All a little too quiet

Stopped at the petrol station on my way to work yesterday. Filled up the tank and got organised to set off. Turned the key, all the lights, and hit the starter.  A bit of an noise then nothing. A couple more attempts and nothing. The bike wasn’t starting.

Here I was at 6am on a highway petrol station with a bike that wouldn’t start. Nothing obvious (like leaving it in gear) so I pushed it away from the pumps and into the parking. Called a rescue company I know, but it was a little too early for them and all I got was an answering machine. Texted my staff to tell them I was running a little late and pondered my next move. Realising that standing out in the cold when I could push the bike 10m up the road to the McDonalds and be warm and have breakfast was silly.

Waited in McDs hoping the company would call me back or until the bike shops were due to open. About 7.30 decided to give the bike a try. It fired on the first stab of the button!!!! So I ran around getting my riding gear back on with the bike running (didn’t want to risk it not starting again) and hit the road.

About 30mins later I pulled into the carpark of my local bike shop as one of the techs is arriving. Switched it off and showed him… “Here look at this” I didn’t even get the dash lighting up. “Flat Battery” was our consensus, but I also had a niggling concern about the RR.

After several hours charging the battery, and a test ride. The verdict is a blown alternator. I’ve been running on battery only for i don’t know how long.

It wasn’t a very nice train ride home.

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Six Figures

Well a small event in the bikes history took place as I rode to work last week. As you can see from the picture I’ve hit the 6 figure mark. 100,000km. I can’t say they’ve been trouble free, but its been pretty close to that. So here’s some pictures of the event from my phone.

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one km to go
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There it is — 100000km
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The location!

Will it be around for another 100000, who knows.

Catching Up

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My first ride, the Kawasaki ZZR250. In 2 years I put 50,000km on it, before I traded up to the VFR.

Basically this is a summary of the rides I’ve been on since I took up riding. Doesn’t seem like much, but I’ve touched on most of the rides within easy reach of Sydney and Melbourne.

Firstly, Melbourne
Melbourne is reasonably bike friendly for an Aussie city and there is plenty of us around Melbourne no matter what kind of rider you are. The city has provided a lot of motorcycle parking around the CBD and we have marvelous idea of footpath parking. The rule is that you can park on public footpaths for as long as you like with two conditions, don’t block the footpath and don’t block people getting out of their cars. You aren’t supposed to ride onto the footpath… I said you aren’t supposed to. Another tip for Melbourne: watch out for tram tracks when its wet.

Phillip Island, MotoGP: I got my Learners while living in Melbourne, and while still on my L’s the GP circus came to town. Well why not ride there! Actually this is a rather boring ride. The road is continually being upgraded and is pretty much a double lane divided road the whole way. It takes around 2 hours from Werribee in Melbourne. There are several fuel stops and towns so no dramas about fuel and refreshments. For the GP the parking is in a big field next to the track [For the Superbikes, you park inside the track fences and can even ride about instead of walking!] Take a bit of wood to rest your stand on if you are worried about it sinking into the ground and toppling your bike over.

The race is great. My favourite spot is Lukey Heights, but I can recommend anywhere. You can see almost the entire track from anywhere and they place massive screens so you can catch the rest of the track, replays and all the stats.

Almost as good is the ride home. For about the first 50 kilometres there are bikes everywhere. The locals come out to view the spectacle and wave at all of the riders going home. Something a little different. Cops seem a little more lenient of speed on the open road, but will not budge if you’re playing silly buggers in the towns.

Off to Sydney
I had been in Melbourne for a few years, but only picked up my licence about 6 months before I was expecting to move away. As such it was mostly spent knocking over my Learners and getting onto my Provisional licence, as the Provisional can be transferred from state to state.

Sydney. I am not a fan of the place and their total disregard for motorcycles doesn’t get them any extra points. Almost no parking, no consideration in tollways [forced to use electronic tolls, but no devices available for bikes, what are we supposed to do?] and a complete disregard from the cagers on the road. You can get away with parking on private property. You won’t be booked, but you run the risk of the building security having your bike towed. I’ve gotten away with it two New Years Eve’s running parking right next to the harbour road closures, so it can be done.

