‘Rocket’ Riley loves his bike
“The car, to me, well you've got to go from point A to point B and it is comfortable, but there is no buzz in it,” says 89-year-old Roy Riley.
‘Rocket’ as he is known, has been riding motorcycles since the age of 16, and has no plans to stop anytime soon.
“It has always been in my blood and I just love them,” says Roy, who first learned to ride on his mate’s Panther motorcycle out on the Pinnacle Road.
“He lived in the orchard next to where I lived and he'd ride past me on this motorbike, I thought this is a good idea! And that's how I got involved in bikes.”
Roy’s first bike was a 1956 Tiger 100 and he clearly remembers that first trip home as he got a horseshoe through the back tyre, immediately putting the bike out of action.
“I had to wait about two months before I could get enough money to buy a tyre!”
Roy developed an interest in racing, particularly dirt track racing, but he rode Mount Panorama in 1954 and 1956, as well as the Mount Druitt Circuit on two occasions.
“The bitumen… it wasn’t a sport, it was a business. You are going too quick and you're pressing your luck on the old tyres and brakes are practically hopeless,” he says, shaking his head.
“I never did any good on the bitumen racing, but it is a bit of a buzz going around that mountain I can tell you! When you used to go over the Skyline — before they changed the track a little bit — You are doing about 80 mile an hour and you are heading into nothing, it is called the skyline for that reason, You can't see anything!
“You would crouch down, you were gunning it and you'd be saying to yourself, ‘I got to go right, I got to go right, I got to go right! Then I swing left, I got to go right, then into the dip…’
“You were ahead of yourself all the time, you are riding from memory. And I could still do it; I still ride that track in my mind!”
But it was dirt track riding that was Roy’s passion, although he gave it all away after he married in 1959.
“I did pretty good towards the end; I was getting a few championships here and there and that, but then I got married and that finished the dirt track racing,” he says.
“At my last meeting in Dubbo, I had 13 races and I got nine firsts and the rest were second and thirds —that was the end of my racing career.
“I sold the bike that night, actually, at the presentation it was like I'd lost me best friend, but anyway…”
For 17 years, Roy didn’t even sit on a motorbike, but after separating from his wife and then remarrying, he rediscovered his passion for riding.
“Now, my wife Sheila, she loves bikes encouraged me to get back into them. Together we've been up to Cairns on the bikes, all through Victoria, to Alice Springs and then with the Ulysses Motorbike Club… I don’t know how many miles we’ve done. One bike had 200,000 kilometres on it before I sold it!”
Roy ran a local trucking business for decades and only gave it away when he turned 80 Since then he has pretty much lived on a motorbike.
“I've just motorbike oil in my blood, that's how I feel. I'll be riding bikes until I can't, until I know in my own mind that I can't do it anymore.
“On a motorbike you have a freedom and it's you and you alone — It is a big buzz!”