I’m a bit of a greybeard these days, and over the years I’ve seen a lot of bikes and riders. Age doesn’t mean wisdom though, and I’m still as guilty as ever of making a complete goose of myself from time to time…as I’ve done all my life.
I went for a lap with Gav Gill yesterday, and he’s a great bloke to have on a ride. He’s always cheerful, sensible, and nice to everyone he meets. That helps make all us bike riders look a little better in the eyes of the general public, and I’m a big believer in that. Gav’s also not a quitter. If a bike starts playing up, my first reaction is usually to look for a way of getting it, and me, home fast and safe. Gav’s view is, as long as he can keep it running, and he’s pretty sure he’s not doing any damage, he’ll keep going. He’s not as fanatical as the Kiwis, but in his quiet, happy way, he just keeps going. On this last ride the BMW began blowing fuses again. Fortunately it started doing it about two kilometres from my back door, so I was pretty comfortable about getting everything home without much drama.
With no spare fuses – because he thought he’d fixed it after the Shakedown ride – he began cutting up the blown fuse. His plan was to somehow bodgey the two ends of the blown fuse together, thus allowing him to push-start the bike.
Cut, cut, cut he went. Join, join, join.
The phone rang, so he answered it and sorted out his social commitments before returning to the fuse job, putting the whole back together and finding he had no result.
Then he pulled another fuse from somewhere else in the fuse box, jammed it in, and off we went.
So he was a fuse short, had no spares, and the bike was pooping its pants every time he touched the starter. I asked whether he wanted me to follow him home. He said the bike was running now, he’d follow me to a convenient cut-out point, then peel off for home while I finished the ride.
That seemed fair enough, but when we pulled up at the cut-out, he had a big smile. “It’s too nice a day!” he bellowed over the Beemer’s painfully loud exhaust. “I’m not missing a ride. I’ll stay with you.”
And off we went, the BMW with not even the fuses it should’ve had, let alone any spares.
But then, as we made our sedate and responsible way up the mountain road, I looked in the mirror to see Gav had made himself a friend. I’ve never known anyone like Gav for making friends. In Gav’s world there are no strangers, only friends he hasn’t met yet. Somehow, while still riding along, Gav had a conversation with this guy, and he was there beside me pushing Gav and the BMW up and down the main street at the first fuel stop.
Anyhoo, this is where my lack of wisdom was demonstrated.
The rider was on a very heavily laden XT660. Not a Tenere, just your regular 660, and it had panniers sticking out either side that more than doubled its stock width. The back was piled up with name camping gear, and there was stuff strapped on it everywhere. I thought, “Far out! Do these people give any thought to how much stuff they carry on their bikes?” I could see a fire extinguisher, for crying out loud.
When we settled down for a coffee at the next stop, Andy – the XT660 rider – turned out to be Swiss, and was enjoying a year or so riding around Australia. I wondered how long he thought the overladen XT would last in the Wide Brown Land.
It turned out he’d done 35,000km through Europe on the bike before shipping it to Australia. He’d had it shipped to Perth, and he’d ridden it from Perth up through The Kimberley, the Northern Territory, down through Queensland and was heading south to see Victoria and South Australia. He’d done 23,000km since leaving Perth. Not just 23,000km, but 23,000km serious-shit kilometres.
So I’m a dickhead for having an opinion before I found out the facts. He obviously knew the capabilities of the bike and himself, and he obviously had on board the gear he needed.
Thank goodness he was a top bloke. He was a strapping, clean-cut young feller as well (did I see a twinkle in Gav’s eye?). Thank goodness I hadn’t made any comment about the load on his bike before speaking to him. I went out and, filled with respect, had another look. There sure was a lot of stuff there, but now I could see how self-sufficient it made the outfit.
I really have enjoyed seeing a lot of dualsporters and adventure bikes on the dirt roads lately. It’s good to feel part of a community made of people like Andy, Gav and a string of other great people I get to ride with, and to occasionally swap a yarn or two with a someone new at an out-of-the-way campsite or roadhouse somewhere.
It’s one of the greatest things of all about having a bike that’ll go where other bikes can’t.