My Life on Two (or Three) Wheels: My Motorbikes (and sidecars) from 1964 to the present. ... "from Beezer to CJ"
Before I get so old that I forget all about them, I want to record my motorcycling history. From riding my first BSA in 1964 to horsing around on a Chang Jiang just the other day, riding motorbikes has always been a very enjoyable part of my life.
This page will probably take many weeks or months or years to complete, and may not be done in Chronological order. So come back again later and see whether it has grown. It is currently in a kind of "scratch pad" state and I shall work on bits and pieces as I have time to recall all my memories. Some of the facts and figures may be a bit out until I can unearth some of my old diaries from years gone by. More photos will have to wait until I can get them from storage and scan them.
I am quite sure that several of the motorbikes listed below are listed in the wrong order. I am pretty sure that every incident described is listed with the correct bike, it's just that I cannot now remember which one came first. I shall have to put them into better order when I can get some more information.
If anyone has copies of the Australian "Two Wheels" magazine dating back to the 1972-1974 period and can look up the articles therein written by Phil Smith, please contact me at phil DOT drdisk AT gmail DOT com so that I can get some of these facts and figures more correct. I particularly need a copy of the article titled "Diary of an Enthusiast" written by me towards the end of 1972 or in the first half of 1973. (My memory is not as good as it was!)
A special "Thank you!" to my mother, Mrs Wenche Smith of Geelong, who dug around amongst the family photos and found the black and white prints and ancient polaroid photos which have been scanned and reproduced on this page. On all photographs in this page, click on the small Thumbnail print to get a larger photo. Some of the colour slides which she also found are now included after having been digitised.
Firstly, Important information for all motorcyclists:
Presentation by CMA Qld: Where the Rubber Hits the Road
Two Bikes owned by my Siblings: AJS-Triumph scrambler and 1963 Honda CA77 305cc Dream
All sections of this page below here will gradually be cut into chapters and installed as new links here.
Note while editing: this page and all pages from 2007-01-10 need pictures updating when internet access gets back to normal. Meanwhile pictures will hopefully load okay (if slowly) from old location.
Both of my grandfathers had been Harley riders. While my mother was pregnant and carrying me she rode pillion on a Harley until she became too big to do so any more. The love of Harleys was therefore definitely imparted to me while I was still in the womb ... you can't get it much earlier than that! As a kid I had loved to watch the Harleys which thundered up and down every street on occasion. As I grew up, the Harleys always had a special place for me. I would pull up anywhere to oggle one. Somehow, while I was still in the Rovers, I heard about an 11-13 Harley (That meant 11 horsepower and 1300cc for those not familiar with Harley terminology) with a box sidecar that was for sale at £40. Its owner told me that it had been painted red when he originally got it,but that it had all sorts of profanities and rude words painted all over it with white house paint. He said it had been labelled in several places with the number "666" - the Mark of the Beast (refer to The Bible, Revelation, Chapter 13, to find out what this referred to) so that he had brush painted it all over with black house paint to cover up all the bad words. The picture at the right, scanned out of a magazine, shows a restored 1937 model which was almost the same as mine. The engine was a 45 degree V-twin with a capacity of 80 cubic inches or 1340cc. I asked my friend Cec Scott to look at it and he agreed that the price was about right. As I didn't have the forty quid, I borrowed it from Cec, and we kept the Harley in his shed until I had saved the money to pay him back. Then we towed the Harley out to Buninyong where I then lived. Gradually, between gaps in a very busy life, I worked on it little by little to bring it towards a state where I might be able to register it for use on the road. I mainly bought little things one at a time such as a stop light switch and a taillight that could have a stop light fitted inside it and so on. I would take it out for a ride on the back bush tracks every now and then to make sure the engine stayed in good nick, but due to money constraints and time priority constraints, that bike never actually ended up registered during the years I owned it. At the end of 1968, I received a posting to become the Headmaster of the Dumbalk North Primary School located in the Leongatha Inspectorate in South Gippsland, so when I moved to Morwell to live with my folks, the Harley was placed on a trailer and taken down there with me. Other Harleys joined the collection later on; see below.
1969: Triumph Trophy TR6 650cc OHV parallel twin
While the Harley was being transported to Morwell, I rode my Yamaha YDS3 and Dusting
sidecar outfit down there as well. But it was not to stay there for long. ...
Pinstriping the Dusting Sidecar. One week, shortly after the new paint job was completed, I rode to Melbourne where I met the then elderly Vic Bogner who originally used to pinstripe the new Dusting sidecars for Harry Dusting. I asked him to teach me how to do it and he painstakingly did so. To see my metallic red and silver Dusting with its beautiful gold pinstriping, just as I had planned it following the original Dusting pattern, was an unforgettable sight. I soon got the job of pinstriping other Dustings and a few other vintage vehicles ended up with Dusting style pinstriping during the ensuing years. The last Dusting I pinstriped was more than thirty years ago, but I would love to get my hands on one today just to check that I haven't lost any of that skill ... and maybe to teach some much younger person how Vic used to do it before I in turn get too old!
During the year I served as the Headmaster at Dumbalk North, the Triumph-Dusting outfit was my "principal" mode of transport (pun was not originally intended, but it's a good one so I'll leave it there and add quotation marks!). During the times of re-boring, re-sleeving and other work that it needed during its early days, I rode a plethora of borrowed bikes, sometimes for a fortnight or three weeks at a time. Some of these are long since forgotten, but some rate a special mention below.
The Triumph was purring along contentedly at about 80 or 90 km/h along a flat, long, straight stretch of the back road to Boolara at about 04:00 or 04:30 early on a Monday morning in June 1969. I glanced over to the left at the sidecar mudguard light which was keeping me company. As I turned my attention back to the road ahead of me which was very well illuminated by the high beam of the Lucas headlight, there suddenly appeared to be a hump in the road ahead. There was certainly no hump there yesterday! Suddenly the hump was much closer than I had thought it had been. Next second I felt the outfit rise and fall, rise and fall. There had been two humps. On a previously flat road! And why had the humps apparently been moving from South to North at some considerable speed? I wondered about these strange "moving humps" as I left the flat and wound up through the mountains. An Earthquake had been felt in that area late on Saturday night. Could those humps have been some sort of wave caused by the eartquake? But why would they be seen and felt thirty hours later? My scientific mind was working overtime. Just as well I knew every inch of this road like the back of my hand. I rounded a sharp curve to the right and straightened up again to the sight of there being no road visible in my headlight! Before I could even think of braking, the outfit was airborne. Then crunch! The suspension bottommed out as she landed on a steeply sloping patch of the road. Then airborne again this time flying through the darkness with my headlight pointing up into the tops of the gum trees. Then crunch again as the suspension bottommed out a second time as the outfit landed heavily upon the road which now looked roughly like it should have looked. I braked the Triumph to an emergency stop, turned it 180 degrees and started to slowly proceed back towards my recent breathtaking roller-coaster ride. There I saw that a section of road had fallen below the level of the rest of the road and formed quite a steep ramp sloping upwards towards the South. As I looked at it I realised that the Lord had been looking after me: had I been riding in the opposite direction, towards the North, I would have written off the outfit as the front wheel and forks would have collapsed and the nose of the sidecar would have buried itself into the broken remains of the road on the north side of the slab of road which had fallen. I still couldn't figure out how a road that had been perfectly okay yesterday could have been so badly damaged by this morning. As I stood there wondering about this, there was a very deep and dreadful roaring sound which came from beneath my feet and the ground started to rock and shiver just as it had during Saturday night's earthquake. This was accompanied by flashes like lightning from the broken ground where the road had collapsed. To this day I am still not sure about this ... was my mind playing some sort of tricks on me to get me out of there, or did these flashes really happen? As rocks and stones started to tumble down the mountainside and land all around me, I leapt back on the Triumph, spun it around, and headed off flat-out down the hill to get clear of the mountain. Later that day, when scientists arrived to invesigate the earthquakes, I learned that there had indeed been two periods of aftershock activity recorded that morning and the first of these must have caused my "moving humps" which I saw near Boolara and the landslide which had taken the foundations out from underneath the road where I had had my roller coaster ride, and the second had caused the dreadful noise and rockfall which occurred while I was standing looking at the damage caused by the first one. I think this earthquake incident was probably the scariest thing that ever occurred to me in all my years of riding motorbikes and sidecars.
