Published on January 24th, 2019 | by Boris0
TALES OF THE NIKEN – EPISODE 5
In which our hero realises he’s not been placed upon this earth to procreate with spiders, and if the Niken is to be taken seriously, it needs to be taken somewhere serious. With stuff tied to its back in the finest tradition of grand touring, no less.
“First you wind away your hours
In your concrete towers
Soon you’ll be covered up in flowers
In the back of a black limousine
Now wait a minute…
Look around tell me what you see
What’s happening to you and me
God grant me the serenity
To just remember who I am”
It was the Dog Days of the Australian summer. That deeply indolent and inane period between Christmas and New Year when you feel you’re marking time and waiting for it to pass, but at the same time hoping it won’t.
It’s stupid hot. And the roads are mostly empty. People who’ve gone somewhere for holidays are already there. The rest of us mainly drink, seek water, shade, and the company of like-minded people. Some of us, the more cussed and ornery, ride our motorcycles despite the vile police threats and double-points penalties.
At this time of the year, the cops are thicker than boils in a Bandundu hospital and they’re angry. They’re angry because they have to work while the humanity they juice for money blunders drunkenly about in its mostly indifferent holiday stupor. They’re angry because the only mates they have are all working as well. They’re angry because some of us will still not do as we’re told, and with the advent of Smartphones, it’s harder for them to beat us with truncheons and get away with it without starring on YouTube.
“Let’s go to my brother’s property,” Al said to me a few days after Christmas. “He has guns. And it’s a Hell of a ride. I’d be keen to see what this Niken can actually do.”
“The only thing you’ll see of the Niken, and that briefly, is the back-end disappearing in the distance,” I said.
I had no way of knowing if this was true or not. Al gets along alright on his big V-Strom. He knows the roads to and from his brother’s place at Pyramul very well. He rides them a lot. And many of them are dirt.
Where’s Pyramul? you ask. Well, if you were to draw a line from Sally’s Flat to Windeyer, and then draw another line from Tambaroora to Carcalgong, the spot where those lines intersect is Pyramul. Yeah, even the Highway Patrol struggles up in them hills.
It was 38 degrees at nine in the morning when Al met me in Singleton, and that number was heading north. We, on the other hand, were heading a bit south of west.
I had strapped my swag to the back of the Niken with consummate ease. It has a big grab-rail which takes to ocky straps well. I’d considered adding a sheepskin to the seat, but in these modern times, such ancient touring stratagems might get me shot for livestock-hostility by policeman younger than many of my T-shirts. I was not prepared to risk it given their levels of holiday anger.
Besides, the Niken is not at all uncomfortable. But there are few bikes a man can ride for eight or nine hours without a touch of grim suffering. And when you go riding with Al, you will spend a lot of time in the saddle. He’s like that. But I have been doing a lot of squats at the gym, so I felt my buttocks were en-meated enough to deal with a long day or two. Besides, the heat would dry my tears of pain, so Al would never know of my misery.
Less than an hour after leaving Singleton, we were on the Bylong Valley Way and the temperature was nudging its way past 40.
I decided to do the Bylong in spasms. On the bits where it’s scenically spectacular I would sit on a Christian-like 120-130 and drink in the scenery. On the crazy twisty bits, I would ride almost as hard as I could and see how far behind I could leave Al – if at all.
There’s a lot of rocky grandeur along the Bylong Valley. What’s not rocky is pretty green and lush, despite the drought. It’s quite a special place. Former politician and now some lucky inmate’s Lebo sex-toy, Eddie Obeid, is doing hard time for trying to turn it all into a coalmine.
Less than a minute into our Bylong section, I felt Al and I would both be doing hard time if we were caught. My planned Christian speed soon devolved into a brutal 160-plus hammering of the Niken. The bitumen was iffy in places. It was either melting from the heat, or preparing to melt. If it wasn’t turning into sludge, then there was the odd bit of gravel to keep you perky. This was what the Niken excelled at. I would rocket off, then I would slow down and wait for Al, rinse and repeat.
We got to the tight section together and I let him pass me. I then discovered something else about the Niken. I could carry so much more corner speed into the bends than Al could. Sure, my heart was in my mouth most of the time. I’m normally rather cautious on crap surfaces in places where there’s no mobile phone coverage. But the Niken held firm and sure. Al could punch his V-Strom a touch harder out of corners, but that mattered naught as the Niken quickly closed the small gap. There were times I might have attempted an outside pass, but we’re mates. And I have less courage than I used to.
We lunched at Rylestone. Despite the heat, people still surrounded the Niken, staring.
“Goes alright then,” one bloke stated, pointing at the furry edges of the Niken’s rear tyre.
“Good enough,” I allowed.
More bitumen glory followed. The Ilford-Sofala racetrack saw the Niken dancing through the blast-furnace. It was now so hot, whatever cops might have been out that day were either baked hams or back at the station. We hit the Sofala-Hill End road with heat-seared faces and speed-thunder hearts. If you know that road, you know it’s a challenge.
Then we turned off, and it was dirt. Once again, the Niken proved superb as an all-surface touring bike. The suspension is just next-level. This is one of the few things I’ve ridden where I have not wondered how much better it would be with Öhlins. This is one of the best-suspended beasts on the market.
It feels different on the dirt. Not weird different or scary different, just different. As you know, there is no grip per se on dirt. Road-rubber just skates along relying on you to know what you’re doing with the throttle. In the Niken’s case, there’s two front hoops just skating along relying on you. That’s what you’re feeling, I guess. But with the traction control off, you can be ever so more reliant. That MT-09 engine hands out torque like a priest hands out lollies. Bung it in fourth and just float and drift and…well, you get the picture.
We spent a warm and beery night at Al’s brother’s place. It’s hard country up there. Things have to be forced to grow among the rocky scrabble. Other things have to be shot lest they undo all your good growing work. Beer has to be drunk because it assists in all such things.
Ben’s neighbour Warren came a-calling, rifle slung on his shoulder and murder in his heart for the feral pests that bedevilled his farm.
“That is amazing,” he said staring at the Niken.
I long ago learned not to argue with heavily armed men.
And there was no argument to be had. He was right.
It was a good night.