Monday, March 19, 2007

The Irreverent Geoff Eldridge (1950 - 1993)

From an ADB page that has since vamished.. but preserved here in memory...
Re ADBs 25th year...

Geoff Eldridge had many friends, many of which were – and still are – as passionate about dirt bikes as the man whose adventurous spirit and enthusiasm drove him to found ADB magazine and inspire generations of enthusiasts. Here, some of Geoff’s best mates recount a memory of the man, in a bid to paint a picture of a bloke whose life and tragic death left an indelible legacy on the Australasian dirt bike industry.

The man responsible for the birth of ADB magazine was a character who, by all accounts, was larger than life. Geoff Eldridge had a zest for life and when he went about something, he did it with all his heart. He was adventurous, enterprising, ingenious and energetic. He was also stubborn, opinionated, outspoken and provocative. But, no matter which side of this enigmatic character you choose to focus on, he was always interesting and always passionate about what he did. Fun, friends and drama followed his every adventure through life, and his tragic death in the Nevada Desert Race eight years ago was a huge loss.
We asked some of GE’s closest mates to put together a few words. Without giving them any outline of what to write, this is what they came up with.


MURRAY “Honest Muz” WATT

Twenty five things I remember about ADB from 20 years ago:
1.) Figuring the bike industry must be in a bad way if I could get a job at a swish mag like ADB.
2.) Thinking Geoff was a brave bastard selling his house in order to buy ADB back from the publishers who’d got it for nothing when they bailed him out on the first issue.
3.) The old publishing house ad rep who could only say "dirt BIKE", no matter how many times Geoff shouted "DIRT bike! DIRT bike!" at him.
4.) Geoff refusing to run cigarette ads years before it was politically correct. He also slagged cigarette companies off in ADB, costing the publishing house a fortune after ads were pulled across all their other titles, too.
5.) Great writing. The joy of discovering that other magazines had writers who were even less betterer at English than me. The headline "HONDA MAKES ITS PRESENTS FELT" was a Trail and Track classic.
6.) Great photography. Geoff was pretty handy with a camera but his work never achieved anything like the critical acclaim bestowed on Colin, the ADB junior who tried out the new studio equipment by taking photos of his naked girlfriend.
7.) V8s. Geoff only ever had V8s. Every time we went to a race in the LTD, we’d end up looking for a jump start. It had so many courtesy lights you only had to leave the doors open for five minutes to flatten the battery.
8.) The Thunderbird. Everyone who drove it struggled to keep it in a straight line ... except Geoff. He’d just straddle the white line and let ‘er wander.
9.) Geoff’s attitude. He once drove all night to an enduro in Queensland (12 hours at the helm of the T-Bird), decided he didn’t feel like riding, and drove home. I was pretty impressed with that.
10.) Geoff spewin’ on the bike shop for spraying silicon all over the tyres of his brand new road bike, causing him to crash it at the first intersection.
11.) Geoff spewin’ on everyone and everything after seizing his race bike at the very first corner of the Cessnock Four-Day.
12.) Geoff spewin’ on me for always getting off the subject of bikes in the Honest Muz column.
13.) Geoff spewin’ on windsurfers. A few ex-ADB subscribers he knew had sold their bikes and got into windsurfing. Every time Geoff looked out the office window he was reminded of this trend by all the windsurfers on Narrabeen Lake.
14.) Geoff’s dog, Rex. He hated loud noise so much that he’d claw and chew his way right through the door of the office to get away from it.
15.) The ADB fridge. All Geoff ever had in it was cabanossi and beer. He also reckoned anyone who exercised was a wanker.
16.) Geoff’s tolerance. Geoff could be as short-fused as hell, but he kept a few useless bastards on long after he should have fired them ... including me, now that I think about it.
17.) Test bikes. One of the most brutal cases of test bike abuse took place around the ADB office/industrial complex on a Sunday afternoon. Timed laps on an indestructible Honda XR80. 18.) John Behrens. The youngsters couldn’t hold a candle to him when it came to out-of-control antics for the camera. Any bike, anytime.
19.) Four-strokes. ADB was notorious for putting shit on them. Times have changed but I bet they’re still sluts to start compared to a two-stroke.
20.) Smart kids. One year Yamaha gave us a new model YZ80 to test that seemed too good to be true. The kids were all saying it had been modified. We took it apart and the little buggers were right.
21.) Letters. Most of the mail we got at ADB was shite – "I are 14 and I going to by a bike plese send me some stickers." – the decent stuff we had to write ourselves.
22.) ADB BIG LIE competition. This triggered off some of the best and funniest mail we ever received. There were some true bullshit artistes out there.
23.) Good oil. We caned the arse off a KDX200 test bike one time for and hour and a half before realising we hadn’t put oil into the gas. All that saved it was a splash of pre-mix left in the tank from the previous ride. We worked it out at 240:1 and never gave a toss about accurate pre-mixing ever again.
24.) The best trailriding discovery we ever made was how to cool beer out in the bush.Geoff’s riding mate, an American ex-Vietnam chopper pilot, would slip a couple of cans into an old sock and saturate the sock with (highly flammable) thinners. The high speed evaporation chilled the beer.
25.) The most stylish act was when this same guy, while everyone else was arriving at Geoff’s funeral in their cars and suits, rolls up to the front steps of the chapel on his dirty, rattling, nine year old KDX200. Geoff would have loved it.

