Dirt bike enthusiasts will recognise the name, Luke Richards.
Singleton local Luke scaled the top of the Australian dirt bike racing elite as a teenager before succumbing to his injuries and retiring after his third shoulder reconstruction in 2015. This is his story.
Thanks for catching up with us, Luke. So, you’re a Singleton local?
Yep, born and bred in Singleton, still living here now. Love the place.
How did you get into racing?
My father grew up on properties riding bikes, so he had me riding around on the Pee Wee 50 from around three or four years old.
I began competing at six years old when I went to Kurri Kurri for my first race, and things really took off from there. At eight I won my first Australian final at Albury-Wodonga, and continued climbing the ranks until I called time on it all a couple of years ago.
I’m a pretty competitive person, so I’ve always been drawn to that aspect of it. I love racing, and I’ve done it on a lot of different tracks and bikes.
Does it require a lot of dedication?
Not that I noticed! Growing up, dad would often take me out to the bush track a couple times a week in the afternoons, especially in race periods. During those times we’d find ourselves driving up and down the countryside almost every weekend to races. I’d miss the odd day of school too which was pretty cool.
It does take a while to prepare the bikes, such as washing them and tuning them up for a competition, so by the time you get back on Monday after a comp there’s not a lot of time throughout the week for it.
Talk us through some of your favourite moments in the sport
I’ve won a few Australian titles now, so every time you win one of those it’s pretty special. I think in 2015 I won six nationals throughout the year, which was my last full year of competitive racing, so that was a great way to go out.
Is there ever any bad blood on the track after crashes and collisions?
Nah, it’s part of the sport. You’re racing the same people nearly every weekend, so you get to know everyone pretty quickly. If there’s an incident on the track someone might be dirty on you for a couple of weeks, but you get over it pretty quickly. There’s no real animosity out there.
Have you gone international with your talents?
I’ve only competed in Australia, but I’ve done some riding in America and other parts of the world as a punter.
How has the body coped over the years?
Yeah, I’ve had a few injuries. Busted my ankles pretty bad, broken ribs, done cartilage, three shoulder reconstructions on the right shoulder, and then a bunch of the smaller injuries like broken wrists and collarbones a few times. It starts catching up with you as you get a little older!
I’m still struggling with a few of them now. After my third shoulder operation at the end of a nasty crash in 2015 I pretty much knew that was it.
Did you have to walk away from the sport cold turkey?
I still do the odd meet. This year I’m planning on doing the Finke Desert Race, which is one of the biggest off-road races you can do in Australia. It’s always been a bucket list item of mine. It leaves from Alice Springs and its 230km down to the small Indigenous community of Finke, where you stay overnight and race back the next day. Some people do it in about two hours!
Doing an endurance race like this is a nice switch up for me. I’m used to the closed course stuff, where the track might be 800 metres and you do five to ten laps. It’s a lot more intense than the endurance meetings. I’ve done a couple of small endurance ones before but nothing like Finke, which is the biggest you can do in the country.
How’s life post the competitive circuit? Do any of your injuries affect your work?
I’m a domestic electrician here in town with the family business. I’ve had a bit of time off with some of the injuries I’ve had, but I’ve been pretty lucky in that I can come back doing some office work and light duties, stuff like that. Dad won’t let me off for too long!
I’ve got a young daughter and she keeps us pretty busy.
Will she have racing in her blood, too?
We got her a pushbike for Christmas actually, so she’s starting early! Her feet barely touch the ground but she’s been pushing herself around on that. We’ve also got a 110 and a quad on the farm we take her out on, which she loves.
So you’re not trying to keep her away from the circuit?
No, her mum actually grew up riding bikes and has even competed herself! She’s a mining engineer, and we met in an underground coal mine of all places, so it was nice to find we had bikes in common.