Wednesday 14 November 2012

Part 2

I naively had no idea that the process thus far would be so challenging. The new EU motorcycle test itself took time, the various practices and tests ranging from room based “Hazard Perception” to the mod 1 and 2 handling test took me over two months to complete. But from the moment I stepped over a full powered road machine I was hooked and road driving went from being a chore to a joy. An intense, engaging, frightening, exciting escape and in the process I have entered an exclusive tribe which at one time seemed remote hostile and exclusive.

I suppose I wanted a new challenge. Mountain and road biking were too familiar and although my rock climbing and off-piste snowboarding still hold the ability to push me to my limits, to a degree they are a familiar frison. Adventure motorbiking is a new thrill accompanied by new sensations, the heat of the engine, the smell of leather, hot tires, oil and dirt, it’s an intoxicating addictive mix. It comes with a set of sub cultures, folklawe, music and stories yet street fighters, cafĂ© racers, gangs and global travellers all appear bonded by a camaraderie gained from riding motorcycles. It links the Harley Davidson loving accountants with retro clothed oil splattered “wrench monkee”. For me the attraction is adventure, it’s the lure of the Mongolian desert that draws me into this niche, or at least the idea that I may travel there that does.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

1000 Km of Cols and Dust 1.

1000 Km of Cols and Dust.

The track gets rougher and rougher as it climbs up over 2,400m. The gravel of the lower altitudes has given way to melon sized rocks which lie scattered over the trail, sharp and threatening. The handle bars of the laden 250kg BMW buck and wrench from side to side pulling its bulk alarmingly across the 2m wide track. I am repeating my mantra given to me by my enduro trainer: ‘Keep your head up, look beyond the obstacles, keep light, and let it move underneath you. Don’t grip hard.’ At no other time, on no other ride, and on no other 2-wheeled machine, has this been more important to me than it is right now. On one side of me there is a solid rock wall hand cut by long dead Italian troops, and on the other side? A huge drop off. A 200m cliff. Beckoning, spiralling, crashing, fireball, imagined oblivion.

I am riding The Ligurian Border Ridge Road a 19th century monument to a more tense period of European history when France and Italy were more likely to have been trading bullets and territory than pleasantries. Today it is increasingly frequented by a growing band of adventure motorcyclists and I am pretending to be one of this growing tribe; although I have to say I fancy myself more as Ewan than Charley. Exactly one year ago to the day on a cold wind-blown Industrial estate in Inverness, I was handed my full motorcycle licence. Call it a mid life crisis - the other symptoms are definitely there - but whatever trigged the journey that I now find myself on, I have no regrets and only adventures that await my twisted throttle progress.