The enormous Double-Adult sidecar.
Some time after my year at Dumbalk North, I was teaching at Yallourn Primary School and the Triumph was still my main transport. Now I had from time to time read in British magazines about the existence of double-adult sidecars although I had never actually seen one. But I read a classified ad which told me that a Double-Adult sidecar was for sale in Glenroy, a Northern suburb of Melbourne. On the phone I learned that it was a body with no chassis and I would need my own chassis. So I decided it wouldn't do any harm to go and have a look and there it was, red and huge. I have forgotten what it was built from, whether it was particle-board or just a heavy wooden frame covered with plywood. Its shape was roughly a cuboid, about 2.5 metres long, about 70 or 80 centimetres wide and about 50 or 60 centimetres deep. Its nose was rounded in a semicircular shape and was sloped backwards slightly. The mudguard was a standard Dusting item but was mounted directly on the side of the body, since the body was much wider than a standard Dusting body. Underneath the floor, to mount it between the springs on the dusting chassis, it had raised platforms (actually just great big blocks of timber) about 40 cm by 15 cm by 10 cm and needed very long coach bolts to mount it to the chassis bars. I decided to purchase it and came back with my Triumph and just the chassis of the Dusting chair. It had one seat behind the other; both seats were enormous in size, and the back of the forward seat could be removed in case one wanted to sleep in the sidecar. We fitted the enormous sidecar and I rode back to Morwell. By the time I reached Dandenong I pulled out my screwdrivers and removed the large sidecar windscreen just to cut down on the wind resistance a bit. You would think I had learned my lesson with my "Yellow Coffin" a few years earlier, but my reasoning went something like: "this motor is much bigger and more powerful than the Yamaha YDS3, so it ought to be able to handle it." But by the time I arrived home in Morwell, I think I already knew that it was just too big and heavy. For the first week I owned it, I rode it about without once taking a passenger in it anywhere at all.
Six kids in the sidecar! ... Next weekend someone suggested that I take the kids for a ride around town since I had such an enormous sidecar. Thus it was that we lifted the front seat divider a little and moved the seat cushion rearwards halfway into the rear compartment. Then we rounded up most of my siblings. two kids were seated side by side on the front half of the front seat leaning against the front of the backrest, two kids were seated side by side normally in the back seat, and two more kids were seated facing backwards on the back half of the front seat leaning against the back of the front backrest. My sister got on the pillion seat behind me. Thus it was that I drove for a couple of laps of the main street of Morwell with a total of eight people on board my motorbike and sidecar and everyone of them correctly and legally seated, which was verified by the local constabulary who decided that this contraption was well worth having a close look at. We actually ended up with about four carloads of police and a couple of police motorcyclists checking us out that afternoon. They were all of the opinion that, although it was a perfectly legal transport for eight people, that I was likely to have a very short clutch life. One policeman's estimation was that the total outfit with eight people on board weighed somewhere between a half and three-quarters of a ton. I have done the mental calculation myself a few times since and I reckon he was right. You should have seen how many heads turned that day as we lapped the main drag!
The queen-size bed on the sidecar! ... Now it just so happened
that about a week or two before I bought the D/A sidecar, Mum and Dad had purchased a new
bed. The old bed was in the passage blocking up the house and we thought, "How
will we ever get a Queen Sized bed to the rubbish dump?" It wouldn't fit in the
car; it would cost money to rent a truck; what could we do with it? Dad and I looked
at the bed, then looked at the sidecar, then looked at each other ... could we do it?
Let's see how it looks if we just put it across the bike. The mattress was nice and
soft ... it wouldn't hurt the bike or the sidecar, would it? If it could carry eight
people around the town yesterday, surely it could carry a Queen-size bed today!
If I remember correctly that double-adult sidecar was eventually sold or given to someone who was going to put it on either a Harley or an Indian.
The Tornado at Tom's Bridge. Click the link to read about storm chasing on the Triumph outfit.
The Best Prepared Motorcycle and Sidecar at the Southern Cross Rally. Since 1966, I had developed the habit of getting to every motorbike rally that I could possibly get to. I cannot remember for certain which year it was, but one year I decided it was time to attempt to win the trophy for "The Best Prepared Motor Cycle and Sidecar" which was awarded every year at the Southern Cross Rally near Adeliade. I removed the "Fish Box" and fitted the beautifully painted Dusting body onto the chassis. I polished the Triumph and the Dusting before leaving home and put plenty of polishing and cleaning gear in the sidecar with my camping gear. On the way to the rally, at one point in Western Victoria, I noticed that the next three vehicles in front of me were sidecars and that the first two vehicles in my rear-view mirror were also sidecars. I think that was the only time I ever saw six motorbikes and sidecars in a row on the road without any of them having planned to ride together. From the time I arrived at the Mount Barker Showgrounds in the Adelaide Hills, I got busy cleaning and polishing until every part of that outfit shone better than if it had just left the factory. At the judging, my hard work was repaid when I was able to take home the trophy.
Six sidecars in a row: After leaving Horsham on the way to the Southern Cross Rally, just as I was approaching Pimpinio, I noticed another motorcycle and sidecar way off in the distance ahead of me. Not wishing to over-stress the Triumph I did not change speed, but rather hoped that I might meet the rider further along the road. By the time I reached Wail, he was out of sight so I more or less forgot about him. While approaching Dimboola, however, I saw him way off in the distance again. Unfortunately I had to stop for fuel at Dimboola, but was soon back out on the road again. Between Gerang Gerung and Kiata, I again came within sight of not one, but two sidecar outfits up in front! I couldn't resist! I opened the throttle just a tad higher, hoping to catch them up. By the time we passed through Nhill, I could see not two, but three sidecar outfits up front! Then I glanced in the rear-view mirror and there was another sidecar outfit behind me. Well before reaching Kaniva, I could see two outfits behind me and I had caught up with the three outfits in front. That made six sidecar outfits all in a straight line following each other along the same portion of road; my Triumph was number four. Now there were at that time, if I recall correctly, fewer than 600 sidecars registered in the entire State of Victoria. What the odds would be against six of those outfits becoming the six consecutive vehicles travelling along a lonely country road, when not one of us had planned to be travelling together, I cannot even hazard a guess. We all pulled up and stopped near Kaniva and had a bit of a chin-wag. All riders were headed to the Southern Cross Rally, and all decided that it was almost spooky to find six sidecars all travelling together in a line like that. After a short chin-wag, we all mounted our outfits again and headed off towards the South Australian border. As we were all choosing to travel at our own most comfortable pace, we never met again like that until we were all at the rally. I saw different members of the group again at various points along the way, but we never again formed up into a six-in-line formation. A strange incident to be remembering in such detail after all these years, but it was certainly an unforgettable incident of my motorcycling carrer.
Piston broke at Horsham! On the way home from the Southern Cross Rally, somewhere near Horsham, there was an explosive Bang from the engine and the bike went into an instant skid with the back wheel locked up. I pulled the clutch and rolled to a silent halt. Who should be coming along the road at that very moment but Alwyn Sobey my friend of many years from my Ballarat Rovers Motor Cycle Club days who, although we were not riding together, nor had we planned to be in the same part of the country at the same time, just happened to be right behind me on his BMW Steib outfit. He pulled up and got out a tow rope and towed me all the way to Ballarat. There we put the bike in for repairs while I stayed at Sobe's place. It turned out that the cap had broken off the left piston at the top ring land and that as the piston went down in the cylinder, the broken top flipped onto its side, so that as the piston rose on its next revolution it hit the piston cap and stopped dead, bending the connecting rod and the crankshaft. If I remember correctly, I borrowed somebody else's bike for a week and came back to Ballarat a week later to pick up my outfit with its newly-rebuilt engine. I seem to remember that it was only a short time after that, that the Triumph developed further engine trouble. I had to admit that my dad was right ... that the Trumpy was keeping me poor because it just wasn't a good enough bike to pull a sidecar all the time. I started to think I wanted a trouble-free Japanese bike again.
