May 21, 2010
At a place called Kimba in South Australia, we halted to take a picture of a giant galah, but then we managed to get Geoff out of shot so we could get a photo of the big parrot.
Our next break was at Iron Knob, as we just couldn’t resist.
It is the birthplace of the Aussie steel industry, as the knob itself was almost pure iron ore.
As mature adventurers, we felt beholden to crack some puerile knob jokes, many featuring rust, before decamping for a last blast to Port Augusta.
This was meant to be our last night in the bush, for tomorrow, it was Adelaide and the end of our long run.
As it turned out we had one more final night out in the country, as with the chaos caused by the Icelandic volcano eruption, we hadn’t yet heard from our airline and so had no date to fly.
Rather than rush into Adelaide we detoured to the Clare Valley, a famous wine growing region.
The explorer Horrocks is buried there and as Geoff was tickled by his tale, we stopped at his grave and monument so he could pay tribute.
Clare town is right next to the Armagh valley settlement, so we felt right at home, and it seemed fitting that we spent our last day roaming around familiar place names.
Spotting an Irish tricolour flying at a small country pub, we decided to investigate and learned that the Irish had come here in force over the past 200 years, and become heavily involved in the wine business. The barman displayed one bottle from the vineyard of a local maker called James Barry.
‘$270’ he said casually.
‘What $2.70? said Hill, still reeling from his experience at the Voyager winery in WA.
‘No, $270, though you can get some for around $190.’
Geoff picked himself up off the floor and acted like a carpenter, that is, he made a bolt for the door.
I put the bottle down very carefully and, as they say in the journalism trade, made our excuses and left.
The next day, we were suddenly in Adelaide.
It was something of a culture shock, as one minute we were sailing through rolling sheep and wheat country and the next caught up in heavy traffic heading into the city on a three-lane freeway.
The Adelaide Adventure was over. We pulled in elated, but at the same time deflated and with those mixed feelings chewing around inside us, congratulated each other on making it all the way around.
April 22, 2010
We have been to Halls Creek and we won’t be going back.
It’s a pinprick on the map, with just one pub cum hotel-motel, one motel and a caravan park and that’s pretty much it.
It was the only fuel stop until Fitzroy Crossing, another dot on the route, and after riding all day through the spectacular East Kimberleys, we pulled up with almost dry tanks and even dryer mouths planning to stay the night. Oh how we wish we hadn’t.
The motel turned out to be vastly overpriced, the hotel even more so and both appeared to have ideas above their station, and seemed to be running some sort of cartel in the town.
We decided on the caravan park, which also knew how to charge at $36 for three people on an unpowered site.
Basically $12 each to use their showers.
It got worse when we tried to find something to eat and drink. The liquor store closed at 5pm, leaving only the hotel which refused to sell Geoff anything but light beer as he wasn’t a resident – the logic of which still escapes us.
As for food, the only choice was the restaurant at the motel which we were told did ‘delicious’ take-away pizza.
We ordered two and were informed by the Asian woman running the place that they were $25 each, but were ‘very large’.
She then took my card and when I got the receipt, also foud that she had charged $1.50 for using a credit card, infuriating me, as that is one of my pet hates, and it is nothing more than a rip-off pure and simple. If I’d have known I’d have refused to pay and gone and got cash.
The pizzas duly arrived and were not ‘very large’, not even ‘large’ and when we bit into them, we couldn’t tell one from the other, despite the fact one was allegedly a Hawaiian and the other barbecue chicken. The base was like rubber and obviously frozen.
Our next problem was sleeping arrangements, as there was not enough room for three in Matilda, and being qall manly men, didn’t fancy spooning up together anyway.
Mightily pissed off with weak beer, crap pizza and now the rubbish band at the pub across the street starting up for the big Friday night dance, where shearers meet Sheilas and make Bruces, we decided to turn in as the excitement was all too much.
Geoff and I pulled two foam matresses out of the van, electing to sleep outside, despite the worrying sight of lightning on the horizon all around us and the fact that the ants were scurrying around madly, a sure sign of rain that we ignored.
Paul, as Matilda’s keeper, and newboy settling in, got the van.
Scared of creepy crawlies, Geoff made up his bed on a picnic table and proceeded to start sawing his way through it using only his nasal passages.
