Muddy Waters

Another Sunday means another ride to Canberra. The weather was warm with some scattered clouds. A pleasant, if dull ride ahead.

I was about forty five minutes from home when I noticed all the cars headed the other way had their lights on. At five in the evening, that wasn’t a good sign. About five or so minutes later the road ahead seemed to disappear into a cloud.

I quickly pulled over… rain ahead. As I pulled my rain pants from the top box it started to rain a little. Big drops, but not much. Pants on, I hit the road as it really started to rain. Then about 1km up the road was the petrol station I had planned to pull over at anyway! Ah, well. at least I was dry.

And a fellow VFR rider was just pulling up as well. Not only was it a fellow VFR rider, but a mate from Sydney who has also moved to Canberra. We chatted as we filled our bikes up and geared up for the rain. We decided to ride together, as heading out together was a lot safer into the heavy downpour that the rain had turned into.

The ride, though heavy rain was fairly uneventful for about another half an hour. As we started to clear the heavy rain, the traffic in both lanes ahead started slowing and clearly stopping.

Not wanting to get caught at the end of a line of stopped highway traffic in poor visibility I decided to split up the middle – the main reason so that we wouldn’t get flattened when someone didn’t pay attention and squeezed at the back of the queue. I also hoped to split right past whatever accident was ahead (conditions as they were, it was pretty likely someone had gone off the road or tapped another car).

At the front was something else… water. Lots of muddy rising water.

The highway was flooding. My buddy came up… “We have to keep going, it’s only going to get deeper”

At this point it was over the sole of my boots. And rising quickly. I remembered all those images of cars floating away on flooded highways. “Are you sure?”.

“Yes” He headed forwards.

We split some way up the road until we were past all of the cars and the flooded highway stretched out ahead of us. But we could also see clear road.

“Keep going, otherwise we’re stuck here” he said, just as a semi trailer crept past. “follow him, he’ll clear any debris”

So we did. The bow wave of the truck kept tugging at the front wheel trying to turn the bike. Sometimes we’d ride over the centreline that we couldn’t see, but we could feel the cats eyes. A few hundred metres up the road we were out of the water.

Looking back down the freeway

Looking back down the freeway

Made it.

Made it. And even a rainbow, awwww.

We pulled over to check nothing was caught in the bikes. The water had gotten to mid calf, not quite over the tops of my waterproof boots when I was on tiptoe. Riding, it was lapping at my boots on the pegs and the bow wave as we rode through it was at least twice that. We looked back just as the police arrived and shut the road. They wouldn’t have let us through I’m sure. Good choice. (or lucky??)

Not long after that the rain stopped and eventually the roads dried. More than an hour late I rolled into my garage to get dry and warm.

Safe.

I haven’t ridden this far in 50 years.

IMG_5362So I’ve moved down to Canberra where I live during the week, and head home every weekend. One of the problems with this has been that whichever bike stays in Sydney won’t get ridden, and its not fair to my family to be away all week, come home late Friday and then spend all Saturday riding, before leaving for Canberra mid afternoon Sunday.

I always planned to move both bikes down here, but how do I do that. I’d really need a lift from a buddy or maybe catch the intercity bus.

My mum and dad were headed to Sydney on their way to my sisters, so my dad suggested he rides the other one down. Which was a really good idea.

Except he’s ridden my VFR for a total of about 20minutes in the suburb only (no freeway, no back roads) and not ridden this far (to quote him “furthest he’s ridden in 50 years”). We can’t leave until after 4pm as my wife doesn’t get home from work, giving us about 4 hours of daylight. If it takes us too long we can’t ride on the back roads as the kangaroos are a real hazard around dusk. Then to add to it all, we turn on a bit of a heat wave and we’re expecting about 38C, clear skies all day…. he’s from NZ so not so used to our temps.

