Total kilometers : About 8000ish (My odometer has never worked)
Workshops wrenched in: 5
Motorcycle clubs welcomed into: 2
It was close to midnight and it was the first time in a long time that I had ridden my bike without it being heavily loaded with all of my gear. The bike handles roughly at the best of times but when you add 60 kilos of camping gear, parts and electronics haphazardly packed over the rear wheel… well it takes some getting used to. When you remove that gear, the handling improves, the throttle responds and braking all works to make the bike feel like a different machine. I was riding with a motorcycle club to a rockabilly gig that a sax player I had met the day before in a motorcycle shop suggested I check out. There was me, my old bike, Aileen (the face behind the themotoquest) on her custom Honda and the Old Motorcycle Club blasting through the light (by Denpasar standards) traffic.
I opened the throttle and overtook a bemo (small van/public transport bus). I then had to pull hard to the left to miss an oncoming tourist on a scooter flying equally fast but stupidly swerving in the other direction. He was wearing a Bingtang singlet … of course he was wearing a Bintang singlet.
A crash would have been his fault but when you're smeared across the road does it matter who is to blame?
To my left was an impeccably restored Triumph 1972 Bonneville. He had seen how very close I had come to becoming unstuck and nodded. I nodded back. We both understood that perhaps we shouldn't have overtaken like that but we did anyway. He smiled at me as he ripped open the throttle again and left me behind to hear the engine roar through his straight pipes as he shot between two trucks.
Behind us followed three other bikes of similar vintage. One of the things that I love about Indonesia is that there are these people riding bikes the same vintage as mine; riding them as hard as I ride my old bike. Sure in Australia you get the guys who take out their old bike out occasionally to bike night or the local cafe/pie shop in the mountains on the weekends. I have never however seen anybody in Australia ride as hard and as often as the guys in Indonesia: 1950’s triumphs, WLAs, Matchless, BSAs ridden every day to the absolute limit.
Drunken Australians rocking Bingtang singlets, aggressive street sellers and the occasional Australian getting caught with drugs in a country where you should not get caught with drugs - I initially had no plans to spend any real time in Bali. I could get sunburnt, drunk and buy drugs in Australia. Why repeat that overseas? My thought process was to just motor through as fast as possible and try not to spend too much money. I had been to Bali before. I got sunburnt and then was violently ill on cheap, poorly made cocktails. I am not proud of any of it but that is the truth. This time I wanted to avoid my past indiscretions. I cannot afford to buy booze only to have it go to waste on the floor of a cheap hotel.
Here I was though, blasting south to Seminyak from Ubud with the Old Motorcycle Club that I had met up with through Aileen. It is strange meeting someone for the first time who you already feel like you know very well. Aileen blitzes social media so I knew a fair bit about the issues she had faced (at this stage both Aileen and I were about 4 months behind schedule) and we both have similar styles of travel - we are both dangerously under-funded, we both ride small bikes and we both have ray bans attached to our face 90% of the time. We got along well.
She pulled to my right, her custom bike made by verve and the always rad Gringo helmet. She thumbed up as we resumed formation moving towards the coast.
We rolled into a bar called the Salty Seagull, parked the bikes, and took off our helmets. It was a hipster bar just like the ones I was used to back home. It was packed with tourists and they all looked up as the half dozen of us walked in. The sax player was mid solo when he saw us and grabbed the mic and introduced his friends and me. He raised his drink and everyone in the bar paused to stare. I have to admit, a bunch of leather clad local bikers, a bule (Caucasian tourist) and Aileen with her enormous smile and long red hair made for an interesting sight.
The master of ceremonies for the night, an Australian who clearly spent a lot of time at the gym picked up on new arrivals and in one motion had summoned a bottle of tequila and indicated me for a layback.
The beers came, we drank, the music played.
We had our own table and watched the crowd, the tourists occasionally throwing us strange glances wondering why we might have been getting the treatment that we were.
The MC came up and started to introduce himself to the people he didn't know.
One of the members of the local club pulled me aside. “He (pointing to the MC), has lost a friend today, very sad, bad death, he was crying before but now he drinks”
I looked the MC who was still jumping around on tables trying to get people more involved in the band.
“Killed himself, 33, he was so happy in Bali.”
I took another sip of my beer, but was conscious of slowing down as I knew I still had at least an hour’s ride ahead of me that night.