I settled down under a tree, which was OK for a while until I was crapped on by bats twice, causing me to shift out into the open.
Then it happened. First just a few drops to get your attention. Then nothing. We settled back down. Then it started again, totally without warning – no thunder, lightning or even a wisp of a breeze, but down it came.
Geoff asked me if I thought it was on for a while. I answered by picking up my bedding and making for the awning over reception. He also headed off – to the van I assumed.
The rain was relentless. Just when you thought it was slacking off, down it would come again even heavier.
I lay there, gradually getting wetter and wetter, as the awning proved about as waterproof as a colander, listening to my radio tell me of ‘widespread thunderstorms over the Kimberley region, with ‘heavy rain and flooding expected in some areas’.
‘Right bloody here’ I thought.
I continued to try to sleep, moving around as a new leak appeared in each part of the overhang. I was listening to a local Aboriginal station until I twigged they were surreptitiously slipping in Christian records about every third song, without letting on, so changed over to the ABC, where I learned all about what the current crop of Aussie actors were doing in Hollywood and how to make a will valid in every state in the Commonwealth.
I even sent my wife a text telling her of my predicament, but got no return message. I sensed she probably either didn’t trust herself to reply or couldn’t hit the right keys as she was laughing so much.
Just as I was slipping off, wet but warm, the heavens completely opened and water poured through every part of the roof. I felt like an extra on ‘Das Boot’.
I suddenly remembered there was a laundry section in the toilet block which was open and dashed there, only to find Mr Hill recumbent on the washing counter, looking like a blonde King Tut. As I entered, the sensor switched the neon lights on, blinding us both. It was now 4am.
Mumbling apologies, I threw my wet mattress on the ground with a splat, lay on it, wrapped my feet in the wet sleeping bag and lay there waiting for the timer to turns the lights off.
At around 5.15am, the lights snapped on again and I awoke to the glorious spectacle and olfactory treat of another camper emptying his chemical toilet into a drain three feet from my head.
That was the last straw. I got up and stomped off, closely followed by Geoff, both of us in need of eight hours sleep, and failing that, tea and coffee and sympathy.
Paul was also awake, having been lying in a pool of sweat as he gently steamed in Matilda, unable to open the windows because of the biblical flood outside.
When I went to pick up my motorcycle boots, which I had cunningly secreted under the eaves of the toilet block to keep them dry, I found a green tree frog had taken up residence in one. As I shook them to remove any nasties, he emerged and clung on using his sticky feet and looked at me accusingly. That’s how bad a night it was – even the amphibians were trying to get out of the rain. Losing patience, I told him to hop it and he did.
We breakfasted after having to borrow a lighter to light our stove, as ours, like everything else, was soaking.
Hungover with lack of sleep, we voted Halls Creek the ‘Shithole of the Adventure’ so far, vowed never to return and left while dawn was still breaking, leaving the mercenary burghers dreaming of new scams to rip-off tourists.
Oh, we happy few.
After we got far enough away from the benighted place and the sun finally made an appearance, we stopped at a roadside halt to dry all our clothes, beds and sleeping bags, hanging them on bushes making the scenic desert look like a hobos camp – which it was after a fashion.
Dry and still sleepy , we made for greener pastures towards Fitzroy Crossing, and either Derby or Broome after that, and a decent bed for at least one night.
April 20, 2010
Check this video out. As we were filming on Bondi Beach we walked into what looked like a film shoot with lots of cameras and commotion.
Little did we know that it was actually a real rescue unfolding being filmed as part of the TV doc ‘Bondi Rescue’ for Channel 10.
As we mucked about on the beach and Matt made the boys walk around with their bike helmets on for a laugh, the Lifeguards of Bondi thought this a little curious to say the least and featured Geoff and Colin briefly in their programme. You can see the boys appear at 5.40 mins through the video on Youtube above.
Thanks to our mate Jennifer in Sydney who spotted the boys when this aired on Aussie TV, immediately alerted us and tracked down the footage.