Wiseman’s Loop: Soon after MotoGP I moved to Sydney where there are some nice rides. Amoungst my workmates were a lot of riders, about 20 all up. We had a wide range of experience including two Stay Upright instructors. We often met up in the weekends for rides. The first I managed to attend was a Wiseman’s Loop run. There are several ways to do this run. We start at McDonalds McGraths Hill and head up to the Ferry [and it is actually a ferry!] then either head left towards the Putty or right towards the Old Pacific Highway. I have done both. Can’t say either way is worse/better. Both have their fans. The Putty has a bit of a boring patch and some gravel. The OPH has a lot of cops, low speed limits and plenty of silly buggers.

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The work crew on a Wiseman’s Ferry ride (that day was 40C) – by some digital trickery everyone is in this picture!

The first time we went via the Putty. We had a small incident, some minor fairing damage and some more stories to tell. It has a lot of nice curves but you do have to watch out for gravel where it shouldn’t be and cars/bikes on the wrong side of the corner. Fuel is a little sparse so I recommend filling up at every chance you get. Premium is espcially rare.

Picton: I lived in Liverpool in SW Sydney. There are several roads to Picton, which is a popular weekend day ride to the coffee shops for Sydney riders. It isn’t far (less than an hour from Campbelltown) and the roads are generally smooth and not too busy. A short day ride to get back into the swing of things.

Sydney to Canberra: While still on my little 250 and on my P’s I decided to visit my mates in Canberra one weekend. Firm in my resolve to stay off the Hume Highway (the main interstate freeway) as it would be boring and dangerous with my 90km/h limit (the road has a 110km/h limit) I decided to try the scenic route. I had already ridden to Picton, which was the start of my route. I then linked together towns such as Mittagong, Moss Vale, Bundanoon, Goulburn, Tarago, Bungendore and Queenbeyan, eventually coming into Canberra as the day ended. It had been a long ride, but I took it pretty easy and had a ball. The mighty ZZR250, with tankbag and backpack strapped to the backseat handled the job well.

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The first time on the ZZR
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And then about 18mths later on the VFR

I highly recommend this ride. The roads are in great condition and aren’t busy. There are several well spaced little towns with coffee shops, pie shops, and fuel. The roads are quite flowing and nice to cruise quickly along. I managed to avoid the freeway for almost the entire distance, only the patch between Marulan and Goulburn proved a little too difficult to find a way through (about 30kms?) I returned the same way and have repeated it since on my current VFR800. In fact it took about the same length of time on the bigger bike! I think that says more about my easy riding style than anything about the bikes.

Royal National Park: I did a few rides up Wisemans but was looking for something different, so hooked up with some guys from the internet for a ride through RNP to Kangaroo Valley. The Park is quite twisty, with a couple of very tricky turns that catch a LOT of riders out. It is also narrow and often slippery (being under tree cover and damp and mossy in places) so I wouldn’t recommend it. The view once you hit the coast is pretty good though.

It quickly became obvious that these guys rode a lot faster than I was comfortable with. When I caught a glimpse of them again, I waved them good bye and returned via Picton. I probably wouldn’t head up the RNP again.

Old Pacific Highway: I’ve had some poor luck on the OPH. My first two rides were wet. Not really a good opportunity to experiment on the roads. My third ride was up to see a Motorcycle show. I wasn’t paying attention to my speed while trying to find the show and got nabbed by the cops. A silly as the limit may have been for that piece of road, I had no excuse. Ah well.

It is a popular road. And the cops know it. But it’s also popular with the “Fast and Furious” type cagers as well, so there can be cars all over the place, oh and cyclists…. the list goes on. It is popular because it is a nice road to ride, you can do the whole thing in one gear if you practice! Then you can rest up at RoadWarriors Cafe, at Mt White for another round. A real motorbike hang out, you can find all kinds of bikes there, especially on Sunday. The food’s great too.

Bell’s Line of Road: For people in Western Sydney this is quite a short ride. It is often ridden as part of a longer ride, but my first time up that way it was the ride itself. You ride up the Great Western Highway for a ways, until you are up in the Blue Mountains. Then you hang a left either at Lithgow or Mt Victoria, joining the Bell’s Line of Road. This leads you back over the hills and down to North Richmond in Sydney. It’s a really nice ride, but the Highway can get pretty busy as evening arrives with people headed back to the city. There are a lot of fuel stops on the highway side, but not so many on the Bell’s Line.

