Some recent stretches of challenging, unsealed roads brought back good memories of riding gravel in Australia. Before starting the trip around Australia I had zero experience in riding on anything else than nicely sealed roads. During the trip around Australia I wanted, and had to, learn to ride on gravel. It made all the difference in making this trip unforgettable. It also taught me a few valuable life lessons.
Lesson 1: Life is better when you travel on gravel. It just is. A gravel road forces you to slowdown. Something, according to me, we should all do a bit more in real life. It takes you to places no other road goes. It takes you to places very few other people go. It is the unbeaten track. It challenges you to rely on yourself, your preparation and your skills. It takes you to the most untouched and unspoiled places. Life is better when you gravel on gravel.
Lesson 2: When you ride a motor bike on gravel you can’t be stupid about it. Gravel does not forgive. So far (knock on wood) I only came of the bike once. On gravel. The Chook Chaser was fully loaded, not the best idea for a gravel road, but I was travelling… However the stupid part, I wasn’t focussing enough to stay in the right track as I got to a bend doing around 60 km/h. I lost the track, found myself in some banked up gravel and the back wheel started sliding. I zigzagged and slid around a bit more before finally finding myself in fetal position, still holding on to the bike, down on the ground. It was a bit of a shock, but the bike was fine and so was I. But stay focussed, you can’t be stupid about riding on gravel.
Lesson 3: Plan ahead or plan to fail. This phrase went through my head for about 2000km. This is not my quote. But the person who told me this knows how it really sank in with me after 2000km of gravel. The thing is, if you don’t plan ahead, look at the road ahead of you and decide what to do, you will fail. This is of course true for any traffic situation, or maybe anything in life. It just becomes more urgent when you are riding a motor bike on a gravel road. When you are doing 70 or 80 km/h, and there is only one 20cm wide track good enough to ride on, you want to plan where that track is heading. Is it continuing, is it merging with another track, does it end in a pile of sand? All of these are possible and any of these things can throw you of the bike, which is not recommended at any speed. So on gravel, you either plan ahead or you plan to fail.
Lesson 4: The only thing that’s certain is that everything will change. Again, not my own wisdom, but a saying I really understood after 2000km of gravel. Imagine riding on a nice unsealed but smooth easy road. You look around to see the mountains, check for wildlife. All of a sudden you find yourself in the middle of loose rocks, banks of gravel and other hard to navigate stuff. Yes, your nice smooth road will change into this, sorry. However, the other way around it works too. Imagine bouncing around on corrugations while sliding on the sandy top layer. Just keep going, keep holding on and keep in mind, it will change.
Apart from these lessons it was simply a great adventure and unforgettable experience to travel off the beaten track. I love it, and would do it again in a heartbeat. So take the chance, gear up and go explore places others rarely go. The world is a beautiful place, it is waiting for you come and see it. Need more encouragement, check out the video below!
Credits for the photos go to Lisette, thank you!