|08-19-2012, 07:17 PM||#1|
Joined: Feb 2003
Location: Sydney Australia
Adventure Motorcycling - is it the new golf! Part 1
DVENTURE MOTORCYCLING – THE NEW GOLF?
THE APC RALLY 2012 RECOLLECTIONS OF AN EPIC JOURNEY – 7500 KMS OFFROAD AROUND EASTERN AUSTRALIA
I have been involved in motorcycling since the age of 10 or 11 when I swapped a broken scooter for a Greaves 247cc dirt bike with no exhaust and used it to travel the hills around the village in which I lived in the UK. Most trips invariably resulted in a burnt thigh or legs and eventually the bike died and we moved to Australia. I was 15 and motorcycles did not reappear till I turned 18, as it was the only form of transport I could afford.
Around 1973, a Yamaha DT 250 entered my life and Monday to Friday took me to work and on the weekends into the bush. Over the years there were periods of no bikes and then from around 1989 I petty much had one or more around. Over the years I went from trail bikes to big bangers – a short period with an MV Agusta F4 (loved its look but scared the crap out of me), scooters and over the last 15 or 16 years Beemers and mostly GS’s.
I spent 4 weeks in 2000/2001 riding from Ushuaia in Argentina to Bolivia, 2 trips up the Cape and a week off-road around NZ and various trips out past Bourke, down the Strzelecki and elsewhere. Adventure motorcycling had me well and truly hooked. But the APC Rally well that was another story. 7500 kms, largely off road around Australia over 14 nights and a mix of high speed, gravel roads, technical sections, water crossings, sand, mud and more. You needed to be self supported, carry gear to survive a night or two in the bush and the rest was up to you.
I first met Rally organizer John Hudson in 2011 at the Sydney Bike show, where he was promoting the 2012 version on the KTM stand. My riding buddy Andrew and I were immediately taken with the idea and spoke at length to John about the Rally, bikes, kit and more. Interestingly at the same show was the Adventure Moto stand and there I met the redoubtable Steve ‘Wolfie’ Smith. Both Andrew and I had BMW 1200 GSA’s and John believed we could/should use these. Wolfie however was of the view you needed something much smaller and lighter. Everyone we spoke to believe the Suzuki DR 650 was the ideal bike, simple, strong, bullet proof etc. I looked at several and had owned an earlier version a million years ago and used it on a trip up Cape York and quite frankly hated it. slow, heavy and no electric leg. So the options were use the GSA’s (none had completed the Rally in 2011) or purchase a purpose built chariot. But first we had to decide to go. I filled in the form, paid the deposit and that was it – I was going.
We talked about the Rally with other friends and 4 more decided they too would go – so now we were 6 and the search for a bike was on.
The choices were stark. I weigh close to 110 kgs and that meant at least 600cc. I have never liked V Stroms, or KLR’s (too soft), had horrible experiences with early GS 650’s (just weak and not designed to be ridden of-road) so I decided on the KTM 690 enduro and started to look. The key things I sought were: low k’s, safari tank, after market pipe, lowered (I am 5 9”), steering damper, HID lights, heated grips, pannier rack/frame, panniers, tank bag, bash plate – not a long list!
After 2- 3 months a bike in Adelaide looked like the biz, had all of the above and more and a long phone call one night sealed the deal and I flew to Adelaide the next day, grabbed a cab to an outer suburb) and 90 minutes later was heading back to Sydney some 1500k’s to the East. After about 50 k’s the smell of burning plastic was apparent so I pulled over and to my horror the wolfman duffel bag was on fire and irretrievable damaged. The problem was the exhaust end cap, which directed the gas up. Down one bag and with gear more carefully strapped I was off and running. At the end of the day, the well-known problem with the 690 enduro and bigger sibling 950/990’s was very apparent my ass was killing me! How in good God’s name can KTM still continue with such a crap seat design after all the criticism leveled at it is beyond me. The next day the options to relieve the issue were simple, purchase a pillow and strap it to the seat, kill and skin a sheep, or find a bike shop that sold Airhawks. In Deniliquin the local bike shop was closing early and I persuaded them to stay open long enough to part company with 190 big ones for an Airhawk and I was off and running and what a difference it made. Airhawks rock – its that simple. 2 ½ days later I was back in Sydney and mightily impressed with the KTM 690 enduro – at time sitting on – well shall we say speeds that might involve the ‘blue team’ removing certain rights for longish periods.
Andrew followed by purchasing a similar bike – albeit with lower k’s and 2 years younger then mine and we embarked on a series of 1 and 2 day rides to get us bike fit. These involved trails, logging tracks, fire trails around Sunny Corner, Wombeyan Caves, Sofala, the Abercrombie River and more in Central NSW. Three things became apparent: my riding skills off road were rubbish and I needed to sort them out, the bike had plenty of power but the gearing and suspension was not suitable. My riding skills could only be helped by doing more riding and Andrew introduced me to some beautiful and at times very scary roads. I also kept getting thrown off the bike, it seemed to have a mind of its own and at first I believed it was me. Trying to jump over uphill erosion bumps the bike would land and then bounce turn 90 degrees and throw me off. Bumps and bruises were about to become more serious unless I could handle the beast. One afternoon I was so angry and frustrated 70% up a particularly nasty hill that Andrew got on to ride it to the top, Second erosion bump and it landed threw him into the bush and I felt somewhat vindicated – perhaps the bike has anger management issues after all.
Over the 3-4 months prior to the Rally we spent perhaps 12-15 days in the saddle covering al kinds of ground and it was then that the second issue became apparent. Starting at 8am and finishing some days well after 6pm we were struggling to get through 300k’s a day. The Rally required an average of closer to 580 ks! How the heck were we going to average 580 with gear when we couldn’t do 300 with just a daypack? This was going to be much tougher than we thought and played tricks on our minds. I called Wolfie and others and expressed my fears and he invited Andrew and me to a 2 day dial in ride, with full kit – the aim being to ride 500ks per day over the 2 days. The route was long and varied and included the Wategans North of Sydney, the Yengo Trail, Commission Track and ending up at Hill End for the evening. Unfortunately the day turned to crap early when one rider binned it on the Yengo track breaking his collarbone, 60 minutes later the 4wd ambo appeared and his weekend and APC Rally was over. Not two hours later the second rider was down, too fast over downhill erosion hump and he was knocked out and shattered his shoulder. 90 minutes later the rescue helicopter appeared, paramedics winched down through the trees and shortly after the rider was on his way to Hospital. Wolfie and Trail Zone’s Clubby stayed with the rider until he was sorted and we eventually got into Hill End around 630 pm.
The next day we left Hill End at around 830am and within the hour on the Bridle Track another rider went down when he foolishly decided to take on a gnarly hill off to the right. He did this without anyone seeing him and came off 70% of the way up – big time, shattering his femur and bursting an artery! He had no 2 way, no Spot tracker, (see below) and there was no mob phone coverage and would have most certainly died had the accident not been spotted by 2 young guys, bow hunting. One ran to him and stopped the bleeding and the other managed to attract the attention of Wolfie and Clubby who were passing at speed. They attended the accident, t and they activated one of their spot trackers. Clubby stayed, Wolfie headed back to Hill End to call the rescue service (as a back up to the Spot Tracker). Ninety minutes later the chopper arrived and he too was off to hospital.
On reflection there were good lessons taken from the weekend.
