Monday, September 29, 2014

Dakar 2015

Alright people, it is less than 100 days to the Dakar rally, the only motorsport event in the world worth watching. Of that, of course, it's the motorcycles and the trucks that steal the show.
Come on Honda!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

the Campotosto Mystic Trip: a report.

The idea for this weekend getaway came about when I met up with the boys on their way back from the Alps: high on the thrill of a proper bike trip, we promised ourselves we'd try and squeeze in one more salute to summer, another ride.
Having loved Campotosto so much last year (a place we knew almost nothing about, and that was a real surprise for how good it was), we felt that going back there would not have disappointed. And it didn't.
I had spread the word to a select few other unaffiliated, non-aligned motorcyclists and, although the idea was well received, one by one people started to back down (for perfectly good reasons), to the point that I wondered if I'd be going at all.
But Marco was there, resolute from the get go, and we decided to go, just the two of us. So romantic, I know.
You see, Witold was in Poland doing something crazy, and later he did something even crazier: his return flight landed in the early afternoon on Saturday, he grabbed his sleeping bag, fired up the Commando and absolutely gunned it on the A24 to catch up with us.
How he didn't blow himself up, we shall never know. All hail the Norton.
But let's go back to the morning. Marco and I met at my garage to get the luggage on the bikes, top up the oil and try to figure out what we were bound to have been forgetting. We still don't know, so it can't have been that important.
We left Rome at the crack of noon...
To avoid getting stuck in the never-ending miasma of small towns, roundabouts and traffic lights between Rome and Tivoli, we decided to hop onto the A24 highway, bypass it all and come out at the edge of the Lucretili nature reserve. This is where we stopped for lunch, then the real trip began. I wonder if the 'shrooms in the pasta were somehow psychotropic...
I had prepared an itinerary to take us through natural parks, up and around lakes, through valleys and over mountains, all the way to Campotosto, and the flavour of the trip was always going to be somewhat psychedelic, but never in our wildest predictions could we have foreseen the sheer out-of-time, altered-state-of-consciousness type of experience that we had.

That yellow bag looks enormous, and while it's definitely on the XL side (that's a little inside joke for Sportster aficionados), it is by no means cumbersome or disproportionate. In fact, it makes for a wonderful backrest, which, coupled with the touring seat and windshield makes this a 1200cc armchair. What better way to tour? Honestly!
When we came across this armchair, in the middle of a prehistoric forest, we knew we were in for something special:
The ride up to the lake was so good, that I have saved the itinerary and we will be using it again next year, hopefully for another version of the trip, possibly with more people, we'll see.
You'll have heard proponents of esoteric practices and miscellaneous snake-oil salesmen say that crystals (or what have you) resonate at certain frequencies; well, this trip resonated at 90Km/h, that was the effortless pace at which we glided across the land like fish through water, or birds through the air. We kept seeing fleeting glimpses of the plumed serpent ahead of us beyond the next corner, or over a hill, or through the shimmering water of the lakes and rustling leaves of the trees, never quite catching it. Perhaps that's no surprise, since it took us SEVEN hours to cover 200km, so it probably just got bored and flew on. Seven hours, how is this possible? Simple, we stepped out of time, into other dimensions, and re-emerged on the shores of lake Campotosto having had a powerful trip indeed.
Then I found a message on my phone, it was Witold: "is everything ok? I got here half an hour ago and there's still no sign of you..."
When we got to the campsite he rightly pointed out that it took him less time to get there from Poland than it did us from Rome. Wow!

"C'ho messo de meno io daa Polonia..."
Above: notice Witold's clever anti-rattle solution, an absolute must when travelling on the Commando at high speed.

Being late in the season and fairly cool, there was nobody else staying there, and even at the restaurant there was only another table filled, so we basically had the place to ourselves and it was fantastic. The food was second to none, that in and of itself a reason to keep coming back, and the setting for tents and motorcycles is idyllic, but check your shoes before you put them on in the morning...

Even the ride back on Sunday was great, and because - truthfully - we're not far from home, it means that these destinations allow us to focus on the fun and forget the drudgery of the way back home. Who needs to waste days on ferries and endless highways when we can be trippin' balls over here?
The ride back on Sunday was fairly quick, but we still got to see some fantastic scenery, or at least I did because I was riding slow. Those two had tunnel vision: rev counter and trajectories.

 Above: notice Marco hot on Witold's heels coming out of the hairpin.

And here they are on another swooping hairpin up the mountain, in order, the Norton and the BMW:

Below, a swig of gentiana moonshine for Witold, to calm the nerves after a brutally fast uphill climb, while I chillax and think about the fickle nature of time:

(Speaking of moonshine, it don't get more authentic than this:)

"...and remember kids, throttles and bottles don't mix."

Seriously, how cool is that beemer. And having swapped bikes with Marco for a few miles on Saturday, I can tell you that this thing rides like a scalpel. I kinda want one. Conversely, Marco was totally flabbergasted by the inescapable unwieldiness of the Sportster. I love my bike, but I can't deny that it's a lump of iron.

We talk to our bikes, no point denying it.

Something's gotta give: a quick roadside repair and a final blast to get home. There will be plenty to keep us busy this coming winter, probably more than we can fit in actually. Time to invest in a proper heater for the garage, and keep our eyes on the prize: next spring, more riding. Forestman will be there: