Published on March 24th, 2015 | by Boris
2015 GIMME SHELTER RUN – TRIUMPH’S ROCKET 3 RUNS FREE
Turning off the Hume Highway at Gundagai is like being cured of cancer. It’s an ecstasy of almost overwhelming proportions. If I had not been in the company of men, I might have stopped and touched myself in shameful ways.
Riding the Hume is an exercise in retardation. If you could ride it at 200km/h it would be tolerable. Riding it at 110-120 simply leeches the humanity from your bones and the wit from your mind.
But there are times when you have to do it.
And doing it on a Rocket III is simultaneously great and galling.
It’s great because the big Triumph is divinely comfortable to cruise along on. And it’s galling because it’s much more fun to smash the Triumph along an arcing freeway at twice the legal limit – but since you’re not allowed to do that in Abbottanistan, you sip from the cup of sour gall and mind your manners.
I have long been an avid lover of this incredible motorcycle. And it is just that – and incredible motorcycle. It is vast and it boasts torque numbers (221Nm) that are numbing to comprehend and exhilarating to use. It is a two-wheeled paradox that deserves legend status.
The paradox lies in the fact that its size (and she is a big girl) belies its ability to be fanged. Aside from Yamaha’s staggering VMAX, there’s nothing else that delivers, with agility, the bang the Rocket III delivers. And while the VMAX is a glory unto itself, its stock fuel range makes it delightfully problematic as a tourer.
Not so the Rocket. You won’t get 300 out of a tank, but you’ll get 240, which is alright…um, OK, OK. Yes, you’ll only get about 200 if you’re being grim and determined and heavy-handed, but that’s still alright.
Ultimately, I’ve never given much of a shit about range. I get off and piss and fart about every 120km or so, anyway. So let us not speak of it again.
What needs to be spoken of is what the Rocket III does, how it does it, and most importantly how the Rocket III makes you feel when you’re aboard.
Which is what I shall deal with first.
This is the largest-capacity (2300cc) mass-produced motorcycle on earth. You are never NOT aware of this as you ride it. You know that when you twist that throttle it will deliver. Understand that 221Nm is 221Nm. It empowers you like a brace of nine millimetre Austrian handguns filled with hollow-point rounds tucked into your belt empowers you. You ride it bathed in grandeur and wreathed in torque. You’re like the fifth horseman of the Apocalypse – the fat one with the tattooed neck, the charming grin and the glinting battle-axe; the one that gets all the bitches that War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death overlook.
Of course, torque is kinda pointless unless the bike you’re on can deliver it out of a corner, after first delivering you into that corner with appropriate manners.
Here again the Rocket III paradox appears. It corners. It has ground clearance and it has integrity that belies its vastness. Sure, the tight stuff is challenging and it’s not going around hairpins like a KTM 1290 piloted by a madman. But anything that’s posted 65km/h and up is a joy to hammer around. Nothing Harley or Indian have yet produced comes close. And it’s not fair or right to compare the Rocket to the American cruisers. It’s not a cruiser. Sure, it’ll ‘cruise’ (whatever the fuck that actually means) – but it can be ridden very hard and very fast and it’s happy doing that. Just don’t be scared. It will kill you if you’re scared. In that regard it is the very avatar of the motorcycling paradigm.
I love it. I have always loved it. Whenever I get one, I never want to give it back. It is a man’s motorcycle. It plays a man’s game. The throttle requires a man’s effort to twist. Levering it into a corner requires a man’s determination. Chasing men on sportsbikes demands you bring a man’s contempt for personal safety and whack it hard on the table. Men chasing you will be showered with bits of road as the huge back tyre fires loose tarmac into their wide-eyed faces. They must either pass you, or fade back. Either way, you’re far too busy riding the Rocket III to care what they do – because it’s a full body-and-soul kinda thing.
As we left the Gundagai Shell and made for Kiandra, I set a pace that kept my friends honest. When it got tight just after Blowering Dam, only Harry (Tuono R) and Daz (KTM 1290) passed me. They were engaged in a death race from then on, and spent the weekend seeing whose cags were the heftiest. On the open stuff, I just opened the Rocket’s taps – all of them – and just let it be. No-one was disappearing anywhere.
So what were my friends and I doing in the high country in late summer, capering about the finest roads in all of Australia? Deserted and cop-free roads, I might add, but only as a point of interest.
We were attending the inaugural BikeMe! Gimme Shelter Run.
It sprang from the KCC Poker Run we all attended last year in Tallangatta, where we raised money for cancer victims, got drunk and rode like gods. You can read about that here.
This year, it was decided that we would raise some money for homeless kids instead of cancer victims. Next year, we might well raise money for abused dogs, battered women or those poor people in West Papua whom the disgusting Indonesians are busily exterminating.
David Swift did all the organising, found sponsors for prizes, booked out the Tumbarumba caravan park, located a band, made sure we were royally fed and watered and even offered a Scavenger Hunt theme to the whole ride. He was brilliant.
But all of that was incidental to the central issue – and that was to ride the best bitumen in the country with your mates. If some disadvantaged people derived some benefit from this, all well and good.
For those of you who’ve not been on a BikeMe! run, it’s probably best that you understand a few things before deciding to attend one. They are as follows…
- You are welcome.
