Bendigo Historic Motorcycle Club
BACK TO SCHOOL
Few clubs are gifted a 144-year-old school building as a club house but the Bendigo Historic Motorcycle Club has proved to be an excellend landlord.
The Bendigo Historic Motorcycle Club’s (BHMCC) association with motorcycling and the funny stories of members’ exploits dates well back into the 1950s and, in some instances, even earlier.
One member recounts the story of trying to impress some neighbourhood girls on his Matchless scrambler outfit in the 1950s, taking a corner too fast and crashing into his father’s milk bar in Collingwood, taking out rows of stock in the shop.
Another member recounts the story of riding over Mt Hotham in the ’70s and losing control of the bike on a gravel road, plunging over the edge and somehow landing the bike upright 10m below. He dusted himself off, dragged the bike up to the road with some assistance and continued the journey to Bright without a clutch lever.
Then there are the big restoration projects: they regale each other with epic feats of engineering excellence. Motorcycle components are redesigned and manufactured in their workshops, machined and copied from old parts. Wiring has been authentically replaced with original materials like waxed cotton.
There are also stories of the collectors: a machine rediscovered in someone’s shed and the pleasure it brings after many hundreds of hours of obsessive and painstaking restoration. Such are the legends and stories of motorcycling that bring together members of the Bendigo Historic Motorcycling club. It provides a vibrant forum for exchanging information about motorcycling restoration and repairs with its own library and experts.
ALL FUN AND ALL PLAY
As with most motorcycle clubs, Victoria’s BHMCC is a very social bunch and provides many events and forums for discussion of historic motorcycling. Women are front and centre in the work, both on the committee of management and in the organisation of events. This club prides itself on being inclusive, welcoming and friendly.
At the centre of the BHMCC is a dedicated core group of women who organise and cater for all club events, and make these events special by the legendary hospitality and the fellowship demonstrated. Many of the female members, aged between 35 and 70, ride and maintain historic bikes, and it’s these women who contribute significantly to the success of the club.
The Bendigo Historic Motorcycle Club predecessor was the Sandhurst Historic Vehicle Club, which dates back to 1980 and became incorporated as the BHMCC in 1989. Boasting more than 200 members with an average age well into the 60s, it has an abiding and ecumenical interest in all makes of historic motorcycles. The club thrives and regularly has 60 to 80 members in attendance at its regular monthly meetings on the third Sunday of the month.
What has sustained the club over the past 30 years and spawned interest in historic motorcycling has been the club permit scheme, which meant members could restore and register their bikes for use in club events. The permit scheme has now extended to the 45- and 90-day permits and has really extended interest in historical motorcycles.
The BHMCC has been known for its premier events like the Sandhurst Rally, an event that was run between 1989 and 2008, open to other clubs with an interest in historic motorcycling and centred around the beautiful Lake Eppalock region near Bendigo. Other events in recent times have included a single-cylinder rally and a girder-fork rally.
THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING
Since 2008 the BHMCC has had its own club house in the form of an historic school building at Llanelly, 42km west of Bendigo. The property is on crown land and the Department of Sustainability and Environment has required the club become the committee of management to look after the place.
The building operated as the local school between 1869 and 1948, with some 17 teachers having taught at the school during its 80 years.
Over the past four years the club has maintained and improved the facilities for use by the community and other clubs. The BHMCC continues to raise funds to improve the land and building, and so far BHMCC has replaced wiring, installed new heritage windows, upgraded the plumbing and installed new kitchen facilities.
In recent times, the BMWMCC, the Antique MCC, the Classic Club, the Vintage MCC and Maryborough and Castlemaine Car Club have all visited and been treated to the hospitality of the BHMCC.
I remember asking one member of the club, “How many motorcycles do you own?”
His answer was, “You know, I don’t really know…” This member talked about motorcycling and owning bikes as being a bug or a disease from which you never really recover. Well into his seventies, he is still acquiring and restoring bikes. He has sheds full of historic bikes, mainly older British models. This member talked affectionately about motorcycling and a connection back to his youth.
“Motorcycling was a cheap form of transport in the ’50s and it still is. Two or three shillings-worth of petrol would keep you riding for a week to and from work, and on the weekends it was a great means of transport to get up to the country.
“Then there is the freedom thing: bike and rider becomes one and, yes, it takes you back 50 years to your youth.”
Some members of the club pursue restorations of particular brands of motorcycle such as Indians, BSAs, Matchless, AJS, Kawasaki, and the like and are so passionate about their restorations that they have even gone to the trouble of casting new engines, cylinder heads and components especially for these projects.
Another member recalls affectionately his first bike in the 1940s: a JAP 250, and takes on one major restoration of a historic motorcycle every year. He’s been restoring older bikes for the past 14 years.
Well into his eighties, he does bottom-up restorations and is always on the lookout for that next project, becoming anxious if he hasn’t a project on the go. He commented that older bikes are becoming increasingly difficult to find for restoration.
“What drives members in their restoration of these old motorcycles is the challenge to be able to restore a bike to original condition – keeping busy, problem solving, manufacturing and repairing parts,” he said. “The satisfaction comes from restoring and rebuilding these old motorcycles to the best of your ability.”
FIND OUT MORE
Since 2008, the BHMCC has established another premier event in its calendar: the annual Motorcycle-only Swap Meet, held in the first weekend in December (this year, Sunday December 1).
The beauty of this event is the camaraderie among the sellers.
The major feature of the swap meet is a dinner the club hosts on the preceding Saturday evening. Many tall stories are told and some of the best deals are done around the campfire, prior to the swap meet on the Sunday. For further information about the club and the swap meet at Llanelly, call Rex Jones on 0407 683 376.
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