Over the Mountain

IMG_2240A cool but sunny late autumn day dawned on the Friday for my trip back to my family in Sydney. It seemed like a great opportunity to try a alternate route that had been recommended to me. The main reason that I hadn’t yet tried this way is that I estimated it would take around 6 hours – that’s double my normal time, door to door, and being a new route, I would be taking it easy.

I also had been warned that snow and ice were real possibilities on this route so weather was also a big concern. But we’ve had a long unusually warm autumn in South East Australia this year (barely making the single digits, let alone snow and ice temps) and several rain free days before today. A quiet week at work meant that the chances of getting away early where high - all I needed was an early knock off.

I slipped away early and soon after I hit the road west from Queanbeyan. My route took my to Tarago, but here I turned North to Goulburn, where usually I head straight across towards Bungonia. At Tarago I deviated slightly to check on a couple of bikes I saw stopped in case they were lost. No problems there so I turned north. This road is the more well known route than my normal way, and its’ not a bad ride. A bit shorter and straighter than via Bungonia. Plus it adds more interstate.

IMG_2232After getting a little lost in the streets of Goulburn, I fuelled up and turned for the unknown. Again, more northerly towards Taralga (NOT Tarago or Tarana… can get a little confusing). The roads were pretty open and flowing, mostly through farmlands. Some resurfacing was underway and the low winter sun often annoying, but otherwise the ride was very enjoyable. And the kms were swiftly covered.

The road continues north over the Abercrombie River. The descent and climb down to the river crossing were fine twisty roads, without markings, but generally wide enough.

IMG_2229Up from Abercrombie you head towards the back side (from a Sydney perspective) of the Blue Mountains. Again the roads were wide and flowing, but empty. The area is obviously pine plantations and the odd logging truck may need to be avoided.I arrived in Oberon, grabbed a small lunch and topped up the fuel again. This should easily last me until my doorstep, so no requirement to stop again.

From Oberon, you join up with the road from Jenolan Caves and head towards the Great Western Highway at about Mount Victoria. This stretch before the Highway is the last fun before the grind over and down the mountains. And it’s a pretty good bit with some nice vistas of Aussie mountains (so really slightly bigger hills than the rest of the area – not real peaks with snow etc)

IMG_2238The Highway is being expanded and sorted in a massive upgrade that has so far taken several years so there are slow speed roadworks zones, and the newer areas have reduced limits (because the tin tops can’t help running themselves into barriers and off the road all over the place). And the traffic was …. well there actually was traffic, so the fun was over. Still takes about another hour to get over the mountains to home.

A really nice ride and I think heading the other way would be nicer (get the annoying bit out of the way at the start). Pity it is so much longer than my normal route so I’ll have to save it for next time the stars align.

Of course the mighty VFR ate it all up without hesitation. It’s now about 500km short of 150,000 and then only 11,000km until it rolls over 100,000miles. Its not impossible to hit that by Christmas.

Well that’s a first.

298A brisk… no actually… cold ride from Sydney to Canberra tonight. The temperature was low (about 5-6C) but what really made it awkward was twofold.

One was self induced. I dug some old riding pants out of the cupboard to trial. I bought these pants about 7 years (and about 20Kg) ago. I didn’t like them then, but I couldn’t remember why. Surprisingly they still fit. But it wasn’t until I tried to get on the bike that I think I figured out why I didn’t like them. They were tight in the inseam or something – it felt tight where it made it sort of odd to sit on the bike. Though 3 hours later I wasn’t too unhappy. They were also pretty slippery on the seat. That was a surprise as I slid over to take a curve and almost slid myself off the bike! As a plus, they’re a lot safer than my kevlar jeans and warmer too.

So problem one was new/old pants.

The second problem was the wind. It wasn’t particularly cold and not really strong, but I just found myself fighting against it from Sydney until Goulburn. It wasn’t hard but it was tiring for two hours.

I think that’s why I missed it when it happened. I stopped for a warm kebab at Goulburn and it wasn’t until I got to Canberra that I think I left my wallet there, or it fell out around there sometime.

I was cold and somewhat fatigued and it was dark so I just didn’t notice. At least I didn’t have anything much in there – a couple of easily replaced credit cards, my licence and my last $45 until payday.

