacturers had an exploratory dabble at sports mopeds themselves: Ambassador's brief Villiers 3K moped in 1962, and Raleigh with the RM12 Super 50 and sports RM11 Super Tourist models in 1966/67, but they made little impact on the established 'big bike' culture of the UK.

The time was not right, until the morning of 15th December 1971, when sixteenies woke to find they could no longer ride up to 250cc solo on Ls, unlimited capacity with a sidecar, or even drive a car.  Now they were trapped for a year with a licence that only covered the use of a moped.  The forgotten and humble commuter moped was set for an unparalleled evolution!

Funky Mopeds very effectively covers the makes, models, and captures the spirit of the six year heyday of the sports mopeds.  The well structured text works through the legislative chronology, a selection of reminiscences from riders of the day and their machines - then catches up with these same enthusiasts restoring their memories thirty years down the line.

Another chapter is deservedly devoted to the iconic Yamaha FS1E, right into its last restricted models, and neatly leads into the next chapter of general Slo-peds.  There's a pretty comprehensive A - Z covering details of all the 70s UK sports mopeds, and concludes with period impressions of teen hero motor cycle racer Barry Sheene, then closes with a time-capsule list of the chart toppers of the decade!

Well researched, Funky Mopeds by Richard Skelton is well structured and a brilliant read from cover to cover.  There's great colour pics, lots of interest and stacks of technical detail, so many readers will probably find themselves skimming back to reference it time and again.  It seems like the publication has come along with perfect timing to ride the wave of the sports moped revival movement, serving as a guiding light of inspiration and curiosity with appeal to any motor cyclist today or riders of the time.  It works so well since the subject matter is so fresh and different from the usual publications dishing out the usual stodgey servings from the same old 'big bike' menu.  Funky Mopeds captures the moment - Iconic.  £14.99... worth every penny, great book!

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