The last two trips to the track have been a logistic nightmare especially as I have a very limited budget to play around with. I have always relied on the goodwill of a handful of racers and Team principals to get to and from the track.
I spent a lot of time debating on the best way to attend and enjoy the spectacle of the race finale in November. Driving was not an option, relying on goodwill was not much of a plan, not for the finale. Renting a vehicle with friends did cross my mind but the ones I could have gone with pulled out (Yinka, I see you). It eventually came down to either signing up for a package from one of the services available or riding down. The former was quickly ruled out due to the costs. So riding it was. Cheaper, I am in control of my schedule and I could choose the pace I rode. Sounded good enough in theory. What I ignored was my actual physical condition.
I had only ridden twice, well thrice if I we are being pedantic, in 2018, the first time was picking up a bike and taking it on a spin to the Island in preparation for the second ride. I recall getting home shortly after and it felt like I had been trampled on repeatedly.
one time to Abeokuta sometime in June. I had two other riders flank me as I was very rusty and it became clear during the ride that time had eaten away at my situational awareness, reaction time and more worryingly, my confidence on a bike. I had the luxury of riding a bike I felt quite comfortable with but the time I have spent away from two wheels was glaring. Physically, I was not tired but my left leg was numb on getting to Abeokuta that Saturday morning. The ride back was much more pleasant. I did not have to rely on just muscle memory anymore, I was in control and it felt great.
The only other time I rode was within the Lekki peninsula, it could not have been more than 3KM but it was on my dream bike and the rider ahead of me is a racer of the BT. As you can imagine, seeing his tail light was such a lofty ambition. I expended more energy on the ride than I did to and from Abeokuta. What’s worse was it was at night. For those that do not know me, I have probably the most horrible eyesight. I avoid riding at night except I absolutely have to and I had to. It is not everyday you get to ride your dream bike is it?
With accommodation and ride plan sorted for all of us going, all that was left was to wait for the day….anxiously I might add. I was riding with two friends. We agreed to set out at exactly 7am on Thursday November 22nd, 2018. One of them met up with me at home before Sunrise. Wet set out to meet the last rider at Mobil on The Run (MOTR) along the expressway. In hindsight, the ride to the MOTR was an indication of how slow the ride was going to take. Visibility was beyond terrible especially with a dark visor. Fuel in the bike, water and plantain chips in my backpack (will touch on this later) we set out on what was a memorable ride for both the right and wrong reasons. The bike composition was a liter bike and two 600cc bikes. The agreed stops were NNPC in Ore, Connoil at the Benin Bypass before the last leg to the track. As expected, the liter bike was quickly up ahead the road and so it was till we got to the MRE. Leaving Lagos was a bit chaotic as usual, construction around Ibafo had caused a little bit of traffic, nothing two wheels could not handle though. Onto the stretch leading to Ijebu Ode and I was pleasantly surprised that most of the roads had been “touched” up. It was not as bumpy as we expected. This allowed us go faster than we had originally anticipated but still slower than my ability. It must have been a painful experience for the other guy on the 600cc.
First scheduled stop in Ore, after about what felt like 2 hours 30 minutes we arrive at NNPC. Benin had never felt this far in my entire riding experience. It always felt like my backyard but I guess I was fitter back in the day. I kept looking at my odometer counting down the kilometers. I questioned why I even bothered to ride. The backpack I rode with did me no favors either, It was the heaviest I have ever ridden with. My shoulders were hurting terribly and as we rode into NNPC, the bag tipped and fell onto my left leg. Looking back, I am eternally grateful that did not happen while the throttle was wide(ish) open. I questioned why I did not just fasten the bag to the bike as advised originally. Oh well, I am definitely switching bags with one of the guys before leaving Ore. We caught up with another rider who departed MOTR shortly after we arrived. A few Bananas, plantain chips and water got me re-energized.
We set out from Ore around 10:45am, the weather was getting hotter and in full leathers, it was quite physically draining. It was a good thing that the road to the Benin Bypass was generally better than the road to Ore. We made it to the Bypass shortly before Noon. Sun was already at its apex. The bikes get another fuel top, the riders hydrate. It had been a smooth journey and we hoped it will be smoother. A quick check of the map to ensure we don’t take the wrong exit. We left the station and started out on what was the last leg of the trip. A much consistent average speed even though I was about 40kmph below my comfort zone on the kind of road. The hesitation to open the throttle wide open on fairly good and free roads was a confirmation of how I had no confidence in my ability anymore. We arrive at the track completely knackered. The humidity was ridiculous and the road leading to the track requires an advanced level of riding. It was a small miracle none of us dropped the bike. In that state, we had to park the bikes just away from the track as it was closed for practice. The schlep from bike to pit-lane felt like the longest I had embarked on, helmet and jacket in hand made it that much harder.
The dissipation of the paralyzing pain was instant upon seeing the riders go out on their practice stints. We stayed out at the track for a few hours before heading to our hotel for the night. The next few days were just a joy to be honest.
After a lot of debating, I made the call to abort riding back around 4pm on Saturday after the races. Luckily for me, the CC racing team were kind enough to truck the bike back to Lagos. Unfortunately, I am unsure when next I will be able to ride again. Until then, I will always have November 22, 2018. Somewhere somehow, I could tell that this was going to be my last ride for a long time. How long, well that depends on a whole lot of factors. Hopefully, that was not my last ride.
I am forever grateful for riding with people that choose to ride within themselves even though they are able to change gears very easily. The level of discipline required cannot be overstated. Generally, it was a rather nostalgic experience for me. To be reminded how far I had regressed while still finding the thrill thoroughly fulfilling.