Road Tales: Fun On Two Wheels

Biker Road Tales By Kelly Ashton

AS A YOUNG fella, ridin’ motorbikes, drinkin’ beer and chasin’ the chicky babes was all I wanted to do; sometimes, the three staples in life would form a perfect, seamless blend and a blinder of a night, a weekend or a month which would make a young lad so happy to be alive. Occasionally, the carburettor of life would be tuned too rich and things could get sorta ‘doughy’, crowded and difficult. Other times, the mixture would lean out and the fun would get decidedly thin. You know, those times of drought, when the bike is off the road, or you can’t afford to party, or worse, all those girls who liked you suddenly realise what an arsehole you are in real life.

There were times in my days of youth and stupidity when things just seemed to go so right. I was the only bloke in a share house with females, and it’s not what you’re thinking — that’s no dream gig, especially when two of the girls are sisters. But here’s the good part — you’d be surprised at how your cute housemates would funnel their even cuter friends your way. 

“Oh,” the stray girls would think, “he’s friends with my friend, and he hasn’t tried to jump her bones yet, so he must be nice guy…”

Heh, heh, heh, come in to my web, my little lovely…

Even that wasn’t the main supply source for fun girls who were ‘Good Sports’. No sir! The real happy hunting ground for scorin’ the chicky babes was via my job, which was… (drum roll, please) a bloody taxi driver!

Now, before you all laugh and say, “Yeah, righto, mate,” think about this: It’s a Friday night and you’re in close company with a female who is alone and comfortably seated and there’s no blaring music and drunken buffoons forcing you to shout loudly. You’ve had a tub today so you don’t stink too bad and you don’t look like the Elephant Man. It’s easy to get the conversation started and soon enough, you can bring up the subject of motorcycles, and how great they are to ride.

Before you know it, you’ve just organised to take this attractive taxi passenger for a ride on a bike tomorrow and, gee whizz, that was easy. 

It was in the taxicab that I met Bunny, a tidy little unit with good suspension, nice bumpers and no hail damage. At 21, that’s to be expected, and even though Bunny was so straight, prim and proper compared with some of the other units I was carting out at the time, she still leapt at the chance for a ride on the back of a Norton Commando with a bloke she’d only met the night before. And speaking of units, it was about the same time I hooked up with The Goog. The funny thing was that Bunny and The Goog couldn’t stand each other. Far be it from me to even suggest they were fighting over me, it’s just they already knew and genuinely hated each other’s guts before I appeared on their respective scenes. 

Apparently, The Goog and her cute cousins had crashed Bunny’s 21st at Collaroy Surf Club, then got turfed out by security.

And The Goog. Technically, I met her in a cab on a Friday night, too, just not the one I was driving. The Goog and her cute cousins were out on the town, and their cab pulled up next to mine at the corner of Dee Why Parade and Pittwater Road, Dee Why, and the cute cousins I’d known for years recognised me and began yelling my name and waving madly. Although I’d never met The Goog before, I was well introduced when she chucked a brown-eye out the back passenger window.

“What was all that about?” my drunken, front seat passenger asked.

“…that’s the girl I’m going to marry.”

“I’m not sure,” was my cautious reply. “But I know one thing — that’s the girl I’m going to marry.”

That bold prediction very nearly came true, as the next 13 years of carting out The Goog was an exciting rollercoaster ride from which I was let off with a stern warning.

But back to Bunny. Like I said, she was quiet and demure and I carted her out about five times, but two things happened on that first ride: one was a near-death experience for both of us; the other was the funniest gaffe from a slightly naïve girl that I’ve ever heard.

I’d arrived at Bunny’s place at the appointed time on Saturday morning on the Mighty Norton. That bike has worn a few different styles at various times, but this time it was all sassed up with its twin headlight John Player fairing, seat unit and flashy paintwork. The John Player Norton was originally a single seater, with a huge tail fairing in white, red and Royal Blue, but I’d modified mine to enable the carriage of a pillion passenger, as long as the pillion passenger was one of those ‘compacts’ because it was a definite squeeze to fit your latest squeeze on.

