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Remembering Geoff Eldridge

An article that remenisces about GE

The First Ride
by
Ray Ryan
Reproduced with permission by Australasian Dirt Bike magazine
 
Geoff Eldridge and I had a very competitive friendship by 1974... It was always that way and so it would remain. Geoff worked as an architect and wrote for REVS magazine - dirt bike tests and MX reports. I wrote for Two Wheels (also REVS) and other titles, working freelance as what amounted to their dirt tester, MX photographer and whatever else I could contribute. I had also promoted and operated some motocross schools, possibly Australia's first commercial schools, through my then business Soft Earth Motorsport Promotions. We held schools at Mt Kembla and Geoff was one of the volunteer instructors along with Len Williamson and a few other friends. Stephen Gall was one of our first pupils and broke the fork legs on his MX250A after he'd machined them way too thin! By 1975 Geoff and I were pissed off with the existing magazines with their lack of real dirt coverage. We always tried to outdo each other in print and there was a respect for each other's work, even though we would never become close mates. I smoked dope, drank too much and did all the wrong things while Geoff was more focused and disciplined.
Nevertheless we believed in the same goals and complemented each other's abilities. We discussed a number of what-ifs about a new magazine but had no money and no publishing experience. What I did have, was a connection with Wayne Cantell, then publisher of Off Road Australia (a 4WD mag) for whom I also did some work. Cantell was based at Waters Road, Neutral Bay where he sub-leased office space from motorsport PR man, John Smailes. I opened some dialogue with Wayne over a pissy dinner at his place in Taren Point and floated the idea of an Aussie dirt bikes only magazine.
Wayne liked the idea and a few days later Geoff and I got together over the infamous flagon of red in my Dad's backyard at Revesby. I recall that I was temporarily sharing the house with my father at the time as my Mum had decided to go solo. They were interesting times. Geoff and I divvied up the ADB workload and I travelled down to Stephen gall's family home at Illawong where Steve had his own track and I shot the first ADB cover on a wet and grey afternoon. I also shot the MX250 test photos with the same bike at the same time. The ADB #1 material was all compiled by Geoff and myself and we'd log into Cantell's tiny office on odd occasions with envelopes jammed with pics and stories under our arms. Strangely enough Geoff and I did not work as a team 'on location'... we each had our assignments and we went to them. Our lifestyles, friends and modes of operation were different and remained that way throughout Geoff's life. ADB #1 was a hoot... My mate, Martin Drawbridge, did the riding for the KT250 Kawasaki trials test and my two Dobermans provided the backdrop talent. Other friends rode bikes and I rode the Hodaka Road Toad while my then-girlfriend took a few shots. The Shirt Shootout was absolute mayhem and comprised crazy shots, lots of wine drinking and boxes of shirts on loan. We never really knew how it would turn out. However, the bike test format was serious stuff and we treated it that way.
That was probably one thing which Geoff and I had in common... one other was an absolute intolerance of (what was then) ACU bullshit and bureaucracy. So what's changed? ADB #1 hit the stands shortly after the Mister Motocross final in '75, but as an interim we also produced a one-off newspaper magazine "Competition Dirt Rider" which we sold for 40c at an earlier Mr. MX round at Amaroo. It covered our arses for the fact that ADB was taking so long to put together as Wayne Cantell really had very little money and was in about the same financial position as Geoff and myself. CDR had Steve Adcock's Maico on the cover and I still have a dog eared copy in my files. I think we printed a couple of thousand and sold the lot at Amaroo in one day. ADB was revolutionary at the time... it had colour (but not a lot), it was irreverent and it was absolutely Australian. It only cost $1 and the only dealer, or distributor, in the industry with the advertising balls to support us was Harry Macklin's Yamaha dealership with a full page colour advert and some smaller black and white adverts. Blair Harley even advertised his range of Coopers!
ADB hit the stands and was a hit, but Geoff nor I understood the financial realities of publishing or the fact that Cantell could not bankroll us with some form of regular salary. My problem was that the advent of ADB effectively terminated my links with other publishers. I became non-grata in their eyes as I was now one of the competition and could no longer work for them. I had no income and no prospects of any through ADB as issue #2 started to come together. By that time, I lived at Whale Beach and spent most of my free days chasing sunloving nurses and other stray blondes in between doing my ADB work. I began to have less and less connection with both Wayne and Geoff as I had to also do other things, including some non-motorcycle photo work, to pay the bills.
It strained the relationship and by mid point in ADB #2, I went into Cantell's office and effectively handed over my interest in ADB to Geoff. No money changed hands because there was none to be had. Neither of us would ever see one cent from that first issue even though it had cost considerable time, travel, film, expenses and sweat. ADB became Geoff's baby and I was happy for him to have it. It certainly would never have survived in my hands. Geoff had an income stream and was definitely more focussed than I and I decided to move to Western Australia and agreed with Geoff that I would start regular contributions to ADB once I settled in on the west coast. The rest is as we all know it... Geoff made the ADB dream come true while I pursued my own. Our friendship and respect remained, even though it was tested on many occasions. Geoff cringed when he learned that infamous letter writer "PJ Read of Floreat Park" - a great critic of Ryan's ramblings was none other than myself. He paid me back with pithy quotes in bike tests which he attributed to me even when I was on the other side of the country. Bastard!
We had a lot of stuff like that which went on and became part of the ADB culture. ADB was always our baby and I always maintained a soft spot for the magazine and continued to write for it up until I went car racing in the mid '80s and dropped out of bikes. I only have a few old copies in my files but still have a lot of photo material from those days, along with even better memories and some great friends and soul brothers in the dirt. It's probably not a big deal, but ADB was originally called "Australian Dirt Bike" and our first logo design was printed onto our riding shirts with this title. Wayne Cantell made the suggestion to change it to "Australasian" as he also wanted to reach the Kiwi market and to be seen as wanting to include them. If you look closely at Stephen Gall's shirt in ADB #1 you'll see the words as they originally appeared. I'm still in love with this sport and now publish my own magazine, VMX, a retro dirt bike quarterly which is sold in Australia, NZ, USA, UK, Europe and anywhere else we find a niche. It's a class act and Geoff would have been proud of it... After all, I'm still proud of what we both started with ADB and am particularly proud of Geoff's grittiness in making it what it became. It was good to be part of that first ride.
- Ray Ryan
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