Love of bikes lingers

19:46, Jan 07 2013
phyllis gittins
MOTORBIKE FANS: Phyllis Gittins, right, and Phyllis Knott, both of Stoke, at the Nelson Classic and Vintage Motorcycle Show

Phyllis Knott, 85, pointed at the classic BSA Rocket 3 motorbike on display at the Stoke Memorial Hall and said to her 90-year-old friend, Phyllis Gittins: "Let's Go!"

The pair went on a rip-roaring trip down memory lane during the annual Nelson Classic and Vintage Motorcycle Show on Saturday, each recounting the days they rode pillion around New Zealand with their husbands who loved motorbikes.

Mrs Gittins, described by Mrs Knott as an "import" because of her London roots, remembered the glory days of road touring on a British Ariel motorcycle.

"We did a lot of touring on the Desert Road when it was all gravel. I would stick my feet straight out in case we fell.

"I really loved riding pillion with a big pack on my back. It's hard to put into words what I loved about it - maybe the freedom from all the restrictions," said Mrs Gittins, who grew up in wartime England, where she did clerical work as a member of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF).

She and her late husband, Bob Gittins, who died in 1981, came to New Zealand separately in 1948. The former Royal Air Force engineer then joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force and took up motorcycle touring from their base in Renwick, where they lived before moving to Nelson in the 1960s.


"Bob was a good rider, but I would soon tell him to slow down if I thought he was driving too fast," Mrs Gittins said.

Of all the places they visited, she liked Christchurch the most, but it was sometimes too hot. The worst thing about touring was when it rained and water ran down the back of her neck, which was when she was told to stop complaining.

Mrs Knott grew up in the Waikato. As a girl, she used to watch the man she would eventually marry care for his Indian motorcycle. "I can see it to this day. It was red."

The late Laurie Knott had to wait until the young Phyllis grew up before marrying her, when he returned from navy duties in World War II.

The last time she rode pillion with him was on a scooter in Rarotonga about 20 years ago.

Mrs Knott's love of motorbikes still lingers. "When I was 75, my family gave me a voucher for a motorbike ride around the Moutere."

Five years ago, she went tandem paragliding as a birthday gift. She scored a gliding voucher for her most recent birthday on Boxing Day, which she planned to use during a day out at St Arnaud yesterday.

The two Phyllises live in Stoke and met on a bus trip several years ago. They get out and about together a lot and attend concerts and community events such as the motorcycle show.

It is staged each year by the Nelson Classic and Vintage Motorcycle Club, founded in 1981 to promote the preservation, use and maintenance of classic and vintage motorcycles more than 25 years old.

The event is a showcase of legendary machines from British makers like Triumph, Norton and BSA. European models such as Ducati, BMW and Motoguzzi also took pride of place along with American Harley-Davidsons and Indians of bygone days.

Japan has provided the "new breed of modern classics" with Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki.

The Nelson Mail