I come from a family of bikers. My great grandmother was one, as were my grandfather, great uncle, father and younger sister; I however came late to the biking scene and only rode a proper bike after turning 40.
A collection of motorcycles that belonged to my Great Uncle
My first ride beyond a couple of circles around a field was entirely off road for 10 hours from Lake Elementaita to a reserve next to the Masai Mara in Kenya’s great Rift Valley. Hardly a novice ride and I didn't even have a license!
I had lucked out with being able to buy a wonderful pre-loved Honda 230 CRF which is the most forgiving bike on the planet and I even managed the longer and more technical 14 hour ride back the next day. The bike just never gave up no matter how many times I dropped it.
Despite this exciting start, I had spent the better part of the ride completely terrified. Everything I came across was a brand new experience and the biggest obstacle to me becoming a more confident rider was the lack of opportunity (and nerve) to make these experiences regular enough to gain confidence. I never got past the stage of focusing so much on the trail ahead that I could see nothing around me. I could have passed a herd of elephants and not noticed them. With the Rift Valley just an hours ride away I had the most incredible playground to explore but not the experience to do so and I felt incredibly frustrated.
My partner was very willing to spend time riding with me, and he’d be a great teacher if I could have made it to an intermediate level but as a wobbly novice I held no riding buddy appeal and both he and his bike would overheat trying to keep down at my speed.
Many years ago he had achieved his South African motorsport colours, competing in all three off road disciplines and in a 10 year career had completed 9 Roof of Africa's many with podium finishes, qualified for the Paris Dakar with an international team and spent all of his free time adventure riding across the African continent. The chasm between his skills and mine was just too enormous to bridge.
The racing years 1981-1990
Luckily, before my romantic images of us riding together completely disappeared, I discovered how great it is to ride pillion.
We rode terrain I would never have tried on my own and seen places I would have been too exhausted to enjoy had I arrived on my own two wheels (probably a whole day after him!). On the back I felt the complete joy and freedom that flying along a trail on two wheels brings.
For him it opened up a whole new realm of riding. Being able to share the spectacular beauty of adventure riding and overcoming technical obstacles 2 up and fully loaded added a new dimension and challenging element to his riding.
Being a hands free pillion has the added benefits of being the ride-along photographer, navigator, reverse gear and bike picker-upper as well as a partner to snuggle in a tent with on a cold night.
2up we've explored 9 countries in Africa including Kenya extensively, Rajasthan in India, the whole of mainland Britain and many happy miles in south east USA. It's all round awesome!
And that’s how we now ride and very happily.
At least for the time being.
Our first video of a 2up ride in the Rift Valley on our KTM 640 Adventure - old style and pre GoPro, this amateur clip is a wonderful reminder to us of how much we love this type of riding. We're working on making some more interesting stuff!
I think my own Adventure bike is not a too distant reality but there are advantages of one bike, 2 riders. We are able to keep a bike for Europe, one for the African continent and one for the US. Budget wouldn’t allow for two bikes on each continent at this stage but let’s just say the possibility is there…