Negotiating for the Suzuki-Watsonian outfit ... Now at the Southern Cross Rally I had seen a very impressive 196cc Suzuki two-stroke twin fitted with a Watsonian Bambini sidecar. It was a demonstration model owned by one of the motorbike shops in downtown Adelaide. It seemed to be beautifully balanced, definitely looked appealing, and being a simple two-stroke, it should be a much more reliable sidecar bike than the Triumph. I commenced negotiations by letter and phone with the shop in Adelaide. Yes, the bike was for sale. Yes, I could get a good discount because it had been used as a demo model. No, they definitely would not accept a Triumph outfit or solo as a trade in. They would accept any Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, or Yamaha solo bike as a trade in. I didn't have one of those... But the Triumph was going to have to go. The Dusting was removed and fitted to a Harley.
Now I promised above, to talk about the most memorable of the temporary borrowed bikes that I used while the Triumph was in being repaired. On one of these occasions Noel Einsiedel loaned me a 250cc Yamaha twin of mid fifties vintage. Its engine number commenced with "D1-" which means it was manufactured in 1957. It had leading link front forks with some sort of Harley-like undamped springing system hidden behind pressed steel shrouds. On Yamaha bikes of that era, the change to telescopic forks had not yet arrived. It had a 1930's-style pressed steel chassis to which everything else was bolted. The gearbox was cast in one piece with the crankcase, so it was "modern" in some aspects, but very "vintage" in others. Noel warned me that the bike had a dicey gear change and if the gears broke, don't worry about it "You'll figure out how to ride it anyway!" Well, the gear selectors did fail, and the gear-change shaft broke right off at the engine casing, so I threw the gear lever and broken piece of shaft into the pannier bag, pulled off the side of the gearbox and manipulated the gears into Third Gear, and put it all back together again. Either just before or just after the gear change failure, the kick starter also broke and was also placed in the pannier so it could be taken back to Noel. Thus it was that I found myself the rider of a single-speed bump-start Yamaha. The badge on the tank read "Yamaha ... since 1887" wrapped around a symbol of three crossed tuning forks. As I bump started it, it felt more like riding an 1880's model than a 1950's model! This bike had a quadrant-mounted ignition advance-retard lever mounted on the left handlebar. That lever was essential during the following weeks as I travelled the steep and winding mountain roads with only a single-speed gearbox. There was nowhere I couldn't take that bike even though I only had third gear. By correctly adjusting the ignition timing on the fly I was able to operate that two-stroke at what must have been the lowest engine speed I think I ever heard a two-stroke engine operating at. As its compression ratio would have been only about 5:1, it was a very flexible if not very powerful engine.
Now as the owner of a Harley that was gradually getting worked on occasionally, it became generally known around the district that I was interested in Harley motorbikes. One day somebody told me that there were rumours that somewhere up around Thorpdale-Gormandale area, a Harley had been hidden in a farmer's shed so that it would not be commandeered for use by the army during the Second World War. I tracked down those rumours over the months until I had figured out what farm the bike was supposed to be on. The bloke who owned the farm at that time had been told about the bike when he had bought the farm, but since the blokes that hid the bike had both been killed in the War, nobody now knew where they had hidden the bike. I asked for and received his permission to look around and my practiced surveyor's eye noticed what nobody else had seen ... there was a wall in between two sheds that faced in opposite directions and both sides of the wall had the planks nailed on that side ... that is, there was no "front" and "back" side to this wall, both sides were the "front" side. As I looked at the sheds on both sides I realised that the wall must have been about 50 to 60 centimetres thick. I asked permission to remove the planking from the wall, and voila! there stood the Harley, all nicely greased and oiled and with the handlebars removed so that the hiding space could be much narrower. I paid the farmer for it, fixed the handlebars in the correct position, cleaned it up, pumped oil into the crankcase using the tank-mounted hand-operated oil pump, pumped up the tyres and put my trail-bike 6-volt battery in place of the huge Harley battery. Checked the spark plugs ... good spark! Put a cupful or two of petrol in the tank and cranked the motor to draw in petrol. Turned on the ignition switch and kicked the motor slowly over to get everything lined up right for the good kick. It never needed the second kick! The motor sprang to life on the first preparatory kick.
I rode it from Gormandale directly to the police station where it passed inspection and was registered that very same day. The registration number was GG-008. I rode it to Bairnsdale to visit my folks. Not a problem. It was an almost brand-new bike even though it was more than three decades old. I fitted the Dusting sidecar to it and it gave me many, many trouble-free miles. It was my second bike for many years.
Now 1936 Harleys were blessed with two twist-grip controls. The one on the right hand handlebar worked the throttle just like any other bike. The one on the left hand handlebar worked the ignition advance and retard system. If you got the engine revved up and rolling along pretty well, closed the throttle and immediately retarded the ignition, the result was an incredible string of backfires through the exhaust system. I don't know how good it was for the engine, but I sure loved the noise it made! The Coach Road hill above the town of Yallourn was on the short-cut between Newborough and Yallourn. It was a steep hill and just seemed to be begging me to do the closed throttle and retarded ignition trick. One night I did it and the police were called by worried residents to investigate a supposed shooting match going on between gangs somewhere in the bush up the Coach Road Hill. I read in the paper that the police couldn't find a trace of these supposed gang members. Next week, while riding back from Newborough, I just couldn't resist the temptation, so I did it again. Again the police were called out. As I realised that policemen no longer seemed to be as forgiving as they had been in "the old days", I decided not to push my luck by doing it any more.
The Gippsland Historical Automobile Club was founded in 1968 and was open to membership for any people owning or interested in Veteran, Vintage, or Classic motor vehicles. A Veteran vehicle was any motor vehicle manufactured prior to 1919, a Vintage vehicle was any motor vehicle manufactured from 1919 to 1930, and a Classic vehicle was any motor vehicle manufactured from 1931 until 25 years before the current date. There was much discussion about whether there ought to be a cut-off date for Classic vehicles at the end of 1942. The GHAC was a very new organisation only a few months old when I joined it in the 1960's although I was not a foundation member. My 1936 Harley-Davidson motorcycles qualified me to be a member, and I thoroughly enjoyed the fellowship and camaraderie as we all helped each other with our elderly vehicles.
The Morwell Motorcycle Club was primarily interested in racing: scrambles (motocrosse), flat-track, speedway, grass-track, road racing. I joined in about 1969 and took part in various events until about 1973. More below to be added later.
I rode my Triumph in solo trim (that is, without a sidecar) to Geelong and traded it in
on a second-hand single cylinder Japanese bike. I think it was a Kawasaki, Suzuki or
Honda of about 125cc. I can't remember: it's sole purpose was to transport me to
Adelaide where it was to be traded in on the Suzuki-Watsonian outfit which I mentioned
above. I remember the long slow ride to Adelaide the most memorable part of which
was looking in my rear-view mirror and seeing that there was a comet behind me. I
stopped the bike and stood there by the roadside in the pre-dawn early morning and stared
at the beautiful sight of a bright comet in the Eastern sky standing on its head which
pointed towards the sun which was still well below the horizon.
