( Once again I have to apologize for the lack of photos and accompanying narrative. The group’s moving quickly)
It’s not often that the places I’ve stayed have been remarkable, but Rodavento in Valle de Bravo was spooky. Set in a gulley, with cabins on a steep hillside above it, the lush quietness, the carp as big as dogs that patrol the lake and the mist were unworldly . Put this on your list
Leaving Valle de Bravo, the group splits into two. Helge, Fred and I head for Xinantecatl. Stopping for a coffee, we meet up with two local riders from Mexico City. Arturo and Victor are busting with enthusiasm to ride with the legendary Helge Pedersen. I quietly tell myself they’re in for a bit of a disappointment because the thing about Helge is that you don’t notice he’s there. I’ve taken to calling him The Ghost. You kindof know where everyone is, ahead, behind, stopped, when you’re riding with the group. But not Helge. He appears from behind when you thought he was ahead and you pass him gassing up when you could have sworn he was behind. He took a picture of me from a building or a bridge ten days ago and up until that moment I thought I knew for a fact I was way ahead of everyone. Wrong. Like anyone at the cutting edge of the art, his style is immaculate and he has no technical mannerisms. Or conceits.
Talking about visual conceits, most of us have carefully cultivated theatrics that say ‘ hey, I’m really really really good ‘. Like the launch-with-a-trailing-foot thing that my good friend DR does. It looks cool and says ‘I’m so on my game that I’ll bring my foot up when I damn well feel like it’. Or the launch-while-looking-calmly-over-the-shoulder-even-into-traffic. It looks cool and says ‘I’m so on my game that I have an innate sense of my surroundings as I launch’. Or the glove or visor adjustment while launching. It looks cool and says ‘I’m so on my game that I can fine tune various details while I launch’. It’s important to have one or more of these visuals mastered unless, actually, you’re really really good.
Mainly this is a sport bike thing, where appearance is everything. Doing one or more of them on a dual-sport bike says ‘In my extensive inventory of past and present skills, i used to be a very very fast sport bike rider. Godlike, actually’.
But dual-sport and sport bike behaviours differ when it comes to the message. The general message you need to get across on a sport bike is ‘ this machine is lethally powerful. It would kill you instantly but to me it’s nothing. Danger is my currency. I’m a Master of the Universe’. The dual-sport message is ‘ I have seen things in far-away places that you will never see and faced dangers you will never face. Cannibals and cliffs. You are city dwelling and soft. I’m immortal, hundreds of years old, and the son of Zoltan’.
Another critical difference is that the sport bike message is broadcast to other riders but the dual-sport message is directed at women.
The sport bike message is actually reasonably honest. The dual-sport message is often a big lie. You can’t fake it on a fast sport bike. You can, to an extent, on a dual-sport.
But if you’re really good you don’t do or broadcast anything. You just ride. If truth be told, very few of us are that good. Helge’s one of the few.
So our awestruck local riders, looking for something that Helge does to talk about over cervezas are not going to find it today. But they’re young and as keen as puppies so it’s going to be a fine day. I check out their bikes, 800 GS’s, and I’m impressed at their no-bullshit setup. No doubt they can ride.
Me following Fred. The track is narrow and in places icy with dramatic drop-offs. No falling allowed here. Actually Arturo does crash, but fortunately in a safe place. See the post “cobblestones and ice’ for video taken at 10,000 feet
I guess the only thing I can say about this ride is it’s one of the best I’ve ever done, and maybe the best. Worth shipping your bike to Mexico City specifically to do. I wish I’d taken more photographs but the memory will be vivid for years. Riding it with Helge and Fred is icing on the cake.
The conditions are perfect. Cold, clear and the climb so fast and dramatic that we felt the air thinning as we approached the pass into the caldera at what Helge says was 14,500 feet, about 1000 feet below the ultimate peak.