From Sand Demons to Sand Angels: First All-Female Team to Cross the Simpson Desert on Bikes
CHANTAL SIMONS We all have them, fears of certain surfaces to ride on. For some, it might be water crossings, for some, it might be deep loose gravel, for others it might be mud. But when you talk to fellow riders, without a doubt, sand is the most feared. Dry, loose, fluffy, no-grip on it. Sand. One way to deal with sand-fear is to accept it for a fact, let it sit there is the background, and avoid beaches and deserts like the plague… But that doesn’t bring anyone further. So this year, the first overall women team has committed to face their sand demons and cross the Australian Simpson Desert. Located deep in the red center of Australia, lies the Simpson Desert. Both feared and loved by local riders, it is the largest parallel sand dune desert in the world. This vast sandscape covers 176,500 km 2(68,100 sq miles), and is as big as the entire country of Cambodia or the state of Oklahoma.
To cross the Simpson, you have to climb and descent over 1000 sand dunes. The lower ones are on the Western side,at about 3 meters (9.8ft), and they gradually get bigger towards the eastern end with the largest one, Called Big Red, measuring an intimidating 40 metres (130 ft) in height. To up the challenge factor even more, for the entire 500 km (310 miles) crossing, you have to rely on yourself and the team you are with. There is no cell phone reception, no people living there and no fuel stations. It is bare, dry, covered in deep red sand and according to the experts and the photos, breathtakingly beautiful.
We will be crossing the Simpson in late September, toward the end of winter in Australia. This time of year, the nights are not gruelingly cold anymore and the days aren’t blazing hot yet. Our team of maximum 12 riders and an awesome support crew will be riding from East to West, facing the highest dunes first. We will be well out of our comfort zones, physically and mentally challenged like few experiences we faced before. Until we embark on this exciting journey, I will be regularly updating you on our challenges and progress. Gradually, you will meet the team and take a pillion seat to watch us turn the sand demons into sand angels!
Meet the first two riders!
Growing up outside of the small country town of Corryong in regional Victoria Australia at the base of the Snowy Mountains, Rikki was lucky enough to grow up on land with horses and motorbikes, well aHonda CT90 postie bike to start with anyway! After moving to Melbourne in her late teens, it wasn’t long before Rikki developed a love for road bikes and a desire to work with them. She was drawn to move to the beautiful Phillip Island where her career in the industry began with working at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit for several years. Giving the guys a run for their money at track days all over the country, Rikki also started riding enduro and racing motocross to build skills and fitness. Rikki has been lucky enough to be sought after for several roles within the industry over the past decade, working on hundreds of national and international race and leisure motorcycle events, corporate and other sporting events. Roles in event admin and coordination, operations, ride marshal, motorcycle coach and event management in club motocross, coaching days, corporate events, elite international road racing and supercross events and more. For the past 4 years, Rikki has been self-employed in Business Development while running her own small business Euro Moto Tours, to help fellow motorcyclists experience amazing Europe by bike!
Growing up in the town of Ballymoney (Northern Ireland) made famous in the motorbike world by the Dunlop Road racing family, it’s hard not to fall under the influence of bikes. Like it was for many children in the local area, one of the highlights of the year for Maggie was the NW200 road race. The local area is full of bikes. As a child, she loved the smell and the sound, and to be honest she still does. Maggie’s brothers paved the way for her, as they rode bikes on and off road. She started off just sitting on their bikes and once big enough ended up riding them in the back yard or around a field. She got a herfirst bike at 18 which did not require a bike licence, an Aprillia RS50.
She only had it for a year before moving to England to study. Seven years ago, when she was 29, Maggie finally passed her bike test and promptly bought a HondaHornet 600. Since then she toured the UK & Ireland, France and Australia. She has completed approximately 20000 miles in Australia to date on her DR650. Until recently she had little off road experience but riding the Simpson desert was high on her bucket list. So she jumped at the opportunity to take part. She expects this challenge to be physically and mentally demanding and can’t wait to face it.