The wait had been excruciating, the anticipation high, the numbers uncertain (with late interest shown), and the preparations last minute and hasty (for me – blame the shed globe that blew at 8 o’clock the night before, and for Clive dusting off and road registering his bike earlier that week.
But then all of a sudden it was upon us – the Bunbury 2-Day Ride. An event that since the Hill Climb from the previous year had promised Nirvana – an almost 1000km round trip, with 3 full days of riding through beautiful country roads, camping out, and all on old bikes. I couldn’t ask for more, and all of a sudden it was here. Early on the Friday morning we assembled as planned – we band of brothers, we merry men.
Andrew Haydock on his BMW 250, Reg on his (/2 BMW), John Bond on (BMW) with home-made custom sidecar outfit, Bob on his ‘62 BMW with sidecar, Clive on his beautiful Triumph T21, and me on my 1956 AJS. Wiser heads (Chris and Alex) looked at us, shook their heads, anticipated the worst and hoped for the best.
It is at this point that in the story that I must inform you that all the events in this following account are true, with not even the names changed to protect the innocent. The ride started well. After fond farewell waves, worried smiles from loved ones and a last minute check to straps and oil leaks (mine), we were off.
The first signs of trouble started at the round-a-bout at the top of York St, where to the complete amazement of all, I set off down York St instead of following the others in front of me up Albany Hwy – all were in eye shot, as Clive had patiently waited for me to come up to the round-a-bout before setting off, but there you go – a hiccup.
Realising my mistake I hastily turned around and roared back up off up the street, by which stage Bob had come after me – perhaps to ask what the bloody hell I thought I was doing. A quick wave from the other side of the street first to Bob then also to Clive and John (who were also wondering) hid my embarrassment. Not quite the Wild One yet it would seem – merely the dazed and confused.
The run through to Denmark seemed to go fine – Andrew and Reg made it easily, as did I. The sun was warm and this was what I had been waiting all those months for. Arriving at the car park I was uncertain as to whether to remove my helmet and jacket, thinking that the other 3 would be along shortly. After a few minutes in the sun I thought a quick breather would be good and started to un-peel. After a few more minutes the 3 of us started talking about maybe having a quick drink, which then became thinking about were we could go in Denmark for lunch – and all the time wondering what had happened to the other 3. Casting nervous glances at every loud noise that echoed down the hill towards the bridge, we were relieved when finally they arrived.
Apparently Bob had been dealt a dud spark plug, but had also been fiddling with carbie settings. His bike was playing up and he had stopped with John and Clive at Bob Sutcliffe’s house to fix it (note there are no pictures of this – while I had the notebook and pen, Bob had the camera – this will become more apparent as we go along).
Anyway after quick return to normal carbie settings and a new plug they were off and arrived at Denmark not long thereafter. The ride to Walpole was again all smiles. With little else on the road and the sun out, the miles drifted by. After a leisurely lunch, Reg strolled quietly over to his bike, and with a strength of kick that was truly super-human yet unexpected he snapped his kick-start clean off.
Investigation showed that it had indeed broken (what else is there to say) so with some puffing and running Reg’s BMW was fired into life and away he went with us following to the next staged stop at the turn off to Northcliffe for a quick cuppa.
Riding along I noticed (with some envy I might add) that Clive’s headlight was exceptionally bright as he roared along. It fairly burned into my eyes through my mirror. Later it turned out that I should have perhaps told someone this – as apparently Clive’s bike was over-charging as he rode along and was in the process of burning out his coil and battery. He stopped not long before the turn off, and eventually made it there, being towed along behind John’s sidecar outfit and making it look a lot easier that it in fact is (as I found out much later).
While Clive and others investigated the Triumph, John started quietly looking at his sidecar wheel and chassis, as it had come to light that it was starting to come undone and needed some quick but thorough attention. Once it was decided that the Triumph could not be fixed at the roadside with all the combined skill present (with myself as an observer), it was decided that John would tow Clive to Manjimup, some 50 odd kms, with Clive hanging onto the rope as a quick release (later on Clive would reveal that in looping the rope around the handlebar he also trapped his thumb, which went to sleep – as did his whole arm – to the amazement of all present).
Reg was pushed off, Andrew leapt into life, I started getting really nervous about the AJ, and Bob calmly jumped on, started up, and away we went. So much adventure and we weren’t even close to Bunbury or the event yet. Once Clive and John had arrived at Manjimup and the Triumph was safely stashed away for a Monday pick-up, we took off again, this time with Clive riding pillion with John. The plan next was to stop at something ”up” – I think it was Bugarup for a coffee and a quick regroup.