Sydney by night: One of the groups I rode with in Sydney, ORoadSports.com, meets in different places, all over the city, every friday night for coffee night. This often involves a ride to the cafe as people gather from all over. There are also often rides that start from coffee night, usually as its winding down. These rides can end up a bit of a tour of the city as you wind through back roads to places like Bondi or Watson’s Bay. An interesting way to see the city, but you can quickly get into unfamilar territory so getting home can be an adventure itself!

Sydney To Newcastle: And Back…Work sent to Newcastle for a weekend. I hadn’t managed to get on a ride for some time and this seemed like a great opportunity. It was. I will add for all you out there with partners, don’t forgot to mention that you are riding up, not taking the company car! Loading up the VFR with my uniform, I set out by heading up Wiseman’s Ferry. Then I turned for Wollombi. This is also the route through to the Putty, so I had been this way before. At Wollombi I was on new territory. Unfortunately the pub’s bistro was shut by that time and so I grabbed a bag of chips and hit the road. I headed towards Kurri Kurri and finally towards Williamtown, my destination. I had left after lunch so the last couple of hours were in the dark and quite busy as it was Friday night.

It was a pretty good ride and if I had left earlier I am sure I would have enjoyed the last stretch more. In the dark, hungry and not entirely sure I was still headed in the right direction was a bit more stressful. Fuel is sparse between McGrath’s Hill and Cessnock. But I got there, did my work over the weekend and returned home. I was in a hurry to get home so headed down the main highway. While quicker, it was dull. I also had little fuel left and there is a long stretch south of Newcastle where a petrol station is nowhere to be seen. I finally pulled off at about Wyee and found somewhere. Almost cut off the motorway onto the OPH for the last leg, but needed to get home.

Sofala and Bathurst: The ORS lads often organise rides and when work and my new wife permitted I joined in. The intended route was up Bell’s Line from North Richmond to Lithgow, then on to Illford, then to turn back to Bathurst. This was carried out with a mix of twisty stuff (Bells, Sofala to Bathurst) and highway (a patch out of Lithgow) We rode around the famous track, some more than once and got a photo of us all at the top. We left as the cops turned up. The track is a public road, and the locals quite rightly get fairly pissed at hoons racing around it. They must have a hotline to the police. We were mostly well behaved.

We had intened to head for Jenolan Caves from Bathurst, but the day was getting on, so we got on the highway and headed home. A really great ride. Fuel was only a problem between Lithgow-Sofala-Bathurst (150km).

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Stopped for photos on “Skyline”

Jenolan Caves: Having failed to get there the first time, a second attempt was quickly organised. This was from North Richmond up Bell’s as well. We cut across the Causeway and up the Western Highway until turning off for Jenolan Caves. After lunch at the Caves about half of us headed home, the others staying on for some cave tours. I had seen the caves before so joined the group for home and we rode back on the highway.

Another good ride this. There is no fuel after Mt Victoria (I think, might be at Little Hartley) until you get back there (about 140km). The last couple of kms to the caves wind down the gorge wall and are extremely twisty, tight and slow. Traffic is one way (or was) and they were in the middle of upgrading it a year or more ago. Watch out for road works. When you get to the caves go past the hotel area, the carpark is up the hill on the other side.

Back to Melbourne:
After 3 years, I returned to Melbourne, now on my full licence and with the VFR as my stead. I was also married now and about to find out what it’s like to live in your own home. I also discovered shift work 😦

Brisbane Ranges: Yes it would appear that the Brisbane Ranges are near Melbourne, not Brisbane? I was looking for something close by and a map off the internet showed a route that looped around these ranges starting and finishing from my part of town, so why not? The route was a bit more complicated than the few intersections on the map suggested. I missed several turns and rode quite a different route in the end.

From Werribee I headed north and west to pass by Bacchus Marsh headed around the back of the Brisbane Ranges. I missed a tiny place called Durdidwarrah completely and found myself in Anakie travelling in the opposite direction from what I had been expecting. I backtracked to turn up Granite Rd, missed a turn and ended up on Staughton Vale Rd. Realising my mistake and after some consulting of the map, I cut across to the Geelong – Bacchus Rd via a dirt track, before regaining my the planned roads and and heading back towards Werribee. There was practically no fuel for my entire route (140kms) and only a few kms of twisty roads. These range from gentle high speed curves on two lane roads to a nasty hillclimb up a single lane sealed track climbing up out of Yaloak Vale. So I ended up not returning to this area.

Once again the birds were out to get me: I disturbed a large eagle off his roadkill and he took his time getting any altitude. Later a flock of about 30 cockatoos were roused from their trees and were a little unsure as to which way to head to avid the noise. Both were avoided with judicous use of brakes and I got home safe and sound.