Re-wiring the sidecar: The wiring of the sidecar looked kind of ugly when I got it home: wires were kind of festooned everywhere and fixed in some places with a motley assortment of metal and plastic clips, in other places with yellow plastic tape. My inventor's mind became very active. I looked over the design of the sidecar and decided that I could design the perfect wiring loom. After a few careful measurements I went to Coles and purchased an ordinary household three pin 240 volts AC extension cord and promptly cut it in half. I removed the sidecar from the bike, poked some fencing wire through the sidecar mounting chassis under the bike and then pulled half of the household extension cord through the chassis so that the female socket end was flush with where the sidecar would be mounted back on, but inside its main tube. I removed the body from the sidecar and pulled the other half of the extension lead all the way through the sidecar chassis until the end of the cord came out of the topmost tube of the sidecar's suspension mounting where it would be absolutely hidden from sight inside the sidecar mudguard. At this stage the male three-pin plug of the cord was flush with the mounting point where the sidecar would mount to the bike but completely inside its main tube. I stripped a lot of parts off the bike and ran the extension cord up the inside the frame fastening it in the same clamps as the original Suzuki wiring loom. Where it passed the battery case I made a tiny incision in the outer rubber covering of the cord and pulled out a loop of the green earth wire from inside the cord. I bared a little of the cable, soldered on a round terminal and fastened it to the main earth mounting point beside the battery. The rest of the cord was fastened totally out of sight following the clamps holding the Suzuki wiring loom to the tail-light mounting area where all of the existing wiring was joined with male and female brass connectors under the cover near the taillight. I soldered one male and one female connector to the end of each wire of the cord and inserted them between the connectors to the taillight and the left turning indicator of the bike. I left the left turning indicator disconnected. Thus the whole of the wiring on the bike was invisible. When I fitted the sidecar back to the bike I simply pushed the three-pin plug into the three-pin socket and both were immediately swallowed up inside the tubular mounting hardware. On the sidecar, I removed the upholstery and did a very neat wiring job from the front and rear turning indicators and the running light and the tail light all hidden from sight behind the upholstery and passing through a tiny hole in the body to the inside of the sidecar mudguard. Inside the mudguard, I soldered brass connectors so that the body could easily be removed from the sidecar if required at a later date. At rallies I was asked dozens of times, "How does your sidecar lighting work? ... there is no wiring for it!" I lost count of the number of times that I had to describe my invention. It was always so thrilling after I looked at all the other beautiful sidecar outfits at various bike rallies with their beauty marred by the legally required but very ugly wiring harness to then look back at the Suzuki which had not a wire in sight.
My first Sidecar Bingle: One day I was riding through one of
Melbourne's Eastern suburbs on the Suzuki-Watsonian with my sister Julie in the sidecar.
We were searching for a street which should have come up soon on the right hand
side. Street signs were often missing, or bent or rusty and were therefore often
difficult or impossible to read. What I should have done was pull over to the side
of the road, identify a side street, get the Melways directory from Julie and count the
number of streets to the one we were looking for. But it is always easy to be wise
after the event. While trying to make out a street name on a rusty sign, I was
distracted from watching the road ahead. I looked back at the road and there, right
in front of me, was a stationary car that had pulled into the centre of the road ready to
make a right hand turn. I applied both brakes hard, but a sidecar outfit has a much
longer stopping distance than a solo bike and I quickly realised that I wasn't going to
make it. In retrospect I realise that I should have not braked at all, but wrenched
the handlebars hard left and then hard right and I would probably have missed the car
altogether. But as it was, while I lost most of my speed, finally I hit the rear of
the car with sufficient speed to send me straight up over the handlebars and I landed on
the roadway beside the car. As I did the "Commando Roll" I had been taught
while training for the Ballarat Rovers Stunt Team years earlier, I was uninjured; not even
a scratch. My Sister, Julie was also almost uninjured, having slid right down into
the nose of the sidecar feet first. If I remember it correctly, she had been wearing open
sandals and received a small scratch on one toe. It was a small enough injury to be
"fixed" by wrapping her hanky around it. The sidecar had dived in under
the rear of the car and both the nose and the windscreen mounting were fractured.
The front fork tubes were okay but had twisted slightly in the triple clamps so that the
handlebars pointed one way while the front wheel of the bike pointed another.
The Speed Test: Near home, they were building a new freeway. The road was completed but not yet opened. It was a dead straight downhill run of several kilometres. There was a tail wind blowing. There was enough room to get a little motorbike and sidecar around the barricades and up onto the freeway. It was irresistable. Next day I had taped a stopwatch to the handlebars. After a careful look around for any sign of police cars, I sneaked around the barricades and up onto the freeway. I tucked my head down as low as it would go and lay down with my belly on the tank. I wrapped it on and got that little 196cc engine going like it had never gone before. I watched the speedo ... 80, 90, 100, ... it just kept going. Then I noticed that the rev counter was reading "Made in Japan" so I thought I ought to slow down a little! I cannot now remember the measured speed I did, but it was written up in Two Wheels magazine in late 1972 or early 1973, if anyone still has a copy.
I rode that little outfit a great many miles, but I had a tendency to thrash the guts out of it. It was never run without the sidecar and it would spin up to high speeds, so as I was riding long distances I tended to run it at high speeds. I used to ride the Harley outfit quite a lot during those years as well, but I kind of wanted to keep the Harley for later, so the poor little Suzuki was mercilessly thrashed. It was a very light bike and I was a very heavy man, so its suspension wasn't really good enough for the job - especially when I carried passengers in the sidecar. The bike was designed as a short trip around town commuter bike, not to do interstate trips hauling a sidecar. The seat was designed to just get you from home to work, and by the time I had been travelling for five or six hours at a stretch, my bottom was very sore. My father had taught me that it was always more interesting to get off the beaten track instead of sticking to the main highways. However the soft suspension on the little Suzuki would often bottom out while riding on rough gravel roads.
I developed more and more of an interest in trail riding, but I didn't have a trail bike. Lots of the fellows I met around town came back from their trail rides with glowing reports of all the wonderful scenery thay had travelled through. School teachers are not made of money and I really couldn't afford to keep three bikes registered and on the road, so if I wanted a trail bike then the Suzuki would have to go. I bought a second hand DT1 250cc 2-stroke single trail bike, registration number CT-519, and sold the Suzuki outfit for more than I had paid for it new, as it now had "rare bike" value being the only motorcycle of its type in Australia, as well as being fitted with the extremely rare Watsonian Bambini sidecar.
The photograph on the right shows a later model Yamaha 250cc single trail bike which was fairly similar to mine, but the one in the photograph belonged to somebody else. Mine had a right side hand gear change beside the fuel tank and had a wider and flatter luggage rack. My colour scheme was also quite different.
I took the Yamaha on a couple of trail rides, but it had something missing. I was certain that trail riding would be much more fun with a sidecar. A Tilbrook Tom Thumb was found and was fitted to the bike with the help of my friend Gary Dunn who had a whole workshop in his back shed at Churchill. The colour photo at right shows a front view of my outfit not long after someone had backed into it in a parking lot and put a ding in the nose of the sidecar.
The frosty bridge. One weekend on a very frosty morning about seven bikes were headed out from Moe to go for a trail ride. I had the sidecar on the DT1 so when I saw that the wooden-plank bridge had a thick coating of bright white frost I just kept right on going without even thinking of slowing down. I looked in my rear view mirror and saw all the solo bikes sliding in all directions. Not a one of them managed to stay upright! Fortunately, trail bikes are well-built and the riders wore thick protective clothing, so neither motorbikes nor riders were injured at all. This little incident reminded me again that the motorbike and sidecar is one of the safest vehicles on the road, especially when the road surface gets bad.
