It’s ironic how you feel most alive when your heart skips a few beats. We’d been warned in the morning’s training of some rocky terrain with a mix of deep sand, hard cracked slabs and loose stone but as my eyes skip ahead reading the terrain, I knew I needed to focus. A deep breath as I calmed my mind, relaxing into the bike’s rhythm and powering on. The deep sand grapples at the Tenere’s wheels, pulling, pushing. It’s a like a million little sand hands all desperate to throw me off. I roll on the throttle throwing my 62kg weight as far back as possible to let the 205kg Tenere 700 front end float.
Our rhythms settle and it feels like we’re gliding as we part the sand. My peripheral vision captures flashes of the sea crashing down below the jagged cliff tops just metres from the track. My senses are in override and I’m feeling smooth. And then bang. We hit the hidden slabs of bed rock. The wheel jumps, my body shudders. Clutching the bike with my knees we absorb, and ride on. Phew..
Pulling to a stop a mile later, my heart is racing, breath fast and deep, and my smile blinking huge. We were upright and my goodness what did we just ride? High fiving the guys in front our energies are ignited. Twisting back to see the others following… it’s a different scene. I spot two bikes down in the deepest patch of sand. Bars dug in, bike are like a dead weight. Watching as they draw their inner superman strength to lift in the sand, feet sliding and struggling for traction, I was very grateful to be watching and not digging holes on the Tenere 700 myself.
On a trip designed to conquer two big purposes I could see in this moment exactly why combining adventure and training was a winning concept. Earlier that day in our off-road training camp we had been guided through the art of picking up an adventure bike. There are many ways to skin a cat and it’s the same with recovering a bike, depending on the scenario and how upside-down, backwards and embedded into the terrain you find yourself. It might sound simple but so many put their backs out and don’t correctly utilise the individual bike ergonomics. Or worse never actually try lifting it until amidst remote chaos.
Stood in a circle with the Tenere 700 lying ready for the next lifting victim I quietly watched, gracefully awaiting my turn – which was in fact me trying not to go next. But to my amazement, even with my reconstructed hip, using the bar squat method it was ‘easy’. It’s one of those tasks we seem to omit training for… instead finding ourselves out in the wildness with a blinking big bike that fancies a nap and a lie down. Swear words and tears. Today’s lesson has already helped my confidence, now to stay focused so I’m not putting the lift into practice for real.
Energies high we ride on and moments later we’re shifting weight on the twisty tarmac as we continue our circumnavigation of Sardinia. As the second largest Mediterranean island it’s described as a micro-continent with its diverse landscape – making it an adventure motorcycling mecca. A wilderness of untouched landscapes, mountains, woods, plains, stretches of largely uninhabited territory, streams, rocky coasts, and long sandy beaches.
Sardinia has an incredible road infrastructure and arguably some of the best road surfaces in Europe – I didn’t see a single pothole! Add the potential to enjoy a full lap of the island in just a week, which is incredibly satisfying…it’s ADV paradise.
We enjoyed thrilling tarmacked roads to satisfy the road warrior needs, along with miles and miles of off-road pistes just begging to be explored on two wheels. It’s all about where you choose to ride. Our loop gave us a delicious blend of smooth and tight corners, cliff-side viewpoints, and straights to open the throttle – perfect for focused road riding refinement while enjoying endless breath-taking views. Intertwined with seamlessly planned tracks, rocky paths meandering into the mountains, sweeping across valley bottoms and river crossings. It’s simply breath-taking with as we hug the Mediterranean Sea.
The minds ability to adapt to the terrain was really tested with such a mix of riding in Sardinia. One minute it’s sweeping tarmac, then it’s dusty tracks, more concrete, and then sand, slippery mud and rock climbs. And then more road with pegs scrapping and throttles rolled on. With on and off-road riding having some huge similarities, there are also some big differences.
