Dual Tue 15 May 2018

1st SARDEGNA GRAN TOUR

I participated in the 1st Sardegna Gran Tour as the passenger of an Africa Twin Adventure Sport DCT.
The discovery event organized by Antonello Chiara and Renato Zocchi had two meeting locations: Rome and Milan. We left from Rome.
We begin our trip by reaching the Honda dealer HMR in Rome by 8.30 am; here a buffet breakfast awaits while, one at the time, the other participants arrive. At the end there are six of us and I’m the only passenger and the only girl; a bigger group (about 50 participants, amongst whom other girls) left from Milan. After introductions, group picture, motorcycle number hand-out and a few gadgets, we leave for the port of Livorno; the track indicated by the GPS, downloaded after signing up for the rally, runs along paved as well as dirt roads.
After a few kilometers we go off-road and it’s when I start having a few problems as passenger. The dirt road is full of deep cracks and potholes and even if I have my personal warning device who shouts through the intercom “Watch out!”, sometimes the trap is invisible and ….snap! The first undampened blow to my back. For a few seconds I can’t breathe, but I’m still alive. Around noon we stop for lunch, to my great relief. The organizers have booked an agriturismo in the hills in front of which there is a little church in ruins but so cute. After lunch it’s off-road again: curves, potholes, inclines, climbs and this is where I suffer my second snap because of a pothole: the bump is so sudden and hard that I strain my neck which will hurt ‘till the next day. We arrive at Follonica from the hills, from which the sea and a marina can be seen; the landscape is so beautiful that we decide to take a picture.
Downtown we stop for an ice-cream and to meet the wife and little twin girls of Matteo, one of the group, who lives in Follonica.
From here we take the paved road given the time and tiredness, but we don’t regret it because the landscape is spectacular. We take the highway for the last kilometers for traffic is lighter and to make time.

When we get to the port we meet up with the group from Milan. We only exchange a few words because it’s already 8 pm and the ship is waiting.
We disembark in Golfo Aranci in Sardinia the following day at 8 am and regroup in a nearby parking lot for a briefing by the organizers, Antonello and Renato who remind us to comply with the behavioral rules, and Giulio, the guy who prepared the GPD tracks, who illustrates the paved route as well as the on-off route, including the critical points. At the end, we transfer our bike bags to the van that will precede us to the hotel where we will spend the night; first section: Golfo Aranci – Alghero.
As explained during the briefing, we will depart in stages but only after one of the organizers wrote down the bike number and the type of route chosen (paved or on-off); despite the briefing, some participants leave without giving the required info risking their own safety.
We leave with Fabrizio who chose the on-off route like us. We are told that 70% of the section is paved and 30% off-road, which is described as the most technical of the 4 sections of the rally. The landscape is fantastic, colors everywhere for the flowers are blooming and the lovely smell of Scotch broom fills the air; I’m speechless and enchanted.
Our off-road starts with a climb full of hairpin bends on gravel ground full of deep cracks and potholes where Fabrizio passes us. Not long after, right on a hairpin bend we find him on the ground with another participant; the fall is the consequence of an exchange of courtesies - “Let me slow down so that you can pass” – “No, let me brake so that you can pass” – with the incline, the gravel, the slowing down and the considerable weight of the machines, as accessories. As soon as we help them lift their motorcycles we are on our way again. A short remark: luckily, we are travelling with Fabrizio and not alone because, for unknown reasons, every now and then the track disappears from our GPS.
We ride through a succession of climbs, steep downhills, planes, fords and dazzling landscapes.
Pietro, my “chauffer”, is confident and rides effortlessly even if I’m behind him, which truly makes the difference when riding off-road: having a passenger isn’t that easy.
I’m calm but not relaxed: I’m perched on the seat as a condor, clinging with both hands – and If I had more I’d use those too - to the rear bag-rack like a monkey while planting my feet steadily on the footpegs as if I were a reluctant rhino, to avoid sliding along the seat – especially downhill – hindering Pietro’s riding even more.

I try to relax my body to absorb the bumps, but the perching-clinging-planting don’t help, on the contrary, at the end of the day my shoulders are sore, my back is in pain and my knees hurt.
Since experience makes one wiser, the next days I’ll modify my passenger posture a little: hunchback as Quasimodo to loosen my back, neck stretched forward as a turtle with head constantly turned to the left as an owl so that my helmet doesn’t bump against Pietro’s.
Halfway through the route we stop for lunch at the seashore where the organizers set up a gazebo with benches and tables: the menu includes oysters and roasted fish.
We reach our destination at about 5 pm, after passing through a splendid pine grove on the beach that is also the parking lot of the Corte Rosada hotel of Alghero, a magnificent shelter for an aching body.
When I get off the bike I walk like the tin man of the Wizard of Oz, stiffly with my knees locked and when I reach the stairs I turn into an old sloth: I think it takes me about ten minutes to walk one flight.
Before the evening briefing and dinner, we visit Alghero which turns out to be a little jewel.
The Alghero-Arbatax section of the following day is the longest. The departure is fixed for 9 am. Inexplicably, we can’t find the day’s track on the GPS, so we ask another participant to share it with us wirelessly. It’s time to leave but we only downloaded 50% of the track and this forces us to join the paved road group, for which I’m really grateful!
It’s cloudy, every now and then the sun comes out, the temperature is perfect for us riders but what really stays with me is the spectacular landscape offered by the panoramic route along the coast.
Around 2 pm we arrive with the sun on the shore of an artificial lake where lunch has been arranged; today’s menu also includes meat and local pastries. We eventually download the whole track: we will ride off-road this afternoon. The track follows an abandoned little road overgrown with weeds and shrubs, that runs along a precipice where the guardrail is only sometimes present; the road becomes a path with herds of goats grazing along the hillside and in the middle of the path. As a passenger, I must say that this is the off-road I prefer, because the ground is rugged and bumpy but not as the previous day.
We reach the Club Saraceno Hotel in Arbatax and after we park our motorcycles, a golf cart takes us to the hotel located near the beach of the close by cove. We also get to see a school of dolphins playing a few feet from the shore.
During the pre-dinner briefing, the organizers inform us that the following day it will rain the whole day and that we can chose to go directly to Golfo Aranci along the main road without following the prepared tracks. Since I do not have the full waterproof gear and considering that rain is forecast even for our return trip, I decide to ride in one of the organizers’ car to Golfo Aranci. A guy and a lady join me for the same reasons. Pietro, instead, is one of the few daredevils who chose the off-road track, free to ride without “dead weight” at last!
Given the situation, the organizers book some hotel rooms in Golfo Aranci where to relax until the time to embark arrives (8 pm).
We arrive in Livorno the following morning at 7 am with pouring rain. As said, I don’t have the full waterproof gear, so I make a pair of overshoes from a garbage bag to keep the lower part of my legs dry.

And this is how my adventure ends.
Ultimately, the joints and cartilages of an off-road passenger undergo a fair amount of stress since the road isn’t always visible and a passenger doesn’t have the supports and possibility of absorbing bumps as the pilot has.
Honestly, with a bit of experience and a few postural expedients, riding as a sack of potatoes isn’t that bad! And I must add that I would do it all over again … even if I think I got shorter – and I’m not tall to begin with … maybe I’ll be able to play the garden gnome this summer!
A heartfelt thank you for the fun and laughs to Gianclaudio, Mauro, Fabrizio, Matteo, Fulvia and Luca.

Text: Sabrina G. Arnold
Photos and video: Sabrina Arnold and Gianclaudio Aioss