March 25, 2010
For two days at Angeline’s Bondi Bed and Breakfast, we had rested our weary heads on Egyptian cotton sheets, washed our dusty limbs under showers which were like the quality of mercy that falls from heaven upon the place beneath, snuggled into fluffy cotton towels and salved our dry throats in the morning with free-range organic Colombian coffee which had been picked then hand-knitted by blind widows on the slopes above Bogota who had then been killed to take their secrets with them to the grave.
Out the back you could see the ocean, and out the front was a park which was busy from dawn to dusk with children and adults alike playing sport, confirming my belief that Australia is the healthiest nation on earth.
Sadly, after two days swanning around at Angeline’s, some paying customers arrived and we had to return to the real world in the shape of the Sydney Harbour Youth Hostel, but even that proved to be a far cry from the youth hostels of my youth, with shiny staff, matching rooms and even en-suite bathrooms, for heaven’s sake.
“Can’t understand why they don’t have the rooms closer to the front door. And why you have to go up steps then down again to get to them,” said Colin as we carried the bags in.
“Oh do stop moaning, you bloody whingeing Aussie drongo,” I said cheerfully, then perked him up by taking him over to Deus Ex Machina.
All devotees of Greek and Latin drama, which I’m sure includes all of you, will know that this means God from the machine, and is a device used by crap playwrights when they realise they’ve only got one minute to go in the last act and no denouement in sight.
Solution: enter God left with magic wand, and all sorted.
He’d certainly been busy inside Deus, I thought as we wandered around looking at bog standard bikes which had been transformed into works of art.
The men behind this magic include Dare Jennings, who used to run the surf clothing giant Mambo before he and a couple of friends started Deus in 1996, and head of sales Shaun Zammit,
“Here, are your parents from the planet Krypton, or do you guys just pick your names out of a Superman comic?” I said to Shaun as we stood looking at a Triumph Thruxton, already my favourite bike in the world, which the mechanics at Deus had made even faster and more beautiful, a thing I had previously thought impossible.
“I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you,” said Shaun, whose parents turned out in fact to have been from Malta and Yorkshire.
“Fair enough. And how much will you sell me this for?”
“To you, $40,000, although we might take your Tiger in part exchange.”
I sighed deeply, and bought a T-shirt from the sale rack instead.
March 22, 2010
While in Sydney we met James Freeman, the organiser of the inaugural and brilliantly titled Shitbox Rally.
James came up with the idea to raise money for a cancer charity after he lost both his parents to the disease within a few months of each other just last year.
The idea is that competitors have to buy a ‘shitbox’ car, spending less than $1,000 in total, before driving it from Sydney to Alice Springs in the red centre.
They must also raise more than $3,000 to enter and when, or if, they get to Alice, the vehicles are auctioned off to raise more cash, if anyone is generous – or foolish – enough to buy them.
When we met him, James’s phone was running red hot but he took the time to explain how he’d come up with the idea.
“I just started calling it the shitbox, as that’s what the cars were – shitboxes. Then I sat down and tried to come up with a name that would describe what it was all about, and realised that the Shitbox Rally said it all, so that was it.”
He said it wasn’t really a rally.
“It’s not a race as such. We’ll all be traveling in convoy really and if anyone breaks down or gets bogged, we’ll all help each other out. We’ve got a few challenges on the way, but really it’s going to be more about the fun and meeting people and having a good time.”
Jamie said there were around 20 teams entered, a response which had amazed him.
“We’ve already had more than 200 people wanting to join in next year’s race, but we wanted to keep this one manageable for this year to see how it goes, but all being well’ next year the Shitbox will be full-on.”
Early next morning – 6.30am to be precise, Mr Hill took great sadistic pleasure in getting Matt and I up to go down to Centennial Park to meet the lunatics ready to drive across the desert in their clapped out old bangers.
It was worth the Herculean effort, as we met as bizarre and amusing a bunch of eccentrics as you’d find outside of the funny farm
There were a bunch of lads with their mum’s 25-year-old runabout, painted up to look like one of the3 interceptor cars in the Mad Max movies, with the guys also in costume and character.
One of them said: “It’s not about the car, it’s all about looking cool and getting the chicks.”
As he was saying this, two Penelope Pitstops from the old TV cartoon show, the Wacky Races, complete with pink dresses, white helmets, goggles and boots turned up, and the boys made a beeline to intercept them.
