EVERYONE WHO rides has had at least one big, scary prang. Of course, it’s all relative; for some people, a scary prang is a minor slide on a wet road followed by an unceremonious dumping on one’s arse. Sometimes, that is just enough to make them call it quits. Others may go through the most horrific smash-up and not bat an eyelid, utilising the hospital stay to figure out the best ways to attach a pair of crutches to the bike once they’re allowed out of hospital.
My mate Skraps had a monster prang on his Matchless. It was a G12CSR — a flash chrome and fire-engine red 650 cc twin from 1963, and the nasty road event certainly pulled him up for a while. There he was, minding his own business, hooning along Mitchell Road in Brookvale, when some dickhead in a Holden sedan came steaming through a stop sign and “DEEEESH!” (as Skraps described the sound later) he ploughed into the Holden’s front guard, flew over the bonnet and onto the roadway.
Skraps broke an arm, grazed his face and lost a big part of his little finger. Not so much of a problem for your average scumbag bikie, but unfortunately for Skraps, he was an eighth-grade piano player and it broke his music-teaching mother’s heart.
Now, as was so often the case with foolhardy youth, the Matchless was rebuilt and ready to ride again before its rider was even out of plaster. He had it gleaming again in next to no time, but if the truth be known, Skraps wasn’t quite ready to get back in the saddle. Not that he gave up riding motorbikes, no sir! Well, not completely, anyway. See Skraps needed to travel across the breadth of Sydney every day, from Beacon Hill to Granville Tech where he was studying to become a tech for the PMG (or Telecom or Telstra or whatever it’s called these days), and for that purpose, he had acquired a Honda 65 cc step-thru.
The shameless bastard even had the unmitigated temerity to ride the limpid little turd of a thing to the pub. It was hilarious; you’d wander along the rows of bikes out the back of the Brookvale Pub and you’d see: Triumph, Norton, Triumph, Kwakka 9, Kwakka 9, Kwakka 9, Norton, Honda Four, Kwakka 9, Ducati Super Sport, AJS… what the? Honda bloody step-thru!
No matter how we ribbed Skraps, he couldn’t be moved to do the final five minutes fiddling to get the majestic Matchless back on the road, so the Honda was his only transport.
One very boozy Saturday arvo down the Brookie Pub was being punctuated by the occasional burnout, then some kid on an unregistered trail bike began doing reasonable wheelstands in the back carpark. Naturally, one thing led to another, and some people who should’ve known better had their real motorbikes up on the back wheel on Roger Street behind the pub.
Even with some serious egging on, Kevo could not lift the front wheel of his yellow Norton Commando more than a few feet of the ground.
“Stupid bloody thing won’t lift,” Kevo spat in disgust. “I don’t think a Norton is designed to be wheelstood,” he added thoughtfully.
Skraps, who’d been quiet up until this point, added his two cents’ worth.
“If it’s got two wheels and handlebars,” Skraps proclaimed, “It can be wheelstood!” (author’s note: Wheelstood is so the past tense of wheelstand)
I had to agree with Skraps’ sentiment. Hold your tongue the right way and you can wheelstand anything. I’ve heard eyewitness accounts of the time Barry Sheene put sportscaster Darryl Eastlake’s H-U-G-E Heritage Softail on its back wheel across the carpark of Peppers by the Sea on the Central Coast. Besides, we’d only just recently watched the movie Stone and Kevo’s Norton was the exact same model as Stone’s; that Commando certainly pulled nice monos.
Kevo disagreed. “Nortons don’t wheelstand,” he repeated.
Skraps grabbed his Cromwell helmet and strode over to the sassy-looking Norton S model. “Gimme a go,” he said before heading onto Roger Street.
Skraps got that yellow beastie haulin’ hard on the back wheel, pawing the sky like an excited hound, up and down Roger Street, up and down. With most of the mob cheering him on to greater heights, he well and truly disproved Kevo’s untenable theory about the inability of certain models to mono.
After a while, things quietened down somewhat, and the backstreets of Brookvale got back to more normal behaviour, i.e. hordes of Brookie wogs hooning up and down the backstreets in their GT Falcons and purple Monaros.
With the crowd back inside the pub, it was only me seeing off a fired-up and newly-inspired Skraps as he wheelstood his little Honda step-thru away from the carpark. So it was only me who got a magnificent view of Skrappsie decking the horrible little green machine while hooning around the bend into the top carpark! Kerash, tinkle scrape, came the sounds as I raced over to help him up.
The silly bastard had over-estimated his own riding ability and under-estimated a Honda step-thru’s propensity to crash when pushed. Skraps was only wearing a T-shirt, Cromwell helmet, stubbies and thongs when he went for a nice, abrasive slide on the tarmac. He didn’t hang around, scooping up the little machine and leaping on without missing a beat — he was gone before I got to him.
I followed him up to his place but didn’t find him soaking the many areas down his right side from where he’d lost bark. No, he had more pressing things to do. That frantic five minutes of posing on Kevo’s Commando had fired him up and he was already getting stuck into the task of getting his shiny Matchless on the road again. I forget what it was that was preventing him from riding it — leaking fork seals and a few other minor hassles — but by Sunday that Magnificent Matcho was humming again.
And Skraps had even more impetus as The Very Lovely Margaret had bagsed first ride on the Matchless when and if it ever got back on the road. Skraps, like all of us, had a real thing for The Very Lovely Margaret; she was great chick, sort of like one of the blokes, just with tits and a pretty face. And she loved motorbikes. As long as it was 500 cc or over, and had a pillion seat, she’d be there, day or night, wet or dry.
Funnily enough, Skraps got to double The Very Lovely Margaret for a good run out to Palm Beach that Sunday arvo.
Footnote: The Matchless still exists, albeit a bit rusty around the edges. Skraps did a bit of horse-trading some years back and the bike he owned since he was 16 ended up with Shitlegs on the Central Coast. It still goes, but it lives in Shitlegs’ kitchen and looks a bit worse for wear. Maybe Shitlegs needs to crash a Honda step-thru for some inspiration to get the Matcho back on the road.
Road Tales by Kelly Ashton