A FORMER rocker now in his 60s was reunited with the beloved motorbike he sold as a teenager after nearly half a century.

Paul Hayes, of North Leigh, near Witney, managed to track down the vehicle that was the centre of his world in the swinging sixties.

The AJS model 31 had been on an impressive journey during its time away from Mr Hayes, belonging to a string of different people – including the Earl of Cardigan.

It had even, during the course of its travels, been re-registered – making the fact that it was found by Mr Hayes nearly 50 years later all the more astonishing.

The journey began in the 1960s when Mr Hayes first purchased the bike, which was made in 1959. It served not only as his transport, but as his way of life.

The 66-year-old, who lived in Hardwick at the time, said: “Back in those days there were certain things you could do when you left school.

“We used to ride motorbikes, listen to rock music, hang around in cafes and go to picture house. We were just going around and enjoying ourselves. It was brilliant.

“Without my motorbike I couldn’t do anything. I would use it for work and I used to pick my girlfriend up from school. Later on that girl became my wife.”

Unfortunately for Mr Hayes, his days as a rebel without a cause were destined to come to an end.

Everybody was getting cars at the time and his then girlfriend Janet's mother was somewhat insistent as she didn’t like the idea of motorbikes. And so, in 1969, Mr Hayes sold it to get a car.

From then, the bike went from owner to owner. It briefly stayed in Witney before being taken to Oxford where it was fitted with a sidecar.

The tale gets particularly interesting with the bike’s fifth owner, David Brudenell-Bruce, the Earl of Cardigan, who inexplicably took ownership of the bike for a period.

There were several more owners after the Earl. It was re-registered and ended up at Silverstone Auctions before eventually finding its way to a buyer in Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, who put it up on eBay.

Meanwhile, reaching their 60s, Mr Hayes and his best friend, who used to ride around on motorbikes together, were looking to get back into the hobby in their retirement.

Mr Hayes said: “When I retired I thought ‘I wonder whatever happened to my AJS. I really loved that bike’.

“When I typed the registration into the DVLA’s website it came up with the Range Rover and so I thought it must have been scrapped.”

It was Mr Green who saw the AJS on Ebay and encouraged Mr Hayes to take a look, with neither having any idea it was the same bike Mr Hayes sold at 18.

Curiosity got the better of him and he had a look online. Just like his bike, it was built in 1959, and, knowing they are now few and far between, Mr Hayes contacted the seller, Mr Gross.

During the chat, it emerged that the bike’s registration had been changed.

Mr Hayes said: “He said he had the old registration documents and so I asked what the old reg was. He read out the first few digits and I started getting heart palpitations.

“Then he read out the rest and I thought ‘good God, that’s my bike'. What are the chances of that happening?’”

And so, Mr Hayes bought back his own bike, and since then has been on a few short trips around Witney.

He and his friend are planning to head up to Weymouth for a holiday at some point just as they did in their youth.

Mr Hayes said: “I just couldn’t believe it when he read the registration. It was like I was sitting there with a lottery ticket.

“I never wanted to sell it. That motorbike, it’s how I met my wife. It’s how I got to work. It was everything.

“I’m over the moon to have it back.”