Aussie Motorbike Ride to Tibet

THE PLAN WAS to ride our 500 cc Royal Enfields from Kathmandu to the Tibetan border, and then another six days riding all the way to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet and the traditional home of the Dalai Lama. Our trip would take us across the formidable Himalayas in the shadow of Mt Everest travelling the high and remote Tibetan plateau.

Day 1: Kathmandu to Kodari on the Tibetan border.

Our group consisted of Australians on six bikes, a Landcruiser to carry our Tibetan guide, Tashi, and our Nepali mechanic, Naresh. When we crossed into Tibet we also added a small truck with a Chinese driver to carry spares, petrol and our luggage. How many languages can you have in the one group? It was a real Chinese whispers game as our road captain spoke English and all communication had to be interpreted down the line.

My position was Tail-End Charlie which entailed following the group of riders and stopping with them if there were any breakdowns or giving them directions if they fell behind. What happens when Tail-End Charlie runs out of petrol? He pushes, that’s what! So it was—about five km short of our first night’s lodgings. Everyone else was on their second beer when I rolled in. Fortunately, some of it was down-hill. Just made the first rum taste all the better.

Our accommodation was appropriately named the Last Resort—run by a Kiwi as it turns out—as it was the last decent spot before the border. Also, it’s the location of the second highest Bundy jump in the world set up on a suspension bridge over a deep ravine!

Day 2: Tibetan border to Nyalum.

I’d heard nightmare stories of this border crossing. After negotiating the seething mass of people at the border, we pulled up and are checked through the Nepal border check post. This crossing is like a closed crossing which means that all freight and trade goods are unloaded on the Tibetan side and ‘portaged’ physically across the joining bridge by hundreds of locals to the Nepal side and vise versa.

The Chinese run the show on the other side of the bridge so no cameras. A quick check of our documents/passports and it’s on further to customs. The road is being upgraded as well, so piles of reo rod and mesh as well as construction vehicles add to the bottleneck.

Customs are out to lunch so we decide we’ll do the same. After lunch it’s a perfunctory check of our bikes and a receipt for the $227USD per bike ‘observation fee’.

Alas, the road further on is also undergoing a major rebuild and we are not permitted to travel until work ceases for the day at dark! It is mainly a single lane road so traffic travels down the mountain from 6 pm to midnight, and up traffic from midnight to dawn.

A good feed of Chinese—what else? A snooze, and at 11 pm, we head out to the starting line avoiding (hopefully) the traffic jam by pushing our way to the front. The backup vehicles are left to their own devices. From here we have to zig zag our way climbing 2600 metres in elevation up the face of a very steep valley for 30 km to Nyalum.

The night is clear with a full moon, which helps as the Enfield headlights are just enough. We pass by road workers sleeping where they work, by the side of the road in tents made with plastic sheets. The dirt road/track varies from undulations to thick mud and minor creek crossings. It starts to get very cold as we climb. There is more than one ‘step off’ by Steven—now nicknamed Dudley (as in Wild Hogs)—before we get to the top and arrive at our lodgings for the night. It was now 2 am—it had taken us three hours to do just 30 km and it was impossible to tell what colour our bikes were! We have a hot tea and clean our clothes while waiting for the backup vehicles.

Day 3: Acclimatisation in Nyalum.

Cold as, during the night, but local doonas do the trick. Nobody had trouble sleeping and sunrise is at 9 am followed by breakfast.

We have to have a rest day to acclimatize and avoid altitude sickness as we are now at 3750 metres. As another precaution, I advise the group to take Diamox to assist with the process as well as no alcohol for a couple of days.

Bikes are cleaned down and riding gear brushed off as good as possible. Naresh, our mechanic, adjusts and oils chains and cleans air filters while we stroll around town watching and being watched by the locals, mostly Tibetans but also many Chinese. We practice our Tibetan ‘G’day mate!’ Wayne has a movie camera and intrigues the population by them viewing themselves.

Most of the buildings are very old traditional and colourful Tibetan flat-topped buildings with wood and cow dung drying on the roof. These were juxtaposed with modern (Chinese inspired?) buildings of the square concrete architectural style.

Day 4: Nyalum to Shegar.

Plans are for an early start, but at 10.30 we’ve just finished repairing a flat tyre and a sticking throttle. Never mind, finally we’re off and the late start is quickly forgotten when we’re surrounded by the spectacular Himalaya on the climb up to Yarle Shring La (pass) at 5050 metres.

“How cool is this,” I say.

“About minus 8 degrees, actually,” Stefan replies, soon to get a reputation for his dry humour.

We take in the views from the top and have a cuppa from the prepared thermos—the backup crew is earning their browny points.

Speedo shows 113 km/h on the good dirt road as we head down the other side to Tingri for lunch. We’re spread out to avoid each other’s dust. Binod, our road captain, gets some air time over a bump and his battery abandons ship. A bit of stuffing around with an occy strap, a push start—not easy at this altitude—and we’re away again.

From New Tingri (the old one’s a bit further up the road) it’s bitumen (blacktop as the locals call it) all the way to Shegar. Very nice hotel here, quite modern, hot showers and with sit-down toilets—much appreciated after the squat type in use for the last couple of days.

Day 5: Shegar to Shigatse and on to Gyantse.

Very cold this morning. Streams are frozen. Sunrise at 8 am. We’re on the move by 9 when it is warm enough to ride.

All of China only has one time zone; everything is based on Beijing time. The road markers are the same—all distances to Beijing more than 5000 km away. Riding time is spent doing mental calculations to figure out how far to the next destination!

Today we ride on blacktop and are climbing through the most amazing switchbacks up to Lhakpa La at 5160 metres. We catch our first sight of Mt Everest in the distance. The Enfields are suffering due to the lack of oxygen—at 5000 metres there’s only 50 percent as much oxygen as there is at sea level and can only pull 50—60 km/h in third gear. Over the top and down and up again to Yulang La, and then all downhill to Shigatse.

With adopting a racer’s crouch and some slipstreaming between each other, 120 km/h top speed is recorded on Wayne’s GPS. Consensus was “That was it” and even if you threw the bikes off a cliff they wouldn’t go any faster.

From Shigatse we follow the Nyang Chu River through fertile valleys. Very populated farming area, thus we are always on the lookout for animals wandering along. Dudley almost scored a little porker that bolted under his front wheel which would have been ironic as he’s Jewish.

Chris would cruise by and then drop back as he was taking video with a helmet cam. He’s going to make a movie called The Black Snails—the group’s combined nickname—one day?

Tonight we sleep at over 4000 metres for the first time!

Day 6: Gyantse to Lhasa.

We manage to sneak through some roadworks with our Landcruiser just out of Gyantse and christen a new bitumen road. The truck with our gear is not so fortunate and will have to take the long way. The road has only just been completed; in fact, we sidle by roadworks laying bitumen at one stage. The road follows the edge of Lamdruck Tso (lake) and it has the most incredible curves and switchbacks I have ever seen.

I was following Stefan with his partner Flossie on the back when he ran over a house-brick-sized lump of tar and got some major air time. Both wheels had daylight under them as well Flossie could have fitted a helmet between her arse and the seat. It looked like a sad ending in store, but after a couple of tank slaps, Stefan was back in control, only to receive from Floss, the best punch to the kidneys I have seen for a while—he would have been pissing blood for a week!

We cross Karo La at 4960 metres and then down to Lakatse by Lamdruck Tso, a natural lake that holds more water than Sydney Harbour. It is topped up by snow-melt that balances the evaporation. However, the Chinese have installed a hydro plant and concern has been raised now that the lake level is dropping.

After lunch it is up again to Khamba La at 4994 metres and views all the way south to Mt Kanchenjunga in Bhutan. Then it’s downhill heading for Lhasa 50 km away.

The group was going for it! I even managed to scrape the pegs on the Royal Enfield—no mean feat—when a white Landcruiser came around the corner in front of me straddling the centre of the road. I had been cutting corners for the last half hour and momentarily couldn’t remember that in Tibet I should be riding on the right hand side of the road.

I was yelling to myself—“Right, you idiot, get on the f$#*ing right hand side of the road. Faaaark!”—as the Landcruiser swept by.

Lhasa is a big city and has very modern wide roads but also a peak hour and we were in it. Very hard to keep the group together. Tashi, our guide, knew where the hotel was so it was everyone for himself and follow the 4WD.

The Sun Island Hotel was very palatial with views to the Potala Palace, the ex-Government House and religious centre of Buddhist Tibet and the Dalai Lama’s residence. It’s 13 stories high and was built in the 7th century.

Day 8 & 9: Lhasa.

Today we were tourists and visited the Johang Temple (647AD) and saw the statue of Sakymum brought from China as a wedding gift longer ago than anyone could remember.

It was a lazy afternoon so after a some gifts had been bargained for, we settled into a few Lhasa beers while watching the passing parade.

I knew a girl working in Lhasa as a doctor so a couple of phone calls had a get-together with some Aussie/English expats organised for the night. Starting off at the Dunya Bar for dinner, progressing on to several other drinking holes of note, then finally to a cook your own sort of Korean BBQ, drinking local firewater. At one stage I was offered BBQ duck’s feet—very chewy!

The next day was recovery day. We managed to get down to the market area by lunchtime and sat around on a rooftop garden sampling local cuisine and bottled water. Very quietly.

Day 10: Lhasa to Shigatse.

But first we tour the Potala Palace. 13 stories up—all stairs no lifts here mate—even though we had semi adapted to the altitude it was a bit of an effort. The Dalai Lama’s bedroom is on top, reputedly the first place in Lhasa the sun strikes when rising in the morning.

We leave the city by a different route and are making good time when Wayne’s distributer lets go. However, roadside repairs from our mechanic who had become known by this stage as ‘Naresh the professional’ soon had us rolling again.

Not much further on we are stopped by local cops at a roadblock and told to keep the speed down a bit. Apparently one of the group—head down and arse up—had passed a cop vehicle. The cops were interested in the Enfields that are not seen over here. Most of the local bikes are little Chinese jobs and are only ridden slowly; definitely no sporty riding.

It’s Flossie’s birthday today so we made a point of not mentioning it all day and take her out to dinner with a surprise birthday cake; she cried.

Day 11: Shigatse to Shegar.

