By W. Rex Stirling
Having been involved and associated with the sport of motorcycling, past and present, I enjoyed the article “The power of the patch” by Rosie Gillingham in the Sept. 7 edition of The Weekend Telegram.
While lunching at a restaurant in Deer Lake one hot day in July this summer, I heard a familiar rumble. Being a biker of many years I immediately recognized the sound as that of a large motorcycle, 1200 ccs or larger.
Being seated at a window table, I could see as they rolled into the parking lot they weren’t young. Intrigued I went outside to meet them. As I approached, the male rider was taking off his helmet to reveal a head of snowy white hair. His female companion did likewise and she was equally white.
Walking to the back of their bike I saw the licence plate read Vermont. They were a long ride from home.
I introduced myself, they did the same and for a few minutes we talked about bikes and biking. I asked if he were a member of a recognized club, he said he was and named them. I told him in my youth I had founded one and helped co-found another, both of which were in existence for a number of years.
After telling me he and his wife Emma planned on continuing into St. John’s, he asked about motorcycle clubs there. Unfortunately I couldn’t help him, but suggested he call The Telegram when they arrived in the capital city and most likely they would provide that information.
I discreetly asked how long he and his wife had been riding. “We were high school sweethearts” he said. “I got my first motorcycle when I was 16 and showed up riding it. She refused to get on, although it took a lot of persuading but she finally did and we’ve been together ever since.”
“Wow!” I exclaimed.
“I’m impressed, you say you’ve been riding together since high school, 67 years?”
“How much longer do you think you can keep riding?”
“Until I lack the health and strength to get on and hold up my bike. In my opinion I don’t believe there should be any age restrictions against riding a motorcycle, that is of course unless you are unable to due to health concerns.”
I wished them well expressing the hope they enjoyed their trip to our province, and encouraged them to contact The Telegram about motorcycle clubs which may be of interest to them. I decided then and there when I got home I would do some research on older motorcycle riders, and hopefully discover who was the oldest on record.
In my years on two wheels I’ve met and continue to meet motorcyclists in their 60s and 70s. especially at biker rallies on the mainland and in the U.S.
My research did turn up some revealing information. According to Wikipedia, the oldest, active recorded motorcyclist was the late Len Vale-Onslow of Birmingham, U.K. When Len was just five, in 1905, his six older brothers built him a mini-bike and taught him how to ride it. Len never looked back.
When he was 26 he built his own bike and named it SOS for Super Onslow Special. It was unique and fast he took out a patent on it.
He spent his entire life selling, testing and repairing motorcycles, all the while living above one of his shops in order to be close to his three children, six grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren. In 1999 one year shy of his centennial, he was named a member of member of the British Empire for being Britain’s oldest, active worker and motorcycle rider.
Len believed cars should be abolished because of the pollution they generate. “You can’t feel the wind in your face or see the sky when driving a car” he once said.
He passed from this Earth on April 23, 2003 at the age of 103.
The oldest living still active motorcycle rider (as of this writing) is also a U.K. citizen, 94-year-old Reg Scott of Ludham, Norfolk. He has ridden a staggering 384,800 miles during his 74 years on the road, and has ridden the length and breadth of Britain.
“I own a car” he says, “but it’s not the same as being on my bike. I only use my car when the weather is bad.
“It’s not like when I started” he adds.
“These days, with all the traffic, you need eyes in the back of your head. Age means nothing to me. I value the independence riding my bike gives me, and plan to continue doing so until I can’t anymore.”
It comes down to this: if you are in good health and determined to do those things in life you enjoy, don’t let anything deter you from your pursuit.
Life is for living, what else is it for?
W. Rex Stirling writes from Pasadena.