Ok – never done a trip report so bear with me.

All I can say is: ET is baaaaaddd news

So, after a few dops at Trompie’s house one night, I was convinced to put my name down for Road Skills Training with Rupert Culwick and Rick in ET. Man alive, it was the best thing I could ever have done.

The trip was kinda planned that my bike was gonna go on the one of the two trailers going up. Due to leave on Fri morning, Wed night brought news that we were one car down and one trailer down. Hey, no problem. I’ll ride up behind Trompie & Zwick. Now I have not done that kind of distance on the Steed but the boys assured me they will stick with me (and they did). The trip up was great. I was well looked after by the boys and they made sure I was hydrated, filled bike for me, stopped as long as I wanted for smoke breaks etc. My only panic was Long Tom. I’m still slow around twisties and was rather nervous to take on Long Tom (and seeing the looming dark clouds in the sky made my heart race). Just before Long Tom, Tromps and Zwick overtook a bus. The line went solid shortly thereafter so I hung back for a bit. When the line went striped, I saw the gap and took it. When I took off, I was going about 120km/h. As I’m overtaking, the somf driving the bus starts putting foot. So much so, that I clocked 150km/h on my clock (it only goes to 160 ). Hanging on for dear life, I get past the moron and slack off when I have enough gap between us. Wrist aching from the vibration, my speed slackened and I was taking strain. I was stressed, tired and now very sore. I was taking it easy and had some okie in a bakkie behind me. Suddenly I feel something on my left arm. Not sure what it was, I dropped my arm only to see my left mirror flying past me and just missing the poor bugger me. The vibration shook my mirror clean off . Did a few ‘sorry’ hand signals while muttering some choice swear words in my helmet above the music.

Into Long Tom and the weather was looking ominous, I did the pass nice and easy. The guys took it nice and slow in front of me and it helped having the companionship on the road. Half way through Long Tom, I start twinging between da little legs. I was really starting to need the loo. On we go and eventually, I see Sabie in the distance. Fortunately, we turned off before Sabie to the chalets. Parked Feather, bounced off her like a bunny and into the chalet. Relief. Then I realised, I had finally done Long Tom. Yes, it was rather nerve wrecking for a noob like me.

I said hello’s to everyone, we unpacked and of course, the boys wanted to go and play (as well as plot the route for the next day). I was buggered, so took the car to the Woodsman for a bit to eat. As I’m sitting outside, the heavens opened. I felt sorry for the guys. Sent Zwick an SMS and headed back to chalet. Not long after I got back, they arrived. Wet and now tired from the drive and the ride. Long Tom was totally misted up. With the tinted visors, it made life a bit difficult for them. Hence we became worried about the other crowds still coming in from JHB.

After that, a dop was calling our names. Back to the Woodsman. There we hooked up with some of the other guys. Then it was off to Rupert’s place for pre inspection. That night was scary. Seeing how many bikes were set wrong for their riders and the tyre pressures mismatched etc etc. I was getting nervous to take Feather in the morning to Rupert. But, it was amazing how thorough he was. Every person had to sit on their bikes, levers checked, chains checked, foot position checked, suspension checked, tyre pressure checked, lights checked. Some of the guys got new ‘biatches’ of the male persuasion as pillions (ok ok, was just to test suspension etc but was still blerry funny) .

Half the bikes done, off to Woodsman for supper. We all ate, caught up and then headed off for a good nights sleep. Trompie and Zwicky had to go to Rupert’s place so I had a nice hot bath and hit the sack.

Up on Saturday morning at 05h00 (with much b1tching from the guys cause it was half an hour to early). Took Feather in for her inspection while braving Rupert’s cliff of a driveway into his garage. She was not near as bad as I thought. He set my levers, noticed my front tyre pressure was wrong, did a lot of tweaks and set my back break.

After everyone had inspection, it was into the classroom. Half a days’ theory but very informative and rather amazing to realise how much we don’t know. Even riders who have been going for years and years learned something.

Then off to the Gymkhana course. My word, did I fail miserably. But I tried and tried. The first bit of the course was coming around a corner and breaking. My back brakes got the shock of their lives. Rupert has set it so nicely for me that I was not used to it. Hit my back brakes, heard some awesome screaming and blushed myself blind. The cones were hard for me. I tried 3 times and could not get it. Parked Feather, de-layered some clothing, had a few cigs to stop the shaking then tried again. Much better, but not even close to where I should have been. But I learned the importance of ‘head up’ and ‘breath’. I also found that I don’t trust Feather. She was doing the turns damn fine, I just did not trust that she could.

After that, we did a few light sweeps to the emergency braking spot. Another few things I learned and some great advice from Trompie. Some of the guys lost a few years off their tyres but what a pleasure to finally see everyone stopping fast and faster.

By that time, we were buggered. Back to classroom for a recap. Then off to dinner. Had a great chat to Rick. But what he told me, has now changed my mind. It meant the world for me to hear this from an instructor, and a brilliant rider. He told me that I am a good rider (big grin) BUT, not on the Steed. And so the seed that was planted a while ago, was well watered and nurtured that night. Time for a new bike!!!!! Will hopefully get her next year but right now, I need to get one that can be safely lowered. Of course, my heart is set on a Triumph or BMW. So we will see.

Sat was an early night. Everyone was buggered. Sunday morning and it’s time for the 22. Did a trip out, made a u-turn at the end and back to the Woodsman. One gear, no front brake and with what we had learned, I WAS BLOWN AWAY. I had such a great ride. Second time out, at own pace, I set my speed a little higher. Of course all the rest had passed me long ago but I was having fun. As a approached one of the right sweeps, I realised I was going in too fast for my comfort zone. Realising there was nothing I could do, I remembered what had we been taught. Breath, play piano with your fingers to relax, head up and keep the line. There was nothing I could do. So I eased gently off the throttle, righted my shoulder, leaned forward, lifted head and....SCRAPED A PEG. I shat myself blind. But before, I would have wobbled all over. I did look down by mistake, then immediately lifted my head and I was already coming out of the corner. Phew. When I got to the Woodsman, I was shaking a little bit but had a coke and all fine. WOW.

After such exhilaration, I was rather glad that Trompie and Zwicky decided (the night before) that I would not ride back to JHB that afternoon. As it turned out, there was an extra trailer going to JHB so none of us had to ride back. I passed out in the car to the gentle banter of the guys. What a course, what an awesome ride. And I’m down for the next one already

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