…..Chainsaw on steroids

Lucky me, I could pick up the BMW S1000XR on Saturday, one of only two of the new models in New Zealand and my one is the first one on the road. She’s simple grey and has all available specs.

First time starting it at the dealer, the thought that’s going straight to my head is… . chainsaw on steroids… what an intense sound.

Being used to two cylinders I must admit I forgot how a high output 4 cylinder sounds. Many people will say… well.. it’s only 165 hp compared to the 200 hp in the RR, but seriously, do you believe you will be anywhere faster in New Zealand having 35 horses more… I doubt. It is a harder seat than on the GS and you feel more packed into the bike, like a good racing seat in a car.

Once she’s a little bit warmed up she’s revving around 2000 rpm. And seriously… it feels like you have your hands on a high powered chainsaw that wants you to cut a way through the traffic.

With these “MadMax” feeling I start navigating my way through the noon traffic…… God, give me a open road, preferably the German Autobahn…. well… won’t happen.

I am ending up speeding between slowly rolling cars, jumping lanes, exhilarating away at traffic lights… definitely a new preferable art to loose my licence.

So…. what’s the verdict : Love the bike, easy to handle (just keep your right hand away from the round thing that initiates the chainsaw sound…(and makes you reaching 100km/h in 2.9 seconds)

I see myself having adrenaline pumped up rides, on open, windy roads and to test how low you can get her on my favourite corners on the roads I love to ride. I am looking forward to come home with a wide smile in my face and a exhilarating heart rate (more speed, more fun)

Probably not as comfortable as a GS, but therefore… I can grab one every other day and that is a advantage of running a motorcycle hire business…

Trusting the training wheels

At school, it is easy to remember you’re learning. That you will be expected to prove you have been listening by passing tests – it’s all part of the day job and something to take in your stride. Growing up, reading, writing and arithmetic help set us up for adulthood so we could write shopping lists and speeches and calculate budgets and business plans, and people usually preferring one set of those tasks over the other. Me, it isn’t the maths.

There is the other kind of learning that you do by osmosis. By watching people and by listening, reading and doing. You aren’t formally tested on how you’re getting on, although the folk around you will usually let you know – ‘don’t talk with your mouth full’, ‘don’t hit your sister’, ‘don’t swear at that stranger’, ‘keep it up, you’re doing well…’.

The Welsh have a saying, ‘every day is a school day’ – and I do think life is about continuing to learn. Having suffered a brain injury over two years ago (long story, different blog) the thought of learning a new skill was a bit daunting. Deciding that my new skill would be riding a motorbike was a brilliant brainwave brought about by my insatiable curiosity and desire to enjoy more of what Marcus had introduced to me.

For me, learning to ride a motorbike has called on both ways of learning, and continues to call as I continue to learn. The first step to becoming a rider was getting my Learner Licence, which included a Basic Handling Skills course where I basically ensured I had the slightest skills required for handling a motorbike on my own – how to turn it on, how to put it into first gear, how to brake and how to stay upright. I was the only one who dropped the instructor’s Suzuki 125 as I tried to weave my way around little cones on a little court, and he would have been pleased when I returned for the next lesson on my freshly acquired, Learner Approved G310R – thus leaving the heartbreak of any mishandling in my hands.

I also had to sit my first formal test in over two decades, sitting in a queue with nervous teenagers hoping I had memorised the Road Code and could manoeuvre my way around multichoice. I didn’t tell anyone I was sitting the test that day in case I needed to keep failure to myself, so imagine my glee when I sent a photo of the temporary licence? It also helped I was having a great hair day for required updated photo.

With freshly minted licence in hand, I was sent off from the little tennis court of learning with a certificate and an L plate to help me on my way. The first time I changed up to second gear was also the first time I was on road alone, but I felt mildly confident as Marcus joined me for our first ride on real roads. I’ll confess, I was obviously over-confident and we both quickly realised I would need lots of time practising the basics on quiet roads. Marcus joined me on most of them, sending instructions though our helmet intercom and critiquing and complimenting as we went. His patience was (is) outstanding and allowed me to learn at my pace without pressure.

The best way to learn is to do, and so I did. I rode whenever I could and gave myself imaginary bonus points for going on the motorway and not stalling at lights – giving myself extra points and smiling broadly each time a fellow rider acknowledged me as part of the gang. After six months it was time to remove the L plate and sit another test. On the day of the test it was teeming with rain and I hoped it would be cancelled but alas, no. In my horrifically unstylish but terribly useful full rainsuit, I confidently headed to the test course…but the rules got in the way! Rules! I failed for not adopting a longer following distance in the rain on the motorway – something I was actually grateful for as I had failed for my own safety. I was told I was a good rider otherwise, so the tears of frustration were relatively short-lived.

When I finally did pass, removing the L plate also removed some of the hesitancy I had about my ability. I am not a reckless rider but a mindful motorcyclist – taking the time to take in my surroundings and anticipating the actions of others. When I take my bike out it never feels like a chaotic commute or a charmless chore and I learn something every time. The lessons range from how the bike handles differently depending on where I am on the seat, to how the tyres feel on wet road paint. With each ride and each lesson, I rely less on my virtual training wheels. I can’t imagine I’ll every truly lose them though.

Ride Sally, Ride!

I had thought any relationship I’d have with motorbikes had ended in my early 20s after an unplanned and unwise pillion ride through the hilly streets of Genoa – my face felt millimetres from melting into the Italian pavement and I swore that if I survived I’d never straddle a seat again.

