A girl, a bike, and an open road

“Right, next on the list… You know about the Kia, right? They’ll tear up yer bike!”

Clive picked me up from the Christchurch airport, a tall, wiry Brit in his late 50s. Friendly and enthusiastic, he offered a ride to his place in Ashburton where he runs a motorcycle rental business out of his 4-bay farm garage. I was only too glad to accept, since it was a good 40 minutes by taxi otherwise, out away from Christchurch in the middle of sheep country.

“I was in IT, but realized I hated working 70 hours a week and I was where the buck always stopped. A few years back, a friend of mine dropped dead while cycling.. and he was only 48! I decided I wanted to do something I enjoyed, because you never know when you’re going to drop dead. I’d always been loaning bikes to mates who were visiting, so why not make it a real business?”

Clive went on to explain how he retired and turned his collection of 20-odd motorcycles into a small business, one in which he seeks no real profit. “It’s really just a hobby, you see.. I get to maintain the bikes, meet adventurous folks like yourself from all over the world, and make just enough to have an excuse for the fun!”

Clive went into the main house while I unpacked my giant suitcase of gear and loaded up the bike. He came back with 2 cups of coffee and a sleeve of biscuits, and we chatted about motorcycles, all the best routes I should take, and what a brave young lady I am (“You’re only 43? PERFECT time to have an adventure! You’re old enough to have some common sense, but not old enough to worry about aches and pains!”)

He showed off some of his favorite bikes in the garage, offering to let me test ride any of them when I get back; I’m totally going to take him up on it, as I want to ride a Suzuki DRZ and a BMW F800 before I decide I love them! We then went through the checklist.

  • Drivers license? Check.
  • Credit card for insurance? Check.
  • Roadside assistance info in my phone? Check.
  • Contact numbers exchanges? Check.
  • Walk around of the bike to inventory any damage? Check.
  • Do I know what gas to put in, tire pressure, and how to check the oil? Check.

Clive: “Right, next on the list… You know about the Kia, right? They’ll tear up yer bike! Don’t leave it parked out of site away from people if you’re up in the mountains!“

Me: “Kia? like.. the car? I’m sorry, am I-”

Clive: “Nah, nah, Kea, K-E-A - mountain parrots, smart little buggers, they love chewing on rubber. They’ll rip off antenna, slash your seats, crap all over the bike.. you just keep an eye out for em, right?”

Meet my guest bike for this week, Stella!

Clive and I share a good laugh and talk more about left-versus-right hand driving, and then he offers to show me the back way to Christchurch. “Trust me, love, I’m not making sure you know how to ride, its just a nice day and I fancy a bit of a ride myself!” He suits up and leads me across an endless farm prairie of sheep, holsteins, and hay… and then it gets interesting. We stop in Methven for gas, then the road gets seriously twisty and roller-coasters, a PERFECT warmup to let me stretch out and learn the bike, get used to left-hand driving, and learn how to navigate roundabouts and one-lane bridges, both common in New Zealand. We rode through the Rakaia Gorge, and I gawk at the stunning turquoise waters, full of rock flour from the glaciers in the mountains that lurk behind the low cloud cover above us.

I followed Clive until he turned in to a country club drive, thinking it was some kind of short cut. He popped off the bike and say “I fancy a spot of coffee.. can I buy you one?” So we sat for half an hour and talked about his kids, about how one is in Germany studying German at university, and the other is about to leave for Canada, where he’ll be doing… something, I’m unsure, but its at Whistler and the kid loves to ski, he just needs to toughen up a bit and get some life experience, and maybe Clive and the wife will go visit, and…

We roll back out, and Clive waves to me at the fork to Christchurch as he heads home. I pull over and get Siri to guide me in to my AirBnB in downtown Christchurch, spool up some podcasts, and settle in at a steady 105kph (except when I got stuck behind the camper van, which is another common traffic hazard here!)

My lovely AirBnB hosts let me roll the bike into the fenced courtyard of their townhouse apartment, and I’m about to wander off to a rather nice looking Irish pub for dinner, and will check out the poker room at the local casino (I mean, as long as I’m here…)

  • Dead possums in the road: 5
  • Sheep: Eleventy billion
  • Signs advertising “Horse poo - $2”: 3

Today's route

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