Beastie was running nicely and I had a couple more days in Brisbane. I suggested to Shane that we should go for a ride – a bit of a test run. Maybe down the coast? I had a good friend in Coffs Harbour who I’d like to see.
A wonderfully unreformed hippy, Michael has been my friend since the days when I was a wayward 17 year old, just run away to the big city; we would cook lamb, drink red wine and listen to Leonard Cohen in the crumbling Sydney sharehouse where we lived.
So we resolved to head down the coast, and it was at this point that I began to reap the fruits of my own absentmindedness. Now, as someone who has lived and ridden around Sydney for years, I know perfectly well how cold wet and nasty an east coast winter can be, especially at 110km/h. I have some stellar biking gear for just those conditions too. Klim Backcountry jacket, Klim altitude pants, Goretex all the way. Did I bring those things from my temporary posse in the sunny, sunny outback? Where every day the sky was blue and the temperature topped out in the high twenties?
No, of course I didn’t. I brought my Klim jacket but on the bottom – just my Draggin jeans, tucked into my boots and funneling the cold rain right on in.
I didn’t even look at the weather forecast that morning. If I had, I might have seen the massive low pressure system grinding towards us – a depression in every sense of the word.
But I didn’t look. Instead, I proceeded to talk Shane into taking the R1 because I wanted to ride it so badly. The sportsbike withdrawals were hitting me hard.
So we hit the road south: a 690 Enduro and an R1, touring in an east coast winter.
I was getting my strength back after my bout of flu but was still not 100%, which I quickly proved by dropping my key down behind my auxilliary fuel tank at a service station. It rattled down between tank and frame, and wedged somewhere near the top of the radiator. Shane eventually spotted it, extricated it, and a few weeks later gifted me a keyring of preventative dimensions.
By the time we got to Nimbin, the cloud was down on the mountains and a damp chill had set in. In the afternoon light, I swapped bikes with Shane and took the R1 for a little bit of a run, stretching her legs. I didn’t even get booked or arrested, blissfully unaware that it was a double demerit weekend in New South Wales. Meanwhile, Shane had gotten bored and was doing wheelies in the bushes with Beastie. I waited just outside Grafton for them to reappear, then we rode straight to the end of the main street and got a room at the pub.
The bathroom was down the hall but the bedroom had a bar heater like a toaster oven and I cranked it right up. Country pub luxury with my man.
We made it to Coffs Harbour the next day and dined with Michael. He fed us well, as always: beautiful fresh vegetables, meat, sourdough bread. While Michael gleefully showed Shane embarrassing photographs of my 17 year old self, the rain came down outside. Later, when we went to ride back to our accommodation, Beastie’s headlight wouldn’t come on.
Don’t worry, I said, it’s not far. We can see… sort of.
The next morning we found a loose connection to my spotlight relay, and the lights came on again. Sweet! I had lights, a running motorbike, a sexy man on a superbike and it wasn’t even raining! What more could a girl want!
Well, you’ve got to enjoy what you’ve got while you can, because the rain was soon coming down again. As I watched Shane piloting the R1 through torrential rain, I felt a little bad: it was not superbike weather. Still, he was warm and dry in his new Rukka oufit whereas I was utterly soaked: my jeans were sopping and the water was filling my boots and moving up through the underlayers around my core.
We took refuge in Grafton Macca’s for a bit, inhaling hot oily hash browns in an attempt to regain heat and energy, but I was wet through. Nothing for it but to bite the bullet, and so we headed back out into sheeting rain.
Despite the horrible conditions, Beastie felt good and my tyres – Metzerler Enduro 3 Saharas with maybe 3,000km on them – felt solid even with the water sluicing across the road. So I opened the throttle and thought about the hot shower waiting for me on the other side of the Queensland border.
It was all going pretty well until that moment when I was overtaking a caravan on the wrong side of the road and the engine cut out. One moment I’m flying down the highway in sixth gear at a 110 and the next moment the power’s gone, my engine’s dead and I’m pulling in the clutch, trying to coast to the side of the road without getting taking out by the traffic I was overtaking.
There’s not much roadside there, either – about forty kilometres or so south of Ballina, the Pacific Highway is more of a single lane causeway than anything else. The shoulder was less than two feet wide, and I pulled Beastie as far over as I could.
The rain was pissing down.
I tried to start her again but she wouldn’t idle for more than a few seconds. Opening the throttle caused her to die immediately.
You bitch, I thought. Again? Seriously?
It’s all very well carrying tools, but sometimes the conditioons are against you. Shane was all for pulling the seat off and poking around the fuel pump, but I could barely see for the rain running down my face. More importantly, the semitrailers were roaring past us at 100km/h, way too close for safety. Off the side of the road, there was a metre deep drop into a sodden, overgrown ditch and then dense scrub: I checked it out hopefuly but there was no way to get the bike safely off the road on either side.
I took the Ram Mounts off my handlebars, removed my mirrors, and put the steering lock on. I’d decided.
‘Let’s go,’ I told Shane.
No way was I risking my life or Shane’s beside the road that day. The bike was insured; she could sit beside the road until I went back to Brisbane and got the ute.
No point crying salty tears about it.
I climbed up on the tiny pillion perch of the R1, crouching tiger style. I locked my arms around Shane’s waist and we cut up the traffic on a superbike for three hundred kilometres in the freezing rain.