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What’s real adventure?

The recent discussions about the Birdsville Track has brought back memories of my own travels in the Outback in the early 1980s, and of some of the characters I met there.

Of course, back then the concept of an adventure bike was still just a glint in BMW’s eye, so we rode what we had.

Al and Lorraine Smith from Coffs Harbour circumnavigated Australia on a BMW R 90 S and a Kawasaki Z1300 in company with Plunkett on his Ducati 900SS and several other ‘adventure riders’ on large Japanese fours.

More than 17,000km in 21 days, and this was a time when vast swathes of Australian highways were yet to be sealed, mobile phones were only in the movies and GPS was unimaginable. But this was what we did. We made our adventure with what we had and under the conditions that prevailed.

A Suzuki GSX 750 across the Birdsville Track. A Yamaha XS750 from the NT border to Port Augusta. Real adventurers rode things like a Morini 500 Camel with homemade sidecar across the Gunbarrel Hwy.

The list of craziness is long and slightly frightening now we look back with a more highly developed sense of self preservation. The possibility of failure rarely entered our minds. We just got on and rode.

You might think I am about to say today’s adventure rider has gone soft – but that’s just bullshit.

We dealt with the circumstances as they were presented to us then, just as today we manage with what we have. And the next generation will function on a whole new level again. It’s called progress.

Still, I do sometimes yearn for those simpler and more adventurous times.

In January 2020 I will turn 60, so to celebrate I’ll try to cover 60,000km in 12 months and take in as many backroads, outback tracks, country pubs, mountain trails and isolated camping spots as I can find along the way. But on what bike?

I have a Triumph Street Cup in the shed, and it’s about as close as I can find to the bikes I rode in 1980, so if I am going to relive the dream I should do it right, no? I’d be lucky to last a day on that thing. I’ll take the Tiger 800XC, thanks. It’s called progress.

Rex Tout

Sheffield, Tas

As appeared in AMCN Vol 68 No 01

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