• Ride to your skills and the weekend, as you are not just responsible for you but also the safety of others
• Be prepared – ensure you have the right gear for the conditions
• Riding anywhere remote ensure you have a Spot Tracker on your person – it’s a relatively cheap life saver
• 2 way comms between a group is also a useful safety device not just to call for help, but also to warn others of issues, cars etc. ahead
• Carry a good compression bandage on you at all times. You wont die from broken bones but bleeding is a whole other matter – a horse bandage is best
Today's smartphones provide a level of social connection far beyond what we imagined just a few years ago. But when you go beyond the reach of mobile range, your smartphone needs the help of SPOT Connect to keep you in touch with friends, family, and emergency personnel. Simply pair your smartphone with SPOT Connect, and get connected to a global satellite network that lets you send messages and GPS coordinates from virtually anywhere on the planet. Update Twitter and Facebook. Send email and text messages. Request non-emergency help from professional service providers. And in the case of a critical emergency, send an SOS message requesting emergency assistance.
BIKE PREPARATION AND ISSUES ISSUES ISSUES
Back to the bike! It was apparent that the bike’s suspension was poorly set-up and needed to be sorted. As well there was a long list of other stuff to do/replace over the next few weekends before we headed off. The list was long:
• Change tires and put in ultra heavy-duty tubes, plus purchase spare tubes
• Replace all bearings, wheel, steering head, swing arm etc.
• Replace front and rear sprockets and rear brake rotor
• Replace chain
• Replace front and rear brake pads
• Change handlebar grips
• Tighten and lock tight all bolts (KTM’s vibrate a lot and I was constantly surprised at what would come loose)
With two weeks to go I was at a mate’s, Mick Hodge’s, garage Mick is very capable when it comes to things mechanical and he was helping (more doing really!) change bearings and fix a number of things. There was an oil leak from the counter socket shaft and we were concerned we needed to split the motor to fix. A quick Google search and it was apparent you could change it by removing the front socket, which took maybe 30 mins. On the Rally I again got a leak from the same place and found the sprocket was loose once tightened and the lock washer adjusted it gave no more problems.
On the day I was leaving my clutch gave up and I headed off to Bob at KTM dealer Highway Performance in Sydney who diagnosed a buggered slave cylinder, promptly changed one out of a new bike from the showroom floor (thanks Bob) and I was on the way again.
Over the years I have tried all kinds of bike jackets and pants aimed at the adventure motorcycle market, Dainese, Aerostich, BMW Kalahari and Rallye 2 and Tiger Angel. I disliked all of them (except the Tiger Angel Goretex pants which I have now owned for 14 years and are brilliant). This time I went with Klim gear purchased from Adventure Moto in Sydney. In fact this is how I met Wolfie who own the business and whom I called and asked why I should purchase a jacket from him at $100 over what I could get from USA delivered. His answer “personal service and a bit of a discount”. He delivered the jacket that day and said I could change if the wrong size/fit (after use), so I got the KLIM Latitude jacket and Traverse pants and they are the best I have ever owned. Warm, well designed and made and waterproof! I give them a 9/10.
My helmet was the ARAI XD 4 and its brilliant. Perfect fit, well made and I love it. It’s my second I previously had the earlier model called the Tour Cross 2 and can’t recommend either highly enough another 9/10.
My gloves are a mix of Klim motor-cross very good 8/10, Klim wind/waterproof over gloves – I think these are ho-hum and they leak and that in this day and age it is not good enough. 5/10.
I used a Klim Motocross socks with sealskins waterproof soccer socks below. No wet or cold feet at any time, proved the combo work. Both get an 8/10.
My boots were Alpinestar Tech 3’s. I purchased these as I have 52cm calves and no other boots fit – at first I hated them, inflexible, awful buckles and bloody uncomfortable. But over time and use they softened and I now really like them (but not the bloody buckles – which will smash your fingers). They get a 7.5/10.
I had taken the heated grips off the bike as they worked intermittently and did not replace them – a huge mistake. Instead I relied on a mix of silk liners, possum wool gloves and the Klim over gloves – they were OK but on really cold days I regretted the decision not to replace the heated grips. For under a $100 it’s a bloody worthwhile investment.
I took with me 2 x merino 150 gsm long sleeve tops and 2 x merino long johns also 150 gsm. These are a great product and I wish I used them years ago. They are warm, don’t smell can be worn day after day without washing and I just love them. I would have liked to try the 250 gsm ones, but these were quite brilliant and I have given them an 8/10. I also had a winter weight kayak skivvy that also worked really well. On the coldest days I added a lightweight long fleece and I was toasty warm.
I wear prescription lenses and so goggles are a hassle so didn’t use these on the trip at all. I would like to find some that fit and at the same time don’t press on my cheeks and sinuses – so that’s ahead of me.
I purchased a Garmin Montana GPS and quite frankly have a love/hate relationship with this and Garmin itself. It is not sorted as a unit, has quirks, constantly tells you the battery is not supported (despite being Garmin supplied) and would not allow wireless transmission of GPX files though supposed to and more issues. Trying to get Garmin customer support was an utter joke, talking to some dickhead in the Philippines who was distracted by mass resignations was a waste of time. In the end I emailed customer service in Australia and they faxed back 2 weeks advising I had faxed the wrong number and to talk to the dickheads in the Philippines. And best of all the email would not be replied to further! So Garmin can go get …. The product gets a 5/10 the service a big fat zero!
I purchased a 3BR trickle charger for the Garmin from Adventure Moto – but it was not powerful enough to deal with the constant GPS waypoint updates. It was also poorly made and eventually the connection pin to back of GPS gave up. It gets 2/10.
I used a GME TX 6200 5 watt 2 way and it got smashed a few times and just didn’t work, I replaced this with a Uniden 2 watt, 4 days in, but just couldn’t get the clarity of TX I wanted, so disconnected and never used again. This form of comms is a very good idea and I highly recommend that it is used on trips such as these, the issues I faced were off my making so can’t blame the product.
I own an Autocom (UK Co) comms system that I use on my GSA 1200 – but purchased the IMC system from Adventure Moto that was simpler and also had a PTT button (my Autocom was Vox) that could be mounted on the handlebar. It’s a great idea but not very robust and not suitable for adventure riding. In fact the Autocom is a much better and more robust system – its also a lot more dosh but worth it! I give the IMC system a 4/10 and the Autocom 9/10.
The bike has an after market seat cushion from Gutz, better than standard but not by much, so as mentioned earlier I purchased an Airhawk – let me be clear - I love Airhawk, let me be clearer I really love my Airhawk – it rocks and my ass loves it too. 9/10!
Australian made Pivot Pegz, also from Wolfie were a last minute addition and I love them. I will put them on the GSA ASAP too. They are a quite brilliant idea and made life much easier on this trip. 9/10 – no bugger it 10/10!
The bike came with a Britannia fairing from Canada with a combo xenon and HID twin headlamp set-up. The lights are brilliant and get a 9/10. The fairing is a clever design but best suited for b/c road adventure touring. It has a bit too much flex for off-road and as it flexed the GPS (already a PIA, vibrated like a … well you can imagine). I repaired it on four occasions on the trip and it got damaged by three ‘through the fairing’ (or remnant fairing) offs but was still there at the end. For b and c road use it’s an 8/10 for off road a 4/10.
I used an Andy Strapz rear tail bag the AAA (?). It carried all my survival / camping gear and is a great bit of kit, well made and water proof and Andy’s customer service is exemplary. I give it an 8/10, whilst Andy gets a 9/10! Yes Wolfie you get a 10/10 for customer service!
The two pannier bags were 20-liter Wolfman soft panniers and are great. They mount well and have a million points to make them not move. One issue however is that dust makes the use of the straps increasingly difficult. I am guessing this is a bigger issue in OZ outback due to dust, than say USA or elsewhere where water might be a bigger issue, but once mounted they don’t move and I liked them. One word of advice piss off the useless adjustable internal liners and use two cut down 20 L plastic jerry cans and they work much better. 7.5/10.
To improve the 12-liter capacity of the KTM 690 Enduro I used a 14-liter Safari tank. The combo provided well over 400kms range and closer to 500 depending on speed and conditions. Quite frankly the tank is not pretty and if I had had the $ and time would have used the twin tank product from Rallye-Raid UK combined with their fairing. However I didn’t and the Safari product works well. Its design does make it harder to get to the ignition key and to set the seat once removed but is very robust. I give it a 7/10; a better design would have seen the rating move to 8.5/10.
