Staying upright or why I bought my motorbike………This was a question posed on a forum of a club that I belong to and I got to reminiscing on why I bought my current motorbike…..not that I have changed bikes in a long time!!!
Many moons ago and last century, I had the experience of riding pillion on a friend’s brand new BMW. My parents disapproved of the idea of me riding on a motorcycle (never mind that both grandmothers did during WW2) and a plan was hatched. I bought a leather jacket, boots, gloves and a helmet and stored them at my friend’s house. Such is the behaviour of a headstrong teenager!
One sunny Sunday afternoon a group of us headed out to spend some time exploring the roads around York. It was my first trip as a pillion passenger and I loved the freedom of being on the machine, albeit as a passenger.
All was good until we hit a patch of loose gravel on the approach to one of the waterfalls and suddenly my friend had disappeared from in front of me. Time seemed to freeze frame and I slid from the pillion seat onto the tank, just in time to allow my leg to cushion the bike from a roadside culvert. Nothing seemed to be broken – either the bike or me – so it seemed to be best to get back on and have a look at the waterfall down the road.
It wasn’t until later that evening that the knee swelled up and started to turn all manner of colours. My mother asked me why I was limping and I fibbed and said that I had slipped on the rocks at the waterfall.
Shortly afterwards I signed up for lessons to learn how to ride a motorcycle. The next few Saturday mornings were spent on the concrete pads down near the Perth Lockup. This was on the riverside before the road system was remodelled. Back in those days you had to be accompanied by a licensed instructor who rode alongside you. This was followed by some advanced training at the Safety council where an ex Police instructor taught me to ride over seesaws and through slaloms. All good fun and done on a borrowed 350cc Honda.
My instructor owned a motorcycle shop and had an immaculately restored BSA C11 for sale, but it was just a little more than what I had saved up. The following week a 450cc Honda came into the shop and was within my price range and I could afford it! That was it…. my first set of 2 wheels! I hopped on and twisted the throttle…. I hadn’t accounted for the extra 100cc that I was familiar with and to the amusement of the guys at the shop; I did a wheel stand down the street, fortunately missing all of the parked cars on either side of the street and staying upright!
The bike was mine! My friend with the BMW came over to check it out and laughed at hearing about the wheel stand. He offered for me to take his bike for a ride and to learn how to take it easy on the throttle. I hadn’t gone far when the sound of a siren startled me and glancing in the mirrors could see the red and blue flashing lights….. oh no! I had been travelling so carefully, keeping an eye on the speed. I got off the bike and the policeman approached me. My stomach somersaulted… I hadn’t attached the “P” plates and thought I was in big trouble. “How long have you had the bike?” he asked. “Would you like to join the BMW Club?”
Whew! I wasn’t in trouble; he had pulled me over out of curiosity and invited me to the next meeting. Mr Plod, as he was known, warmly welcomed me when I did turn up to the next meeting and introduced me to an interesting bunch of people with various nicknames such as “Bear”, “Goldie” and the like. This was the start of some weekend rides where they were very tolerant of my novice status. Around the same time, my friend with the BMW got involved with a “patch” group and I was invited to accompany them on a ride to Geraldton, where the local constabulary turned everyone back immediately on arrival.
My friend eventually sold his BMW and bought a Ducati which was somewhat difficult to ride as the clutch lever was exceptionally heavy to operate. We planned a trip East across the Nullarbor Plain with him on his Ducati and me on my trusty 450 Honda and upward to Toowoomba. We got no further than Northam when the 860 Ducati “blew up”. Trailered back to Perth, we lay low as we had farewelled friends and family.
Totally inadequately prepared by today’s standards, we had no tent or cooking utensils. Just a basic sleeping bag each and we carried an absolute minimum of clothing in our army surplus kit bags. At night we slept on sheepskins that doubled as seat softeners during the day. There was still over 200km of unsealed road to navigate and the closer we got to it, the more stories we heard of the horrific bulldust holes and corrugations. We decided to camp at the start of the dirt and attempt it in the morning; not thinking that the dirt would slow us down or that we were traveling east and would lose valuable daylight to travel by. Surprisingly, I stayed upright for that whole section and we pulled into Nullarbor Station after dark. I was wondering why I was getting strange looks so I made my way to the Ladies room and had to laugh at my reflection. I had been wearing an open face helmet with sunglasses and the road dust was caked thick on my face except where the glasses had been and lines of mud striping down my face where my eyes had watered from the dust. No smart phones back then, but a photo would have been great to look back on! As it was late in the evening, most of the food in the roadhouse had gone except for a very rubbery toasted ham and cheese sandwich which was micro waved. Hunger won over visual attraction.