The AJ had been riding well, eating up both hills and flat, with the speedo being religiously kept on 50mph to avoid over-taxing the precious 350. At arriving for our break I was later told that I might have been doing just a little more than that. Certainly the “All Jerks and Shakes” seemed true as my petrol tank demonstrated, as it started pouring petrol from a sizeable crack underneath.
Luckily Andrew proved to be the most prepared with half a tube of metal weld handy (I owe you one Andrew) so it was off with the saddlebags and seat, flip the tank over, slap on the putty, then hold a nervous breath to see if it worked – there is no such thing as not enough metal putty – ever. Anyway – it worked, so bike back together and away we go - are you beginning to see a pattern here?
Friday day was quickly becoming Friday night so what we wanted was clear informed decisions about directions and the fastest safest way there. What we got was a sightseeing tour of Bunbury at night (but how anyone can find his or her way around there I don’t know). Clive and John took off out in front down a wrong road, with me following to catch and tell them, then not knowing myself all 3 of us got lost, with Bob out searching for us. Finally to top it all I snapped my main chain and had to push my bike the last 50m to the clubhouse, with Bob wondering again what the bloody hell did I think I was doing?
Still all's well that ends well I believe, and after a few knowing nods and smiles from other riders there, we set-up camp. I know what you are thinking – there can’t be more, especially as we haven’t even got to the 2 day event yet– so I will not mention trying to hammer tent pegs into bedrock, Reg putting his tent up inside out (or was it upside down), the desperate search for fish and chips, me eating peas and gravy with my fingers (bloody Red Rooster staff) and Clive keenly extolling the virtues of the missing Zener Diode. So ends Day One.
Day 2 began a lot earlier for me than expected. Not understanding why the previous night the only available space to pitch a tent was near Bob and Clive – I soon found out – my heart-felt sympathy goes out to Chris and Marilyn. So it was quick wait for the industrial deafness to settle, breakfast, and then off on the back of Bob’s bike to look for a new master link for the chain – which we had eventual success with.
Then back to the clubhouse, a group effort to get the chain back on, a quick trip to fill up, and then it was all ready for the big day. Huw had also arrived by then, riding down from Perth on his BMW 90S. All the bikes had assembled now, and it was a large field with bikes coming from various clubs, Perth S/W and of course us. There must have been well over a hundred odd bikes gathered for the 2 days – all either beautifully restored or in their original states – truly heaven.
A lot of really early vintage bikes were present, coming out for the short course, a good showing of the various ages and examples of British bikes, some early Japanese and of course Team BMW.
The idea for the first day was simple – 2 groups, a short course for older slower bikes, and a long course for the rest. Course directions and time cards were given out with set-off times, and spaces for the stewards to check you off on at regular stages. After the nerve-racking previous day of having watched our bikes get into trouble, Andrew prudently decided not to tempt fate and changed to the short course (still a lazy 100 odd kms) for his 250, and made the necessary arrangements. The takeoff was a grand affair, with a start point and a large clock set up letting people know when to line up and take off.
Well it was, until a well ladened down sidecar, with Reg in the chair and Clive riding pillion behind John, roared off from left of screen – all of them looking for fun and feeling groovy. I was not to see them for the rest of the day – Andrew later told me that while they had directions for the short course, they actually had the time card for the long course – which didn’t matter anyway as they only got to 3 of the 5 checkpoints, with Andrew last seeing them on the side of the road buying a bag of plums – these plums do feature again later.
The ride for the whole day was amazing – the course was set on beautiful country roads almost all of the way – and with enough open patches to open the groups up to make for some nervous reading and re-reading of directions (wondering why you haven’t seen any other bikes for absolutely ages). There is nothing so comforting as having some bike ride straight up and roar past you to take the worries of the world, and navigation, off you. The day was so much fun. It was a great opportunity to get out, ride heaps, and meet so many people who are just out all doing the same thing – having the most fun you can by yourself with heavy machinery.
I cannot even tell you where we went – I know we stopped at Nannup for lunch, otherwise it was just a lot of beautiful country towns that were packed full of bikes whenever we stopped. It was all so good – there is no way else to describe it – I still can’t. I even jagged chatting to a local club member on an early Harley who showed me through some of the more trickier bits in the last stage to get me back safe, but exhausted – must have been all that smiling.