But in the spirit of adventure… stuff all that, LETS RIDE! IMG_5363Just about to head off.IMG_5367It was warm, and it took Dad a little while to get used to the higher speeds (and glorious smooth comfort of the VFR, his normal ride is a KTM 690 Duke, he calls a tractor by comparison). I bought a set of Scala Riders several months back and they did great work on this trip. 

Our route took us down the freeway at first, partly to build his confidence and partly trading fun for time so we could do the best bit at the end.

By Moss Vale Service Centre we both needed a stop for a leg stretch, but more importantly some water. It was very hot and no clouds to relieve us. We spent a couple of minutes drinking up and chatting to a bloke doing the run on a Speed Triple.

At Marulan we’d made up enough time that I was happy and we turned off into the country roads. Dad’s first taste of the country NSW on a bike. The comms worked well and I was able to give him general tips and warn him about hazards and tighter turns coming up… I’m sure he was sick of me nattering in his ear. But I was protecting two things very important to me.

And I gotta say he did really well. He enjoyed himself but even he admitted he had the death grip on the handle bars for most of the day – part of that was the pressure of not smashing my VFR I guess. The forested roads gave us a lot of relief from the sun and evening was stretching on as the sun came down – into our eyes.

Then, about 3h15m after we left we rolled up to my garage, safe, sound, tired and thirsty. I usually take just under 3h so we made really good time. This is my Dad, pretty stoked about the whole thing (and quietly a little amazed I let him ride my VFR – so am I)

Time to put the feet up and drink lots of cold cold water. Well done Dad :)IMG_20140209_192423

Seems that wasn’t a last ride after all

Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 5.50.21 pmUp early, beat the crowds, beat the heat, beat the cops, and be home for lunch after 5 hours of one of the best roads in Sydney. Sounds like a plan.

I was invited to join a couple of mates very early Sunday for a Breakfast at Grey Gums… and maybe a bit further after breakfast. So 6am finds us meeting up a a nearby petrol station about to head up the Putty. It would seem that my last dash up this road wasn’t to be the last. This one might be but who cares.

So we made Grey Gums in easy time. The carpark was a bit empty. Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 5.49.47 pmBut the lack of vehicles didn’t give us a hint of how many flies there would be. Made breakfast interesting. Ah summer, in Australia = flies.

So we’d made it here. Some quick maths and we turned north, we should easily be able to head up to the top of the Putty and still make it home for lunch. This lead me up to the 10 mile Putty again. I really wish this patch was much closer to home, or I could get a day up here doing a few laps.Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 5.52.00 pm

It’s picturesque – but then I’m not really looking at that.

After fuel, another roll down the 10-mile and it was back to Grey Gums. What a difference a couple of hours can make. On a nice day, on a Sunday, the first Sunday after double demerits has finished and the holidays. Almost a perfect storm. Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 5.53.40 pmWith so many people the flies were spread much more thinly so our snack was more comfortable. It was getting warm and time was starting to run out, so we headed homewards.

And I was home in time to head out with the family for Yum Cha.

Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 5.54.32 pmOne of the bikes I rode with, a BMW HP2. Very nice and there was a fun moment as we both leapt away from the lights at high rev, quick shifters (no need for clutch with these) blipping….. then we were good boys again.

 

Wasn’t I supposed to ….

SONY DSCMrs let me out for a couple of hours ride. I wanted to take the VFR out for a serious ride in order to check out (and break in) the new suspension components. As I stood in the garage I couldn’t help but listen to the siren call of the Daytona, I could just hear it saying

“come on… I’m more fun than that one. More flickable, more power…”

But it’s double demerits until after New Years, I’d have to be a good boy.

“I can behave… come on.”

So I rolled the Daytona out and went for a ride.

And it was fun.

When I got back, the family had gone out. So I headed off to meet up with them for dinner.

I put the Daytona back in the garage and rolled out the VFR. This was weird as I have never actually swapped the two over that close together. Really highlighted the differences, both good and bad.

They actually complement each other quite well.

And more fun was had on the way to and from dinner.

