Cairns Motorcycle Restorers Club: Club tales

Date 09.6.2014

Presented by
  • Motorcycle Trader


Cairns Motorcycle Restorers Club


When describing the Cairns Motorcycle Restorers Club, its President, Stewart Howard, slowly replied. “They’re old; they shake and dribble a bit. And so do their bikes.” He smiled, “Well, that may be a slight exaggeration; only some of them dribble – the bikes, that is.”

The club was formed in 1979 and has steadily evolved since. “The founding fathers, some of whom are still active members, drafted the club constitution with long-term sustainability in mind,” Stewart said. “Rather than setting a fixed year of manufacture for bikes to qualify, the inaugural committee decreed that club bikes must simply be 20-years or older. This has led to a rolling introduction of eligibility presently sitting at 1994.”

Currently, a typical gathering would include bikes ranging from the 1940s through to the 1994 cut off. That’s 50 years of motorcycling on display for the public to enjoy while the bikes’ owners get a chance to discuss potential sources of hard-to-find parts and who is best to sort out some age-related puzzle. And yes, that sometimes include medical issues affecting a few of the older members.


Some conversations can be a little difficult to follow as members switch topics without warning. For example, discussions concerning batteries can be misleading. Clarification between motorbikes and pacemakers becomes essential.

Another recent interaction saw a hitherto level of confusion never previously reached. When describing the need to replace the valves in the cylinder head of an AJS single and without pausing for breath, a whiskered old gent went on to describe his imminent trip to Brisbane for a valve job. Mid-sentence, he was interrupted by a helpful member who volunteered that there was no need to go all the way to Brisbane. “I’ve got a paint tin full of spare valves in my shed.” Our whiskered gent scowled. “Have you not been listening? I’m getting a new heart valve fitted!”

The club embraces all styles of machines from any country of manufacture. However, this wasn’t always the case. In the club’s early years, the vast majority of bikes were of English origin – pre 1959. An occasional example of German engineering would make a show, but bikes such as Triumphs, BSAs, Ariels, Velos and AJSs dominated. This was how the club was inadvertently run for many years until one brave outsider turned up at a meeting astride a WLA Harley-Davidson. It did, after all, fit the 20-year criteria. Other than overhearing a few muttered criticisms from some of the older members, Ted, then viewed as an intruder, survived his first meeting. Years later, Ted took up the position of President.


The entire region replaces a clubhouse. With Cairns at the centre, Port Douglas to the north, Innisfail to the south and Atherton/Kuranda to the west, the club never runs out of venues. And those who have visited the district would understand that Cairns is central to some of Australia’s best motorcycling roads. On the first Saturday of each month, the members, like a band of gypsies, ride to a nominated meeting spot in order to attend the monthly get-together.

To the north, Port Douglas can be accessed via the palm-fringed Highway No. 1 as it winds its way alongside the turquoise waters of the Coral Sea. Think Victoria’s Great Ocean Road bordered by tropical coconut palms and warm weather. Then there are the nearby Tablelands, a matrix of interconnecting roads which allow riders to meander without the traffic density of modern big cities. And it’s cooler and less humid up there, too.

The Tablelands are accessible by what must be four of the best scratchers’ roads in the world. (1) Palmerstone Highway is very fast, scenic with gentle curves. (2) The Gillies Highway, with its 250 bends, is brutal and deadly. (3) Kuranda Range, a shorter version of the Gillies. (4) Finally, the Rex, near Mossman, is a blend of them all. Regardless of which path is taken, the rider can be assured of shortened footrests at the end of each ride. If that’s not enough, heading south towards Innisfail and beyond provides dozens of spectacular rides.


As the club embraces all bikes within the 20-year limit, it now sees machines such as Yamaha’s XT500 parking beside Harley Evos. Katanas sit comfortably between round-case Dukes and sandcast Honda CB750 Fours. Plunger-framed BSA singles nestle up to Guzzies and Z1 Kwakers.

Recent restorations have included a lovely 1100 Katana, a stunning 1000 GS Suzi, a Mach III Kwaker and a 750 Indian. As with most clubs, there are many other eclectic treasures currently termed “work in progress”. Skills held by members include comprehensive mechanical and electrical engineering, spray painting and signwriting. The club is also fortunate to have several retired motorcycle mechanics as members.

Stewart explained an important benefit of having no clubhouse. “By allowing the monthly meetings to drift around the sizable region, we see members and bikes from varying localities attend meetings that are relatively close to them. This encourages the use of older, more sensitive machines, some of which may not handle the traffic conditions experienced while traversing central Cairns or the mechanical demands of accessing the Tablelands. It also means that meetings held north, south or west of Cairns bring out a different range of bikes, some of which would otherwise spend most of their time in dark sheds. Oh, and there are no clubhouse expenses.”

The club’s detailed website (, describes past and future activities. It also holds a photographic library of club bikes.

“The club advertise in the local newspaper each month advising where the next meeting will be held. We encourage and welcome visitors. You never know what little gem they might ride to the meeting. The club also publishes a monthly newsletter in order to keep members informed of pending activities.”

Thirty-five years and still going strong; the founding fathers obviously got the constitution right!


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