Bikers Life-Saving Slash Late at Night

Road Tales By Kelly Ashton

MY MATE SKRAPS was a Triumph man but went weird and bought a BMW R75/6. I think he was out on a long run on his Trumpy with a mate, Doctor, when they swapped bikes for a time. Skraps knew he had to do something once he’d ridden the Doctor’s BMW for a few hundred klikkamommeters.

He kept the Trump, of course, but more and more he’d be seen out and about on the metallic blue and way-too-quiet Krautwagen.

While I’ll admit it did a lot longer miles and did them a lot easier than the British beast, although it wasn’t all beer and skittles in the reliability department, with Skraps putting in a lot more repair work than he officially clocked on for.

One of the things he did do was to have it professionally painted by Peter at Star Enamellers. Anyone in Sydney who has ever done a concours resto on an old motorcycle will know the name. Star Enamellers paintwork was and still is perfect enough to make grown bike restorers cry with joy. And you couldn’t deny Skraps’ new bike was in need of a freshen up—even the Krauts had problems keeping candy colours dandy for more than a couple of years under the Aussie sun.

Back together, Skraps’ Bee-Em looked truly sensational. But you know what? That mongrel prick of a mate blamed me for its first dent, and I knew I didn’t do it, honest, Your Honour.

Skraps and I were working part time at Spooners Motorcycles in Brookvale. I was setting off on the Norton, canvas bag slung over the shoulder, to the other side of Sydney to pick up some old Pommy bike parts from Liverpool, when Skraps said, “Oh, while you’re there, you can pick up this and that for me.”

“Mate…” I implored. “My name’s Simpson, not Sampson—how am I going to carry all that shit?”

“Take the Bee-Em; it’s got panniers,” he offered, with no ‘Careful of the new paint’ qualifier or anything.

Zip, zap, zop! Out to Croydon Park, Bankstown and Liverpool and back in a flash to swap bikes and distribute parts.

Then it was time to begin the marathon drinking session which always began on Thursday nights and ended early Monday morning, broken only by a hungover Friday at work. At Spooners on Friday, Skraps was livid, calling me eight different shades of turd, claiming I was the one who dented his sparkling candy blue BMW tank.

“Never did—wasn’t there, didn’t do it, abducted by aliens but not guilty!”

There, on the top of the tank, just forward of the seat, was the hugest dent I’d ever seen on a tank so new and shiny.

Skraps was by now fuming like a bastard, and the situation wasn’t helped by bold denials and even the suggestion that, “It was probably Adolf Hilter or someone else with only one big ball.”

The berating continued until later that night, at the Frenchs Forest Antler Pub, when the truth came out.

“Hey Skrappsie!” yelled one of the drunken buffoons we drank with. “That was so funny when you quadrupled me and those other two idiots home last night!”

Like a Crown Prosecutor sensing the defence’s star witness is about to drop a big bucket of shit on the accused, I leaned in and said, “Aye, aye… continue.”

He continued alright. “Yeah, there I was—perched up there like Jackie on the luggage rack, those two idiots using up all the seat and you, Skrappsie, you were sitting on the petrol tank! It was hilarious, you were trying to do wheelstands and jumping over gutters and median strips—what a hoot!”

“Yes, what a hoot indeed,” I seethed at Skraps, my death stare burning holes in his retinas. “I think we may have found the culprit.”

The closest I got to an apology for the 27 ‘PRICKS’ and 52 ‘ARSEHOLES’ I’d been called that day was a casual, “Oh yeah, I’d forgotten about that—maybe that’s when the dent happened.”

Funnily enough, that Bee-Em R75/6 is still around today, my good mate Shitlegs owns it, along with the ’61 Triumph Bonneville he’s owned since 1971.

But way back in the days not long after the infamous dented tank incident, another much happier event occurred: Myself, Skraps and the blue BMW could have been wiped out, killed and terminated, but it didn’t happen, thanks to the Good Lord Above and a much needed piss-stop (and many thanks to Allah, Jehovah, Buddha and Vishnu, just in case). Skraps was carting out some posh sheila, and was doing whatever it took in order to ‘take the ferret for a run’ in ‘an upmarket area’ (that’s trying to get a root from a rich girl, okay?)

One of those things he was doing was taking her out, as per her request, to see a live theatre show at the Theatre Royal in King Street in the city. I’ve always thought live theatre was merely badly paid thespians acting out B-grade movies live with no hope of re-shooting fluffed lines, but there you go.

Skraps was on the horns of a dilemma. Being the second Wednesday of the month, he was going to miss out the monthly meeting of the Historic Racing Register, and the beers involved. He also had the problem of what to do with the BMW so it wouldn’t get stolen while he pretended to be interested in a theatrical production while trapped inside for a few interminable hours.

His grand plan was explained to me. “Kel, you can leave your Norton at home, double me into the city on my Bee-Em, head on out to the bike club meeting, then swing back past the theatre and pick me up when it’s all over.”

It didn’t sound half as stupid as quadrupling three drunken buffoons home on a Thursday night, less likely to dent a petrol tank, and might just work.

And work it did.

As the crowd flowed out onto King Street, the BMW and its chauffeur was parked right outside. It was obvious Plan ‘B’ (a taxicab back to her place for a bit of this and that) wasn’t on the agenda for Skraps, so he strapped on his helmet, jumped on pillion on his own bike and we were heading back to the Northern Beaches.

While parked forever at the red arrow for the right-turn from Macquarie Street to the on-ramp for the Cahill Expressway, Skraps spoke for the first time. “They didn’t serve beer during the show so I had to chug-a-lug a fair few down at half-time,” he explained. “I’m bustin’ for a slash and I don’t think I can make it across the Harbour Bridge.”

I’d given the Toohey’s Old a bit of a nudge at the bike club meeting so an executive decision was made: bugger the red arrow, bugger the Cahill Expressway, it was time for a piss stop. The Bee-Em was goaded forward past the intersection, U-turned and parked straight into the nearest gutter near to the nearest giant tree, where Skraps and his chauffeur both breathed a big sigh of relief as bladders were made gladder.

“Wouldn’t it shit ya!” Skraps proclaimed. “That bloody red arrow has finally turned green. Oh, look there we are—finally away from the world’s longest red light, and we’re now making our way down the on-ramp to the Cahill,” he added very sarcastically.

At that same instant, from out of the Cahill Tunnel, came a roar and a thunder men have never heard, like the screaming sound of a big warbird (thank you, Snoopy). A Porsche had come out from the bowels of the Cahill Expressway Tunnel at an incredible rate of knots. The sucker must’ve been doing more than a 100 mph or something like that. Whatever speed could be calculated as the maximum permissible for that corner, in that car, with that level of driver skill, well, this was just a little bit faster than that.

Now the thing about Porsches is that, generally, there are two types of Porsche drivers—they are either driven by race drivers who get in a lot of track time, or they’re driven by poofters in ponytails who only think they’re race drivers.

The Cahill Tunnel is an ‘S’ shaped affair which goes up and down hills for its length, and in the years before the Harbour Tunnel, stuck its nose right in the middle of the Cahill’s business, the uphill, left-handed bend onto the elevated roadway above Circular Quay was a much wider, gentler corner than it is today.

I think this particular Porsche driver on this particular night wasn’t a real race driver, because the prick crashed. And it was a biggie.

A huge crash.

The shriek of the high-performance motor was replaced by the mournful sound of a massive, four-wheel lock-up. It went for ages and ages. Skraps even had time to say, “Wait for it… wait for it…” before a calamitous coonk rent the air as it biffed an Armco barrier. It wasn’t finished by a long shot. Another screech of brakes and he was biffing the Armco on the other side of the four-lane roadway. Then another screech until he biffed the Armco on the left side one more time, just a couple of hundred meters further on from the first point of contact.

Luckily for some very lucky people, all the oncoming road users were by now home in bed and two boofheads on a BMW were busy pissin’.

A quick flip and a zip and we were back on the bike, soon motorvatin’ down the on-ramp and picking our way through a 2-hectare wrecking yard of Porsche parts and long, curved skidmarks. The dufus was out and standing next to the largest piece of his fine German sports car, probably ready to blame the ‘diesel spill’ or the ‘irregular road surface’.

“Want to stop and see if he needs a hand?” I called back to Skraps on pillion.

“I’m not hanging around here,” he said cryptically.

We were both remarkably sober for the rest of the chilly ride home, and it didn’t take too much calculating that, had we not stopped for the quick slash, that green arrow wouldn’t dropped us right on the Cahill in the totally wrong place to be hit by a semi-airborne Porsche.

Now, exactly what was that? Was it God saying, “Naw, don’t want you pricks just now, the new barracks aren’t finished yet…” Or was it just plain dumb luck that a piss saved our lives? Who knows, who cares? 

But I did learn a very valuable lesson that night, and it helps me out even today—when you’re on a motorbike, late at night and there’s a cantankerous set of lights that doesn’t like motorbikes, go straight through the intersection, chuck a u-turn and attack the intersection from the other way, all the time laughing at the red arrow still glowing.

Learn something new every day and you’ll never grow old.

Road Tales By Kelly Ashton

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