x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

The moment when some rough bikies revealed their soft centres

Every Christmas back home in Australia, and in other places around the globe, an annual event takes place which draws motorcycle riders together like flies to a country barbecue.

No kids fighting on the back seat or asking every five minutes "are we there yet"? No back seat driver inquiring if you "really know where you are going".

Nothing but you and the open road. A length of tarmac that stretches before you for an eternity. Winding roads, straight roads, it

really doesn't matter as long as there is just you and your bike and a desire to ride.

But every now and then, it can be fun to head out for a fang (Australian biker talk for a fast ride) with a few of your mates. Some friendly rivalry through the twisty bits can make for an interesting story or two at the end of the day but for the most part it is the sheer pleasure of hanging with a few buddies and sharing the love of two-wheeled freedom.

It is not unusual to see a couple of guys riding together, à la Easy Rider style, at any given time on any given stretch of road. It is also not unusual to see maybe a group of five to 10 riders out for a weekend cruise.

Occasionally you might come across a motorcycle club out for an excursion with 50-odd riders taking up a fair slice of the road.

To some degree, this can contribute to the image of the motorcyclist as a "bikie". The general perception of a bikie in the minds of the public is often one of a mean, nasty, angry piece of work, whose bike is a symbol of his rebellious nature.

But not all motorcyclists are such beasts. And even some who do fill the description can have a soft centre.

Many years ago, I was sent out to cover a story about two rival bikie gangs who had got into a bit of a scuffle in which one of the members of a gang had been shot.

A photographer and I spent the day travelling from the scene of the shooting to the gang's headquarters and then the hospital tracking down the story. All day, we were shadowed by gentlemen on motorcycles who fitted the persona of a bikie.

I wrote the story, it was published and life went on.

Some weeks later, my younger brother was in a queue at a movie theatre when a nine-foot Hells Angel type walked up to him and, in a gruff voice, said: "You David Green's brother?"

My brother, not wishing to appear antagonistic, replied "Er, yes." The somewhat overbearing bikie then said, "You give him a message. You tell him he did a [expletive] job on that story about us and tell him if he ever needs a favour just give us a call."

I have yet to call in the favour. But it does go to show that even the toughest-looking bikie may have a heart of gold.

But this is not the only example of rough, tough bikie types revealing their inner soft centres.

Every Christmas back home in Australia, and in other places around the globe, an annual event takes place which draws motorcycle riders together like flies to a country barbecue.

It is a charity ride, where motorcyclists from throughout the country congregate in the capital cities then ride, en masse, to a location at which the Salvation Army collects toys, food and other much-needed good from the riders to distribute to the less than fortunate members of the community.

In the case of Melbourne, my home-town, as many as 15,000 riders can turn out for the event.

The day starts early with riders making their way into the city, either as individuals or in groups. Many decorate their bikes in a Christmas theme - some with a few strands of tinsel, while others would go all out, even sticking reindeer antlers on their helmets - and any differences of opinion between riders as to who has the better bike are put aside for the day.

It is an amazing experiencecruising through the city with every type of bike imaginable surrounding you.

Everyone obeys the law, no one causes any trouble and a lot of families get to enjoy Christmas who would normally go without.

As someone who has been riding for more years than I care to count, it is a warming experience to see the hardened image of the motorcyclist as a "bikie" buried if only for a short time and replaced with a "biker".