MotoGp 2006: Once again the MotoGp rolled into town. I managed to not be working that day (how did that happen  and a mate and I rode down there. Once again we were in for all seasons. It was cloudy when we set out but early on it cleared to a beautiful day. About 2/3 of the way we hit fog, before it cleared around the Island again. The one rule of Phillip Island – Always, I mean, Always pack your wet weather gear and a hat and some sunscreen. At lunchtime I was worried about sunburn, and the GP bikes had to come in for wet tyres.

The ride itself is an easy couple of hours down freeway or open road. There is plenty of petrol, but the round trip from the city is only 270kms so if your bike has the legs there’s no need to join the (long) queues. It’s still a dull ride, but the variety of bikes can be interesting. The venue is great still and the ride home is unique. Even the Superbikes in March aren’t even close. There must be 10,000 bikes trying to get home. Just amazing!

If you do head down, there are things happening in the area from Thursday (Barry Sheene Memorial Ride, The Cowes ride) until the Sunday, so it may be worthwhile to spend lots of time there. I understand the Superbike School runs at Phillip Island the next day after the race as well.

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Enroute to Gemstone – It starts to rain moments after this picture.

Mt Dandenong area: There is an area behind Mount Dandenong where there are a lot of twisty roads, according to the maps. With some days off, my wife away and some nice weather it gave me a chance to explore. The first morning I rode up Mt Dandenong from Olinda to the lookout (only to find it doesn’t open until about 10am and you have to pay). I turned around and headed down the eastern side and wound my way up a mix of B & C roads towards Launching Pl. Then I turned and headed south to Gembrook. This would have been a really nice leg of the day, but it turned to heavy rain for this part(probably the best riding on the trip) and I had to take it easy. By the time it stopped I was headed back into town. However I resolved to explore further. The distances are small between towns and there is petrol quite often.
A few days later I headed up towards Healesville. Turning off the Maroodah hwy I headed up the Warburton hwy planning to cut north. Eventually I found the roads I was looking for and turned north, only to strike an unsealed road. I have ridden on gravel a few times, and this was hard, well packed, smooth gravel so I took a chance. It was annoying and slow, but no harm done. I arrived in Healesville and filled up. I had planned to ride the road known as “The Black Spur” but couldn’t figure out where it was. I was in the line behind a couple of other riders and asked them. Its actually the Maroondah Hwy from just past Healesville heading northeast, for about 5kms or so.

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The worst of the road at the Spur. The main part is far better surface than this picture.

And can I say, its very nice. Top grade asphalt, wide and well marked. Corner after corner, many sweeping pleasantly into the next. I was up there on a weekday so I do not know how busy or heavily policed it is, at a guess I would say yes to both. It was a great ride. And you can turn around and do it again… and again.

But todays adventures weren’t quite over. Having hit gravel on the way up I decided to try the other road I had spied on the map. Well the gravel was the same, but it was a bit longer. At the other end I decided to head downwards, having completely lost my sense of direction and having no idea where any towns were, I figured the road builders would more inclined to start at the bottom of the hill rather than the top! And I had a pleasant ride down what became the Warburton hwy into Warburton. It was the Donna Buang Rd. I made it home about 2hours later than expected due to the gravel slowing me down. I would still recommend both these roads, its only unfortunate that I can’t see a loop that can incorporate both without practicing your gravel riding.

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After twenty minutes of gravel, stopped waiting for the GPS to tell me that it’s actually lost – strange because I used it to get here in the first place. The GPS knew where I was, it had the road, but couldn’t find a route to anything. It wouldn’t be the last time that GPS put me wrong.

The Great Ocean Road. I spent a year in Melbourne and didn’t manage it on a bike. I did start, but picked a bitterly cold day and the ride was more about getting out of the house. I calmed down before I got too far from home and turned around. I have driven the route, and it can easily be looped from Melbourne in a single day. It basically winds along the south coast of Australia, from Geelong to Warnambool. Much of it is scenic but there is a lot of traffic and plenty of police presence. It is still worth it, but don’t expect to let the bike open up too often. The day I drove it I returned via the highway further inland, simply out of expedience.