The design of the tank doesn’t allow for much use in terms of tank bags – I had a Wolfman Enduro Tank bag (older model) and it worked well on the bike and didn’t impede any movement. However it is not waterproof and the cover they provide to give it some semblance of being waterproof is rubbish. Why any manufacturer would make a non-waterproof tank bag beggar’s belief! I treated it with silicone on 3-4 occasions before we left and this helped. Sorry but despite the quality of Wolfman gear generally this gets a 2/10.
I also had a Scott Steering damper and loved it – a great design, easy to use, set up and adjust – a must for all off road/sandy/gnarly roads. At under $600 its good value 9/10.
The pannier and rear rack were home made and worked OK, but I would not use again, preferring a Touratech system.
CAMPING AND SURVIVAL GEAR
OK time to confess – I am a gadget and gear man. Love it and ascribe to the view why have one when two is better right? I also like good gear so try to get the lightest, strongest, best etc. etc. I didn’t plan to camp on the trip till we got to the desert country and then for a night or two, so my brilliant Exped expedition tent at 3 kgs was out. In the end I took a Marmot down minus 1 sleeping bag, with a thermal liner that took it down to a minus 8, combined with 2 x Exped inflatable pillows, a Gore-Tex bivvy bag (ex US Military) and high end Exped inflatable mattress. A lightweight ground tarp and fly and a few pegs and 10 m of Para cord. I used them the once about 120 k’s northwest of Innamincka when it got down to around zero overnight and they worked fine.
My Leatherman is the black Surge and I have this zippy tied to my Camelbak and is a brilliant bit of kit especially when combined with the drivers/torx sets. 9/10
I also have a CRKT folding knife and this is strapped to the Camelbak also. It’s well made strong and sharp - n8/10.
I carried 3 torches (one would have done). In the Camelbak was a small Petzl Zip and was the one I used most. It’s tiny, has a retractable head mount and is a simple and great bit of kit 8/10.
I also had a 360-lumen Petzl headlamp, much bigger but could have been used to replace a busted headlight at night. I like the product a lot, but didn’t use it enough to rate it.
I carried a small Cree 250 lumen hand torch and for under $40 from eBay is a cheap and powerful light solution. Again I didn’t use it so no rating.
My 3-liter camelback is a great piece of kit. Its well designed and made and I wouldn’t go off-road without it. 8/10.
For cooking I carry a Jetboil with the all important coffee plunger addition. This is carried in a bag designed for a large camera lens and contains apart from the Jetboil, a spatula, spoon and fork all lightweight Jetboil, a combo knife/fork/corkscrew, /bottle opener and collapsible mug plus 500 gms of ground coffee and a sweetened tube of condensed milk. This is mounted on the bike such that if I stop I can generally be pouring coffee inside 5 minutes. I love this kit it just works and as I love coffee the combo get a 9/10.
I have built a first aid kit over many years and it contains all the usual suspects. from antibiotics (broad spectrum) to anti-histamines to plastic skin and sutures etc. This trip had two notable additions, a horse compression bandage – way better than those designed for mere humans and Penthrox (green stick) pain killer inhalers. I used the kit on the trip for hangovers and to strap an ankle where a fall had dislodged a pin from a prior op on Wolfies ankle. As it turned out the Penthrox could have been used by many participants including my riding partner, but more on that later. One trick I have learned is that combining 2 x Nurofen with 2 x Panadene tabs controls a lot of pain. Clearly this should not be combined lightly or used for a prolonged period of time.
I also carry a small emergency bivvy that is great if you are caught out in crappy conditions overnight and packs super small.
For tie downs I used Rok-Straps – again from Adventure Moto. They are quite brilliant and highly recommended 10/10.
The final bit of kit is the Spot Tracker – which was a requirement of participation in the Rally and what a great idea it is. Friend, family and lovers can track your progress and who with and if you get into trouble it has an EPIRB system that sorts out your problems. My concern is that the system will be abused and as such the costs will rise or its use restricted. In the 5 weeks prior to the Rally I was present when it was twice used and in one instance could have saved a life. It also has a function that allows a message to be sent that you have mechanical or other (non emergency issues) and seek help. Again a great idea that is subject to abuse. I think this is an essential bit of kit for anyone heading into the bush and it gets a 10/10 from me.
THE FINAL DAYS
The two weeks prior to leaving were a blur of final preps, packing and repacking, changing my mind again and again about kit and all the time trying to reduce weight and quantity. I can honestly state I am not renowned for travelling light and this trip required a focus on the less is more maxim. So I pared and reduced and pared and reduced. In the end apart from that noted above I took:
• Basic toiletries including a large pack of ass wipes
• I x pair of jeans
• 2 x t shirts
• 2 x socks
• 3 x jocks
• 1 x pair of lightweight Merrell boots
• I x pair of thongs
• 1 x belt
• 1 x lightweight thermal top
• 1 x cap and a beanie X
• iPhone charger
• GPS charger
• Camera charger X
• GME2 way charger
• 20 AA batteries
• 6 spare AA lithium batteries (Spot Tracker)
• IPhone battery top up X
• Double adapter X
• Leads for charging camera/phone GPS on bike X
• Tire lube
• Visor inside/outside water/fog stuff X
• Small WD40 X
• Small windex X
• Brake lever X
• Clutch lever X
• Lube X
• Basic tool kit plus spare fuses, bolts/nuts etc. X
• Motion Pro Tire Buddy X
• Motion Pro Combo Tire lever and 27mm wrench X
• Gorilla tape
• Zippys (the best thing I took and used daily!)
• Small air compressor X
• Tire levers and spare tubes X
• Puncture repair kit X
• Centre stand extender X
• 6 meals of dried food X
• 5 liter MSR Water bladder X
• 6 liter fuel bladder X
• Monkey Butt Powder X
I have marked with an X those items not used. Were I to do the trip again nothing on the above list would be left off!
On the day we were to leave and meet that evening at Wisemans Ferry for the off at 0800 the next morning - the bloody clutch stopped working and I had to hustle to get the bike registered as well – anyway by 230pm I was good to go and rode off the meet Scott and Gav. I had recently purchased a Leatt neck brace and was in two minds as to whether to take or not. I had used it on a few dial in rides and found it quite comfortable, so I decided it was coming. Prior to leaving I had worked on the daily track notes and pared them down and then plastic sealed then so they would fit in the window of the tank bag. On the way to Scott’s I looked down at them or at least tried to and realized my ability to move my head was greatly restricted. I tried different riding positions and none worked though I did succeed in knocking off the two way in heavy Friday afternoon traffic. When turning to park and pick it up before it got crushed I dropped the bike and could not pick it up easily. A truck stopped the driver a motorcyclist helped me and asked if I was going on the APC Rally and wished me luck. It appeared there were lots that knew about it. I dumped the Leatt at Scotts and off we rode, Scott aboard a rather well set-up sexy and loud KTM 950 SE and Gav a brand new 2012 KTM 690 E.
In the weeks prior to leaving Wolfie, ever the charmer had taken to calling my bike the “whipped dog” believing it looked sad and under repeated punishment! I took considerable offence to this, but my revenge was to be sweet. A work colleague designed an excellent logo and the “Whipped Dog Rally Team” was born, A pretty exclusive team – just the one member - me. So I had a small run of T-shirts made and offered these to family, friends and fools and have orders for 50 so far.
So the Whipped Dog and me were ready and assembled at the Wisemans Ferry with around 20 or so others leaving from there the following morning.
A quick word on the Wisemans Ferry Pub – a great pub but truly the accommodation is disgusting. Over priced, under cleaned and just appalling. There was rat shit and pubic hair in the bathroom and the place looked like it was barely cleaned – I was very pleased to be gone from there the next day.