Morning tour of local monastery then head off about 12 noon. Repeat of inbound route: three high passes and good bitumen; beautiful curves and switchbacks; long straights that we slipstream each other; the bikes are very even. We resort to laying down on the bikes with our feet over the tailight to gain an advantage.

I stop for a young couple with a tandem bicycle that is broken down. They are having trouble with their chain and derailleur as it’s stuffed and they can’t get decent parts. They are French and have been riding for 1½ years! towing a small trailer. They are so grateful someone has stopped for them, but not when I tell them the condition of the road entering Nepal.

As we are turning off on a sidetrack to Mt Everest, we arrange to meet them in two days time in New Tingri. They believe they can struggle on the next 60 km. Then we will transport them and their gear in our truck back to Kathmandu.

Hotel room nice, but water pipes are all frozen so no hot shower and have to use a bucket of water to flush the toilet.

Day 12: Shegar to Rongbuk.

Not far out of Shegar we have our passports and papers checked and show our permits for the Everest area. Dirt road and 102 km to Everest Base Camp, our objective. More switchback heaven (maybe 100) to the top of Pang La at 5200 metres. The bikes are chugging along, just making the climb.

Fantastic clear views towards Everest, Pumori and Cho Oyu.

Down the other side to a small hamlet at Tashi Zong for a lunch of noodle soup.
Another 50 km to Rongbuck Monastery and our humble lodgings for the night. Bedroom window looks up the valley to Mt Everest towering above. Wind blowing but sunny.

A few celebratory drinks of Lhasa beer and we turn in under mountains of doonas.

Day 13: Mount Everest Base Camp and return to New Tingri.

It’s minus 12 degrees at sun-up, but climbs to plus 10 by the time we set off. Even though it’s been very cold overnight, the bikes are dry as there is no dew.

It’s eight km along the track to Everest Base Camp. The Chinese have a presence here so no further progress is possible. But they also have a mobile phone tower so we all text everyone we know and tell them where we are!

Very close to Mt Everest, or the Mother Goddess Chomolonga as the Tibetans know it.

Further on Wayne holes his inner primary and once again roadside repairs are quickly affected with Araldite by the intrepid Naresh.

Consensus has us taking a little used side-track/shortcut from here to Tingri. We ride through traditional villages of amazed Tibetans—the children run beside us shouting—obviously not an often-seen occurrence. The track is really trail-riding at times with many streams to cross and short, sharp rises. It takes 3 hours to do the 90 km and we cross another pass at 4916 metres. We were hoping for more height, but the map was wrong. Stefan trowels it once, and Dudley has a few more step-offs and gives it away and Naresh hops aboard.

A fast flat plain on the other side as we cruise into New Tingri for the night. A couple of very broad smiles on the faces of the French couple greet us.

More beers later, we find out that the Frenchies are making short films for TV France to supplement their trip. They want to know whether it’s okay to film us. Don’t know whether we ever made it famous in France but it was a lot of fun posing it up for the next couple of days as we rode back and forward past the vehicles while they were filming.

Day 14: Tingri to Nyalum.

Melbourne Cup Day but couldn’t get a bet on anywhere!

Dirt road again all the way to the border. Very dusty and corrugated; got caught behind a couple of trucks and just too dusty to pass. Beautiful views once again from the high passes—a bit more re-enacting for the film crew—and then down to Nyalum for the night.

Sat around the cow-pat heater in our lodgings shared with the owner’s family and watched the day’s events as the Frenchies downloaded video to their laptop. Surreal!

Day 15: Nyalum to Zhangbu on the border.

Wakeup before 6 am. We aim to start the road-work section to Zhangbu before it’s closed at our end at 8 am. Slow progress for the first two hours until 8 when the sun comes up.

We can now see the enormity of the task ahead for the road workers. Parts of the mountain are near vertical and the workers hang from ropes while chipping away. Not much technology—or for that matter, OH&S—around here.

We stop a few times to marvel at the steepness and what we had achieved in riding up this track a few days ago in the dark.

Reach Zhangbu on the border and check into our lodgings for a late breakfast/lunch.

As we are a day ahead we have to wait until tomorrow to cross the border. A day spent strolling the town, getting our kit in order, watching the traffic jams and snoozing. Naresh, ever the professional, is hard at it attending to the machinery.

Day 16: Border crossing to Last Resort.

Suffice to say customs were in fine form and accused us of not having some appropriate paperwork. When it was explained that it was their problem as they had let us in without the paperwork, it descended into a Mexican standoff. We went off and had lunch while they had a meeting, and then went back and pushed the bikes through—miraculously everything was stamped—all in just six hours!

There is a sauna and plunge pool at the Last Resort. We hadn’t had a decent wash for a few days so it was a quick shower and into the sauna. We are back in Nepal and the land of Khukri rum and guess what—the drinks waiter serves drinks in the sauna! A couple of drinks turned into a couple of hours drinking, alternating between the sauna and plunge pool.

Day 17: Back to Kathmandu.

A slow and late start as partly from the night before and partly that everyone realises this is the last day of our adventure. Three hours back to Kathmandu, we are all riding on the left again and hit the city on peak hour.

A couple of days later we land at Melbourne airport and are still smiling.

article by Stewie from Albury

AJS 500 Burning Ring Of Fire

MY FAVOURITE bike in history is my own 1950 AJS 500 cc single. I fell in love with that black and silver beastie when I was just 17-years-old in the summer of 1973. After spotting it under a house in Manly Vale (on Sydney’s Northern Beaches) I just knew I had to have it.

The Ajay was owned by a feller named Jack Barnes. Many years before, Jack had converted it to a competition model and raced it at scrambles tracks all over New South Wales. I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was—glossy black petrol tank with silver pinstriping and that distinguished AJS logo proudly proclaiming what it was.

Jack allowed me to pay it off over a number of months. The total cost was just $150, but as a poor apprentice on $30 a week, it was still a lot of money.

When the full amount was finally paid, I became only the third person to own it since it left the AJS factory in Woolwich, London, late in 1950. Jack had bought it from the original owner—a mate of his by the name of Bob Docherty—in about 1955. Up until then, the Ajay had served Bob as his only transport. Like most bikes of the times, it was commuter, tourer, Sunday cruiser, and even a sports bike, as Bob would compete in the many road rallies that Aussie bikers had in the 1950s. Even now, the old machine has never lived outside the one area on the Northern Beaches of about five or so square miles.

In 1976, the Ajay and I were involved in a really bad smash—an horrific head-on which trashed the car, the bike and me. Poor old Ajay has its front wheel ripped right off, snapping the fork sliders in two, lunching the petrol tank and tearing the oil tank, carburettor and entire exhaust system from the bike. The funny thing (if there’s anything funny about a head-on) was that the front wheel came through the ordeal virtually unscathed. Maybe there was a minute scratch on the chrome of the otherwise undamaged front wheel.

My leg was broken (femur, fib, tib) and I had bruised kidneys… oh, and I actually died—but thankfully revived—a few weeks into my hospital stay. Those embolisms are bastards, but quick-thinking nurses are great.

As per my request, my Mum took a photo of the Ajay and brought it to the hospital.

“He’ll be right with a bit of work,” I can remember saying as I gazed at the photos of total destruction.

After three months in a hospital bed, I finally got out and got to go home. The first act was to hobble unsteadily on crutches downstairs to my workshop, where the destroyed Ajay sat forlornly on the floor.

I pulled up a methanol drum, sat down, looked at the devastation and began to cry like a girlie sook. Then, I picked up a few spanners and began the rebuild. I even bought a car with which I could ferry various parts around to here and there. The car selection process was easy; the first one I could actually climb into with a full leg plaster on, and drive left-footed, got the gong.

Soon, well before I was ready to ride again, the Ajay was rocking, raring and ready to go. Of course, it wasn’t totally finished; the exhaust system was a very short, very loud and very anti-social reverse-cone racing megaphone. It was noisy alright. Oh, and the petrol tank wasn’t back from the chrome-platers by then so I’d borrowed another AJS tank from my mate Skraps. It didn’t fit real good, as the mounting bolts were different, so it was placed onto the frame, stuffed with rags for cushioning, and only one of the two fuel taps were connected. The other fuel tap just hung there in thin air just waiting to be vibrated on or something.

So the bike was ready for its test run but I was nowhere near ready with my leg still in plaster.

It was early 1977, and my plaster cast was at the forefront of medical technology, having two fibreglass hinges built-in either side of the knee. That allowed me to sit on the bike, but not kickstart it. With the help of my younger brother Greg, I sat on the bike out front of our place, and was given a push down the hill. The motor fired into glorious song and I was away. I was wearing stubbies, as shorts were the only thing I could fit over the plaster, a lone thong on my left foot and a pair of the flash aluminium ‘Canadian crutches’ stuffed down the front of my leather jacket.

I was away and back in the breeze again; the simple test ride around the block saw me heading off to parts unknown, and was soon suburbs away from home. I had no idea of what would happen when I had to come to stop, or if, God forbid, the engine stalled, but I figured I’d work that out if it needed working out.

I was close enough to Skraps’ place so I thought I’d drop in and say g’day. I’d just turned into Skraps’ dead-end street, thundering down the hill and turning the corner, with the noisy megaphone exhaust backfiring and shooting out flames every few seconds. An air leak at the exhaust port will make it do that every time, and it can look great at night.

I had another leak of a different kind I didn’t know about. Skraps’ petrol tank he’d loaned me—the one with two fuel taps, one hanging free—the tank that was loosely mounted with rags and an occky strap—the one which had vibrated enough to turn the defunct fuel tap on—was busily leaking petrol all over my good left leg. We were almost at Skraps’ place when I noticed his younger brother Andy and faithful dog Spike, the white German Shepherd, walking up the drive and into the cul-de-sac.

I was just giving a hearty wave to Andy and Spike when, WHOOSH! The leaking petrol exploded after one backfire too many.

“Ah, well,” I thought to myself, “at least now I’ll know what I have to do if I ever come to a stop.”

The bike was on fire, my bare left leg was on fire, some of my plaster cast was on fire, and there was a veritable river of flame going back up the road from whence I’d came. For a line about 20 or 30 metres back, the flaming road was burning, but that wasn’t my main concern. I’d leapt off the blazing saddle and thrown the bike over on its side. I was hopping around on my one good leg (the one that was unfortunately on fire) and realised quick action was called for.