TERRY “WINGS” SHULZE

At Geoffrey’s funeral, I arrived on my beat up old KDX200 and parked it right out front. As it turned out, my bike was the only motorcycle at the ceremony. For years, when I was out riding with Geoff, I would carry a trash bag to wear on the way home if it was cold. It became a bit of a joke to deride me for having a "daggy" trash bag on. I hope he was watching when I arrived at his classy funeral with a trash bag over my suit. I walked into the hall, straight up to his casket and nailed my Silver Army Aviator Wings on it. I had two tours of Vietnam as a helicopter pilot. I kept only a few items from that period in my life – the wings were one of them.
Geoff had always pestered me about ‘Nam. For years he had probed at bits, he had read a few books, seen all the movies. The whole thing fascinated him. About a year before Geoff was killed, I gave him a book called "Hunter-Killer". After reading it, he made some comments about the intensity of the war. I then mentioned something about flying Scouts, and Geoff stopped me: "You never told me you flew Scouts," he said. "Yes I did,” I replied. “Don’t you remember the time we were on the rock and I said, ‘You just didn’t know what a Scout was’? ". Geoff’s eyes focused with recognition. He then said three words – I made a short reply. I knew then he would never ask me about ‘Nam again, and he never did. Geoff wasn’t just a good friend – he was the first, and only, person to ever try to understand the story behind those wings. It seemed right he should have them.


