You Become the Machine
Ever since the very first time I threw my leg over a bike, my heart's always been with the sportbikes. The body position, the feeling of acceleration, the complete badassery and sex appeal that comes with some aerodynamics and shiny fairings. Look, I tried to keep it PG as long as I could. But if I could make love to a piece of metal and plastic, it would be a sportbike.
Sportbikes are the machines of a higher power. They are elegant, powerful, and they make you feel both mortal and invincible at the same time. The only other thing to do that to me is a buffet (This is why I don't go to buffets anymore).
When you're in the cockpit of a sportbike, you're not sitting on a machine anymore - you become the machine. It does exactly what you want it to do. In other words, sportbikes are the exact opposite of my cat.
[ CAPTION: After Sheba the GSX-R600 was stolen in June 2018, I replaced it with this K7 GSX-R750 (pictured). It took 4 months and $2500 to fix it to mint condition from an owner who should never have owned a bike. It was stolen yet again 28 days later. ]
So what compels a sportbike rider to want anything different?
Being from a city originally (and not knowing any better), the thought of being amongst nothingness always sounded a bit boring. In the city, you have every sort of entertainment that tickles your fancy. You can go out with friends, grab some dinner and go dancing. Or, you can enjoy a perfectly room-temperature and mozzie-free evening of Netflix and chill.
In the Outback, you can't exactly go to the cinemas or play some mini golf (not sure why that's the first thing that popped into my head) at the drop of a hat. And in a city like Melbourne, the ability to choose any cuisine from around the world is at your fingertips. Scroll through your Deliveroo app to order some samosas, and it's in your hands within 20 minutes. There's even a timer so you don't get too impatient. The app texts you at least 4 times to update you on that samosa's destination. Most people don't even text their partner that often on their way home.
Whatever you like to do, you can find it in the city.
The odd thing is that when you're surrounded by people, it provides familiarity at the cost of giving restlessness. For me personally, I'm completely happy living in a cave without having to speak to anyone. Give me a good bed and some Candy Crush and you won't see me for weeks. I tend to shy away from crowds and big events. An introvert at heart, I never knew how badly I wanted to be in a place like the Outback... until I rode into the Outback.
Ah, The Australian Outback.
It's this almost mythical place that is flat, open, and really damn hot. It takes up the majority of the Australian landscape and offers no mercy for the unprepared. In most of the outback, there's no shade and no easy access to water or food. Petrol stations are often longer than your fuel range (if you're on a sportbike, that is) and things can go from bad to worse real quick.
To the average city dweller, the Outback is a scary place with a reputation for causing some major dramas. It's a place where serious adventurers go to feel alive again. And for some, including myself, it's a place people dream of returning to.
The trip that started the Addiction
The decision to do the Sheba Rides Australia trip was one of the best I've ever made. It was my first time in the proper outback, and I was alone with Sheba, my Suzuki K7 GSX-R600 - a black and gold sportbike that became my best friend over the 18,000km, 40-day journey.
I've realised that the further you ride away from the city, the fewer worries you have. Going into the Outback means going into one of the harshest environments in the world. The glitz and glamour of having a pretty bike in the city slips away with every kilometre, only to be replaced by messy hair, grimey hands, red dust in every oriface, and chicken on the eyebrows.
I was never a girl who got a kick out of going barhopping in high heels - far from it. I'm a self-proclaimed tomboy who considers "dressing up" as black jeans and a nice t-shirt. I feel my best when my leathers are on and my visor is down. My love for the outback was true and strong from the moment I left Melbourne. And since the completion of that epic trip in 2017, I had been yearning to go back.
If you want things to stay mint, keep your pride and joy wrapped up in the garage. If you want to experience true wonder, go into the Outback.
[ CAPTION: Messy hair don't care: After the second GSX-R was stolen, I decided to get naked. 2015 Aprilia Shiver 750. A bit of a beast that always reminded me that I'm a short person and that will never be in my favour. Pictured at Falls Creek, VIC. ]
Road to Sand: Taking the Plunge
In all honesty, I hadn't even given off-roading a second thought after my terrifying Brown Pants Detour in Outback WA back in 2017. The feeling of not having any grip really freaked me out, and the 60km long stint of wet riding and tank slappers traumatised me from anything that isn't asphalt. Smooth sport tyres don't mix well with bull dust and golf ball sized rocky roads.
But there exists a legendary racer named Kiri Welsh who was on my Facebook friends list. Our blips of communication were few and far between at that point. We hadn't met, but my understanding of her personae (along with others' testimonials of her) made her a person I aspire to be. Kind, genuine, and really fucking determined.
It just so happened that she was taking up dirt bike riding in addition to racing the circuit. When asked her why, she linked me to the All Women's Simpson Desert Crossing. She then suggested that maybe I should do it. Heck, I just had two sportbikes stolen and I was in the mood for something different. And if Kiri says do it, well bring it on!
I'd say ignorance had a large part in why I signed up for AWSDC, because I had no idea what I was about to sign up for. I had to Google where the Simpson Desert was, and I couldn't comprehend what sand felt like under tyres. Every dirt bike looked the same to me, and in my mind, all dirt bike riders are crazy (not entirely wrong).
After scrolling through about 6 photos on Instagram and pondering for a total of 38 seconds, I took the plunge and messaged the organiser - Stuart Ball of the Great Australian Ride.
Wide eyed and bushy tailed, I committed my soul (and wallet) with great enthusiasm. It was a brief phone call and a single email that would later change my life forever.