Honda SL 70 – a story

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My brother David in 1974 jumping the SL 70 off a bank on an unnamed junior high school campus

Update: This story has been updated to reflect the facts. Check the comments for details. :end:

A while back Mitch Boehm of Moto Retro contacted me about some old SL 70 stories. I don’t know if he used any of them or not as I haven’t gotten around to subscribing yet. But here’s one I didn’t send him.

After I “outgrew” my SL 70 I sold it to my younger brother. The top photo on the left is my brother jumping the SL 70 off a hill on some unnamed junior high campus. We were such scofflaws.

Anyway, back in the early ’70s there was a big vacant lot, probably a couple of acres, right off of 5th street and Palmer, just behind the Tyler Junior College campus.  TJC has a big football practice field there now, but back in the day it was just a wooded lot with a creek running through the back.

We made some trails through the lot and, eventually, turned it into an impromptu MX track that we used to ride for hours. It was fun and I did many, many laps there thinking one day I would be Marty Smith. Anyway, after I sold the SL 70 to my brother I traded up to a used 1973 Honda CR125 Elsinore and we’d both go riding there — middle photo on the right  is me riding the 125 on that  lot. That old Elsie was really loud. Looking back it’s amazing we never had any trouble with the police there — at least none that I recall. Must have been some really tolerant neighbors.

Me in 1974 riding the Elsie 125 in the neighborhood sandlot track.

One of the problems with open trail riding is there aren’t any rules about which direction to go. We had a more-or-less established direction for the track, but on any given day someone might decide to ride it backwards for a change. On this particular day my brother and I were riding the track. I’m not clear on the exact sequence of events, but I think I had stopped for a breather and David was still riding. Off at the other end of the lot I heard another bike, but couldn’t see who it was.

I could tell they were headed up to the front of the lot, in the opposite direction we normally rode. I couldn’t do anything. I figured whoever it was would see the dust trail, or hear the other bike, or — at least — David would see the other rider and act appropriately. But no.

None of those things happened. Instead, David collided head-on with Brent Berryman Stratton Weems, another local kid who rode a Yamaha YZ 80. I remember a thud, and a “r-i-i-i-i-i-I-I-I-I-I-N-N-N-N-N-N-N-G-G-G-G-G!!!!!” as both of them fell off. I went running up to find my brother down on the ground holding his shoulder with a big lump on top — a sure sign of a broken collarbone.

Brent Berryman in 1974 riding my SL 70 on the sandlot MX track

I can’t remember what happened to Brent Stratton. Seems like he was OK. I was kind of panicked that I was going to have to get my brother home and then get an a$$-chewing for letting him get hurt. I think there was a bunch of twisting front wheels between our knees to try and straighten the forks. Then, according to my brother, I went to a nearby house and got a friend’s Mom to drive us to the hospital.

I vaguely remember the neighbor, but I  really don’t remember that part very clearly. I just remember the head-on crash. The only picture I have of Brent is this one, where he’s riding the SL 70 on the sandlot track back in ’74. And I don’t know if this was before or after the crash. Probably before.

Good times, for sure, despite the occasional trip to the emergency room. No one had to get pins, rods, or screws in their bones, at least not most of the time. I have another story about my own little faux paus riding the Elsie across town, but that’s for another day…

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Comments

  1. I remember that track. It, along with the resevoir, dogwood hollow and lake shangri-la, are all neighborhoods now.

  2. I remember that day pretty well. It wasn’t Brent Berryman though. I think the other guy’s name was Stratton Weems (I’m not sure if that’s spelled correctly). Anyway, he had some cuts on his knee and some bent forks on his bike, but he was able to ride his bike home. As I recall, Terry had a friend that lived nearby, and her mom took us to the hospital and stayed until our parents arrived. I had to wear a brace while my collar bone healed, but I suppose it could have been a lot worse. Other than that day, that SL70 provided a lot of good memories for me.

    • Wow. Stratton Weems. I had forgotten. Do you remember what he was riding? Now that you mention it, I think it was Margaret Snyder who took us to the hospital.

      • Yep, it was me! I was riding my 1974 Suzuki RM100. I am pretty sure it happened in the summer of 1975 and was on the southern end of our little track. I came out of the ordeal with a cut and bruised left knee, a set of twisted forks and bent handle bars. If my memory serves me correctly, it was David’s left collarbone that got customized in the crash. Wish I had a dollar for all the hours I spent riding at that little track. Thanks for stirring up some memories! Regards – Stratton

        • Hey man, how the heck are you? How did you find this? Those were good times, huh? Let me know what you’re up to these days. BTW, do you know what ever happened to Mike Lowery. Wonder if he still has that Yamaha MotoBike? 😉

          • Hey Terry! I’m still in Tyler and doing well (all things considered). I stumbled across your web site one day at lunch while looking at vintage motocross bikes. You mentioned Mike Lowrey! He lives up in the panhandle area in Pampa, TX. Anyway, when I found your site I forwarded the link to Mike and he is the one who found this particular article and brought it to my attention. His Yamaha Moto-Bike bicycle is long gone, buy I think I have a photo of it somewhere. I’ll try to dig up some of my old dirt bike photos and send them to you. I have some cool old photos of racing at Swan MX Park from mid 70s. Look for an email in the not too distant future. Take care – Stratton

  3. I don’t remember what type of bike he was riding. I was doing well to remember his name.

  4. I got a new, blue sl70 in 1972 when I was 12. It was so cool- we lived in Baltimore County, Maryland, and we had a million places to ride. I had a friend with a Yamaha mini enduro, and another friend with a yellow sl70. About a year into owning my sl70 and learning to work on it, I removed the bolt on the left side of the cylinder, examined it and put it back in. What I didn’t know was that this was the cam chain guide wheel and removing the bolt let it fall off inside. Well as soon as I started it, the cam chain jumped teeth due to being loose, and the valve hit the piston and locked up. What a mistake! Because of things like that though, I have a great amount of mechanical know- how- learned the hard way, but best way.

    • Funny story. I have a lot of know-how earned that same way. In my old age I have discovered that such incidents are merely “test results”, not failures.