Beastie and I are on the road. After days of frantic disarray, I finally had Beastie loaded like a pack mule. We trundled slowly out of town, largely unnoticed and unremarked upon, because a girl and her motorbike can only take so much excitement in the space of a few short days.
After the overwhelming reunions and goodbyes of a Saturday night farewell party, now I could only think about the unfinished state of my headlight cut-out switch and where I was going to find a spoke spanner the right size. The final session of work on the bike had run to 4.30am on Tuesday morning, but time was not on my side – or more precisely, on the side of my more mechanically talented friend who, having worked on the bike all night with me, then had the pleasure of going back to his day job a few hours later.
It had all come unravelled around installation of the lowering link. It should have been a straight-forward job and it would have been, had the rear linkage bolt not been catastrophically seized. I think the technical solution to that problem is a ‘big, fuck-off rattle gun’ and possibly some judicious application of heat and solvents, but these things could not be had in a dark backyard in the middle of the night, and my careful schedule of work was thoroughly derailed.
This was by no means a disaster, but I kept thinking about all the left-over tasks; it wasn’t quite the ‘right, nothing left to do but ride!’ feeling that I’d been aiming for. But you don’t need to get what you want all the time.
I loaded up Beastie anyway and off we went. A bright spot – and I mean literally, a bright life-raft orange spot – were my gorgeous new RTW Panniers supplied by our good man Harold at Giant Loop. I was, and am, pretty excited about them. I’d set my heart on soft panniers long ago, for many reasons, one of the most important being the likelihood of less damage to both and myself and Beastie during dirt naps, as compared to hard panniers. So I was dreaming of some kind of soft pannier set up which would be suitably capacious, waterproof, ergonomic and virtually indestructible, and I’m looking forward to putting these ones to the test. More about this later.
So, like I say, Beastie and I trundled slowly out of town, rapidly learning lessons about what it’s like to ride around with all your possessions and camping gear strapped to the back of your motorbike.
Lesson One: You are no longer as skinny as you think you are.
Just because your handlebars and safari tank and knees fit through that gap, does not mean your panniers will. Maybe lane a filter a little less aggressively, and approach small spaces with circumspection. (There’s a mechanic at a service station at Ingleburn who’s probably still wetting himself at the recollection of me misjudging the gap between a parked car and a parked truck on my way to the bowser. I aim to please.)
Lesson Two: Your fuel economy will be slaughtered.
Guess who ran low on fuel on the Hume Highway, for goodness’ sake? Didn’t I feel like an proper idiot stopping for fuel in Collector, having thought I’d have at least another 80km of mileage in the tank. So much for fearlessly adventuring around Uzbekistan. On the up side, however, the people at Some Café in Collector are officially some of the nicest people you’ll meet, and willing guardian angels of many a feckless traveller. Go see them, and ask about a film called The Bikes of Wrath. They like a good adventure too.
Lesson Three: Everything feels horrible.
The handling is obese, the acceleration is ponderous, you think your brakes need bleeding, the front forks dive under braking, you can’t ride for shit. Beastie, baby, what have I done! I thought, and immediately vowed to throw out half of everything. I mean, seriously, what was I thinking – three t-shirts for 2 years? Four pairs of socks? Who even needs that?
So I laboured towards the mountains, on a bit of a southern loop to say goodbye to my Dad on my way out of the country.
He is going to laugh so hard, I thought. This is the man who always told me not to ride a motorbike I couldn’t drag under a fence. Well, I couldn’t drag this one under a fence, but with all my gear on it I could probably use mass and inertia to ride through the damn fence…
I prepared myself to look like an idiot, and headed for the hills.