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People often ask, "Are you busy? How many bookings do you have today?", assuming that I was flat out and that many people were booking Harley Rides. My response? If I was doing this for the money I wouldn't be doing it. You have to have somewhat of a passion for Harley Davidson motorcycles. You must be a people person who loves to share the experience with others. So, please continue reading as I explain...

It always amused me, the things people would say at the beginning of a Harley Ride as I was about to take one of their friends or family out for a ride. To my passenger they would say things like, "Don't fall off", "Hang on tight", "Don't have a crash" - all things said in jest (I'm sure), but somehow intimidatory towards my passenger who on most occasions had their ride booked as a surprise for their birthday or some other special occasion. I well remember picking up a retired AFL player to take him from the TV studio where he had just finished and transferring him to another event through busy traffic to his destination (he needed to be there in a hurry - a Harley Ride was the most efficient way to get hime there), when two other AFL personalities came out and mocked him in a similar manner.

How could people say things like that? Why were they so keen to intimidate? Did they realise that what they were saying, felt to me, like an attack on my riding skills built up over a lifetime. Often I had to hold my reaction in check. What they were saying felt like an insult on me and my motorcycle which I knew were untrue. Reality was the opposite of what these people were saying. Ignorance was the basis for their remarks.

Before I go on, allow me to digress. In 1996 I found myself as a Major in the Army, stuck in a desk job, at a time when we had been at peace for the entire 22 years I had been in service. Nothing was happening, I didn't see a future and decided to retire (little realising that several years later the world would explode and my training would have been put into practice. But that is another story). It was two years after this that my career in the Harley Rides Industry would commence.

After a couple of frustrating years trying to find my way in the civilian world opportunity presented itself. Motorcycles had always been a passion. I had been riding from the time I was first able to get a motorcycle licence at the age of 18. I had owned a myriad of bikes from small to large and at the time had an old Russian Cossack 650 with a sidecar that followed a BMW K100RS I had sold several years earlier (this too is another story it was the fulfilment of a dream to own a BMW).

Truth be told, I had long had a goal to own a Harley Davidson. But that was expensive in 1998. There was simply no way I could justify that expense with a young family at that time. Then an opportunity presented itself.

There is a saying, "when preparedness and opportunity meet, dreams come true". I had always dreamt of getting involved in something that involved motorcycles, where one could generate an income. Several years earlier I has set a goal to win my own Harley Davidson one day. I was ready for that opportunity to present itself. That's exactly what happened the day I met the owner of my current business HD Chauffeur Ride Pty Ltd who said he wanted to sell his business. Two months later I owned that business and almost a quarter of a century later I am still taking people out for rides.

But let me return to the responses people made whenever I took one of their friends or family out for a Harley Ride. What had I signed up for when I began my business venture? Why, to put in the words of entertainer Kamahal, "Are people so unkind?" Was it ignorance? Do people naturally want to put the fear of god into their friends? Do they get sort of perverse please out of mocking others based on facts that are not 100% true?

I have been riding motorcycles for the larger part of my life. Almost 1 million kilometres (possibly more) is the distance I have traveled on a Harley Davidson during the time I have been taking passengers on Harley Rides. In the last 20+ years, I have driven a car on average less than 100 kilometres each year. For me being behind the wheel of a car is a foreign, if not daunting experience. When you get off a motorcycle and sit behind the steering wheel inside a car one soon recognises just how blind car drivers are. On a motorcycle one can see everything, in every direction, without any blind spots. That is why the Harley Ride passenger joyride experience is all about. My passenger gets the best view as we cruise the highways and byways, the hills and all the great tourist routes such as the Great Ocean Road.

Motorcycles have never had a great reputation when it comes to the perception of road safety. Most of what people know, or think they know about motorcycles is based on what they hear in the media or are told by others who have no or little understanding of riding a motorcycle. The truth? When a motorcycle is in motion, being ridden at sensible speed suitable for the conditions, it's not possible to fall off, it's easy to stay out of trouble. On a motorcycle one can identify all the risks, many more and sooner than a car driver (who is impeded by blind spots) and this is what makes a Harley Ride motorcycle joy ride safe.

The first thing I do after my passenger has seated themselves behind me on my Harley Davidson is to explain to them what I want them to do. I explain that they don't need to do anything. They don't need to lean and as we go around corners their body just needs to remain aligned with the axis of the motorcycle. The more they try to think about what to do - the more likely they are to stuff it up. For 99% they never stuff it up, for others a few simple corrective words sorts out any problems. Many has been the time that after about an hour or so I have turned to my passenger to make sure they were still there, which gives you the understanding as to how quickly that adapt to being a pillion passenger. I worry about the riding, the need to control the motorcycle while they sit back relax and take in all the sights and smells (like the scents of local flora etc) that you get riding a motorcycle.

Next, and one of the true rewards I get taking people for a Harley Ride is getting to know about my passengers. I've been fortunate to meet some amazing people over the years. Some have been famous, some have just been ordinary, some have been old, some have been young but all have had their intrinsic differences. Many is the time someone has started the ride with a stereotypical view as to what they were expecting the experience to be like, only by the end of the ride to have the opposite understanding to that with which they began. There have been many who have gone on the get their motorcycle licence (and purchased their own Harley Davidson) as a result of experiencing a Harley Ride with me.

One such person springs to mind. His wife organised a Harley Ride for his birthday. During the ride we discussed how he should go about getting his licence. Almost 10 years later he came up to me and introduced himself. "Do you remember my John?" he asked. As he jogged my memory I said I did, and he then exclaimed with a huge smile, "I'm now the President of the Dandenong Harley Owners Group." If only I could make Harley Davidson understand how many sales I have generated for them over the years. Alas, despite the fact that I once wrote to them about it they showed little interest in any mutual benefit that existed between us.

The people you meet vary from normal average to famous. The things you get asked to do would take up a complete other article. Here is one that quickly springs to mind. I once received a call from the organisers of the Australian Open Tennis. "John one of our players would like to own a Harley Davidson. We'd like you to take him for a ride." Not being a tennis fan, I asked who is it. "Rafael Nadal" they responded. The ride took place after he had completed a game, and I took him back to his hotel - accompanied by a load of photographers hanging out covering the ride.

Several years later, in 2009, I received another call from them. "John you remember taking out Rafa? we have another player for you to take for a ride." "Who is it this time?", I responded. "Caroline Wozniaki" they responded. Caroline was an up and coming player who was seeded 11th at the time. She arrived at the pick up point accompanied by her entourage I introduced myself and said to her, "Caroline, every tennis play that has ever been on my bike has gone on to be Number One." She climbed on to the bike and we headed off accompanied by another van with photographers hanging out shooting our every move. The ride featured on TV that night and our photo appeared in the newspapers the following day. The thing I've learned about celebrities is that most are just normal people. Caroline was one of those, we chatted and chatted and she was oblivious to the attention we were getting. At the end of the ride I reminded her about my bees record with tennis payers, and in the following years as she progressed and became Number One.

You can organise a Harley Ride by calling John on 0419 359 628


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