The Postman steps out of the tardis in search of follicles lost
THERE’S something defiantly admirable about an old head in a new helmet – especially when there’s a fast bike underneath them both. And there were plenty of old heads, new helmets and fast bikes in the West Australian coalfields town of Collie today.
The little town, population 7000 or so, saw fit to commemorate the passing of 20 years since it hosted Western Australia’s last road racing event around a town’s streets. So-called ‘round the houses’ racing was popular across the State for many years, including Collie which hosted its first such event in 1948 and then, apparently, every single year until the plug was pulled in 1996.
Many of the riders and spectators today could have pinched themselves and thought they were stuck in an episode of Doctor Who. Many of the bikes were the same; and I don’t just mean the same make and model. I mean the same bikes were there. And many of the riders and spectators were the same, too. All that was missing was a fair few hair follicles, which had been replaced with an abundance of wrinkles, grey beards, and maybe an extra pound (or three) around the middle.
But, by golly, there were lots of smiling faces. The event was not a race, but the same roads that made up the old circuit were closed off and the bikes were let loose in groupings that you might call classes. And while no one was racing, lots of people were going pretty darned quick. Locals lined the streets, just like in the old days, and all wondered what would happen if someone hit a kerb or ran off the track. But they didn’t.
And, as seems to happen so frequently in Western Australia, some wonderful bikes came out to play. We spotted a TZ750 Yamaha out on the circuit and an RG500 Suzuki on the grassed oval, both from a two-stroke era that produced so many horsepower that the fun police decided enough was enough and started to impose limits on the madness.
There were Nortons alongside Ariels alongside VFR Hondas alongside Tritons. There were old Ducatis, Benelli Sixes (well, one anyway) and Yoshimura-kitted Kawasakis. There were BSAs arguing with AJSs about who was the grooviest. There as even a Moto Guzzi LeMans with ‘Stolarski’s’ on the tank.
And there was so much black leather, you couldn’t help but wonder where all the cowhide could have come from. Bovine genocide sprung to mind.
There were some blokes so old, we reckon they must have known Noah when he was a teenage upstart, and there were a few sleeping babies being pushed around in prams with ‘Loose Kid Industries’ stickers on the safety brakes.
We’ll probably never again see road racing around the streets in Western Australia. But we can remember, and we can pretend.