Another two girls had customised their banger to look like a ladybird, while a couple in ‘Shitty-Shitty-Bang-Bang’ had gone for the 80s disco bling look, complete with gold and black tracksuits, medallions and headbands.
After – what else – a barbie breakfast, the entrants posed for a group photo before climbing into their modified wrecks and headed for Alice Springs, promising to keep in touch and let us know how they got on – those poor deluded fools.
Meanwhile, us poor deluded fools headed back for breakfast and another hour in bed, as we had stayed up a bit too late taking in the nightlife of the Rocks which is Sydney’s answer to Temple Bar in Dublin – crammed full of pubs and people.
Our afternoon was taken up with a tour of Circular Quay, Sydney’s main ferry terminal, which has the Harbour Bridge on one side and the Opera House on the other, with a constant flotilla of ferries and jet boats and other tourists attractions constantly plying back and forward – sort of like a maritime Heathrow.
I suggested we get out on the water and take a return ticket trip around the harbour to get a sea-level view of the city. It’s a great way to understand just how the city works and how vital the harbour is to both commerce and pleasure and has the added bonus of fresh air and is always a couple of degrees cooler.
The guys agreed and we had a pleasant afternoon seing all the sights from the water. A crowd of schoolboys from a college in Melbourne on a school trip around the country, joined us for part of the voyage.
Their day was made when an attractive young woman sitting on the prow of a passing speedboat lifted her top and flashed them, causing much hilarity.
After all that All of us were banjaxed, and with Mr Hill nodding off in his chair after dinner, it wasn’t long before we headed for Matilda, where as the designated driver, I crunched her unfamiliar gears all the way home, before backing into a telegraph pole outside the hostel – well, it was dark. No damage done, at least none we can see.
March 20, 2010
We rose at dawn and set our sights north, riding on a tree-lined highway through rolling parkland which had climbed to high sierras as we stopped for a break at noon, sitting in the shade outside a roadhouse as three Harley riders rolled in and walked inside with a nod.
“So sad the way middle-aged men feel the need to go riding around on motorbikes so they can feel like heroes,” I said.
“Aye, what’s that all about?” said Matt.
“Beats me,” said Colin, and we rode on, passing some wonderful old cars out for a Sunday drive, since Australia, like California, is a land where the climate is kind to ancient metal; an acid yellow Ford V8, a purple Valiant, an endless black Cadillac with fins and whitewall tyres, and a silver E-Type convertible.
The afternoon stretched on, languid and hot, and to stop myself from nodding off, I kept myself amused by spotting road signs such as Gordon Exit Here, and wondering how many Gordons had exited then wondered why, or Howlong This Exit, and muttering happily to the inside of my helmet: “Not so long, thanks for asking”.
It was when I found myself humming The Holly and the Ivy that I realised it was time to stop for the day, in a town called Albury, a pleasantly shady Victorian town so laid back that when it looked for another town to twin with, it looked no further than Wodonga half a mile across the Murray River.
We found a room at the venerable Seaton Arms Motor Inn, whose very name conjured up images of excited honeymoon couples motoring north from Melbourne in their secondhand Model T looking forward to a fine steak dinner in front of a roaring fire followed by a night of freshly wedded bliss and waking together to the kookaburras chattering in the trees outside.
At a little Italian restaurant, we dined a lot better than early explorer Gerard Krefft, who passed through these parts in 1857, captured alive several specimens of the rare pig-footed bandicoot, then got so hungry he ate them, shortly after which the species became extinct.
“They are very good eating, and I am sorry to confess that my appetite…over-ruled my love for science,” he wrote shamefacedly in his journal.
As I sat tucking into spaghettia alla carbonara, it was obvious that we had left the urban coastline for farming country: lean and bronzed had become stocky and sunburnt, raw silk dresses and straw hats had become jeans, tattoos and baseball caps trumpeting the merits of assorted sheep dips, and vintage classics for the evening cruise had become supercharged hot rods straight out of American Graffiti.
But then, for us its main merit was that it was exactly halfway between Melbourne and Canberra; or so I thought until I went for a constitutional the next morning and found the glass window of a hotel lobby lined with mint classic cars: an E-Type, a Stingray, a Rolls-Royce, a Riley, an MG and a stately Jaguar Mark VII.
