Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pack riding and adventure

This weekend I'm going away for a long ride in a small pack of three, for four days and three nights adventure riding up through Harrietville on to Jindabyne, back down through Hotham and into Corryong somehow before making our way back to Melbourne. Suddenly I'm ten years old again and really excited... Four days of nothing but riding and more riding. Yes!
I usually do a big ride once a year with a group of mates, which has been going for six years now (dubbed ADR - Australia Day Ride) and fluctuates in numbers from the original six up to 18 last year (which was a bit ridiculous). This weekend is a new edition to the annual itinerary and has been dubbed the MCR (Melbourne Cup Ride) because we get a public holiday in Melbourne along with it, the chance to put work, email, bosses,partners, family and everything else behind us and enjoy an adventure of the two-wheeled variety. Not too many plans except for the accommodation and a few ideas around some favourite roads…and only three of us to kick-start the ritual.

 Three's a good number, we can stay flexible and take deviations and keep close in a small pack, rather than pulling over at every intersection while the inevitable gaps caused by big pack rides. ADR is my favourite event of the year, so I'm looking forward to this new adventure and hope that we can make it an annual occurrence as well. Apologies in advance to Big Steve from standing him up on our date to go see Oil Stained Brain this weekend, that would've been ace too but the ride takes precedence which I'm sure he understands…Think I'll have to shout him a ticket to the Melbourne Bike Expo to make up for that one. I think about motorcycling a lot. I think about it most of the time if I am not doing it. I think about the days ride, the bike setup, the accessories, this blog, what things I can do next, what things I've done poorly and what stuff I think I do well. I think about the technical aspects of riding and wish I knew more, think about trying to find time to do a track day and when I can get up to Sydney and go to the Wheelie machine joint and have a go on that.

I think about drifting, and stunt riding and wish I had the guts to try it or could go back in time 30 years to when I was 10, and do more Motorcross than paddock bashing and trials practise in the scrub. I ponder what bike is next, the old bikes I've owned and when I will next get away for a long ride. I think about motorcycling a lot. So too, I've been thinking a lot about the ride over the last few weeks and what I need to do in preparedness. The bike is in excellent shape with 5,000kms until its first major service interval, new tyres, spare plastics and axle sliders installed. The chain is fresh and lubed, all my lights work and I have a new camera to catch the action on. It's still a fairly new bike really and I can't say I've mastered it by even 50%. More like 20%.

I call this look Dirty Diana


I have also spent some money trying to get the Hyper up to some level of touring capability, no mean feat believe me. Try making a Honda XR 200 a touring machine and you can start to understand the dilemma. So I bought a set of Wolfman E-12 Enduro Saddle bags (from AdventureMoto.com.au) and a Maxpedition Sitka Gearslinger (from legear.com.au) which I reckon gets me pretty close to 25ltr capacity and plenty of room for a three nighter. I'm actually very happy with both purchases right now, the saddle bags slip over the rear seat and strap down much better than I expected. The rear gutter hooks are definitely more suited to a dirt bike mud guard but fortunately, in my endless search for mods, I purchased a DP luggage rack months back and it acts as the perfect anchor point for the 'Tension-O-Matic' rear gutter hooks. I can still slip the DP tail bag over it if I want to as well.


Sorted! Some straps to tidy up yet.
I found that I had to pull the over-straps quite tightly to lift the bags up and away from the zorst, but after ten minutes of fiddling around tensioning the various straps, I had it pretty right. I'm confident there will be little movement and no melting of straps, but I'm going to cover the rear fenders with painters tape to stop any carbon fibre rubbing before I shoot off the morrow.

 
The Maxpedition Sitka is awesome, my favourite bit of kit in sometime actually. I'm a sucker for bags but more on that later, it deserves a whole blog of its own. I also bought an MSR fuel bottle in case the fuel stops get sparse anywhere (like anything over 160km apart) and worse case scenario I've got Ducati Rider Assist in my wallet should anything serious go wrong. Nothing like knowing you'll be picked up and shuttled away back home or put up in a hotel overnight!


I really like these bags.

So the bike is ready and I am itching to get going. I love pack riding, it's a great experience and quite different from going solo. There is something guttural about it, being surrounded by the raucous sound of a bunch of engines roaring, alongside folk you know, trust and respect as riders, tearing up the twisties - it's something you have to experience to appreciate.

New gear, including boots replaced under warranty, all got the Scotchguard treatment tonight.

The best thing though, is that I learn heaps from pack riding. Even better yet I'm fortunate enough to have mates with racing experience, good riders who have a lot more road riding experience than me. Every year I feel like a better rider for it, there is so much to learn from following someone who knows how to ride. On the flipside there are a couple of people I just won't sit behind because I find their lines terrifying, and sometimes it's hard not to get caught up in line-blindness following a tragedy waiting to happen, we've all seen the videos where the guy behind follows the one up front that runs wide and then has an off over a cliff. Stick with the experienced riders, or the ones more experienced than you is my advice on that note. I'm super-excited and can't wait to find my biker fitness (and confidence) again. Biker life is awesome, it's my thing. I reckon it's probably your thing too :)

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