Mount Saint Gwinear. I'm not sure of the spelling of this mountain, but it was covered in snow during the winter when a group of us decided that we would try to reach the summit on our motorbikes. As we climbed the snow became deeper and deeper and I think all of the guys riding solo bikes fell off. I kept on plodding along with the sidecar until, quite suddenly, a massive snowball developed underneath the sidecar and lifted it. The outfit rolled over to the right and I fell off into a deep snowdrift. The throttle twistgrip was evidently jammed wide open as the motor was screaming. I turned off the ignition and the motor just kept screaming ... the spark plug and its coating of the products of combustion was so hot that it was acting as a glow plug - similar to those used in model aeroplane engines. I quickly threw the bike back onto its wheels and gripped the brakes to stall the engine. We made very slow progress as the snow became deeper and deeper. The vehicle furthest up the road was a four-wheel drive that had been abandoned totally bogged. The snow was up to its windows. I was able to get the Yamaha only two or three metres further than the four wheel drive before I decided it was no use going on. It was just too much work digging out mountains of snow. The biggest problem was the weight of the bike which caused the tyres to sink down deep into the snow. It was a day on which I wished the outfit had ultra-wide wheels. A year or two later I figured out how to solve this problem - see below. As the bike sank into the snow the floor of the sidecar would rest on the surface of the snow and the outfit would simply tip over. I think I rolled the outfit over more than a dozen times that morning before deciding that the only way to the summit would be to walk. A group of guys manhandled one of the solo bikes until it was a few metres further up the mountain than my sidecar just so I couldn't say that the sidecar could go where the solos couldn't. We all had a lot of fun sliding down the mountain on superphosphate bags for an hour or two; then we dug out our bikes and headed back down towards civilisation.
Crossing the billabong on a log. My family moved away from Morwell to Bairnsdale and I used to ride the outfit down there to visit them whenever there were no trail rides on. One day my brother Mick and I had the outfit down on the flats beside the Mitchell River doing some bush-bashing. We came across a grassy area bisected by a very long and narrow billabong. At one point there was a log across the billabong and it was obvious from the tracks through the grass that people were in the habit of using it as a bridge to cross the billabong and thus take a shortcut. I looked at it, walked back and forth across it and then announced to my brother that I was going to ride the motorbike and sidecar accross it. I pulled back a bit and built up a suitable amount of speed, swung sharply left to lift the sidecar high in the air and then, riding on two wheels at about a 45 degree angle I aimed the bike at the log. I drove across the billabong on the log in perfect safety. We decided this was worth recording, so Mick got the camera ready and I went back and did it again. When I was on the log about half-way across the billabong I lifted my left hand from the handlebar and gave a cheery wave. The resulting photo showed the outfit halfway across the billabong, sidecar high in the air, and me waving away as though I did this every day of the week. That photo eventually ended up in one of the motorcycle magazines of those days ... perhaps it was the "Green Horror" (Australian Motorcycle News) or maybe Two Wheels magazine. Unfortunately I do not have a copy of it any more.
I did not own this bike, but assisted its owner Gary Dunn in its restoration. I got to ride it a number of times while Gary was waiting to get his motorbike licence so that he could ride it. In the photo at right the Harley had been restored but its sidecar was not yet fitted. Other bikes in the picture are a red Honda 90cc and my Yamaha DT1 250cc single before its sidecar had been fitted. The blue Harley was certainly a head-turner wherever it went. While the engine was running, the pushrods would be reciprocating up and down beside the cylinders and you could watch the rockers rocking and see the valve springs compressing as the inlet valves were operating. It took me back to the dozens of similar Harleys that made virtually all household deliveries when I was a kid. The term "F-Head" means that the inlet valve for each cylinder was placed exactly above the exhaust valve and both valves were offset to the side of the cylinder. So the exhaust valve was a "side-valve" and the inlet valve was more or less an "overhead valve". The engine ran very efficiently and well, but maintenance was much more time-consuming than on the side-valve engines that later replaced them. Before riding the Harley, at least once a week, it was necessary to use a grease gun to grease the nipples on the valve rocker arms. In fact there were grease nipples all over the bike that had to be regularly attended to. The brakes on this bike were of special interest. There was no braking on the front wheel or the sidecar wheel at all. On the back wheel there was a narow drum about 25mm wide which had two brakes working on it. There were two brake pedals, one under the toe of your right boot near the front of the right footboard and a second one to be operated by your right heel at the rear of the right footboard. The front footbrake operated an external contracting brake band which was around the outside of the drum, while the other rear brake pedal operated an internally expanding set of brake shoes which were inside the drum. Actually, I cannot remember which pedal operated which brake, but one certainly worked on each. The clutch was operated by the left foot and the gear shift was operated by the left hand. Thus this bike had very clean looking handlebars with no levers on them at all. The right hand twist grip operated the throttle and was the only control on the right handlebar. The left hand twist grip operated the ignition timing which was advanced or retarded manually by twisting the twist-grip as required. The other control on the left handlebar was the horn button which operated a significantly loud and commanding horn which was fitted below the headlight on the front forks. If I recall correctly, I think we added a suitably aged looking headlamp dipper switch to the right handlebar and did the required re-wiring to fit a dual-filament bulb inside the original headlamp as I am pretty sure there was not any provision for dipping the headlamp when we bought the bike. The "tank" was actually three separate tanks with three separate filling caps. The left front cap filled the oil tank. Lubrication was a total loss affair with a gear-operated external oil pump fitted to the right hand side of the engine - it is clearly visible in the photo. The hand-operated oil pump on the top of the tank was for use under heavy going if the engine overheated, or when putting the engine back into service after a long period of inactivity. The second filler cap on the left side of the tank filled a small "reserve" petrol tank. The main petrol tank was filled through the filler on the right.
For many years, the fast wearing of the final drive chain had been a real nuisance for
me on all of the sidecar bikes I rode. I often longed for a shaft drive but BMWs
were too expensive for a bloke like me who kept spending his money on all sorts of
different motorbikes on a very regular basis. Several times I looked at the Russian
M-series bikes ... shaft drive boxer twins of varoius capacities which were advertised as
"One dollar per cc", thus a 500cc version was $500 and a 650cc version was $650
and so on. The trouble was that no matter who I asked, I always got the same
response: "They will break down all the time and you will never get parts for
them." So I didn't purchase one, although I rode several of them on test rides
at different times over the years.
I had every intention of fitting a sidecar to it, but I wanted the sidecar to be a new one. At that time there were two sidecar manufacturers that I was aware of: Baja Sidecars who were North of Albury if I recall correctly, and Twin-G Sidecars who were somewhere in a suburb East of Melbourne. I think Murphy sidecars were also being made in Sydney's Western Suburbs, but I didn't like the shape of them. I considered both the Baja and the Twin-G and decided on the Twin-G because of its better aerodynamic design. The Baja was a wedge shape with a tall cut-off vertical rear wall; I decided that its shape would create a great deal more drag than the more streamlined-looking Twin-G. There was a problem ... if I ordered a Twin-G, it would be several months before I worked my way gradually up the waiting list and eventually got my ordered machine. The guy hand made them one at a time and had a severe backlog of orders. For a while I decided to enjoy riding it solo and did not immediately order my Twin-G.
The Moto Guzzi was an ideal touring machine: very comfortable, plenty of power,
very wide power range, lots of room for luggage (especially with the Craven carrier and
panniers), and it just had the feeling that you could ride on it for ever and thoroughly
enjoy it. I went to a couple of Rallies and on a few other camping trips with
it. I remember going to a rally held in the Warrumbungle Ranges National Park where
the road in was an extremely rough clay road with boulders all over it and erosion ruts a
foot (30 cm) deep. I thought to myself that this road would really suit my Yamaha
trail bike better. But the big heavy Guzzi took it all in its stride and I never fell off,
even though I did not have a sidecar. Many other touring bikes were seen lying on
their sides on the road where their owners had been bucked off by the horrific road
The farm bike competition. One weekend there was an advertised
farm bike competition being held. I am not sure of the venue, but I think it might
have been at Gelantipy. I rode up there for the day intending to be a spectator and
enjoy the competition. As I waited for things to start, it turned out that very few
farm bikes had actually arrived for the competition. One of the organisers
approached me and asked me to join the competition on my Moto Guzzi 850cc V-twin.
