For Heidi Giersch, the road less travelled is also the most rewarding, especially when it’s on the back of a motorbike.
The FIFO worker is a newfound amateur motorcycling enthusiast, laying claim to four Simpson Desert crossings and one 24-Hour Reliability Trial.
On the eve of Australia’s ultimate motorcycle reliability trial, the 36-year-old is contemplating the mental and physical test ahead, and the challenges that go with it.
“It helps you understand your body, limitations and ability,” Heidi says.
“The biggest thing with motorbike riding is not to let ambition outweigh ability, it’s an easy thing to do.”
The underground truck driver will be competing in just her second 24 Trial alongside some of the toughest competitors in the sport, only a handful of them women.
With challenging conditions and undulating terrain through sand, rocks and mud testing the most experienced solo and sidecar riders, it’s hard to believe Heidi is new to competitive motorcycling.
“I got my first bike in March, 2019 and it just snowballed from there really, really quickly,” says Heidi.
“I had no idea what I was doing but I got some advice and threw myself in the deep end with my first Simpson Desert crossing.
“It was about 530 kilometres, pub to pub, and I was a very amateur rider.”
Riding her DRZ 400 to raise money for anti-bullying movement, Dolly’s Dream, Heidi never expected to fall in love with the outback – a place as beguiling as it is unpredictable.
“I discovered I have this amazing love for the desert. It’s just a magnificent place,” says Heidi.
“The isolation – it was so much more beautiful than I had ever imagined.
“I managed to finish and I didn’t want to come home, I just wanted to turn around and do it all over again.
“Soon after that I said ‘maybe I’ll do the 24 Hour’. I’m that person: If I say I’m going to do it, I have to do it.”
So began an intense preparation for her debut 24 Hour Trial in 2021, including exhaustive mechanical preparation and time on the bike under the mentorship of veteran rider, Jayne White.
While Heidi admits to having “a lot of moments of self-doubt”, years of competitive Thai boxing have also given her a strong sense of self-belief.
“I remember lying in bed, thinking there’s no reason I can’t finish,” says Heidi.
“Only three things would stop me; if a bone’s sticking out, I can’t stop the bleeding or the bike blows up.
“I’d be disappointed if it was my choice not to finish because it was too hard or too cold or any other myriad reasons I could give myself.”
According to Heidi, that self-belief becomes critical when day turns to night and adrenaline gives way to mental fatigue and exhaustion.
“At lots of stages when your body is hurting or you’re cold or tired, you just have to turn your brain to autopilot and put one foot in front of the other,” Heidi says.
“Fortunately what I lack in talent I make up for in stubbornness; a determination to finish what I started, I suppose.
“I don’t know how to explain the satisfaction of finishing. I remember riding out for the last lap, crying, thinking ‘I’m going to do it’.
Heidi also loves the spirit of comradeship between the 24 Hour riders.
“Everyone I speak to says unless you win the 24, no-one cares where you finish, just that you do,” she says.
“The camaraderie is something I really enjoy, especially being one of the only girls. Everyone is really encouraging and kind and has a laugh, which is great.
“There’s so much history there and I’m so proud to be part of it. It’s the only event of its kind in the southern hemisphere, I think because no-one else is stupid enough to do it. One thousand kilometres in 24 hours? You’d have to be mad!”
With her eyes firmly on another 24 Hour result, one thing is certain – Heidi will be leaving no stone unturned.
“I’m always looking to the next thing to prove to myself that I can do it,” she says.
“Credit to the precious women in my life, my mum, my nannas and my cousins who have all taught me you can’t just stop because it’s hard; anything worth doing is hard. It’s part of knowing who you are.”