DAYS 1 TO 14
We were the last to leave at around 830 on the Saturday morning. We crossed the Hawkesbury on the Ferry and we were on the way. The next 3 hours of riding were on roads I had done a few weeks earlier on the two-day ‘dial in’ ride. The issue once again was fog that didn’t clear for several hours. I am a reasonable motorcyclist – by no means fast but can generally hold my own. However vision is important to me, fog, tight roads with heavy foliage see my speeds drop and my confidence drop. So it was a slow start for me – but as the fog cleared the averages improved and the tracks were great, lots of bends, up-hills and down-hills a range of road conditions and it was much fun. We were going so well that we had time to stop at a winery and have a few tastings, then a 60 minute lunch with a couple of beers – we were going really well. Simon a Central west farmer joined our group of reprobates and tagged behind, as his GPS was not working - what he made of our somewhat relaxed progress he kept to himself. Well that was the first four hours, the next three proved to be rather more difficult especially for me. I believe Greg ‘TB’ Yeager of Old Bull Trail Riders was responsible for this section of track that went up and up and up and every 20 or so meters involved deeply rutted mud holes – made worse by the 20 or so prior bikes and I struggled. I mean I really struggled. At the first mud hole I dropped the bike and Simon helped me pick it up, again at the second and the third and on and on. Every time, Simon was here to help. Andrew too had struggled and dropped his on several occasions but had somehow struggled through and kept going. It appeared it would never end and at every new bog my confidence would slide. Through it all Simon was wonderful with his cheerful manner and can do attitude we’d get going again and again. I was exhausted and at one stage we discussed camping the night and going again the next day – but we kept moving and somehow got through. Andrew was waiting a few ks down the track and we rode into Gloucester in the dark at around 7pm. On the way Andrew’s brand new Go Pro HD 2 camera mount broke and his camera went spiraling off into the bush never to be seen again – very poorly designed bit of kit I must say. As well his two way stopped working – so we were a tired / sorry team by the time we got to Gloucester. On arrival Kat and Wolfie met us – grabbed us a beer and we joined them for pizza and red wine (a much repeated story in coming days) and the days trials slowly left us. I had booked the accommodation for the first few days for Wolfie the redoubtable Clubby from Trail Zone Mag and Andrew and I and had somehow cocked up the details for night one and the boys had found themselves in the local $50 a night pub and with the bikes on the street and drunken teenagers in their millions and were somewhat concerned over their two hand-built Yamaha WRF 450’s. I realized my mistake and 30 mins later we were booked into an excellent guest house and peace and happiness was restored.
That morning unfortunately Andrew and I had words, I was concerned that we had to ride as a team and that if Simon had not been behind me I would still be in TB’s mud holes Andrew’s view was that I needed to keep up and accept there were times when we would not be together and sort my own issues out. That day we decided to ride apart and Andrew headed off whilst I went and found Wolfie and Clubby and asked if I may tag along with them. We enjoyed the ride to Gingers Creek where we fueled up and got ready for the next leg to Taylors Arm and from there to Bellingen. I own a farm in Bellingen and rather than go through to Dorrigo that night I had invited Scott, Gav, Wolfie, Clubby, Kat and Amy and Kats BF to stay at the farm. As we were running late I bailed the next leg and headed off on the highway to ensure the farm was ready for our arrival. About 30 k’s out of Gingers Creek I discovered Scott and Gav having a couple of quiet ones at a small country pub, joined them (that’s what mates do) and slowly we headed up the coast to the farm.
We arrived at around 6pm and sorted the house and waited for the others. The first to arrive were Kat, Amy and Mick followed by Wolfie, Clubby and Glen a mate of Wolfie’s, who joined us for the night. Wolfie arrived with bad news, Andrew had had an ‘off’ on the Taylors Creek leg and had broken his ankle (turned out to be a bad dislocation and break) and was on his way to Port Macquarie Hospital. I felt awful. Would it have been different had I not had that morning’s discussion? I had the Penthrox with me and he was in pain for 90 mins before the ambulance arrived. More particularly 9 months of planning and work was over in less than 2 days.
I called him in the hospital and no answer and texted him to call me which he did the next morning. Poor bugger he was devastated.
Wolfie’s fiberglass fairing had cracked that day and a brilliant solution was worked on in the farm shed. It involved drilling 6 holes in the fairing, soaking a 12 cm piece of synthetic rope in Araldite and then zippy tying it to the fairing. It worked brilliantly and was later used to repair a crack in Clubby’s fairing – a really simple, easy to do and bloody strong fix.
That night Scott ever handy in the kitchen grilled nine steaks and made his world famous roast potatoes that accompanied with beer, red wine and bourbon was to set the tone for subsequent days.
The spa was on and ready to soothe aching muscles and only Amy and I (several hours apart) availed ourselves of its relaxing qualities.
The next morning I was up at sparrows to get breakfast on the go and ensure we were ready to leave at 8am. Kat took over the kitchen and cooked, cleaned and organized whilst we slowly got ourselves ready for the ride through the northern NSW rainforests via Jackadgery to Urbenville. I knew much of the tracks we were to take and had a ball wending our way through some of NSW’s more beautiful parts of the Great Dividing Range. That day the combined “whipped dog’, Old Bull Trail Riders (Kat and Amy) and Yamagiggle team was born and we stayed together for pretty much the rest of the trip.
The day posed no dramas and we got into Urbenville at around 530pm and pulled up around the bike where around 20 – 30 bikes were in various stages of maintenance – small issues and big issues were being addressed an d the camaraderie was fantastic. Clubby whose dedication to bike maintenance is to be seen to be believed was in full swing and he was always willing to lend a hand to anyone who needed it.
There were people exploded bike kit and bikes everywhere a bit like the poor mans Dakar. It was here that we also ran into Glen from the Gold Coast. He had left Dorrigo with 4 others and his bike had broken down. So keen was he to complete the Rally that he got himself to Dalby Moto in Queensland (a few hundred k’s away), purchased a KTM 640 Adventure and rejoined the Rally again at Urbenville. There’s a bit more to the story too, apparently Dalby wouldn’t or couldn’t use his credit card so someone there purchased the bike using his company account and told Glen to pay him back when he could sort it out! Now that’s bike mateship for you right there!
The pub in Urbenville is run by Darrell and his lovely wife – who go way beyond the norm to look out for various motorcycling groups that base themselves at there for some of the best off-road adventures on the Australian East Coast. Darrell offers various off road bike tours out of Urbenville and for those seeking to hone their skills or experience the varied tracks and trails – don’t miss this.
The bar is a lively place and worth spending time in as you get to meet others based at the pub doing 1-3 days tours. It was here that Darrell hearing that my two way was not working offered me his 5 watt Uniden and said ‘ just send it back at the end of the Rally!” How amazing being so generous and trusting to a complete stranger. In the end Wolfie arranged for one to be delivered to Charleville and I didn’t take Darrell up on the offer.
One final word, the food is basic, very good and huge servings are derigeur. All in all a fabulous experience.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited to what we all know now and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand” Albert Einstein.
|08-19-2012, 07:21 PM||#2|
Joined: Feb 2003
Location: Sydney Australia
The APC Rally/Adventure Motorcycyling - is it the new golf? Part 2
A long day to get to Charleville and we off at around 730 am. Now I confess I am more of ‘gentleman rider” and these early starts were a trial for me. Normally my day involves an earlyish wake up – a little bit of exercise, my first coffee around 715am, some form of cooked dead animal and eggs, more coffee, the papers and I am ready around 830! Clearly this was an unlikely prospect, so I hardened up, bitched hardly at all and was ready to go at the agreed time.
