Story: Richard McKenney
Pics: Jeff Bromilow
The 5th National Veteran Motorcycle Rally 2005 was held in the Barossa Valley, heaven this time of year with rolling green hills, vineyards, stone churches and homes and picturesque small towns nestled in the valleys. The German immigrants who settled in this region didn't have the timber we have in South West of WA, so a large percentage of homes were built using stone and European architecture which only adds to the enchantment.
So what's a veteran? A motorbicycle built before 31st December, 1918. Riding a veteran is like nothing else - no clutch, no gears, no brakes, the more you push on the brakes the louder the orchestra honks and squeaks with little speed reduction. Some luxury veterans have clutch and gears, but not the one I was riding.
Being an experienced veteran rider - having covered 2kms, being push started and coaxed by an expert - I stepped off shaking like my first racetrack experience. If anyone offers you a ride on a fixed speed belt drive veteran, take it!
117 Veteran motorbicyclists were let loose daily through Nuriootpa and at times it looked like a smoky Charlie Chaplin movie with the run and jump and pop and bang actions at stop signs and traffic lights. The rally ran five days with four days riding around 100km and Wednesday riding only a half day of 64km.
On Monday this looked like Mt Everest although by the end of the week the odo was well over 600km - very addictive! Did you know Jacobs Creek is actually a creek you can wallow in? Yippee! There's also Penfolds, Yalumba, Seppelt, Chateau Tanunda, Wolf Blass and many more.
Thirsty yet? With the Plonk, Plonk, Plonk, in the Gut, Gut, Gut, and the Thump, Thump, Thump, of the Bike, Bike, Bike, (Hey I should write for the Wiggles), the sound of long stroke singles and the best scenery was a never-to-be-forgotten experience.
Lunch and recess were held in rural primary schools where the kids were terrific and I couldn't adopt enough of them, asking questions and for autographs (embarrassing). I got called a liar - the kid reckoned I wasn't Mickey Mouse! More like Goofy he said (cheeky bugger).
Some starting procedures are graceful, others tragic. I managed to cause maximum hilarity with a whole school laughing as I performed the Diving Duck or Bobsled take off by missing the seat, lying on the tank, and steering with toes. Always a crowd pleaser. The bikes were a mobile museum, only ever read about in hard back history books - Excelsior, Rudge Multi, Maldon, Peugeot, Premier, Rover, FN, Radco, Bradbury, JAP, Minerva, Henderson and many more.
Being one of the younger entrants it was a privilege to get to know some of the older entrants to see how little I know in the art of veteran motorcycles. Neil had to wait 25 years to complete a veteran rally on his Rover, but well worth the wait as the grin factor said it all. I think he caught more bugs in his teeth than all of us.
A special mention should be made for the West Aussies Reality TV (Torch Vision) Show, in the revival of Shaz's magneto on the Royal Ruby. An outstanding effort!
How you scavenged parts for a junior maggy (rare) we'll never know. Great stuff Neil, Jeff, Shaz, Muz and a couple of ring-in South Australians Peter Allen and Dave Radlof. Ruby won a few hearts. Hats off to the Veteran and Vintage Motor Cycle Club of South Australia who put on a world class event, setting the bench mark in rallies down under.
Whilst thanking people, a huge thank you to Andrew for the loan of his 1914 Triumph which didn't miss a beat. You're a brave man! The 6th National Veteran Motorcycle Rally is in Tasmania. See you there.