Beverley Re-enactment 2014
I could smell it before I saw it, enticing and heady. Weaving along Spencer’s Brook road on my DKW, I recognised the whiff of Castrol R and some unburnt fuel from a high performance vintage motorcycle. Bill Young and Charlie Lawson would have approved. I went over the second railway crossing, almost sideways, caught the edge of the bitumen with my front wheel and I hung onto the wires, with an almighty roar we hurtled forward, towards Northam, there were more bends in the road than a bucket full of brown snakes. There were flak bursts of daisies and bluebells along the roadside. I came over the brow of the next hill with both wheels clean off the ground, like a pedigree racehorse executing a steeplechase manoeuvre. At the apex, I stood on the footpegs and looked forward, there he was, darting towards the next sharp left turn. It was John Sinclair on his Grindlay Peerless.
We were doing Beverley again. Not the actress Beverley Mitchell, Esmeralda but the re-enactment of the first motor race in the Southern Hemisphere, from the small wheatbelt town of Beverley, 100 miles to the east of Perth. Back in 1904, a handful of dedicated motorcyclists would have set off from the hamlet, along rough gravel roads or rudimentary paths back to the fledgling town of Perth on the lower Swan.
Several people have been muttering about the preparation that I do on my mounts for an event, so for this year’s event, I decided to ride the old girl from Adelaide to Darwin, to iron out all the bugs, once and for all. Indeed, I was deep down an opal mine in Coober Pedy, with Graeme Hammond and he said to me “Hey cobber, your back tyre doesn’t look so flash” So shortly afterwards, he changed my tyre and also sprayed some release fluid onto the pivot of my points cam follower. He also encouraged me to polish the bike about two or three times a day.
So by the time it came to the Saturday event, Phil Skinner’s the “Day before” event, the red charger was fully sorted. I rode out to Bill Cowlin’s house, where Roger Bowen was already drinking coffee and kicking Sloper tyres with Bill. We loaded up the DKW on Bill’s trailer between the green Slopers, like a Bull Mastiff between two Pomeranians and Val drove us all out to Karagullen.
It was a glorious midday setting, with Chris Whisson, Kevin Badby, Ken Vincent, Dave Weeks and Gary Tenardi all eating a sandwich in the seated area adjacent to the servo. Shortly afterwards, Colin And Delys rolled in, Delys riding the British racing green Indian, and Colin with the ’23 Scout on the trailer. Seems the old girl had a hissy fit and had refused to start, yet fired instantly on the back of the trailer under four tensioned tie downs. We wouldn’t give up this biking lark for anything! Then Phil rolled in on the tan coloured Harley, seems his Indian also had a last minute sulk. Lat Fuller rolled in to say hallo on a new era classic Beemer, also Richard, of Velo fame, even riding a few kilometres out with us.
By 2 o’clock we were heading east under a warm sun, no wind but a cool airflow proved to be a tonic for man and mount. Phil’s points started unwinding just before the customary tea spot in the woods requiring a cool down period and a reset of the points gap. After a quick drink we were off again, winding through oceans of canola fields, almost mesmerised by the freshly shorn lambs in the fields contrasting with the granite outcrops. By 4.30, we were all parked at the back of the Beverley Hotel, that 1886 structure, which has withstood 130 years of hard living. There was a 1926 AJS parked there waiting and after booking in, we all stabled the bikes up for the night in the parking garage and Dave parked up his van, having had no customers for the day. The evening was spent in the normal fashion, appropriate for the exponents of our noble sport, with all of the riders tucked up in bed relatively early, whilst the rough element in the Commercial Hotel, carried on right through the night, slaves to the karaoke machine there.
The next morning, there was the usual assemblage outside the hotel, no Beverley would be the same without Spencer and Joyce Sheffield, who rumour asserts, have attended every Beverley re-enactment since its restart back in the ‘80s. Spencer was riding his gleaming, trademark ’28 Indian, Rene on the ravishing ivory tan ’16 Harley Davidson and Ron Morrison Snr and Jnr in the SS80 Brough Superior. Both Rons looked amazingly fit and well. Other omnipresent starters were Clive Oakes on the unique AMAC and John Sinclair on the Coventry Eagle lookalike G.P. Colin’s Indian started on the first kick, so Delys loaded her Indian and drove shotgun with the back-up. It was about a 20 degree morning, with no clouds and not a breath of wind. The local townfolk were flabbergasted, as they normally are, with the firing up of the old steeds and their gracious departures. Gary’s ’27 Ariel battled to start, on a brand new plug, so the old, sooted up one went back in, after a rough scratch and a quick gap check with a South Australia vernier gauge (oily left thumbnail).
