Wednesday 28th October – Friday 30th October
Having finally finished the trike, and needing to get some new tyres fitted, I decided to have my maiden/test voyage on the way to the bike shop. For some reason, during the entire building process, not once did I wonder how it would handle. I knew it would be different, sure, but I had no idea just how different it would be, and naively thought it would be a walk in the park.
I can easily describe that first experience in one word; terrifying! After just seconds on a dirt track with a right hand camber, I was rather embarrassingly reduced to tears and left thinking ‘I can’t ride this f*cking thing across the country!’ I suddenly felt at a loss; was this an impossible dream? Had it all been a waste of time? I was so worried about it tipping and landing on me that it scared the shit out of me. If I hadn’t had an injury then it wouldn’t have been such an issue, as I’d just bail and leap out of the way (I’m not exactly adverse to involuntary dismounts after all), but knowing that falling or tipping could mean game over and a ticket home, I was particularly afraid of it happening. It was then that we realised that I needed some training in a ‘safe’ environment before embarking on the TAT, but I’d had enough for one day. I was tired and hungry and drained from my mini-meltdown, so we decided to wait until the next day.
We headed off to the local sandy playground the following morning, and discovered that it was a fantastic place, full of hills, slopes, washes and cambers, with no rocks to hurt yourself and sand for a soft landing. This still didn’t mean that I wasn’t terrified though. I soon discovered that I needed to unlearn everything that I’d learnt about motorcycle riding, as the trike was a completely different beast. Counter steering and leaning soon became the enemy, and brute force and shifting my weight around became my friend. Ed took it for a spin first to see what it was capable of, and came back beaming from ear to ear saying that it was the most fun vehicle he’d ever ridden.
I couldn’t help but wish that I had his skill and metaphorical balls when it came to riding the trike, but I’m far from a fearless daredevil. Part of me wishes I could just jump on it all guns blazing and be the dogs danglies from the get go, but that’s just not me. Lucky really as I’d probably be dead by now if I was.
After a short while practicing figure of eights to get to grips with the steering, getting up on two wheels, and back on to three, we headed off to some bumpy trails. The key on a bumpy trail is to break down the trail so that you can see where the most level areas are, so you can place your rear tyres on them and not tip either way. Once you start looking at trails differently it’s no-where near as scary, and actually becomes an enjoyable challenge, finding the best route through to keep the trike as level as possible.
Once that was mastered (I use that term in the loosest possible sense) the next was steep declines. Ed demonstrated and explained what I needed to do, and again I had to look for the most level route through so I didn’t tip, with the added challenge of pointing downhill and actually committing to going for it. That was the hardest part. I knew what I had to do, I knew what route I needed to take, but it was f*cking scary and I actually felt a bit sick with nerves. I rode up to the top, looked at my route, took a deep breath, psyched myself up then went for it. It was complete fear and exhilaration in equal measure, and I’d never felt anything quite like it before.
I made it to the bottom intact and commented to Ed, ‘It’s actually quite thrilling, in a shit your pants kind of way!’ I guess it can be likened to being on a roller-coaster, you go up and over the top and then flying down with your stomach in your throat; it’s scary but exhilarating all at the same time.
I did it a couple of times so that the exhilaration overrode the fear, and then went on to the next challenge of a NASCAR style camber. Ed rode it a couple of times to show me how easy it was, and told me that all I needed to do was keep in first and basically red line it, physics would take care of the rest. ‘You know when they do the wall of death, it’s a bit like that!’ ‘Hmmm yes thanks for that Ed, I now have the word ‘death’ rattling around in my head’. I knew that momentum would stop me from falling, but I still couldn’t bring myself to do it. Ed did it a couple more times to show me his line and that I wasn’t going to die, then I took a deep breath and went for it.
It wasn’t quite as graceful as Ed’s demonstration, as I didn’t look ahead and came down the camber a bit too soon with my eyes out on stalks, staring at Ed with a face full of fear instead of where I was supposed to be going. He was pretty sure that my eyeballs touched my visor they were that far out.
Not completely happy with my performance I did it a couple of times each way and got better each time, but I was still a bit too scared to enjoy it. I think the problem is something can be explained so much and for so long that you can work yourself up about it. It really is a case of mind over matter though, it was going to be a steep learning curve but I’d get there eventually. I knew that as I thought back to when I first rode a motorcycle on ice and off-road back in 2013, remembering how scared and nervous I’d been. Since then I’d come a long way as far as motorcycling goes, having ridden across Canada in the winter and nearly 3000 miles off-road on the TAT, so I knew that improvement was possible. It just takes time, practice and all importantly determination, and luckily I’ve got plenty of that.
We were planning on leaving that afternoon, but after my training session I really didn’t feel like I had the mental capacity for the apparently technical ride out of Moab, especially after ending up in a tree on the way back to the hostel we’d moved to. It appeared that braking and steering the trike at the same time proved a bit of a challenge for me…
We also realised that I needed to carry as little weight as possible, so Ed set to work on sorting through his assortment of crap to send on to Oregon. I also managed to shed a few pounds, but unfortunately it wasn’t off my arse. We planned to leave early the following day, but of course that never happened. We needed to go to the post office and the bank, Ed realised that he’d left his boots at the house we’d been staying at, he also ‘needed’ to make his Halloween outfit, and then before we knew it it was 3.30pm.