 

Sydney – A last ride?

Yesterday I got the Daytona out early and headed up the Putty Road. It was expected to be really hot, so I wanted to get into the shade of the bush as early as possible. By 7am I was at Windsor, fuelled and headed up the Putty.

Colo was in cloud and some of the road was a little damp. However, not wet enough to worry about and I expected the sun would burn the cloud off pretty soon.

An enjoyable ride had me at Grey Gums at 8am. Not sure I was the first there, but certainly there hadn’t been a lot of bikes on the road. A weekday and pretty early, so I guess no surprise.

After breakfast at Grey Gums I had a decision to make. I could turn around and head home, arriving about 10am. I had planned to be out until early afternoon, and heading up to Broke would only add about 2 to 2.5 hours, home by 1pm.

I headed north and was soon winding my way through the 10 Mile Putty. This is the 16km (hence 10 mile) of twisty road along the river, right at the top of the Putty, before you come out of the bush and back into the farmland. Its probably the most technical stretch of the Putty and a bike favourite. I certainly enjoyed myself.

Fuelled and rested at Broke, before heading back the way I had come. Again through 10 mile – need a lot of practice there.

I passed a snake crossing the road at one point – we both avoided each other safely :)

At Grey Gums I met another bunch of riders headed south and happened to leave at about the same time. For the first time I didn’t seem to hold other riders up so I guess I have improved a little.

We caught up to some traffic and I pulled over and waited for it to clear a little, allowing me to enjoy the road before catching them.

And then it was over and I was pulling into the driveway. A great day and enjoyed the Daytona again. I also now can be certain that I can go from Broke to Home on one tank. Which means I can go from Broke, do the ten mile several times and then get to Colo for fuel.

But with Christmas coming (double demerits no doubt) and the trip away followed by the move to Canberra and starting work, it might be my last time up the Putty for a while.

Daytona to Canberra

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With the moving truck on its way, I had to get down there as well. I had planned to fill the top box on the VFR and head down, but I realised two things – I didn’t need to take much as I was only going overnight, and the weather was forecast sunny.

So it was time for the Daytona to head interstate for its first away trip. I packed a couple of things (mostly chargers for my iPhone and my Bluetooth comms system) and headed off. I had most of the day, but I had to be at the agent’s office to pick up the house keys before 5pm. 

So I headed on the freeway to Picton so that I could ride out past Thirlmere and avoid some parts of the Hume. This winds back to the Hume, which I followed for some time until my normal Highlands Way, fuel at Marulon and the back way to Queanbeyan that I have done several times now. 

I found the Daytona a delight to ride on these roads. So easy to flick into corners, so much power with just a small twist of the wrist. The suspension is stiffer than the VFR though and that occasionally had me bobbing about like a bobble head on some of the rough patches. 

The Daytona proved a capable, extremely fun and comfortable over the distance that I’ll happily take away again. The VFR will still overtake it in luggage capacity and in miserable weather.

It seems like some of the roads are shorter, but I’m sure it’s a combination of being faster and more confident on them, the Daytona’s rapid acceleration up to (and over) legal speeds helped too. 

On the return trip I tried a variation of up through Berrima, but it cemented in my mind that exiting that leg on Golden Vale Rd, is the best compromise between riding fun roads and not increasing the journey time too much. I found my choice today lead me simply into some towns and just sucked time rather than adding enjoyment. At least now I know. 

I’ve also been trying some new places to break up the rides, get meals or snacks along the way. I recommend the cafe at Exeter and the Pub at Tarago (those towns aren’t big enough that you’ll be confused if you want to try them yourself).

I’ll leave you with my colour coordinated two wheels.

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The Daytona and the Giant (in my new garage)

I’ll have to buy a blue Mountain Bike next, to match the VFR!

Ride, Daytona, Ride :)

Outside Wollombi Pub

Outside Wollombi Pub

Finally.

A ride.

With no limits and no weather/illness/appointments in the way.

