I got my first bike when I was about 8 years old. I called it the ‘grasshopper’, partly because it was green, and partly because I believed it could go anywhere, leap over obstacles like a long-legged insect.
Of course, it couldn’t really do this, but that didn’t stop me trying. I used to ride it everywhere. There was plenty of vacant land in our neighbourhood. Between the shopping centre and the high school was an enormous mound of dirt. We used to race around and over it. And on the land that now houses a community centre and a hotel, we used to devise elaborate obstacle courses.
When I was a few years older I was given a red dragster – long wheelbase, banana seat, high back bar, three gears, hand brakes – the works. It looked great, but wasn’t as versatile as the ‘grasshopper’. It was heavy and slow – more of a ‘street bike’ than a ‘dirt bike’. Eventually, I converted it to something a little more ‘hip’. I took off the banana seat and the back bar, and swapped the dragster handlebars for ‘cow horns’ (they were very wide – difficult to get through doorways). I also painted it black and yellow in imitation of the motocross bikes of the time.
My friend, Keith, had done something similar to his bike, and the two of us would cycle around the neighbourhood feeling very cool. We rode into the city (where I was once pulled over for going through a red light) and into the country. Cycling down the Gorge Road past Kangaroo Creek dam was a buzz.
When Keith bought a real motocross bike I was nauseous with envy. I used to spend every weekend watching him either work on his bike, or ride in competition at the local Motocross Club. Every few months he would update his bike. He always had something bigger and better.
Initially, there was no hope of me buying a motorbike. With four young kids, and only one working parent, it was impossible for my family to afford one. We always had to ‘make do’. However, I managed to scrape together a bit of cash by doing a few odd jobs over the summer. It was just enough to buy a motorbike.
Of course, I didn’t buy a fast, flash motocross bike like Keith, I bought an ugly, noisy second-hand agricultural motorbike. It belonged to the ‘friend of a friend of a friend’ and Dad said it was a bargain. It wasn’t what I wanted at all, but I went along with the idea so as to not disappoint Dad.
To add further embarrassment, we had to transport the motorbike on a boat trailer. The bike sat on a wooden crate and was tied to the trailer with bits of rope and rags. Keith would turn up at the motocross track with his shiny new Yamaha, while Dad and I rolled up with something that looked like a really daggy parade float.
And unlike the zippy motocross bikes, mine was heavy and slow. While Keith was scrambling up and over mounds on his bike, I was lumbering up and down the flat open field on mine. Which was fine until I hit a pothole at full speed and spent the rest of the ride hanging onto the handlebars from the rear mudguard.
Eventually, I became bored the bike and bored with Keith. I sought new friends with less expensive interests. The motorbike stayed in my father’s shed for about fifteen years. Then my brother-in-law dismantled the bike and put the pieces in his shed. And that’s where they’ll remain until the end of time.