Now Agricultural motor cycles are light, small machines specifically designed for the kind
of skills that were needed for this competition. My Guzzi on the other hand was a
heavyweight long-distance touring bike with not much ground clearance, a huge pair of
fibre-glass Craven Dolomite panniers, an enormous handlebar-mounted touring fairing and
windscreen, and so on ... a far cry from a farm bike! I was encouraged to enter so I
shrugged my shoulders and thought it would be fun trying, but not thinking I had a
chance of completing the course.
When one is a qualified teacher, it is necessary throughout your teaching career to
continually update your qualifications. To do this you attend courses of lectures
held after school hours at various venues around the district. In March 1973 I
happened to be attending a series of lectures held at the Grey Street Primary School in
Traralgon. On the 21st of March, at the end of the lecture, I placed my books in
the left pannier of my Moto Guzzi 850 and started to travel towards home along Church
Street. I stopped at Kay Street to look for traffic coming from the right; there
was nothing coming, so I crossed the first carriageway of Kay Street and glanced briefly
to the left before crossing the second carriageway; I noticed the lights of a car
approaching but it was still quite some distance away and was required by law to give way
to all traffic on its right, which included me. As I crossed the second carriageway,
still in first gear, I suddenly noticed that the car to my left was very much closer than
I had supposed and that it was in fact travelling at an extremely high speed ... and I was
already right in front of it!
Modifying Bikes to Ride While Crippled: During the months
that I was on crutches, in between my visits to hospital for more and more operations, I
regularly rode two bikes: my Yamaha 250cc DT1 with Tilbrook Sidecar and my 1936 Harley
Davidson with Dusting sidecar. The first of these to be modified was the
Yamaha. The DT1 was made with the gear shifter shaft extending through BOTH sides of
the gearbox with a kind of plastic cap pressed on over the right hand end of the
shaft. Normally, of course, the Yamaha, like any Japanese bike, had its gear change
lever on the left side end of this shaft and it was operated by the rider's left foot.
Now I found myself with my left leg encased in plaster and no possibility at all of
operating the gear change with my foot. I got a second-hand gear lever, cut the
pedal off it, and welded on a length of straight chrome-plated pipe. I neatly fitted
a rubber bicycle handlebar grip over the end of the pipe and fastened it to the right hand
end of the gear shifter shaft. People would really take a second look when they
would see me changing gears with a lever beside the right-hand side of my tank.
Meanwhile the Moto Guzzi on which I had been riding on the night that began to change my life was sitting in a corner of the workshop behind Noel Einsiedel's shop. It was apparently extremely difficult in those days to get spare parts for it. Month after month after month it just sat there. Eventually Noel bought it from me, so I don't know whether or not it was ever repaired.
One Sunday at evening service at St Luke's Methodist Church in Morwell a visiting
preacher spoke on Hebrews 13:8 "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for
ever." and made the claim that there was no miracle recorded in the Bible anywhere
between Genesis 1:1 and Revelation 22:20 that God could not do again today if the occasion
called for it.
In the section above titled "The night that changed my life" I mentioned how,
while I was in the Hospital in Traralgon, that I had come to a full belief in the Lord
Jesus Christ. The nursing sister in charge of the Orthopædic ward for one shift of
most days was Sister Petrovich. She seemed to be the only one who really understood
why I was going around the ward madly trying to tell everybody about Jesus. A day or
so after my life changing experience, she asked me whether she could ask her husband and
his friends to come and visit me in hospital. Now hospital can be a pretty boring
place when your nearest relatives live eighty miles away, so I responded, "Sure, why
One of the really fun times we had with Christ's Crusaders, was the night we decided to
"raid" the Satan's Cavalry meeting which was being held at their "secret
hideout." It came about like this. Years earlier, my family had rented a
farmhouse on River Road at Tyers as our family home from one Mr George Baillie. Our
family had moved away from there in 1965. One day I met George Baillie while he was
delivering eggs and decided to stop for a talk. He mentioned that he was now renting
his house to "some of your mates." It turned out that he meant by this
that a motorcycle club had rented the house in order to hold their meetings there.
The club turned out to be Satan's Cavalry. Completely oblivious to the fact that the
club's meeting place was supposed to be a closely guarded secret, George went on to
explain exactly which days each week that they met there and at which times.
Now back to discussing my series of Yamaha trail bikes with sidecars:
I rode that DT1 outfit around for a while, but it was definitely slow on a long trip. Now the Yamaha RT1 used the same frame as the DT1, but had a 360cc motor instead of the 250cc of the DT1. I began to watch the papers for a second-hand RT1 to come up for sale. It turned up soon enough.
197?: The Yamaha RT1 360cc 2stroke single with Tilbrook Tom Thumb sidecar and sometimes with motocross sidecar.
I bought the RT1 near Warragul and moved the sidecar from the DT1 to the RT1 at the place where I bought it. I also swapped the tanks and the sidecovers since the sidecar had been painted a bright red to exactly match the DT1. I also swapped the hand gear change from the right side of the tank on the DT1 to the left side of the tank on the RT1. Thus it was that I became the owner of a machine that was labelled all over as having a 250cc motor whereas in reality, it had a 360cc motor. Now if someone had given me $100 for every time somebody asked me "How the hell do you get that 250 to pull a sidecar at that speed?" I would have been rich enough to have retired years ago! I once even had the speed verified by the police!
The speed test. One morning at approximately 04:00 am I was heading
out Dandenong Road on my way to Morwell. Now this part of Dandenong Road had three
or four lanes in each direction and fairly decent service roads on both sides. And
all of these acres of roadway were absolutely empty. I had been wondering for a
while what speed my new outfit could go. There was a tail wind. Now I knew
perfectly well that the speed limit on this freeway-style stretch of road was 35 miles per
hour. But there was absolutely nobody about, so what the heck ... wrap it on and
giver her a real fistfull! I noticed the speedometer passing 75mph and still
climbing. I was thoroughly enjoying it! Suddenly, I noticed two rubber cords
accross the road ... an amphometer! In those days the amphometer was the preferred
device used by the gentlemen of the constabulary to raise donations to the state
governments coffers from drivers who were not taking sufficient time to get to the places
to which they were going. Now one of these said gentlemen appeared like a mirage
from behind a clump of bushes and energetically signalled that he was extremely interested
in having a conversation with me at that very moment. So what could I do? I
closed the throttle, applied both brakes crossed about three lanes and pulled up right
beside him. He shone his torch all over my bike, and I was expecting him to start
telling me off for doing 75mph in a 35mph zone and start writing out a ticket.
Instead he just looked quite shocked. When he finally opened his mouth to speak, he
only uttered one word, "Sh*t!"
The first motor vehicle Crossing of the Alps from Seldom Seen to Dargo.
During school holidays, I would spend quite a lot of time at my parents' home in
Bairnsdale and I would hang out with members of the Bairnsdale Motorcycle Club. One
weekend somebody proposed attempting to ride an old pack-horse trail that had been used in
the mid-nineteenth-century gold rush days to bring gold out of Dargo, but had been
abandoned since the 1870's. We had a map upon which someone had marked the trail.
We decided to do it from the Seldom Seen end and emerge back into civilisation at
Dargo. Seldom Seen was the name of a small settlement in the Alps near Bullumwaal.
When I said that I was looking forward to the weekend, I was told by several that
such a trail would be impossible for a motorbike and sidecar ... that they did not even
know whether solo trail bikes could get through. The word "impossible" was
like a magnet to me. Now I had to go.
Setting up for scrambling.
Now, as I mentioned above, I was a member of the Morwell Motorcycle Club and I still had my ACU Competition Licence and the club was very much into Scramble racing (the present day term is "Motocross Racing" but the term "motocross" was not yet then in general use ... the "Motocrosse Championship" [not a typo ... it was then spelt with a final "e"] at that time referred to a specific group of scramble championships held at various countries in Europe, and the annual winner on aggregate points of this series of championships was referred to as the "Motocrosse Champion").
