The East Coaster’s Trek

Ve­lo­cette O.C. and Monar­chs M.C.C. mem­bers John Doig, Ge­off ‘Clawed’ Ingram and Chris Mog­ford at­tended the Ve­lo­cette Na­tional Rally in WA in Novem­ber last year.

Old Bike Australasia - - OUT ’N’ ABOUT - Story Ste­wart Doig Pho­tos Colleen Can­ning, Ste­wart Doig and Ge­off Ingram

Un­like nearly all the other east coast ral­ly­ists, they rode their ma­chines over the Nullar­bor and back. For this three, the Rally week was only the meat in the sand­wich, just a tasty morsel. Their transcon­ti­nen­tal trips, to and from the western seaboard, were their main fare, a sub­stan­tial feast of rid­ing! John rode his 1969 Ve­lo­cette Thrux­ton 500, while Ge­off rode his 1954 Ve­lo­cette MSS 500, a ma­chine that had seen scram­bles du­ties with a pre­vi­ous owner. Chris rode his rare ro­tary-en­gined Nor­ton Com­man­der 588. Tom Free­man of Trar­al­gon, rid­ing a Moto Guzzi 850, joined them for the ride to Perth but did not at­tend the rally. John and Ge­off’s ladies, Mau­reen and Robyn flew to Perth and joined the rally ac­tiv­i­ties; Mau­reen trav­elled in the minibus and Robyn rode pil­lion.

The four rid­ers joined forces at Clunes, (near Bal­larat), on 31st Oc­to­ber. The ride across Vic­to­ria, South Aus­tralia and the Nullar­bor was fairly un­event­ful but Ge­off’s MSS started breath­ing rather heav­ily af­ter reach­ing Norse­man. On the first day of the rally rides, (9th Novem­ber), Ge­off’s pis­ton let go in a big way. It looked as though the pis­ton sim­ply sheared off in a sin­gle plane above the gud­geon pin, how­ever, Stuart Hooper, the man be­hind the World’s Fastest Ve­lo­cette, de­tected a crack orig­i­nat­ing at the pis­ton’s in­let valve re­cess. He said that there had been a batch of pis­tons made where the cast­ing core was in­cor­rectly po­si­tioned. This re­sulted in an area of in­ad­e­quate wall thick­ness from which cracks eas­ily prop­a­gated. The Vic­to­rian VOC spares man was con­tacted and a new pis­ton was sent over pronto. The pis­ton ar­rived on Wed­nes­day and by sun­down­ers, (West Aussie lingo for cock­tail hour), it was fit­ted and the mo­tor started. For Tues­day’s ride Mike Tesser had loaned Ge­off a 1000cc Moto Guzzi Cal­i­for­nian and as Wed­nes­day was a rest day, Ge­off only missed half a day’s rid­ing. The rally base camp was the Swan­leigh Camp and Con­fer­ence Cen­tre at Mid­dle Swan in the Swan Val­ley. From 9-14 Novem­ber the ral­ly­ists rode to var­i­ous points of in­ter­est in­clud­ing winer­ies, brew­eries, dams, mo­tor mu­se­ums, scenic lo­ca­tions and his­toric towns. The fi­nal day’s ride was con­cluded with a chance to re­live the glory days of Ve­lo­cette; a 1960s hippy, flower power themed party night was held. Pre­sen­ta­tions were made at this event and Ge­off was awarded the Ted Carey Shield for ‘Ve­lo­cette rider who rode the long­est dis­tance’. The ride home was in blis­ter­ing con­di­tions; 40 de­grees for six days straight! Tom Free­man had in­tended to meet the lads for the ride home, but a phone call in­formed them that Tom’s Guzzi had some sort of gear­box trauma 30 km short of the ren­dezvous at Merredin. The Guzzi went home courtesy of the RACV Chris’ Nor­ton didn’t like go­ing out in the heat wave con­di­tions. At each stop it was re­luc­tant to restart and 45 minute cool downs were pre­scribed. As pay­back, the boys had a min­i­mum num­ber of stops.

Af­ter pass­ing Bal­lado­nia Ge­off’s ex­haust fell off a few times and the next day his mag­neto packed up. Chris towed him into Mun­dra­billa where a coil and con­den­sor from a 4WD in the bone­yard were scav­enged. A quick bit of work saw a happy, coil ig­ni­tion MSS, rid­ing off into the sun­set. To­wards Ce­duna, Chris was los­ing pa­tience with the Nor­ton’s hot start prob­lems and de­cided to re­move the lower fair­ings. One half was strapped to his lug­gage and the other half was strapped to Ge­off’s MSS. At Mor­gan, SA, Ge­off and Chris headed to the SR Yamaha rally at Bethanga and John headed for Clunes. John’s Thrux­ton was run­ning like a train, but he had no­ticed a cer­tain wob­bly feel to the han­dling since leav­ing Perth. Near Birchip, about 185 km short of Clunes, the front end of the frame broke off. John was go­ing at about 100km/h at the time, but the ma­chine stayed up­right till he had slowed it with the back brake to about 20km/h. He then bit the dust, for­tu­nately, with­out in­jury or fur­ther dam­age to the ma­chine. The brief slow down sec­onds were mere courtesy of the petrol tank bolt­ing and con­trol ca­bles hold­ing the plot to­gether. John has never been a RACV mem­ber but Mau­reen is. At this point, she showed a re­mark­able gift of the gab; she talked them into pick­ing up the Hall Green ar­ti­facts and tak­ing them to Clunes. For John, the rally had a dra­matic end, for Ge­off and Chris an­other rally pro­vided a soft land­ing, be­fore the work­ing days re­turned. For all, the dis­tances cov­ered in 3 weeks were an acid test of their prepa­ra­tions and re­source­ful­ness in overcoming a few of life’s lit­tle chal­lenges.

ABOVE Pis­ton top of Ge­off’s Ve­lo­cette sheared off above gud­geon pin at the start of the Rally in Perth. RIGHT John’s Thrux­ton frame dis­plays a split per­son­al­ity.

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