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Berry Bike Show | Events

We went along to the 13th annual Berry Bike Show and ogled at some stunning two-wheeled beauties. These are five of our faves.....

The annual Berry Bike Show, held on the lawns of the Berry Bowling Club in New South Wales’ picturesque Shoalhaven region, has just chalked up 13 consecutive years. And despite a new multi-lane freeway now bypassing the historic township, the Shoalhaven Classic Motorcycle Club’s event attracted more than 100 entrants and a bumper crowd in 2018, which turned the carpark into a secondary bike show.

The show always attracts stunning entries from local enthusiasts as well as from around the state, and the wide and varied selection of bikes on display at this year’s show spanned more than 100 years, with everything from an early 20th Century Swiss-built classic with air/fuel mixture levers that predate the twist-grip throttle, through to 21st-century high-revving multi-cylinder crotch rockets.

In between there were engine configurations of all shapes and sizes, including a rotary-powered Suzuki RE-5 that attracted plenty of attention each time it was fired into life.

One of the coolest features of the Berry Bike Show is that it’s a show for all machines, so it’s not unusual to find an early Rudge on display next to a new Ducati Panigale, or a fully customised Harley-Davidson sharing space with a beautiful BSA in original condition.

Due to the glorious weather, and the many other local attractions on offer, many owners set up their displays and headed off to enjoy the sites, leaving me with a wish-list of people I was keen to talk to. We did manage to track down the owners of a few of our favourites, and they gave us the lowdown on their two-wheeled wonders.

These are their stories.

Show king

Bike 1914 Kerry-Abingdon King Dick
Owner Mark Vella

Mark Vella’s 1914 Abingdon King Dick, powered by a 500cc single-cylinder side-valve Kerry engine, was one of the oldest and rarest bikes on display at this year’s show. It has all the hallmarks of a machine built during the formative years of motorcycle development, including a pedal-assist system to get the bike started and climb steep hills.

Like most early motorcycles, the power transfer system is direct drive – there’s no clutch. “You need to have it up on the stand and pedal to get it going,” Mark explained.

The bikes were produced in England, and Mark believes fewer than five still exist.

In 1856, the Abingdon engineering company was making a name for itself producing a range of tools known as King Dick. Its bikes, typical of the era, ranged from 2hp to 3.5hp, with solos and tricycles available. Before it began manufacturing its own four-stroke 350cc single and 794cc V-twin engines, the company used proprietary engines from Fafnir, Minerva and Kerry.

“The bulldog mascot on the tank is the pet dog of the guy who owned the company,” Mark revealed.

“I purchased this bike off an old mate of mine who had owned it for years. I have not had to do much work to it at all; this is how it came. The only thing I have done to it is tidy it up a bit.”

Mark says riding the Kerry-Abingdon takes a bit of brain training.

“Things have come a long way over the past 114 years. The hand pump is used to pressurise the fuel tank – you give that two pumps every 15km – there’s no throttle, and you need to adjust the fuel and air mixture to increase or decrease the engine revs as you are going along.”

Kerry-Abingdon lasted until 1938 before going the same way as many British motorcycle manufacturers of that era.

Special outfit

Bike Motosacoche Especiale
Owner Dennis Tobler

Regular AMCN readers will recognise Dennis and his Swiss-made 1915 Motosacoche Especiale as a regular participant in our annual AMCN Winter Jacket Drive. Despite clicking up its 102nd birthday, Dennis still rides the Motosacoche regularly, and very few of his rides are short-range affairs.

Dennis is also a legend in the sidecar world, and responsible for a number of the outfits on show at Berry. He may be a man of few words, but when he does share his words of wisdom they are pearlers. When one onlooker asked what the brakes were like on the old girl, he fired straight back with, “They’re not!”

We will no doubt be seeing Dennis and his unrestored but much-loved Motosacoche Especiale at one of our jacket collection points for the next AMCN Winter Jacket Drive.

Ornate oddball

Bike 1975 Suzuki RE5
owner Kevin Webb

When released in 1975, Suzuki’s rotary-powered RE5 model was a bit of an oddball and, due to known issues with rotary engines blowing seals, the public shied away from them and it remained an eccentric design. These days, surviving RE5 Suzukis still being ridden regularly are few and far between, but as the owner of rotary specialist company South Coast Rotary, Kevin Webb couldn’t resist the opportunity to own a Wankel-powered two-wheeler.

“I’ve had this one for about 12 months, but I also have a second RE5 which I am presently restoring. I began restoring the first bike and realised that, due to work commitments, I was not going to get it running anytime soon, so I purchased this second bike, which was already running,” Kevin said.

“The engine in this bike is based on the same concept as the Mazda rotary engine, or NSU engine, which I work on in my business. They are quite a simple and reliable engine.”

Kevin said the engine in the RE5 is quite torquey compared to a rotary car, and it is helped along by the two-stage carburettor.

“It’s a 500cc engine, but if you rode this and compared it to a 750cc piston engine, they are very similar in performance.”

When asked to name the things he likes about riding the bike, Kevin listed the sounds and the smooth power delivery of the engine.

“People didn’t take to them because they were a bit of an oddball design.”

Siding with the cops

Bike 1967 Harley-Davidson Genny Shovelhead outfit
Owner Colin Carr

Tucked down the back of the bike show, in a shady corner (that’s shady as in out of the sun) was Colin Carr’s Harley-Davidson outfit, which began life as a police bike in the US.

“The bike was brought to Australia by the American Motorcycle Club as a gift to the American Motorcycle Club of Australia,” Colin explained.

The bike started life as a solo, but Dennis Tobler (owner of the Motosacohe Especiale on the previous page) converted it to an outfit, and Colin purchased the bike from Dennis 12 months ago.

“Dennis is a champion with old motorcycles; as well as the conversion, he touched up the paint a bit, but other than that this is how it arrived from the US.”

Colin said he has about six vintage bikes, and rides them all. “I probably do about 2000km a year on this one.”

When asked what the best thing about riding a classic Harley-Davidson ex-police sidecar is,
Colin said: “It all comes down to the joy of riding something so rare. I love sidecars; I have always owned sidecars.”

Winning prince

Bike 1955 Vincent Black Prince
Owner Trevor Lever

Winner of the 2018 Best Bike Award was Trevor Lever’s 1955 Vincent Black Prince. It’s a recreation of the bikes ridden by the Thought Police in the movie adaptation of George Orwell’s classic novel 1984, which were based on the 1955 Vincent Black Prince.

The original UK-based Vincent Motorcycle company closed its doors in 1956, but Trevor’s replica has a few modern touches including a carbon-fibre fairing. It’s powered by an air-cooled twin-cylinder 1300cc engine, which would be quite a lot of fun on the skinny tyres.

If you have fallen in love with Trevor’s Black Prince, you can buy a 21st-century version from Patrick Godet in France for around $120,000 – just be ready for the two-year wait on delivery. Patrick can build a modern recreation of any Vincent to the customer’s specifications, whether for touring or racing, solo or sidecar. All you need is the money and patience.