Monday 17th December: Tracks Closed.

Bill McLeod

Who was he?

maddix park mx

The Trials Group holds an annual  Bill McLeod Memorial 2 Day Trial. This Trial is a tribute to a passionate  motorcyclist who was heavily involved in both the Tauranga Motorcycle Club and the Trials Group.  Bill died in February 2007.

Bill inherited this lifelong passion from his father Roy who owned a Cotton motorcycle, purchased new in 1929 that Bill was permitted to ride from time to time when he was good, and good enough. The McLeod property in Reid Road was the regular scene for hill climbs and Scott trials.  There is evidence to suggest that Bill participated fully on home track days.  He began with buckets of a nicely textured cow plop and water mix that was poured onto the slopes to make the hill climbs just that tiny bit more interesting but when his Dad bought him his first bike at the age of 12, he was competing with the best.  The bike was an old Excelsior and it was on this most unlikely machine, at the age of 14, that he won his first trial. He went on from there and, in 1959, at the age of 16, on a James motorcycle purchased from John Antram before John left for the Isle of Man, Bill became NZ Trials Champ.

There are photos of these early days showing Bill “all geared up to ride” wearing his school clothes – jersey, pants, socks etc.  but no cap.  Why was he wearing them? Quite simply  because they were the only clothes he had. The Sunday night job was getting rid of the mud and the clothes ready for school again on Monday.

Bill’s next bike was his Dot. This was not the era of specialized MX, road racing and  trials machines.  One bike did the lot.  Bill’s Dot served him well, and often, at scrambles and trials throughout the region.  All you did was change your gearing, your tyres and sometimes your hat, overnight, to suit the next day’s event. 

Motorcycling was put on hold for about 10 years while Bill committed all his energy to his marriage, family life and growing contracting business.   However, he was back on his bikes again in the 70s. 

Trials riding became Bill’s main focus and he competed with success on a variety of machines.  He did buy new ones -  the last was a 1983 Montessa - but  the advent of Classic Trials in 1982 allowed him to foster his preference for older classic motorcycles. His last ride was in June 2006 when he won the Alan Ready Memorial Trophy for 1st Clubman on a classic twin shock.  He was riding the Sprite purchased from fellow rider from way back, Peter Brightwell, expressly for classic events.

Bill’s preference for vintage models was not limited to off-road bikes. Bill  converted  his 1930 250 Cotton Jap motorcycle into a racer in time for the inaugural Classic Motorcycle event at Pukekohe race track in 1980. He and his family were among the initial 200 who camped in the centre of the track and spent the weekend racing, reminiscing and admiring the collection of bikes from past eras.

 

Bill and his faithful Cotton returned every single year to the Classic Festival, usually with family, sometimes with other machines.  They never won a race in all the 27 years – they quite quickly gave up hope of that happening. They went along year after year for the fellowship, the meeting up of old friends . People remember Bill for the ear to ear grin of pleasure that he had permanently on his face during the festival weekend, except perhaps for once, when he blew up the gear box on the Cotton. 

Bill as a rider did it all - road trials, Scott trials, scrambles, hill climbs, race track, street races, modern trials riding and vintage motocross.  He didn’t quite get to ride at the Isle of Man but he twice achieved his dream of visiting the world mecca of motorcycling and found the place where his friend John Antram had fatally crashed.

But Bill was not only active as a rider. He was involved as a willing worker in the Tauranga Motorcycle Club from his early youth and a second generation member.

It was from 1999 in particular, that Bill more than proved his worth to the Tauranga Club.  In 1999, it was at an all time low with few more than a dozen members. This was the year of the 50th anniversary of the club and Bill was a major mover in launching its rebirth.   He drove miles, found venues and organized events. He marked, bulldozed & pegged out tracks.  He fielded phone calls, put out signs, rounded up marshalls, started & stopped races, squeezing maize paddock races in between rearing calves. He waved flags, settled disputes (being a little deaf gave him a slight advantage in this field), built bridges, did cleaning up, organized training days, in fact did everything there was to do, and more. The very thin Bill even donned the white beard and red suit for the lolly scrambles at Christmas.

Through his huge efforts as President and then official Maize Paddock Convenor, the club grew once again into a very active club on the motorcycling scene.  Members greatly appreciated Bill's presence, his commitment to the club, his reliability and his let's get it done attitude. 

Why did he do it?  Bill said that when he was young, the older blokes organized events for him.  He had great fun and was thankful.  So, Bill said, it was his turn to do the same. So he did it.

He was made a Life Member of the Club and was also awarded the Volunteer par Excellence award by Motorcycling NZ.  Bill was a true enthusiast, absolutely passionate about his sport.  He got a lot from motorcycling but whatever he took out, he put back threefold.

The Annual Two Day Memorial Trial is a fitting tribute to his memory.

Bill is pictured above (left) presenting the key to Maddix Park to 4 times World Champ Stefan Merriman.

 
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