But jump forward twenty years and along came Marcus with his passion for big BMWs and a desire to show me how fun a blast on the back can be. The first time I sat behind him, I was glued to his back. My arms were wrapped like anchors around him with my heart in my mouth and my eyes like saucers as I feigned fearlessness. But Marcus knew how I was feeling so chose to ride in a way that soon had me lulled into the rhythm of the ride, and I was hooked.

Within two months I had my Learner Licence, a G310R and an uncanny ability to drop my bike at intersections. As Marcus said, I was a good rider – I just wasn’t any good at starting and stopping. But as he patiently went riding with me, my confidence slowly grew. There was never a pressure to race, just to enjoy, and, boy, did I. I bought second-hand Alpinestars jacket and pants and felt super cool – legitimate in leather with a hint of midlife crisis thrown in.

With the spirit of other great riding duos, we went on road adventures. My first time competing for time on State Highway One was a slow but picturesque circumnavigation of Lake Taupo with my visor up to truly appreciate the nature around me by welcoming fresh air and kamikaze bees. Although we were riding together, it also felt like a solo mission. An exercise in mindfulness as I silently thought of little more than the road directly ahead.

When Covid-19 restrictions were eased, we spontaneously booked ferry tickets and a five-day road trip to the top of the South Island. It was a freezing May morning as we waited on the Wellington wharf to board the ferry so I was grateful for the heated grips Marcus had put on a day earlier. Whilst there were only a few other riders aboard the Interislander with us, we acknowledged each other in the friendly way the motorcycle community does – I also love the on-road greetings in the form of a nod or small wave, recognising our mutual appreciation of the easy joy of riding.

After five glorious autumnal days covering almost 600km including the Takaka Hill (slow) and the Rai Valley (freezing) I felt ready to ditch the bright yellow L plate and sit the test for my Restricted. I hadn’t felt pressure like it since university exams and butterflies were in abundance. Nerves and minor mishaps meant I had to sit it more than once, but I got there. The L Plate was ceremoniously ripped from its home at the back of my beloved Beemer and I’ve advanced. I faced a fear and found it fabulous, happily spending lots of time and money on my priceless new passion…ride Sally, ride!

Riding a motorbike in New Zealand…(or not)

If you are a well travelled rider, wanderlust may one day draw you to New Zealand – a perfect piece of paradise at the bottom of the world (several other countries want to go for the title too, but we will leave it at that for the moment).

Most of New Zealand roads are a mix of compressed gravel and tar, which makes it a gripping, tyre eating surface that will also take your skin off in chunks if you find yourself having too close a relationship with it. Despite that, it’s mostly a really fun ride and you can feel safe that gravity and g-forces are well working physics on New Zealand roads and, of course, you will have a good set of tyres to keep you upright on them.

It might seem easy to adapt from riding on the right side of the road to the left – and I must say, as long as you have oncoming traffic, it is. Quite often you will find yourself for a time without any traffic (hard to imagine if you are from Europe) so, when it appears, you just need to swerve back with the hope the next oncoming car provides enough room and a big enough adrenalin shock to make it clear you belong on the left hand side of the road.

Two things you should never forget are, firstly, be wary of white cars (especially any Toyota Corolla) as there is an 80% chance they are tourists in a rental car who may suddenly stop in the middle of the road to take photos or – worse – not come as prepared as you and be on the wrong side of the the road.

Secondly, do not speed… I promise you the cops will be onto you and the speeding fines in New Zealand will bring tears in your eyes. The police are so well drilled at handing out speeding tickets that as check your speedo as soon as you spot one, you will automatically feel like a criminal.

Enough negativity. The roads wind perfectly, the views are spectacular and the traffic is minimal compared to any European country. The people are friendly and a cold beer at the local pub after an adventurous day riding is liquid gold…come and enjoy.

Why did I start a motorcycle hire business in New Zealand?

Growing up in Western Germany, I had always two wheels and when I turned 15 I was legally able to add a engine to it. Riding motorbikes in Germany and around the neighbouring countries was a fairly normal thing to do.

My old friend Wini and his Buell X1 Lightning was my partner in crime when we were touring – often too fast when we really wanted to get somewhere. Our rides to Corsica trips were pretty insane. We had no one else we wanted to ride with as they were too slow or stopped too often to enjoy the view.

Financially secure at 37, I left life in Germany and went on an 18 month trip with my friend Andy in an 11 tonne, four wheel drive exhibition truck. 49,000 km later we ended up in New Zealand, all our money gone on an awesome trip half around the World. I must admit that for my first five years in New Zealand I was scared to ride as I had in Germany. Different roads, different drivers so there was no riding for me.

My desire to be back on the bike was getting bigger than the fear of ending up in a wheelchair and a 2001 BMW 1150 GS helped me over my withdrawal symptoms. She was cheap, dented, white with blue and red and looked like a dated cop bike without having been one.

I have been a tradie all my life, and have worked my way up from the tools to a management position. Unfortunately building anything in New Zealand seems to have become a nightmare of red tape and regulations and I am not so keen to be in an industry I am no longer interested in, even though I had a good income and job security. I wanted to do something I loved – dealing with uncomplicated people who want to enjoy life..in short, motorcyclists.

All the money I had and some that I don’t have went into my adventure “Bad Horse Bikes”. I decided to specialise in BMW’s for no special reason other than just a good feeling of what the Bavarian’s have to offer. Whilst I never had a BMW in Germany, and my white GS in New Zealand never let me down – a good enough reason to build a business based around it.