I ripped the leather jacket off over my head, without undoing the zipper, and of course, the aluminium crutches came up with it, coonking my schnozz on the way over. The leather jacket was quickly wrapped around the leg and that instantly extinguished the flame.

Now, if you’ve ever experienced a petrol fire on a motorcycle (sad to say, I’ve seen a few) you’ll know that the first thing to melt is—you guessed it—the plastic fuel lines! If you were a pyromaniac, you’d stare fascinated at the bubbling torrent of flames that drop from an open petrol tap once the plastic line melts. The secret is to dive your hand into the inferno and try to turn the now-very-hot petrol tap off.

I dunno hows I done it, I just knows I done it and managed to get one tap switched off. The other one, underneath the bike, I couldn’t reach. The tank was a swirling fireball by this time so I unhooked the burning occky strap, grabbed the tank and flung that flamin’ bastard to the shithouse down the road.

While this was going on, Andy and Spike were both doing their bit. Andy had dashed into his front yard at Number 7, grabbed the garden hose, turned it on full blast and ran full pelt up the path towards the disaster scene. Almost within spraying reach, and just like the dog reaching the rope limit in the Foghorn Leghorn cartoons, Andy ran out of hose, ripped that sucker right off the fitting, bent the garden tap and went Arse Over Charlie onto the bitumen. Spike was doing his bit by leaping about, wagging his tail and barking furiously. I’m not sure whether he was barking out a doggie warning at the extreme danger, or just thought he’d better be in on the game we were playing.

My leather jacket was doing a reasonable job of pegging the flames on the tankless bike, while Andy had dashed into the neighbour’s house at Number 8, grabbed their hose, whacked it on full bore and ran to the scene of the action. This hose was even shorter, and at the hose limit, Andy trained the spout at the almost-extinguished bike, but just missed it. I even attempted to drag the prone Ajay closer to the hose, but with only one good leg, gave it a miss. Spike barked even more.

Andy, Spike and I were just contemplating the futility of the exercise, when we all realised that good old Mrs What’s-her-name at Number 9 was standing in her front yard and yelling out, “Yoo-hoo, Andy…” while holding aloft a hose. The dear old tit must’ve been about 98 in the shade, but obviously, she was still on the ball, had already worked out the dynamics of the crisis we were facing and was a team player with a solution.

“Thanks,” Andy gasped, as he took the hose from her and raced to the bike. Spike barked some more and egged him on. This hose was longer, for sure—even reached the bike, but you wouldn’t believe it—the bloody thing was fitted with a granny-style shower rose, probably to prevent damage to delicate roses or something. The job worked and soon the bike was soon out.

Then we made out way to the still flaming tank, which was upside-down and well alight. Closer and closer we crept (I hopped, but in a creepy sort of way). The tank gave a few grumbling sounds, which blended in with all the whoosing and creaking, and after about the third big ‘phhhh-tttttt, Andy handed the hose to me saying something like, “You’re on your own, Kemosabe,” before retreating.
I reached down into the fiery maelstrom, turned the other petrol tap off, then somehow managed to flip the tank upright again, then fretfully played a piss-weak sprinkle of water on the firebeast. Now, I know fire safety officers will tell you never to put out a petrol fire with water, but I can tell you from experience, that is (in certain circumstances) utter bullshit. See, it’s the heat you’ve got to consider, and when a petrol fire gets hot enough, the 2 ‘O’ parts of H2O gives the fire lots of life-giving oxygen and then it becomes REALLY hot and explodes every-bloody-where.

I estimated the fire hadn’t got hot enough yet, so moved in closer with the granny sprinkler and gradually managed to douse the tank.

Soon it was all over. I was absent-mindedly hopping from one foot to the same foot, and surveying the mess I’d made of the quiet cul-de-sac in Beacon Hill. The excitement, from ignition to extinction, probably only lasted less than 30 seconds, but seemed much longer; long enough to fill two pages of text.

Skraps’ loaned petrol tank came through the ordeal fairly well; it didn’t explode like an atom bomb; the only damage was a number of deep gouges on the paintwork from its wild slide across the bitumen. Jeez, the paint wasn’t even that scorched, which says a lot for good, old-time baked enamelling.

Even the Ajay was mostly unhurt; all petrol and oil lines were melted and six pints of Castrol’s finest 50 weight was oozing its way down through the drainage system towards the Pacific Ocean (this was the 1970s and the only dolphin we cared about was Flipper). Apart from melting the lines and lightly scorching some of the wiring harness, the only damage was when I ripped the seat cover and cushion from the seat base as I tried to drag the bike closer to the water source. My nostrils were covered in blood from having a crutch slammed into it, and even less appetising, all the hair was singed from my left leg. The nearly-new Aero brand leather jacket I’d got for my 21st birthday was fine, though 40 years later, it’s starting to show its age.

With all the ‘woob-woob-woob’ing, and the Nyahh-ah-ah’ing and ‘Oh’ing by Andy, Spike and me, it must’ve sounded like a Three Stooges episode. Soon enough, Skraps sauntered up from his workshop, idly tinkering with a carburettor and casting a jaundiced eye over his trashed street.

I’d picked up the pair of crutches by this time, and quietly watched as Skraps wandered through the wreckage. He came up on his tank, looked closely at the deep scratches then looked back at me. “You can have that tank,” he said finally. “I should have some mounting rubbers and the proper bolts somewhere—I’ll dig them out…”

written by Kelly Ashton

Roo’s Mis-Adventure Part 9

THIS TRIP to the USA was to be different—I was travelling to re-meet with a lady, do a rally together, and three weeks of sweet love making. I mean she did fly to Australia to see me—it wasn’t my fault we were flooded in and only got out of the house three days of the 15!

Guys, Roo says, “Never, I repeat, never, travel halfway around the world for a chick—they do change their minds!”

It all started badly when I landed in Fort Lauderdale and my bags weren’t on the carousel—they arrived two days later so maybe I was a bit ripe by this time?

Fortunately, she had a Corvette and a Marauder (gee, that should have been a sign) so while she worked I zoomed around Florida, burning time till my bags arrived. On night three she suggested it just wasn’t right, so in the morning she went to work and I booked a flight to Milwaukee—be fucked if I wasn’t going to have a good time.

Fortunately, the Wisconsin HOG Rally was on so I hire a Road Glide (one of my favourite Harleys) and rode to Delton. Of course I wasn’t to know that Lake Delton had just shit itself and emptied its entire contents into a river. All those beautiful water-front properties are now facing mud putting the long time ski school spectacular out of business. Still, the locals had an almost Aussie sense of humour; one said to me we may not have the water but fuck we got wide beaches!

Getting there I rode through some great country but with driving rains and many flood diverts. The rally was one of the smaller state rallies—only 10,000 attendees! I positioned myself in the bar behind a bucket of Millers bottles and commenced socialising.

I met one guy who kept telling me to dance with his wife, as he pulled down her top continually. We became drinking friends. He got real angry with one dude who was pushing into our foursome and suggested he find somewhere else to drink. The guy braced and pushed back. It was then that my drinking buddy pulled out his police badge!

The rally was held at a casino, owned by the local Indian tribe, so we watched local dancing, sang, drank and generally partied for two days. I then looked at my ‘Who do I know who lives in USA list’ and made some calls and arranged to ride out to meet her/them.

The next part of my sojourn saw me trying to coordinate a visit to three friends: Jane in Iowa, Tracey in Minnesota, and Wendi in Ohio. The plan was ride to Minnesota, stay a few days, then to Iowa for a few days, then back to Milwaukee, return the iron pony and fly to Ohio on the way home.

Like all plans this trip it fell to shit! Tracey got the flu so asked if I could leave it a few days; no problem, I’ll just flip Ohio then Minnesota. So I turned on the trusty GPS and aimed the beast south west.

They rain continued so I was stopping regularly to put on or take off rain gear. One of the favourite stops was on a small ridge overlooking the Mississippi where I stopped in amazement and watched the river boats and thought of all those childhood stories. The Mississippi was in a state of flux and had burst her banks upstream—boy, there was water everywhere.

Riding in the driving rain isn’t much fun; it becomes a hell of a lot less fun when your GPS battery runs out and you have no idea where you are. Due to the state of the roads I was pushed and shoved in all directions by sheriffs, National Guard, Highway Patrol, State Troopers, and at one stage, the Coast Guard (and I was thousands of miles from the sea). “You see, we were facing a state of emergency—the Mississippi has burst its banks, bridges are washed out and people are evacuating.”

I came to one roadblock and the trooper looked at me in amazement. “What in the God damn are you doing here?” he asked.

“Riding to Iowa,” I said.

He pointed to the horizon at an unusual looking cloud. “See that, boy, that’s a hurricane and it will be here in 15 minutes so get yerself out of here!”

“Where?” I asked.

“Anywhere! just go.”

I straddled the beast and headed off but to no avail—the big cloud came over me and I pulled into a truck station, laid the bike down, sheltered under the seat, and rang Big Balls (my son) in Australia to tell him what was happening. Fortunately, it was only a small one but the wind and rain were unbelievable.

I travelled another three hours coordinating my arrival via cell phone with my friend. About 20 miles out the hog made a strange sound and then I couldn’t change gears… yep, done the gearbox. I travelled till the next town, drove into a station and rang the dealership emergency number. Was stranded here for three days… then made my way to Milwaukee.

Make sure you check out Roo’s Mis-Adventure Part 1.

The Oldest New Triumph Trident Ever

ONE OF my mates from years ago was named Blossie. He’s not around any more, but back then, he was a good bloke—just one of the lads. Short for ‘Blossom’, it was a strange name for a biker for sure, but it came about from his habit of drinking to the point of deterioration, then performing a sneaky disappearing act that would see him missing in action for a short time; miraculously, he would reappear all refreshed and ready to rock and roll once more. Turns out he was sneaking off for a short nap somewhere quiet, then his re-entry to the land of the living was said to resemble the ‘blossoming’ of a new spring flower.

Yeah, weird nickname alright, but we didn’t ever spend too much time agonising over tags, we just doled out the new name as we saw fit.

Blossie was your typical biker of the early 1970s. He rode a 650 cc Triumph Bonneville—and the most beautiful Bonnie of all—a 1969 USA model whose sexy, slim petrol tank was finished in stunning black with red flashes. Also, like a lot of ’70s bikers, Blossie got clobbered by a badly-driven car which stuffed his leg and smashed the bike.

