Riding in for dry run of Burt Munro

Auckland couple Judy and Steve Powell want to return to Invercargill next year to have the real experience of Invercargill during the traditional Burt Munro Challenge. Photo: Luisa Girao
Burt Munro Challenge enthusiasts who came to Invercargill despite the event being cancelled, (from left) Neil Clark, of
Christchurch, Mike Burrows, of Waipu, and ‘‘Bruiser’’, Alston Gielen and Gary Turton, of Whangarei. Photo: Toni McDonald

THIS year’s Burt Munro Challenge being called off did not stop a group of motorcyclists from the North Island heading south.

The traditional Southland event was scheduled for last weekend but it was cancelled in October last year due to uncertainty over Covid 19.

However, the Mavericks group made up by riders from Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga – decided to travel anyway to explore the deep South.

To achieve that, Auckland woman Iraani Vlassoff said about 20 motorcycles were flown from their home towns to Christchurch last week and the group then toured the South Island.

Couple Judy and Steve Powell were excited as it would have been their first time taking part in the traditional motorcycle enthusiasts’ gathering.

Instead, they were able to enjoy the attractions in the city, including Classic Motorcycle Mecca and a ride to Stirling Point in Bluff.

“We booked as a group, we all travel together – so when we heard the news last year, we thought: ‘Why not go anyway and make the most of the trip?” Mrs Powell said.

“We were really looking forward to it. It would be our first time – what a shame. But we still wanted to come anyway,” Mr Powell said.

He said people always spoke so fondly of the event they hoped to be able to return next year to enjoy the real Burt Munro event experience. “We only saw the event through the internet, we want to see the thing for real.”

While the usual planned events were no longer part of the week’s activities, riders spent more time looking around the city and the surrounding area.

Bill Richardson Transport World and Motorcycle Mecca’s Alana Dixon said she was thrilled the riders still chose to come for the weekend as planned.

Motorcycle Mecca had decided to provide a limited-time only speedway exhibition in the hope it would attract riders to the museum.

The visitor numbers were not as high as the usual Burt Munro weekend, but were more than expected.

“It’s not what it was prior to Covid, but we were really pleased to see a number of people still coming through.”

Traditionally, Burt Munro visitors bought a special “Turbo” pass which allowed holders entrance to both Transport World and Motorcycle Mecca.

“We were really rapt people still did want to come in and visit,” she said.

“It was wonderful to still see people coming through and hopefully next year the Burt Munro Challenge is able to return and we can get back to what we were doing previously,” Ms Dixon said.

Ibis Hotel manager Margaret Mason said guest numbers were down on previous years, however they still had guests who had booked in for the weekend and decided to come anyway.

“A lot of these riders plan a year ahead.

“It’s really nice that some of them came anyway.”

Some of the Ibis guests had planned a month-long tour of the South Island which also included the Burt Munro weekend, she said.

North Island rider Alston Gielen was singing the praises of KB Motorcycles after the bike he rode from the North Island decided to break down – giving him the perfect excuse to leave the city with a brand new Harley-Davidson.

It was his first time he had been in the city and was enjoying his 15-day jaunt with his friends, he said.

Motorcycle enthusiasts also took advantage of the Where’s Burt, Round the Mountain Poker Charity ride, held on Sunday – around the Longwood Mountains via Riverton, Colac Bay, Tuatapere, Otautau and Winton.

Organiser Reuben Boniface hosted 52 riders, including riders from Red Knights (NZ Fire Service) and Blue Knights (law enforcement) clubs. Scott Williamson ended the day with the best poker hand, but could not boast anything higher than “the best pair of twos”.

It was the fourth time the charity event had been hosted in the city and riders raised $1300 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of New Zealand.