No-one ever remembers a run where everything ran smoothly. You know that, right?
When you’re all sitting and recounting tales of former glories, has anyone actually ever said: “Hey, remember when we all rode down to the Island in 2009…and…um, I think it rained, and we all got there, and then we went home three days later? Wasn’t that fun?”
Bet they haven’t.
But the stories of Runs That Went To Shit are legion. They are what stay in your memory. Those runs are the ones that forge the friendships and etch themselves into your very being. You never forget those runs.
Adversity is what binds men together. It’s not enough that we all ride bikes and sometimes get wet and cars don’t see us. None of that is adversity. It’s just what comes with riding motorcycles. If you think that’s adversity, motorcycling is not for you.
True adversity is when something terrible happens and you have to deal with it. Then and there. Upon the instant.
Certainly, the most trying and testing of these events is when someone bins it, big style. That’s when you truly see the measure of who you’re riding with.
Some years ago, my mate, Bly, contrived to tear the front tyre off an oncoming 4WD with his leg. Blind crested bend, 4WD too far over in Bly’s lane, and shit happened. I was the bike immediately behind him.
What happened in the frantic minutes that followed was most telling. Several of us got our shit together very quickly and did what needed to be done in terms of stabilising Bly, summoning medical aid, and not losing our wits – because it was all pretty bad. Others on the ride just went to water, wandering around in circles, bug-eyed with confusion and despair. This does not make them bad people. It just makes them worthless in a crisis.
It wasn’t funny at the time, but we laugh about it today.
A peg or two down from an accident, is a major Fail-To-Proceed.
Big country this. Lots of space between phone signals and towns. And while the bikes we have today are wonderfully reliable, this was not always the case.
One minute all is sweetness and chasing the horizon. The next minute there’s a bunch of sweaty (or freezing) blokes standing beside a bike that is not working. Sometimes, they stand there for hours. Or overnight.
You know how it is. Can’t/won’t leave the bike. Can’t/won’t leave a mate who can’t/won’t leave the bike.
No-one has any idea how to fix it, or everyone has too many ideas about what to do – but eventually it somehow works out. You might kick a lot of gravel by the side of the road, toss a lot of a sticks at the vultures circling overhead, and burn with righteous hatred at the broken bike and the idiot who was riding it when it broke because that makes it all his fault – but when it’s all been sorted, and you’re having that very welcome beer and ruefully laughing about it all, that is when that run will stay with you forever.
You will tell the tale a thousand times. You’ll add bits to it to make it more dramatic, and take away the boring bits like when you’re chucking rocks at the fence-line for three hours straight.
In today’s low-risk/low-reward world this doesn’t happen all that much. Even on so-called Adventure rides. Someone might scratch an overloaded pannier or break a comms device on the side of their helmet, and that’s about it.
On the road, it’s unlikely much of anything dire will happen if the only place you ever go riding is the usual bike-haunted café/pie shop every Sunday. You might get booked for ten kay over, and then you can hate the cops for a week or so – but that’s pretty much it. Awesome, huh?
As riders age, they become more risk-averse. It’s happening to me. Like, I will still do stupid shit, but it’s just marginally less stupid than it would have been when I was like thirty.
Younger riders? Hell, from what I can see, none of them do anything stupid at all – apart from ride poorly and blame the road and the cars when they crash. They don’t do long rides, and are happy just visiting pizza joints and gelaterias when the Facebook page they belong to organises such an event.
And we’re right back at that low risk/low reward paradigm.
Makes me wonder why they bothered taking up riding motorcycles in the first place.
I am not saying every ride you go on needs to be death-defying carnival of chaos.
But every now and then a death-defying carnival of chaos is exactly what it needs to be in order for you to have any stories at all to tell anyone.
So live not a little. Never just live a little.
Live a lot. Go out and get it wrong.
And then make it right as best as you can.
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Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.