The Road Hogs
Its 6 am on a holiday Monday and my alarm clock pops his eyes open and shouts ...."DADDY!!" as he does every morning, summoning me into toddler servitude. In his mind, I am just a local peasant that holds his stuffed monkey while he eats toast. Today though I'm already awake and drinking my coffee, denying Shouty McGee the satisfaction of stealing my sleep. I still have to hold the monkey though...and make the toast so its only a partial win .
You see today is special. Today I get to ride. Today is about me. You would think owning a bunch of Ducati Motorcycles and Vespa Scooters would mean I get to ride all the time but no such luck. Most of my time is spent cleaning, maintaining and ensuring our clients have an amazing time exploring the scenery and blue sky's of Marlborough on the two wheeled contrivances they rent from Beatnik & Co.. Don't get me wrong, its a great job but it can be a double edged sword of happiness for our customers and jealousy that I cant join them.
But not today. Its my day today. The shop is closed and one of our Ducati Scramblers is available. I have it all to my self, no sharing. I can hardly wait to get going and what makes it better is I am meeting up with some top quality blokes to do a route that we at Beatnik have dubbed 'The Road Hog' due to the diversity in terrain and overall length of the trip.
Its 7am and I'm all set to head to the Beatnik Shop and get suited up for the ride. Unfortunately I'm not meeting the boys until 9:30 so it appears I may have jumped the gun a bit in my excitement to get going. 'Luckily' my son was nice enough to fill in some time by creating an industrial sized yoghurt spill and shouting incoherent instructions at me regarding the TV show he wanted to watch as I cleaned it up. These are the times we cherish indeed.
Alright, Octonauts playing on the big screen, industrial spill cleaned up, kisses, hugs, route plan and check in times given to the wife and.... I'm off! A quick walk to Beatnik and there she is. My steed for the day, a Scrambler Ducati Urban Enduro. Its sits in the maintenance bay ready to go and looking just the part for a day of adventure in New Zealand. "Ok enough messing about", I say to myself. Full gear on top and bottom, Check. One of our NEXX Helmets XG 100's avec cool iridium lens to hold the grey matter atop my neck, Check. Off to meet the boys.
I arrived first at the meeting point and took the time to make a last minute clutch lever adjustment. Paul's arrival is announced about a block away by the rumble of a carbon exhaust on his recently acquired Honda CB 500 closely followed by the Rumble of Anthony's Triumph Bonneville T100. Lastly, James rolls in on his brand new Triumph Thruxton R and the group is complete. Ok, time for quick inventory - 500cc CB, 800cc Scrambler, 900cc Bonneville, a 1200cc Thruxton R...... and 340km of adventure ahead. Should be interesting.
I take lead as we head towards Picton, which is a nice easy ride to get the blood flowing for the day ahead. We roll through Picton to the start of Queen Charlotte and are immediately headed up hill around tight bends. I LOVE this type of riding. Tight technical and scenic. When I get on a road like this I just cant help but channel that young motocross racer who still lives in my head as I charge the corners, brake heavy, slow in and hard acceleration out the other side. The V twin DESMO hungrily eating up the curves and spitting them out with every snap and pop of the exhaust. Pure fun. So much so that I forgot I was part of a group that included more law abiding gentlemen and I ended up a bit ahead of the pack. No problem, I just pull over in the next village and admire the surroundings while the others catch up. NZ is great like that, always something nice to look at.
All caught up and on route again I take 3rd spot in the convoy to avoid my lack of self control getting me in trouble with the local law enforcement. Anthony and his T100 take the lead as we head around the sounds through Havelock and end up at Pelorus Bridge Café for a caffeine fix. What a great start to the day! It's all smiles and a good chat over the Kiwi invented, flat whites (insert Aussie eye rolls here)
The engines thump to life as Paul and I head off toward Nelson with Team Triumph taking a bit longer to embark, likely discussing who's chrome was shinier or what ever it is Triumph riders do when they're left alone. Paul has the lead for the first time and I must say, he and the CB do very well setting the pace as we navigate the long sweepers and head into the steep and twisty pass. That said, no amount of cc's can over come construction and lane closures which throws a wrench into our plans to enjoy this section of road. After a few stationary minutes we are on the move again. Its a bit of a painful exercise for the next 10 km as we follow heavy traffic around exciting freshly paved bends at a mere 25kmph. Luckily it is short lived as I take the first opportunity to get around the traffic and into fresh air and open road.