CHRIS CATER
I first met GE at Moto Cross at Bilpin, in about 1973 and, after working on him for a while, GE finally came to an enduro event. It was a six-hour ironman race at Scone. GE’s impression of an enduro was that everyone got stuck on hills and it was not going to happen to him. So he brought along a TL250 trials bike and, of course, got the sorest bum! The same year, he came to Hattah to ride "The BP Desert Rally" and his choice of bike wasn’t much better. It was a TT500 (a rocket-powered railway sleeper – most of which are still in Cessnock these days getting ridden around old mine sites by the wheelie warriors). He finished reasonably, but the TT beat the shit out of him.
But it was two years later that I’ve got a real story about GE – I thought I would put it on paper and let the world know about the 1980 ISDT in France, where my wife Sue and I travelled with GE for the event, before touring around Europe. In 1980, GE was the team manager.
At Sydney Airport, GE wanted to buy this trick watch that did everything except wipe your nose, but the silly thing was that it was $125 and he only had $500 to do him six weeks. That was our first argument on the trip. I won, but I would be lending him money by the end. The stress of team manager on GE was heavy on his shoulders but this didn’t stop me getting into him about leaving Ballard out of the Trophy Team. We still sat together and played chess and drank a litre of duty free Vodka with the free orange juice before we got to Perth. On arriving in Paris, Sue and I went to the Maico factory in Germany and GE went to meet Pru on the left bank of the Seine. Pru was a girl from the office at Yaffa. Meanwhile, he was supposed to be picking up a set of shocks from De Carbon but he told too many people about it and Rider X beat him to it. Most of our trip was spent trying to beat Rider X to the next factory. GB won the final moto on a 504 Maico, but both GE and I DNF’ed half way through Day one, which pissed us off no end. The party at the end of the Six-Days was worth the trip alone. Sue and I got inebriated and GE looked after us.
After heading to Marseille, we travelled on to the Riviera. We went to the Vendramini boot factory, then onto M. Robert Clothing. Next we headed to Austria to the Carrera goggle factory, and the KTM factory, and finished up at the Maico factory, beating Rider X and getting free goodies into the bargain. Sweet justice!
After five days in Germany, we headed back home, but had to change planes in India with a six-hour stopover in an airport hanger! On takeoff, GE burst an eardrum, which put him in la-la land, and we had to take him off the plane in a wheelchair.
I would like to just say that GE was probably the best rider ever to pull a motorcycle out of a box and ride it stock as a rock and go bloody fast. Every time I pick up an ADB, I think of him.

JOHN BEHRENS
If ADB is 25 years old, then it was 1975 or a couple of years prior to that when I first became aware of Geoff Eldridge when in a race report he nicknamed me the “Hunchback of Amaroo Park”. After that, he became my self appointed unofficial promotions manager. He always said, “Don’t worry about anyone else or winning a race, you’re getting all the attention by your big jumps and wheelies.” There used to be a race meeting where there was a competition for the longest wheelstand or highest jump. The prize was a dozen bottles of champagne for each category. I used to win both. Geoff always assisted in saving half my liver by helping me to drink half the prize.
These liver saving sessions always evolved into a discussion on how we could provide some radical shots for the magazine. Geoff would refer to me as the “Stunt Pilot”. Some of the ideas, although radical, sounded good after a couple of bottles. Geoff was always there to snap the moment whether it succeeded or not. His confidence and enthusiasm always generated a belief that anything is possible.
Geoff was very serious about not taking things too seriously, although he was not a person to suffer fools. His goal with ADB right from its infancy was to provide a high quality magazine. This was from the quality of paper it was printed on to the editorial content and photographs included.
Just before his death, I made a comeback to motocross in the Thumper Nats series. I lined up against blokes like Geoff, Chris Cater and Laurie Alderton. I was filled in bigtime by Geoff – the self proclaimed media baron – in my first run back. I wish he had hung around long enough for me to get up to speed and bang bars with him. As with anyone’s passing, you are left with a feeling of loss, but comfort in knowing he had it nailed to the end.

DAMIEN RYAN
My relationship first started with Geoff via Barry Taylor in Alice who asked GE to come and ride the “Radio Alice 12-Hour” at Mt Ebenezer. It was a 12-hour non-stop motocross with just one rider per bike, and we had figured that the only way to get national coverage for the event was to invite him along. On that first phone call, GE promptly hung up on Barry, thinking that it was a joke. Anyway, it took two years to convince him to come, but after that he never stopped coming to Alice to ride.
My first recollections of Geoff are of when I brought him to town for the Finke Desert Race. I got really concerned because I’d brought him as a journo and yet he never took a note about anything. “I never take notes, “ he’d tell me. “I compete, have a good time, and then a week later, sit down in front of my keyboard to write something. If nothing happens, I’ll just do a race report type article. But if the event did something to me, then I’ll damn near write a novel on the thing,” he explained.
GE ended up doing lots of 10 to 12 page articles on desert races like the Finke, so I suspect that it did “do something” for him all those years. Geoff was highly respected around Alice and people would treat him with star status. But the thing was, GE thought he was the privileged one to keep being invited back. He became part of everyone’s family in Alice as desert racing touches the whole community here. His passing was tragic and his life touched everyone in some way.

