27 January 2023

How classic motorbike companions stay on a high

| John Thistleton
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two motorcyclists

Charles Hillier and Bruce Tinsley at Mount Buffalo. From Queanbeyan, Charles is the club’s treasurer and from south of Picton, Bruce is president and has travelled 107 kilometres to Goulburn and home again for 21 years to catch up with mates. Photo: Dale Towell.

Like life itself, a motorbike ride through the Snowy Mountains can be lonely and challenging. But travelling with friends turns the journey into a joyous adventure, as 18 men and women from the Classic Riders Club of Goulburn found in late spring last year. On the six-day, 2000-kilometre trip from Goulburn to Jindabyne and across the crisp high country alps of NSW and Victoria, the mostly retired riders called it a ”worn-out wander’’.

A classic-bike rider for 21 years, Bruce Tinsley said snow covered the peaks going over the top of the mountains past Thredbo and Tom Groggin.

“One of the hairy parts I hadn’t been to before was Mount Buffalo, 32 kilometres of winding up around these switchbacks and 15km/h bends till you got to the top of Mount Buffalo (Victorian alps), and there are not a lot of guardrails or safety things on the side of the road,” he said.

With a back-up vehicle in their wake towing a breakdown trailer and carrying their gear, the happy wanderers continued through Victoria down to Wangaratta. Seventy-year-old Bruce has been on other trips, to South Australia and back, and with returned war veterans up to Murrurundi in the Hunter region, camping between two bikes and waking with frost on him.

The classic riders will be among 20 groups at the Love Your Weekends – Hobbie Expo on 4 February at Goulburn Mulwaree Library for anyone interested in joining. From 3 pm to 5 pm, theatre, gardening, sporting and environmental groups will be showing newcomers what they do with an invitation to join them. Library manager Erin Williams said the aim was to connect people and engage with their local community.

three motorcycle riders

Julie Kneebone, Sheree Thrower and Mischelle Lees, a life member of the Classic Riders, at Mount Buffalo. Photo: Dale Towell.

When Dale Towell and her Harley-Davidson-riding husband John moved to Braidwood in 2004, they invited fellow classic riders to their place for lunch. Her advice for non-riders and wives such as herself is to do helpful things to get to know the members. After their invitation to lunch, members put the Towells’ and Braidwood on their road calendar, came out about 10 times in succeeding years, during which time Dale became secretary, joined annual rides as a pillion passenger and helped organise the annual swap meet. She also compiles regular comprehensive magazines.

“She is the go-to girl, we are very lucky to have her,” Bruce said.

Now living at Tirrannaville south of Goulburn, the Towells continue hosting members.

“We have a memorial. If we lose any members, we have a special little ceremony for them and it helps that I am a celebrant. It all sort of fits in, we come up here (home) for refreshments afterwards, it’s about 10 minutes from our (the classic riders) monument,” she said. “It is a really lovely club with all sorts of different people within the membership.”

motorbike rider

Dale Towell at Tom Groggin for morning tea. The Classic Riders secretary has turned her many roles almost into a full-time job. Photo: John Towell.

Dale said newcomers joined because of the club’s culture, which encourages people not to feel pressured to do things, to simply enjoy being a motorbike rider. The formula works. The club is now home to 135 members, both new and old.

“It’s good for people who are retired and want the companionship, and riding without having to go out by themselves,” she said. “It’s an incentive: if you know your friends are going, you will go somewhere.”

The hobbies expo is free and bookings can be made at https://events.humanitix.com/hobbies-expo or by contacting the library on (02) 4823 4435.

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