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!