Riding to Rylstone

Stopped at Grey Gums
My wife has made a couple of new friends over the last couple of months through her gym. Turns out that one of the girls husbands also rides (he has an 03 CBR1100XX). Last week he invited me on a ride this Saturday. The plan was to ride up the Putty to Singleton, then the rough idea was to head west, before coming back over the Blue Mountains to Sydney.

Wife had no objections but I did have a couple of concerns. First up is that the proposed route looked pretty long, like more than 8-10 hours away from home. Second is that I was supposed to be on call at work that weekend. To actually get called out is pretty rare, so I figured I could do part of the ride and then head home. I figured I could head up and back the Putty for a shortish day trip. Killing two birds that would also mean I’d only be away 6 or 8 hours.

I rode to his place where we waited for the third guy to arrive. He turned up on his BMW R1100 and after a dash to the petrol station for a top up and tyre check, it was off to Windsor to start the Putty.

Yesterday was the hottest day on record for Sydney. I think it made over 45C in the city, and parts of the suburbs were almost 47C. Today was not. Overcast and only 20C when we started, the forecast predicted rain later in the west. I gambled and didn’t take any rain gear. I also wore my leathers and not my summer jacket.

The Putty was in good shape and the weather stayed even as we found our way to the Grey Gums about 1000. We stopped here for some breakfast (none of us had eaten before we left). I recommend their pies, the bacon and eggs looked pretty good too.

A bit of a chat watching various bikes come and go, before we set off ourselves. We rode north to Singleton to fuel up before backtracking slightly to turn onto the Golden Highway. This was all new territory to me, the Highway being pretty straight and a little busy. It was warming up now, clear and 30C. I was starting to regret not wearing my summer jacket.

Bylong Valley Way
Bylong Valley Way
We turned left just before Sandy Hollow, towards Bylong and Rylstone. Up to Bylong was okay. The seal had gotten a bit rough and each had unsettled moments on various lumps and bumps along the way, thankfully no one came off. A small shower just before Bylong was a bit worrying as we stopped for a break and to figure out lunch. I was feeling a bit worn out, I think it was mostly dehydration. I drank a bottle of water and munched an ice cream for some quick energy. A sit down (to finally stop the bumping…) helped immensely and we decided to head to Rylstone for lunch, only about half an hour away. More than one choice there.
Stopped at Bylong
Stopped at Bylong
We left Bylong and climbed out of the valley. This was a really nice patch probably the second best part of the ride. Once up top though, the rain arrived. I got wet and the locals (and my mates) had a little laugh when I arrived in Rylstone for lunch, looking a bit damp 🙂

Lunch at Number 47 Gallery was tasty (we had thought it was a cafe, and it is, but also a Gallery) and the others debated whether to put their wet weather stuff on. I think they were just doing it to tease me 🙂 The rain had lessened a fair bit when we headed off. I wasn’t going to get much wetter, but I wasn’t go to dry out either.

We headed for Lithgow in the rain, taking it easy. In the dry this would have been a swift flowing ride until we hit the busier Castlereagh Hwy. By the time we got to Lithgow it had cooled down to 14C, so we were getting a taste of all kinds of weather on this ride. Now I was happy I had worn my leather

We fuelled up in Lithgow, and said our goodbyes as didn’t plan another stop on our ride down the mountains before we split off to our homes. The ride home was a crawl thorough traffic and roadworks. Made even worse by the fact that the Mountains were in cloud, so a good chunk of the ride was peering through the gloom. At one stage I found a traffic light and realised that I was halfway through Katoomba and hadn’t even noticed I was in a town, the cloud was that thick.

It wasn’t raining though and the road was dry so the riding was okay, just had to watch the visibility. Eventually the hwy turned into the M4 and I was on my way home, arriving a little after 7pm, covering about 600km. I’d been away for 12hours and was expecting to be sleeping on the couch that night.

But no, I wasn’t in trouble as I had been led astray by the other husband. I figure me not in trouble with my wife, him not in trouble with his meant it was all ok.

I spent much of the ride far behind the others as our pace were quite different. If you’re not careful there’s a lot of pressure in this kind of situation to ride faster than you’re are practiced at and get into trouble, something to watch out for. But if you ride your ride (as one said at a stop… race yourself, not us) you will be fine.

I think (and the ride turned out like this) I really enjoy starting of with a “We’ll meet at XXXXXX” and everyone just rides and there’s no pressure to stick in the group. It does mean that if you get into trouble, your friends might not notice as quickly, but with everyone riding their own pace, trouble is less likely. So that’s my plan for the next time I go out in a group.