Pink Ribbon Ride. Several hundred bikes nearly filled a Bunnings carpark (kinda like a Walmart I guess?) as they gathered in preperation for a fund raising ride for breast cancer research. Seriously, who doesn’t like breasts so everyone was there! We had police escort and they pushed us straight through traffic lights so they kept the behemoth moving (read my Charlie Boorman ride on how NOT to organise one of these). We rode up into the the dam (forgotten the name) for a BBQ and prize giving. ALmost as neat an experience as ride back from the GP and a good cause. Brillant weather and a great day.

Going Round in Circles – Sydney again
Work returned me to Sydney after only a year in Melbourne. It also kept me in town until well after my wife had finished the removals and settled in. I had planned to ride up, but extra shifts meant I ran out of time and sent the bike up on a truck. Subsequently I was waiting at the Sydney Domestic Airport Train Station only to meet Casey Stoner and his new bride. Said hello and exchanged pleasantries. I even had my helmet with me but not a single pen you could write on it with! Nice bloke, and he sure can ride. Later after he’d left the train I remembered I had my camera in my pocket! Doh!!

However this time work and now two little ones mean I have little time for rides apart from getting to work. That, as many will know, can sometimes be an adventure or at least entertaining in itself, whether from taking the “long way” or just the crazy stuff other road users get up to.

Up the Putty: Public holiday, no chores left and a donation to charity got me the chance to get out for a rare ride. I met up with the ORS crowd at McGraths Hill and we headed up the Putty Road. Basically head west out of Windsor and veer north. The road itself is in pretty good shape, with some long open stretches, and some winding bits as well. Best stop is the Halfway House. The petrol station comes up quickly and its easier to go past the first driveway (a rutted dirt track) and turn in at the second (gravel, but much smoother). We then headed to Wollombi to eventually head towards Mt White.

I really enjoyed the stretch from Broke to Wollombi and then to Mt White. Nice, flowing roads, rather than down to nothing and away again. No fuel at Wollombi so make sure you fill up and can make it through. It is, however, a popular spot and the food at the pub is reasonable. We stopped there before riding on to Mt White. Unfortunately I had family stuff to do, so didn’t stay to enjoy the festivities at Mt White and headed home. A really nice day ride, highly recommended.

Sydney to the MotoGP: That’s right, I actually pulled it off. To save myself the trouble, here is the link to the write up elsewhere Haven’t decided if I’ll do it again. If I did, there are some things I would do differently. Like taking more days so that I can avoid the interstates all together. And bring some sneakers to wear when not riding! Also with two small kids now, the chances of getting permission from the Mrs is pretty small.

Charlie Boorman!!! Again a link to a post here already. To be added.

Starting Out

A big part of my life is motorbikes.

When I first got my licence I hadn’t actually planned to get a bike. I had gone for the learners test on a whim, booked only the day before. Once I had the licence I basically decided that I may as well use it. I quickly decided that I wanted a new bike with full fairings, my choices appeared limited to Kawasaki GPX250, ZZR250 and the Honda NSR150. There may have been others but a bit of research didn’t really uncover any. I eliminated the NSR immediately: a 150 two stroke. That left the GPX and ZZR. The same bike in different clothes. I choose the ZZR by appearance and it has larger brakes (my sole technical consideration!)

This was my first bike. And not a bad learners bike, since then I would probably recommend a Honda VTR250 if you have to stay on 250s. The rules in many states here have changed and there are far more options, and the ZZR isn’t too bad to look at. I say that as it’s one of the reasons I bought it. At the time I knew very little about bikes. I did know that I preferred new stuff and I liked the guarantee of support you get with a warranty.

It proved a good choice. The bike hasn’t changed in about 15 years by all accounts, so it’s rock solid. I enjoyed riding it and quickly built up my confidence. Two years and 47,000kms later I earned my full licence and traded it in.

A good bike, but nothing when compared to the bigger bikes.

My second bike is my Honda VFR800. Now I put a lot more effort into this choice. I read articles on various bikes for about a year. The VFR was quickly shortlisted, along with Kawasaki ZX6R, ZX9R, Honda CBR600RR and the Suzuki GSXR750.

