Happy 50th Birthday FS1-E

By John Flynn

Source material on history of FS1-E  VJMC editor, Steve Cooper 

First on sale in the UK in 1973, at a princely sum of £200. British "baby boomers"  bought these bikes in large numbers. In fact 200,000 were purchased, often with the help of mum and dad, hire purchase agreements, the savings acquired through a milk round or a combination of all three. These kids had been brought up on 'Suzuki' Quatro, Slade and  Raleigh Choppers,  once they'd witnessed the speed and heard the noise of a "Fizzy SportsPed" they were hooked. 

These adopters to the FS1-E are now accessing their pension pots, and there is a heavy price for nostalgia. A "Fizzy" in excellent condition could be up to £10,000 today as there seems to be an endless supply of old guys wanting to re-live their youth, but a dwindling supply of bikes.

There is a very active owners club, formed in 2009 by "Fizzy" enthusiast and collector Per Brandt.  It now has 600 members, mainly in the UK. Their motto is "ride them, don't hide them". They even offer a service of re-uniting past owners to their machine if it is still running today.

Spotted at Ryka's biker café by Jason Smith.

 Why was this bike such an instant success? 

Steve Cooper of the VJMC writes, "The FS1-E, as the UK knows the bike, arrived on these shores as a direct response to the so-called “moped laws”. Until the 14th December 1971 a 16 year old could ride a motorcycle on L-plates up to 250cc solo or unlimited capacity with a sidecar. From the very next day everything changed, and novice motorcyclists were limited to 50cc until their seventeenth birthday. 

The concept was a sound one. Allowing a sixteen year old on the public highway with no training and a Japanese 250 capable of 90mph was, realistically, an open invitation to serious injury or death. The government of the day had bought into the concept of youngsters acquiring road skills on bikes such as the  NSU Quickly which was produced until 1968, this German 49cc was capable of just 25mph. Austrian Puch Maxis (2hp machine capable of 30mph). There were others too, such as Moblyettes, Raleigh Runabouts and the like".

Michael Brooking with his Fizzy and Bay City Rollers scarf

He added, "No one had the foresight to believe foreign manufacturers would gear up to make special models for the UK. Puch were hot out of the blocks selling sporty versions of the MS50 in the guise of M50. Yamaha just happened to have a 50cc motorcycle that was begging to be adapted for the UK laws. Mitsui Machinery launched the Yamaha FS1-E and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Yamaha’s take on the moped law was, simplistic, simply add a pedal system in place of footrests to a 50cc motorcycle and thus comply with the law’s definition of a moped. Without going into the legalisation of the technical requirement for a moped the machine had to be capable of being propelled by human pedal power, as well as or in addition to, the vehicle’s own engine".

Ian Leese loved his 1976 bike (pic 1980)

So the government of the day was outsmarted? Steve went further still, "Absolutely, no one had thought to add a clause that said the pedals were to be in operational mode at all times and this was where the Japanese engineers were very clever. By virtue of a simple lever and clutch system one pedal can be rotated through 180 degrees and locked to mirror its opposite number. A simple and elegant low cost solution to fulfilling a niche market. Those teenagers whose aspirations had been thwarted by the new law ploughed either their pubescent savings, their parent’s hard earned cash or signed the HP form in their droves. Pretty soon the little Fizzer was top dog and the machine to have for youngsters with racing aspirations. Other machines came and went, some challenged the FS1-E for its top spot in the sales chart, but inevitably they failed by and large. Having something the public want and being first to the market place has major advantages. Amongst the rivals were European machines like Garelli, Casal, Fantic, Mallagutti, Puch, Gitane, KTM, Montesa etc; some were good, many were average and a few were dire but every manufacturer was after a slice of the Fizzy’s pie".

Anyone who knows me would tell you I was very late into motorcycling, but it has to be said the first motorbike I ever swung my leg over was as a 15 year old on my mate Steve's FS1-E. I make no apologies now for dropping the term "moped", This was and still remains a motorbike with a perky 2 stroke engine. 

Steve had bought the bike a couple of months before his 16th birthday, for just £184 from Anelay's a dealer in Blackburn. He paid for it using cash earned from doing a milk round.

 Once home of course he couldn't resist sneaking out on it before he was legally old enough, fortunately without incident. He kept the bike for 14 months and after a Montessa Cota trials bike, came a Suzuki Hustler 250cc,  which he passed his test on.

Steve Reed of Nelson Lancashire (1976)

I was hoping to find plenty of genuine 70's instamatic photos, but they are few and far between...... Photography was expensive back then and I guess a camera had to be borrowed from a parent. The results were generally terrible as the cameras had rudimentary fixed focussing and one pretty slow shutter speed..... There is a real dearth of these photos, if they haven't been lost or thrown away, they are probably stuck up in lofts never having been seen in years. I sifted through scores of photos from social media, but most for obvious reasons were up to date pics taken using a mobile phone. Eventually though I came across this beauty. I was delighted. It is an expression of sheer joy. I just had to get the back story to this amazing photo and speak to the rider.

searching for that perfect pic!

Chris Willis grew up by Epping Forest, which is an ancient forest to the north of London.  There he had access to 50 acres that was privately owned. At just 13, his father asked him, "Would you like a motorbike for the forest"? Just one week later, he had managed to purchase  a Kerry Capitano moped in exchange for eight bags of logs! His riding obsession had started. Chris was in the Forest at every available opportunity, his friends now started to buy mopeds, scooters, and anything they can get their hands on to join in the fun over the woods,  "Looking  back at this, it gave us great practice for those days ahead on the road" he told me. 

Yours for 8 bags of logs. Chris' on his first bike the Kerry Capitano proving every bike can be an adventure bike!

Chris goes on to explain, "This carried on and by the age of 15 I owned a BSA Bantam which had a bit more power for me. I was buying motorcycle News every week and going to motorcycle shows, scramble meetings, trials events, and road races. Basically wherever I had the opportunity to watch motorcycles being raced I'd be there. Unfortunately  I didn't  have the money to do scrambling myself, but nevertheless we had great fun in our teenage years in the woods".

Chris' inspiration at the time were Kenny, Roberts, Barry, Sheene, Eddie, Kidd and Evel Knievel. I think it shows!

He went on to explain, "As I approached 16, I was on the lookout for a moped to get me to and from work. Looking around at what other people had, I decided that I would go for the Yamaha Fizzy DX version. Within a week a friend of mine told me of one privately owned locally for sale". It was a youngster that had gone into the army and leaving a one year old bike at home with only 1000 miles on the clock. The asking price was £215 and Chris recalls they would not budge on the price. Chris' father bought it for him despite it being a lot of money back then. but his dad knew he had a job coming up being an electrical apprentice. and needed to get to, and from work.

A young Chris Willis in Epping Forest

"Best fun I ever had was on my fizzy" - Steve Troke  London

"Managed 58 mph leaning over the tank"!  - Roy Brown now in Tasmania 

"Looking back, riding these bikes gave us great practice for the days ahead on the road" - Chris Willis - Essex

"The Fizzy gave me the freedom to explore and make new friends" Gary Smart - Byfleet

"The hair and flared trousers cost me 5mph"! John Screech UK

I'm hoping to fill this gallery with these fabulous photos from a bygone era. I think they are priceless. I'll be adding more photos as I find them. Or please email yours to howlbikers@gmail.com

Huge thanks to Steve and Chris for sharing their memories. howlbikers@gmail.com