When Plan B kicks in...

The 51st Traverse motorbike team: (L-R) Rob Gray, Rob Climo, Misha Kravcenko,Tom Anselmi and Mike Jacobson. Photo / Richard Robinson
The 51st Traverse motorbike team: (L-R) Rob Gray, Rob Climo, Misha Kravcenko,Tom Anselmi and Mike Jacobson. Photo / Richard Robinson

I realised Plan A was out of the picture at exactly the same moment I realised I was going to collide with the car in front of me.

I didn't have much time to reflect on this, as I was travelling at 70km/h on a busy Auckland motorway. The inevitable clunk of metal on metal rang in my ears. I was propelled over my handlebars in an arching somersault and thrown down with a thud onto the hard tarmac.

Somehow, though, in the few seconds it took to go from placid riding position to prone lying position, all I could think about was that my plans of the last two years - the hundreds of hours of stress, exuberance, dreaming, and telling tall stories about Siberian brown bears - all this was about to come to a very sudden... halt.

Adrenalin kicked in. I jumped to my feet and ran over to my wounded bike, which lay on its side, wheels spinning, engine screaming.

The lady I'd hit sat glued to her steering wheel, mouth open - no doubt the kaleidoscope of bike and rider tumbling past had been a little unexpected.

Other cars screeched to a halt, swerving to avoid scattered pieces of my maimed machine. I fumbled with shaky hands and clumsily hit the kill-switch on my Suzuki DRZ-250.

Relative calm set in - as calm as things get, I guess, seconds after a near-death experience in lane three of five lanes of motorway traffic.

I guess I'd better back up a bit...

I'm Rob. In five weeks time from the accident, I was scheduled to board a plane to Vladivostok, Russia, from where I was to tackle Plan A.

Plan A went something like this: Five blokes, five bikes, 18 countries, 25,000kms, one epic adventure.

Four mates (Mike, Misha, Climo and Tom) and I were planning to take near-new Suzuki DRs on the biggest adventure we could imagine - motorbiking from Vladivostok to London.

It was a plan we'd hatched a couple of years ago over a few drinks. One of those ideas that you expect to fade the next day as the sun pushes out the remnants of the night. But this idea stayed, and grew, and soon we were spending every waking hour thinking about the adventure ahead of us.

As well as being an epic trip during which we hoped to see some of the most remote and obscure parts of the globe, we also planned to raise $25,000 for Living Hope, a charity that works with street children in Vladivostok. The money would help Living Hope build a dormitory to house 20 street kids.

Fortunately, Plan B isn't too dissimilar. It's pretty much the same as Plan A, except instead of riding a "near-new Suzuki DR", I'll be riding a bike that can most favourably be described as "bent".

See, I was lucky. I had five weeks to recover from the shock of the accident.

My bike wasn't so lucky. It had five days (including a weekend) before it was due to be shipped halfway round the world. Despite urgent action all round, including three days in a bike shop and a day with an engineer, we realised around lunchtime on the day my bike was due to depart that the rear subframe was bent so much that the back of the bike was 50mm out of alignment.

What to do? Five hours isn't long to get my insurance company to agree to write-off the bike and find a new one. So now I'm riding a banana bike around the world. I've dubbed it "Piza" - in the hope it will hold up as long as the Leaning Tower of Piza has, despite its angular oddities.

A first blog probably isn't the place to confess to feeling apprehensive about what lies ahead. After the events of the last few weeks, how do I feel about the trip?

My first crash brought home the reality of motorbike riding - it's dangerous, and one careless move can have huge consequences.

What would have been a "fender bender" if I'd been in a car, saw me nearly lose my life instead.

On the other hand, nothing has changed about the trip.

It's like a bungy jump.

Right from the moment you decide to do a bungy, you know the risks. There's a fractional chance one of your retinas will detach, and an even more miniscule chance the rope won't be tied on properly. You know that. You know it while you're driving to the jump site, while you queue up and pay, while you get the safety briefing.

But when you stand on the edge, ready to jump: things suddenly become a lot more real. Your stomach is doing backflips and your knees feel a lot weaker than usual. What's changed? Only your perception.

We've spent two years researching and planning this trip, and we know the risks. They're just a lot closer to home for me now.

The next time I get on Piza, we five blokes will be exiting the port of Zarubina, an insignificant Siberian town a couple of hundred kilometres south of Vladivostok, with 25,000kms in front of us.

I'll be looking forward to six months on the road, and hoping our next ride together is smoother than my last!

* To help Rob and his mates reach their fundraising target and for more information on their journey, click here.

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