AS a man who has ridden the length and breadth of the country on fast and sporty motorbikes of all kinds, I never thought I would struggle to master a quad.

Sit me astride a Matchless, Triumph Thunderbird or a BSA Golden Flash, and I would blast off to anywhere on the map without a second thought.

Indeed, when I was 19, I decided I was fed up with my BSA 650, and on seeing a 650 Matchless advertised in the trade press, I decided there and then that was the bike for me.

It mattered not that it was 200 miles away in a dealership in London.

I persuaded my dad to hop on the pillion for a quick trip to The Smoke.

He had to come with me to sign the HP agreement as guarantor.

We got to the dealership in Golders Green about lunchtime – only to find that the bike I was after had been sold the day before.

I perhaps should have checked before setting off!

However, there were plenty more to choose from, all burly beauties from British manufacturers now sadly disappeared from the face of the planet.

I remember there were two scramble bikes on display, one made by the Salford manufacturer Dot and the other by the Cotton concern from Gloucester.

I still wonder whether some young scriptwriter seeking inspiration for the name of a character in a dreary and doomladen soap opera may have wandered into the same showroom and put two bike names together for future use.

I finally opted for a three year AJS 31 CSR, a purple tanked monster with clip-on handlebars and rear set footrests, put the BSA in as part exchange, and headed back north, retching most of the way having sampled London cuisine – skate and chips.

If you haven’t tried skate, don’t – it’s like eating Lego.

The bike was a brute, with so much power that I almost tipped my dad off the back a couple of times as the front wheel pawed the air after a swift blip of the throttle as we breezed up the M6. He was used to more sedate machines.

He used to ride around on a bike on which you changed gear by way of a hand-operated gear lever attached to the petrol tank.

My legs still bear the silvery scars of many motorbike accidents, one of which resulted in a blue light ambulance trip to hospital for stitches in my big toe.

Despite these frequent bumps, I remained a biker at heart, and it was only when the family started expanding that I reluctantly accepted that I had better learn to drive a car to take some of the load off Mrs Hextol.

But I never lost the hankering for the feel of the wind in your face and the exhilaration of sweeping along an open road provided by a big bike.

I finally got the opportunity to sit on a mode of transport rather than in it when I was asked to take water to a field full of mares and foals at my place of work.

The water came in a drum which was much too heavy to carry, so I was told – take the quad.

I had seen young girls and old ladies trundling round the farm riding side saddle on the quad, and had almost fallen off at high speed when travelling as a passenger whilst rounding up stray horses.

Although I had never ridden it solo, I thought it would be a piece of cake given the many hours I had logged on two wheels.

I gave the twist grip an experimental twirl – and nothing happened.

It remained firmly attached to the handlebars.

It was only then I was told that the throttle was operated by the thumb on the right hand being deployed on a lever.

I leapt along the lane like Skippy the Bush Kangaroo on a pogo stick, and belatedly discovered that gears have changed over the years too.

I was used to one up, three down – but this was four up, creating even more spectacularly erratic progress.

I eventually bounced to my destination, and unloaded the water for the curious cayuses.

Then I realised I had no idea how to engage reverse to turn the thing round.

It took many minutes of juggling it backwards and forwards before I managed to point myself in the direction from which I had come.

I returned to base crimson with embarrassment.