Wayne Brady
Twenty five years of ADB – what would Geoff think of that? Funnily enough, I don’t know. Being one of his riding buddies, we would usually ride to the "rock on top of the world" and solve the world's problems. We usually solved war, famine, poverty and such. We would discuss ADB's 200th issue, but 25 years never came up – maybe he knew something we didn't.
The "rock" was at our favourite riding spot that he kept a closely-guarded secret from all except his closest mates. It was 10 minutes from ADB's “office by the sea” and even today, a little piece of Geoff is still there.
Geoff had another rock, located in the centre of his house. On this rock, he kept his beloved XR500 – zero kilometres and the first model to boot. With a few Coopers under our belts, Geoff loved to prove that the Honda would start by hand. It was one of his best party tricks. 
Geoff's taste in bikes and cars was weird! Many times he and Vicki turned up at our place at all hours of the night to show me what he had just bought. He would arrive with old DT250s, PE400s, YZ125s and various other buckets of bolts, because he used to have one or wanted one when he was young. His answer was always: “Because I can!”. 
GE arrived one night with the ’73 Thunderbird, which he claimed once belonged to a pimp – yeah, right! But one night after the Supercross, we went for a cruise through Kings Cross on our way home. A few of the working girls recognised the T-Bird and Geoff couldn't get out of town fast enough! 
I try not to dwell on the loss to the world by Geoff's passing. I remember best the enthusiasm, innovation and excitement he brought us, and the way he enriched the lives of all of us who had the pleasure of knowing him. Geoff was proud of ADB and would be tickled by it making the 25 year milestone. Happy birthday ADB, from Geoff Eldridge! 

LAURIE ALDERTON
I can’t remember exactly when I met Geoff, but you become aware of other riders at the various competitions you attend. Geoff was going through uni doing architecture and hating it. He was doing freelance journalism on the side. This lead to my first real contact as in ’73 went to the USA and rode a Trans AMA MX series and Geoff asked me if we could do a story on that series, to which I agreed. I also found out that he had lived in Schofield in his early years as I had. In fact, he had went to the same Sunday school I had gone to and my mother had taught him. History shows we both favoured other commitments on Sunday. Anyhow we spent an evening doing the story. It never made it to print – probably weak subject matter.
There was the time in ’77, I’d arrived at Hattah for the BP Desert Rally the day before the start. Geoff and his girlfriend, Connie arrived in the night having hitched a ride in a sports car from Narrandera, leaving their broken down car with dog behind. They knocked on John Behrens’ tent and grabbed the keys to his panel van. Then they drove back to Narrandera, returned with the bike and dog, rode the event, got a lift back to Sydney, borrowed his dad’s car, rented a trailer back to Narrandera, and retrieved his car. This reinforced my observation that nowhere is too far if you want to be there!
Another time, I went to Queensland with him in my Bedford van. There was some prize money on offer for the enduro and we entered as a team. Ninety dollars was worth something then, so we thought great we’ll come out in front on this trip for a change. Just outside of Warwick though, a rock went through the windscreen. The prize money partly offset the cost.