As the days rolled out: my riding improved and my confidence similarly so. These were fast open roads and speeds over 120kph and beyond were not unusual. Talking to some of boys on the twins – they were hitting speeds at times that in other parts of the country might involve the Blue Team taking a somewhat dim view of this. But hey we were in the middle of nowhere and these bikes were designed for just what we were doing and more.
An observation about the Rally at this point is worth making. At no stage can you afford to relax as John Hudson has planned the route so there are always surprises and believe me they will find you if you let your vigilance relax, and that’s personal (your head), your body and your bike. It was unrelenting and that day’s was around 700kms, which is a long way to be constantly rammed in the ass by my orange coloured Austrian matron.
We stayed at the Corones Hotel in Charleville and again turned the pubs car park into workshop with a dozen of so bikes being worked on at the same time and few sherbets being consumed. The young friendly barmaid decided at that time to inform us if our.”f..Ing bikes were not moved by 10pm, she would reverse over the top of them”! After considering her charm and personality for a brief moment we went back to work and made sure the bikes were well out of harms way by the time we retired to the bar for dinner and drinks.
The next day was another long one and was the start of the outback and required we carried extra water and made very fuel stop.
Today’s destination was Thargomindah. I have been here before on an outback camping trip and remember being unimpressed by the attitude of the owner of the local pub, such that my mate and I refused to part with one cent of our monies and fueled up and headed on.
I had booked that nights accommodation at the Bulloo River Hotel and bugger me it was the same place as last year and yet again the owner didn’t disappoint with her attitude. At one stage she removed some of our fellow competitors from the dining room as they were drinking in there waiting for their meals to arrive! Even worse she had no red wine, upon politely asking why – her response was “.. its not her’f ..ing fault that the f..ing delivery had not arrived and blah blah…!” Not wanting to spend one more cent with her, I headed over the road to the Oasis motel, which has an excellent restaurant and after ordering desert was able to enjoy several glasses of red. A little later Wolfie Smith joined me and he too partook of dessert and red.
Wolfie had re-damaged his already buggered ankle that day whilst trying to turn on a tight track and it looked like he had once again dislodged the pin in his ankle. Swollen and very sore he was going to struggle to continue – especially as the tracks were likely to get a bit harder as we got closer to Birdsville. A quick call to his mate Glen and he agreed to drive to Thargo, put the Yamagiggle in his truck until Wolfie could ride again
When we arrived that afternoon, I noticed two issues with the ‘whipped dog, firstly a leak from the counter socket shaft and secondly the aluminum plate on the rear rack had snapped on one side.
That night at the Oasis I mentioned this to the owner and she said it’s my lucky day as the bloke outside, “Brocky” was the local aluminum welder at the council! So I bought a couple of beers, explained my problem, he asked for the broken bits, took them with him and said he would bring them back the next morning. At 8am he duly returned with the plate fixed and 5 minutes later I was ready to go – thanks Brocky!
Over night we go the news that the track through Bulloo River Downs was closed by the police, apparently three or for of our group had been medevac’d out in the last two days and it was understandably frustrating the locals. This underscored the need for vigilance at all times and to always ride within your limits. It caused me to remember a saying by a late dear friend Michael Lynch – that on a motorcycle “you cause every accident you have” – so an alternate route was planned to Cameron’s Corner and on to Innamincka via Santos and Epsilon. Kat and Amy (tough and accomplished as they are) went this way whilst we decided to take the back roads and allow Wolfie the chance to recuperate. We got to Innamincka around 230pm and had a quick bite and fueled up and headed out for Birdsville, planning to camp somewhere on the track that night. Wolfie grabbed a few steaks, snags, spuds and chocolate and we headed off. Over the late lunch it became apparent that neither he, nor Clubby were frequent, and in the case of Clubby, keen, campers and this was not something to be looked forward to! For me it was the opposite, I love camping (with good kit and tucker) and I was happiest looking at chandelier sky as the fire snapped and crackled close by.
Clubby led the way and we agreed that around 100k’s from Innamincka I would take over and scout a suitable camp site. I was looking for trees and water and it soon became apparent that being as dry as a dead dingoes proverbial – trees were the most likely outcome! Around 120k’s and about 430pm we discovered a dry creek bed with trees so I headed off into the bush to scout the campsite. I found what I thought was a suitable spot and beckoned the others in too agree with my splendid choice. Not so, its not pretty, where’s the water, the grounds uneven and blah blah! Wolfie had spotted a track where a road grader had turned around and favoured that, good God I thought I would rather drink warm beer than agree to that. So once again I scouted around and found a much better spot that suited everyone. I wanted the camp set-up and the fire going before sun set so Clubby and I grabbed the wood, Wolfie a chair and ice for his ankle and Glen (Jesus what did Glen do? I remember he talked to Wolfie and talked to Wolfie and…).
With the fire going and the swags organized and the bike maintenance underway – it was time for a pre-prandial cocktail or in this case a cold Heineken!
Whilst the others rested and chatted I got to work organizing dinner. Wolfie had scrounged some old fencing at Thargo that morning and this proved to be an excellent grill, so I put 8 large spuds in the fire, whilst they were roasting, I chopped up the onions and slowly softened them in butter. Next we cooked 8 snags and had snag sangers with onion, then came the spuds and steaks, accompanied by red wine of course and followed by chocolate! Does it get better than this?
We were in the swags by 10 and up at 6 the next day. I kicked the fire to life and whilst the others scratched their pink bits and reminisced about their favourite Golden Chain Motel and hot showers, I prepared a breakfast of bacon/eggs and plunger coffee! Perfect.
Less perfect is the site of men in merino tops and tights in the morning. Particularly so in my case as I resemble the Michelin Man encased in black!
An issue with camping is that it does take a while to pack and be ready to go and particularly if you are not into the John Hudson version, roll your swag out, eat a can of tuna, wake up – have a dingoes breakfast (a scratch and a quick look round) and get going. So we were ready to go by around 930 am and hit the road.
I had strapped Wolfie’s ankle at Thargo and he felt he was ready to ride that day to Birdsville, but seeing the way he hobbled to the truck we persuaded him that common sense should prevail. So once again he enjoyed Glen’s transmissions and I am not talking mechanical and we were off.
That day we had the Cordillo Downs rock farm to look forward to and what can I say – it was awful. It just hammered the bike and the body with kilometer after kilometer of rocks of various size, shape and colour. There were dozens of dry creek crossings with snotty rocks and twists and turns. The sight of Cordillo Downs Station was a welcome relief and provided 30 minutes of respite. The wool shed is open to explore and it’s worth reading about the history. We all felt a little chagrined to read that back in the day, shearers got there by pushbike – taking 4 ½ days up the Strzelecki Track. Hum, time to HTFU and get going.
Rocks more rock and more bloody rocks. Earlier in the trip someone had dropped the C Bomb in front of Kat and Amy and they quite rightly pointed out that this was not acceptable. We recalled the episode in the TV series Kath and Kim where Kim she was advised that it was not called Kardonay but Chardonay – and in her response said “Kardonay Kardonay you pack of Chunts”! So from that moment forth Chardonnay replaced the C Bomb and I can say that the Cordillo Downs Track is a Chardonnay of a track!
For some reason that afternoon I barreled ahead and got into Birdsville around 230pm. I had been looking forward for year to get here and to be frank I was disappointed! It was much bigger and more modern and organized than I expected. I had a vision of the pub, dirt roads and a strip where light planes landed. Not so, there were houses and businesses abound and tourists were flying in and out all the time on air tours, stopping long enough to snap the pub have a drink and get going again. It was modern day version of the travel saying, “Todays Tuesday must be Belgium”, except this was – “its 3pm must be Birdsville!” Anyway a beer and a pie was needed to I ordered a Schooner of Coopers and a pie at the bar and $20 later!!!!! headed outside to enjoy it.