Sorry for the lack of photos, I didn’t want to hold them up more by stopping for pictures. I do reckon I need to get a GoPro or Drift camera, to show you guys the Aussie roads better. Any suggestions on which might be better? I really like Drift’s Video Tagging option.

Bike wise, I am going to book in for the CCTs to be replaced, at some points the VFR sounded like a Ducati with a dry clutch rattle! The original ones last 50,000km and these have lasted 80,000km so not too bad.

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Dont’ Pay the Ferryman

VFR Close Up

Christmas and New Years are gone and my holidays are almost finished. The wife starts back tomorrow, so today, my last chance, I got away for a ride. I decided to head north up Wiseman’s Ferry. I wasn’t sure if I would come back on the Old Pacific Highway or the Putty Rd, or even just back on Wiseman’s, but I headed out about 0730 with the day free before me. I could have called up a few guys to join me, but decided that I really wanted the flexibility of a solo ride and some time to myself.

It was somewhat cloudy to start, but the forecast was for it to continue clearing with a top of about 25C. Sounded perfect. First place to head for was McGrath’s Hill, the launch point really. Fuelled up here and turned up the road to Pitt Town and Wiseman’s.

The trip to the ferry was a nice ride, only the last bit was a little annoying as myself and a couple of cars got held up behind some cyclists. There was no shoulder or straights, so we crawled along behind them for a while. They didn’t have the grace to stop and pull off either. Interestingly as we hit the last downhill into Wiseman’s they disappeared off the front. They had raced off down the hill faster than the car following dared. Crazy cyclists!

Ferry at Wiseman's Ferry

I was first off the ferry but pulled over to let all the cars go in front. Yes, I know that sounds weird, why would I want to be held up by all the cars you ask..

First up, at 0900 on a Thursday, they’re likely to be locals and therefore faster than average cars. I also knew the road was a bit rough to go very quickly on a bike. Lastly, I knew I would be cautious as I was on my own, it had been a long time since I’d ridden here and I planned to practice technique and didn’t want the pressure of the cars behind me.

Wiseman's Ferry Rd. Next to Nepean River.

It was rougher than I remember almost to Wollombi. It’s still fine to ride, but not a sweet smooth surface. I stopped partway at a place called Spencer, where I found their General Store and got something to munch on. Chatted to the shopkeeper about the road conditions as it has been several years since I came this way. The Government is apparently promising some work to smooth it out… I won’t hold my breath.

Stopped at Spencer

After the break I rode on to Wollombi where I stopped for lunch. This is a favourite bike hangout, but there were never more than ten bikes there while I was stopped. I even managed this shot with mine the only bike stopped at the Pub. What a difference from the weekends!

Wollombi Pub

Leaving Wollombi after a large burger, I headed to Broke. The first part out of Wollombi to Broke used to have a stretch of dirt on it, but that’s been sealed sometime in the past few years (update: It’s been about OMG 2007 when I last rode through here). Broke still has fuel which was nice, topped up the tanks for the Putty Rd.

Vineyard

The Putty is one of the best rides this close to Sydney. Its far better than the Old Pacific Highway especially since that road has had lots of speed limit changes and such. The Putty is also in very good condition and is more than 50km long, though not all of that is twisty roads.

It is popular, occasionally dangerous and in the weekend strongly policed.

In the middle of the day, on Thursday it was pretty empty (still dangerous) and no cops to be seen.

Partway down the Putty there used to be a coffee shop, I forget the name, but its long gone now, burnt out and not reopened I think. A little further towards Windsor though is the Grey Gums Cafe which has replaced it. It has free wifi and concrete parking that is exclusively for the bikes (cars etc have to park in the gravel carpark). I stopped for an ice cream and a bottle of water before setting off on the last bit home.

Grey Gums Cafe

I had a really good day. I’m definitely enjoying these a solo adventures a lot more. It fits my timetable better and the rides are more flexible. And I don’t lose three hours riding to the meeting spot, waiting for an hour for everyone etc etc. In three hours today I was halfway down the Wiseman’s Ferry road to Wollombi.

Spotted some kangaroos crossing ahead of me today too – never actually had that happen before. Luckily the mob (that’s the correct term for a group of roos) crossed well in advance and were lost in the vineyards by the time I was close, little chance of one trying to kill me.

