With three children competing in Australian Off-Road Motorcycle Championship events around the country, Gloucester parents Kim and David Kellner have clocked up a few kilometres and spent a few dollars over the last couple of years.
Oldest son Luke is itching to return to racing in Expert E1 category once he recuperates from surgery; daughter Meakan is keen to return to national competition after the HSC, and youngest son Mitch at 14 is an Australian junior champion for the second year in a row, winning every event in the J4 category this year. When you talk to Kim and the Kellner, kids you feel compelled to ask how the passion for motorbikes came about.
> Kim, you and David rode bikes before the kids were born. What was the attraction?
Riding bikes was a necessary part of living on farms. We both rode bikes to muster cattle, run errands and perform general farm tasks. Then there was the fun of riding with friends and family.
> When Luke was 3-months-old, David sold his bike. Why?
David had had a couple of injuries from bikes in recent times, and we had several friends injured also. He said he didn’t want his kids to catch the ‘disease’ of motor bike riding. We also had purchased our first home, so the money came in handy when we went back to one wage.
> What made you change your mind about your children riding motorbikes?
A lot of friends and family still rode bikes at the time, and Luke seemed to have caught the bug at an early age. The level of protective equipment and the standard of safety features on the bikes had improved. Also, the memories we have and the great friends we had made through motorbike riding over the many years helped to allow us to let the children start riding.
It was never our intention for them to compete at this stage – just to gain important life skills and to enjoy the sport of motorbike riding.
> Luke, what are your first memories of riding?
I got my first bike when I was 6 ½, a Yamaha PW50. I thought it was awesome. When Meakan and Mitch were old enough, I really enjoyed being able to ride with them and teach them some things along the way – like how not to take out the trampoline or the side gate!
> And, Mitch?
I was on a BMX at 2 without training wheels, after they got wrecked. I rode on my own on a motorbike at 3 and got my first racing bike at 9.
> Meakan, what do you love about racing?
My first motorbike experience saw me running into a gate, because I forgot to use the brakes. But, like every other motorbike incident, nothing deters me from getting back on and experiencing the adrenalin-pumping feeling created by such a sport. I also love the atmosphere while camping at the track, whether rain, wind or sunshine and the friendships I have made through racing.
> Kim, is a love of motorbikes and racing in the family genes?
Yes and no. David’s family saw motorbikes more as farm tools, while David’s brother has always owned bikes. My brother and some of my cousins raced and continue to ride regularly. Both families are very proud of the children’s achievements.
> How did your children get involved with off-road competition?
All three children have raced for the last six years and were all successful at club level. In 2006 we entered them in a NSW Enduro sprint, which was held at Hastings Valley MCC, their home club. All three did well, finishing in the top 3 in their respective age groups on both days. Next we entered Mitch in the Australian Off Road Championship in 2008, and he showed great potential in the few rounds he competed in that year. The last two years both Luke and Mitch have done all the Australian rounds.
> What’s the competition schedule each year?
This year Meakan competed in all six NSW cross country, enduro sprint races in the ladies’ class, finishing the season in 2nd place.
Luke competed in all six NSW cross country, enduro sprint races, and a 2 day enduro in the class of Expert E1, finishing in 4th position. Luke also competed in all the Australian Off Road Championship rounds, where he also finished 4th in his class.
Mitch competed in all six NSW cross country, enduro sprint races, and two 2 day enduros in the class of 14 year old 250 4 stroke. Mitch also competed in all the Australian Off Road Championship rounds. Mitch won every series he contested and won every single race, other than at Inverell, where he finished 4th after suffering two flat tyres.
The year’s racing saw us travel to Port Macquarie, Inverell, two events in Dungog, Orange, Moruya, Holbrook, Gwandalan, Wedderburn, VIC, Lithgow, Kapunda SA and Warwick QLD.
In total we have travelled approximately 15,000 kilometres in thirteen weekends. That’s at least 190 hours the family spent together just getting to the events.
> You’ve had assistance from local businesses with sponsorship. How expensive is it to compete?
It is very expensive to compete in any form of motor sport – especially the level the children are competing at. Entry fees are as much as $180 per rider for each event. Then there is the cost of travelling, accommodation, spare parts, maintenance, tyres and fuel, without even considering the cost of the bikes or the $10,000 trailer to carry all the bikes, equipment and camping gear. Gloucester Machinery has supported us continually since 2006, Trellis Earthworks and Bernie’s Bobcat have also contributed to the cost of racing.
David does all the maintenance on the bikes, with assistance from me and the three children. With bike shops charging around $100 an hour to repair and maintain bikes and the ten hours plus weekly it takes to keep them all running smoothly, it would soon be too expensive to keep going.
Everything would be a lot easier with the support of a major sponsor.
> How do you feel about the risk of injury?
It is definitely a big concern to us. We try to minimise the risk and the consequence of injury by providing the best standard of rider protection, including helmets, goggles, knee braces, neck braces and boots. We keep the bikes in the best and safest condition possible. They always have good tyres and brakes and the suspension is maintained to the correct specification.
> What does the future hold for the Kellner family?
Luke: In the future I’ll continue to ride for fun and hopefully race the NSW events next year, while helping my brother and sister as much as I can.
Meakan: Next year I plan to concentrate on doing all the rounds of The Aussie Off-Road Championship and the NSW events and hopefully study nursing the following year – but I don’t plan on giving up my riding.
Mitch: If I’m good enough, I’d like to go pro and then head overseas to compete.
Kim: We’ll continue to support all three children in anything that they pursue in the future. We do not pressure them to ride at all, and if they decide to stop racing and follow other interests, we will support them in full.
> Thank you everyone.
> Interview by Roger Marmion.