The Street Riding Years

ride-boySFunny, engaging, nostalgic, frank and written with a tremendous swagger… breathtakingly good at evoking time and place.

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Street Riding Years – The Mis ing Pictures:
1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989
London & Despatch

Set in the late 1970s and the following decade, The Street Riding Years is a motobiography and a ‘prequel’ to my better known Adventure Motorcycling Handbook.
It’s the story of my start on bikes and subsequent years as an urban motorcycle mercenary, a time when badly behaved messengers capitalised on London’s economic revival, when squatting was easy, and when Thatcherism polarised the nation.

By the end of the 1980s I’d had many more motorcycles than birthdays, riding everything from classic Brit twins and thundering Italian street racers, to demented dirt missiles and nitrox-injected dinosaurs.
My sensible overlanding guides advise how it should be done. The Street Riding Years is not that kind of book.


1 thought on “The Street Riding Years

  1. Chris S Post author

    Email from Keith in Glasgow:
    “I read your memoir, enjoyed esp. the early chapters about London dispatching in its heyday.
    I did a few months in 1978 with Addison Lee out of Great Newport Street on a CB250, which I ran into the ground. Daryl Foster- a non-rider- ran the business side for his old man- and look what happened to him:
    The most enigmatic rider at Addison was a Frenchman who had a rough RD350 on French plates. It was rumoured that he faced a choice of dispatch riding in London or the Foreign Legion, and he took the marginally easier option. But we never found out the truth as he spoke to no-one, But he was faster than anyone else on the circuit.
    I then went to Interlink Courier for 9 months in 1979 working out of Russell Gardens in W11. I used a brand new new 5 speed MZ that I bought out of a small shop in Stockwell near Pride and Clark’s- the same place where you stole the stickers in the book. The guy was called Barry Sandle- an ex-racer of some kind. Barry unwisely took the CB off me and rebuilt it for sale to some poor punter. Including a trip to Spain, I did close to 30,000 miles in those 9 months- with no rebuilds, no crashes, no traffic convictions, and no breakdowns. Someone up there must have been looking after me but at 22 I took it all for granted.
    Interlink was set up by ex-dispatchers from the Middlesex suburbs. I knew where things were headed when they plastered the office and their own vehicles with ‘vote Thatcher’ for the 1979 general election. I went back to them for a few months in 1982 to get enough money for a trip to America before starting a ‘real’ job, but it wasn’t the same. I remember my very last dispatch was to deliver an infeasibly large box of fresh salmon to somewhere in the city. The main guy at Interlink (name forgotten) built up the company through diversifying into vans and overnight trunking, won a business leadership award in the 1980s, and sold on the firm on for some millions. Interlink is now owned by La Poste- i.e. the French post office.
    I’m now an academic in Scotland and still have my original MZ. One day soon its pieces will be gathered off the garage shelves and, reassembled, it will ring- ding- ding again. Meanwhile I like to muse on my year of adrenalin fuelled exploitation that fed those incipient plutocrats.”

    kim hallaway
    March 4, 2015 at 8:43 pm
    Tells it how it was and I didn’t start until 1985. Dynamo pushbike couriers wanted novice motorcycle couriers lol but I soon moved on to Supa Fleet in Rufus St, and the axe in the Hackney Rd on pay day that ended my carrier as a DR. At cyc in 2013, having worked with a fair few different firms in my time.

    Roger Aston
    December 16, 2015 at 1:05 am
    If i remember right, interlink in Russell Gardens, was run by a dad and 2 brothers named Gabriel. Did a stint there in 1980 ish after mercury + express. I rem they lived in a country mansion.

    Howard Askew
    September 11, 2016 at 10:33 pm
    Hi Roger,
    I worked at Express Despatch, Delta, Addison Lee and West One.
    I was fairly well known as a nutcase.
    I survived.
    Would love to hear from anyone who remembers me 1978-1985.
    I am on Facebook under my name.
    Howard Askew

    must have been very late 80s 0r even poss 90s if it was 081 and 071 early to mid 80s was still 01 was it not (sally motorbike courier on and off 1982 -1997)……in many ways best years of my life

    A great book, really captured era. I was a founding member of the DIWU and worked the City circuit until I got blacklisted.

    Z. White
    September 23, 2016 at 11:38 am
    I was a Master of Arts student in London in the early 1980s and supported my studies by despatch riding on a Suziki GT 250.X7. I lived in Islington and despatched for an Islington based rider company that advertised themselves as an anti – sexist despatch company – I cant remember their name but I think there was only 2 young women, myself and one other on their books as riders. Most of the jobs as I recall were graphic design parcels for the record companies in Soho and blood delivery to hospitals..
    78-85 – the great years. Fwiw, I hear there is a Courier Day at the Ace Cafe London on Oct 30.

    Tim Shaw
    February 10, 2017 at 9:51 am
    Great book Chris it brought back some long forgotten memories of dispatching for the Arab bank from 82/84, how I survived I’ll never know.

    Liked by 1 person


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