The boys soon arrived and we checked into the excellent motel attached to the Pub and started that days maintenance program. A little later Kat and Amy arrived and it soon became apparent that they had had a much harder day than us, these two girls were unbelievable – they took whatever the track threw at them and just kept going, they define tough and capable – I am and remain in awe.
Amy, Clubby and Wolfie decided they would do Big Red. I made some feeble excuse and grabbed the Nissan and followed them. All made it to the top, but Amy was most impressive – she hammered that WR250R up the guts and got to the top before realising she hadn’t dropped her tire pressures – they were still 24/28! What a rider, what a woman!
Dinner was at the Pub and involved buying a ticket, queuing for pre-cooked food that was surlily thrown on your plate and finding a table. It was expensive and a disappointment – and kind of summarized Birdsville for me.
At one stage an elderly man had the courage to approach the ex con serving (hum serving!) the food and asked for more of the butter chicken. He was told in no uncertain terms NO! when he explained he hadn’t had much – he was rudely told to go away! Feeling sorry for him I offered him mine – it was no great loss!
That evening we retired to the bar and had a fun night of bench racing and conversations with the local ringers, most of who seemed to have done a few Finke Racers! This was the night I discovered that Clubby has a particularly unusual favourite alcoholic beverage – my love of the great man does not allow me to say what it is. However I live in Potts Point in Sydney and I was surprised that he enjoys a bevvy more often ordered in the nightclubs of my area than in the Birdsville Hotel!
I also fantasized about nicking someone’s Spot Tracker, gaffer taping it to one of the light planes not 20 meters away and consider how Rally HQ would deal with a rider travelling at 250 kph in the opposite direction!
During the afternoon, I had offered to do everyone’s washing and grabbed a sack of black motorcycle gear and washed it and then put in the dryer. Wolfie had kindly emptied the dryer and when I got to my room found my clothes neatly folded and apart from pinching my KLIM socks (a trick he repeated on several more occasions) it was all there. A good manservant would Wolfie make! So from hereon the legend of Babu was born! Babu I need a spanner, Babu where’s my (name whatever here) Babu bring this and Babu get/do that – became a reoccurring joke for the remainder of the trip. This poor bugger was going to have a miserable existence – given the various tasks he was ascribed in the following days!
By now we had no idea of what date or day it was. I cannot tell you how good a feeling that is. To be living in the moment without a care for what was happening in the world is quite extraordinary.
Today was a huge transit day to Parachilna and a night at the Prairie Hotel. Parachilna is on the Western side of the Flinders Ranges and has a permanent population of seven. The Pub owned and run by Jane Fargher a local farmer is amazing. It contains a great bar, a first class restaurant serving great food including feral food and 4 grades of accommodation from luxury to aluminum dongas. I have stayed here a few times over the years and love it – cheap it isn’t but fun and good it is!
Sadly at around Leigh Creek, Kat’s bike started to make unhappy sounds. It was using oil and it was clearly a concern to her. The redoubtable XR 400 was ill. By the time we got to Parachilna illness had given away to near death. When Clubby and I started it, the metallic sounds emanating from the engine saw us immediately switch it off and load it on the back of Glen’s truck. Kat went into overdrive to fund a solution and started looking to purchase a bike or find out where she could get the engine looked at and rebuilt quickly. In the end and late in the evening she decided to head to the Honda dealer in Port Augusta to the South and she and Glen were to head off at 530am the next morning. She would call us once she had news and if possible we would meet up in the next day or so.
In winter, I love the outside fire at the Prairie which has been made from the rim off some huge truck and an oil pipe drill casing and burns brilliantly and is fed railway sleepers in twos and threes to burn in a thrice. Few things in life are better than sitting by this in full pyrotechnic glory whilst drinking red. More please Sir!
There is not a lot to say about the 700 plus K’s from Birdsville to Parachilna other that it’s long, dusty and eventually ends.
It was good to see Wolfie back on the bike today and sad to see the problems with Kats bike, but that’s motorcycling for you – one day a bouquet and another day a brickbat!
Today we get to play in the Flinders Ranges and do a 300 K route that will see us in Hawker that afternoon, where we planned much needed tire, oil and filter changes etc.
After an excellent breakfast and coffees we hit the road by around 9am. I have been in the Flinders a few times and love it. It’s a very special part of Australia and one that every visitor to Australia should experience. Actually can that thought – the place could end up like the poxy Gold Coast! So shhhhhhh!
Amy and I decided we would ride together and more slowly today so we could enjoy the scenery and take photos etc.
The route John had planned saw us literally cross the road from the Prairie and head due East in to the Flinders and what a spectacular route it was – great roads, water, gravel creek beds and views every way you turned your head. Some of the rock formations are over 530 million years old and I swear you can feel the age of the place vibrate through you. One day at speed does not do this place justice and a week is really needed to experience all of its mysteries. About an hour in we ended up at Blinman and I persuaded Amy to have a coffee and swap bikes for an hour or so. She took on the whipped dog and I squeezed myself into the redoubtable WR250R. God what a difference, no Austrian matron slamming my ass, instead a Japanese geisha soothed me with a gentle massage. Sure it was slow 400cc less than the dog will do that – but a great, great bike. After screwing up the track directions from Blinman we backtracked, picked it up and headed off once more, Glass Gorge, Brachnia and others great riding and wonderful views – thanks John! After an hour Amy pulled over and handed me the KTM back – in her words it was fast, brutal and felt like it was a bucking bronco. She should know as apparently she was close to riding the gee gees in the Olympics a few years back.
Ever been attacked by a p’d off Emu? I can say that I now have. Winding our way down a narrow gully with Amy leading, an Emu Mum with a brood of chicks took offence at the bikes and charged with feathers fully flared and pecking like billy o! It was only by revving the engines that we could persuade her of the futility of her mission – what a brave Mum! Shortly after we rounded a bend and there was a dead Kangaroo in the middle of the road, what made it unusual, was that three eagles and a wild cat were consuming it! Once the bikes were seen all departed from their meal at pace, but in all my years of riding I have never seen a eagles and cats dine together.
Amy took the lead and I followed a few hundred meters back to avoid the dust. Coming down a winding track to a gravel creek bed I glimpsed a 4WD and trailer parked diagonally across the track. A millisecond later I was flying through the windscreen and over the bars. Somehow I barrel rolled as I hit the dirt and landed on my back. I wiggled arms, legs and my neck and bugger me felt good! I stood up walked over to the dog, switched off the engine and beckoned to the aghast Japanese tourists to help me pick up the bike. I remounted, told them I bet that the crash provided a spectacular view, assured them it was my fault and headed off. I caught up with Amy 1 k or so later and indicated to pull over, told her what had happened and apparently was a lively as a trout, wide eyed and babbling about how good I felt and how amazing I didn’t damage myself etc. after calming me down we kept riding just as we hit the highway to Hawker and before the turn off to follow the Ghan track into Hawker, Amy ran out of ‘go’ juice and as the day was closing – I tapped a liter from the dog and we headed into Hawker for tire change etc.
There were a few bikes already in Chris’s mechanical at Hawker and I was last bike in for the night. The promise of a few beers and I had the tires booked in and then I set about changing the oil and filters and the air filter. With Glen and Wolfies help the wheels where off, being scrubbed and ready to be replaced. I had used a Mitas 140 rear with a very hard wall and a D606 front. The front came off easily but they struggled with the rear and it took them 30 mins to get it off – given it had taken close to 2 hours to put on by hand I wasn’t surprised, getting the replacements on were bound to be fun! In the end it took them over 90 mins to replace – the best $50 I had spent. There was no way that they could have been changed on the track – food for thought! To be honest the Mitas was not my favourite tire – I had used a D 908R prior and found this to be great all round tire, whilst the Mitas struggled in the mud. Anyway all was good and I could retire at 7pm for a well-earned beer at the pub and more chicken schnitzels!
