Home' Advocate Communications : Fiordland Advocate 16 January 2009 Contents 16 January, 2009 | Page 7
Back on his
bike - and
Two plastic hips have not been enough to put the
brakes on Te Anau’s Sid Chalaner, whose need for
speed has seen him spurn a 50th birthday party in
favour of racing his beloved motorbike at Australia’s
premier historic motorbike event, the International
Island Classic at Phillip Island.
Sid Chalaner in action at the Burt Munro Challenge street races at Wyndham.
By his own admission, Sid
Chalaner tends to obsess about
things in his life. Yet, ironically,
it was his attempt to relax a bit
that gave birth to a much bigger
“The boss (aka his wife, Ellie) told
me to get a hobby about three or
four years ago.”
About the same time he was
finding that hip replacement
surgery had given him a new
lease on life and he yearned for
his younger days when he loved
tearing around a race track on a
motorbike. But that was some 25
“I didn’t start (riding) again until
I got the second one (hip) and
before I got the second one I
couldn’t actually sit on a bike.”
His surgeon’s reaction to his
plan? “I haven’t told him.”
About four years ago he followed
his dream and bought a 1960
Norton Wideline Featherbed
with a Triumph motor, “just
to participate” in the classic
section. But as he got faster he
grew more competitive.
When his daughter Jane showed
an interest in race riding, they
both entered the street stock
(Suzuki RG 150 or similar)
development class. It was
enough to see his confidence –
and speed – grow and before he
knew it he was in the market for
a bigger, better old bike.
“I wanted something that
handled well and had a reliable
motor on it.”
What he actually bought was “a
sort of a wreck” from a guy in
Countless hours of work and
thousands of dollars turned the
wreck into his pride and joy – a
1979 Nicco Bakker powered by
a Honda CB 1123 motor. It is the
only one of its kind in the country
and Sid has no idea what it is
What he does know is that it’s
fast – fast enough to win the
classics locally and fast enough
to see him take out the pre-82 class at
the most recent Burt Munro Challenge at
It’s also fast enough to know that if he comes
off it really hurts.
Since re-entering racing he has had “one
bad crash and a couple of not so bad
ones”. The bad crash resulted in him losing
consciousness and being taken to hospital
with a broken collarbone, very sore ribs and
various other sprains and strains. While there
the medical staff had to cut his leathers off
him – “that really upset me”.
But even that wasn’t enough to deter him
from constantly striving to go faster.
“You’ve got to get your adrenalin somewhere,”
he said. “I’ve only been racing for about four
years. I’ve only been fast for the last couple.”
His old classic bike has clocked 1min
10.6sec at Teretonga. The lap record there for
superbikes (for those not in the know, they’re
the really fast ones) is 57.6sec.
It should have come as no surprise then that,
when Ellie asked him if he’d like a party for
his 50th birthday, he said he’d rather have
the chance to race at Phillip Island. This time
next weekend he’ll be there, off the coast of
Victoria, Australia, doing just that.
The Nicco Bakker bike has a top speed just
shy of 150 miles an hour. At the last meet he
entered Sid hit 144 miles an hour down the
“Hopefully we’ll get 150 out of her at Phillip
Island but you never know, she might blow up
on the first lap.”
Sid Chalaner with his 1960 Norton Wideline Featherbed with a Triumph motor. Behind it is a Honda
CB 1100 that he bought as a street racing bike.
BELOW: The trophy
for Champion Post
Classic Pre-82 won
by Sid Chalaner at
the 2008 Burt Munro
But even if he can achieve top speed, he’s
doubtful it will be enough to gain a placing.
“Some of them have got more money tied
up in the engine than I have in my bike,” he
said. “There’s a limit to how much money
you can waste.”
His aim is to have fun and, hopefully, prove
himself competitive. If so, he hopes to be
able to return for another crack.
The bike has been shipped to Australia with
two others from Invercargill and is due to
get there a couple of days before its rider.
After two days of practice there’s two days of
racing “if the bike holds together – and the
On his return Sid will be back to work on his
latest obsession, a multi-bay farm shed with
a purpose-built bike workshop on one end -
with under-floor heating.
“Most people laugh about that,” Sid said,
admitting that was probably because they
knew his house doesn’t boast such a luxury.
His rational explanation is that damp
buildings can corrode valuable bikes.
But when you tend to obsess about old
motorbikes, you do tend to spend a fair bit of
time in the shed...
Sid Chalaner and his beloved 1979 Nicco Bakker motorbike.
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