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Wide of the Mark

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Three blokes set out to make a film about a motorcycle adventure ride in Tasmania. Not a ride with hard-core adventurers and specialised equipment. Just some mates on bikes they’d built themselves looking to stay grounded. The result was awesome. Tom Gilroy tells the story.

In 2019, myself (Tom), Jake and Cameron from film production house Electric Bubble collaborated on a project called Handcrafted. The film took a look inside the lives and minds of some of Australia’s most respected and best-known custom motorcycle builders. With the reception of that film being so great after its release we wanted to see how far we could go. We’d proved there was a hunger for grassroots motorcycle stories without the egos and bullshit.

Australians have a very interesting and unique way of storytelling. It’s raw, honest, and for the most part, very direct. Discovering this and seeing how well it was received through Handcrafted inspired a new project: Wide Of The Mark.

SIMPLE
It’s an honest story about the most simple of journeys.

Six mates on hand-built bikes threw themselves into a destination to see what would happen.

All trips like this take some form of planning, but there’s an art in leaving space for the unexpected and allowing the journey to reveal itself along the track.

Set in the rugged and inspiring landscapes of Tasmania, Wide Of The Mark follows a group of riders all from very different backgrounds: two motorcycle builders, a mechanic, a gear designer and two ex-freestyle riders. Having such a varied group proved almost necessary as we hit unexpected challenges daily. On each occasion someone rose to the task and helped the team push through and get to the end of the road.

Tasmania set the scene for our group during the first few days and the excitement around the trip grew exponentially. Apart from myself, none of the riders or crew knew exactly where we were headed each day, making the unknown our reality for two straight weeks of off-road discovery. Although I was clued in on the trip, all I had were dots on a map. How, when, and by what means we got there was left to chance. This was a major focus point of the film for Jake and Cam, making sure to capture the surprise and awe we experienced on our way to each new location.

WHY CUSTOM BIKES?
Incredible things happen with the unexpected addition of unlikely ingredients. Where’s the surprise in six people taking a trip on DR650s kitted out in an accessories store? From the same perspective, why would anyone watch a group of friends ride their custom motorcycles to the bar and back?

But if I said, “We have six riders taking street bikes and modifying them to adventure spec for a long-haul journey to traverse terrain only trailbike riders would usually hit,” you may just get a little more intrigued. That’s looking at it from the point of a viewer. Now imagine if I offered you a spot on this trip and you’ll get an idea of the reaction we had from our riders.

Its hard to go wrong with a motorcycle adventure of any kind. Add to it a mix of vintage and custom motorcycles that have been meticulously modified to suit this trip and you add a completely new element. Can you carry enough gear? Have you chosen the right tyres? Do you have enough fuel range? Will your suspension hold up? Will your bike fall to pieces on the first rutted-out track? All these questions were left unanswered until we were on the road. Once we rolled off the ferry and the adventure started the only thing that mattered for us was ‘if my bike does fail, do I have the skills to fix it on the run?’

Between the monstrous Harley Davidson Sportster and the ultralight – albeit a little underpowered – 400cc single there was a mix of vintage motorcycles and modern classics. Max on his lightly modified Triumph Bonneville, Matty on the unbreakable 1978 CB650, a hand-built Triumph America 965 and, the oldest and most troublesome, a 1972 Triumph 650 built by Keeley. 

With motorcycles built and assembled in small workshops and garages, breakdowns and on-the-run fixes became less of a holding point for the trip and more of a staple challenge the team faced together. Wide Of The Mark highlights the get-itdone attitude adventurers need on a testing road trip. Throughout the film we overcame everything from a roadside top-end rebuild to a wheel exploding and needing to be laced and trued midway through Tasmania. It was testing at the time, but that night around the campfire all we could do was laugh about it and keep riding.

This sort of misadventure and challenge is exactly why Wide Of The Mark takes custom-built adventure bikes to unthinkable destinations.

HIGHS, LOWS, MOMENTS AND DESTINATIONS
Tasmania, for those who haven’t been, is an island off mainland Australia. Most people know, or have heard, how beautiful it is and how great a road trip can be. Wide Of The Mark wanted to touch something different… to push for the path less travelled.

In our pursuit of our daily dose of awe, our plan left a lot of room for discovery. We planned to go get lost, take advice from locals or just enjoy a wrong turn. Often times we ended up somewhere unexpected and stayed for too long as we enjoyed whatever Tasmania was serving up for us to ride that day.

To name a few standouts, our ’bar-to-’bar race up the switchback roads of Jacobs Ladder was one hell of a ride, jostling for position on a loose gravel road with a rock face on one side and a sheer drop on the other. It made for a fun afternoon, especially wrestling my Sportster around up there.

Another favourite on the east coast was the ride through Lake Leak, a desolate playground of fallen trees, deep mud and tight, forest single tracks. All of this opened up into high-speed logging trail to finish just as the sun set.

Each day delivered a new highlight, usually quickly followed by one of our riders getting too excited, crashing out, or just twisting that throttle a little too hard and breaking something on their machine. On a trip like this you quickly realise the roadside repairs and maintenance are as much a part of the trip as the ride itself.

Its always tough at the time. Like being stuck in freezing rain with a bike missing its lower triple clamp bolt that needs the fork leg removed to finish the repair. No jacks, minimal tools, just a few mates and whatever you can find in the bush. These moments are the ones that stick in the memory the longest. Adventure stories always start with how amazing the ride was, but are often ended with a laugh about all the shit endured to get there. We exist so these stories can take place.

A consistent challenge was deciding who was going to bump start Matty’s CB650 after the charging system gave out. It was okay on a flat road, but on the sand dunes or a muddy lake bed it was no easy task.

A decision was made early on the trip. If anyone was to break down and needed time to repair their bike they’d be given what they needed, or helped to a place where they could do the repair. Then the group would push on. This made for some great comeback moments throughout the trip. Keeley rebuilt a top-end beachside in northern Tasmania, and I rebuilt the Sportster wheel after a catastrophic failure.

Riding back into the campsite for the night was a huge triumph. Riders were greeted with big smiles and a cold beer to catch up on the stories missed.

THE OVERALL THEME AND LESSONS
Adventure can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it.

The real question that needs to be asked is, ‘Which do you find more exciting?’ Some people get off on a meticulously planned trip, everything accounted for and a full second bike for spares. For me it’s more about getting into the shit and figuring a way out of it. Whether that means building and riding a bike that was never meant to reach your destination and taking it there, or just taking the bare essentials and having confidence enough in yourself and your crew that when, not if, things go south, you’re going to figure it out, carrying on enjoying yourself on a bike held together with fencing wire and fixed using a log as a work bench.

These moments force self-evaluation and self-discovery, pushing you to not only enjoy the incredible ride, but smiling through the challenges overcome to earn those kilometres.

The Wide Of The Mark riders all knew each other before we set off on the trip, but after sharing such a raw and profound experience we are all bonded by it. Regardless of the small roadside blow ups and clashes, each and every rider brought something necessary to the table. At the right time that person shone through.

We learned to love the hard times because it meant something better was just over the hill. I can confidently say that for myself and the other riders of Wide Of The Mark it wouldn’t really matter if we made it to the finish line. As long as we had as much fun as possible trying.

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