Skip to content


With coronavirus closing in, these two travellers had a limited time to fulfil a lifelong dream

Like the best ideas it was badass simple. My friend and fellow WorldSBK journalist Carlo Baldi had watched me ride bikes for the peerless AMCN when we got to the opening round at Phillip Island over the past few seasons, and had always told me it was his dream to ride in Australia.

After some e-mail tennis back and forth over the equator, the reality became apparent. We would borrow two Suzuki V-Stroms, one 650 and one 1000, use them from when we arrived into Melbourne from Europe, and then give them back about two weeks later.

Beyond that, the brief from our ultimate benefactor was pretty loose; “You’re going to have a ball,” Sam said.

It was official, we had to leave the grey European winter for late summer in Victoria and were mandated to have a good time on two nicely run-in V-twin Suzukis. Our plan was simple, too. Gossamer thin.

Once we had got to our rental house in Cowes we would go about our day jobs in the official Dorna WorldSBK pre-season tests on Monday and Tuesday, then the race weekend itself, with the bikes playing the role of vastly overqualified commuter machines.

After that, we were free as two old codgers from the other side of the world could be while still squeezing in keyboard time in the evenings to complete our regular work… and, as became quickly apparent, to keep an eye on the developing global coronavirus crisis.

After we collected the V-Stroms, the loose road test idea was to answer the question of which one of these two bikes was best for everyday and long-distance work. Was the 650 just too wee for the longer stuff or was the 1000 too much of everything except for a fully loaded continent crossing?

Even before we had got to Phillip Island, some two hours or so from where we collected the ’Stroms (and after smoking the equivalent of 60 unfiltered cigarettes riding under Melbourne’s bloody Burnley tunnel), we started swapping the bikes between us.

There are many top places to ride motorcycles in this world, and where I come from is one of them. Australia is very definitely another one, especially in those mountains and coast roads. You even drive on the correct side of the road – for me. As a means of self-isolating, riding a motorcycle is positively socially responsible. I mean, we have a fiberglass full-face mask and thick gloves on all the time.

Get yourself a copy of Vol 69 No 21 for the full story