Eventually the Nullarbor trip was over and arriving in Port Pirie, I decided that a tent was needed. I found one in a disposal store and managed to fit it onto the bike with little trouble. Traveling across South Australia and up through the Hay Plains and the inland route to Toowoomba we clocked up the miles whilst not communicating to each other until we reached the inland Queensland town and parted company.
Months later, after my friend stated that he missed me so (in retrospect a major mistake) I packed up the bike again and traveled – this time solo – to Melbourne. Finding a house and a job was a priority and that happened quite quickly. I stayed for about 6 months and returned again on my own to Brisbane after my friend was discharged from his Air Force Officer training (this was beginning to be a pattern). Relationships 101 were not in vogue then and I would certainly not recommend anyone modelling this behaviour…..
A few months later…….I found out that I had been accepted into teacher training college in Perth, which had been planned to coincide with my friend’s posting and training at Pearce Air Force base.. Rather than give up the opportunity for further education, I packed up, rode to Sydney and put the bike on the train and with a student concession card, got a berth for me and my bike on the Indian Pacific train from Sydney to Perth.
The highlight of the next 6 months or so was, after having stayed friends with the other officer cadets and reconnecting, was riding to the graduation ball at Pearce in a ball gown with flying boots and jeans underneath and high heels packed in my backpack and then riding home safely again after the event ended!
Not long afterwards, my Ducati friend phoned to say he was missing me (again… another misjudgement… or was it part of my lessons to learn?) and “would I make the trip back to Brisbane?” Which I did. He welcomed me with a pretty sapphire & diamond ring…. another story for another time……
Travel still beckoned, so I sold the 450 Honda and we headed across the Tasman, landing in Auckland where I found a cute red 350 Honda which we rode down the east coast to Wellington and then after a stint packing apples in Nelson to replenish the wallet…… down the west coast and back up to Christchurch. I sold the bike and came back to Brisbane with just a few dollars left!
Word came that I was required to attend a civil court case in Perth, so we loaded the Ducati (which had been in storage) and set off. We didn’t quite do the land speed record, but we did get to Perth in 3 and half days from Brisbane, riding some nights behind semi trailers with the sleeping bags wrapped around us with “ocky straps” to hold them on. We ran out of money as we filled up in Norseman and a quick reverse charge phone call to my parents was made to wire money to Coolgardie Post Office, which they very kindly did and that funded the petrol money to get to Perth in time for the court appearance.
The court case didn’t go ahead with a last minute out of court settlement for a reasonable amount. I decided to buy another bike after the bank wasn’t keen on lending an extra $2000 to a 20 year old female to buy a terrace house in Fremantle. No point in having regrets over that. I would have been stuck in the one place and not had the adventures that were to come.
I reconnected with the BMW WA Club and it wasn’t long before I found an R100RS advertised in the Sunday papers. I was ready to buy it, but my friends in the club knew its history and advised me to look around a bit further. Fortunately, my old instructor had given me a job in his bike shop and the use of a nifty little 400/4 Honda, so I was able to get around on my own again.
Eventually another bike – a R60/5 was advertised and with friends Goldie and Chris in tow, we checked it out. A guy had brought it over from South Africa, intending to ride around Australia, but family issues and lack of finances put a stop to that and it was up for sale. Getting the seal of approval, I bought it and finally had my own distinctive BMW as it had what was called an American or “toaster” tank and it was a perfect birthday present to me from me, in what was turning out to be my “Annus Horribilus”.
I am forever grateful to these guys in the WA BMW Club who taught me how to buy the right tools and how to service my bike. Tappets, timing, oil changes and general maintenance. Saved me a fortune….
Then when all seemed to be on track, a friend of the Ducati rider turned up from Brisbane, which was awkward as it was clear it was more than just a friendship. It was now time to bow out as gracefully as possible and leave the boys together.
A group in the BMW Club was heading East in September and I asked if it was OK to tag along so that I would have company traveling across the Nullarbor on my way back to catch up with friends in Melbourne. Unfortunately I had to have some surgery a week before their departure date. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to ride with the group, but I decided that I would make myself better. It was an opportunity to make some positive changes in my life.
What a trip! With a well loved teddy bear in the bottom of my kitbag, some good clothes for job interviews, a change of daily clothes and a one person tent and some cooking gear were put on the bike. I also packed my archery bow and competition arrows along one side of the BMW.
Reaching Quorn in the Flinders Ranges I was able to have my first freshwater shower in a while. Guess what happened next? Going into the rally site along a dirt road, I went into a spectacular tank slapper and fell off. Covered in dust. A few of the group looked out for me and then I was ready for my next adventure…
….on to Melbourne…..