The Bonnie got fixed and put back on the road, and the leg eventually came good too, but Blossie was definitely doing less and less riding. Sure, he’d still attend the pub every day, but he either walked or hooked a ride on the pillion seat of one of the other lads’ machines. It was a very dark day when he finally sold the Bonneville, and didn’t we keep hearing about how he’d “made a terrible mistake,” and “should never have let it go—I’d like to get another bike…”

“Yeah, yeah,” we’d agree. “Sure, sure…”

Just down the road from our local pub was our local bike shop, Spooner Motorcycles. Now, Spooner’s was a Yamaha dealership so it didn’t really interest us, although they also sold a lot of second-hand bikes which meant the odd interesting machine passed through their portals. But they were also agents for a few of the smaller brands like Ducati and even Triumph.

Both the Ducati and Triumph brands were going through tumultuous times in the mid 1970s, with factory finances and individual models causing both grief and joy in varying degrees, but it was Triumph that was the genuine basket case of a motorcycle company. Atrocious management decisions which ultimately led to falling sales, shoddy quality control and all manner of industrial woes culminating in a giant strike and factory sit-ins. The grim situation virtually spelled the death of the famous Triumph Bonneville which really was one of the world’s favourite motorcycles for a few decades.

The Triumph company was doing what it could to keep the trickle of bikes flowing to the eager but ever-diminishing hordes of diehard Triumph customers and one of the models they produced was the T160 Trident, a nice-looking three-cylinder machine of 750 cc and blessed with an electric start. And it just so happened that Spooner Motorcycles had a solitary Triumph T160 on the showroom floor. It appeared there in early 1976 and immediately caught Blossie’s eye.

“I think I’d like to buy that T160,” Blossom declared after about the ninth or tenth beer.

Nobody believed it would happen. “Yeah, yeah,” we’d agree. “Sure, sure…”

Blossie wasn’t short of a quid; he always had a heap of dough and some even bigger money heading his way from the compensation payout for his prang. But he kept maintaining the dream and we kept agreeing with him, knowing the Trident would be sold before he made his move.

And you know what? The Trident didn’t sell. It sat there, and sat there and sat there for years. It was not the normal situation with last year’s bikes being superseded and heavily discounted to make way for the new models; Triumph weren’t making any new models so it didn’t really matter. In fact, the Triumph factory staggered on until about 1983 when the last real Triumph rolled out of the old factory and the doors were closed for the final time.

But Blossie kept insisting that he’d buy the Trident on Spooner’s floor, and we kept nodding and agreeing anytime he said it.

Fast forward to 1979 and we’d all rocked back to my place on Sunday night after a very boozy time at the Steyne Hotel on Manly Beach. Blossie was on the back of my bike and I gotta tell ya—he wasn’t the world’s best pillion passenger. Old Bloss was what the politically correct would describe as ‘abdominally gifted’ or ‘non-anorexic’. Tie that in with his propensity to nod off to sleep anywhere, anytime, and you have the world’s worst pillion.

We were kickin’ on in a most serious manner for a Sunday night. I mean, we all had to work the next day so God knows how we did it. Maybe we were all 10 feet tall and bullet-proof back then.

Blossie began his 10-or-more beers spiel about the Trident, and how he would buy it soon. Now, to understand the situation fully, the fact there was a T160 Triumph Trident sitting brand new on a showroom floor in 1979 was to me, unusual. It was unusual enough for me to rock into Spooner’s with my camera and take a few photos of what I thought could be the last new Trident still for sale on a dealer’s floor anywhere in the world. Triumph motorcycles weren’t completely dead and buried by then; the company still wheezed and creaked on for a few more years making small numbers of the Bonneville twins, but the Trident Triples were long gone and the renaissance of the marque didn’t happen until about 1992 (love the new Bonneville, too!)

And still, Blossie banged on about buying.

“Stuff it,” I said and decided there and then to take some strong action. With the help of another mate, Crusty, we drew up a contract and forced Blossie to sign it, whereupon it was witnessed and officially stamped. The contract was worded as officially as we could, and somehow, ended up sounding like a court summons (Well, we all were pretty familiar with the weird wording contained in a summons). It read:

‘I, Blossie Mason (hereinafter known as the defendant or arsehole), do hereby solemnly swear to buy one motorcycle, to wit, Triumph Trident 750 cc, from Spooner Motorcycles of Pittwater Road, Brookvale, at ten o’clock in the forenoon. Failure to attend said motorcycle shop will result in a bashing. Signed: Blossie Mason. Witnessed by: Ajay, Crusty, Custer and Basil the Seafarer.

I even attached one of the photographs of the Trident to the document, then dripped candle wax and pressed a beer bottle-top into the wax for a serious looking seal.

Much to our surprise, it worked. On the Tuesday night, a fully-smiling Blossie walked in the back door of the pub, leather jacket on and helmet dangling off his hand. Of course, he shuffled the doormat halfway up the door to prop it open, leaving a full and beautiful view of our bikes parked out back. Right in the middle of the lot, and making the rest look decidedly scruffy, was a brand-new, shiny-as-all-get-out, maroon and white Triumph Trident.

“Thanks for making me sign that contract, fellas,” was all he said as he ordered a round of beers for us. At least now we knew what it took to get Blossie to shout a round of beers.

article written by Kelly Ashton

Roo’s Mis-Adventure Part 8

IN ALL MY trips to the States I have never really desired to do much in San Francisco, maybe it’s because a man in leather chaps is looked at totally differently than in other areas!

The trip from San Diego to San Francisco is interstate riding all the way. Fast, straight and boring. Mile after mile ticks away slowly and you feel every ache as there is little distraction by way of curves, turns or towns. The results of the California fires were very obvious with major tracks of land scorched and vegetation-less; only thing this did is whip up soot in the wind. As if you didn’t get covered in enough black shit when you ride in California. It is putrid, the air stinks and your skin is coated in pollution; how anyone volunteers to live there I have no idea.

At the end of the nearly eight hours boring ride, we could see the glowing lights of San Francisco in the fading light. Along with the fading light came the most amazing drop in temperature. Big Ballz and I weren’t prepared for winter! We stopped and put on extra T-shirts and long sleeve tops—it was, to say the least, fucking freezing!

We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and couldn’t see anything due to the thick freezing fog. Luckily, once off the bridge, we didn’t have far to go to the Holiday Inn at Fisherman’s Wharf.

After a good night’s sleep we did the tourist thing: Clam Chowder at Fisherman’s Wharf, walked the shops and booked a tour of Alcatraz.

Alcatraz is a fascinating place with great stories of Hells Angels and Indian occupation of the island after it was decommissioned as a prison. The guided prison walk is exceptional; it must have been a shitty life for the old convicts on the rock.

Having said San Francisco has no attractions, it is fair to say that I met a lovely lady who lived just out of SF and I was keen for Big Ballz to meet her and for us to be reacquainted. Unfortunately, she was now married, but she was really keen to see us and share a few drinks, so that was okay by me. We rode to Port Costa to see her.

Sharky is a real live wire, part American Indian, part biker stock (with many family links) and part good old American mum. This gal can cook, drink, ride, tell stories, and build choppers (she is partner in a big USA chopper building firm). It was great to see her again, and we were welcomed like family.

Sharky’s neighbour had made, I would guess, 200 litres of various flavoured moonshine in his shed. I sampled but a few (Big Ballz sampled more); to me it was like coloured methylates spirits with the kick of a big red fucking kangaroo. This shit would send you blind, sterile or both, I’m sure!

Big Ballz and I stayed in a haunted bordello (which has since been featured on Ghost Hunters on cable). Now Big Ballz has a couple of really big pet fears, one is sharks (not good for a dive Instructor); the other is ghosts!

From the neighbour’s place we walked down the deserted street to the haunted bordello where we were the only guests. We opened the solid timber door, climbed the two flights of squeaking wooden stairs, and went left and right to our rooms.

I had gone about three paces when Big Ballz said, “Dad.”

“You’re not scared, are you?”

“Yes, can I stay with you?

So here we are sharing a double bed in a haunted house.

When Ghost Hunters did the story Sharky rang me and said tell Big Ballz he is famous. The publican told them of the story of this big strong Aussie guy who got so scared he slept with his daddy! Big Ballz was not impressed.

It was now time to turn heels, head south and prepare for the long flight home.

We had allotted two days to ride down the coast to Los Angeles—it was a spectacular, awesome ride. Just make sure you fuel at every opportunity as there aren’t a lot of services stations. The road winds around the coast not dissimilar to the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, but the drops to the sea are significantly greater; and USA planning authorities allow some houses on the very cliff face.

We stayed the night in Carmel and kept our eyes opened for Clint Eastwood (he lives here and used to be the Mayor).

We continued down the coast passing Hurst Castle which is a just “Fuck You I’m this Rich” statement house. It is massive castle full of shit this guy stole/bought from around the world. It has to be seen to be believed. We skipped the tour due to the time it took and the $$$.

The road meanders around the cliffs and beaches and you soon get used to the smell of the Californian sea lions and seals which lay on the beaches near the road. It’s like riding in paradise with your head in someone’s unwashed jocks!

The Big Sur is a magnificent area to ride through and we actually found a lovely café and gas station that served fresh cooked real food. Big Ballz reckoned it was the best meal we had had in nearly a month and I reckon he was right.

We planned to stay in Venice Beach for a couple of nights and then head home to round out our US experience.

In Port Costa I lashed out and bought a second GPS so we had one on each bike because we have been split too many times, and without local knowledge, the traffic, etc, it was always a worry where you would re-meet up. I’m glad I did because I lost Big Ballz twice in the next four hours in the traffic on the interstate, but he eventually arrived at the hotel about 40 minutes after me.

Venus Beach is another shit hole (can you tell I don’t like California). Overrated, overpriced, dangerous, and not really all that friendly. I just about had to mortgage my house to pay for the drinks and dinner Big Ballz and I had on the beach front and it was just a normal place!

Being in California and with some time to waste before we flew out, Hollywood had to be an option. So Hollywood here we come!

We headed for Rodeo Drive, did laps looking for famous people, rode up and down the Boulevard and looked at all the expensive places, then decided it was time for a drink—shit, where do you get one in Hollywood. We zigged, zagged, left, right, looking for a pub. Down a back street we found one. We parked the bikes and strode up the footpath to the pub. People were milling around the front. Big Ballz and I walked straight in past the line to the waiter.