Geoff “u-BEUDY” Udy
I am here at Mataranka Springs in the NT responding to Andy’s invitation to contribute some words about GE, which is rather appropriate as my first assignment for GE was the feature about the Mataranka Homestead enduro and the NT Motocross titles in 1983.
Geoff was a fun bloke most of the time, but a little prone to being at odds with our rulers – the ACU – to the degree that they saw fit to suspend his ACU competitor’s licence.
I was invited to attend the New Caledonia three-day enduro and bring a friend, so I called Geoff. From the partial disassembly of our bikes to squeeze them into the tiny Air Caledonia plane, to an archaic road book and time stamp machine, to the riders briefing in fluent French, we were in unprovisional top gear so to speak. My TT350 had a speedo, Geoff’s KX250 had the only map reader ... ha, Team Australian Enduro was ready to carve ’em up!
Starting in 39th and 40th (as we missed the prologue) and to the total disdain of the arrogant Thiery Magnaldi and Alain someone (the pampered French stars of the time), GE had jumped to first and I ended up in sixth by the end of the day! We were immediately at the top of the Frenchmen’s Chrissy card list.
The event was predominately long special stages linked by small transports through the many small towns – badly arrowed and confused by the multi paged road book. But we did have the advantage of a fair foot print to follow ... and the mighty No. 1.
“No. 1” just so happens to be New Cal’s locally produced hi-octane beer available in “Mini” (like stubbies) or what they called “Maxi” sizes. The temperature was up, and the day almost complete but for the last transport to our overnight stop and I recognised my first roadside attraction No. 1. So we wheelied across the road, broad-skidded to a halt and marched in requesting in our best Austrafrench: “Breadstick and No. 1 merci ... err, Maxi size each!”
Well, we’re about halfway through the huge stick sammie and almost all the beer when I proposed that the now partially inebriated Mr Eldridge just may have overlooked the last special test when he had declared the dreaded road book was completed! We were late, mildly pissed, and it was a long fast mountainous road test with ginormous non-Armco’d cliffs on the outsides of most of the skatey gravel turns. Suffice to say that we put in a blinder that the other riders couldn’t seem to match. GE eventually relinquished first to Magnaldi on the third day, having stopped twice on the final beach section while chasing after Magnaldi, who’d carried on at full speed despite the beach being packed with people. In Australia, he would have been arrested, but in good old New Cal, it was just part of racing in paradise to the finish line. The local mayor was waist deep in surf, waving the chequered flag. This was one of Geoff’s best rides and another adventure hard to top.
As we winged our way towards the setting sun and Australia with Geoff raving on about some new computer that corrects his spelling and me dreaming of working my stockwhip on horseback, I got the old warm fuzzies about my mate Geoff Eldridge and started scheming up our next motorcycling adventure together. We had many and I miss him.

Wayne “Magic” Leonard
I first met Geoff “Marty” Eldridge in 1979 when I sponsored him in the Weipa Croc Run enduro on a Husqvarna 390 auto. I didn’t get to ride my 390CR in the event as I ran into a kangaroo and managed to ride the last 28 miles to Weipa with a broken right leg. Marty came to visit me in the hospital and so started a long and close mateship. He was taken by the laid back attitude of north Queenslanders and bought a house in Cairns where he and Vicki enjoyed some memorable times.
I feel he had a very full life. He was always decisive and knew where he was going. He once told me that he felt he had done all that he wanted to and had achieved all that was important to him. This was on the occasion of him visiting me in hospital after I had gone through a barbed wire fence and almost removed my hand.
He got the nickname “Marty” in Weipa when he was hungry after a Croc Run and managed to eat all of the available tomatoes at the food tent – so the rest of us had hamburgers with lettuce only on them. Everyone in north Queensland has a nickname, so I came up with Geoff “Tomato Munching” Eldridge which I subsequently shortened to “Marty”.
Many people thought Marty was super serious and hard to get along with, but I found him a fantastic mate with a very dry sense of humour. He always thought he was faster than me on a dirt bike and so did I, but I would always argue with him and bait him up with who was the quickest through the bush. One day when we were riding his favourite trail circuit near the Indian temple, there was a section where you could see the other guy across the way for a while. He seemed to be rounding me up a little so I put in a special effort for one lap to pull him back a little, then stopped and hid where he couldn’t see me, and watched him chase me for about six or eight laps while I rested. I then popped out on the track just after he went past, then rounded him up because I was so fresh. When we pulled over, he couldn’t get over how fit I was and that I was not even sweating. Later that night I told him the truth while we were out at tea. He laughed so much, he thought it was a pisser of a trick and reckoned he would use it some time. All the best Marty, love to Vicki.

