So says BikesportNZ.com editor Andy McGechan, who indulges us here with a few of his life lessons, things he’s picked up over the years from a lifelong fixation with motorcycling.
As a middle-aged bloke, I am nowadays more typically at the quiet end of the motorcycling spectrum, not a rider so often but at the race tracks as an observer, photographer and chronicler of the experience, yes I’m a journalist for the BikesportNZ.com web site, Kiwi Rider magazine, multiple newspapers and web sites worldwide.
Both ends of that spectrum come together for life’s lesson No.1.
The lesson? Well here it is: Photographers pick their locations for a reason.
If a photographer is hiding in long grass, behind a tree or at a particular rutty corner, he is generally there for one purpose only, to get the best snapshot possible. They’re not necessarily interested in whether you’re winning the race or not.
Auckland’s Freddie Milford-Cottam learned this at the final round of the New Zealand Enduro Championships a few years back when he was charging at breakneck speed down a long, narrow pathway between a row of trees in the forest.
It was scary stuff to watch and I would love to have seen on-board camera footage from his helmet (I’m pretty safe in the knowledge that, even on a good day, I was never able to travel that quickly or precisely through the bush).
The cameras available today are a great way for riders to show their mums and dads, girlfriends and boyfriends what it’s like to race these bikes, but that’s another topic for conversation at a later time.
Anyway, Freddie was hauling; he was on a mission; he was “in the zone”.
That was until he spotted me, fluorescent vest and all, long camera lens pointing his way, nestled at the end of the straight, just before (and this is very important to note) the track rose sharply and then dipped and took a sudden right turn.
Yes, he spotted me and, being the media-friendly guy that he is, he decided to show off with a nice little cross-up as the bike left the ground on that sudden rise I mentioned.
I got the shot; he got the shock.
I guess he must have realised while airborne that it wasn’t good to be taking that flight or at that speed, because his eyes were suddenly bulging wide open as he realised he needed traction to make the sharp right-hand turn.
To cut a long story short, he got through the turn, but only just and it wasn’t a pretty sight. It involved a lot of body contortions, a ton of bad language and more than a few scratches on his bike’s plastic.
A lot of foliage was lost by the forest that day and I’m pretty sure Freddie’s underpants needed a hose down back at the motel that night.
Lesson No.1 was well learned by Freddie that day.
It was a similar story for me a few years previously when I was racing a cross-country event in Hawke’s Bay.
I had just ridden out of the bush when I spotted the next arrow in the far distance, across an open hay paddock. The hay hadn’t yet been harvested and long, brown grass waved all the way across to the far gateway. That was the first warning sign I misread.
I shot off across the field and, about halfway across, I spotted a photographer crouched down near my target gateway. That was the second warning sign I misread.
Then I hit the clump of dirt hidden in the long grass. If you have ever seen a photograph of a classic “Flying W”, that’s the picture I now have hanging in my office. Lesson No.1 was well learned by me that day.
Lesson No.2 is never shake hands with an enduro rider, especially if his name is Kevin Archer or Sean Clarke.
These men have grips like gorillas.
Lesson No.3 is that nuts and bolts will fall into the most inaccessible place in the garage, under a work bench, under the car, etc, and in direct correlation to the importance of said nut or bolt, you possibly won’t have even noticed that it’s scuttled away under the bench.
Lesson No.4 is that you can guarantee that the one spare part you forget to throw into the van, and you instead leave it at home in the garage on race day, will be the exact part you will need at the track that day.
The opposite is also true – call it lesson No.5 – that the things you do manage to wedge into the van that morning, rain gear, for instance, will be not be needed as you will undoubtedly encounter the hottest, driest and dustiest day in recorded history.
But (remember lesson No.4?) you will have forgotten to pack the air filter oil.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
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