Welcome to My Place

October 2020

The Short Story.

I've been contributing to Motorcycle Magazines in Australia and New Zealand for around 20 years.

The Extended Story.

How I became a long-time contributor to Motorcycle Magazines.

Whose fault?

I was born and raised on the South side of Sydney. My Grandfather lived and worked down the coast in Wollongong. He gave me my first mini-bike when I was three years old.

Subsequently my go was honking a 125cc, two-stroke Victa lawn mower engine mounted in a rigid frame on 8" wheels around our suburban back yard.

The course ran along the side of the house back up the driveway to the back yard, “Until there was no grass left around the clothesline.” These were the terse recollections of my mother, rather than definite memories of mine.

I clearly remember the bike though. The most vivid image is of burning myself on the exhaust and that the frame was a bit rusty. Even as a toddler it seems I  never got the whole ‘Patina’ thing. Maybe that's why I still hate rust.

Anyway, that’s where I got the riding bug.

Later in life my mum always looked at me in leather, carrying a crash helmet and said ‘It’s all your Grandfather’s fault!

Mini bikes were rarer back then, but Grandad was the Senior Engineer at the Port Kembla Iron and  Steel Works. A great man. 

He was a keen bicyclist and racer in his youth and the old photo albums under mum’s house have him as an Aerial motorcycle enthusiast.

He had the apprentices at the Steelworks build a chassis from scratch and then fully engineer it as a working mini bike - My first.

I have much clearer recollections of how happy I was when he bought me a production mini bike when I was around eight years old: A Deckson 125cc with a Kirby 4-stroke engine, centrifugal clutch, drum rear brake, no rust and a shielded exhaust.

I rode it non-stop, every time I could get petrol for it - and everywhere I could get away with riding it.

All the way through school it was all about bikes. For Technical Drawing assignments in high school I’d render racing motorcycles. I subscribed to Two Wheels magazine and read every page - even the test on my very own Deckson.

I traded the Minibike for a run-down Honda CL90 (and an air rifle). I fixed it up and used to bomb around the local sailing club car park or go off road all through junior school years. It wasn’t a step thorough mind you – it was a proper motorcycle!

Half-way through high school I got a part time job working weekends at the Sun-Herald newspaper offices as a Copy Boy. I lied about my age to get the gig. It was a formative event.

I worked regular double shifts and occasional triple shifts so by the I was old enough to get my car and bike licences I had saved enough money for a cool Holden Station Wagon and a beat up Honda CB450.

 I either drove or rode to my senior year of High School and to work at the paper on the Weekends. I took the long way home most afternoons.

Occasionally I’d just abscond from school and go riding instead. 

The CB450 was traded on a Yamaha SR500 Single Café Racer when I got my first full time job.

About a year later I traded the 500 for a hotted up Yamaha XS1100 – to commute on - at nineteen. And I only crashed it once.

The late 70’s and early 80’s in Sydney were special times – music, bands, venues and Summers of high quality partying - we took all of it in on a motorcycle, pretty much every night of the week.

The biggest, fastest motorcycles we could afford. Some of the boys had Z1000s. Some had GSXRs and MACH III Kawasakis.

Career-wise

Over the years after school I had careers in several fields and happened to be working in a commercial design office when the first Desktop computers appeared in the workplace.

Back then I had to change floppy discs to change fonts - and share the machine with the accounts ladies.

Soon after I was doing layouts in Photoshop1.0 and Aldus Pagemaker. Not long after that I went into business for myself and have been a Design Freelancer for the last 25 years or so.

I’ve owned at least one motorcycle pretty much all the time. There were a few years when the kids were little that I went sans two wheels, but not for very long. I have usually conducted business on a bike.


The Co-pilot


A most important point in this story is when I met ‘The Co-pilot’ (As she became known in the various magazines) around 40 years ago - and that all started with motorcycles too.

She was selling raffle tickets for the surf club at the pub on a Friday night. I was there with the lads and in a moment of inspiration I asked her if she wanted to come for a ride tomorrow? She said yes and we got married 18months later. I mean, she already had her own Helmet and Jacket!

We’ve been a strong team ever since. She’s the brains of the outfit, a successful woman of Science and Business. I look after the arts and the laughs.

Not long after I started out in the Freelancing caper I was getting around on a ratty Suzuki GS850G that I’d bought on a whim when walking past an up-country bike shop. It cost  not much more than the cash I had in my pocket at the time. (Read that more as an indication of the purchase price of the vehicle rather than any great sums carried about my person.)

Some while later I was on the phone to the CP and bitching about having to ride a GS850G while I’m building a business. She said “OK - If you can find a Triumph Thunderbird for a good price I’ll buy it for you.” We both liked Thunderbirds.

From that moment on I have always said she, “Keeps me in the kind of motorcycles to which I have become accustomed”.

Although the Freelancing has gone well enough that I have bought my own bikes since.

A Machine of Significance

That Thunderbird played a significant part in how and why I came to be writing for magazines - and composing this timeline.

The next chapter started in 2001, when CP was hired to an Executive position in Auckland, New Zealand. We wre living near Newcastle NSW and her relocation package allowed us to take the T’bird.