I also had something fly in through under the chin of my helmet. I whipped open the visor which seemed to clear it, but I stopped very rapidly and took it off to check. That was definitely a new experience!

Roadside Wiseman's Ferry Rd

Hey you’re going the wrong way!

IMG 0959

It seems the only time I get to do a proper ride these days is when work sends me to Canberra. That project is closing up soon, so that will go away as well. I’ll have to sort something else out that makes me go to Canberra for work.

I rode down the freeway, leaving home at about 0230 (0800 Meeting). It was a bit warmer than last time (when I was stupid!) and leaving home was about 7C, Canberra was 0C by the time I got there, but mostly it was around 4C, quite manageable. I only made a single fuel/rest stop and made great time arriving at my accommodation about 0530. I did ride through drizzle for about an hour, but it was light and the road never got wet, and neither did I. Lucky as I packed lighter and left all my rain gear at home.

I also packed so that everything was in my top box, no backpack or tank bag. I found it a bit better on the return trip as I could ride normally.

Learning from last time, I had a room booked so I picked up some keys, turned on the heaters and dived into bed, getting an hour or so nap, before having to start my day properly. Much more humane than last time spending a hour curled up on a radiator in the common room, shivering!

….. work interlude ……. elevator music playing ….

The Next Morning….

IMG 0956

The next morning I lazed in bed as I waited for the sun to get up a bit. Last time I rode off with the sun almost in my eyes for much of the ride. With sun up at about 0600 (we’re already on summer time here now) about 0830 I was out loading the bike. My plan was to once again Head to Queenbeyan, Tarago, then up the road through Bungonia, popping briefly onto the freeway, before back to Highland Way. That’s my third time this way. I then planned to skip Moss Vale etc and perhaps take the Hill Top exit and head up to Picton. No pressure from home this time so I could take it easy.

On the road, and it was a pleasant 8C and bright and sunny, warming up well. Passed a couple of groups of bikes, all loaded up headed the other way. As I cruised along towards Tarago, more bikes came past. I felt as if everyone was asking me “Hey why are you headed that way, everyone is going the other way??”

And I know where they are all headed and I would love to turn around and join them. This weekend is the MotoGP at Phillip Island. Casey Stoner’s last Aussie race. It would be nice if he wins, but I’m not sure his current performance is up to it? We’ll see.

So much of the road looks like this.
IMG 0957

IMG 0958
Yes I know they all look straight, but with no room on the side of the road to pull over I stop in places where the traffic is going to be able to see me and react, not come halfway around a blind corner to find some crazy rider taking photos! I rather not become someone’s hood ornament 🙂

Ah, that reminds me… no wombats this time, but I must have seen about 10 or more kangaroo/wallaby carcasses on the road on the way down in the night. I kept trying to decide if it would be better to ride behind a truck so he hits the roo, not me, but I think getting covered in offal would be rather gruesome. On the way home, as I rode from towards Bungendore I passed at least two abandoned cars with crumpled fronts. Skippy is all muscle too, like the wombat.

I passed through Tarago and got some odd looks from a pack of riders when I headed down the road towards Bungonia. I think I know why, as that leg I saw about 2 bikes. Until then I had passed about 50 – 80 bikes. I think not many people know about the leg from Tarago through Bungonia, and all these other riders where taking the turn from Queenbeyan to Tarago.

IMG 0960
So… left or right???

Riding from memory, I only got stuck for a moment at one turn trying to decide the right way.

But I stopped and had a break, munching on sushi from my friends shop (Hero Sushi in Tuggernong, go there) while I pondered the two options. I turned left.

And that was right.

So I eventually hit the freeway, dashed about the kilometre to the start of the Highland Way. More bikes again, all pulling me to turn around, join them….

No I’ll be in a wee bit of hot water if I came back on next Tuesday after the race… probably not be allowed in the door!

IMG 0961
These are called Ghost Gums, as their trunks and branches turn all white.

Highland Way, duck out at Sutton Forest again. Along the freeway to the Yerimbol/Hill Top exit, and cruise along to Picton.

At Picton I had three options, back to the freeway, northish towards Camden, or Menagle Rd to Campbelltown. Freeway, last choice. I decided to head to Menagle Rd as I hadn’t been that way in a while and I’ve done the Camden way a couple of times in the last couple of years.

It proved a solid choice and a quite swift ride I was in Campbelltown, hunting the freeway entrance, for the dash across the city to home.

Rolling up to the door about 1445, that’s how you turn a 3 hour trip into a 6 hour one, by adding FUN 🙂

Not the Best Idea I’ve Had.