Glen was at Hawker after dropping Kat off at Port Augusta’s Honda dealer who were part way through a top end rebuild, Kat was hoping to rejoin us in 2 days – so good news.
Our initial departure was delayed when we stopped at Craddock to check a couple of things and Clubby found his new front tire bulging. We tried to reseat on the rim but to no avail and returned to Hawker to fix and replace tire. It turned out they the bead had been broken when fitting the tire and whilst being replaced we managed to garb a coffee and a decent breakfast at the local General Store. Amy, Wolfie and I returned to Hawker via the road and what a spectacular 30 or so K’s it is – wonderful views, hills and low mountains and very reminiscent of the wild west of America.
This day we were aiming to get to Renmark in South Australia about 500 k’s South East. We rode through huge sheep properties and the countryside was spectacular, this is semi-desert country and quite arid. Most buildings are constructed of local stone and we are constantly surprised at how many have been long abandoned and in states of considerable poor condition. Having ridden through Patagonia a few year before and experienced similar landscapes and abandoned houses (even small towns!) my guess is that a combination of over-stocking, drought and poor economic times made people abandon marginal properties and only the larger, better managed survived.
This was fast riding country with long gravel sweepers and very very enjoyable. We arrived at Yunta a little after midday, a quick sausage roll, a personal water bladder empty and camelback bladder refill and we were on our way… to sand.
Sand along with mud is my bloody nemesis! With Clubby’s advise ringing in my ear, I put my weight back, lightened the front wheel and throttled on and it worked.
There were occasional patches of deep sand and these required commitment and despite a few wobbles I was doing ok. I was following Amy, with Wolfie ahead and Clubby sweeping and in the sand followed her lines. As you know once in a line in sand it’s bloody hard to change direction, especially if there are lots of existing tracks - and that led me to run into the fence post. Amy had moved to sand alongside the that had no previous tire ruts, I followed she wobbled; I backed off – tank slapped and into the fence. Amy seeing what had happened, parked, came back to help me up and I moaned “why did you pick that line, you were doing so well?” Her response, don’t follow my lines! Quite right, quick ego check and off we went. Alongside the Danggali Conservation Park, the sand got deeper and longer. Often it would start before the crest of a hill and you had to trust that the track continued straight at the top as you powered on. Amy was really flying and the best I can say about me was that – well I wasn’t! One long patch of sand, slight wobble, bigger wobble, and instead of putting on my big boy pants and powering on, I backed off and once again flew over the bars! Bugger this one hurt, no roll, back on the feet and smile as in the Flinders. I had landed on my sternum, head and right shoulder and was a tad sore. Clubby sweeping had seen what happened and came to help. Seeing my legs going up and down my body not moving, he was concerned I was having a fit. Spot on Clubby, I was .. a hissy fit pissed that the sand had beaten me.
Clubby again reiterated you have to ride the sand and not let it ride you. So I remounted and rode the proverbial whatsits off it till we hit the dirt road about 40 k’s from Renmark – as night was falling. This style of riding was not confidence based – more anger based and clearly not sustainable. The last 40k’s was ridden in the dark and the road was awful! Corrugations hammered rider and bike and with Roo’s and Emu’s on suicide missions required considerable care. It just seemed to go on and on and it was a somewhat battered me that pulled up at the Renmark Hotel around 6pm.
We checked in, moved the bikes to a secure area behind the hotel, actually Wolfie moved mine as I could not raise my arms above my shoulders and I pondered how I was going to continue. A hot shower, Nurofen Plus and a few drinks and I was feeling a little better, but geez my chest was sore and the arm problems continued. Worse was that night was very funny and every time someone made me laugh I was doubly doubled up – seeing this Wolfie made it his mission to be as funny as possible and I guess that’s why we love biking the après ride pisstake!
Kat appeared around 8pm with her rebuilt XR and we were once again a band of 5.
The Hotel had a piano, so a little tiddly from one more Dom and Bourbon than I should have and Amy and I played the piano – well I did and Amy grimaced and the local Japanese and Korean Mandarin pickers had a short Billy Joel moment! Well they shouldn’t feel too bad it was a Japanese made piano!
Clubby and I were sharing a room and he went to bed before me. When I got there, I struggled to get my shirts off and when I got into bed realized I was only comfortable lying on my back. Poor Clubby that position ensures I snore like a pig with Swine Flu and neither of us got much sleep!
Day 11 – the Hattah!
The next day, stiff and sore I slowly got ready and was not looking forward to 250k’s of sand woops that make the Hattah. The others had decided the outcome for me, insisting I take the road and meet them at Swan Hill. I was projecting great disappointment but inside felt great relief and they headed off for what was going to be the Rally’s hardest days riding and me to Swan Hill via Mildura. The road between Renmark and Swan Hill in effect 2 straight lines with citrus trees either side is BORING… ahh but much gentler than the Hattah!
On 2 occasions I had micro-sleeps and found myself heading bush – that was rather concerning and had never happened before, so I thought I might get myself checked out in Swan Hill Hospital. I arranged accommodation for all of us at the Swan Hill Resort, found a local and really good Indonesian restaurant for dinner that night and took myself of to the hospital. They were great, made me a coffee, did a very thorough examination and felt there were no breaks- but most likely sub-laxed ribs and compressed cartilage. The micro sleeps they put down to too many painkillers with codeine so with a clean (ish) bill of health – I rode off back to the Resort where the Hattah warriors had just arrived. Wish I hadn’t. No that’s not true – I really wish I hadn’t. From the moment I arrived I was derided as a soft c…, weak, they had conquered the Hattah and me the road – they even made 2 videos especially for me. Sulking I retired to the sauna – well not really, I was stoked for them but more so for the girls, who once again proved just how amazing they were – go ladies…
Our aim today was to get to Wodonga and this was Northern Victoria farm lane country. To be honest it was a bit boring – 5km dirt farm lanes, a quick right or left turn and then repeat. It had rained the day before and some of the tracks were greasy and muddy. Mud, bloody mud! Anyway y9u can guess what happened, I cross-rutted and once again di=d a superman over the bars – bloody hell it hurt. Leg waving, hissy fit and 10 mins later I was on the track again – this over the bars business was starting to become a habit.
The weather was starting to close in and Clubby needed KFC, so we hit the direct route to Wodonga and around 130pm, Clubby’s need for ‘dirty bird’ daily, was being satisfied. This was the 2nd time I had been to a KFC in 30 years and had no idea what to order, so somebody else ordered for me, didn’t matter it all looks and tastes the same ‘ dirty bird’ indeed.
We stayed overnight at Wodonga and the Wodonga starters team with one K Magee joined us for drinks and bench racing and a myriad war stories. They had completed the course in 12 days and like us had absolutely loved it – the red wine flowed to around midnight before we wobbled off to bed.
Freezing and a clear sky suggested frost and sure enough the next morning the bikes were covered in it.
We woke up to a text message to call John Hudson and were advised that snow down to 500 meters had closed that day’s route and we planned alternatives that allowed us to avoid the snow and inevitable black ice. God it was cold, I had on 2 Merino fleeces, my kayak vest a Columbia poly fleece and Klim jacket and it worked – I could barely move but was warm. The fingers were not however. Three layers of gloves; silk liners followed by possum wool gloves and the Klim over-gloves were not enough – I needed those handlebar warmers.
The riding was gorgeous alongside Lake Hume and we headed to off via a mix of dirt and b/c roads. Talbingo, Jingellic, Tumbarumba, passed quickly and are all worth riding through and along. The Murrray river had been in flood and you could still see some of the damage but the paddocks were green and the cows fat and healthy. We stopped for a coffee at Tumbarumba and the 4 bear café beckoned. It must have 500 hundred teddy bears inside, including one that stands 15 feet or so high – despite being kitsch, the coffee and cakes were yummy and an hour later our inner glow burning we headed off via Batlow, Tumut, Wee Jasper to Yass where we planned to overnight. This was our last night together and it’s with very much mixed emotions that we had dinner at the Australian Hotel that night. Half of you doesn’t want it to end or to leave the company of such amazing people and the other, says get me home to kith and kin, a warm bed and a diet that doesn’t consist of meat pies, snag rolls, schnitzels and steak.
