Puch Maxi (1, 2 &3)

It is difficult to admit to having owned a Puch Maxi. It is three times more difficult to admit to having owned three. The only way a person could live with this admission is to say how completely fantastic and utterly great Puch Maxis are, in the belief that the reader will agree.

No, I can't believe that. I will have to admit the truth.

I wanted to become a monk in a little-known order that has an abbey on a small island off the Irish coast. Brother Dougal told me that as a sign of commitment, I would have to walk to Lourdes wearing sackcloth while whipping myself with branches taken from the last remaining Irish Bog Holly. The alternative was to ride around London each day for nine years on a Puch Maxi.

I chose the latter. This was fortunate, because it wasn't nearly so bad as Brother Dougal might have thought. After all, he did a daily round trip of 200 miles on one (including the ferry) to pick up the milk for the abbey. I only did fourteen miles, and there were no ferrys (apart from the one at Greenwich, and I never went near it).

The good thing about the succession of Puch Maxis was the fact that in nine years of travelling from Walthamstow to the Mile End Road, through some of the worst traffic in London, I never had an accident. Not even close. I think Brother Dougal may have been trying to make a subtle point about pride coming before a fall. On a Puch Maxi I had no pride. I never fell off.

The brakes are good. The bike is so light, and the centre of gravity is so low, I can drive on sheet ice without falling off. I had various sensible bikes at the same time as the Puch Maxis, but the sad truth was that they didn't get me to work faster, they cost more to run, and I drove too fast. During the depths of winter they were a liability. On the occasions when a Puch woudn't go (e.g. when someone slashed every cable because they couldn't cut through my Abus chain), I peddled.

The fun thing about a moped is the relaxation. There are no gears. There is no clutch. Toddling around Soho, or the maze of streets to the north of Oxford Street, was a pleasure. I could ride along a street at walking speed, browsing in shop windows, and nobody gave a damn. There is nothing like it for casual inner city exploration. The mechanical details are only slightly more complicated than a pushbike, and I never paid a penny for servicing or repairs.

I bought my last Puch Maxi new. It is a B reg. It cost 335. I still have it, and it still goes.

I never joined the obscure order of Irish monks. Brother Dougal became involved in some TV series, and Father Jack was very, very rude when I last visited. I know nine years is not a long time to weigh the future of one's soul, but I did have misgivings, and besides, I was knocked off my Honda 400. Even though I performed a perfect forward roll, and the bike was not damaged, it clearly counted as a Fall. It was a sign.

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Copyright Colin Low 1997