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Safe and sound

Motorcycle riders have put their helmets behind Wellington Free Ambulance [WFA] – by donating to the emergency service they don’t want to call.

The Wairarapa branch of the Ulysses Club of New Zealand last week handed WFA a $2000 donation, which will contribute to the service’s new station build on the corner of Russell and Queen streets in Masterton.

The money was raised by Ulysses Wairarapa members who complete annual motorcycle marshalling at summer cycle racing series. Marshals are reimbursed for expenses and the club receives money for organising the team.

Some of this is used to subsidise club activities and a portion is put aside for donations to a worthy cause.

The $2000 donation was received by WFA Wairarapa community liaison Cheryl Watson, with about a dozen riders lining up their bikes beside an ambulance at the current depot.

“It is always humbling to receive support from the community, clubs and organisations across the Wairarapa,” Watson said.

“I would like to thank the Ulysses Club for getting in behind the Wairarapa station build with their fundraising. This donation is what it’s all about, as the station is built for the community, by the community.”

As a club committed to safety and rider mentoring, Ulysses members would rather not meet Watson or her colleagues again – on the road anyway.

Ulysses Wairarapa has been running for 25 years and has 53 members from Eketāhuna to Pirinoa. The oldest active member is aged 89.

The Ulysses Club began in Australia, set up for motorcyclists over the age of 40, with the motto ‘Grow Old Disgracefully’.

Its website says the name Ulysses comes from a poem by Tennyson, which tells of the Greek hero, now middle aged, who grows bored and longs to go adventuring again with his mates.

Members of the Wairarapa branch don’t need to own a motorcycle: “You just need to be interested in motorcycles – it’s about riding and the social element and comradeship,” branch co-ordinator Tony Allen said.

“We have female members who ride. Wives and partners who decided they’d like to have a go at riding motorbikes themselves. Some single women as well.”

While some members have a few bikes, others no longer own them for physical or financial reasons but still have an interest and they’re “more than welcome”, Allen said.

The last Wednesday of the month sees a get-together at a local establishment for a meal, with an organised motorcycle ride every second Sunday.

“Rides can go as far as Manawatu, Wellington or even Taihape, Whanganui, or Napier in the summertime, for a full day’s ride with lunch,” member Rex Bateman said.

“There may be a destination for a particular purpose, like a motor museum, a truck show, or hotrod show.”

Short rides are also organised, so members are home for the afternoon to spend time with family. Longer trips away may include two weeks in the South Island, with 15-18 bikes on tour.

“We actively promote NZTA-ACC safety initiatives,” Allen said. “We have designated and trained mentors in the club, to help people with riding.”

Mentors are trained to the highest level through the Institute of Advanced Motorists [IAM] motorcycle division.

“That training is based on police pursuit training in the UK, so it’s the most intense one-on-one motorcycle training available,” Allen said. “If someone needs a quiet word about the way they are riding, it will quietly be pointed out to them.”

Bateman added: “It’s about giving younger riders advice and suggesting another way of doing things if they’re inexperienced, particularly around following distances and speed.”

Bateman has been riding motorcycles for 55 years – when he started, a motorcycle was the affordable way to get from A to B.

“The days of head down across the tank and going hard out are pretty much gone – that’s why I’m still alive now” he said.

Ulysses clubs encourage members to leave home with “all the gear, all the time”, Allen said. “If you don’t turn up in good quality safety gear, you’ll get talked to.”

With three new club members signed up in the past two months, Ulysses Wairarapa is still looking for new riders. In the meantime, the club will continue to support local causes.

“We support organisations our members may use one day,” Allen said. Past recipients have included Wairarapa’s volunteer fire brigades and the rescue helicopter. The club has purchased a satellite phone for WFA in the past.

Of course, the aim is that emergency services will only be called on to receive those donations.

Ulysses Wairarapa committee meetings are on the third Monday of the month at Club Carterton on Broadway. Email: [email protected] or visit the national website of Ulysses New Zealand.

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