Legend Honoured

October 11th, 2018
Legend Honoured
The Kenny Blake Festival of Motorcycling celebrates a born and bred Strath motorcycling legend who tragically died young after a career of international competition.

Born to a dairy farming family, Ken developed a love for motorcycles from a young age that blossomed into an obsession.

He rode around the Hills with friends from Strathalbyn High School and joined a notorious gang of like-minded riders.

Kenny was a founding member of the Phoenix Motorcycle Club which was formed not long after the group’s activities appeared on the front page of the February 29, 1964 edition of Adelaide’s ‘Truth’ newspaper.

“Wild Ones Hit Town”, the headline read with the article calling the group “cigar-smoking louts in tight black jeans, leather jackets and caps” whose “motor cycles were elaborately decorated” and who wore leather jackets with “skull-and-crossbone designs, the devil and tridants [sic]” painted on the back.

Blake’s involvement with this counter-cultural group, who the article’s author likens to characters from the 1953 film The Wild Ones, was based solely on a love for riding his bike.

“He was so into motorcycling that nothing else seemed important,” said Ivan Ardill, one of Ken Blake’s friends from before the club was formed.

“Kenny had been riding since he was about 12 on an old farm bike – just an old two-stroke with wheels – then when he turned up in town with his Triumph we realised he really could ride.

“He knew what was around every corner on this side of the Hills.

“We used to say there was no one who could get from Strath to Adelaide as fast as Kenny.”

With an official name and affiliations with the governing racing body, the members of the Phoenix Motorcycle Club began organising races.

“In Kenny’s first race the official wanted to black flag him,” Ivan said.

“He said Kenny was a mad-man, that no one should ride a motorcycle like him and he should be disqualified.

“We all knew that when Kenny raced everybody else’d be racing for second.”

Finding little sponsorship in Adelaide, Kenny moved to Melbourne in 1970 where he began breaking records and winning championships.

Kenny reached Europe in 1978 before riding in the USA and South America before his fateful final race on June 9, 1981.

The six lap Isle of Man race was meant to be Kenny’s last before he retired.

After working on his own bike, adjusting the engine and fuel tank sizes, Kenny set off on slick tyres – hoping to avoid a pit stop that would cost him the race.

Rain hit the track.

Kenny was able to keep his bike under control until the penultimate lap when the conditions proved too much and his bike aquaplaned – sending Kenny into a concrete post.

He was pronounced dead on the scene.

Kenny Blake’s legacy lasts as not only a dedicated and talented racer but also as a good man.

“He was a very good friend and a gentleman on the track,” Ivan said.

“Kenny was a quiet guy, quite handsome and well-mannered.

“He was never flash and he scraped together all he had.”

To celebrate Kenny’s birthday on October 27, the weekend-long Kenny Blake Festival of Motorcycling features rides around Kenny’s old tracks, a collection of memorabilia, swap meets, as well as the unveiling of a memorial statue at the corner of High Street and Grey Street in Strathalbyn.

Event organiser Marylou Nees said she understands the kind of love that Kenny Blake showed for his riding.

Marylou was the coaching director for Motorcycling Australia and ran Garage Motorcycles in Strathalbyn for 13 years.

“There is a rhythm, a kind of synchronisation and zone you get into when riding,” she said.

“That’s what feeds people like Kenny.

“Someone who really loves what they do like he did is bound to go far.

“Even if they are not all remembered as the quiet gentleman that Kenny Blake was known as.”

The Kenny Blake Festival of Motorcycling will be held on from Friday, October 26 to Sunday, October 28 in Strathalbyn.

For more information head to http://www.kennyblakestrathalbyn.com.au

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