Braidwood, I feel like I’ve had a revival, and just in time, like Neil Young said “almost cut my hair the other day” well I’m not giving up but I’m a couple years on the wrong side of 60 and I could have been getting just a tad bitter, baggers, cruisers, bikes with stereos and air-con. I’m struggling with the idea that one day I might need an electric start, then Hipsters came along.
It began when I found myself in the Deusex shop looking for a DVD of “HogSlayer” TC Christionsons twin engined Norton from the 70”s, bad place to be if you have a problem with the new Digital Gen IT crowd (and like it’s like OMG and amazing) and picked up a flyer for an annual bike show called the Machine Show. Billed as a celebration of “Motorcycle Marques”, never heard of it. But then I’d dropped out of these events for some time now, about the time they put two wheels on a boat and called it a motorcycle or built a chopper out of one single block of aluminum billet and chromed it, or at the other end, the bikes are hung up in the air like some sort of modern art mobile while the punters walk around comparing tattoos and beard wax, checking out how much data they have left to send a selfie to their mate who is probably at the same show, while drinking beer called two Stranded Goats or some other craft name. (See above about getting bitter). So flyer in hand, I thought why not, Braidwood about 170 miles S/West of Sydney I’ll T up the last two mates that still live in town ride down Saturday be cynical about the whole scene stay in the pub drink beer ride back Sunday, it’s the beginning of autumn if the weather holds it should be just an excuse for a nice ride. Little did I know Janet.
As luck would have it I found myself working in Mooree the week before the event about 420 miles north of home. So Friday after work I jump in the ute drive back home to find both my riding buddies have dropped out. Saturday morning arrived and I’m a bit pissed off, I’ve sort of got myself set for this and now everyone out, fuck it I’ll go anyhow, breakfast coffee borrowed my wife’s 0 deg sleeping bag packed a toothbrush, two screwdrivers a leatherman and a pocket camera (never really have got into using a phone as a camera, see above) hence the poor quality of the photos, and got on the road.
The Hume Highway is a concrete interstate loaded with semis and B doubles sometimes called the Hume of Horror, but the weather was warm, a bit of a headwind but not bad, my bike is rolling along just swimmingly and all in all I’m felling pretty good. Pulled up about 50 miles out from my destination for lunch in a pub, but only one beer, it’s a two lane blacktop from here into Braidwood and I know these events will attract the servants of justice, waiting at the edge of the road for those unschooled in their ways, but I’m old and wary, I know their kind and what to expect from forces dedicated to my protection. But no, all the way into Braidwood not a sole just me, bike and rolling hills of grassland, the only hint I got that anything was on was at a little petrol station when the attendant said “where are all the bikes going I’ve nearly emptied my tanks”.
Never got into town, the site was the local show-ground about 3 miles out, two young tattooed ladies meet me at the entry. $25 will get you in, bring your own drinks if you want no glass, camp anywhere, there’s a bar, food and piped music, the bike show is in the centre arena. Seemed fair, but if I see one selfie stick I’m out of here and I want my money back, they just smiled, like they’d dealt with the likes of me before. Bikes, cars, tents and the odd campervan were spread across the acreage that had plenty of room, other than the centre oval the rest was open slather.
This is a country town show ground come sales yard and it’s sheep country so there’s animal pens,barns and comes complete with the smells and evidence of said animals, so I looked around for a piece of ground that I thought would be lest appealing to a sheep, parked up and rolled out the sleeping bag on the grass.
On first glance it seems my premonition is right, Hipsters, then when my eyes focus I see the mix of young and older grey bearded saddle tramp types survivors of, lets face it a lifestyle that is not the safest or healthiest around, straight looking dudes and your more alternative types, my next door neighbor Ron (I think) comes over with his mate in a green top hat, their in there 60’s and they had brought along an old BSA and a REX Acme 1929 just to be a part of it, Ron is local and tells me he years ago he stated talking to the hills, trees and birds when he realized he was mad he left the city to a more tolerant environment up in the hills. One mans madness is another mans, well you know. If you ever see this Ron thanks for the hundred year old padlocks.