With the rest of the boys still caught up in traffic I slow my pace and enjoy the cruise along the water-front as I navigate through Nelson to a local bike shop where the rest of the crew join up within a few minutes. With the group whole again, James leads the way to our next meeting point at Head Quarters Café and Bar in Brightwater, just south of Nelson. A very cool spot for a bite, pint or whatever you may be after. We liked it so much that I have added it as a recommended stop on The Beatnik Road Hog ride map.
All topped up on Chimichangas and Ginger Beer, we're looking pretty cool as we don our gear and fire up our unique group of wheels. The cool aura however is quickly dispatched as Paul executes a 'clutch dump stall' and after much laughter, Karma rewards me as I have to double back into the restaurant to get the tank bag I left on the table.
Anthony, not wanting to get any of our incompetence on him, quickly rides away, leading us to Eighty Eight valley road which we use to make our way south through Golden Downs and on to join SH 63 again. This part of our journey is the unanimous favorite. From one of the prettiest country roads I've ever been on (88), to the scenic heights along Stock Road, it is just plain excellent. The route is in great condition, relatively quiet, full of good turns, straights and even a switchback or two. A must do indeed.
Another must do on this route once you join SH 63 is a quick run into St. Arnaud to check out the scenery on the edge of Lake Rotoiti. I have passed through St. Arnaud before but never actually made the short jaunt up to the lakes edge, so a massive thanks to Anthony for recommending this amazing spot which is about as good as it gets for a cool photo-op with the bikes.
The falling rain signals it's time to make tracks back to the heart of Marlborough. We had saved the worst for last so to speak with a 98km stretch of SH 63 between us and home. This part of the journey is in rough condition due to having to bear the heavy truck traffic that used to take SH 1 through Kaikoura. With SH 1 still closed from the earthquake, this road quite literally gets pummeled and nowhere is this more evident than the 20 or so km immediately east of St.Arnaud. That said, it does improve as we go, much to the delight of James who is hands down the speed freak of the group and rightfully so, he's running the most powerful bike of the 4. As James stretches the Thruxton R's legs, I do my best to keep up and my Scrambler does a fine job I must say, let down only by my own marginal abilities and periodic lack of 'cajones'. Despite my short comings, the Scrambler keeps the Thruxton in sight as James and I run out a bit of a lead out over the other two as we weave our way down the valley. Coming to a halt near a bit of construction just outside Renwick, James gives the international signal for "Beer?" to which I respond with the universal signal for "Hell Yes!"
A few Kms later we all roll into MOA brewery, covered in bug guts, a bit sweaty from the Marlborough Sun and smiling like fools. What a day! We truly were Road Hogs as we ate up all 340km with gusto. We have some laughs over a good pint, make plans for the next ride and off we go back to our normal lives.
At home again with Shouty McGee giving me feedback regarding the inadequate water level in the splash pool, I come to the conclusion that, on this ride I confirmed 2 things and learned 1.
I confirmed the Beatnik Ducati Scramblers are made for rides like this. Flawless performance, comfort, style and excitement all in one package. I also confirmed that Marlborough/Nelson area hosts the best riding in New Zealand, no matter what you ride or how much chrome it has on it.
What I learned on the ride is that while I set off with a singular mentality and I was solo on the bike, it wasn't at all a solitary experience. I have to say it wouldn't have been the same if it wasn't for the comradery and bit of comedy that are inherent when riding in a group of friends. A more random mix of men and bikes would be hard to come across on this day but it was excellent fun and I highly recommend it.