Wombat
Wombat…. Arrrgghhh run away 🙂
Hey, another meeting in Canberra. And hey once again, riding there seems the most convenient option (and again, the most fun!). And the weather is looking perfect, no rain predicted, well for ages. Awesome. Looking at the weather though, my lesson from last time (you know, where I didn’t read the temperatures) I almost didn’t learn. Hmm Canberra is going to be -3 at about the time I’m arriving. That’s going to be cold. At 120kmh that’s going to be downright frigid!

The plan was a straight run down the interstate early in the morning to the meeting. Arriving early so I could iron my uniform, shower (warm up!) etc. Meeting all day, then dinner and maybe catch a movie (something that has been really hard to do whilst the kids are little), then the next day sleep in (another bonus) and a enjoyable ride back along some of the more interesting roads I’ve been discovering between Canberra and Sydney.

So problem one is the cool temperatures, problem two is that I caught some kind of cold when I was on my last trip there and it’s still sorta hanging around, so I’m not 100%. Problem three developed on the eve of my departure, the kids had both came down hard with the same cold.

On the plus side, Mrs was happy to handle the kids, they were mostly sleeping anyway. I wasn’t too worried about the cold as I do have some reasonable gear that I have used in similar conditions (though only for an hour or so, not 4), and my cold wasn’t too bad.

Leaving at about 3.30am I rode out in about 4C. Down the freeway out of the city I was getting cold. But it was bearable. But don’t imagine a steady even drop across the journey. It basically dropped to 0 as I passed the city limits and quickly headed below that. Until I spent a couple of hours at -2 and hit -4 about 6am.

I stopped several times, mostly to hang out in a warm building (petrol station) to eat breakfast. The worst part was the last 20 mins, when I knew I was almost there, the sun was up but my knees were cold and my little fingers felt like ice blocks.

It was uneventful, except for the WOMBATS. Now I’m sure you all know about kangaroos and koalas down here in Australia, and maybe crocs, tassie devils, sharks and snakes too. (and spiders and sea snakes and…) Do you know about wombats? Pretty uninspiring solid little fellows about as big as mid sized suitcase. Oh did I say solid, these guys are built like main battle tanks, and have a reputation of destroying vehicles that they cross paths with, shaking it off and carrying on (not sure about the last part). Riding through the dark at freeway speed the road is suddenly smeared with black marks and at the end is a dark lump slightly to my left on the road. Looking like a large rock, I realised I was headed towards a wombat carcass. I swerved and managed to clear it – I’d rather hit a rock, it’d do less damage! This would occur twice on the way down, but the second one I moved as soon as the streaks appeared on the road.

Sunrise happened as I rode alongside Lake George. It was gorgeous and made the insanity of the ride worthwhile.

I spent about an hour warming up, showering etc and was still cold by the time I got to the meeting. Not my smartest idea. I’m now fairly certain I was on my way to hypothermia when I eventually got in.

The meeting went all day and I was nodding of towards the end, so much so that the chair basically begged me not to head home that night. After the meeting I crashed into the bed, sleeping from about 5pm, to about 7am, only rising for a late dinner at about 7pm (when my eldest rang me to say hi). Mrs was struggling with the kids but I was too tired and it was too cold (and would take me about 4 hours to get home).

In the morning I awoke to a pleasant -1 and a bike that was coated in a layer of ice. But I wasn’t too worried, it was already morning, the day was warming up, slowly, and I was headed back to Sydney, which would be at least 15C or so by the time I arrived. It sure wasn’t going to be worse than the ride down.

Cold Start 2
Cold Start: This is what happens to a bike left out in -3C

I set off at about 7:30 fuelling up in Queenbeyan as I headed off to retrace my route from my last trip, up through Tarago, towards Bungonia and the freeway. I figured this wouldn’t take much longer than getting through the city then up the Hume to about the same point. It would be a lot more enjoyable and less taxing.

This worked well and I hit the freeway only a little later than I would have ridden past the same point. I remembered the route pretty well and my only complaint was the angle of the sun made vision ahead sometimes a difficult proposition unless I put my hand up, even with sunglasses on. This also affected the contrast between the shaded areas in some points where I literally couldn’t see the condition of the road. I can see a sun visor (like dirt bike helmets or the more adventurer type helmets) being useful here.

Also passed a couple more dead wombats. I’m no longer convinced of their indestructibility, however still no need to run into one! Anything smaller than a semi still tends to need some serious repair work or even towing from the scene of the impact.