I thought seriously about selling it, but it was very well sorted and it turned out to be very fortuitous that I didn’t. I crated it up and shipped it across the Tasman.

The Triumph specialists at Auckland Motorcycles and Powersports (or AMPS) loved the bike from the moment they un-crated it. After all, it was fitted with Ohlins shock, a Race Tech front end and had been ‘breathed on’ by a brilliant tuner named Rusty.

Through that bike I was to fall-in with AMPS, and their Triumph RAT group, big time. Not long after they hired my combination of graphic design experience and motorcycle geeky-ness to build their first web site and to produce their press advertising and photography. Like most of my lucky breaks since, it was just a matter of being in the right place, right time - with a fortunate skill set.

I also made a ton of friends and riding buddies very quickly. Kiwis are a welcoming lot.



We rode all over the motorcycling magnificence that is NZ in the ensuing years and had many all-weekend parties in far-flung middle earth locations that were simply awesome.

One of the directors of AMPS was also the Triumph NZ importer. He saw the work I’d been doing for the bike shop - and the photography.

Not long after I was contracted to do their marketing support and advertising production as well. They had a long list of brands - from Aprillia to Vespa, Guzzi and of course Triumph in their stable.

I was hanging out at their warehouse often – getting work and their web site updates - and doping plenty general sifting about and tyre kicking - as you would.

Then they started getting me to shake down and run-in their Demonstrator and press bikes before they were sent to the various magazines or dealer fleets.

And yes - that was every bit as good as it sounds. Every now and then the Auckland Powersports would get me to shake down a bike too.

 Breakthrough

My breakthrough into the magazine editorial sections came sort-of unexpectedly. It transpired while I was delivering a disc containing Triumph advertisements to the offices of Kiwi Motorcycle Rider Magazine - or KR for short.

We were chatting on the back porch when then KR Editor Ross Mackay asked me, “Can you write too, Big Dave? Have you got something you can put together for us?”

“I do.”

I was writing quite a lot back then as an early adopter of Social Media too. Back then it was called USENET. Then on the first version of Yahoo forums. That was followed by thousands of posts on ADV rider, Kiwi Biker and other newsgroups.

I had a fully-photographed and well documented two-week tour of the South Island on a Triumph Trophy already in the can.

A commensurate fee was negotiated and that’s how it all began. 

It was the start of an enduring friendship with ‘The Ed’ and ‘Vege’, the Publisher, that has lasted to this day.

The Wiki says “In journalism, a Stringer is a freelance journalist, photographer, or videographer who contributes reports, photos, or videos to a news organization on an ongoing basis but is paid individually for each piece of published or broadcast work.”

Between 2002 and 2012 I was the Stringer at KR. Bike tester, touring writer, photographer, videographer and general hanger-on. 

I rode and tested more than 300 bikes in that time, an example of just about every large capacity motorcycle in that time.

The gigs were incredible. From wringing a brand new Yamaha V-Max’s necks on a closed Meremere drag strip to riding Adventure bikes to the top end of Australia.

I covered numerous Burt Munro Challenge events in Invercargill, and did a dozen laps of the South Island on a variety of exotic touring machines. 

I also had articles and features published in the Triumph RAT Magazine and later on in Harley’s HOG Magazine.

My own fleet of bikes had grown to include the T’bird, the well hotted up Trophy 1200 (with a Daytona Motor) and a Buell XB12X. 


I rode a lot. I mean A LOT. All roads, all weathers, and I’m sure there are better gigs in motorcycle-dom, but I suspect there are not many.

Home Time.

After 11 years in NZ (we were originally only going for 18 months) Co-pilot got a job offer in Brisbane that called us home and closer to family.

And that was another marker in the journey. I had a magazine gig before we landed in the Sunshine state.

I’d met the inimitable Mr Neale Brumby, Editor and Publisher of Heavy Duty Magazine – Australia’s Number One V-Twin Magazine - at a few Press Launches.

When I told 'Brum' we were moving home his comment was, “Good - you can work for Heavy Duty now.”

So I started regularly writing about and photographing a very wide variety of American Motorcycles for that famous publication.

I’ve always been careful not to call myself a Journalist. That’s a four-year University qualification. I call myself a features writer and photographer - and a motorcycle enthusiast with pretty good experience:  hundreds of bikes and a million K’s worth of saddle time I reckon. 

I consider myself fortunate that the new Publisher of Heavy Duty, Mick Withers, has also become a good pal.

So, where I'm at?

As a result of this 'enthusiast first' background, my writing and test style is not confrontational.

I’ve never taken a Fat Boy to the racetrack and bagged it for its lean angles like some of the English mags.

I have taken a Fat Boy on an extended tour on NZ and reported that I loved its cruiser-ability and head-turning style. 

Nowadays I'm also fortunte that I can tell a lot of people’s stories about their bikes in their own words.

For testing new bikes my angle/mantra has always been “If I was interested in buying this bike, what would I like to know about it.” I just assume that the vehicle is fit for purpose.

Long may it continue.

Dave.
Brisbane Qld,
Oct 2020