Wheel alignment

Monday, 3 February 2020

A day at the races

The 5 week layoff following eye surgery left me feeling a bit rusty and with a road trip coming up in a couple of weeks, a bit more riding wouldn't go amiss.  It just so happens that this weekend was the annual Classic Festival at Pukekohe, South Auckland.  That's a 280 km round trip from home, mainly on nice, twisty roads.  Skipped Day 1 but headed up on Sunday, leaving early as temperatures into the 30's C were forecast.

It may sound a bit odd but although I quite like the racing, I enjoy looking at the classic bikes even more from both an engineering viewpoint and as an art form.  There's no denying that the variety of design and colour really does make them an art form, at least to this motorcycle nut!  Then there's innovation and ingenuity in spades.  Something possibly lacking these days when bolt-on go-faster goodies are available from international sources.

The car park is always a great place to start as some spectators always ride interesting bikes to Pukekohe.

Spectator numbers building, even at an early hour

The photo below is of an early 80's almost original wire wheel Suzuki Katana, although according to an original owner standing next to me, it had a few small updates.  These were the Superbikes of that era and genuine wire wheel models are still highly prized.

 The ultimate superbike of its era - the wire wheel Katana 1100

A tiny part of the pits - a real festival atmosphere

The pits are open to the public at no extra cost, creating a great atmosphere and although the racing is ferocious , everyone is chilled and friendly in the pits.  The bike below is one of several Ken McIntosh Suzuki's ridden to great success in the southern hemisphere by astrophysicist Dr. Roger Freeth.  Ahead of its time in terms of handling and is still competitive today.  Sadly, Roger was killed in 1993, co-driving for Kiwi Rally Driver Possum Bourne.

McIntosh Suzuki - still sounds fabulous

No classic meeting is complete without the appearance of the Britten 1000 superbike, designed by Kiwi John Britten.  Built from scratch and revolutionary in design, it dominated the world-wide BEARS series, also winning at Daytona.  Surely, this bike is the epitome of art form .  The Guggenheim Museum in New York certainly thought so, showcasing it as the pinnacle of motorcycle design.  To have two of them at Pukekohe was very special.

The incomparably gorgeous Britten 1000

By way of contrast, I came across this ratty old rigid frame Triumph.  It would have been easy to overlook it but to me, it was also a piece of installation art because of its basic looks.  It could almost be called "Steampunk", but that would cheapen it.

 Ancient Triumph with minimalist brakes

As an antidote to the streamlined modern-looking bikes, there were several entries owing their pedigree to the US-style flat trackers.  This Bonneville was a particularly nice example.

Flat tracker-inspired Bonneville

Continuing the "arty" theme, the next two photos are close-ups of a Harris-framed Suzuki with rainbow-hued pipes and the rear end of a very special Ducati designed by Paolo Tesio of Tex Design

Interesting pipes on the Harris Suzuki

Magnificent detail on the Tesio Ducati

Here is the complete Ducati.  If you have to ask how much, you can't afford it!

The next bike is a beautiful Harley-engined race bike with a superb hand-beaten alloy tank.  I don't know the history of this bike although I think it's owned by someone from the US.  It has ex-Britten and Suzuki superbike rider Andrew Stroud's name on the fairing.  A great example of beautiful engineering.

The BTR Harley

From a beautiful Harley to a downright ugly one!  A Harley-engined sidecar.  What it lacked in looks, it more than made up for it with its wonderful booming note down the grandstand straight.

Only its mother could love it

Ken McIntosh has a world-wide reputation for building beautiful race bikes and in particular for Manx Nortons.  There were a bunch of them at Pukekohe, all looking like they had just come out of the showroom.

McIntosh Manx Norton - flawless

When it comes to design flair and colour, it's hard to beat the Italians.  This next set of photos shows a number of Italian racebikes, all in stunning condition and worth a king's ransom.

Three Aermacchi 350 singles - simple elegance

Bimota DB1 - a rare example

Colour and style - couldn't be anything but a Ducati

Another Italian name from the past - Laverda

Although there's no denying the beauty of Italian design, there's something about the brutal naked and sometimes faired Japanese Formula 1/Formula TT bikes of the 70's and 80's, raced by Graeme Crosby, Wes Cooley and co.  Real muscle bikes which took a lot of muscling round the race tracks of the world.

Moriwaki Kawasaki - big and brutal

I could keep on adding photos but the foregoing ones are sufficient proof as to what a great event the annual classic is.  A real case of something for everyone.  To add to the classic feel, there was a great lunchtime display of aerobatics from a Spitfire and P40 from the nearby Ardmore Warbirds collection.

Famous silhouettes

I left in the early afternoon with the temperature climbing well into the 30's C.   Too hot to contemplate wearing my leathers.  The armoured Rev'it mesh jacket which Jennie bought for my birthday worked an absolute treat.  However, even with the liners removed, my Gore-Tex pants were too hot, with sweat pooling in my boots.  Before next summer, time to look at mesh pants or kevlar armoured jeans methinks!

All in all, a fabulous day.  Rust duly knocked off my riding and a privilege to see some beautiful machinery from bygone years.  In many cases, the age of the riders matched their bikes although it certainly didn't show out on the track.  What a wonderful way of staying young!