So what was I looking for… firstly a commuter, that was bit more fun in the weekends but wouldn’t kill me on a long trip. I simply decided that I didn’t want to bust the 1L size, it was probably a lack of confidence on my first bigger bike. I preferred fuel injection and I’m a technology fan (can you see where I’m headed). I also wanted something less than $20K

The ’03 6R was uncomfortable even in the showroom. The 9R was the end of the line and had carbs. I actually went for a couple test rides to make this choice, unlike the first bike as partly I figured it’d be about the last bike I would ever buy (my wedding was imminent)! I rode the VFR800. This was my first time on anything bigger than my ZZR. I wobbled off down the street from the dealer but I settled in pretty quick. Later I rode the 600RR. This was a test case. If I had felt comfortable on the RR I would have looked more seriously at the GSXR. I rode it and the VFR back to back.

I bought the VFR. I find a great bike. It suits my bumbling along daily rider style, allows me to keep up with the hyper sports on the day fangs through the twisty stuff. Well it would if I could ride it to it’s potential! I also rode away for the weekend and found it a comfy trip. As they say it’s a great all rounder. My wife has actually been on it a few times. She’s enjoyed the rides but the hassle of all the gear bothers her (she’s a squid at heart) and it messes her makeup/hair whatever. It’s very competent when two up.But she’s happy to let me disappear for a day on a ride.

It’s about 5 years old now, done almost 97,000kms and is great. I sometimes consider getting a weekend fang bike (like the GSXR) but to be honest it would be wasted on me and would be more about the image. I certainly wouldn’t consider a replacement.

Observations:

* My riding style at mostly 80s-90s km/h has an endurance of about 320-330kms on about 17L. It’s a 22L tank so that reserve must be pretty big or the display a little inaccurate. It actually increased as the bike passed 12,000km. Pretty usual for VFRs apparently.
* Don’t let sap drip on the plastic, that stuffs it right up.
* Fitting the top box for the first time – the trick is knowing when to switch from the bracket instructions to the box instructions. The next time, it’s a five minute job to swap the whole lot for the grabrails.
* The fact that there’s no sticking out indicators etc is great, I found out that when it falls over (bugger) there’s very little to break off. The mirror folds up, and the bike rests on the fairing (dammit) and the center stand. Only cosmetic damage.

Riding With Charlie Boorman

Posted ImageMy latest ride report starts with me browsing one of the website of a Sydney group that I used to ride with a lot more often than I currently do. Noticed an entry “Ride with Charlie Boorman”, you know, the guy who did “Long Way Round” with Ewan McGregor, and more impressively did “Race to Dakar” [which I thought showed a lot more about the race than I have ever seen on TV here]. On Tuesday he was finishing his latest project “By Any Means” by riding from Wollongong [coastal town, south of Sydney] to the city centre in Sydney. He was also inviting any and all to come and ride with him.

Seemed like a good idea, with two problems… it was a work day and I needed to be in Wollongong [about 1.5 hours away] by 0730. So the first was easy fixed.

Tuesday dawned bright and clear. Which was really good, because by this time I was getting very chilly standing in the Heathcote McDonald’s carpark [about 40mins from my place] waiting for the others I was meeting. They turned up, late. As they say, the problem with being early is that there’s nobody around to appreciate it.

We waited for another and when he turned up, we set off. Initially down the freeway, but turned off and headed into the Royal National Park. Only my second time here and it was still a little gloomy under the canopy so I took it at my usual pace. That’s probably about 50% of the pace of someone like SEBSPEED or HISPANICSLAMMER. And about 80% of the pace of my companions.

Its a nice ride, and I’m certain the road is in a lot better state than last I went in there about 4 years ago [actually only a few weeks after I bought the VFR] A string of corners ranging from 35kmph to about 55kmph and not much in between. It opens out at Stallwell Tops to a panoramic view of the Tasman Sea.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to enjoy the view as my companions saw me pop out of the forest and started on their way again. I kept up for about 2 corners…. ah well. I ride how I feel and won’t change that for anyone.

After a pleasant cruise down the coast to Wollongong I arrived [only a few minutes behind the others] to the start point. I guess there were about 200-400 bikes, it was a little hard to tell actually. Charlie was there, talking to the press, surrounded in a throng of riders. There were all kinds of bikes, from cruisers through tourers, adventure bikes and hypersports. Korean rides to the exotic Italians… almost a bike show!

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Less than half of the bikes waiting.

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Charlie talking to the press (was on Channel 9).

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The VFR in the throng.

We took off and it was immediately obvious that apart from warning the police what was happening, nothing had actually been organised. The group was immediately split by traffic lights and such until after several kilometres there must have been several groups of 40-50 bikes all spread out. They could have sorted that with some police blocks etc [I have seen it done on a fundraising ride, worked fantastically]

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Starting out… already I am concerned as to the whole organisation

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Looking back.