“Can we get a table and some beers, mate?”

“Sir, this is a restaurant and we have a wait list,” said the waiter.

“Okay, where can we get a beer?”

“There’s a public bar over there, Sir.”

“Thanks, Knackers,” I said as we strode off.

As we hit the footpath we noticed three things: First was a small dog riding a miniature Harley-Davidson being remote controlled by some dude; second was the look of all the people in the queue; and third was the heap of photographers out front and across the road.

We crossed the street, sidled up to one of the photographers and asked, “What’s going on?”

Nothing yet,” he said, “but this is the Ivy where all the stars go…”

Shit, Big Ballz and I had just busted the line on one of the most exclusive restaurants in Hollywood.

We stayed across the street, had a few beers and watched like all the other gawkers to see if anyone famous came… we saw no one.

That’s about it. All the rest is returning bikes, counting km (about 12,000 km this trip) and doing the flying thing.

Future plans include going back in June for Laconia Bike Week then, if possible, back to Florida to Biketoberfest and Fantasy Fest (of course only if I get the big pay cheque from Ozbike for the articles!)

Remember: Life is way too short—live it like there’s no tomorrow because there may not be one.

Make sure you check out Roo’s Mis-Adventure Part 9.

Roo’s Mis-Adventure Part 7

THE PLAN was to ride to San Diego via Julian (where the best apple pies in USA are made) with two riding buddies, Tiler and Turbine.

Between Baker and Barstow, California, there is a recreated western town, gun fights and all, run by a historical society. A real ghost town created when the tin prices dropped. So we diverted and did the tourist thing, walked around like Clint Eastwood, ate at the café, did the mine tour. Not a bad little town really.

From here we headed down Route 95 where there was major, and I do mean major, traffic congestion due to road works. With the four of us trying to keep together in this sort of traffic it was chaos. I had the GPS and where possible I lead, splitting lanes and trying to make kms. Splitting lanes is frowned upon in California and motorists just doesn’t give a shit about bikes, so every time you did it you were taking your life into your hands. In California bikes are like bugs on your bumper—if you hit and kill a few who will know, right?

We were motoring at about 80 mph when a patrol car raced up my bum! Fortunately, he was probably chasing some smack-head, killer or crazy was on the loose, and he overtook me like I was standing still.

At our fuel stop we rested to regain our nerves. The problem with the traffic was that we were now well and truly behind time and I never like to arrive anywhere in the dark. I briefed the team, said, “Apple Pies here we come,” and headed back onto the open road.

The ride to Julian was fantastic except for the big fires which were still blazing and the sky was dotted with water bombers and helicopters right where we were heading! We passed a number of fire trucks but the roads were open and we could see the sky and smoke in the distance but we were okay.

Trouble was we arrived at Julian as the shops shut. I wasn’t being robbed of my apple pie so I grabbed a chair, ordered a coffee and apple pie and relaxed.

When we left Julian it was dusk and we still had quite a bit of riding across the mountains to go. Turbine had a Road Glide which has an unusually positioned screen—it actually cuts right across his line of vision. Add to this that he is almost blind, it’s getting dark, he is tired… well enough said.

Big Ballz and I powered on, the sweepers were great, sparking boards, laying the bikes over, but we had to stop for Tiler and Turbine to catch up. We could tell they were coming, not from the magnificent tone of the Harley engine, but the noise of him whining about what a shit ride it was and that he couldn’t see.

We fuelled up back on the interstate and the plan was to head straight to our hotels. Before I left Australia, I had booked a room at the Sand Diego Holiday Inn, but when Big Ballz decided to come, I booked another hotel for us at Ocean Beach 15 minutes away and let Tiler and Turbine have the original room.

It was now dark and picking tailights at night when people can’t ride in a pack is difficult especially when you are tired. Everyone knows the Sand Diego Holiday Inn; how hard could it be. At the big green signs which says, San Diego Turn Right, I stopped. Big Ballz arrived a couple of minutes later. Where are Tiler and Turbine? No idea, said Big Ballz, so we waited for 15 minutes. Well they know where we are going, let’s get to the hotel and ring them.

We checked into the Ocean Beach Hotel and I called. Turbine answered all in a huff. He didn’t know where to go so they took the first exit and stopped at the first hotel. I explained where they were, where we were, and where the hotel I had paid for and booked for them was.

“We’re not riding anymore!”

“Well get a cab,” I said. “It’s a great place here—fun biker bar, great place to wind down.”

“Nah, we’re not coming. Might see you tomorrow…”

And that, my fiends, is the last communication we have had!

Oh well, Big Ballz and I proceeded to run rampage in Ocean Beach which is a party town and we had a blast. Caught up with some Highway 81 guys and partied until we were sick.

Next morning, as promised, “Big Ballz, we’re off to Mexico!”

Let me say I do not work for the Mexican Tourism Authority; I want that made quite apparent and upfront. Tijuana is a shit hole! One of the grotiest, sleazy places I have ever been to, and remember I was in the services in the Asia region so I have seen sleazy!

Lying, dirty, grotty, beans smelling Mexicans accost you at every opportunity to buy anything from fake Harley shirts to their sisters. Every bastard is related to each other, so in every shop, it’s ‘Oh, have you been to my uncle’s shop?”

Big Ballz and I decided to grab a feed, a few beers, and do some quick shopping where Big Ballz had his first encounter in bartering. He decided he wanted some gold jewellery and we both wanted cowboy boots (I have no idea why, they didn’t even go with my Viking helmet I bought in Key West). After about 40 minutes of bartering we own two pairs of alligator skin cowboy boots, a Harley bracelet, Harley ring, gold jewellery, all provided with free beers while we shopped.

Funny thing is now we’re home, all the gold has come off Big Ballz bracelets! The boots are cool and Roo’s solid silver Harley bracelet is fine… ah kids, will they ever learn.

Make sure you check out Roo’s Mis-Adventure Part 8.

RIP Chris, a straight talking, straight shootin’ larrikin

G’DAY Sir/Madam,

I am the local Police Officer in a small town called Binnaway, 30 mins south of Coonabarabran, NSW. It’s a nice little country town and it has a wide variety of people from a wide variety of backgrounds.

I’m writing to you in regards to one of my local residents, a chap called Christopher LINEY. Chris and his partner Tracey are well known around town and are very well liked. In the 11 months I’ve been here, I haven’t heard a bad word about them. I didn’t know Chris really well but had spoken to him on several occasions and I very much enjoyed talking with him… it would be hard to not like the guy.

Chris was a tall bearded scruffy bloke with a strong Aussie accent and a heart-warming smile. He was always attired in motorcycle gear, be it riding gear or a ripped motorcycle logo’d shirt, jeans and old bike boots… to me, he seemed to be the classic Aussie joker, a true motorcycle enthusiast, a straight talking, straight shootin’ larrikin.

Tracey his partner is just as straight talkin’, small in stature but big in heart and guts and a true fighter. She won’t gave you $h1t unless you deserve it and but definitely won’t take it….  

Her and Chris were near inseparable, and rode their bikes everywhere they needed to go… rail, hail, shine… I would often see them riding back into town putting away 15 km under the speed limit (not because I was there… that’s just how they were… and I think Chris was always being chivalrous towards his lady by riding slower than he wanted to). They would walk past my house on the way back from the pub and see me in the shed and it is just in their nature to be good mannered and couldn’t help but say a jolly hello and how ya’ goin’. Cheerful greetings are not in the brochure when you join the cops, so I always liked seeing them go past.

The only time it was no good talking to Chris (particularly about bikes) is when you where in a rush… there was no short conversation about bikes with Chris. He would offer to fix/service/modify your bike, he would tell you histories of different bikes, tell you about all of his favourites, etc… his passion for bikes oozed outta his skin, and you could tell that very quickly after meeting him.

Chris was tragically killed on his everyday rider (Old DRZ) 2 weeks ago after he hit a feral pig that ran out on him. Tracey was riding behind him and saw this unfold and helped do CPR on him.

Chris and Tracey had just spent the day together, riding from Binnaway to Mudgee and back via Dunedoo and all the scenic back roads, stopping to take photos of the sunset and each other before taking a scenic back road home. What happened next was just a circumstance of bad luck and bad timing. He was an experienced rider and knew the road well…just a tragic accident.

A very hard accident to attend when you know the bloke too.

Now I mentioned that Tracey was a fighter, and it couldn’t be more evident. She has “lost her soul mate” as she describes it and is left with nothing but grief and death. To show the type of person she is… two days after the accident she forced herself back onto her bike and went riding in his honour. It was a tough grind for her and she come back in tears, she tells me… but that garners a hell of a lot of respect in my books.

So, I have been dealing with Tracey regularly as is my role, and she has started making a big photo frame of pictures of her and Chris obviously to preserve his memory and what not. She also told me a bunch of storeys about Chris and his (and their) motorcycling adventures together. Some great storeys, plenty of prangs with Roo’s, sheep, goats, etc. And that got me to thinking… given their passion for riding, I thought it would be nice to see a storey on him and Tracey published in your mag, as they are pretty much the classic type that you guys write about generally and the storeys Tracey has about Chris are really good yarns.

I think it would be a wonderful tribute to Chris, both for Tracey and this town. The local publican (Royal Hotel Binnaway) has set up a GoFundMe page to help Tracey out with funeral expenses, etc, and I dare say fixing up the damage on Chris’s bike… the important stuff, ya know.

I would love to put you in touch with her and I know she would get a real kick out of being able to share Chris with you guys and your readers. And I know Chris would be stoked to have some of his bikes make it to your pages.

Kind regards, Senior Constable L. JAMIESON, Lock Up Keeper, Binnaway Police Station.

Roo’s Mis-Adventure Part 6

BIG Ballz and I arrived Las Vegas—but due to some farked planning we actually arrived on the night of Halloween and so missed a few great hours of partying. We booked our accommodation on the internet to suit the budget conscious—which meant we were actually out of the Las Vegas and right beside the Nellis Air Force base.

Big Ballz couldn’t contain himself—we were in Vegas on Halloween; no way at 10.30 pm was he going to bed—so we called a taxi to take us to the Casinos. Las Vegas town cabs didn’t want to go to Nellis so the wait was up to an hour (note to self: pay the extra $20/night and stay in strip next time).

