Graeme Duckett: Motorcycling gets in your blood

Graeme Duckett's 1952 AJS 500 single is his latest fling in a long affair with motorcycles.
Graeme Duckett

Graeme Duckett's 1952 AJS 500 single is his latest fling in a long affair with motorcycles.

I've always had a soft spot for motorcycling starting with a new Honda SL125 in 1972 which cost me the princely sum of $695.

Now this was back in the day when I was an apprentice butcher earning about $22 a week! But nevertheless that's where it all started.

I've always loved old motorbikes, and in 1973 in Hokitika I brought a 1954 AJS 500 twin. The poor old girl had three pages of owners and 300,000 miles on the clock. Originally it had been a Ministry of Transport traffic patrol bike.

The initial cost was $40 but I spent a lot of money on new parts for the engine and sprucing it up with new paint and tyres.

I rode many miles up and down the West Coast on her and she gave me no trouble. It was a lot of fun, and I certainly went places I couldn't have gone in my F.J.Holden I can tell you.

Now many years later I have brought another basket case 500 twin AJS, which in time will evolve into another old classic destined for weekend rides. Funny how we go full circle with things.

When I was a kid there were many old bikes around the streets of Waitara as many freezing workers rode motorcycles to work as cheap transport.

Old Mr Wipiti on his BSA Star Twin, Ces Terrill on his BSA C10, Johny Hoeta on his BSA B31 and many others. Where have they all gone?

I recently visited Don Burgess, an elderly member of the New Plymouth Classic Motorcycle Club, to borrow a workshop manual and ended up buying his 1952 AJS 500 Single cylinder bike from him.

He had fully restored it in the late 1990s and had covered 27,000 miles on rallies and fun runs and kept it in beautiful condition. Don has many memories. I'm sure, of this fine old classic, which I'll treasure and ride until it passes on to the the next owner.

We are after all just guardians of everything we have in this life.

These old bikes were very popular and both 350s and 500s were used as everyday transport .

Some took them to the speedway and raced them on the weekends, removing the mud guards and replacing the tyres for the dirt track. And they roared around the Waiwhakaiho Speedway. Many of you will remember that I'm sure. What great days at the old showgrounds.

Then after the racing it was mudguards on and road tyres refitted as the bikes went back to being everyday transport again. Some models were factory made competition models but few could afford those and today these models are very sought after.

My brother Allen was great mates with Ash King, so it was off to the speedway action saturday night to watch the TQs, solo speedway bikes, sidecar racing and stock cars. My favourite were the solo speedway bikes and Ash King and Gary Petersen were the stars!

In the pits the smell of Castrol R racing fuel and oily leather was pure heaven as everyone scuttled about getting their machines ready for the next race. One night Ash came off his bike and hit the wall right in front of where we were sitting. Exciting stuff for a young lad.

Ash is still involved with Taranaki Motocross. He has been and still is a great mentor for these up and coming riders. We are very fortunate to have him here, an amazing guy with a brilliant career in racing. His sons too have had huge success here and internationally .

Where does this love of motorcycles come from? "IT'S IN THE BLOOD!!".

 - Stuff

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