“Oh, the bloke who bought the building thought he may as well stick his car collection in the window while he got around to renovating the hotel,” said a passing housewife in answer to the question I hadn’t asked her.
I wandered back to the Seaton Arms to find Matt packing up and Colin, obviously inspired by the example of Krefft, finishing off his breakfast then the last of his left-over pizza from the night before.
Before long we were speeding north through wooded hills and surprisingly lush meadows in which grazed plump Aberdeen Angus cattle, blissfully unaware that their future could be summed up in three words: moo, bang, sizzle.
February 27, 2010
Adventures always begin at dawn.
Or, to be more precise, standing in the Belfast rain at four in the morning waiting for the bus to Dublin Airport with Colin and our enormous film crew of Matt and his mate Gareth McGrillan.
“Everybody got everything?” said Matt. “Passport, ticket, money, driving licence?”
“Driving licence?” I said, realising two things simultaneously: that I had left it on the hall table, and that I was just about to ride 15,000 miles around a country with no proof that I was capable of doing so.
Still, at least for the first time ever I had insurance, courtesy of Adelaide’s Sam Geddis, who met us at the airport with his wife Gloria.
Although it was six in the morning, Gloria, in a dazzling triumph of style over grim reality, was wearing an outfit which wouldn’t have looked out of place at Henley Regatta.
We took off, and for the first half hour I pressed every button on the entertainment system and kept coming back to a tone-deaf mullah chanting the Koran.
Just as I was about to become the world’s first Church of Ireland fundamentalist terrorist and attack the stewardess with the remote control, I gave up, read the instructions and found the Western classical channel.
I mean, no harm to Mohammed and all that, but Bach does far better tunes.
I watched Memoirs of a Geisha then listened to Eurythmics’ Greatest Hits, which made me feel a strange combination of Japanese and young again, then curled up as best I could and tried to get some sleep.
It seemed like I had hardly nodded off before we were landing at Melbourne.
“Good day, sir. What’s the purpose of your visit to Australia?” said the red-headed immigration official at the airport.
I knew he was bluffing, because I’d read enough guides to Oz and Twisting Throttle, Mike Hyde’s hilarious book about riding around the country, to know that Aussies didn’t talk like that. It was a test, like when the German officer said “Good luck” to Gordon Jackson just as he was getting on the bus in The Great Escape. And I was up to the occasion.
“G’Day, Blue. Hair gamay. Well, me and me mates here, we’re going to ride a couple of Triumphs from Adelaide through Crow Eater and Mexican country then up through Banana Bender land and beyond the black stump to the Never Never, then down through Sandgroper territory and home.
“And where are you planning to stay, sir?”
“We’re going to ride to the end of the arvo, mate, maybe having a few Vegemite snackies on the road, then stop by a billabong, roll out our swags, whip on the Speedos, go for a dip, keeping a good dekko for salties, shout each other a few stubbies of Fourex grog from the Esky in the back of the ute, then get a few snags and yabbies on the barbie, have a yabber and a last slash down the dunny, then get our heads down on the nearest gibber and nod off under the stars rapt with the warm fuzzies.”
“You coming the raw prawn with me, mate?” he said.
“Nah, it’s fair dinkum, mate. Ridgi Didge, straight up, cross me heart and hope to die.”
He thought for a moment, then reached into a drawer and passed a form across to me.
On the top were the words Australian Citizenship Test, and below the following questions:
1. Do you understand the meaning, but are unable to explain the origin of, the term “died in the arse”?
2. What is a “bloody little beauty”?
3. Are these terms related: chuck a sickie; chuck a spaz; chuck a U-ey?
4. Explain the following passage: “In the arvo last Chrissy the relos rocked up for a barbie, some bevvies and a few snags. After a bit of a Bex and a lie down we opened the pressies, scoffed all the chockies, biccies and lollies. Then we drained a few tinnies and Mum did her block after Dad and Steve had a barney and a bit of biffo.”
5. Macca, Chooka and Wanger are driving to Surfers in their Torana. If they are travelling at 100 km/h while listening to Barnsey, Farnsey and Acca Dacca, how many slabs will each person on average consume between flashing a brown eye and having a slash?
