James came to the motorcycling party a little late – he didn’t ride his first bike until his early twenties. It was a CB600 that he rode further than the little commuter was built for, and he replaced it some years later with the BMW R1150GS. He tried his luck with a WR450 more recently, but a charming individual decided to claim that as their own so he’s sadly now left with only the big-pig. On these bikes James has ridden countless kms up, down and around and Australia’s East Coast. He’s also done several 2-4 week trips in South East Asia on two wheels; in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, China and India. He works professionally as a sound engineer in the film and television industries, but is throwing it all to the wind as together with his Austrian partner he’s decided to move to Europe. What better excuse to go for a ride on his own bike to his new home! This was the catalyst for Blokes On Spokes
As I write this I’m sitting in one of the most beautiful places in Australia, the balcony of Raes on Wategos beach in Byron Bay. Last Saturday Sophie and I were married in The Otways, witnessed by over one hundred close friends and family.
There’s a strong south easterly blowing and chopping up the small swell, which is probably a good thing given I gave Sophs parents my word that I wouldn’t surf up here on our honeymoon. They feared the recent rise in shark attacks up this way could leave them with a invalid as a son-in-law. But the sun is shinning and I have just returned from a swim and relax on the beach. With the wedding done and honeymoon almost over I can start to think about the next adventure ahead. Riding a BMW 1150 Gs from Melbourne to London.
Before I let you know a bit more about myself and just how I came to be a lover of bikes, I wanted to tell you a bit about how this adventure came to be.
My best mate James and I floated the idea a few years ago. Using our new bike to bike intercom we discussed our dream to one day complete a similar journey to the one we had seen done many years before by Ewan McGregor and his best mate Charley Boorman on the ‘Long Way Round’.
James had just returned from two years working in the film industry in China and I was worn out from the stresses of owning my own business as a mechanic. I had just had a employee resign and take with him his well deserved long service leave entitlements and it made me realise that after ten years of five to six day working weeks I should be entitled to such a break. I don’t think many small business owners have the flexibility to take long service leave but as I had recently asked a long term employee to come into partnership, I was fortunate enough to have the support to do so.
I clicked back onto James and announced to him that I would do it. I would ride around the world with him. We were 30 years of age and both in long term relationships. With others around us marrying and starting families I knew that we too would soon be locked down by such commitments and if we were going to do this it was either now or when we were in our sixties. We both had matching BMW R1150 Gs’s and if that was good enough for Ewan then it was good enough for us. All we had to do was save up and get ourselves in a position to leave- easier said than done!
I want to take you back a few years to where my passion for riding was born. My father- a self made businessman- started tinkering with cars and motorcycle’s early on and with not much assistance, managed to open his own mechanical repair business at age nineteen. By the time I was born he had around twelve people on the payroll. Although the business didn’t including motorcycle repairs his love for them soon saw his collection grow to over twelve bikes. From memory I can recall a 1974 Ducati 750 GT, an Indian of some nature with a sidecar outfit, Ducati 450 desmo, Norton 500 single and a AJS.
I have fond memories of all of these, especially the 750 Gt which he still owns. Whenever the chance arose my father would grab his open faced orange tatted helmet, leather jacket and gloves and prepare the Duc. With just three pumps of the accelerator, he’d cautiously locate top dead centre with the leg and without fail he’d start the beautiful beast first time every time. I have to tell you, the sound of a Ducati with slightly blown out conti mufflers makes a young boy excited yet somewhat scared at the same time…feelings that can only be matched by ones first kiss in years to come. We lived on an acreage in Lilydale with a long, winding driveway and once the great machine left my sights I would run around the opposite side of the house, down through the front paddock and try to catch as much of the sound as possible. As Dad turned out onto the highway to blast away (never obeying the speed restrictions) he was free. Maybe only for a couple of hours, but it didn’t matter, he was away.
I was 7 years of age when dad gave me my first motorcycle -a Pee wee 50- and I was immediately hooked, often riding before and after school. I soon had my own track set out and would circumnavigate it perfecting every corner, bike position and power level. I remember a maintenance session that occurred with my neighbour and Dad trying to improve our equally slow Pee Wee 50’s; Dad was there drilling multiple holes in the air-cleaner, adjusting fuel mixtures etc. As my brother was approaching age seven, although already riding my Pee Wee, I knew he would be handed down my steed which only left one option… a bigger bike for me! A second hand Honda XR80 was acquired and although in need of some T.L.C it was soon to be my first bike with a 5 speed gearbox and manual clutch. As you can imagine, the rest is history. My final trail bike, a XR200, still sits at Dads in worn but remarkably working order. If that thing had a odometer on it I’m sure it would be reading six digits.
So as you can see my love affair with motorbikes was inevitable and the seven year old inside of me couldn’t be more excited.
James and I have conquered our machines and their weight. On many trips away we have learned how hard to push them, how much oil they use and how fast to tackle the dirt. We have both managed to get our lives in order to leave our partners for a extended period of time. My Sophie is off on a Australian tour with The Sound of Music and James’ partner Monica is going to do a bit of travel, meet us in Nepal somewhere for a brief period and then continue on to start setting up a new life for the pair of them in her home country Austria.
Now to the Visa’s, Carnets and whatever else we need to put in place to make this adventure truly special.