Fast forward now to 1973. I was in the Army, doing my “nashos” and teaching in the Army Education Corps. I was also married and commuting to Holsworthy each day from our home in Dapto. And a mate in our church had just returned from working for two years in Mount Isa. He had earned a motza up there and, when he returned, he came back with a brand new HQ Holden Premier with all the “fruit” AND a Yamaha TX5000 motorcycle.
Bob, on a motorcycle? It seemed inconceivable. Bob was distantly related to his namesake Bob Holden, of Bathurst fame, and it just seemed so weird that he’d be interested in bikes with all that tradition behind him. But, interested he was, and he wasted no time trying to get me interested too.
It took a while, but then, at a Sunday School picnic at Cordeaux Dam in 1974, Bob handed me his open-face helmet and said, “Go on, have a ride, it’s easy.” He explained the controls and, after a few nervous attempts at mastering the very sensitive clutch, I was off and riding it around and around the car park.
Well before the time I handed the bike back to him and returned to my very anxious wife, I was HOOKED. Until you ride, you can’t know what it is like TO ride, and all my previous contacts with motorcycling and the people who lived in that world suddenly came sharply into focus, It was like, “Where have they been hiding this idea all this time?”
I’m guessing that was the June long weekend. By November of that same year I had negotiated my Learner’s Permit and had my motorcycle licence.
I had also purchased my first bike. The 4 of us, (Bob and his wife Sharyn and my wife) drove to Sydney one Saturday morning in October and Bob rode home on my new 2nd hand Honda 350/4. It was a 1972 model, cost me $700 from Tom Kerr Motors (a 2nd hand car dealer at Ryde) had cherry red metalflake paint and home-made 4-into1 muffler that was LOUD. Most Jap bike exhausts of the day were lucky to last a year in the Aussie climate before rusting out. Soon after the purchase, I replaced the 4-into-1 with a set of standard 4-into-4 pipes.
Here’s a quick expose of the 350/4
I also replaced the “sit up and beg” handlebars with a set of “low rise” bars that made the riding position much more comfortable. That turned out to be a drama and another learning experience into the bargain. You see the good people at Honda, in their never-ending search for neatness, saw fit to route all the wiring from the handlebar switch blocks through a hole in the handlebar, then INSIDE the handlebar, exiting through another hole at the steering head before diving off into the headlamp housing where they all terminated.
So, to replace the bars, you had to take out the headlight, disconnect every wire that came from the switch blocks (and half of the wires were all the same colour!), pull them through the bar and then reconnect. The good people at Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki were much less anal. They simply ran the wires along the outside of the handlebars and secured them with cable ties.
I identified the appropriate wires by tying a small piece of copper wire around each wire and distinguished between them but the number of turns of the wire I wrapped. Fiddly in the extreme, but it worked.