Growing old is inevitable, growing up is optional.
ESMRI’s origins go back to when the MRA was Formed in 1978. The MRA took its slogan from the American ABATE riders group – Let Those Who Ride Decide. They were formed in Melbourne by riders who were united in their desire to represent motorcycling and take a strong political voice to government. Back then you had to do 80kmh carrying a pillion. We’d laugh at that now. Their efforts changed this law.
In 1985/86 as a P plater you were restricted to 80kmh. You got tailgated in every 100 zone. Same rule applied to caravans. It was dangerous.
In order to engage the motorcycling community the MRA ran a lot of social events. They had the toy run, ran rallies and also organised political protest rides. Come late 1986, lobbying to get footpath parking was in full swing. For no other reason than to tell drivers and government we exist and we vote, DAR’s (Driver Awareness Rides) were held. Bad laws got changed, and some good new laws got made.
Bikes mass parked in every parking spot in the city so cars couldn’t park and this was done several times. As parking officers tried to issue tickets, one bike would move off and another would pull into the same spot and feed the meter. It was rider power at its best and being part of it was a fantastic experience. Everyone who parks on a footpath today should pause to ponder how lucky we made them!
The Awareness Rides would literally amass thousands of riders who would block traffic and intersections and ride through the middle of the city, past the hospitals where injured riders were healing and then go somewhere for a big party. And it was always on the news.
One of the early DAR protest rides was in 1985 or ‘86 that ended at the Motorcycling is Magic Rally. These “driver awareness rides” introduced many learner riders to their first group rides, rally, gymkhana, burnout comp etc. which built a fantastic atmosphere for riders alike. The DARs were run around November just before the toy runs.
The MRA organisation grew, registers were formed so that local groups of riders could come together and socialise. These grew in size and numbers. Around this time, joining the MRA meant you could attend any register as a member and you simply chose the most convenient. Living in the Eastern Suburbs there was the choice of the Metro register who met at various pubs in the city or go to Ferntree Gully where the Eastern Suburbs MRA register met using the Royal and the Middle for various functions.
The other registers around at the time relevant to our history included Western Suburbs MRA, Sale and Districts MRA and the 4Bs which stood for the Bent and Buckled Bikers Bureau. 4Bs members visited injured riders in local hospitals and dropped off magazines, helped with bike recovery and repairs and could call on MRA members if anything needed sorting.
This brings us to the Rallies. The Motorcycling Magic Rally was organised by the Metro register and held November each year fairly close to Melbourne including Geelong, Romsey, Hanging Rock. Then there was the December Toy run and Sale and Districts MRA ran the Confusion Rally at Licola on the January Australia Day long weekend. This was the same weekend as the Clubman Rally and many badge collectors attended both Rallies on the same weekend. A few weeks after Confusion, 4Bs ran the Broken Bones Rally in Erica. Another MRA rally was the Howqua Rally which was a winter Rally in the valley of the same name.
At what many would consider the peak of the MRA, in 1988 we had the Happy Birthday Australia Rally and thousands of motorcyclists came from all over the country to camp near Parliament House in Canberra. A highlight was starting a 5000cc V-twin with no mufflers that was made from two cylinders off an aircraft engine in front of Parliament House. Awesome stuff!
It was a great time to be a young motorcyclist. Sale and Districts MRA started the Confusion Rally in 1985 and ran it until around 1990 when Metro MRA took over. It went from being a back to basics camping rally well attended by Gippsland riders to a fully catered affair with a band. The size and popularity of the Metro register brought a lot of new people to the rally from the city. Attendances in the 300’s were common.
As the 80’s came to a close, unfortunately, the MRA was having problems with internal differences of opinion and factional infighting. The once strong and united organisation was breaking up. The registers had strong enough memberships that some of them survived the break up by forming their own clubs.
Eastern Suburbs Motorcycle Riders Inc was formed in January 1992 and continued the tradition of being a social gathering of like minded riders and continued running the Confusion Rally after Metro MRA wound up. Metro only ran one Confusion, but the catered musical extravaganza format was taken over by Eastern and continues to this day. Western Suburbs Motorcycle Riders Inc was also formed and went from strength to strength for many years as a sister club to Eastern. I wish I’d been at the meeting that decided ESMRA would become ESMRI – that was history in the making and needs someone else to tell that story.
The MRA reformed, fought, broke up, renamed MRAA, renamed MRA Vic and the current organisation is a defunct and ghostly shadow of its former and once mighty self. Having fought so hard to win our rights, it’s a shame the same energy turned against itself. We owe all of them such a debt, regardless of which side of the internal politics they ended up on, what we enjoy today is a testament to their hard work. The Victorian Motorcycle Council is where a lot of the hard working volunteers ended up and still serve our needs to this day.
Throughout all these ups and downs, Eastern Suburbs has continued to support the rally community, running one of the best rallies on the calendar and supporting many other clubs by attending their rallies. With a continuous history that goes back to the original MRA roots, while there is still an Eastern Suburbs Riders, there is no longer a 4Bs, no Broken Bones Rally, no MRA, no Howqua Rally, no Driver Awareness Ride, the Motorcycling is Magic Rally is long gone as are the Metro, Sale & Districts and Western Suburbs MRA registers. The Toy run is split and fractured into several competing events and the MRA is no longer a force championing riders’ rights.
The recollection of time line isn’t 100% but hopefully it’s close and might jog a few others who remember bits and pieces to fill in the blanks.
Eastern is still going strong and with such a rich history and passionate love for rallying, it’s one of the best clubs around today. Whilst “Let Those Who Ride Decide” is in our DNA, Growing old is inevitable and growing up is optional!”