Brass Monkey final rally ride

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Some of the Ashburton contingent at the last ever Brass Monkey Rally in Central Otago. Photo Supplied

Mates, motorbikes and memories of freezing, but fun, camping resulted in about 20 Ashburton motorcyclists taking part in the final Brass Monkey Rally, at Ida Valley, last weekend.

The rally, run by the Otago Motorcycle Club, was in its 40th year but will be the last.

Workmates John Hetrick and Brian Hill were among the Ashburton crew to ride south. It was John’s 16th rally and Bryan’s 23rd. Another member of the group, Grant Watson, was attending his 37th rally.

John said the trip took several hours, with a few scenic stops. His partner Kristine drove the support van, which carried the group’s camping equipment.

Rally rules require participants to camp out.

John said the nights could be chilly and riders have been known to wake up to hoar frost in past years. At least once, it had snowed.

“The year of the hoar frost it was minus 12.

‘‘The ice was hanging off the fence and the beer was freezing in the can. You had to stand near the fire.”

Numbers had fallen off in recent years, so Ashburton motorcycle fans had decided to make the effort to farewell the event.

Riders gather to talk motorcycles, catch up with friends from all around the country, and to socialise.

John said there was a thrill in riding in a group, on beautiful machines.

His was a Suzuki 1000.

John and Bryan work for Jeff Marshall Suzuki in Ashburton; Bryan travelled to the rally on a GSXR750, wife Tania and daughter Chloe also travelled down.

Bryan said the rally’s attraction was that it is was so different from other rallies, being at the mercy of the elements.

He still remembers his first Brass Monkey, when riders had to stop to dry out their gear during a very wet trip.

Weather aside, the Brass Monkey is one of New Zealand’s longest-running and best-known motorcycle rallies.

It is understood ageing stalwarts, a lack of younger riders, and increasing bureaucracy have been key factors in the rally’s demise.

A fireworks display and an impressive line-up of bands were part of the final event.

Organisers have indicated an alternative event could replace the Brass Monkey and take advantage of the infrastructure set up at the Idaburn Dam site, but what that will look like is yet to be confirmed.