Vegas is, I must say, unbelievable! Once inside the casino it doesn’t matter what time day or night it is—there are no clocks, no windows, and if you sit at a table and gamble, there are no drink costs.

Big Ballz and I laid out $100 each. Big Ballz had, at one stage, up about $400 in winnings but, as is usual, the house eventually wins. But we had two hours of free drinks, entertainment, and basically came home with what we started with. The drinks are free—soft, beer, wine, spirits (watered down)—but they aren’t the quickest when it comes to service! Needless to say we gave them a little bit of curry about this.

The night was great because every pissed, half-dressed college girl in the USA comes to the casino after their parties. The place was alive and Big Ballz was almost uncontrollable.

The next day Big Ballz and I mounted our trusty steeds and headed to the desert. I was told there was an awesome ride through a place called the Valley of Fire and you could go on to Hoover Dam. Sounded like us.

The park is a traditional Indian area abutted by reservations, and you get the eerie feeling that Indian spirits are around. The road is adorned with small piles of rocks which are Indian totem marks.

Big Ballz and I stopped at one of the large rock beehives to take some snaps. Three Yanks were there taking pictures of rocks. Being an old hunter and infantryman, I was spying the ridge-line, and there, in all its glory, was a mountain ram—a wild very large type of goat. Big Ballz and I gazed as it stood proud and watched us.

I called to the Yanks, “Hey, have a look up here on the ridge.”

They were gob smacked! Being witty Yanks one of the guys said, “So in Australian, mate, would you call that a sheila or a bloke?” and they all giggled.

I replied, “Fucked if I know! In Australia in half an hour we would call it a barbeque.”

These poor bastards are so insular, I thought they were going to wet themselves. They said that was the funniest thing they had ever heard. Shit, might get my own sitcom at this rate.

Big Ballz and I rode on and straight into a rest area to get some water because it was hot—and we rode right into someone’s wedding. Stiff shit, it’s parkland and we needed water.

The crowd looked at us, and a guy moved our way.

I called out: “So where’s the bride we have to kidnap?”

They all laughed, we had a drink—this sitcom thing may have legs!

After bumbling around we were running out of light, so we gave Hoover Dam a miss and trundled back to Nellis to change and get ready for our last night on the town in Vegas.

For Harley riders, you have to do Las Vegas Harley, but more importantly, the Harley Café, which has bikes around the roof on conveyor belts. The café is a mix of riders, wannabes and tourists—and crumpet! We stayed quite a while for a few drinks and decided to leave the bikes in the carpark.

When in Vegas one has to go and see a show so we wandered around the discount show ticket booths, into the various casinos, and by popular decision, decided to see some dickhead Dutch magician, Hans Klok: the Beauty of Magic. The show looked ordinary, was reasonably priced for a Vegas Show, and really only had one appeal—the co-star was Pamela Anderson! It took no convincing for Big Ballz to make his choice! And we paid an extra $50/ticket to get second row seats!

At the start of the show the Cockmeister (as we like to call him) called for a volunteer to work with Pamela. Big Ballz jumped onto the seat and screamed the hall down. The Dickpuller (as we also sometimes call him) picked some small dicked Japanese businessman. Big Ballz was devastated; yet we did get a good look at her tits and atrocious acting ability.

Big Ballz felt much better after a few ales and a photo in front of a stall named after him. So slightly refreshed, GPS taped to the handlebars, we headed back to the hotel ready for a night’s sleep in preparation for tomorrow’s long ride to San Diego.

Make sure you check out Roo’s Mis-Adventure Part 7.

How Shitlegs Got His Name

I’VE GOT a mate named Shitlegs, and as with most nicknames, not a great deal of thought was put into bestowing that moniker on the biker formerly known as Max. Basically, his legs are, well… shit. They weren’t always that way, both legs being quite reasonable when he was a young man. They were the perfect length for him, as in they were exactly long enough to reach the ground and support him in fine style. That all changed on Wednesday, 9 April 1969, when young Maxxie was involved in—you guessed it—a motorcycle accident.

Motoring along King Street, Newtown, Maxxie was marvelling at how good his life was going. The machine he was riding was a beefy 650 cc Matchless G12 Twin, a 1964 model, made in the dying days of that model’s run. It was still a few short years before the helmet laws were instigated so Maxxie was riding free; he’d even picked up a hitchhiker, a common enough occurrence back then, but happens rarely these days. It’s not just the lack of a spare helmet scenario, but more so because few people hitchhike now, thanks mainly to Ivan Milat.

The hitchhiker Maxxie picked up was a surfer, Terry Fitzgerald, and although he went on to found the Hot Buttered Surfboard and Clothing empire back in 1969, he was just another up and coming surfer hitchhiking home after placing well in a Bells Beach surf title event. Unfortunately, his pillion ride on a 1964 Matchless didn’t last long. Around about the intersection of Alice and King Streets, a huge, great semi-trailer pulled out and the next thing, the Matchless, the biker and the surfer were sliding under the trailer just in front of the dual rear wheels.

Corner of King & Alice Streets Newtown 1969

In the general scheme of things, the surfer didn’t suffer too much; concussion, a bit of bark off here and there and was released from hospital later that day after observation. Must’ve been traumatic, though. 

The Matchless didn’t do too badly either—petrol tank and timing cover damaged, but all very repairable.

Maxxie, however, was not so lucky, copping the brunt of the impact on his bonce and legs—and he handled it a whole lot better at the time than he did later on when he discovered what really went on when he was out to it. Like, I can’t see how anyone could be pleased to discover a priest had administered the Last Rites.

And as he recuperated, he was mortified to discover that his mashed right leg wasn’t given the immediate attention it was calling out for, as the doctors were so busy attending to his serious head injuries. They were fairly certain he wouldn’t make it through the head injuries so the leg job would be academic. In a strange twist of fate, that was a good thing, as all the doctors were in agreement that the leg job was to be a plain and simple amputation! Miraculously, the condition of the really bad leg improved while Maxxie’s head was getting better.

The JRMO at PA (Junior Resident Medical Officer at Prince Alfred Hospital) was on the case and looking after Maxxie well. He thought he’d try an experimental new process known as Frozen Skin Graft. Maxxie reckons it felt like he’d been put in a four-jaw chuck; a few thou of skin was peeled from the top of his better leg and adapted to the gaping hole in his right calf.

With the leg in plaster from the tippy-toes all the way up to his Thinking Department, nurses would flutter around all day tending to the wound through a ‘window’ in the cast. One day, the good doctor visited with a tray of tools and spent about half an hour fiddlin’ and fartin’ about. Then he muttered something like, “Hmmm, good,” slapped Max on the plaster cast and disappeared. 

The nursing sister came back in a few minutes and was gushing about how happy the doc was with the wound’s progress and that the leg was gonna stay on! It might’ve been good news, but it was all news to Maxxie just how bad it was. Maybe it was lucky he wasn’t wearing a helmet; the head injuries delayed what could’ve been fairly radical leg surgery. It seems it healed good enough for the docs to keep him classified as a bi-ped rather than mono-ped.

His left wrist had copped a flogging too, and many months of touch-and-go recuperation saw Maxxie allowed to leave the hospital, after being supplied with a flash pair of the modern-as-tomorrow aluminium appliances known back then as Canadian Crutches. Although those alloy beauties are commonplace now, back in 1969, they were still an unknown quantity and cutting edge technology.

It was a similar situation with his home-bound rehabilitation; in the late 1960s, very few homes had remote control anything and even today, you’d marvel at the ingenious design of Maxxie’s home-made TV remote control (he still has it). Some pub somewhere lost a pool cue, whose rubber tip at the pointy end was just the perfect reach for prodding the off-on switch and twirling the volume knob from the comfy lounge. At the fat end of the cue, a slot was hacksawed into the stubby part, and that slot engaged exactly with the tab on the channel-changer knob. (For the younger readers, in the old days, to change channels, you had to leave the lounge chair and go to the channel-changer knob, which was a device attached the old 17-inch black & white TV… huh? A black and white TV… a television which only… awww, forget it… it doesn’t matter…)

After Maxxie had got better (a little bit better) some mates dragged him down to the pub for a beer.

Naturally, all present were relieved and pleased to see Maxxie back in the land of the living and, of course, fronting up for a bit of show and tell. With the flash aluminium crutches put to one side and both legs of his loose-fitting daks rolled up, the ghastly condition of Maxxie’s pins was revealed. A fella named Carl exclaimed in totally honesty, “Jeez, mate, your legs are shit!”

And from that day on, dear readers, Maxxie was known as Shitlegs.

Like most lifetime bikers, Shitlegs wasted as little time as possible getting back in the saddle. The Matchless was repaired but it soon went as a trade-in on a brand-new 1970 Triumph 650 Trophy and Shitlegs was back on the road.

It’s always annoying to talk about prices of neat stuff ‘back in the old days’, but here we go—Shitlegs got $200 as trade in for the repaired G12 Matchless, which came off the total price of the new Trophy which was—wait for it—$1,050. And new Bonnevilles were $1150. Sheesh!

He kept that Trophy for three years, and by the time he sold it in 1973, he already had his dream bike, a very second-hand 1961 Triumph Bonneville 650.

That Bonnie has been with Shitlegs all through his life up until the present day. It even got stolen once; the low-breed pricks who pinched it thrashed the ring out of it so badly, it holed a piston, then was pushed into laneway next to a garage in Burns Bay Road, Longueville, where it sat for four months and four days before being reported because it ‘was in the way’.

It did have another wee holiday out of Shitlegs’ custody when a mate named Skraps bought it—or rather, horse-traded it—with a Bee Em boxer and a G12 Matchless in the mix but sold the ’61 Bonnie back to Shitlegs after a short time.

Sadly, as the decades passed, Shitleg’s shitty legs didn’t get any better; they rather got worse and worse until he realised he was having a fair bit of trouble just kicking over the old Bonnie and he did something he thought he’d never do—he bought himself a Jap bike with electric starter. It was one of those Bonneville look-a-like Kawasaki twins, which don’t look too bad and don’t sound too bad, so he doesn’t feel too bad about riding it. He reckons it will keep him in the breeze for a few more years yet.

The main thing is that Shitlegs is still having fun on two wheels without the associated pain of kickstarting bikes with legs of shit. And the 1961 Bonneville still gets some use on Classic Rego too.