Ok, that last bit is the most annoying, but at least it wasn’t like $200! Thankfully my work ID cards weren’t there either.

And it is the first time I’ve done that pretty much ever as far as I can remember. I’ve lost the odd card or few dollars here and there – so on average that isn’t bad.

But annoying.

 

Sony… fix your camera…

Another sick day at home would probably drive me crazy. So I decided a little explore around some of the roads around Canberra that had been recommended to me by the locals. I though  a couple of hours to get out into the fresh sunny air would help me feel good.

I headed over towards the Cotter Dam area and along Tidbinbilla Rd, Paddy’s River Rd and part of Brindabella Rd, before turning around and going all the way back again.

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What a nice road. After the tight technical experience of Corin Dam Rd, this flowed much better. Only a little over an hour on the road, with about 20 min ride to get there from home :)

But I can’t imagine how busy it must be in the weekends with riders, cyclists and drivers all trying to get along. Even today there were about 5 cyclists plugging along.  I don’t plan to ride there much at that time.

BUT THIS hopeless Sony Action Cam. It fogs up most of the time, even with the anti moisture inserts. I recorded the ride, hoping to cut a YouTube post out of it, but most of the footage is misty fog. Time and time again footage has been ruined because of it. I’m sick of this camera and I think I’ll get that Drift I had always planned. I might still use this one for MTB, but not for the bike anymore.

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Nothing Pressing

So I’m at home with the Daytona, no kids, and a beautiful sunny Tuesday … What to do? Double demerits finished last night too … I even had my full leathers! You can see where this is going can’t you.

It’s going to the Putty Rd of course.

I dropped the girls at daycare (it’s paid for whether we use it or not, so may as well use it – gives us a chance to catch our breath sometimes – besides it’s only one day this week) and was quickly on the road. 8am found me already north of Wilberforce and heading north.

There was a chill in the air to start with even fog near Windsor but it was clear and headed to a top around 25 so I was happy it would warm up.

Not much seemed to have changed up the road since my last visit. I did slow for a moment of thought where a rider was killed a month ago near Colo. A late pass attempt by a learner ended in tragedy on a short straight and was witnessed by a fellow vlogger.

After that the road climbed away and I passed some traffic and was soon pulling into Grey Gums for a pie. Chatting to the staff she was worn out by the Easter travelers. But she commented that they can always tell when it’s double demerits as the bikes don’t come by. Being the only bike there I couldn’t disagree with her. In fact I hadn’t seen any bikes all the way here.

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As I ate my pie a couple did ride past.

I turned north to get to Ten Mile Putty. I was thinking of getting fuel at Broke and doing some laps but I did have a whole bunch of garden work I needed to do so I wasn’t sure what I would do.

Anyway I hit the Ten Mile and I think I’ve improved. Been studying the Twist of the Wrist over the past few months and I think it has helped. The book is very well known and the ideas behind it are well grounded. They don’t always apply on the road however even when they aren’t directly applicable they still give you a great understanding of how the whole bike works. And a great understanding of how you can instinctively do the wrong thing unless you practice.

So I’ve been consciously applying his techniques to my riding and if nothing else my confidence has grown. I had a couple of moments but lessons like Don’t Chop the Throttle and Keep a Relaxed Grip on the Handlebars meant they weren’t more than moments.

At the top of the Putty I was accelerating for Broke when I figured that I have the gas to turn around and going all the way to Broke and back to here would add 45mins to an hour.

I found a wide spot and u-turned. The other thing I realized was that the road was still fresh in my mind and I was still in the right mindset.

So south I went. I’m really starting to enjoy the Ten Mile… There’s that confidence growing again. Had a great ride homewards with a few stretches where I just cruised along managing my fatigue which was starting to hit me a little.

Didn’t see any cops the whole way around which was a huge surprise. I did see some once I got back on the freeways going home and saw about five in twenty minutes. Guess they were reminding the commuters to behave after a weekend of keeping the interstates under control.

I made I fuel at Colo Heights just as the fuel light came on. Still 2 bars on the gauge so another 50km or so. If I fuel at Colo on the way up I could do a couple of laps at Ten Mile and still make it back to Colo. Again, saving me the leg to Broke.

Then it was home where a whole bunch of gardening was waiting, yay!

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!