Robert Upe saddles up for a motorbike tour into the country.
What has got into me? It may be a mid-life crisis or just the buzz but for some reason I'm on a hefty BMW motorcycle leaning into a right-hand corner as the cafes, vineyards and paddocks of the Yarra Valley flash by.
It's a sunny day and the smells of the country are crisp. There's the smell of cut grass . . . and there seems to be a hint of chardonnay wafting from a winery shed.
After decades of sitting in a car I'm finally on the road with the proverbial wind in the hair.
I'd like to say I'm riding with the poise of Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, tearing through the countryside and jumping farm fences, but I'm not within touching distance of the throttle. This is a chauffeured tour with diehard bikies Steven and Martin Craig who have the motto "A Different Way Around" for their tour company Vicmoto Motorcycle Tours.
The Craigs are not the grease-stained, leather-jacket, long-bearded type of bikers but clean cut, courteous and professional riders who - unlike the reckless McQueen - play by the road rules.
The motorcycle newbies who sit behind them are assured of feeling safe under the helmets and full riding gear - including boots and gloves - that are provided. The bikes are massive machines and their bulk provides confidence that they'll stick to the road and won't be blown over in the next wind gust.
Both Craigs have been riding for years. "We love motorcycling due to the freedom it provides as you really feel like you have travelled through the environment as opposed to being cocooned inside a vehicle," Martin Craig says. "It takes much more involvement in a journey - physically and mentally. You witness much more of the scenery without the constraints of a vehicle."
During the tour we are wired for sound, not the Led Zeppelin type of sound, but we can talk to each other through microphones attached to the helmets. We can even communicate with the riders and passenger on the other bike, which is probably a good thing because many of the tours are booked by couples.
Touring routes include the Yarra Valley, the Great Ocean Road, Phillip Island, the Grampians, the Mornington Peninsula, Hanging Rock, Mount Macedon, Daylesford and Kinglake.
Of course, no motorcycle tour is complete without cafe stops and the Craigs have found some of the best lattes and espressos in country Victoria.
Our tour rests up at Yarra Glen, where the midweek pace is easy. Rest stops and lunches are as long as you need and there is ample time to take off your helmet and scratch your head.
Back on the road, it's a mix of country lanes, highways and freeways. Each has its own sensations, from the wind-blast of the freeway to the gentle leaning on the winding country lanes and the waft of that chardonnay.
Robert Upe travelled as a guest of Vicmoto Motorcycle Tours.
How much and where
Half-day rides (four hours) to areas including Kinglake, Yarra Valley and Macedon Ranges are $200 a person; full-day rides (eight hours) to areas including the Great Ocean Road and Phillip Island are $350 a person; two-day rides to areas including the Grampians are $1100 a person, including meals and accommodation. A program of longer tours is also available, including a 2345 kilometre six-day Ultimate Adelaide ride for $8200 a couple.
All riding gear is provided, so all you need to bring is some light clothing to wear underneath.
BMW K1200GT SE is used - it is big and comfortable and the rear seat is raised for clear views. There are footrests and handles so you don't have to hold the rider.
Phone 0434 240 591. See vicmoto.com.au.