PHIL ELDRIDGE
I was the first one in the family to actually have a bike. I’d got hooked on the damn things at school and to be frank, it was all I wanted to think about. Schoolwork ran a distant second when it came to dreaming of riding my mighty Honda S90. Geoffrey couldn’t understand it. What the hell did I see in it? As far as he was concerned, there were a lot of other things that were a lot more interesting, not to mention more fun.
Then he came with me once when I was out riding with my school mates. We used to go to an old timber yard that had these great big piles of sawdust and just thrash around on our dodgy old bikes, having a great time. We’d fall off a lot because we didn’t know what we were doing, but the sawdust helped to cushion the blow. Or else we were just young and silly with no brains.
Well, Geoffrey was rapt. He couldn’t believe how much fun it looked. And that was it. Although he was a struggling uni student, he scrimped and saved, and finally got together enough for a new bike – no old clunker like I started with, no way. He had to go one better. So it was, that just before the start of the next year’s term, he took delivery of a brand spanking new SL100 Honda. A green one. The latest in the line of Honda Street Scrambler models. Very nice it was too, and to us, it was a state of the art dirt bike. Well, what would we know?
Anyway, on the last day of the holidays, we decided to do a big ride before we both started the uni slog for the next year. I would take Connie, his girlfriend, as I had had a licence for so long I could actually take a passenger, whereas the ink on Geoffrey’s licence was still wet. We headed out to Camden, then out to the Oaks and Burragorang Valley, enjoying the last day of the holiday in the beautiful weather. This was what bikes were all about, we agreed.
Then as we were approaching Camden on our return, I caught up to a VW that was going pretty slow. He put his hopeless VW blinker on to turn right just as I went past – you needed a magnifying glass to see it. I kept my eyes on the mirror to watch what Geoffrey was doing, because after all, I was the expert and he didn’t really know what he was doing when it came to riding, which meant he was liable to do something stupid. Sure enough, he started a passing manoeuvre, just as the VW started to turn. He was forced wider and wider until he had nowhere to go but off the road and into a ditch on the side of the road. This was no KTM he was riding, and as soon as he hit the dirt, he was off. There were legs and arms and bike going in all directions, with me watching horrified in my mirror.
When the dust settled and we got back to him, we found the only thing damaged was the bike. Geoffrey was OK, but his nice new pride and joy was a bit of a wreck. I reckon he improved a lot after that.

GEOFF BALLARD

To Geoff Eldridge ...
Hiring a car would be as simple as “biggest is best!” “I want the biggest one of the lot.” American stuff was his absolute favourite. Must-haves were: power steering, power windows, power seats, power mirrors, cruise control and at least seven litres of automatic fuel-guzzling power. Eight miles to the gallon – GREAT!
A business meeting would mean ... well, to put it bluntly, a crock of shit! He hated ringing people only to be told, “He’s in a meeting.” To him, it would be more like, “Hey, we’ve got to nut out these new ad rates. What’s say I hire a boat and you get some beer and oysters.”
A holiday was a place to go where there was a good ride. The ISDE, the Weipa Croc Run, the Finke, Peru’s Incas Rally, and Vintage Nationals (especially in the US). In fact, he loved America (the land of convenience) and hated Europe (the land of small, practical cars and hassles).
A good workshop had to have: a fridge with a beer or two (or at least a close proximity to), a bottle of Loctite and a good array of spare nuts and bolts. In all, he knew what it took to do the bare minimum of mechanics and hated every minute of it!
Women were magnificent creatures. The female figure was it! (Just not too boney.)
A group discussion: “We covered most things. I think it went pretty well,” was Geoff’s perception of the discussion. To others, they’d just argued!
A race just had to be fun! If it was dusty and boring, he’d park it and have a beer. If it was a mud bath and challenging, he could tough it out to the end. He was a great rider who could adapt easily to any bike. Supercross, to him, was just something you occasionally watched, but motocross was right up there – especially a good grass track. Of course, he was mostly responsible for starting the now incredibly popular ADB Thumper Nats.
For those of you who never had the privilege of meeting Geoff or being influenced by him. I can only say, you missed out. He was huge, he was dirt bike voice for so many of us. If I had to finish with just 10 words to describe him, they’d be: Spontaneous, adventurous, feisty, gutsy, optimistic, outspoken, intelligent, artistic and inspirational.

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