We were soon on our way and motorvatin’, heading west from the Northern Beaches and pointing directly at the Blue Mountains. Over the river, big right turn and the Mighty Norton was soon slicing its way along the Putty Road, with inexperienced Bunny proving to be an excellent pillion passenger, hunkering right down behind me whenever a long straight stretch called for an irresponsible amount of throttle (more on that later).

Now, the Putty Road is one of those legendary rides that motorbike riders will seek out: lots of ups and downs, lots of fast and slow corners and not a bad view of the countryside just a short distance out from Stinky Old Sydney Town.

On a bit of downgrade, we throttled down behind a semi-trailer with a high and canvas-covered load, then followed it for a short while due to double lines and blind corners. There was no need for impetuousness, as I could see the road was getting clearer and straighter ahead as we dived down into the valley floor.

…because… your life is Far-Ken-Worth nothing if ever one hits you

When the time came, the Mighty Norton’s throttle was given a damned good wrenching, and we blew past the semi. For the sake of the yarn, I’ll say it was a Kenworth, because as you all know, your life is Far-Ken-Worth nothing if ever one hits you. Suffice to say, it was a massively tall, flat-fronted bastard of thing, with a specially-reinforced bull-bar to cope with the 400 spotties and foglights it carried. Maybe I even gave the driver a wave as we sliced past.

As we hit the floor of the valley, the road was straight and kinda raised up like it was cutting through a flood-plain, and there were some serious, harvest-ready crops either side of the raised roadway.

With Bunny hunkered right down behind me, my bonce tucked under the fairing screen and no thoughts of slowing down, we came upon a road event that should’ve screamed “Danger, Will Robinson, Danger…” but the younger and dumber me didn’t hear the robot’s metallic voice, or even notice the flailing robot arms.

Fire!

Yep, there was a massive fire; it was burning right up to the edge of the road and some very thick, dense smoke was being buffeted across the bitumen by some strong crosswinds. It certainly looked to me like the bloody thing was well-planned and controlled burn off — right up until it got completely out of control.

Now common sense should have prevailed, and the motorcycle should have been pulled to the side of the roadway where a thorough investigative research project could be initiated. But back in the late 1970s, the obvious course of action was to plough headlong into the smoke and hang the expense.

The wind was strong, the smoke pall was low and the flames were close: the grassy areas beside the bitumen were alight. I could hardly see a thing, was having trouble breathing and then I began to slow down — I had to — I was freakin’ out, man! The bike was passing close to a few ghostly figures. I imagined they were panicked farmers beating crap out of the flames with wet hessian sacks. The bike was going slower and slower, and I really couldn’t tell whether it was a large serving of common sense, or… (gulp) the engine was running out of oxygen as well.

It’s a funny thing to look back at a time of terrible crisis and mortal danger, then think about how your brain was working with the information you had to hand. I can remember thinking, “How bloody long can this smoky Tunnel of Death be?” Although I had no way of measuring, and it was all too hectic, I imagined we’d travelled about 100 smoke filled meters and still in the dark. 

And then another, even freakier thought raced through my head like sniper’s bullet. “Oh my gawd, the bloody KENWORTH!”

Crazy calculations and propositions were making my brain hurt. The smoke pall was just high enough to cover a Norton, its rider and passenger, but I just knew it wouldn’t even come up as high as the bottom part of a Kenworth’s windscreen. And I knew the Kenny’s driver was a throttle jockey who’d just got his 30 tonne battering ram up to a speed he wouldn’t want to relinquish.

With the bike’s throttle cracked open even further, and the motor going even slower, I was just praying the road went straight and the flame-beating farmers with the towels around their head wouldn’t step into the path. And a supplementary prayer we didn’t get bull-barred.

And then there was no smoke, the road ahead was clear and straight and the Mighty Norton coughed a polite apology and got back into the groove.

