Craig Katen Royal Enfield Club of Australia Inc. Member of the Month Report
How long have you been riding?
About 40 years, I started out riding friends mini bikes around 10 years old and eventually ended up with a family hand me down which I out grew and handed back. At age 14 my friend’s parents had purchased a holiday farm property up the North Coast and bought him a Honda XL 125 on which we took turns riding around a scramble track in a paddock. We also used to go exploring around the fire trails and bush tracks in the area which got me interested in Enduro / trail bike riding.
What bike(s) have you owned?
After leaving school I landed my first job with a motorcycle products importer/distributor which eventually became Monza Imports. I used to place the orders for parts and accessories , look after the computer systems and warehouse and quickly became interested in getting a bike .
I bought my first bike, a 1983 Honda XR200R, from one of the guys at work and I got involved in trail riding and Enduro racing.
In 1985 I then purchased a new Honda XR350R which was a mistake, a total pig for racing, 135Kg and 20Hp – soft, heavy and not much quicker than the 200 and after a year or so I realised that to be “competitive” you needed to have a European 2-stroke bike.
The answer was a 1986 Maico GME250 Enduro which for me made an amazing difference. It was fast light and incredibly easy to ride. Weighing 100kg and having 49 horsepower, 300mm/350mm suspension, front and rear disc brakes it was like going from a Nissan Cedric to a Group B Audi Sport Quattro rally car. A proper race bike, It went, it stopped, it handled . I joined a club and raced it in the NSW Enduro Series and I’d dare say it would be competitive even now.
1989 at Watagan State Forest
1989 at Watagan State Forest
A career change, relationship, buying a house, going overseas, friends moving on and a change in hobbies all accounted for a bike sitting in the shed for 15 years and me not riding any motorcycles what-so-ever.
During that period, however I became a keen mountain biker which kept my riding skills up to a certain degree.
Royal Enfield Purchase
Sometime in July 2012, I did a job in Sydney and was passed by a bike that I had not seen before “in the flesh”. It was in military spec so I assumed it was old, it had a single cylinder motor with wartime Harley Davidson looks about it. I followed the bike for a while in the traffic, along South Darling St, across the harbour and lost it about Falcon St.
I have always had an interest in choppers but had become more interested in recent years after watching the American Chopper series, I even bought a classic cruiser push bike with similar looks to the Enfield – black frame with chrome bars / wheels / etc, springer seat and full mud guards as there was no way I could afford the $50k required for a custom Harley.
I considered other classic styles of bikes, Triumph, old BMWs even Ural but it was still out of reach. A friend of mine has a 2005 Triumph T100 Bonneville and I always thought I’d like to get a similar bike one day if I had the money. I had heard of the Royal Enfield brand before and knew a bit of the history (well, enough to know it was originally British but then made in India) They originally made guns and then bikes and went broke like BSA, Norton et al with the Jap bike revolution. So I went on the Internet and started investigating out of curiosity. I had no idea they had been revamped, were imported into the country and available new here as I assumed the bike I saw was a private import and old.
The Enfield seemed to “tick all the boxes” – Classic look and feel, affordable, not too powerful, easy to ride, customisable, no work compared to buying an old bike. After a couple of visits to the local dealer Motociclo who were great , I eventually went on a test ride. No brainer – within a month of seeing one I had one!
Maico GM250E 1986 Restoration
After reviving my interest in motorcycling by purchasing a Royal Enfield , and being asked by my son Angus “Don’t you already have an old motorbike in the shed and…. CAN I RIDE IT !!!!! ? ” I decided to restore my old Maico which had sat in the shed under a shower curtain since the 90’s.
After it had been dragged out and dusted off with most parts accounted for and an engine that started after only a few kicks I stripped the bike down, commissioned the brakes to be totally rebuilt , replaced the air filter, chain and front sprocket and here it is. Needs a carby service and new tyres and as you can see the rear guard has gone chalky.
2012 Almost 100%
My old gear still fits !
Pacific Park 2012 First ride in 15yrs
Then I really got the bug and bought the kids trail bikes and me a 2014 KTM 500 EXC Enduro in 2014
Bikes I’ve owned
Mini bike at age 10
Honda XR200Rc 1983
Honda XR350Re 1985
MAICO GME250 1986 – Present
Royal Enfield C5 Classic Black 2012 – Present
KTM 500 EXC Enduro 2014 – present
Have you done any interesting rides and where to?
Having been an off-road only rider for so many years I did not ride on the road except for pre-race tuning and warming up the engine before an oil change. I had not done any real road rides at all until I started coming along to Royal Enfield club rides.
The way weekend rides are organised by the club lends itself to being partner friendly and soon Jenny was interested in coming along too.
We really enjoy the “Ride somewhere – Have dinner and drinks – Stay overnight – Ride home next day” format. Jenny recently had a hip replacement which has made long trips easier but prior to that she had trouble getting on and off and discomfort after about 30mins in the saddle.
On the 2014 Bundanoon trip she had a ride in John Wrights sidecar and last month on the way back from Orange we rode Mike Floyds’ Moto Guzzi California which she almost fell asleep on it was so comfortable.
We are still looking at getting a bigger touring bike to make long trips more comfortable and allow more luggage but until then we are happy touring around on the Enfield.
Do you have any other interests, hobbies which may be on interest to your fellow Members?
In summer we are involved in a Surf Life Saving Club where I am a Nipper coach and Jenny is Nippers Secretary and a SLS Official.
Jenny ,our daughter Emma and I are patrolling members and our son Angus is a Nipper competitor so most weekends are spent working at the club, patrolling the beach or attending surf carnival competitions.
In Spring and Autumn we try to do some downhill mountain biking at Thredbo or dirt bike riding or camping.
In winter we are keen downhill and back country skiers spending time at Thredbo and in Kosciusko National Park
I also maintain an internet blog site www.k10stuff.com.au which I use to chronicle my adventures and sell some gear.
I have included links to some articles of interest. ( this is a work in progress as I am changing hosting platforms and design layouts)
Do you have any special skills which may be of interest to other Members ?
IT Equipment Sales and Support , Website hosting , e-Commerce and Blog site setup
Electronic Security, CCTV, access control systems
Technical writing and documentation
Do you have a ‘wish list’ for bikes you’d like to own in the future?
BMW R1200RT or BMW R1200GS
Ducati of some description
Harley Chopper – if I won lotto and could waste $50K on a garage ornament
Is there anywhere you’d like to ride in Australia or overseas?
On an Enfield there would be 2 destinations – India then England
On an adventure bike Central Australia
On a touring bike down the east coast then to Perth
Any suggestions for RECOA rides?
Mid North Coast / Hunter Region