Before I owned my own DT1, I occasionally borrowed other bikes and raced them in scrambles at some of the club meetings. After I bought my DT1, I would take off the sidecar, remove the mirrors and lights, add competition number plates, and take part in scrambles racing. When I replaced the DT1 with the RT1, I continued this practice. Somebody, I think it might have been Noel Einsiedel, challenged me one day: "Why don't you go in the sidecar competitions ... there are not enough sidecars racing in Gippsland." I promptly searched around and found a lightweight scrambles sidecar for sale at a very cheap price. I fitted it to the RT1 with Gary Dunn's able assistance and was ready for the next race meeting. Just for fun I added a sidecar clearance lamp and tail-light which clamped onto one of the grab bars and rode the racing rig on the road as a highly unusual looking but perfectly legal road-going outfit. From then on, the Tilbrook and the scrambles chair would alternate on the side of my RT1. The children attending the school where I was a teacher were amazed at the procession of bikes I rode to school and when I arrived in full racing trim complete with competition number plates, they reckoned that was really cool! The picture at right shows the bike in scrambles trim jacked up on a lump of firewood during routine maintenance.
Now I can't go on and describe specific race meetings and incidents until I describe the competition that then rode sidecars in scramble races. For the 500cc races, there was an Ariel 500 single, and onother British 500cc single. The majority of bikes racing for Senior races were 1200cc and 1300cc Indian and Harley-Davidson machines. In addition to those there was at least one Honda 750cc four-cylinder machine, one Suzuki 750cc three-cylinder "Water Bottle" (so-called because it had a liquid-cooled engine when every bike except for a few Scotts and Velocettes was air-cooled) and one professionally=built WASP scrambles outfit with a Yamaha 650 four-stroke engine. Now this meant that in the Senior races (where engine size was unlimited) my little single-cylinder 360cc two-stroke bike had less than half the engine size of any of my competitors. This would mean that winning any of the races would be impossible, right? ... Wrong!
1972: The Gippsland
Senior Sidecar Scramble Championship. In the scramble season of 1972 I used two
guys as my passenger: Gary Crookes and Paul vanRossum. The last major scramble
meeting of the season was the Gippsland Scramble Championships that were to be held
on a track that was not far from Morwell; somewhere on the way to Mirboo North if my
memory serves me correctly. I went out and looked at the track and noted that at one
point there were two quite high jumps in a line straight after each other. My
surveyor's mind got to work and I figured that if I hit the first jump at exactly 73 mph,
then I would land exactly on the top of the second jump and that I would be almost 30 feet
above the ground half-way between them. I discussed the idea with Paul and he said,
"Well, why not give it a try?"
Bike over Sidecar on the Flat Track. Every so often we would go and race in the Flat-track racing at Sale under the floodlights at the showgrounds. Flat-track racing was done on a flat and slippery green grass circuit which, unlike grass-track racing, had bends in both directions. At one of these evening meetings, my sidecar passenger was Gary Crookes. I was a little slow at the start of the sidecar race and had to go very fast to pass most of the field before arriving at a shap bend going just too fast to be able to get around it so we spun out. Left behind again, I had to make up for lost time and passed most of the field and then spun out on another bend. A third time I passed most of the field and the next bend was a right hander. Now I am not certain exactly what happened next, but I think Gary thought we were arriving at a left hander and threw his weight to the sidecar side instead of leaning over the back seat. Anyway, however it happened, in the twinkling of an eye, that outfit was upside down and I was catapaulted along the grass on the oval. I picked myself up completely uninjured, thanks to my training in how to fall received at the BRMCC Stunt Team years earlier, and ran back to the bike. I looked everywhere ... where was Gary? I suddenly realised that if he wasn't any place else, then he must be trapped underneath the outfit. The next thing that happened was one of the strangest things that ever happened to me. I am not normally that strong a person and a motorcycle and sidecar is not that light a vehicle, but with only my left hand I grabbed the rear tray rail of the sidecar and just lifted the entire vehicle as though it were a balsa wood model and threw it over upright onto its wheels. No one helped me do it and I only used one hand. A week later I tried to simulate this incident by a few of us deliberately tipping the vehicle upside down and then having me try to lift it with one hand. It was simply not possible. I was eventually able to turn the vehicle upright myself but only with an extreme amount of effort, using two hands and by using the extra leverage of lifting it by the outrigger grab rails on the outboard side of the sidecar mudguard. There was no way I could do it in the manner everybody watched me do it under the floodlights in the middle of the Sale Showgrounds. I can only assume that at that moment the Lord knew I needed to move the vehicle to save Gary and either gave me an incredible burst of supernatural strength or assisted me by sending invisible angels to help. I really don't know what happened, but anyhow Gary was very relieved to be released from where he had been trapped under the overturned vehicle. Fortunately, he was also totally uninjured. We started the engine and rode back to the pits ... there was no point in trying to win from so far behind and we were both quite shaken by our experience. This was the only time in my life that I had rolled an outfit bike over sidecar. It is quite a rare occurrence.
From Mount Saint Bernard to Mother Johnson's in twenty feet of snow on the
Yamaha-Tilbrook outfit In the section titled "Mount Saint Gwinear",
above, it was plain that a Yamaha sidecar outfit could not handle snow very well. I was
telling somebody about this and they recommended that I fit several rim clamp bolts to
each wheel and let the tyres almost completely down if I ever wanted to ride on top of
deep snow. I therefore drilled my rims and fitted clamps in case one day I should
find myself faced with deep snow.
Gearbox bearing replacement.
Because the RT1 had never been designed to haul a sidecar everywhere it went, and
because the gearbox had been designed for a 250cc engine but was handling a 360cc engine,
the bearing which held the mainshaft where the final drive sprocket was fitted just wasn't
strong enough to distribute all that load. This bearing was exactly the same
dimensions as a Holden generator bearing, so I regularly bought spare bearings several at
a time and always carried them with me in the sidecar. Usually, when the bearing
would fail, I would be close enough to home to ride slowly home and replace it in the
comfort of my own workshop. Another item which I always carried in the sidecar was a
plastic bottle of gearbox oil. I also owned a full set of genuine Yamaha workshop
tools, which contained all of the pullers and special tools necessary to dismantle every
part of the bike down to its individual components and reassemble it. This equipment
also usually lived in the sidecar.
While in Adelaide for one of the Southern Cross Motorcycle Rallies, I have forgotten which year, I was made aware of a 1300cc motorcycle and sidecar which was stored in a shed in a yard at Mount Barker. I went to have a look at it, and it was the same model as the two Harleys which I already owned. The owner only wanted $60 for it, if I recall correctly, so I paid him then and there on the spot and drove all the way back the following weekend with my brother Mick in his Falcon towing a fairly large trailer. We loaded the Harley and took it home to the Garage I was then renting in Yallourn. I dismantled it so that it would take up less room in the shed. At one stage I think I had a maximum of five motorbikes and seven sidecars stored in that single-car garage. My third Harley was kept only as a source of parts for the others and was never rebuilt. When I eventually sold my main Harley, I sold all the Harley parts with it.
Later in the year 1973, or perhaps it was in 1974 - my memory again! - I went to court where I was awarded damages resulting from my crash on the night that changed my life. Well my Moto Guzzi was still awaiting repairs and it became clear that it would probably never actually get repaired, so Noel Einsiedel offered to buy the wreck from me. I accepted his offer and had plenty of money to order a new Moto Guzzi 850 Californian and DJP sidecar. Apart from the Guzzi and the sidecar, some interesting extras that were fitted were a pair of white Craven Dolomite fibreglass panniers with the original Craven luggage rack, and a canvas lap rug. In the black and white photograph, you can see the chest flap of the lap rug in place covering the enormous single saddle of the bike. Behind the seat you can see the black horizontal bars of the enormous Craven luggage rack. For those who may not remember lap rugs, they were one of the best inventions for riding motorbikes in the wet. They covered the whole front of the rider right up to the neck. the rug was fastened around the bike between the fuel tank and the front of the seat. The side parts were fastened to the frame so that the lower portion was wrapped around the toes of your boots. Side flaps wrapped around your lower and upper legs and were tucked under your bottom while riding. The top half of the rug was held against your chest by wind pressure while riding. Thus, the only parts that could get wet were your arms and your neck and head. When you were not riding and the bike was parked, the chest flap covered the saddle to keep it dry.