Life is good, Shitlegs reckons; it just depends on how you look at it. And for a bloke who never learned to drive a car until he was way into his forties, he’s still living on two wheels, and thankfully, two legs.

South Australian Keystone Cops

I HAVE RECENTLY obtained and read a copy of Ozbike magazine. It is a magazine I enjoy reading which contains many good and interesting articles which have been well written and are supported by great photography. Thanks for a great mag!

In this latest magazine, there are two articles which make my blood boil, the first is Chris Randells’ “Jokers Wild” article. What a great photo on the opening page—three police cars forming a rolling road block and one police motorcycle riding down the verge of the road.

I may be wrong but I believe both of these actions are illegal and that obstructing traffic in itself is against the law in South Australia.

Yes! I am aware that the police every where have the power and the authority to break normal road laws under special circumstances. While I can see that one of the police cars has its headlights on, I am unable to see any evidence showing the use of the red and blue roof lights. Surely, forming a rolling road block should warrant the use of these roof lights if such an action was necessary.

The sad reality is that because the South Australian Police Complaints Authority is such a useless toothless tiger, the individuals in charge of these police vehicles and motorcycles have absolutely nothing to worry about.

I grew up in South Australia and completed my secondary education at an all-boys school. At that time (the 1960’s) it was quite common for the ‘academically challenged students’ who could not make it to Intermediate standard (now days Year 10) to leave school. Of those dropouts, many applied to the army or the police force and quite a few of those who were rejected by the army, then applied to, and were accepted into, the police force. There were at least six students who dropped out in 1963, at the end of Year 9, who were known to be bullies at the school, who applied straight to the police force; three of them were accepted.

If the government is serious about curtailing crime in South Australia, it would do well to realise that there are very few clubs and similar organisations involved in crime as an ‘organisation’, yet there are certainly many examples of both motorcycle and other respected organisations that have individual members who are involved in crime. The Catholic Church and the crime of paedophilia is one example that springs readily to mind. Yet the government is not ‘yet’ applying this new law to the Catholic Church and neither should they be. In the same way that they should not be applying them to any ‘organisations’.

History shows that over the years, there have been members of the Adelaide Club as well as members of Masonic Lodges and organisations such as Rotary, who have had individual members who have been found guilty of serious felonious crimes. Pursue the individual felon by all means, but avoid attacking the law abiding.

This law is a bit like re-arming the police with sawn-off shotguns. Who gives a damn about innocent casualties? Just call it an acceptable level of collateral damage.

While I am not suggesting that all of the members of SAPOL (SA Police) are mindless morons, there are certainly many who are only too quick to swallow the hype and propaganda disseminated by some of their hierarchy and the politicians.

I have several friends who are, or have been in the past, members of SAPOL. Most of them are down right decent people, but after an incident in the late 1990’s, one of them made the comment, “I am glad I am retiring. I have been a member of SAPOL for about 30 years and have always been proud of it, however, what I have seen over the last 15 months embarrasses me. These actions could only be worthy of an organisation such as the Keystone Cops.”

That the government has introduced these draconian laws worthy of Hitler should not surprise anyone. The government certainly needs to deflect attention away from other matters. A tramway extension that set a world benchmark for cost per metre of line, and which has only further disrupted CBD traffic. A more intelligent solution would have been to underground the line starting in the South Parklands and running under King William Street. In wet weather, the rails are a hazard to motorcycles, scooters, etc, and in any weather they are a hazard to bicycles.

I also note that in the last SA State Budget funds have been allocated to electrify the suburban rail system. Not bad since a previous government purchased all the hardware to do the same thing years ago then a later government sold it all to WA for peanuts.

SA short of water! Years of inaction on this by the Government! Don’t be surprised. They are all wet behind the ears and think we are as well.

The second article that has incensed me is the one on page 90, “Treated with Respect—is it too much to ask?” I can only conclude that the NSW Police must have recruited from the school bullies of NSW. What a disgrace!

It seems that the police system we have in this country has allowed some members of its organisation to run rampant with little fear of being held accountable. Maybe the answer would be to adopt the USA system of having smaller more localised police authorities which are accountable by having the senior positions filled as the result of elections. That way, if the local police become overbearing and over-authoritarian in their actions, the Chief can quickly pull in the reins or look at the prospect of ‘next year out on your ear’ election results.

By Dr Jeff Johns PhD. B.Tech (electrical)

Roo’s Mis-Adventure Part 4

BIKETOBERFEST in Daytona Beach is an international award-winning motorcycle festival that offers participants an extended weekend get-away brimming with plenty of sun, beaches, bikes and fun! Thousands of bikes—and there are no two alike!—roar all around town. Popular activities include motorcycle shows and rallies that showcase new, vintage and custom bikes; demonstration rides on the newest machines from top manufacturers; and on-track motorcycle action at the world-famous Daytona International Speedway. You can also enjoy endless live music and plenty of people-watching.

This is a mini Sturgis on the beach and is one of my favourite USA rallies. Florida has great weather, sun, and all the girls who don’t wear much in this sort of weather.

Big Ballz and I did the obligatory walk down the main and perved on all the beauties and the bikes, got our ‘been there’ patches for our vests, and headed to the bar.

The main drag has a number of great bars and each fires at different times of the day. At around 2 pm our choice was Boot Hill Saloon; no spirits but plenty of beer and boobs.

After some slight lubrication we wandered down to Dirty Harry’s which had a hot fanny competition (steady on boys, fanny in USA is arse! Although either could have worked from what we saw). Big Ballz and I were in the front row and obviously loud. We won a couple of supporter T-shirts and the security took a shining to us and gave us the hint about the wet T-shirt competition coming up across the road. So we decided we had better have a look.

By 6 pm Big Ballz was talking a dialect of aboriginal or something, and we stumbled from bar to bar until 7 pm where we were again refused entry. Probably had something to do with the fact Big Ballz had finger-tested most test tube shooters, told them they were shit and wouldn’t buy them (of course I paid for them).

Having been escorted to the curb and pointed in the direction of a taxi, I decided to take the hint and take Big Ballz home—and what had been a $40 taxi ride earlier now became a $90 return fare. I argued with the taxi driver who stopped at the Hilton and told us to get out. I told him to have a good day, saluted and slammed the door. If I was to pay $90 we may as well stay at the Hotel and work something out tomorrow. I was doing quite well negotiating a rate for the night until Big Ballz slid off the counter, collapsed onto the floor asleep. It was at this time that we were told we should look elsewhere.

No to be discouraged, I hailed a taxi, told him we were going to St Augustine and I’d pay cash. Greedily, he accepted. When we arrived, he said $85; I threw $50 and said, “Sorry, that’s all I got.” To the sound of abuse he rumbled off into the distance.

Night 2 started much the same as the previous day but we slowed down a little, survived til 8 pm where we met with Turbine, Tiler, Dan and Bridget, and went to a bar with karaoke. We had an awesome night. The oldies left at 11 pm. In fact Tiler got her nickname after this night, as on the way home she spent more time on her knees crawling than walking and looked like a floor tiler.

Big Ballz and I were tuning a few local gals and feeding them with oysters and booze; they went to the toilet and didn’t return.

I lost Big Ballz about 1 am when he came over and demanded the camera as the MILF Hunter was here. Evidently this gentleman makes some sort of documentaries. All I know is that there were bevy of beautiful admirers around him and some of the ladies had obviously split drinks on themselves and were licking the ullaged off each other.

I awoke at approximately 4 am with Big Ballz yelling, “It’s all about the fucking code.” I told him to shut up and go to sleep.

In the morning we determined that he had been arrested on the beach semi-naked, was cuffed, searched, and the cops said if he could remember his hotel and entry security code, they would take him home; otherwise it was off to the lock-up. Unbelievably, Big Ballz remembered the code—although he lost all his cash, his mobile phone and a bracelet.

Of course Biketoberfest isn’t all about boobs and beer—there are bike rides too; and one ride that can’t be missed is to Bruce Rossmeyer’s Harley Davidson which is now the world’s largest Harley dealership. We waited in bike traffic for more than an hour to get in but what a sight—multi-level Harley shop, hotel, pub, eateries and dozens of trade booths. It was an incredible sight, and to pass thousands of bikes is just an experience you cannot fathom until you have down it.

On our way back we dropped off at the Broken Spoke which is another famous watering hole, and somewhere else that you queue with your bike to get in, but it’s cool to ride straight up to the bar and park.

Riding around for the next few days we passed Buck’s Gun Shop a number of times and vowed to pop in for a look. We walked in eyes agog as machine guns, long distance sniper rifles, pistols, and tear gas. Buck guessed we were out-of-towners and consented to give Big Ballz the largest handgun available and he proudly had his picture taken with it.

I spied a drawer full of police badges and folders, asked about their authenticity and was told most you need a permit for, others are for general policing. I couldn’t help myself, bought a Special Officer badge and flip wallet, which did come in handy later, although totally unplanned?

Make sure you check out Roo’s Mis-Adventure Part 5.

Triumph Bonnevilles Don’t Grow On Trees

THEY SAY if you remember the 1970s, you didn’t drink, because the ’70s was the last decade available to pissheads before we all got religion in the shape of random breath testing and the .05 limit. If you rode a motorbike back then, you didn’t have to do much to be pulled over and booked for something, but you had to be doing something really stupid before they’d put you on the bag and test for excessive amounts of blood in the old alcohol system.

If you kept it cool, didn’t give the finger to the coppers and made sure all your lights were working, you were generally safe.

Another feature of the ’70s was the inevitability of massive and well-planned strikes by rabid unions. Beer strikes were common at Christmas, petrol strikes always came before any holiday period, and bus strikes were all year round. Even the bakers went on a bread strike but only when you were really tonguin’ for a roast beef and pickle sandwich.

It was during one of those horrible petrol strikes that I found myself in a turd-barrel of trouble, and it was all down to the petrol strike, not my own youthful stupidity. See, me and a mate, Demon, had left the Steyne Hotel on Manly Beach very late one Saturday night, heading for Sweet Fanny Adams’ nightclub on Collaroy Beach. Demon was on his Suzuki GS-750, and I was on my 1950 AJS single.

“Your tail-light’s not working,” Demon told me before we’d even left the pub.