The MC jumped on the table, asking people to dance in exchange for free drinks.
The unresponsive crowd was… unresponsive.
He tried again.
This time he was asking for people to dance in memory of his friend. He looked around a little desperate with a small, sad smile.
I asked Aileen if she remembered how to dance. “Only if someone can lead well.” On the dance floor I tried to remember the right steps (back, left, quick, quick and step?) I had learned from a few swing and rockabilly gigs in Sydney. After a failed attempt at leading I gave in, laughed and apologised to Aileen and resigned myself to hanging out with the riders near the stage.
I went back to thinking of the MC, the guy who had just lost a good mate and was now at least half a bottle of tequila deep trying to get people involved into the band. I tried to catch his eye to find out more about his friend… I couldn't think of anything worse than trying to MC a bunch of tourists at a rockabilly gig when I had just lost someone to depression.
He smiled at me then went back to trying to get people to dance.
My arrival into Bali was mixed. I had met a Frenchmen while on a ferry who was touring the Indonesian islands on a scooter. As two guys who are on the road, we decided that we would travel together for a while (His 50cc honda was still faster than the enfield). His English was great and he also spoke comfortable Bahasa (Indonesian). However on the last island before Bali (Lombok) he had to return his bike to the rental shop. He was planning on taking his backpack on public transport all the way into Denpasar, Bali (about 4 hours and a ferry ride away from where we were). Instead we would take a page from the locals and load the old Enfield with me, my bags, the Frenchman and his backpack.
Like this we rode through the heavy traffic.
I had made plans to meet Aileen that afternoon and Frenchy was interested in pursuing some business opportunities that might fund some further adventures. We parted ways and agreed to catchup in a week or so after everything was done.
I jumped on the phone to Aileen and arranged to meet her in Ubud where we would ride down to a local custom bike shop where she was working on her bike.
Off a main street and behind a statue workshop we rode through to the back of the property where I came across one of the most impressive collections of custom motorcycles I have ever seen.
I was silent as I took off my helmet and gawked at the bobbers, choppers, cafes, Harleys, Triumphs and a neat little rat hotrod in the corner.
I must have looked rigid and uptight. The owner of Moonstone Garage - Kadek, walked over handed me a beer and told me sabar (Bahasa for "be patient, keep calm and relax") . Beautiful motorbikes, a comfortable garage, a fellow traveller and a beer. I smiled - life is good.
I spent the next week riding around with the “Old Motorcycle Club”, Moonstone garage boys and Aileen. We talked of the difficulties of what we were trying to do.
I think a lot of people think that we have life pretty well made. Riding motorcycles in a foreign country every day is a dream for most - they are envious. What many people don’t realise is that for most people, it takes something incredibly dramatic in their lives to go “I am going to leave everything I have behind to do this.” People often tell me they would love to do this kind of trip… if it wasn't for the kids, wife, girlfriend, job or house. These are all valid reasons for not doing a trip. What they often don’t pick up is that it was failed relationships, personal hardships or a shitty job that led us to do something this incredible. It’s far easier to contemplate doing something incredibly reckless when you have absolutely nothing to lose if it fails. For myself it was a combination of personal issues, losses and a broken relationship that pushed me to where I am today. While I love the trip that I am on, if I could go back and change what cannot be changed, I would.
I sometimes wish I could be that guy - the person who tinkers on bikes while working a 9-5 with a bed free from bedbugs, a group of riding buddies and someone that I could sit and watch bad movies with on a Monday night. Instead I went through a series of circumstances where for me the best option, the only option was to ride a busted motorcycle across the world, away from where I was. I am happy to be where I am today but a year ago, when I was in Sydney and made the call to do this, to change from a person who wanted to do this trip to someone who was doing this trip - I was not in a good place. I guess I am almost jealous of the people who have things that prevent them doing this kind of adventure. I am sure some people call them burdens. For me I guess they look more like anchors keeping them safe.
And there was Aileen, who would never have been about to ride motorcycles across world if it wasn't for her own personal change. It gave me a chance to realise that I wasn't the only one on a journey to find out some answers and we often only seek them when we are left completely bewildered, lost and desperate.
Anyway, because I am so far behind schedule I need to get back to riding motorcycles in foreign countries.
Next blog post - 1% motorcycle clubs on the Island of Java or "How I learned to stop worrying and politely decline prostitutes."