With Bob as my mentor, I started what has been an enduring passion for life on two wheels. I should add that, straight after I got my licence, the very first thing I did when I got home is ride up Macquarie Pass. Yes, it’s true, my first ride as a fully licensed rider was up to the Pie Shop!
Paul would come down here from Denman on his weekends off and the three of us would explore the roads around the Illawarra. And it was on one of these rides that a bizarre and potentially fatal incident took place.
It was a Sunday afternoon and the three of us were riding along Swamp Road, that links the Jamberoo Road to the Princes Highway at Dunmore. I was in front, Bob in the middle and Paul was riding “Tail end Charlie” I got to the highway and the others weren’t behind me. I waited a minute and then rode back to find the two bikes parked beside the road on their sidestands and no riders visible. After I stopped I saw that Paul and Bob were in the paddock on the side of the road. Bob was sitting on the grass and Paul was talking to him. Bob’s jacket was torn and it was obvious that he had crashed.
But why? It was a straight piece of road for heaven’s sake. Bob was dazed but assured us he could ride and so we escorted him, at reduced speed, to his house. He said that he had no recollection of the accident. Last thing he remembered was riding along and the next thing was lying in the paddock after having been thrown through the barbed wire fence.
I told Sharyn that she’d better get him to Casualty and have him checked out. Bob, ever the macho man, insisted that he was OK, but I insisted that he go, and, eventually he agreed. I am SO glad I insisted. It turns out that Bob was a diabetic and didn’t even know it and he had had a diabetic coma while riding, and simply blacked out. Thankfully the tests they did at the hospital revealed the true extent of his ailment and he was able to commence treatment for it before doing himself and possibly others, damage.
The 350/4 was a lovely bike, with a silky-smooth engine and an intoxicating exhaust note, but it also had an annoying whine in the gearbox and nobody seemed to be able to tell me what it was and what was needed to fix it. They say that ignorance is bliss, and it certainly was in this case. I proceeded to pull the engine out of the chassis myself, strip the engine and replace all the gearbox bearings!! The sheer stupidity of me doing such a sophisticated and complex job by myself without any help or even a workshop manual, still staggers me.
And, after doing all that, the noise was STILL there!
I remain convinced that the noise was probably caused by a worn countershaft sprocket or something similar, but, I was spooked by this stage and I sold it.