BLOG: Getting revved up about motorbike history

The motorbike, a rusted relic from the 1970s, was about to be taken to the tip. But then the owner thought of his brother-in-law, who was interested in old motorbikes, so he gave him a call. It could have been a way of avoiding the hassle of loading and unloading it onto the trailer rather than an act of generosity, but in any case, he told his brother-in-law that if he wanted to come and collect it he could have it.

When Ian Theobald got the call he said he didn’t know what sort of bike a Yamaha RD250 was, but members of his local classic bike club said he should get it. So he drove out to a farm near Dubbo where he found the bike leaning against the outside wall of a shed. It had been leaning against that wall for over 25 years.

It was so rusted from its quarter century of abuse by the weather that the wheels wouldn’t turn and it had to be dragged onto the trailer. The front forks were bent, there was water in the gearbox and mud and wasp nests in the exhausts.

But there were some positives. As Ian no doubt soon discovered, the RD250 is an iconic model, being one of the early sporting bikes from Yamaha. And its condition wasn’t all bad: the motor had been reconditioned just prior to it being taken off the road all those years ago. Ian said that, amazingly, with a new fuel tank, a battery, and minor repairs to the ignition, the motor actually started. And so began a full restoration of the bike.

Last Sunday, the bike, now looking resplendent in its bright blue paintwork and shiny chrome, was on display at a classic motorbike display at Berry, held by the Shoalhaven Classic Bike Club. There were over 100 bikes on display, each no doubt having its own story to tell.

Phil Hall showed his unique Shadowfax Kawasaki. This was built from a wreck in 1981 as a racing bike. It raced at Oran Park, Canberra and Bathurst. After crashing at Bathurst it was rebuilt as a road-bike. Then in 1988, having suffered an engine failure, it was taken off the road. Seven years later it was given to Phil as a project to restore; a task he finally commenced in 2011. It took a lot of work, and a lot of assistance from others, but in March last year it had been restored to its former incarnation as a race-bike.

Ian had another bike on display, a 1928 BSA A28; a bike that Ian, perhaps somewhat ungraciously, described as “BSA’s biggest failure.” While it did have some advanced features for its day, the low power, 2-speed gearbox and lack of front brakes Ian said made it, “Bound to flop.”

This one was rusty when he got it too, being found on the verandah of a house in Port Kembla where it had sat rusting away from the effects of salt air and industrial fallout. Ian said that restoring the bike and keeping it running had been a challenge: parts were almost impossible to find, and any that were found were usually so worn or damaged that they were unable to be used.

Then there was the fellow who had a 1960s BSA Bushman, a trail-bike version of the BSA Bantam, which was a cheap British runabout produced during the 1950s and 1960s. Despite its somewhat humble status in the motorcycling world, the owner said he had spared no expense in restoring the bike to its current magnificent condition. When not being admired by passers-by at the occasional bike show, it was on permanent display in his loungeroom at home.

So what is it about the owners of these bikes that inspires them to do what they do – to take rusted wrecks and turn them into immaculate restorations? A love of motorcycles, obviously; but it’s more than that: it’s also an appreciation of history. Every bike on display, from the exotic to the every-day models, marked its own moment in history. Someone once said that to appreciate the present we must study the past; and these people are making sure that the past is there for us all to see and admire.

Elwyn Jordan is a musician and full-time music teacher. Besides music, his interests include technology and motoring. He runs a motorcycling website called The Old Bloke. http://theoldbloke.homestead苏州美睫培训. You are welcome to get in touch with Elwyn at [email protected]苏州美睫培训.au

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