When long-serving Royal Automobile Club of Queensland motoring editor Barry Green retired after years of driving supercars in exotic locations, the most common question he was asked is what car would he buy. His answer was … a motorcycle! Now Barry tells Motorbike Writer how he got into motorcycles and why he is returning to two wheels.
So, what got you onto two wheels? For me, it was a movie – Easy Rider. What 17-year-old male of the early-70s failed to be captivated by Captain America and sidekick Billy’s voyage of discovery Stateside on a pair of wild, gleaming, chromed-to-the-max Harley choppers? Big bikes, big country, big sky, big adventure.
My peer group fantasised about setting off on our own freewheelin’ experience, a lap of Australia. We didn’t get far, just 160km from home. Instead, we settled quite happily for party central, a rented flat above a corner hamburger joint called Kelly’s Poolroom in pre-gentrified Paddington, Brisbane.
More to the point, only two of us actually bought a bike, mine being a 1959 Triumph Thunderbird 650. With forgiving handling and relatively little power, it was ideal in those times well before LAM regulation. I taught myself to ride, and did well – the first bout of gravel rash didn’t come until four months later.
Then followed a sweet-and-sour experience owning a rough-and-ready Triumph Trophy-engined Tiger 110 café racer which ran out of oil, lunching the engine. Rebuilt, I crashed it when a suit failed to give right of way, the Trumpy drilling the front side of his Austin 1800 and me landing on the bonnet.
Game over for bike ownership until a CandyTone purple Kawasaki Mach IV 750 entered stage right, what seemed an eternity (actually, a little less than three years) later. We shared some history, that bike and I. There’s a story there all of its own – maybe editor Mark might allow me to indulge in sharing it some time.
I moved the Kwaka on to go dirt bike racing, using the money to buy, in succession, a vintage girder-forked, J.A.P. speedway frame fitted with a Yoshimura-kitted, 125 Honda four-stroke single, Honda 125 enduro bike and Yamaha MX250. Plan was to get experience on local short circuits (sump oil-sealed, decomposed granite surface) at Tivoli, Kingston and Caboolture, hope someone spotted my ‘talent’ and give me a full-on, twin-valve Jawa slider to race. Then, it would be only a matter of time before a British Division 1 or 2 Speedway League team signed me. Yeah, right.
I had always aspired to owning a Mach III and finally did, in 77. By then, what with the warm lap of domesticity (marriage) and onset of a little frontal brain development, I was no longer riding like there was no tomorrow. But, motorcycles never vacated my life entirely.
Come the mid-80s, I found myself freelance writing part-time for the weekly REVS Motorcycle News and its monthly stablemate Two Wheels, reporting on race meetings, ghost writing a column for eventual (1991-92) World Superbike Championship third place-getter Robbie Phillis and performing the odd road test. I even ventured back into ownership, with – you guessed it, another stroker, Honda’s V3 MVX 250 whose rear-cylinder threatened to detonate when asked to sing for its supper.
Apart from throwing a leg over my two sons’ dirt bikes in the mid-90s and, way more recently, a one-off scooter ride around a Greek island and flirting two or three times with motorcycle sidecars, I’ve kept to four wheels. In fact, for 12 years, my day job included road testing cars for The Road Ahead magazine and www.racqliving.com.au
And that’s where the story of two-wheeling was meant to end, except that I’ve gone and bought another motorcycle. Call it old-life crisis, whatever, but 50 years since I laid down $300 for the T-Bird, an immaculate, low-mileage (14,000km) nine year-old Triumph Thruxton 900 SE proved simply irresistible.
So, how’s it worked out? Pretty damn well. Living where I do, I’m spoilt, with just three sets of traffic lights between home and the cracking roads north-west of Bris Vegas. Think Mts Nebo, Glorious and Mee and beyond. I set my sights low to begin with, though, reacquainting myself with the balance and dynamics of riding and sticker to the flatter, quieter roads through Bunya, Armstrong Creek, Bullocky’s Rest, etc. A deep vein of Triumph DNA runs through the Thruxton (twin-cylinder, twin-shocks) but the addition of electric start, fuel-injection and twin discs has endeared it with a new level of practicality and safety.
Gone might be the reflexes, agility and derring-do of old, but the trade-off is a half-century more life experience and smarter attitude. Consequently, those great mountain and country roads I’ve driven a multitude of road test cars on in recent years have taken on a whole new challenge on the Thruxton. No ABS, traction control, etc. – just me keeping it on the road. And that’s a fact I respect and don’t take lightly.