Our new friend Christian Brix, whose excellent book about a solo trek through Africa last July, has decided he’s now a rallyist, or whatever you call masochists who ride things like the Gibraltar Race, 2021. After completing that one, Christian had some thoughts (and some photos) to share with us. He’s pretty fun reading, no?
Having recently completed the Gibraltar Race 2021, I sat down on my return to ponder why I do such absurd things to myself and my motorcycle. I’m not sure I found my answers, but the following is what I discovered.
I am not on holiday when I do these races… they are not relaxing or easy. I do not come home refreshed, but broken, both mentally and physically. As I don’t have a lot of money, I find a funny thing happens when I spend so much on something like this; I end up taking it seriously, preparing properly and ensuring I really apply myself. Holidays don’t do this for me.
For the boring bit; I stripped down my 2015 XT660Z Tenere (the precursor to the now wildly famous T7) to make sure she was ready for the task and packed plenty of spare parts and tools. For myself, I continued to run three times a week, managed two online Pilates classes a week, and for the final 4 weeks pre-race did two gym sessions with a Personal trainer to be ready. That may seem over the top, but if you’ve ever done a race like this, you’ll know it’s not.
When I am on a race, I am simply away. There is no time or energy for emails, social media, or any of the daily modern-day toss we find essential at home. Global news and events simply cease. All conscious worry and concerns about daily life disappear, and there becomes only one relentless focus; the track. Of course, this involves the state of the bike and my physical health, but only in service of the key overriding goal: the track.
The almighty, relentless, endless, sacred track. The track, the whole track and nothing but the track. It becomes my sun and my moon. My tormentor and my liberator in one. It is that pristine drug high I chase. It gives and it takes. It makes and it breaks. All other thoughts disappear completely, as I engage in extreme physical meditation with the track. It’s a shock when I realise several days have passed and I’ve not had one conscious thought. In this respect, I suppose it is a mental holiday – and it’s glorious.
Of course, I do check my emails and see things happening at work, but in full truth, after twelve hours of riding in a day; I couldn’t give a shit. In full truth, I hardly give a shit at the best of times. Over these two weeks, however, I can shamelessly not care about anything except keeping my bike going and staying in this race.
It’s not about the rankings, much as they generate discussion daily, it’s about keeping yourself moving and reaching a cold beer in the Bivi every night. That’s it, nothing more, nothing less. However, this simple sounding feat requires relentless focus and determination. The more of these events I do, the more I come to realise that the only person you ever really race is yourself. Can I do this? I must prove to myself that I can.
The stunning scenery flies by, as do the charming mountain villages and (mostly) smiling locals, but in all honesty, it’s a blur and I can never remember any of it. The only thing I chase is the sweet feeling of accomplishment at the end of a day. Daily challenge laid before me, accepted, and overcome. Repeat. Discipline is what it takes to maintain the push. I can ride this bike, and I will do so relentlessly, until the wheels come off. Just try to fucking stop me! Either the track will break me, or I will break it, and only one of us will come out alive.
Then there is my bike; my faithful, beloved, and special friend. There are many other like it, but this one is mine. Another thing your money buys you on a race like this, is time to unashamedly spend with your best friend, without interruption. There really is nothing better to me than fully using a motorcycle for its intended use. Much like a human who goes onto to win a Nobel Peace prize, or star in a good movie, great motorbikes are chosen for extreme adventures and come to life as they charge at them.
The rest are condemned to the garage, cleaned with a toothbrush, and only brought out on a dry summer day. Not my bike; it’s a wild animal that’s been thrashed to hell and back. I am ferocious with my love. Out here on these tracks, we roam at large, like kings of the jungle, ready to attack whatever takes our fancy. Be warned world. When you hear that thumping single cylinder cry out like a death machine and that cheap exhaust pop in heavy engine braking; a hell storm is coming over that hill, and it will main you if you get too close.
My sage off-road friend Harry at Desert Rose Racing told me to ‘dance on the pegs’ when I ride off-road, and as much as I try to imagine listening to KC and the Sunshine band or the Bee-Gee’s when I do so, I am in fact listening to early Metallica and thrashing it out. It’s not very sophisticated, or appealing, but it’s immensely satisfying.
You often hear of the ‘fight or flight’ human instinct, but out on these tracks, it’s more ‘fight in flight’. Attack, attack, attack and when that’s done; do it all again. Attack the track until you collapse, and then, you guessed it; do it all again the next day. After two weeks, I look (and smell) like a homeless drug addict, and can’t even tell you my name, but I’ll be damned if I’m not living more than ever before.
In these two weeks, my bike and I have lived over two years out here in the places in between. While we have absolutely nothing but scars and an empty bank account to show for it, I wouldn’t change a thing. Attack, and then attack some more. It may be expensive, but it’s an unadulterated charge at the world, a violent assault on miles of nameless forgotten tracks, and more intense riding than I have ever done in my life.
So, if you have over two grand to blow, want to let your inner madman out and think you are hard enough; come join the fun. But I’ll tell you; you best come prepared. If these words trigger even a slight hesitation or series of questions; avoid this event at all costs. Unless you are willing to crush it, it will un-ceremonially crush you, and your beloved bike into dust. The track demands your soul, your heart, your everything, and will accept nothing less. Nothing less.
Why do I do these things? I’d like to say to grab hold of that live wire that is the track and let the high voltage electricity rush through my body and mind to shock me into another world. Maybe a better world. I’d like to say to challenge myself to find out how far I can really go. I’d like to say some thought provoking and insightful wisdom; but I have none.
Books by Christian Brix:
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