- You will remain welcome until you become a dickhead, whereupon you will no longer be welcome. This will be made clear to you upon the instant.
- No-one cares what you ride or how fast you ride it. Just don’t get in the way of the fast people or crash.
- Don’t crash. It fucks up everyone’s day. Especially mine.
- We are all adults and as such, you’re treated as one and it is assumed you are responsible for yourself.
- You need your hand held or your food chewed, don’t come.
- It’s always a race.
Anyway, after a brisk ascent to Cabramurra in weather that was simply stupendous (and I’ve lost count of the times I’ve stood at those petrol bowsers in the throes of frost-coma), we rode the stunning Elliot Way into Tumbarumba, and into the welcoming arms of the town’s caravan park.
There were lots of BikeMe! members already in situ – garbage bins full of ice and alcohol attested to this, as was the crowd of smiling faces I rode past as I made my way to my cabin.
In short order, we had all gathered, drinks in hand, kinda in the middle of the caravan park – a leafy green retreat with air so clean it made my head ache – and proceeded to…um proceed. It was like a medieval Russian village when a bunch of Cossacks rode in – but without the Jew-killing and rapine.
I can only guess with profound indifference what the other residents made of it all.
No-one was riding anywhere until the following morning, so the evening was given over to catching up. Oh, and displays of Systema. And interpretive dance. And Ganesh. Bulk Ganesh.
I managed to stagger to the pub to eat with Matty, Dougal and Dougal’s ridiculously gorgeous girlfriend, Madison, who looks like a hot Taylor Swift, and made friends with a barman. The barman swore like a good-natured but profoundly addled whore, poured cold beer at his own pace, took our food orders, then came and sat in the beer garden with us after his shift and swore and laughed and told jokes, until it all got too much and I made my way back. I only got lost once.
The next morning was as clear, clean and warm as a pair of fresh underpants.
Almost by osmosis, it was decided we would ride to Talangatta. Maybe. Or Omeo. Or Thredbo. Or somewhere. The world was our oyster, as it were. The roads were empty. The sun was shining. The bikes were full of fuel. Scavenger maps were in our pockets and our bellies were full of a fine breakfast courtesy of the caravan park.
Then the flag dropped.
Now I’m not about to make any confessions or tell any tales out of school. You want to know what one of these things is like, you need to attend.
For some it was harrowing and demonic. For some it was life-affirming and nourishing. For some it was hilarious and stunning. Each rider experienced those magical roads – and there are many of them all within easy reach of Tumbarumba – in his or her own way. After all, we all ride alone in the end. Our experiences are unique to us.
Team SCR (Shit Cunt Racing) howled around the mountains like deranged monkeys. Daz and Harry recommenced their death match. Canning shamed almost everyone. Klavdy floated hither and tither like an iron butterfly. One newcomer was heard to ask another almost-newcomer: “Do they all ride everywhere like that?”
“Every time,” came the reply. “That’s why I come on these things.”
Our paths crossed and parted and I met various clots of riders at various towns and pubs. I lay under a tree for a while. I sipped a beer in Jingellic. I stopped to take photos and stare at the mountains. Sometimes there were 20 bikes in a group. Sometimes you were on your own.
The Rocket delivered everything I wanted and in the quantities I required. At no time did I wish for ‘more’ of anything…well, this one time when Benny and Bluey went past me at Warp 68, I kinda wished for an R1, but it passed.
The Murray Valley Highway, Granya Gap, the Elliot Way, the Omeo Road – hell they’re all just there. Up hill and down dale, through sweepers and hairpins and along searing straights. If you ride, you can’t not fall in love with this part of the world.
Some people rode 600km that day. Others rode 120. All of them made it back to the caravan park for a great steak dinner and the band – even Gonzo who crashed his bike after being confronted by a caravan mid-corner. But he rode his smashed KTM back anyway. Like a Boss.
That evening, our fellow park residents, along with ourselves, were treated to an excellent pair of minstrels. We all sang and danced and tapped our feet. Some of us even went to make friends with frightened-looking French female backpackers who had come to see our high country and saw instead what happens when crazy motorcyclists drink too much, ride too fast, and dance too hard.
Excusez-nous, filles. Vos ânes étaient trop bonne pour resister. Et nous étions ivres.
Various accounts have since come to light of what occurred later than night when the music went silent, and the lights went off.
Once again, you had to be there. But I understand that there was vomiting involved. Blood was spilled (inadvertently). Furniture was broken. Coupling was witnessed. Canadian Club was consumed. Electrical problems were repaired. Iron hangovers were forged. Love was in the air. Patience was rewarded. The snout of Ganesh was touched.
The next morning, I took the long way home via Cooma and Queanbeyan. My exposure to the Hume was thankfully minimal.
The Rocket hummed along with muted might. We had sung and danced, and it was now time to get daddy home. It had dealt with my depredations with aplomb and insouciance. It had braked deep and hard, scraped its footpegs, and powered out of thousands of corners. It had literally roared down long straights and along wide-arced sweepers. It had sucked crisp alpine air into its mighty belly, mixed it with with various grades of petrol, blew it all up and spat it all out of mufflers the size of howitzers. It had taken my breath away with its sheer grunt (and no, you never get tired of that) and it made me feel mighty and awesome and capable.
And what more can a man ask of a motorcycle?