I approached the bar, natural habitat of the shovel rider, serving coffee, beer and spirits at regular prices, yea! The beer was a craft brew but one of the better ones going, doesn’t taste like essence of Chanel and the piped music was 60’s-70’s rock and blues so I relaxed there for a bit, then over to the show itself, where just about everything was represented, restorations, choppers, bobbers, 2 strokes, rough and ready, unfinished builds and projects, some from shop builders some from backyarders, a Triumph Speed Twin that proved if you ride em at speed for a length of time parts will leave you, it kept going so did he, raked stretched up and out rigid front ended rides enough to send any road safety comity of to therapy. Any idiot can ride a modern factory bikeFactory Bike A stock bike that can be ordered with additional stock parts directly from the manufacturer. Stock bikes are readily available for purchase whereas a factory bike will take longer to be delivered to the purchaser. at speed, but there’s nothing like a shameless death trap or well engineered rat to bring out the real road warriors. The show ended prizes were given out, Everyone was happy there seemed to be a prize for every damn bike there.(best two strokeStroke The distance traveled in either direction of by an piston or rod in an engine. Do not mix up with stroke as in 4-stroke. racer with metal flake,maybe). After would one bloke was trying to start his SU equipped Pan Head, now that will always bring a crowd, it was given him grief when his mate started hand chocking it, I honestly didn’t think anyone new how to do that anymore.
I wandered back to the bar re-stocked and then to check out what was ridden outside the show area, the road scar bearing daily rides, meet a young guy who had ridden up the coast road from Melbourne about 650 miles on a rigid shovel and broken his oil tank mounts, bought a couple of ratchet straps from a petrol station and just jacked the tank up into the frame, no big deal just ride repair repeat, there was a tribe of Indians and there dodgy looking senior owners, an ex Frisco PD 45 servy car that had come up from Sydney, he should have got a prize for that feat alone, a 650 Bonnie that had been resurrected as an 8 valveValve A device that regulates the passage of fuel through into an engine cylinder. More specifically, a valve is a mechanical device that controls the entry of fuel/air mixture into a combustion chamber, as well as the exit of spent combustion gases from the same. 810 and well just about everything else you could ride.
The sun went down, coffee was turned off fires fired up serious drinking and talking shit about motorcycles began, the food was way better than the old days we built a fire to try and burn off the clouded night sky and when the rain came in for about half an hour some 200 odd rough tough motorcycle people tried to gather under the 60 square foot of tin roof. We hate rain.
The morning came cold, with fire smoke and mist, the coffee was strong and black, food was still good, the morning warmed up and it was time to go.
There is a relationship I feel, between machines and the sole of some people that modern engines never give, and it stirs to the sound of a kickstarts going through, the clatter of pushrod engines and the heavy sound of exhausts, and that was all over the camp site one over here then one over there, then my turn, I gave the SU a tickle one prime kick said something to the mountain and it started on the first live kick, to the few people nearby I was like a god, I new the truth but would I tell, Hell No. Took my time warming up then on the road via the scenic route which has about 50 miles of potholed dirt road that travels through some hills and valleys across a couple of streams before you hit the tar to the coast. I wasn’t one bit surprised to see a couple of rigid choppers and the WLA servicar on the road. Had an unremarkable easy ride home in the autumn sun and just enjoyed it.
My epiphany, I’d gone to the show expecting hipsters and clowns, wrong. “People are different times have changed” (my apologies to B.D) some could have passed for hipsters but not a mobile selfie stick to be seen, no fucking world music, these turned out to be motorcycle people, maybe not the same as the 70’s some of the hardcore edge is missing but they laugh loud and have fun, looking weird and not so weird but not average. So now. I don’t know what a new age hipster is or what they look like, I’m going to judge people on what they do and say instead of looks. I should have known better anyhow I’ve been judged by my looks most of my life, my mood is up and I need to check out some more of the scene. Time is not standing still.
But if one more fluro wearing, I’m going to save the world, push bike riding new age fucking parent nearly runs into me on the footpath. There’s going to be Hell to pay.
– Les O’Donnell
THBC Special presents ‘Iron Horse #166’Product on sale