Eventually my group was herded onto the freeway [no return up the RNP] by the cops, and this is where things went really messy. With morning peak just finishing and traffic lights etc the group I was with was quickly down to 20 or so. The leaders took all kinds of turns, and we blindly followed. Eventually the 8 or so I was still with decided we knew better and split off.

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At the petrol station. Making plans.

We pulled into a petrol station to regroup. By this time it was a long time since my buddies had disappeared. We introduced ourselves to each other. A very funny moment as we determined we may have following people heading home, nobody actually knew exactly where we were and only a couple knew where we were headed. We had a couple of people knew how to get to the city, I knew how to get to the Botanical Gardens where were headed to and so we set off.

And we were soon in the Botanical Gardens. The bikes were everywhere again, but there was obviously a lot less than we started off with.
Charley was talking to the press again, but shortly broke away and was soon signing autographs and taking photos.

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Charlie signing autographs.

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Charlie’s bike and a nice backdrop.

After a bite to eat I set out home and time for sleep!

Apparently the DVD will be out around Christmas. http://www.byanymeans.co.uk

And as a post script… the next day, today, I have just got home after throwing the VFR down the road. I’m fine and it looks like I got away with cosmetic damage only. Still one for the insurers. Struck a patch of diesel going around a roundabout. [To clear up some confusion. I made it home from the ride without any dramas by mid afternoon. The slide down the road happened the next afternoon on the way to work]

Storm the Island

Well I have just arrived back from a ride that must be about 5 years in the making. This past weekend as many of you will know was the Australian round of the MotoGP. It’s held at Phillip Island, near Melbourne. I live in Sydney, and in a straight(ish) line that’s about 900km. I’ve been planning to take this trip for a while, but family or work commitments have prevented me.

So this year after having approved leave from work I eventually got leave approved by the other half as well. Having company for the ride got me over the line and I was set. As usual, the route was not planned to be a straight line. But with Australia as big as the US, some long stretches of open flat top were inevitable, mostly due to time pressures.

Day 1.

We left Sydney headed south along the Hume Highway. A big dual carriageway that stretches (almost) unbroken from Sydney to Melbourne. If we were in a hurry you can make this in about 8-11 hours of riding, depending upon how much you want to risk your licence. After a couple of fuel stops we turned left onto the Snowy Mountain Highway. And immediately we started enjoying ourselves. This stretch leads you up into the Snowies, and a lot of the interesting roads up here are in good condition and enough little towns with fuel along the way. Tumut to Adaminby is the longest at 128km.

We stopped once to check the map, and make sure we were still in Australia as the terrain had changed a lot. I had a little moment shortly after when I stupidly concentrated on the outside of the turn, not where I was supposed to be going. Brain was screaming but held the bike firm and it carried me (easily) around the bend. Was a little timid after that for some time, until I figured my mistake. As they say, look where you want the bike to go.

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Stopped on the Snowy Mountain Hwy

We cut the corner before Cooma, heading for Jindabyne. As we approached a big storm came our way but we skirted through just ahead of it and made Jindabyne without needing our wet weather gear. The other big dark clouds in the area carried on south and we didn’t see any rain for the whole day. We stopped for lunch as we had only stopped for petrol since 10am and it was about 2pm. Had a sit and a rest.

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Stopped at Jindabyne for Lunch

On to Thredbo and the highest peak in Australia. At a 2200m it’s barely a mountain in my books, but its the most we have. One of those dark clouds had been through and the roads from Thredbo onwards were wet.

That was a shame as on leaving Thredbo I passed this sign. “Next Services Khancoban. 72km. Approx 2 hours” That last bit had me confused, why would 72kms take 2hours? A few corners later I read this sign “Winding Road. Next 65km” With corner advisories in the 20-40km/h range and soaking roads it took the full 2 hours to get out of the mountains.

I wish it was dry and I wish I was going up that road.

Once past Khancoban and in the valley the road opened up. The last stretch was pretty easy, along the road towards Wodonga, my stop for the night. The warm day, slight wet weather and approaching dusk had the bugs out in force. I gave up trying to peer through the dead bugs at one point about 12km from our destination. Cleaned the visor and by the time we got there, it was getting hard to see.

Stayed at a family friends place, and paid close attention to the forecast. They had been predicting snow for Friday (our Day Two) and we were headed over the mountains again.

