What is adventure riding anyway?
Setting off for my 100 mile commute to work this morning was a step into the unknown.
The dark grey skies were ensuring everywhere was soaked by what the water companies will tell us is much-needed rain.
I'd recently fitted a screen and handguards to my Kawasaki ER-6n for better weather protection and this would be the first time the new additions had been properly tested.
Slicing through the wet stuff on my way to the motorway was for me akin to setting off on Frodo and Sam's long journey to Mordor. All-season pros would laugh at the task ahead, a 'simple' 100 mile trek down the motorway in driving rain, misty spray and gusty wind. For me however, this is adventure riding.
Joining the motorway wasn't too bad, yes there was spray and I was struggling with finding a happy medium between a foggy visor and getting a mouthful of road water but it was all well within my abilities.
However it wouldn't be long until the traffic slowed to a standstill and I found myself filtering desperately trying to avoid slippery white lines and wing mirrors. This was starting to test my low-speed skills in the wet.
The traffic picked up speed and slowed down again much like the rise and fall of waves on a stormy ocean. In fact if you replaced the cars and juggernauts with ferries and tankers I could quite easily have been crossing the Irish Sea.
Apart from one or two tailgaters and a few un-signaled lane changes the other motorists were behaving themselves pretty well. It seemed that most people knew that the road was slippery and that driving defensively was the safest bet. This would soon change as I approached Northampton.
The first sign of trouble was a self-hire box van cutting me up without any indication. Luckily I was prepared for the dangerous manoeuvre as I'd noticed the drivers face appear in the mirror.
From their on in things quickly deteriorated as the box van hogged the outside lane even though the road in front of him was clear across two whole lanes.
Frustrated by travelling at 60mph with an Audi up my arse I moved to the middle lane and took my life in my hands as I passed the van on the left before slowing to 70mph and sticking with the empty middle lane.
The Audi followed but moved back to the 'fast' lane and passed me, the driver clearly preoccupied with the text he was writing on his phone. It wasn't long before I'd caught up with the texting Audi driver again as the traffic ground to a halt.
Filtering through the traffic I was nearly taken off-guard when a late 90s silver Mondeo blatantly moved from its position in the outside lane to block my path. I was even more shocked when the old git driving it leaned over the passenger's seat and opened the passenger door to try to block my progress completely!
Luckily I avoided a collision and kicked the door shut as I rode past. I was tempted to stop and give him a taste of pissed off biker but I've learned to calm my road rage very quickly since riding a motorcycle, besides, I think I trapped his hand in the door when I kicked it shut – serves him right!
The rest of the journey had become a very soggy affair. Being armed with a hi-vis monsoon suit may have kept my arms, legs and torso dry but I'd neglected to note that my boots, while water-resistant were not actually waterproof!
By now I could feel the water sloshing around the sole when I moved my feet. It was like I had my feet dunked in an ice bucket. Soggy socks only serve one purpose – they make you cold. With my sodden socks I entered the 50mph zone just in time to witness a silver VW Caddy van nearly side-swipe another biker.
Luckily the other biker had being paying enough attention to have seen it coming and took evasive action to prevent becoming road kill. It seems that this biker wasn't nearly as forgiving as me when it came to road rage as he sped up and moved in front of the Caddy Van and slowed down, blue lights flashing!
The idiot had only cut up a traffic copper on a luminous yellow sports tourer. The copper had flipped the front of his helmet up and was smiling from ear to ear. As I passed he nodded and gave me a 'thumbs up' as though to say “I've got one of the buggers!”
The final stage of my journey was without major incident. Apart from a car deciding at the last possible minute that the slip road I'd taken to get off the motorway was his exit too. Luckily there was enough space to avoid breaking hard or running into him.
Pulling up at work my feet felt like the bottom of a cold cup of coffee after too many Rich Tea accidents! My adventure was over, for this morning at least.
I'm sure that the Nick Sanders and Charlie Boormans of the world will be laughing their heads off atop of their BMW R1200GSs and Yamaha Super Teneres at what I consider adventure riding but for me this was a real test of my skill.
I have ridden in weather marginally worse than this before but it's only been a quick twenty-mile blast home after the weather had turned. This time I was purposely setting off in it and for a much longer stretch.
My point is that any journey that pushes your abilities and takes you into the unknown is adventure riding.
You might well be within half an hour of a rescue van or a few motorway junctions away from the refuge of the motorway services but if you're pushing yourself and expanding your abilities then you're on an adventure and don't let anyone tell you different.