It’s a paradox, but having a red light shining on the arse-end of your bike on a dark night means you don’t get noticed; not having a light will get you well and truly noticed by the cops. The only place to buy a globe was a service station. Now, it was the height of the petrol strike so all service stations were closed; there were only a few all-nighters in Sydney and most of those were taxi bases, but even they were closed to the general public during a strike anyway. We had enough juice in the tanks to go everywhere but I needed a tail-light globe before going anywhere.

I hit upon a grand idea, and high-tailed it to my place just up the road in Fairlight. In my garage was a mate’s bike I was minding, and it had a tail-light globe for sure. The bike in question was a rough old Triumph Bonneville owned by Lindsay Apartheid, a South African mate who’d gone back to South Africa for three months to see his folks. Now, before Lindsay flew out to an uncertain holiday, he’d asked me to mind the Bonnie, as his lodgings in Darlinghurst was so suss, he was certain nothing of his would still be there on his return—if he returned. See, Lindsay Apartheid figured it was a 50/50 bet that upon his arrival in South Africa, he’d be called up into the army. He was sure they’d send him to Zimbabwe, give him a gun and say, “See thet bleck chep over there named Robert Mugabe—be a good chep and shoot him for us, there’s a good led.”

Lindsay had asked me to mind the rotten Trumpy for the initial three months but, if he got conscripted, with maybe a couple of years extension. Of course, he said if he didn’t make it through, the Triumph was mine.

Like I said, it was a bit of a dog-box; it went well, but was a ’64 motor in a ’71 frame, plus it had a fat 16-inch chopper wheel on the back. If you know your Triumphs, you’ll know that fat, 16-inch choppers wheels don’t really fit on the back, but with a fair bit of fiddlin’ an’ fartin’ they’ll go in. Usually, for chain clearance, the wheel is cocked out of line to the right, which, funnily enough, makes the bike steer off to the left when you let go of the handlebars. The blokes who ride Triumphs with fat back wheels usually become oblivious to the constant correction of steering right to counteract this handling aberration.

Irrespective of all this malarkey, the Triumph had a viable tail-light globe, and I was going to borrow it for that night. Lindsay had told me I could ride the bike anytime I wanted, but I was a bit leery about boozy nights on borrowed bikes—they always end in tears. The Trump hadn’t turned a wheel since Lindsay left. Demon shone his headlight into the garage (no electricity—how did we ever get through our youth?) and I fumbled, fell and swore foul until I found a screwdriver. I unscrewed my tail-light lens, put it down then unscrewed Lindsay’s lens, removed the globe and held it aloft like a holy relic. In the shadowy glare, I walked to the AJS and a crunching sound told me I’d stepped on my tail-light lens and crushed it to death. No worries—I’ll use Lindsay’s lens as well!

Aghhhh—screw-holes in the wrong place!

We were going to Fanny’s and that was that, so Lindsay’s globe and lens were refitted to his bike and the Ajay was left parked in the garage.

Lindsay’s bike felt great—more power than the Ajay—and the fast-drumming twin cylinder feel was certainly different to the Ajay’s singular kettle-drum thump.

We had a good time a Sweet Fanny Adams, but sadly, didn’t pull any chicks, so it was ‘hit the road’ time again.

We decided a ride to the West Head lookout via Coal and Candle Creek was in order; we headed north on Pittwater Road.

It was around the middle of the infamous Warriewood Straight that I decided to do one of my standard tricks—number 37b in the catalogue of dumb things to do on a motorbike. Number 37 in the catalogue is setting the throttle friction stop for 60 miles per hour, then jumping up and standing bolt upright on the seat. It looks really funny and never fails to impress. 37b is a simple variation, where you stand on the seat of your motorcycle going 60 miles per hour and flap your arms like you were a big, dumb, featherless eagle.

So midway along Warriewood Straight, with Demon following close behind, that’s just what I did. I jumped up, stood bolt upright and proceeded to flap my arms in an upwardly and downwardly motion. At this point, I remembered about the crooked rear wheel, and the fact that this Trumpy veered off to the left as soon as the handlebars were released. Up until that particular time in my short but exciting life, I’d faced many situations where a good, hearty “Uh-oh!” was needed and this was definitely one of them.

“Uh-oh!” I said, then leapt down very quickly. It wasn’t really quick enough and nowhere near accurate and I fell to the ground.

At 60 miles per hour.

This was going to hurt.

It did.

The last thing I saw was Lindsay’s Triumph changing lanes all by itself. Then, while still perfectly upright, it sent a bizarre shower of sparks in a giant rooster tail behind it. Hmmm, that usually only happens when the bike is on its side and sliding along.

I jumped up from the roadway the second I stopped sliding, then ordered everyone off the roadway because it would attract the cops.

That was my recollection of the post-fall events. However, in reality, things were slightly different. I got told the full story by Demon later that night but it didn’t sink in. The passage of time has now convinced me that on that Saturday night, I suffered a very serious concussion.

Thirty years after the event, a quick phone call to good old Demon proved his story hadn’t changed. Here’s what he said:

“There I was, following Kelly on the Triumph, and all of a sudden, he just stood up on the seat and began to flap his arms like a big, dumb, featherless eagle. The bike veered to the left, and he just fell, hit the deck and rolled and tumbled for so far I couldn’t believe it. The Trumpy changed lanes into the gutter lane, then changed lanes again into the gutter itself. When the primary case hit the gutter, a huge rooster tail of sparks flew out the back of the bike.

“I had to swerve a few times left, and then to the right to miss Kelly’s tumbling form, but I did see the Trump fall on its side on the footpath and do its own style of cartwheel, before it disappeared into a tree from its last bounce about 10 or 12 feet high off the ground. I finally swerved around Kelly, then looked back, saw him lying in the middle of the road and not looking too flash.

“Then I realised the huge pack of cars we’d raced ahead of from the last set of traffic lights was bearing down on him as he lay in the middle lane with no lights or damaged bike to give people a warning. I chucked a quick U-turn, switched on my driving lights, high beam, four-way flashers and anything else I could find and roared back the wrong way down the centre lane. Like parting the Red Sea, cars were going either side, while thankfully the ones in the middle lane stopped.

“I put the bike on the side-stand and jumped off to see what I could do. Kelly was spazzin’ out badly; his body was arching backwards quick enough and violently enough to be levitating off the ground a couple of times a second. I was trying to work out whether we should hold him down or let him work it out of his system, when in an instant, he leapt up like nothing had happened, ordered the car drivers to move their cars from that dangerously stupid position and told me having my bike parked the wrong way in the middle lane was bound to attract cops, so ‘MOVE THE BLOODY THING!’

“Some of the concerned motorists said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll call the police for you…’

“‘Yeah, thanks,’ we both said, as we both jumped of my Suzuki and pissed off from the scene, leaving the Triumph hanging in a tree about three foot off the ground, just swinging there in the breeze. It was so far off the road, I don’t think any of the concerned motorists even knew the spectacular fall was from another bike. I think they all thought just a pillion passenger had fallen off the back of mine.”

Yep, that was the same thing Demon told me some three decades ago. After leaving the scene, we went the back way up to Elanora Heights, to knock on the door of the house where my mate Skraps’ little brother Andy lived. Andy owned a big old ’55 Pontiac Coupe, and like a true mate should, had no problem being roused out of bed by two bikers who needed help lifting a bent Triumph down from a tree… usual story.

Admittedly, I was in a bit of a haze, but I do recall the trouble we had getting it down. The tree, while not a huge one, had copped a flying Trumpy right on one of the two main branches that sprung from the bough, which had split in two. The branch holding the Trump was laying over parallel to the ground, so the bike was lying flat and swaying lazily a few feet in the air. It was a lot harder than you’d imagine, so we just shook the tree and the bike fell out. By that stage we weren’t too concerned about further damage to the Trump, because, man—she was rooted.

I also learned something valuable to keep that night; as long as you take the back seat out of a 1955 Pontiac Coupe, you can feed a complete 650 cc Triumph motorcycle through the boot, into the passenger area and close the boot-lid! You never know when that snippet of info will come in handy.

Andy dropped me back at my place, and he, me and Demon lugged the badly bent Trump out of the boot and into the garage where it was propped up next to the Ajay. Even though the frame was bent, the tank was dented, the seat was torn and handlebars twisted, the tail-light globe and lens were still perfect.

I crashed out big time, still wearing the clothes I sorta still had on.

Arising in the morning, I took stock of things. I figured the back of the bonce had taken a fair old hammering, as the Cromwell helmet had a huge, depressed fracture about four inches across right at the back of it. The one-day-old pair of Lee jeans were go-o-o-o-o-o-ne but the funniest thing was the woollen jumper I was wearing when I hit the deck. I wasn’t wearing a leather jacket so the grey jumper was trashed. You know how wool goes with gravel rash, the way it curls up in a ball when it gets ground away? This jumper had no back left, just a roll of burned wool up near the neckband. The neckband was joined to the wristbands by two rolled-up, stringy strands of wool that were once sleeves, while the front of the jumper hung loosely like a baby’s bib.

The T-shirt underneath didn’t fare that much better. The whole ensemble looked ridiculous, but not half as ridiculous as my back—Jeez, I’d lost some bark off there.

I did have gloves on, but you know that knob on the back of your wrist? I’d flat-spotted mine like a bastard. There wasn’t much claret to be seen, just lots of that horrible, dry-burn gravel rash all over everywhere. Oh, and I was quite partial to passing out and dropping to the floor on occasions over the next few days. When you’re that age and that stupid, hospitals are for poofters.

After a painful shower, it was on with the overalls and down to the garage to get the Bonnie rebuild happening. The frame got straightened and repainted, the tank panel-beaten and repainted and the seat recovered. Lindsay got back to Australia to an almost new bike and, “Loved what I’d done to it.”

And the tree?

From that night on, I adopted that tree. It didn’t die, only grew stronger. It’s just that one of the main branches shot out horizontal for about three metres before turning skyward again. Every time I passed the spot, I’d point out “That Bloody Tree” to whoever I was with. The area has changed dramatically over the last three decades; the open paddocks behind the line of trees is now infested with fast food outlets, picture theatres and warehouses for the endless stream of imported goods that are destroying Australia.

And some time recently, within the last few years, some heathen of a local authority has come along and removed the horizontal branch. Vandals… mutilators of history… destroyers of legend—that was the tree that had a Triumph Bonneville growing out of it.

article from the 1970’s by Kelly Ashton