I hope this is the right category to put this write-up. If not, my apologies! “..quick question – would you be interested and available for a small photoshoot next week? I need to take some images of the Ducati desert sled for Kevin from Dart motors.” – Project brief: easy trails and dirt. Nothing extreme. Ooh, new bike to try! Sounded great. I explained about not being confident on dirt, but was willing to give it a go. The weather had been dry and hot, so the dirt would most likely be firm. I am okish on firm dirt with my Kawasaki d’tracker, I figured I would be ok on the Ducati too. Just hoped for no rain, because mud would be scary for me. So really, what could possibly go wrong….? Hah! *** Meet point: Ducati Chiang Mai – 8am At the Ducati showroom I met photographer Thorsten, and Ducati staff Art and June, which is when I got my first feel of the desert sled. Some images from Art – Ducati Chiang Mai. Plus Thorsten’s own photo. When I sat on it I initially found the seating position further back than I am used to and I was overreaching a bit with the handlebars, but the most concerning aspect was realising that I was right on my tip-toes when sitting on the bike. As I am unfamiliar with the bike, and as the weight is heavier than I am used to, this worried me, especially if we planned on riding dirt trails. I prefer to flat-foot or close to flat-foot on bikes that are heavy and unfamiliar. When we did get going I was really careful on the bike. We were launched straight into city traffic and I didn’t want to filter through traffic until I got more familiar with how the bike handles. I needed at least 10 or so minutes to get comfortable with how the bike handles and responds, so I didn’t want to gamble on anything whilst coming out of the showroom. Rather than going to the front of the traffic at the red lights, I waited behind, with my tip-toes precariously balancing the bike! We were heading to Chiang Dao. The initial 40 kms or so are a bit boring on this route due to it being a built up traffic and city area, but once we got past the R1095 Pai junction the ride became enjoyable. The Desert Sled felt amazing. Really responsive and lots of torquey fun. We initially stopped in for breakfast and morning coffee at Mokluang Cafe. A few cool photos were taken outside of the cafe before heading of to ride up to San Pa Kia lookout. Photo from Art – Ducati Chiang Mai As we were riding I was frustrated with myself for sitting down so much, rather than standing. Even though standing makes so much sense in many ways, for some reason I kept losing my nerve and sitting…which of course only makes trail riding worse! I really need to practice this more. I really should return for more courses at the Honda Riding Park, as I did just a couple with them when the first opened. It is not like I am unfit either, as I have been regularly going to the gym. I am just unskilled. Here is a video of the start of the trails. Sadly I wasted too much of my gopro battery life (for those that might have read my Cambodia trip report, you may remember that I lost my bag of batteries during my ride there. Which I haven’t yet replaced. Silly me! So I currently only have one battery.) Later on, the thunderstorm and rains came which turned the area wet, muddy, and full of debris (broken branches and wet leaves), but by then my battery was already dead. Very irritating as I would have liked to have re-watched the footage of it. I think we still kept a fairly good time, although I was much slower than the other guys, (who were really lovely and patient with me!) On the route there were moments that Thorsten wanted us to turn around and ride back up. Usually a few times on each section. As I was scared to drop a bike that doesn’t belong to me, I got the guys to help me turn it around each time. Felt rather pathetic with this request, but the fear of dropping and damaging an expensive bike that wasn’t mine was greater than my embarrassment. Still, it did feel a bit humiliating. About half way up the mountain we began to hear thunderclaps. Oh-oh. I figured it might not rain though, but alas the sky god had a laugh and sent buckets and buckets of rain down to land on us. lol. It took a while for the rain to ease off. To prevent myself from overthinking about the rain conditions I decided to go down a small muddy looking hilly area to a juicy looking lychee tree that was full of fruit. I got myself a good handful of fruit, but also absolutely soaked through. Was worth it as they were so delicious. Once the rain finally eased off we got back on the bikes. I was nervous. ^^ ..but, it turned out much better than I expected. Despite the ground being wet and slippery in sections, the bike and tires handled really well. The main problem was again my lack of confidence and lack of good footing. Everytime I stopped or started the bike it was difficult to keep my balance. Once going it was ok, albeit not so fast. We had a few more photo opportunities on a bit of straight solid ground.