Motorcycle Ménage à Trois: Broadford Bonanza

Photography: Luke Ray.

Remember that feeling you used to get when you went to a fairground? You’d be standing there amongst all the crazy sounds and colours, dazzled by the gravity defying, speeding rides and overwhelmed by the difficult decision of which direction to head next. Adrenalin was pumping through your veins and your senses were working on overload. At 36 years old this was a sensation I hadn’t experience for some time, but at the Broadford Bonanza it all came rushing back to me, and I loved every minute of it.

The Broadford Bonanza is unlike any motorcycle event I have ever witnessed. It’s a melting pot of motorcycle mayhem with one, clear goal, have as much fun as humanly possible! The Bonanza is a something for everyone/everyone’s invited event held at the Broadford State Motorcycle Complex, one hour from Melbourne’s CBD. The event takes full advantage of every aspect of the complex’s facilities for two days over the Easter weekend with its motocross, trials, road race and speedway tracks open to all registered Bonanza attendees. Broadford is also unique in that it is limited to pre 1985 motorcycles, which to our pleasure ensured that there were plenty of amazing classic bikes to see in action.

After we parked the car we decided to walk past the ‘All Eras Motocross Circuit’ on our way to the road race track. Before I got out of the car I had already seen dozens of stunning classic bikes including a beautifully restored 1920s Douglas, a tidy little matte black and fluro orange Laverda track bike and four or five Triumph Speedway bikes I’d have happily hung on my lounge room wall. We set off towards the unrelenting sound of hundreds of motocross bikes at full throttle. The air was filled with the sweet smell of two-stroke and everywhere I looked were brightly coloured MX helmets and dirt racing gear spattered with mud and dust. We reached the side of the track and found a good spot to spectate alongside a steep incline with several fair sized jumps on it. Straight away I found myself grinning as the riders, one after the other, launched their bikes into the air meters from Luke’s camera lens. These guys were pulling out all the stops in an effort to get big airtime and there was a real feel of adrenalin mixed with danger surrounding the whole thing. I’d never been up this close to Motocross racing and I instantly gained new respect for the skill and balls of these riders. After capturing a few mid air moments and inhaling enough dust and smoke to make my head spin we walked on towards the road track.

As we came over the crest of the hill the 2.2km road race circuit came into view. We had approached from the perfect direction to end up at the start of the longest straight on the track. After climbing a banked, 180 degree bend, the riders were twisting their throttles wide open to unleash the full fury of their baffle free exhausts and heavily tuned motors. Vintage Ducatis, Hondas, Triumphs, you name it, they were out there and they were giving them hell. On the far side of the track we entered the pit area which had spilled out of the permanent trackside sheds into the car park, where racers had set up marquees to house their bikes and equipment. We spent the next hour exploring the hundreds of bikes and attempting to capture the atmosphere of the pits in camera. Being able to enter the sheds and stand amongst the racers and their machines is an incredible experience. We snapped away as riders worked on their machines and chewed the fat with other competitors and curious onlookers.

We then met up with Cliff Overton (owner of the Black Bomber from our premiere issue) and Craig Longhurst (Mischief Maker Motorcycles) at their campsite where they were prepping for a run out on the track. Cliff’s Black Bomber was still being run in and he had never been out on a track before so he had mixed emotions towards what he was about to embark on. Craig however is a veteran to the event and was buzzing with excitement about his own and Cliff’s up coming time on the track. After some tips on the best spectator positions and a few stories of exploits from past years we set off again.

It was at this point in the day that we stumbled across the TT Motorcycles Honda CR750 in their display tent. After this chance meeting we organized to feature the bike in our premiere issue and to place it on the cover, it was exactly the sort of outcome I was hoping for from our day at the Bonanza.

Our final stop was to be the Speedway Dirt Track for some sideways action. The skids were situated all the way over on the far end of the complex so we took a scenic stroll back past the Motocross circuit and down through the swap meet area. At the swap meet you could buy any manner of second hand motorcycle paraphernalia from VMX tanks and wheels to complete classic bikes. At this point in the day we were starting to get harder to impress. All that changed when we made it down to the Speedway.

Speedway bikes and their riders look very different to the Motocross and Road Race competitors. Their methanol powered bikes use only one gear that can rocket them up to 100 km/h in under four seconds, have no brakes and are engineered specifically for turning left. The riders themselves tend to have a bit more grit (metaphorically and between their teeth) and while all forms of motorsport are dangerous the speedway looks downright deadly. In each heat the bikes race flat out on loose muddy dirt within inches of each other. Flat out from start to finish they travel around most of the circuit in one long continuous sideways skid. The riders also wear what looks like a piece of medieval armour on the bottom of their left foot for skimming along the surface of the track, as they lay their bike down low around the bends. Luckily the speedway was our last stop for the day because as a spectator it’s not uncommon to cop the tail end of a muddy rooster tail in the face. After watching four or five heats I too had more grit in my mouth than on the sole of my shoe!

The Broadford Motorcycle Complex covers an area of around 420 acres (1.6km2) of undulating land. Through its center is a hill, which separates the road track from the dirt courses and off in the eastern corner is the Speedway Dirt Track Complex. 2013 was the Broadford Bonanza’s fifth year and the attendance numbers would have easily been up around 6 or 7 thousand. We didn’t stay overnight but most of the racers do so they can enjoy an evening beer or two with their fellow enthusiasts and then get an early start on the final day. As chairman of Motorcycling Australia Ron Kivovitch put it “The Bonanza is really about providing riders from all aspects of historic motorcycle sport the unique opportunity to ride their machines at whatever pace they’re comfortable”.

Without the added tension of trying to score points or take home a trophy there’s a real feeling of comradery amongst the riders. Tips for the track are freely shared and all hands are on deck to assist with any technical issues. I left the Bonanza dazed and dirty, exhausted from the barrage of awesome sight, smells and sounds. It’s an experience I hope to relive each year and I can confidently say if you’re into any form of bike racing, nothing beats the Broadford Bonanza.

This article first appeared in Tank Moto issue 02.