The Californian was basically the same model as my previous Guzzi having the same frame, engine and running gear. Important differences were footboards similar to those used on Indians and Harleys, an enormous single saddle which was copied from the Harley's so-called "Buddy Seat", and a very large clear perspex windshield. With the windshield, the lap rug and the removable hood of the sidecar, the Californian was probably the best bike I ever had for riding with two people in heavy rain.
I enjoyed riding that bike for several years.
Now until the 8th February 1976, I had been a single man. But that status changed when Wendy Eades came into my life, we quickly got to know each other really well, I decided I couldn't think of anyone else that I had ever met that I would rather be married to (I am still of the same oppinion now in 2005), and to cut a long story short, Wendy Eades became Wendy Smith on that Sunday afternoon in February 1976. In planning for our honeymoon, we decided to go for a holiday using the sidecar outfit. Some friends from a different church offered us free use of a farmhouse at Briagolong for a week. A few days before the wedding, we hid the outfit in the garage of an elderly widow from yet another church, so none of our friends or enemies knew where it was to be able to "get at it" during the wedding. The wedding was quite an occasion with around 350 or 400 people at the reception. It was a very hot day. After the reception in the evening, somebody drove us around to where we had hidden the bike and we set off for Briagolong in the cool of the evening. For most of the week we hardly started the bike, after all the focus on a honeymoon is not supposed to be on the bike! However one day we left at first light and drove up through Dargo into the Alps via Mt Saint Bernard, Hotham, Mother Johnsons, Omeo, Swifts Creek and Bairnsdale, eventually getting back to the farmhouse well after dark. Our week away passed all too quickly, and then it was back to Morwell and then on to Melbourne where we began married life in the suburb of Kew.
The picture at right is not my bike but is identical in colour and details. In 1975, Honda produced their first flat-four shaft drive Gold Wing motorcycle. It looked and sounded beautiful and I wanted one. But my Guzzi Californian was only a couple of years old and I had looked on that as a bike I might use "for the rest of my life". So for a year or so I kept using the Guzzi. But it was amazing how soon little minor annoyances about imperfect details on the Guzzi began to magnify themselves in my mind so that I began to lie to myself: "You can't really fix such-and-such a problem on the Guzzi, you will just have to buy a Gold Wing to replace it." Its amazing how twisted your mind can become when you are lusting after the latest motorbike. Now as a Christian, I knew that lust was wrong. ... But then a Gold Wing isn't another woman. In retrospect, from thirty years later, with the perfect 20-20 vision that only wisdom and hindsight can bring, I can see how the Guzzi would indeed have served me a great many years and I could have saved a lot of money by not buying the Gold Wing. However there was some annoying little problem on the Guzzi which I exaggerated to convince Wendy that we needed to purchase a new bike. So we did. And the Gold Wing caried us around for years. I cannot remember why we eventually sold it, but I remember that I was employed as the Dean of Vision College in Sydney at the time, so it must have been 1981 or 1982.
After we were married and I was studying for my degree in Theology, we were hearing a
lot about two churches in America where God appeared to be doing some very interesting and
exciting things. Wendy and I were eligible as full-time students, to get very cheap
tickets for flying to America, so we got passports and tickets and arrived at Melodyland
Christian Centre at 10 Freedman Way, Anaheim in California on 3rd January 1977. We
had nearly two months of Summer holidays (Summer in Australia, NOT Summer in America - see
below) to look at this church and the Church of the Redeemer, an Episcopal church at 4411
Dallas Street, South Houston in Texas. In California we briefly got to know Dean and
Linda Davis who hosted us for a few days while we looked at the church and the Melodyland
School of Theology. We then used a Greyhound bus to get to Houston and found our way
to the church where we were soon put up in one of their "community houses".
We had planned to purchase a cheap secondhand motorbike for transport to enable us
to see that corner of the US and decided after reading the "Two Wheels" Road Test that the
cheapest and most reliable would be a Honda CB350. We went to a motorbike shop and
bought a nice secondhand model with sufficient surface rust to lower the price tag without
being dangerous. Wendy christened her "Hilda the Honda". I have just found
this old photo of the Church of the Redeemer with me sitting on "Hilda the
Honda" out in front. The patch I am wearing on my back is that of
"Christ's Crusaders Motor Cycle Club" which was based in Morwell, Victoria,
Back in Australia it was back to full-time study and a certain limited amount of travelling around on the Gold-Wing. But having seen Melodyland School of Theology, I wanted to attend it for a year. So I got permission to take a one year break for the whole of 1978 while I went there to study.
I arrived in Southern California on Christmas Day 1977. The first thing I did was
went to the local motorbike shop and bought a second-hand GS550 Suzuki that was only about
a year old. It was in truly excellent condition and I had a luggage rack and what
the Americans call a "Travel Trunk" fitted to the back. It served me well
for the year that I owned it. It had four cylinders in-line across the frame,
six-speed gearbox and a chain final drive. I lived in "Foxy Glen"
apartment complex on Haster Boulevard, Anaheim and studied at Melodyland School of
Theology. I also worked part time, about four hours per day, in a part of the church
known as the Endowment Department. I didn't need to ride to work as it was only a
ten or fifteen minute walk, but I usually rode anyway, since I always enjoy being on a
The Boeing factory
Ya got any spuds?
The big storm
Only 10,000 lakes?
Staying at the farm near Amherst
Meeting Laura in Carbondale
Blue grass looks pretty green doesn't it?
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts:
Long Island (New York):
New York City:
The hospitable South
A new definition for "moss"!
Billy Carter - no trains in Plains
Silverton to Durango.
The Steam Railway near Durango
"What if we roll out of the tent and into the Grand Canyon?"
1979: the crash at Euroa. In hospital at Shepparton.
1980:Back on the Gold Wing / DJP sidecar outfit.
1981 To Sydney
1982 Around Australia
1982 To England
[photos from web until my own photos are located]
[photos from web until my own photos are located]
1986 New Zealand
[photos from web until my own photos are located]
Having returned to Australia from New Zealand, transport was needed and one day an
advertisement for a secondhand 250cc Honda Scooter caught my eye. I am not sure now
of the year of manufacture of my Honda Spacey scooter, but it was probably about 1986.
Its previous owner had bought it brand new and had to sell it in a hurry as his
student days had ended and he was returning to Hong Kong. This meant that I bought a
hardly-used, as-new scooter for a very cheap price. Having ridden everything from
Honda monkey-bikes to Harleys, how did I find the Spacey? Well, it has to have been
about the easiest bike I ever owned to ride around town. It was a 250cc water-cooled
single driving through "V-Matic" V-belt automatic transmission. No clutch.
No gear changing. Just start it up with a press on the starter button and
drive it away. It was powerful enough that you almost imagined you could lift the
front wheel if you opened her up too quickly, although I cannot remember having actuall;y
done so. It accelerated magnificently through Sydney's dense traffic and was great
for making the extra lane through to the front of the pack at every set of lights.
Having reached the front, when those lights changed, I had no fear of being run over from
behind; that little Spacey could take off a lot faster than any four wheeler and a lot
faster than most two wheelers. With the infinitely-variable gearing meaning that
there were no gear changes at all, it just kept accelerating faster and faster.
1989: To Hong Kong ... and no motorbikes for more than 15 years
In August 1989, Wendy and I visited Guangzhou in Guangdong Province, China, and while we were there we saw three PLA troops on a CJ750 sidecar outfit. I decided that day that I wanted to own one of these things one day.
A: Adler, Aermacchi, AJS, Ariel, AJW, Anzani, Argus, Aprilia, Albion,
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