It’s kids’ play

To the uninitiated, those who don’t eat dirt for breakfast, this image of a motorbike rider covered in leather, hands on the throttle and presumably covering steely eyes with a helmet conjures a sense of rebelliousness.

How easily we can be mistaken. Meet Ryder Sweet. He’s seven years old, and he’s a great kid with the courage in this social media world to be different, saying he prefers being part of the Mud n’ Tars Motorcycle Club than dreaming of being an AFL star.

His mum and dad, Nina and Wade, are naturally incredibly proud of Ryder, and couldn’t be happier that’s he’s mixing with all the other terrific youngsters who also love the roar of the bikes and the thrill of racing. Remove the common perception of what motorcycle clubs are about you’ll find something amazing at the Mud ‘n Tars.

Families, for starters. Kids as young as Ryder loving every moment competing at their own pace in a safe environment with mums and dads cheering on all of the riders.

If someone’s bike malfunctions before a race it’s nothing for another young rider to lend his or her bike. The slogan for the Mud ‘n Tars is Our legends, future stars, and it covers more than track success – members of all ages being successful in the race of life. Every sport breeds this philosophy, but with motor sports some people choose not to hear the positive message above the revving.

This particular day at Parawa was the annual Slur McKenzie Memorial Race, named after a treasured member Nick, who was tragically killed in a car accident in 2013. Present were his wife, Susan, and their children, Bodie, nine, and Paige, seven.

“It is so nice for everyone here to remember Nick in this way; it’s heartening,” Susan said. “The Mud ‘n Tars have been right behind us from the start so it is nice to know that they put in such a big effort for me and the children. They’re family.

“This is such a lovely day and we really enjoy coming out here and seeing what the club puts on every year.

“It is difficult for me to come out here; of course it is. Very difficult, but it’s just what you have to do.

“The children help at the end of the day giving out some awards. Bodie rode a few years ago but he is not as confident on his bike anymore; we just don’t get to practice as much as we would like to.

“This club is about families, about mates looking after each other. It’s amazing. Other guys have had accidents at tracks before and everyone rallies behind them. It’s very much a family club.”

The Mud ‘n Tars Motorcycling Club Club was started in1986 by a group of local men and women, and eventually blended having taken over the Victor Harbor Junior Motor Cycle Club. It has about 300 members involving 50 families including 120 juniors, and the ageless campaigners with more oiled cogs in them than their bikes somehow muster the enthusiasm of the young riders all in the pursuit of flying through the air.

They race on dirt, motocross, enduro and road bikes, and while the club is based at Day Road, Victor Harbor events are occasionally held at Parawa thanks to the generosity of the land owners, Joe and Roger Bonnes. Insurance is under Motorcycling Australia, and the support of sponsors is incredible, including Event Medical Plus, Grosvenor Hotel, Veg Out, Great Southern Security, DSM Landscape & Building Supplies, and Nino’s Cafe & Restaurant.

The list of committee people led by an energetic president Simon Pittman of Nino’s is also predominantly filled by family members. Their volunteers are many and much valued.

Life member Matthew Bainger, who has been with the club since 1999, insists the people make this club. “Before I came along I noticed the aura, and good people attract more good people,” he said.

“Not all kids can play football and cricket and so on, and there are those who like to ride motorbikes and they have their own set of skills and passion.

“The way it is with driving on the roads it is so important to a child’s life that they become good drivers at an early age. When they ride a motorbike they learn to judge breaking distances from a very young age.

“We notice with our kids as they become teenagers they are in control, not just of their lives but motor vehicles. We notice the difference. They might be a little bit more confident, but I don’t necessarily see that as such a bad thing.”

Every race meeting at the Mud ‘n Tars club brings its sense of excitement for every rider; the thrill of the throttle they call it. But it’s never just about them, and the finest example is its annual poker run in March raising more than $50,000 since 2008 for the Fleurieu Cancer Support Foundation.

The event attracts more than 100 riders, starting from Ocean Street, Victor Harbor and weaving their way to the range at Parawa, back through the hills of Willunga and out to Langhorne Creek and to Ashborne at the Greenman Inn for lunch.

At the five stops each rider receives a playing card, and at the end of the run the one with the best poker hand wins $300 cash. According to Matthew there’s a lot of skulduggery, all in good fun of course, and cards are swapped and bought.

Such is the fine character of these bikeriders somehow a 10-year-old girl, Cody Maul-Dunn, won the $300, and without being prompted by anyone, including her proud mum and dad she immediately donated the money to the cause.

And those who drove past this quaint spot on the Fleurieu that day and saw all of the bikes out the front probably thought, ‘look at ’em, no-gooders the lot of ’em’ simply because they believe one helmet fits all. But lovely people like Susan McKenzie, those from a host of charity groups and the friends of the Mud ‘n Tars know better.