I hit the freeway – did some quick maths and ducked off onto Highland Way. I could make it through here and still be home as promised.

Another hour or so of cruising along this favourite road before I was taking the shortcut out from Sutton Forest to the freeway. Avoiding the Moss Vale stretch which only adds time and not fun. Less than two hours for home, I twisted the wrist and settled in.

Sorry no photos this time, all talk. Home safe, very sick. I probably shouldn’t have ridden, though only because my gear probably wasn’t quite up to the task (though not by much) and I wouldn’t have had to leave quite so early.

[EDIT] I’ve since worked out that with wind chill, those -4C temps, were more like -17C. No wonder my gear wasn’t working. Lesson learnt there…. hopefully.

Medic!!

Ok, no news for a while, been away for a couple of days only to get back home pretty sick though I was already a little sick before I left, and find two pretty sick little ones as well. So don’t feel like playing much. The three of us have been laying about the house in various states of sleep/awake since.

Here’s a shot of my bike while I was travelling.

That white stuff isn’t dew it’s a solid layer of ICE. My trip away was a bit “brisk” or “invigorating”.

woohoo a Ride (yes, that’s with a capital R)

Sutton Forest
Sutton Forest
Once again, work had sent me to Canberra and once again it works out a lot more convenient for me to get myself there… and that means a ride. And once again, the weather was doing its crazy thing. Summer here was complete washout, but Autumn had been pretty nice. Warm, not hot, not much rain… perfect. But of course the weather changed as the ride drew closer.

I left on Tuesday. On Monday they were warning us about flash flooding and downpours for the next few days. If it rained, whilst I could still ride, it wouldn’t be as much fun and I may be tempted to slab it. I was already planning to slab it home anyway due to time constraints again. If the weather meant slabbing both ways it would be a real disappointment.

As I had all day and generally it takes me about 5-6 hours to get to Canberra the scenic route, I planned to leave about 9am. However 6am the dark clouds were getting ominous and the weather radar was starting to show lots of pretty colours. I hit the road.

The rain was costal initially, the opposite way to Canberra. A dash from the city limits was decided, and then from there I would take it as it comes. My routes to Canberra do generally give me an option to change to slab about every hour or so.

Railway underpass - this ones in Picton
Railway underpass – this ones in Picton

Downtown PictonDown the M7, then the M5, which becomes the Hume Highway (31) and rolls all the way to Melbourne. I arrived a the Picton turn off, still having avoided the rain and decided that it was time for some fun. I followed the road up into Picton, then a pleasant 30 mins or so along the road, headed towards Mittagong. This eventually lead me back to the Hume.

Now my previous few runs down here, I’ve turned off at Mittagong and wound my way through the small towns, before reaching Moss Vale and eventually turning up towards the good bit along the Highland Way. Over the years these towns have grown so that they almost merge together and the ride becomes a stretch of slow speeds, traffic and towns. Not a lot of fun.

So something I planned last time, but missed the turn. This time, from the other direction it was a lot easier. I slabbed along until the turn for Sutton Forest. This got me back on the back roads, but skipped Mittagong – Moss Vale. I’d been on the road for something over an hour and hadn’t even had breakfast so I stopped to take a break and eat the sandwiches I’d packed. As I stood around munching away, the rain slowly started. I geared up and headed off. A few shaky moments as I settled into the wet roads, and my wet gear again. I’m sure the car caught up behind me was shaking their head.

In Bundanoon I stopped for fuel and the shop owner described the wet weather chaos I had left behind, third hand from callers to the radio station. Sounded like I got out of there just in time as the rain was only light here. On the move the rain swiftly dissipated until and for the remainder of the ride I had a mix of overcast or broken clouds but no more rain. The wet weather gear stayed on for a long while just in case.

I cruised along what was fast becoming one of my favourite rides, the Highland Way. Nearly no traffic, mostly 100 limits, good condition road, though not always a full two lanes of seal. An hour or so later I arrived back at the Hume. Another quick bite and took off.

This time for something new. I had been browsing Google Maps a few days back and hit on a new route, which I asked some other trusty explorers I know about the condition. It came as a recommended option. Turning at Jerrara Road, towards Bungonia (don’t you love Aussie place names!) then on through Windellama (or Windy Llama!) before turning west again towards Tarago, Bungendore and eventually Canberra. That was the plan.