  1. Nice photos from the event. It’s great to hear that everything has gone fine with your surgery. Any surgery is frightening but when it deals with something like sight, it’s even more frightening.

    1. Thanks Richard. Yep, eyesight is taken for granted until something happens and it is truly frightening. Apparently, there is an increased risk of cataracts but easily detected and pretty routine to fix. In the meantime, I'll enjoy 20/20 vision (with my specs)

  2. Thanks Ian. Lots of stuff about the Britten on YouTube, as well as a video documentary. I vaguely remember that the man hours to construct the exhaust was jaw dropping. John Britten was an absolute perfectionist.

    Thanks for the good wishes. Better than 99% recovered now!

  3. Hi Geoff, That's not such an ancient Triumph...the one I saw had a leather drive belt!

    1. Gidday Nikos! There were older Triumphs and a Brough there too. Clearly a bit of racing doesn't hurt them as they've been regulars for a few years.

      All the best for 2020!

  4. Hi Geoff - I remember Katanas from the first time around - Albeit I was a lad growing up in South Africa at the time. They still look good too I reckon. Glad to see you're back on the machine once more.

    1. Hi Lee, I still remember seeing my first one in Auckland just after they'd been released - looked terribly exotic! Still look pretty good as you say.

      Good practice for the upcoming bike tour! See you in Porirua....

  5. Looks like a great day out and also great that you could see it! ;)

    1. A fantastic day Dave. Also a one-eyed Triumph man so didn't need both eyes 🤣.

      Also managed to give the tyres a bit of a work-out on the way home thanks to the absence of traffic!

  6. An awesome collection of bikes mate.
    I notice off the bat in photo 1 bottom left a 98 R1. Its almost a classic now at 22 years in its own right.

    Those warbirds are older than those bikes and would have sounded great. What an great day.
    That Britten certainly looks better than the triumph. By the way what is the estimated worth of one of those Brittens?

    1. Hiya Steve! I know those early R1's had a reputation for being bullet-proof and there's still a good few on the road. Same as the Blackbirds of that era.

      I can't be sure about the Britten as I think that there are only 10 in existence and they simply don't change hands. I seem to remember a quote by someone of "over a million dollars".

  7. I enjoyed that post Geoff and I must say I'm with you in my admiration of classics, more so than vintage. Whilst over in Uk I visited a couple of museums dedicated to them and spent many happy hours wandering among the fabulous bikes on display, the highlight was an afternoon at the Sammy Millar museum - which wasn't really long enough so I hope to go back sometime.

    1. Hi Andrew,
      I envy you visiting the UK bike museums. Most of them were set up after we emigrated. Hope that your Beemer is still purring along and every good wish for 2020.

  8. Wow, thanks for sharing the photos of those great bikes. That looks like a fun event. The older bikes have so much character.

    1. Thanks Oz! You've hit the nail on the head. So much more variety in the older machines and a lot more innovation by their owners.

      Have a safe 2020!

  9. Nice. Must get up there for that one at some stage.

    More Britten pics and less Harley ones next time!

    1. Well worth it Andrew - you can stick a tent up at the circuit for both days if you want to do it on the cheap and really take in the atmosphere. They're both V twins although I admit that there's a teensy bit of a difference ;-)

  10. Always enjoyed the classic meets at Puke - sometimes, when you think you'd seen everything,you'd walk around the corner and spy a Triumph with wooden wheels, or some other piece of whimsical fun.
    Mesh jacket and kevlar jeans in the heat - but even the jeans are a bit hot when you stop. Over about 38 it doesn't really matter what you wear - I found full leathers no more unbearable than anything else on the move in those temps - as long as you peeled the top off when you stopped!
    Did they have the Harley and Indian board racers, racing? They are evil machines - 100 mph with no clutch, no brakes and those downward drooping handlebars and the rear tire 2 inches from yr freckle! Sound good though with two inch exhaust pipes....

    1. Hiya Jon! Yep, there's always a delightful surprise or two every year - some smart people about. I think if I go up next year in those temperatures, I'll wear shorts under my gear and do what a friend did.... ran a long steel cable through his jacket sleeve and pants leg and left them secured to the bike. I just did it to my helmet with a short coiled cable and combination lock carabiner.

      Hope the weather is treating you well in Perth. No rain since Christmas in Coromandel and Northland. Total ban on fires and no external use of water. None expected for 10 days at the earliest.

  11. Mo rain that did more than indicate a pattern in the dust since beginning of November. 2nd driest year we've had since I've been here, and the hottest. We'd move back to NZ, but it's just too expensive and we'd never be able to replace even half of what we actually have here.

    1. That's bad news - hope that your weather breaks before long. Some rain forecast for the North Island on Saturday, but pretty brief.

      The world is a small place these days and where you live doesn't really matter too much as long you're happy, financially comfortable and have your health. Our daughter moved from NZ and started a new career in Melbourne this week. Somewhere for us to revisit without the cost of accommodation :-)

  12. The Britten 1000 was the final (highest) exhibit in the Guggenheim NYC "Art of the Motorcycle" some many moons ago. Bill was "allowed" to take a photograph, on account of his nationality.

    1. Hi Marg,
      What a thrill for Bill to be allowed to photograph it in situ! I remember you being there but didn't realise that you photographed it too.


Hello! I love to hear your feedback as it often leads to other things. However, if your comments are blatant advertising, then they won't get published.