*This article was first published here by Australian Road Rider and is available also in print within Issue 130.
The north-west of Tasmania is home to some pretty amazing roads and incredible scenery. It often feels to me as though I’m riding in another country. A mysterious island continent merging threads of global motorcycling magic, all patch-worked together and hidden in a kind of Bermuda Triangle at the bottom of the world.
In mid-winter that mysterious feeling is exacerbated one thousand percent. Now raging rivers disappear into misty lakes that cut sharply into sheer, jagged mountains, themselves seemingly swept away by never-ending ghost trains of steaming, morphing cloud.
Then suddenly, the Roaring 40’s hit. Squalls launch out of the button grass plain punching you hard in the side. They breach the forest flanks, pulling the crowns together over the road centre, before the whole lot disappears behind an icy curtain of torrential rain. When it parts, leaves, debris and smooth ribbons of red mud have reclaimed the tarmac. Just missed you, they say.
Near perfect conditions, I thought recently, for a good long ride.
There’s no doubt that, for me at least, riding is a critical part of my personal maintenance regime. I think of it like a mind massage. A good ride rubs your head up the right way. And for the best therapeutic value I strongly recommend heading out in the most atrocious conditions you can find (actually, in this age of litigation I shouldn’t recommend it at all, but what the hell, I do).
How is it a ride where we experience unpredictable hardness, difficulty and even prolonged and extreme discomfort can result in a mind free from trouble? It’s something I’d pondered before. So I went for my ride in some pretty shocking weather to think about this, and of course didn’t thereafter think about it at all.
That’s because given the conditions, I was paying too much attention to what was happening just in front of me. The line I was anticipating riding through in just a second or two seemed, oddly enough, to hold my attention as an area of some importance.
And it wasn’t alone. Vying also for my attention were changes in road surface type and quality, that odd camber, those corner corrugations, that debris, some ‘shiny’ bitumen, ooohhh colourful oils, closing radii, oncoming vehicles, upcoming roadside vegetation (for crosswinds). You get the idea.
But when you combine that with an extensive list of local weather warnings there isn’t much time left for big picture problems. My mind was busy. So busy in fact it eventually forgot what it as doing and just did it.
My point (yes, finally) is the additional leverage provided by inclement weather resulted in a deeper, meditative kind of concentration. But that’s not all.
It’s like those few hours have given the brain a kick-arse short course in problem solving. It’s been intensively trained in a process to pick off those little challenges, keep making progress, and leave the bigger stuff it can’t resolve to eventually blow away in the wind.
Thing is, it doesn’t last. Though I reckon if I rode enough I could get it hardwired. But you know how it is: The weather never stays bad enough, for long enough, for a really good ride.