Once we’d cleared the danger zone, a quick look behind showed the psycho Throttle Jockey in the Kenny obviously had enough common sense not to plough headlong into a torrent of smoke from an out-of-control fire and had stopped before the danger. Wimp.

Bunny tapped my on the shoulder and said, “Wow, that was pretty scary!”

“Naw,” I replied, “had it covered, Baby. Shit like that happens all the time on these highways…”

Jeez, I was an excellent liar back then. In truth, I was about one gasp short of Jobbed Rompers.

The ride transformed back into the beautiful experience it should’ve been: brilliant Spring weather, great roads, a big, booming Norton, and a nice looking girl who really had this pillion riding down to a fine art. She knew when to tuck in down behind me (more on that later), how to lean with the bike and not against it. She was good.

Even got to do one of my favourite things with Bunny (settle down, you Goddamned pree-verts, not that thing). No, one of my favourite things is to break up a ride by partaking in a leisurely sail on a car ferry, and Bunny and I were just soaking up the easy vibes, while leaning on the ferry’s railing and gazing at the water.

Of course, no ride on the Wiseman’s car ferry is complete without a brief visit to the Wiseman’s Ferry pub.

It was the usual eclectic rabble of scumbag bikies at the pub, from seriously grumpy patch club members, Harley riders, Jap sports bike riders, Ducati riders, grospy old bastards on 1954 Triumph Thunderbirds they’ve owned since new, to the rider of a John Player Norton who kept checking his eyebrows for localised singeing. 

The Mighty Norton was squeezed into one of the few remaining spots out the front and a schooner of Toohey’s Old was like liquid gold but Bunny’s small glass of ice water with a twist of lemon made it a cheap shout. We sat and talked and just generally got on, while sharing a table with a few patch members from a large MC club which had decided to quench its collective thirst as well.

One of the members was quite friendly and although he made favourable comments on the Mighty Norton, appeared to be more interested in having a sly perve on Bunny’s tidy body.

It was then that young Bunny asked a quite curious question: “Do you like it when I go down on you?”

Had I been chewing gum at the time, I would’ve swallowed it

Had there been a piano player in the corner, he would’ve stopped playing. As it was, there was an immediate silence for a 10-metre radius, save for the sound of the odd sprayed mouthful of beer and the cricking sound of rapidly spinning necks as so many men turned instantly to gaze upon the cute and appallingly innocent Bunny.

I figured it was time to break the silence and reply. “Sure, Baby, it feels great, and the bike goes faster when you tuck right down behind me because there’s less wind resistance…”

The argle-argle sound of pub conversation started up again, the imaginary piano player resumed playing and I suddenly realised a simple, “Sure, Baby,” without trying to explain away her gaffe would’ve done much more for my street cred. Bloody 20/20 hindsight!

A few schooners later, it was time to saddle up and leave; one of the patch members even sauntered over to have a closer look at the Mighty Norton, but I suspect he may have wanted one last look upon one the best female arses on view that day.

Great! A British bike is about to be kick-started on a dodgy, sloping bit of bitumen and now there’s an audience.

Luckily, the Mighty Norton fired first kick, the motor sounded beautiful as the pipes and other appendages flapped around at the low revs (Commandos do that). First gear was cleanly selected and a perfect launch up the mountain on full song couldn’t have sounded anything other than sensational. Yah, another 2.3 percentage points were added to my depleted street-cred rating, and another almost spiritual ride was ours as we skimmed along the ridges and valleys that make the Old Northern Road from Wisemans Ferry such a neat place to be on a motorbike.

Bunny finally spoke over my shoulder; “‘Going down on you’ means something different to you than it does to me, doesn’t it?”

“Err, yeah, Baby. I’ll explain it to you back at my place,” I shouted back.

We got back to my place, but there was no explanation necessary, and I definitely missed on a practical demonstration. Alas, there were no happy endings; it was still a brilliant day, but…

Commando Jps Ozbike C. 1978 1

written by Kelly Ashton; illustration by Dr Jay Harley.

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