The aim was to get to Wisemans Ferry by late afternoon – again some of the tracks had changed due to weather issues and Clubby using his intimate knowledge of the area, planned a route that he was going to use later in the year for the Tenere tragics ride. It was glorious and I would love to do it again in warmer weather.
Andrew who had DNF’d himself on Day 2 planned to meet us in Crookwell and follow us into Wisemans Ferry in his 4wd. It was good to see him again, albeit on crutches and I know he will be up for next years ride.
I had decided to break from the Group at Crookwell and head directly back to Sydney – I had trained for the APC on the roads hat were being ridden later that day and didn’t need to repeat – so said my farewells and 3 hours later was back home. Boo!
I was sad to be back in Sydney, the last 2 weeks had been brilliant, with a great mix of roads, a million laughs, spectacular riding, thrills and spills and much much more. If someone had said fuel up and lets do it again – quite honestly I would have – it was that great!
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited to what we all know now and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand” Albert Einstein.
|08-19-2012, 07:25 PM||#3|
Joined: Feb 2003
Location: Sydney Australia
The APC Rally/Adventure Motorcyling - is it the new golf? Part 3 ..and last bit
THE GOOD THE BETTER THE BAD AND THE UGLY
Analysis time. What did I like about, the Rally, the bike, my kit, me, the people etc. and what didn’t I like?
The Rally needed a couple of shorter days and I think a rest day half way through. It is tough on the body and the bike and a bit more ’off the bike time’ time would have been appreciated. Having said that, there was no reason that you couldn’t create that time yourself, there were no rules, just a series of tracks and pick line on your GPS to follow.
It would have been useful to have known about various accommodation options, from budget, mid range to the ones with choccies on the pillows! Some nights the busted pub bed was a bit too much. Ditto with cafes and restaurants. As always there was a mix of accommodation and food, ranging from good to downright awful, but that’s life – as my riding colleagues would have said to me HTFU Bear!
A daily update from Rally HQ text or email would also have been good, Knowing what was happening across the field, insights, fun stuff and more, it wasn’t always possible to access the on-line update.
The bike, everyone else riding the 690 raved about it. Mine was a brutal pig and it was purely suspension based. A good pal Ralphie who writes for AMCN rode it pre-Rally and said he felt it was trying to kill him. The issue is not the bikes but the way the suspension has been set up to cater for height (short) and weight over). A good lesson for next time. The overall bike set up was good and the dog didn’t miss a beat all Rally. I had taken John’s advice and checked and replaced bearings, sprockets, chain, fluids etc. and it was no doubt instrumental in the bikes good running.
The gear I have already reviewed and writing this now a week after returning, I still agree with the ratings I made.
My bike fitness was hugely valuable, the lost of weekend riding that Andrew arranged and insisted on paid huge dividends. I cannot recommend this strategy highly enough, get bike fit over personal fit every time, best of all is both of course!
PEOPLE AND PLACES
I was blessed to ride with such a great group. Funny, smart, practical, generous and ever helpful are just some of the words I would use.
It’s always dangerous to analyse personalities so I won’t, but below are a few insights into the Group and what made each of them unique and special to me.
Clubby. I had only met Clubby a few weeks prior on the 2-day ‘dial in’ ride and had like him immensely. Practical, ego-less, helpful and with no discernible ego are words that describe him. He was first and last on the spanners each night and again in the morning – nothing ever fazed him and brought with him an infectious joy to each day and the event overall.
Kat. Organised is the word I would use to describe Kat and very very tough. Her bike was poorly balanced and vibrated to such an extend that within 2 days of leaving Wisemans she got a bad case of RSI in each arm, Pulling on the clutch or the brake hurt and at times made sleep very difficult. Despite this she never complained and endured painful rubdowns at the end of the day. In fact it was only on the 2nd last day that we did a ‘beside the road’ wheel balance and what a difference that made apparently. Kat is one tough chick.
Wolfie. Or Smith, or Wolfie, or Slippery, or Wolfman, geez this guy has more names than I have had hot dinners. Generous is how I would describe Wolfie. Generous and funny, he arranged stuff, paid for stuff, lent kit and more. He has a great sense of humor and his morning 1950’s radio voice commentary of whatever grabbed his attention was side splitting. Very good at giving and receiving a piss-take – it was great to get know him more.
Amy. Smart, good fun a great rider and great company describes Amy. Boy can she ride too. She nailed that WR250R and was never a laggard even against bikes with 3 x the engine capacity. With an engaging smile and a good sense of fun - I look forward to riding with Amy again and again in the years ahead.
LESSONS AND MORE LESSONS
The adage less is more is so true when it comes to the Rally.
Less weight, I clambered aboard the dog at over 110KG and that frankly is 20kg too much. Lighter riders fared much better than the fat buggers like me.
Less weight on the bike too. I had packed and repacked to keep what I took to the barest minimum. Even so I took too much and would be much more disciplined next time. For instance the 2 flasks of hot coffee and soup on either saddlebag would be ditched there 1.7kg just there. Weight truly does make a difference and I believe with more discipline I could have cut 5kgs off at least. Unless you are planning a camping trip, you just need enough kit to survive a night in the bush, not pack for a 3-day weekend as I did.
Set the bike up well before you go. Ride it with all of the kit you plan to take and reduce, reduce, reduce. I had 2 head torches and one hand torch – WTF- just ones needed. I had 1/5kg of muesli bars – stupid just take four and replenish along the way. I also had 3 knives? Just one the next time.
My comprehensive tool kit was at the bottom of one pannier and hardly used. I carried a 2nd one in my tank bag. Next time I will carry the day tools from the comprehensive kit in my tank bag and have NO duplications.
Good kit makes life easy. Purchase the best, lightest, strongest that you can afford. I have really good kit and apart from the items discussed elsewhere would not change a thing I purchased.
Good lights on the bike are essential. Few planned to ride after dark, but we nearly all did. To do this without hitting Roo’s emu’s livestock and rocks, get good lights. There are very good and inexpensive LED lights for bikes available on eBay or under $150 and a few riders had these and they worked well.
Get sufficient range in your tanks and avoid carrying fuel in bladders or jerry can. They are a PIA and most people that took them didn’t use them.
Get yourself a team together or find your team on the way. There were a number of people who did the Rally solo and some found it tough. It’s a whole lot easier as part of a team and makes the evenings a lot more fun too.
Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses! Or take photos, or simply boil the billy and have a cuppa taking it all in. Most of us wont see much of the routes again and it’s a shame not to have memories of more than the GPS pink line and 40 meters ahead of the front tire.
Use ultra heavy-duty tubes and the nest tires you can afford. Punctures are a huge PIA and can be avoided with a combination of appropriate pressures and kit. Whilst on the subject of tire pressures, I was guilty of not changing these and I think that contributed to two of my over the bar experiences. Carry a good gauge a small hand pump and increase or lower according to conditions. You wont lose any time in fact you will improve it.
I like the use of 2 ways, although we stopped using these on or around day three or four it was due to technological issues as opposed to not liking the comms. They are useful to warn of danger, issues or simply that you are stopping to have a pee, take a photo etc. Get a 5 watt Uniden or GME and find the best helmet /PTT combination that works with it.
Adventure motorcycling is not the new golf. It’s way better!
In the words of famous basket baller Michael Jordan ‘ just do it’ – the APC Rally rocks, the trip rocked, my team rocked and quite frankly so did I!
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited to what we all know now and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand” Albert Einstein.
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