6. Complete the following sentences:
a) If this van’s rockin’, don’t bother ?…”
b) You’re going home in the back of a ?
c) Fair crack of the ?
7. I’ve had a gutful and I can’t be fagged. Discuss.
8. Have you ever been on the giving or receiving end of a wedgie?
9. Do you have a friend or relative who has a car in their front yard ‘up on blocks’? Is his name Bruce and does he have a wife called Cheryl?
10. Does your family regularly eat a dish involving mincemeat, cabbage, curry powder and a packet of chicken noodle soup called either chow mein, chop suey or kai see ming?
11. What are the ingredients in a rissole?
12. Demonstrate the correct procedure for eating a Tim-Tam.
13. Do you have an Aunty Irene who smokes 30 cigarettes a day and sounds like a bloke?
14. In any two-hour period have you ever eaten three-bean salad, a chop and two serves of pav washed down with someone else’s beer that has been flogged from a bath full of ice?
15. When you go to a bring-your-own-meat barbie can you eat other people’s meat or are you only allowed to eat your own?
16. What purple root vegetable beginning with the letter ‘b’ is required by law to be included in a hamburger with the lot?
17. Do you own or have you ever owned a lawnmower, a pair of thongs, an Esky or Ugg boots?
18. Is it possible to prang a car while doing circle work?
19. Who would you like to crack on to?
20. Who is the most Australian: Kevin ‘Bloody’ Wilson, John ‘True Blue’ Williamson, Kylie Minogue or Warnie?
I took it from him, sat in a corner for half an hour filling in the answers carefully, then brought it back. He studied it just as carefully, then nodded his head and put it back in the drawer.
“Good on ya, mate,” he said, reaching across and shaking my hand. “Sludder.”
“Sluddermay,” I said, picking up my bag and preparing to walk away.
“Oh, just one final thing…”
My heart froze. Was everything to fail, at this final hour?
“Do you have a criminal record?”
I sighed with relief, and reached into my bag.
“I didn’t think it was necessary any longer, mate, but I brought this just in case,” I said, handing him a CD of Daniel O’Donnell’s The Christmas Album.
He took it gingerly from me, then tossed it into the bin.
“That’s crim enough for me, mate. Hope she’ll be apples for ya.”
I shook his hand again for good measure, and was just walking towards the exit when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I froze, fearing I had been caught at the last minute for only pretending I liked Vegemite, only to hear the familiar voice of Colin, as if from a distance.
“Wake up mate. We’re landing in Melbourne in 10 minutes. You all right?” he said.
I looked groggily around, and realised we were still on the plane.
“Aye. I just had this mad dream that we’d already landed,” I said, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.
In the end, the officials at the airport took a cursory glance at our passports, wished us a good stay in Oz, and sent us on our way.
Switching our water down the plughole setting to clockwise and the intonation at the end of our sentences to Up rather than Down, we stepped out of the terminal into the balmy heat of a Melbourne evening.
We found a hotel, checked in, and three things happened in quick succession. First of all we looked at a map and discovered that Australia was very big, and that the events we’d planned for the first few days, namely lawnmower racing and a big salt lake drag racing event, were so far away that it would take us most of the three months planned for the trip to get there.
And one of Matt’s brand new high-resolution cameras refused to work.
There. With nothing to do and no way to film it, we did the only thing possible: cracked open the bottle of Bundaberg rum Colin had bought at the airport, had a mug, and went to bed.
Whereupon I dreamt that Sam was sitting at a desk in the shallows of a Scottish lough interviewing a large white water rat while someone sailed by under a scarlet parachute.
I did try sanity once, but it didn’t agree with me.
By the time we got onto the plane for the short hop to Adelaide the next morning, I had become convinced that the Australian Government was putting Prozac in the water, since every single person we had met since we arrived had been unfailingly cheery, optimistic and helpful. Including the drug sniffer dog at the airport.
It was an impression confirmed by the fact that among the duty-free items for sale in the Qantas in-flight magazine was a guitar, presumably in case everyone on board fancied a good old sing-song.
However, that discovery was not the highlight of the day. It was not even stripping off and picking up the back-up vehicle which the chaps at Wicked Campers had painted up for us with an inspired combination of bike adventure graphics and rude quotations.