With the ride done and the time cards collected, it was back to camp for some stories from Andrew, Reg, Clive and John – and of course, the offer of some plums. A quick look at the AJ showed that the tank was still petrol-tight (?) and the chain was still on, the speedo was dodgy but never mind – I had survived.
Anyway, it was then into the clubhouse for a catch-up with Bob, Huw and everyone else to swap stories, some celebratory drinks and a long slow walk around all the bikes on show for a bit of window-shopping. Well that’s what I call it – Clive must call it something else because he went off and bought himself a new bike – Mike Hyland’s BSA Gold Flash, with the deal finally settled on Sunday morning.
Dinner was cooked and served – a massive affair – how they arranged it I do not know – but it went down really well. Then it was more drinks, and then more, a few more, then the Quiz night began. I quickly learnt early on not to trust a word John tells me - I also learnt that Kimba is the midway town between the East and West coast (so did everyone else that night for the first time other than our table) and for that mighty feat we won our only prize – a handful of bertie beetles. Overall we lost, of course, to some local quiz night ring-ins, but we apparently made a better showing than last year. Then it was a few more drinks but things were getting cold, and then time for off. The end of Day 2.
Having learnt from the previous night, I had drunk sufficient to become blissfully ignorant to the cacophony of sound that echoed around the night – and managed to remain so through to morning. The only thing that woke me was some rushed and anxious unzipping from a nearby tent, followed by what could only be someone running out onto the nearby motocross track for urgent business – who it was and what followed I cannot say, other than to say there is now one extra mud-trap at the Bunbury motocross raceway, and there was only ever one culprit – plums.
Day 3 for us kicked off with the news that Andrew, Reg, John, and Clive on his new bike had decided to head off early. Not wanting to risk anything like what happened on the way up, they thought they would leave plenty of time to get home before dark, allowing for unexpected surprises. So we pushed Reg off, waved goodbye to the others, then began preparations for the days’ run. The schedule for Bob, Huw and I would be a long one. First the ½ day course of approx 100kms, then back to the camp to pack up, and then be on the road – for Huw back to Perth, Bob and I back down to Albany.
The morning run went well – more of the same as the day before but
all new countryside as well as a bit of a run through town – the roads
were flatter but that was probably as much to assist the older vintage
bikes that were also going on this run. Again it was all good, but we
knew when we got back to the clubhouse we had to move along to try and
get back home in good time.
And things started well – we quickly got to Bugarup for lunch (are you getting the idea that I am not the one to ask for directions) then through to Donnybrook and then on to Manjimup. We were moving along nicely, with Bob setting the pace at the back by moving along at 50mph, and for me to keep him set in the mirror. It wasn’t till after Manjimup that it started to go pear shaped for me.
Most of the road went by easily and was heaps of fun. At about 30km out from Walpole the bike died in a big way – in a kind of serious, terminal, not going to start again kind of way – of course I handled this well by cruising slowly off the road, onto the gravel verge, losing my balance and falling off (the first time). A quick investigation showed we weren’t going to be able to do anything there and then– so why don’t we tow it into Walpole? – after all its not far – if Clive can do it with his whole arm asleep it must be OK if we’re careful.
To this day I do not know what I did wrong or believe how fast it happened, but a little way along from where we started off I parted from my bike and went one way (airborne I believe), and the bike went the other (sideways and down onto the road for a bit of a rest). I donated a small amount of skin to the local inhabitants for supper, but that was all for me. The bike though was in a bit of a mess and wasn’t going any further – so into the bush it went for a long time-out.
Then there was nothing else to do but hop onto the back of Bob’s bike (which hadn’t missed a trick or beat all weekend, as you’d expect) for the rest of the trip back to Albany, where I have retold the story to anyone bored enough to listen, as well as had it told to me by others – but in that story I am taller and better looking, with an eye patch.
And the moral to the story – the weekend with everything that happened was fantastic. Each time something happened not only was it taken in stride it was also handled good-naturedly and always with a bit of a laugh (and Bob taking a photo). And as you can see the journey there and back was as much if not more the story than the actual event – which was in itself really great fun. As for me, I’ll get to pull the AJ apart, get new bits and put it all back together again – but this time bigger with maybe a 500 barrel, piston and head – cos wouldn’t that be great – but this will all be under the technical advice of Alex. Oh and one more thing – there really is no such thing as too much metal weld - ever.
P.S. Thanks to Des and Clive who met me on their way to Manjimup on Monday to help pick up and then drop off the bike at home – it was very much appreciated.