Check out the Super Sixteener display at Race, Rock ‘n’ Ride 2017
On 15th December 1971, the UK’s transport minister, John Peyton decreed that everyone that turned 16 in 1972 and thereafter, would not be able to ride ‘motorcycles’ like their predecessors had, but should ride only mopeds until they were (at least) 17.
The government of the day reckoning the legislation that required a moped to have pedals would mean that the machine would be little more than a bicycle with an engine bolted on (like the Raleigh Runabouts and Mobylettes of the day) – possibly assuming year longer.
But how very wrong they were. The manufacturers simply added (all but useless) pedals to their existing ranges and the end result was a breed of nifty fifties that not only quickly gained cult status, but became cool rides in their own right. It is possibly the only legislation that has resulted in more motorcycles being on the road – as sixteen year olds the length and breadth of Britain bought them in their thousands.
The most popular of these machines was, and still is, the Yamaha FS1E, which proved to be the best seller by a good margin. Suzuki and Honda joined in with the A50P and SS respectively and the Italians like Garelli and Fantic created some wonderfully quick 50cc machines – including Fantic’s mighty (and expensive) Chopper bike.
During the late 70s the UK Government caught up – and all mopeds lost their pedals and were castrated too, with top speeds limited to just 30mph. As the 1980s moved on, automatic/twist & go scooters grew ever more popular, and the day of the geared fifty virtually ended. Many bikers cut their teeth on these wonderful little machines before moving on to their larger brethren – and most still look at them with great, nostalgic fondness – reminding them of a time of freedom, a time of no mortgage, bills or responsibilities, just the open road – in a cloud of blue two-stroke smoke.
It is a known fact that had James Dean or Steve McQueen grown up on a UK council estate in the 70s, they both would have ridden Super Sixteeners (more than likely Fizzies) – they really were THAT cool.