Life on bikes

Mutch travelled: Riding a Harley down a New Zealand beach

Ian Mutch is the editor of the Motorcycle Action Group’s monthly magazine, The Road. After a career as, by his own admission, a bit of a crap sailor (although he never actually crashed a ship it was definitely on the cards), he fell into journalism. Writing for Back Street Heroes and the now defunct Heavy Duty spurred him on to start writing up his solo motorcycle trips in far-flung lands.

Six titles down the line, he’s kindly agreed to let Biker and Bike release a snippet from his latest Kindle release, Gandalf’s Garden: Hopeless quests around New Zealand on a Harley-Davidson.

Ian Mutch Gandalf's Garden
Thinking about riding on a beach is like thinking about jumping into a pool.

‘Right,’ you say to yourself, ‘right, I’m going in, right, OK, here we go, hang on a minute, just a mo let’s think about this…’

A girl approached me at the point where I sat studying a large board detailing the dangers and I decided to check with her.

‘Don’t set out two hours either side of low water. The weather can change, the tide comes in fast, there is soft sand in places. Have you checked your watch? Others have got stuck, all insurance policies are null and void from here,’ the sign informed me.

‘A motorcycle on the beach, can you do that?’ the girl seemed surprised.

‘Oh yes,’ I told her.

‘Right,’ I told myself.

‘Here we go.’

I let the clutch out. A bit of a skid in the thick dry sand getting on to the beach and then it wasn’t too bad.

‘Don’t get carried away,’ I told myself. Take it easy and you should be OK.

Twenty, thirty, forty mph. All seemed OK but the lyrics of the M.A.S.H theme tune in my head reminded me I was stressed.

The beach was almost empty, I could see for miles. Where was everyone? It was sunny and warm, beaches don’t get any more perfect than this one.

It was so not Brighton Bank Holiday.

Tiny shells crackled beneath my tyres as the bike ran straight as a die but I couldn’t relax. I squinted into the distance where surf and dunes blended in a nebulous swirl.

Maybe I misread the tides, maybe the times were GMT, maybe there was a little asterix that I missed, a little asterix directing my attention to text at the foot of the page that obviously read, ‘Take 12 hours from these times for Local Time NZ.’ In my mind’s eye I could see the asterisks, there were astrix, yes definitely there were, I should have paid more attention.

Who cares look at the bloody surf! I’m sure those breakers look closer, there’s 90 miles of this beach, actually there are not, it’s more like Km but who’s counting, it was incredibly long.

Where was everyone? What if I dropped it here?

Five kilometres covered, 10 kilometres, so far so good.

The M.A.S.H theme played louder in my head. ‘Suicide is painless, it brings on many changes and I can take or leave it – on no! It’s the soft stuff!

Here we go, I’m off, I’m off, it’s Africa all over again, Diama Dam piste re-visited, squirm, swerve, out of control!

The bike was a drunken reptile, a sidewinder on rot gut whisky. What fun is this? I was looking at a quarter ton of iron on its side and me alone in a sand pit. That’ll be fun to get upright…

Why, why, oh why?Did you not have enough of this nonsense in Africa? You come to a country with faultless tarmac roads and you leave them to ride on sand, you numpty!

What if I can’t pick it up and have to wander over to the dunes and watch the Pacific just roll over this mechanical leviathan,how pathetic an end to the trip and remember this, insurance was null and void after passing that sign.

Of course we always have expert advice, how we love expert advice. What do the experts say about sand? They say ‘open the throttle, power
out of it.’ How I hate experts. Blimey that surf looked closer now.

‘If I get out of this I’m heading back to the road’ I told myself.

Struggle, writhe, spin, chug and – I’m free! Right, enough already with the beach riding, my name’s Goff and I’m off – and off I was.

Twenty minutes later I was back on tarmac, joy of joys but it was still 97km to Cape Reinga and I had to make the northernmost point today and then get back to base in The Bay of Islands.

If you’re a bike trip junkie you can get a bigger fix of Ian’s writing at, where you can also buy his print titles:

Looking for America – coast to coast across the USA on a Harley-Davidson.
Lowrider – A trip to Israel on a Triumph Bonneville.
Harley to Mali – A pilgrimage across the Sahara to Mali on A Harley-Davidson.
Riding With the Beast – A trip to Israel on a Harley-Davidson with a young she-bear riding pillion.
Motorcycles Forever – A picture book of the British motorcycle subculture.

Gandalf’s Garden: Hopeless quests around New Zealand on a Harley-Davidson is available to download for the Kindle, on Amazon.

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