Midnight Pillion to Lorne

It was the Summer of 81.... I was still a school boy, but my friend Mark Wanklyn (later Mark Tan-Wanklyn) had left school and got a job. He'd also got a motorbike. I'd had one brief and ungainly encounter with a trail bike (a mate's KD-80, which I'd crashed into a tree) some years before, and had been motorbike mad for a little while, but I had no real conception of the pleasure and romance of road riding....

My family had moved to Sydney two years earlier, but we often spent Christmas at my Grandfather's house at Fairhaven, on the famed (amongst Aussie bikers in particular) Great Ocean Road that hugs Victoria's spectacular south coast. My Grandfather had, just a few years earlier, built a beautiful house on the cliffs overlooking the ocean - (not far from the house that juts out and stands on a pole), which sadly was to burn down in 1983 in the Ash Wednesday bushfires, taking with it, amongst other things, the most comprehensive collection of National Geographics magazines I'd ever seen. On this particular Christmas (or, more likely, shortly after it) Mark and his mate Dale joined us at Grandad's house on their new motorbikes.

Mark's motorbike was a gleaming red Honda CB-250 Twin - a chubby sort of bike, but one which I still find attractive and which I think subconsciously drove my later decision to buy a red CX-500 - a bike very similar in its chubbiness and which in turn, no doubt, led to my later decision to buy a fat old red Guzzi. But that's another story. Dale's bike was a shiny silver Suzuki GSX-250 - much slimmer and more modern looking than Mark's bike, and I remember particularly being impressed by it's bright orange instrument lighting (I was later to own a silver GS-450 as well, so I guess all I've done is relive the Summer of 1981 over and over - which explains my taste in clothes and music at least....).

I no longer recall whose idea it was - probably Mark's although it's also possible I brought it up - but at any rate late one night Mark and Dale took me out for a ride. Strictly speaking, this was not the done thing, as they were both on their L plates, and the lack of a third helmet meant that Mark went helmetless, kindly giving up his helmet for me. Or perhaps figuring he might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb he simply chose to enjoy the wonderful feeling of helmetless riding on a warm summers night.... It wasn't a long ride - maybe 5 or 10ks in each direction, but it was a great feeling. I particularly remember stopping by the road somewhere for Mark to have a cigarette - surrounded by the black night and the black ocean, the scene lit by the yellow glow of the parking light on Mark's bike.

It was so much fun that we did it again late the next night with my sister Sam. She and I wore Mark and Dale's helmets and jackets and this time made it the whole 21kms to Lorne and then back again.

The next day, more friends - Jeannine, Linda and Paul - arrived, and with so many bodies there was no opportunity for any more late night rides, and it was to be a couple more years before my next motorcycle ride, but that night was surely the one that instilled in me the real romance of motorcycling.

Patrick Jordan - patrick@ariel.com.au - 2005-03-24