I started out as the pre corner panick-er. Ignorant of road science or any training. I’d simply grab the brakes, always either too soon wasting time or too late causing rather uncomfortable moments of total alarm. The road training camps saw a light bulb moment where I actually understood how to translate my inputs into bike / road reactions. Simply reading the corner isn’t enough. You have to be able to react and adjust at any moment. The front and back breaks, just like off road, have their own roles, their own time and place in the corner. My body, formerly a sack of potatoes on the road needed a kick in the arse to move with the road. The corners formerly seeing widened pupils become a delightful dance. Rolling from tyre wall to tyre wall on the sweeping Sardinian roads. I even felt my side abs engage from leaning the beast over in so many corners. A corner tightening up unexpectedly became a non-event. From day one to six it was nothing short of a transformation in my road riding. The repetition across the week nailed it for me.
With some of the top track racers turning to off-road to improve their skills an expedition with 50/50 on to off-road I knew it would be ideal to progress my riding in both areas. Each evening covered riding theory for the day ahead while enjoying local Italian wine. The morning brief recapped application for the day’s route and then the on and off-road training camps gave practical implementation with a watchful eye to tweak and perfect, kicking out those bad habits. The rest of the time was practice wrapped in adventure.
Luca our tour leader, stops the group to brief a technical hill climb. It’s rocky, jagged, rutted and water swept, and something we’re not all going to manage. We’d done the theory and build up to it, but this was a big one. As he scans around the group carefully selecting those few who have the riding skill to attempt, it was like being back at school – the popular kid selecting their favourites for their team… would I get picked? To my delight, Luca’s gaze locks on me. Vanessa, you’re up! Holy moly. Yes, oh gosh. Yes!
As I sit at the bottom watching the guys tackle the climb one-by-one, the tension inside is building. I can feel the heart pulsing in anticipation but there is a magical thing about having someone believing in you. The tour leader believed, having worked with me over the last few days, helping me gain control and confidence, he believed in me. If he believes in me, I believe in me! That’s one of my favourite things about riding with better riders, when they feel you’re capable, it’s a heck load of extra confidence to braap into something. Did I make it? I’m tickled to say, I bossed it!! Controlled, smooth and smiling! Moments like that, achieving something unexpected, that’s what tuition and adventures can enable.
A week’s expedition of amazing scenes, great company but all topped off by progressing my riding. Becoming a better version of myself on the bike while on holiday, now that’s a trip I recommend.
1. Who doesn’t want to be a better rider?
2. Reduce your risk of injury AND bike damage by having more skill and confidence
3. Enjoy a holiday whilst getting a sense of achievement
4. It’s practice, practice, practice, accelerating the skill adoption with concentrated learning
5. You’ll meet other riders, expanding your friendships and skills hand-in-hand
These are one off trips, organised by Dainese to combine improved skills, safety and one epic adventure. Previous trips include Sardinia and Iceland. As one of the largest motorcycle brands going Dainese team up with the best in riding tuition, pick the most suited motorcycle for the trip and organise everything. Included in the cost is a full Dainese adv riding outfit including AGV helmet, extensive training across the week, and a fully-inclusive trip with a support vehicle, fuel, food, accommodation, trail snacks, beer and all the local gen from meticulous planning. We had six days riding, covered roughly 1300km doing 9 hour riding days and got to see the best on and off road Sardinia has to offer. Expect to pay around €4999 per person.
Known as ‘The Girl On A Bike’, Vanessa took to motorcycling following a life-changing cycling accident. She’s always out and about adventuring on bikes and is on a mission to prove that nothing is impossible if you really want it.
After seven days and 1,300 km travelling along the roads, mule tracks and most spectacular routes that Sardinia has to offer I feel comfortable saying the Yamaha Tenere 700 does exactly what is says on the tin. The Defender of ADV. Bare bones adventurer.
If you’re new to my page – it’s more than just dirt bike riding and racing, I’m on a mission to prove that nothing is impossible if you want it bad enough. See more about my story plus read about my life changing accident, which started it all.
You can find me Vanessa, The Girl On A Bike over on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube, and www.thegirlonabike.com.