Day 2.

It rained heavily overnight, but dawn was fresh and clear. Headed up the Kiera Valley Highway to Bright. This was a great stretch of road too. From easy 100km/h corners in the lower valley to the tighter stuff as you climbed up to Bright.

Bright was busy with bikes. The Shell servo guy said it was currently snowing on Mt Hotham and recommended we found another way. Of course everyone ignored him. It wasn’t far to the ranger station and they would turn us away if there was snow and ice.

They didn’t.

However it had snowed overnight and was in the middle of melting as we crossed over the top. The road itself, though wet, was clear of ice and snow, and was steaming into the fog. Stopped a couple of time for photos, and the bike tells me it was 1C. We didn’t spend too long as a southerly change was predicted and we aimed to be well down the other side when it came through. In this part of the world a southerly blows straight off Antartica and is cold and wet. At Hotham, it would snow.

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Stopped at Mt Hotham

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We continued down the Great Alpine Road. This comes from Wangaratta, right over the Victorian Alps into Gippsland, and we had picked it up at Bright. We wound our way down the hill towards Omeo.

I was getting pretty tired and slowed a lot as we got closer to Omeo. My mate got a bit ahead and eventually pulled over to wait for me. I pulled up and we chatted as we eyed a very dark cloud coming over the ridge ahead of us. We decided to break out the wet weather gear, but kept chatting. Part way through I changed my mind and got the gear out. I had barely done up the over jacket when a really wet hell broke loose. We had heavy rain, hail, thunder, lightning and very strong winds. We were a little sheltered by the forest, but it still lashed down on us. All of a sudden our quiet little verge became the hive of activity as bike after bike pulled up to break the gear out.

We carried on into the storm. I am now a total convert to GoreTex as the overjacket kept me dry while my cheaper overpants worked less well. I have since got new pants. It was a tough ride, with visors covered in water (on both sides) and strong crosswinds every time we broke cover. Rain on the visor would change direction due to the wind strength when we came out into the open.

Probably fifteen minutes later the Caltex servo at Omeo was a popular spot as bikes huddled from the weather. Being hardy souls, my mate and I dried our visors and carried on. It wasn’t long before the storm had spent most of its fury and we even had patches of dry road as we approached Bairnsdale.

It made for another long leg and we stopped for lunch at Bairnsdale around 2pm again. From here, the wind was still strong and weather was threatening so we headed up the Princes Highway to Melbourne, instead of along the coast. I got to my mates place around 5.30pm.

We rode about 850km on day one, taking about 12 hours including stops. On day two we rode about 660km and that took about 11 hours.

Day 3 and Race Day

After a day of personal business and catching up with various old friends around Melbourne, Race day dawned windy, cool and cloudy. Pretty typical for MotoGP in Melbourne. I’ve been to four now and they always start like that. It really only matters what happens between 3pm and 4pm and you can’t predict that at all from the morning sky.

Its a flat, dull ride the 90 minutes or so to Phillip Island. The number of bikes increases exponentially as you approach until at the track there must be hundreds of bikes. Traffic…. well bike traffic flows really well here, they have wide shoulders on the roads and the cops don’t care about us riding them for kilometers to get to the bike parking.

This is well organised too, right next to the gate and handouts of bits of wood to rest your stand on in the grass paddock.

Those that are interested would have seen the race on TV. Casey won. About bloody time we had an Aussie win it for a change. Chris came close last year.

The ride home is an experience. It takes a little to actually get out of the gate, but once on the road it’s not too bad. By a few kilometres its back up to highway speed. Not only are you surrounded by all kinds of bikes (including several exotics) but the locals come out and wave at everybody riding past. This goes on for about half the way back to Melbourne. Made it home without incident.
Day 5.

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Ready to head back to Sydney

With my leave from the other half on tenterhooks, and both of us pretty keen to get home and rest we decided to flat top all the way up the Hume Highway about 900km. At Yass, I turned off for Canberra as I wanted to catch up with some friends, and was worn out. Riding the Highway is a lot harder than riding through the mountains. I wasn’t sure if I would stay the night or carry on after dinner. I would see how I felt.

Made Canberra about 5.30pm, had dinner and hit the road about 8.30pm. Made Sydney by 12 midnight. The break had done wonders and the ride through the dark (and long haul trucks) went well.

Home! Yay… say hi to wife and baby. Sleep. 🙂