I’m really tired though, lol.

I headed out early, not planning to meet anyone, that saves about 2 hours of stuffing about riding to the meet point, waiting etc etc. I had several things planned to achieve for the day:

  • Ride the Old Pacific Highway (OPH)
  • Ride Galston Gorge. These two I haven’t ridden in years
  • Ride the top half of the Putty.
  • Ride the Daytona for a full day.
  • Try to get as much footage as I can.
  • Try out my new leathers.

Seems like a busy day, but I planned a loop across Galston Gorge, up the OPH, across to Wollombi, then down the Putty. I figured it would take about 5 or so hours at least. Most of that would be riding, as I didn’t plan to stop much.

Got a little lost crossing the northern suburbs looking for Galston, but found it. Probably won’t be back though. It was tight and busy. Only place I’ve ever seen 5kph corners, super tight hairpins. Lots of cyclists and a stupid BMW driver who thinks he can use the whole road to make the turn.

From there I headed up the OPH, taking my own sweet time as usual. I did plan to stop at Pie in the Sky, but missed it and couldn’t turn back. Never mind. Stopped at Mt White Cafe, back in business again.

I still can’t figure what people see in the OPH. It’s really busy, there are cyclists and cars and police and speed limits that make it a real cruise. The only thing I can figure is that for the northern suburbs, its a lot closer than getting to the Putty.

From Mt White I headed inland towards Wollombi, Broke and then down the Putty. I found a fuel stop I wasn’t aware of, near Central Mangrove, so I topped up. This was a pretty nice leg, and I made Wollombi in good time. In fact, before the bistro opened, so no burgers etc.

Hit the road again towards Broke. The first half of this is tight and rough, really only a lane and a half (or even one lane in places) so took it real easy. So the the passing Highway Patrol didn’t even give me a second glance – wonder if he was headed to Wollombi for a burger?

Found the petrol station at Broke busy and with the previous top up before Wollombi I guessed I could make the fuel at Colo Heights (fingers crossed a little I admit) so headed towards the Putty.

I wound my way along and eventually decided a good break was required, so pulled in at Grey Gums. The bike park was full, busy for a sunny Sunday lunch :)

After about a half an hour, I headed south again, stopping only at Colo for fuel. I arrived home about 3:30, tired but happy.

I got about 4 hours of footage, the bike did about 350km on about a tank and a half. The leathers are comfortable, hopefully they’ll break in a bit as I use them more. The full day on the Daytona was pretty easy, it’s only my general “haven’t ridden that far” in ages and that I was out late last night tiredness set in towards the end.

YouTube is up now.

Now to the next ride…..

Southern Putty Rd.

Cloudy, some rain a couple of days ago, no word from my buddy who was also coming, Saturday didn’t seem promising to break the ride drought. So it was with a little trepidation that I headed over to his house.

And woke him up by tapping quietly on the window. He’d fallen asleep in his lounge the night before trying to decide if he was coming or not. So he decided to come along and after what seemed like ages we set out.

Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 8.22.25 AM

A short stop for petrol and we were off up the Putty. The Putty Rd is a 140km of great road, reasonable limits, mostly limited traffic headed north out of Sydney. Being double demerits weekend were were even more mindful of being good boys, but my buddy could easily disappear off the front whenever he wanted to.

I didn’t care, I was having a ball on my Daytona. We headed north as the sky stayed cloudy, but the roads were dry for most of the southern half. This half is more open with sweeping turns, rather than the northern part which is more tight and technical.

Within a few kilometres of Grey Gums there was some misty rain and the road became damp. Easing off a bit we turned into Grey Gums for breakfast.

First time I’ve had guys standing around my bike admiring it.. that felt kinda cool.

I talked to another rider who had come from the other direction and told us that most of the road north was slippery and wet. I didn’t see the point in headed north, we didn’t have to be anywhere and with the roads wet it would be a greater risk, not much fun and kinda pointless.