In York, most of the bikes refuelled and a quick coffee was had at the Tatty Parrot café or the Penny Farthing store. Next stop was the Broome Terrace lookout on the rather low Avon, in Northam, where once again the townfolk rolled out to welcome the posse with the tumultuous excitement that one would expect. The Brough was running a bit rich on the one carby, so Ron leaned her off. Ken’s little cammy Velo was flying like a rocket through the countryside, stopping only once to help Gary put the old “new” plug back into the Ariel.
Then it was off to lunch in Toodyay where we were lucky to arrive as a bunch of bikies rode out….we took the front row outside the hotel. One of the barmaids asked Kevin Badby if she could sit on the back of the Henderson. Then it was off on the final, longest haul, back to Mundaring, travelling along Clackline, a short stretch of GEH to Baker’s Hill, then slightly north of it, along the fabled Old Northam Main road through Wooroloo and Chidlow, where I bowed briefly, in deference to old Clubman Richard Matthews, who is still recovering from a hamstring rupture (not inflicted by trying to kickstart his BMW, Esmeralda but loading a bale of HAY!).
I had a couple of minutes on the next rider, so I stopped at the St Helena Tavern for a while, taking pictures of the blossoms and chatting with some of the hotel patrons. They were astonished to hear that the Re-enactment would pass shortly, right in front of the hotel. The points fairy struck again, this time Kevin’s Henderson, with the bike only just firing fully retarded. You could have ridden a horse through the point gap, which was quickly reset and Kevin was able to catch up. Then finally on the last strait to the Mundaring Hotel where there was a fair in full swing. The first people we bumped into were John and Melissa Branton, John is still looking for some bikes for the 2016 calendar. Bikes do not have to be concours, he said. Terry McKie also rolled in for a gander, having just completed a marathon open water swim at a local venue. Dave had come close to picking up a few customers but their sheer determination kept any further retirements from happening.
The trickiest part still lay ahead, negotiating the hills back home. Phil did another route sheet from Mundaring to his workshop and we almost made it back without incident. Bill’s clutch kept going out of adjustment and then the tensioning bolt fell off completely. Phil’s HD ran hot just waiting so he held back. Bill in the meantime had parked again, out of view and we all flashed past. Luckily Bill found a matching bolt in the gutter, fitted it and rode triumphantly into the carpark before a search party was called.
All in all a wonderful day was had and enjoyed by the relatively few that took part. Thanks need to be extended to Phil for organising such a great event and for the back-ups, Delys, Joyce and Dave.
This, the 110th commemoration of the first race followed the original course with the following changes. The original start was from Beverley Post Office, a couple of hundred yards down the road. The original finish was the Victoria Park Hotel, on Albany Road, via Midland, a total distance of 116 miles. The competitors rode up by train from Perth to Beverley on the preceding day.
The first race took place on 1st October 1904, after it was rescheduled from 10 September, due to storm damage to the primitive roads. The winner, Perthite Mallabone, riding a Minerva, edged out Fremantle rider Jewell, on a 21/2 hp homebuilt motorised bicycle in a thrilling finish.
Favourite, Gilmour on a 2 hp De Dion, was leading, on handicap, when his handlebars snapped, 2 miles out of York. He pushed the bike into York and fitted a new pair of bicycle handlebars. Another competitor, Gato rode into a ditch and destroyed his front wheel. He walked to Northam train station and caught a train back to Perth. Henley pranged his steed out in the bush and hiked back to Perth in disgust (without notifying anyone). A massive thunderstorm lashed Mundaring in the early afternoon, turning paths into rivers.
The winning time was 5 hr and 41 minutes for an average speed of 20 mph. Of the 17 entrants, only 6 started. 3rd home was Perthite, Ward who arrived after dark at the Vic Park Hotel. The Organisers were the League of W.A. Wheelmen, who already organised and ran the annual bicycle race from Beverley to Perth, since 1897.
John Wightman #811