Bike hugs slow lane, 100 years on

Last updated 13:00 20/02/2014
Ashley Blair
HISTORY REPEATS: Ashley Blair arrives in Nelson after riding a 1914 Humber motorcycle travelling from Waipori to Nelson 100 years after his grandfather Eric Knight rode his 1912 Humber on a similar trip in 1914.

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While recreating a trip taken 100 years ago on a century-old bike which doesn't like to brake quickly, a rider was surprised to only find issue with "new-fangled" technology.

Retired school principal Ashley Blair, from Pukerua Bay on the Kapiti Coast, left Waipori in Otago on Friday and had biked about 900 kilometres to Nelson on a 1914 Humber motorcycle.

Mr Blair's grandfather Eric Knight did the trip in 1914 on his 1912 Humber. He left his home in Waipori and eight days later celebrated his 20th birthday in Nelson.

Though 100 years later, on a bike 100 years old, and about 50 years older than his grandfather was when he did the trip, Mr Blair wanted to pay tribute to the adventure his grandfather had.

"Ten years ago my uncle gave me a photo of my grandfather on his bike and I started obsessing over making this trip."

He left Waipori on Friday with family there to farewell him.

With his wife trailing in a car, and two other riders for support, the team had to take their time.

"These bikes don't do compulsory stops too well and they loathe and detest these new-fangled traffic lights because you have to do things suddenly. These bikes are from a different age and they don't like doing anything sudden or dramatic."

Only new technology caused a headache on the trip. "The biggest problem was GPS battery failed, it ran out, you can't trust these new-fangled devices," he said.

He said there was a lot that went into riding the bike, he was constantly adjusting the throttle and spark, had a foot clutch and hand gear change.

"Riding one of these is quite tricky, it's what's called a busy bike to ride. The others complained that when I'm riding along I'm not watching the road, I have my head down, you pump the oil regulate it, if you stop pumping the engine stops."

His wife Margaret doubled as the tour manager on the trip and laid down the law that Mr Blair must look after the bike and himself, so he was to go slowly, at about 30kmh.

While he never asked his grandfather about his adventure, Mr Blair thought he was inspired to do it after reading an article in the Otago Daily Times about a man who drove a car from Nelson to Dunedin in 1912, and talked about all the things he saw on the road.

While 100 years ago, his grandfather also did the trip back, Nelson was the final stop for Mr Blair. He said coming into the city and along Atawhai Drive was a highlight, as was freewheeling down the Whangamoa Saddle at a top speed of 60kmh.

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- The Nelson Mail

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