So we headed home. And enjoyed the roads and turns in the dry, making it home a little after lunch and several hours before we were expected.

I still really love the Daytona, but there are a couple of things I need to do…

- get some help with setting up the suspension for me and for the riding I do. My buddy seems to think its more stiff than it needs to be, and I agree. However, its a bit of a black art to me, so I’ll find a couple of more knowledgeable guys to help me.

- go back to the theory books and start applying those lessons. I could be lazy on the Daytona as I am on the VFR, but I feel like there is a lot more I could get out of the Daytona if I applied myself to ensuring I was using the correct technique. Obviously those lessons will apply exactly the same on the VFR too. So good all round there. And I’ll be safer.

So not the full ride I planned but a good one none the less. I’m putting together a video for YouTube as well (the link to my channel is on the right)

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Denied Again???

SONY DSCI’m starting to think that going for a fun ride on this bike is jinxed! Another free Saturday rolls up and I head out. Actually got the bike out of the garage. As I did I noticed some flecks of white on the side of it. This is important later. I figured that I ridden through something on the way home on Friday and wiped most of it off.

So I rode off towards the city limits deciding that I probably should have worn more of a windbreaker than a fleece under my riding gear, it was pretty fresh.

I stopped for petrol at the edge of town, at almost the acknowledged start of the ride I was headed on. Filled up and was about to ride off when I noticed that the white stuff was back. It was like someone had a small white paint spray all along the side of the bike. This was worrying as I was certain I hadn’t even ridden through a puddle let alone anything else on the way there.

I rolled the bike up to a carpark away from the pumps and had a closer look. There was nothing showing up behind the front wheel, where if I ridden through something it should be covered. It was only on one side and only from the radiator back. I grabbed a tissue to wipe it off, with the thought that I would ride on a bit and see if it came back again.

I wiped a few obvious areas, to make it easy to check. The tissue came away wet and with a tinge of green.

That’s when my blood went cold. The only fluid I was sure was green on a bike is the coolant, and the spray was only from the radiator back. Then I recalled thinking that the bike water temp display was quite high on the freeway for such a fresh morning. I put it down to being still unfamiliar with the bike. Now, I was fairly certain I had a small coolant leak.

I’ve ridden a bike before with a serious leak and the temps rocket up. This time they hadn’t and with the small amount sprayed across the side, it couldn’t be too big. I also knew the bike hadn’t overheated so nothing was hurt.

But no ride today.

I headed home when I remembered that the workshop at the dealer that I bought it was open Saturday’s for a few hours. I changed plan slightly to swing by there and get them to look at it.

I made it without incident and they had a look. They would even be able to look into it if I could hang around for about 90 mins. Hey I’d already planned to be away all day, and this stage it was looking like I’d be home by 10am.

The bike is fixed and at no cost (warranty). I had a chance to take it out again, but I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on it.

Next Saturday I’m busy and the one after too. Maybe the next one???

A Ride Denied

No engine start today :(

No engine start today :(

I had planned to head out for a good long fun ride on my Daytona today. Part of the ride I would be riding with a bunch of folks headed north to Cairns on “The Long Ride” which is a charity multi day bike ride. While not heading off for the full trip I planned to ride with them today at least, before heading home. The bike was ready as I’d completed the first service last week. Still in restricted RPM but it was a little higher.

I had also almost finished sorting out my video camera for riding. I have the helmet mount and camera sorted, the only trouble I am having is getting a good mic set up so that I can record my comments as I ride. Actually the latest test went well in reverse. The camera mic really only gets wind noise, but I set up another mic in my helmet. Only it didn’t pick up any talking, but it did pick up the engine really well.

And lastly, Mrs wasn’t working and she wanted my home by dinner. Fair enough. It’s dark by then anyway.

And I felt weak and sickly all evening last night. While I might commute when I’m not feeling  100% doing a full day ride isn’t a good idea.

So no ride…

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Both bikes sitting quietly in the garage.