I was cruising a 90km slab of freeway the other day talking to myself, reminiscing about a story of a ‘motorcycle off*’ I had as a kid, I was musing why I never gave up after that off. It was a rip snorter that almost killed me (well sort of, a friendship paid the price) so without further ado I’d like share a story with you, about a boy and a motorcycle off.
That’s me in the middle up above, sandwiched between my two older brothers about 5 years old. I made friends easier with girls than I did boys at school, probably because most people thought I was a girl. I was one of those pretty little boys and I hated it. I was often forced to defend myself, insisting I was a boy sitting at the Pacman machine in Mum and Dad’s fish & chip shop; it was cruel and demeaning for a slightly confused boy in the early 80s.
But I did make friends, even though my parents moved us around a lot, and while I was living in Uraidla, South Australia, I made a friend called Stephen who lived in Harrogate on an Angora goat farm. We liked each other and became mates, over motorcycles.
I had a Yamaha MX 80 and he had an MX 100, and his bigger brother had an MX 125 with a typical two stroke power band that extended your arms when you hit it.
Ring-ading-ding, nang-nang-ding-ding it went, blue and white smoke billowing from the exhaust like plumes from Mordor.
Then one weekend he asked me if I wanted to come over to his place on the goat farm and go for a ride. I was so excited, I couldn’t believe I was going to go to a mates place to ride motorbikes. I’m pretty sure I was about 13 years of age at this time and I had been riding since I was like 4 or 5, and I couldn’t wait to show off my skills to my new mate.
After what felt like three eternities, that weekend finally came and mum delivered me to Harrogate in our V8 XY Falcon (man I wish we never had that head on and totalled that car, but that’s another story), dropped me off with a kiss goodbye and was gone.
Stephen was ready with his brother’s bike out front, I got to ride his MX 100 which was more than big enough for me and we shot off out into the goat farm with no hesitation, full of confidence, riding over volcanic rocks left behind by glaciers millions of years ago, riding off cliffs that we thought we could make, jumping over hills, screaming, doing donuts in the massive grass fields.
It was the best day of my short life, I was certain of it.
After a few hours I thought I was better at riding than Stephen, in fact I knew I was. I could tell he wasn’t as confident as I was. I remember fondly the time I heard my mum talking to dad, worrying, they didn’t know I could hear them, she was in a funk over the bigger bike he’d just got me and I was still a weed of a boy, and my dear old dad telling her “don’t worry about Daniel, he is the best rider out of all them”. That’s when I knew I was good at it. I also wished my brothers had heard it.
Stephen knew it too I reckon, but he didn’t say anything about it. Instead he did what boys do. He said ‘follow me’ and took off like a rocket into the abyss.
We rode for what felt like forever until we rounded on this gently climbing, long hill that stretched up to the top of the farm in the distance. It must have been a good few hundred metres of straight hill, clear view, short grass, no rocks. Nothing to hit.
He stopped, looking at me through his helmet, and said ‘wanna race?’.
Does a one legged duck swim in circles? Of course I did!
It was on. One, two, three! GO!
We took off like Freddy Kruegers spawn, pinning every gear, gunning it I tried to catch him, my little MX 100 screaming, barely coping, but really I had no chance against the bigger 2pot with its killer power band.
He was flogging it hard too, and had pulled away much to his satisfaction, outgunning me, he had won, he was better than me after all, which was fine because I knew the truth and he was letting me ride his b…
The front wheel disappears down a massive rabbit hole I hadn’t seen.
I panicked and seized up, stiff as a board I gripped the bars and was immediately flipped over the bars like one of those toy monkeys between two strings that you push to make do silly summersaults, I flipped over onto the front wheel.
Wearing only a T-shirt, I landed squarely on the front tyre; the T-shirt got caught in the still spinning knobbies and started winding the T-shirt up my back, tightening up around my neck, choking me. I almost blacked out I reckon, but remember saying over and over in my head let go, just. let. go.
Finally I let go, just in time before I was indeed choked out I cartwheeled over the bike flailing about like a floppy carp.
Stephen didn’t even see what happened, he was too far ahead, but I remember thinking as I came round… he knew that fucking rabbit hole was there. It was massive and he lead me through it. Bastard!
I was bleeding with a good tyre tread right the way up my spine and my neck looked like someone had tried to throttle me with their bare hands. A T-shirt strangulation mark right around my neck there was, knobbie marks right the way up my back.
I jumped up gagging, madly checking myself for other injuries I scrambled over to the bike and managed to kick it over, it was fine. But raging, I was pissed off at him and thought it was all his fault so I refused all his offerings of help, choking back treachery-tears, and took off with him towing behind to his family’s house, I didn’t let him beat me back.
That was the first time I met his mum.
She came up and started fussing over me, and then when she saw the marks up my back and around my neck started with ‘praise the lord, god almighty, this is your second chance son, jesus was with you today’ which just totally weirded me out as my entire experience of religion consisted of a priest with a collection plate taking my pocket money after Sunday School. I mean, I gave it to him ’cause everyone else did, but I had intended on buying a smurf with that money later on. Listening to ridiculous stories and then handing over my pocket money for it, was not the way I spent my Sundays, I preferred riding motorbikes and collecting smurfs.
Stephen’s Mum was so unrelenting with the religious babble, I actually started to feel a bit frightened of her. She was a massive country woman, and looming over me she was quite frightening, so I played up on my injuries saying I was in agony and just wanted my mum, NOW. I made her call her and tell her it was bad so she would have to leave work and come get me immediately. The youngest in the family can get away with stuff like that.
When my mum came I ran out into the car and into her arms sobbing like a baby insisting we go home straight away. I don’t even think I said goodbye to Stephen or his crazy mum.
Not long far down the road I stopped sobbing, mum could read me like a book anyway and she knew it was fakery, ‘what happened’ she asked me in her soothing calm voice. I told her the full story in great detail, elaborating on religious icons around the house making Stephen’s mum out to be one of those Nuns in the Exorcist.
My mum didn’t care for religion, bless her. In fact, it was her that sent me to Sunday School with some pocket money telling me to make up my own mind about it. ‘You don’t have to go back there if you don’t want to’ she said, after she had listened to my story, it was the same thing she said about Sunday School. I loved my mum more than ever at that moment.
And so it was that I never went back to Stephen’s Angora goat farm and we never really hung out much after either. Later that year we moved again anyway, I went to a different school and made new mates, mates who rode bikes AND played loud rock guitars. They all had crazy mums.
I never stopped riding motorbikes after that accident though, unperturbed I decided on that ride home in the car that it was completely Stephen’s fault. He was simply jealous I was a better rider and he lead me into that fucking rabbit hole the piece of shit he was, so it was nothing to do with the motorcycle at ALL.
I think I went out riding in the scrub when I got home to process it all.
But today, some 30+ years later riding my amazing BMW S1000R down a slab of freeway thinking about Stephen, that rabbit hole, and motorcycles it became perfectly clear to me. I never stopped riding because motorcycles aren’t to blame. People are.
And I was at fault here, my stupid reaction cost me a friendship that day regardless of whether or not he did indeed lead me down the rabbit hole, or that his mum freaked me out with her religious connotations. I should have shrugged it off. It wasn’t his fault at all. Or the bikes. It was just an accident.
Motorcycles are rarely to blame, it’s the people that make them do stupid things that can be, sometimes it’s a rabbit warren. That’s just how it goes.
Until next time, my two wheeled brothers and sisters.