Chasing my shadow

I had a great ride yesterday, taking the long way home from our summer cottage in the southwestern archipelago.

Most riders probably know the meditative kind of flow state a great ride can bring about. The headspace where there are no thoughts, no internal dialogue, no cares or worries – only the line you’re describing on the twisting road with your bike’s tires.
I had that, for hours; I only surfacing for navigating villages and crossroads every once in a while.

In my experience I need a road and pace that demands my full concentration for at least ten minutes of riding to clear my mind. After that even a more relaxed pace or road will sustain the state.
The first few miles after leaving our summer cottage are naked bedrock, followed by a road of deep, loose gravel. Both surfaces a bit challenging to me on a 250 kg street bike. My mind was pretty much empty by the time the Metzelers first touched asphalt.

I find that I can ride a lot faster when I am zoned out. The corners just come, one after another and I throw the bike in and gently roll on more power from the turbine-smooth engine under me. Whenever I ride with my consciousness turned on, I worry about deer, about dirt on the road, about tar snakes and potholes. I come in too slow, I turn in too early and the lines get angular and untidy.
Yesterday, my lines were clean and neat and my pace spirited. I’m aware there were bright rainbows drawn against steel-grey storm clouds downwind from my course, but they hardly registered in my brain. There was only the constantly coursing trail of blacktop snaking its way through fields and forests.

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Once I started reaching the more densely populated areas and the roads were no longer able to sustain my road zen, I was treated to beautiful summer night scenery. At around 10 PM, the sun was slowly setting, and my southeasterly course meant I was chasing my shadow, drawn sharp on the orange-painted scenery ahead of me. On cresting hills, my image was thrown giant-sized as amber blaze filled my mirrors, reminding me of the lyrics to the Rush song Ghost Rider, to which this blog also owes its name to:

Sunrise on the road behind
Sunset on the road ahead
There’s nothing to stop you now
Nothing can stop you now

Once the sun finally disappeared, a purple pastel glow filled the world and I found myself riding through banks of thick white mist, giving me shivers by their cold touch. I saw deer feeding in the meadows by the road, and was glad to be reaching the well-fenced highway for the final high-speed run into the metropolitan area. The ride had taken a little over four hours, but I felt like I had left the cottage weeks ago.

This is the kind of riding I live for.

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Learning to plan less

The downside of not knowing where you’re going before you get there is that you don’t know what to pack.

Yesterday I rode the most wonderful mountain road Ma-2141 to a rather forgettable cove/tourist trap called Port de Sa Calobra. Once there and having parked, I decided I wouldn’t trust my belongings to the mercy of whoever might wander by the parked bikes in an area bustling with people. Since I hadn’t brought my PacSafe (a metal net for securing bags and backpacks) or even a basic cable lock, I had to carry my bag of camera gear as well as my riding gear. Normally I don’t mind leaving my helmet or gloves on the bike, but tourist crowds attract all types and even a badly raised and unsupervised child would be enough to cause plenty of damage to an expensive helmet.

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Thus I humped all my gear, much to the bemusement of mostly shorts or swimsuit-clad tourists. Fortunately there was a breeze and my mesh gear was perfectly comfortable. The place, on the other hand, didn’t feel like an environment for me. There were nearly a dozen small restaurants littered around the small cove, and from what I noticed, they were all serving the same kind of cheap-looking but not cheap (thanks to the secluded location) Mediterranean fast food staples. They had even matched prices, so it really didn’t matter where you went for your pizza or panini.

I found myself a quiet spot of shade on the water’s edge, under a restaurant’s wall. I shed my riding gear and enjoyed the sound of the waves almost masking the noise of the crowds. The only other motorcyclists in the area, a middle-aged couple from Germany, were lounging further along the same wall, enjoying a picnic. I wish I had had the foresight to pack lunch.

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It’s easy to pack everything you could conceivably need when you travel solo on a bike with big panniers and know where you’re going. When you’re riding a baby Ducati with no luggage apart from your backpack and have no idea where you’ll end up that day, things will be more adventurous. Unlearning decades of overplanning and just ‘going with it’ isn’t without the occasional hitch.

I’m not sure when I’ll get around to the lesson of trusting strangers (i.e. leaving stuff unsecured on a bike) I keep hearing I should do.

 

Hello World

This is the first post in the Racing Toward The Light (RTTL for short) blog. It’s also my very first blog post ever.

This hot and sunny Friday finds me in Palma de Mallorca and at the first day of a strange kind of a motorcycle trip/holiday for me. I arrived here yesterday with my girlfriend, who’s attending a two-week yoga teacher training. I, on the other hand, went and picked up a 2016 Ducati Scrambler from a scooter rental company. Usually when I travel somewhere I do a road trip in a car or on a bike and have some kind of a plan and a route in mind, but now I have an island, a baby Ducati and 12 days to get to know them both.

After picking up the bike (I’ve yet to think of a name for her) I had a few hours before the first day of yogic shenanigans came to a close, and instead of stopping to consult a map I just headed out in what I hoped to be a northwesterly direction toward the mountains. I had wanted to take one of the medium-sized roads out and get a feel for things in a simple riding environment, but my navigation yielded me a tiny, twisty road instead, that was fortunately also quite devoid of traffic.

While I didn’t feel brave enough to attack the corners at big lean angles, the little Ducky negotiated them with ease and I found the machine pulling with almost adorable pep from the uphill bends. The 803 cc 55 kW 68 Nm twin is not a muscular thing, though, so you need to be in the right gear for effective progress.

After around 45 minutes from setting off, I finally ran into an intersection with no straight ahead option in a small town, and I allowed myself to park the bike and look at a map. Upon dismounting, I was also reminded that I had asked for a passenger helmet from the rental place, and I had attached the spare lid to the rear seat with a loose-fitting cargo net. Fortunately the helmet was still there, despite the bumps, dips and bends of moments before.

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After figuring out where I was, I plotted a loop a little further west, finally joining the main coastal road for a 120 km/h run back into Palma. I had been worried that riding a bike on the motorway would be risky with indifferent car drivers, but maybe thanks to my full riding gear I and the Duck were afforded adequate space, with cars even pulling in to let us past.

Now the Duck is parked kerbside beneath the living room window, awaiting the first full day of adventuring.

I’ll be posting new stuff as things happen and I gain insight into riding a small bike on a medium-sized Mediterranean island.