No, it was the moment when we collected the keys of two Tigers from the Triumph dealer in Adelaide, starting up the engine and hearing that sweet hum which had been all the way from Chile to Alaska on my previous adventure and was again in this moment the sound of freedom and the open road.
February 11, 2010
After weeks of sniggering over Geoff’s clanger at leaving his side stand down on our promo clip, my karma finally caught up with my dodgy dogma and savaged my ego.My fall from grace came as was trying out my new super-dooper Schuberth helmet for the first time, thinking it might be an idea to get used to it before head butting a wallaby.Pulling it out of the box, I was once again a little boy on Christmas morning.I fiddled with the air vents, I opened and shut the face and visor, and best of all, flipped the integral sun visor that makes you look like Robocop, up and down interminably.One minute I was a Storm Trooper from Star Wars ‘He’s your father Luke… aaarccch-hhhcccaaaww’, the next, Maverick in Top Gun, ‘He’s on my six Goose!’ plus countless other fantasies, which I won’t go into as this is a family website.Ah, the imagination is a great thing.Planning a little squirt up to the Adelaide Insurance offices to relieve Sam Geddis of some readies, I suited up and headed off.I had the visor up as I headed down the Antrim Road, sun visor down to look cool, so noticed nothing amiss apart from the fact that it was much quieter than normal under my lid and I could hear my engine a lot more clearly than usual because of the superior sound damping of the Schuberth.It was only when I hit the West link that I noticed something amiss.For the uninitiated, Schuberth helmets have a double visor set up which stops fogging. I’d noticed this feature, but trusting German engineering, hadn’t paid it too much attention. I’d also noticed that the inside visor had a kind of greenish tinge, but assumed that was part of the anti-fogging process.Blasting along the motorway in the bright sunshine I found the view a bit fuzzy.Hello, I thought, this isn’t great – what’s the point of an anti-fogging device that make the view permanently semi-fogged.Soon I found myself riding with my head at an angle so I could see through the clear bit of visor at the top where the second layer didn’t cover.It was like riding while looking through a letterbox at 60mph.Still clueless, but still keeping the faith with the notion that there must be a method in this Teutonic madness, I arrived at Adelaide to put the hard word on Sam.A cup of coffee and several anecdotes later, I set off again.Now the sun had gone back into hiding and the more familiar grey aspect of Belfast emerged and I was starting to get a little annoyed with the view from inside my new hi-tech lid.Riding the rest of the way with visor up, I arrived over at Geoff’s for our regular male-bonding session over a cup of finest Columbian gold and some French fancies from the little home bakery at Fortwilliam.I raised the issue of the double visor and asked what he thought.”How do you find it Geoff? Don’t you think vision is a bit poor? There’s not much point in having an an anti-fogging device if it makes you feel that you are permanently riding in a light mist.”Geoff looked at me perplexed and set off to hunt out his own Schuberth.He took it out of its bag. Looked at it, looked at mine and looked at me, an evil smile curling his top lip.”You haven’t taken the the protective plastic coating off, ya bloody Aussie drongo!”And verily it came to pass that Colin was brought low!No more schadenfreude for me – those bloody Germans have made a big enough fool out of me as it is.
February 10, 2010
Colin called around today wearing his shiny new Schuberth helmet for the first time.
“Here, is the visor meant to be this opaque?” he said. Then discovered he’d been riding around with the protective strip of plastic on the inside.
I may ride off with the sidestand down, but at least I can see where I’m going.
Naturally, it would be very ungentlemanly of me to embarrass Colin by mentioning any of this, so I won’t.
February 6, 2010
Great to hear from the legendary Ken Johnston on the site. Ken is not only the owner of the finest moustache in Christendom, but the owner of a motorbike that’s done the equivalent of four times around the planet.
Thanks to all of you who noticed that I rode off with the sidestand down in one of the film clips in the trip preview.
I can’t quite understand how I did it, since I thought Triumph had idiot-proof technology in place to cut out the engine if you put it into gear with the stand down. Obviously my idiocy was strong enough to beat the system.
I’d like to pretend that I did it deliberately just to check you were all paying attention, or that I leave the stand down as a handy prop for taking a rest if I get tired halfway around a left-hand bend.
But I won’t.