Jerrara Rd
Jerrara Rd

And I almost stuffed it. Whilst on the short stretch of Hume towards Jerrara Rd I came across road works where they were building a new overpass/on ramp. The signs read “South Marulen Rd” but as I passed the new overpass the old road appeared just past it. I spotted a sign down the road JERRARA RD. Crap, the turn off. Luckily we’re still in the construction zone so I braked and veered into the cones. in the relative safety of the cones I did the most insane thing, turning around and heading the wrong way up the freeway. Inside the cones or not, any copper gong past would certainly come over to have a quiet word. About 5 metres later I turned up the road.

Jerrara Rd
Jerrara Rd
Bungonia
Bungonia

This road wasn’t as quite the same build standard as the Highland Way, but it was in good shape and flowed nicely at 100 (or a little more) So another hour or passed smoothly as I wound my way south and then west. Eventually I passed through Bungendore and into Queenbeyan and finally Canberra.


Cullulla Rd, looking SW
Cullulla Rd, looking SW

Cullulla Rd, looking NW
Cullulla Rd, looking NW
Overall several pleasant hours winding away at a brisk and not usually licensing worrying speed through the countryside. I even arrived in Canberra in time to catch a movie on cheap Tuesday (Tuesdays the cinemas traditionally have almost 50% discounts)

Day Two

My meeting was scheduled for the morning, and it turner out that the drizzle and rain finally caught up to me so Canberra awoke to some light rain. I wasn’t too disappointed as the return trip was always going to be Hume Hwy the whole way.

Gearing up I was on the road with about 90mins of extra time up my sleeve. The rain though got steadily more constant and steadily heavier, until I’d been riding in rain for about 3 of my 3hrs and 30 min trip. My visor completely lost the plot when I hit the city freeway traffic, no idea why, but it made for a very nervous rider as cars appeared out of the gloom. Sadly my rain gear didn’t quite live up to its own previous standard and I was very wet in some areas. Though I’m not sure any rain gear would have held up, I was wet, but not cold so it was alright.

But slabbing is absolutely no fun at all!!!

I have to go back to Canberra in May too….. hmm

A Messy Divorce Averted

Ha, bet that got your attention. No, all is well at home, this post is about bikes.

Recently Mrs Mab suggested that maybe it’s time to look into a new bike. My current ride, a 2004 VFR800, I’ve had since, well 2004, and I’m not silly enough to seek confirmation of her suggestion (in case she changes her mind).

I’ve had my eye on this recently.

Ducati Streetfighter 848

This morning I got to have a ride of the Demo bike at the dealership.

First impressions (compared to my VFR)

  • very narrow at the seat, but taller
  • felt like the front was missing…. no fairing, panel is set closer in etc.
  • pegs a lot closer to the ground so legs are a lot straighter. That was a big surprise.

Fired it up and a nice V-twin warble from the pipes. Bit of a crackle. Very nice sound and I wonder what other pipes would sound like on it. Then we left on the demo ride, basically a follow the leader with a guy from the shop and a couple of others testing other bikes (a BMW S1000RR and a couple of K1300).

  • Awesome brakes
  • neat sound
  • very responsive engine once you’re over about 3000rpm.
  • hopeless shaky mirrors (but I think all Ducati’s have that problem!)
  • Easy to ride and a fairly upright position

But I finished up feeling a lot less interested than when I left. Really not sure what to do now. Not sure if I want to try another bike, or another style of bike. Or do I use the money I am saving for the replacement bike to upgrade/service parts of the VFR.

The immediate result is that my trusted VFR isn’t getting replaced or supplemented.

Meeting Adjourned

In Touring mode again
In Touring mode again
Work insisted that I attend a meeting in Canberra. The nation’s Capital, about 2.5 hours away on the Hume Highway (or Doom Boreway). Unfortunately as I was attending a different meeting away from work for the two days before that it was going to be really awkward to organise a car from work, the normal way to head to Canberra. With a grin, I decided that the most convenient solution was to ride down.

Watching the forecasts from about a week prior, they steadily improved from predicting solid rain for the whole two days to the forecast the day before described some light morning showers. That I could easily deal with and would still be able to enjoy the ride.

So, Thursday morning, 5am, just before the sun is peeking over the horizon I did a last check of the various weather radars online and geared up. There had been a little bit of rain overnight, but the roads were already dry. I did wonder about the roads further out, less traffic and more tree cover, but I would see. The alternative was to split off the back roads, back to the Hume and continue that way if I decided it was too wet or the weather really turned nasty.

My planned route took me past Bowral from my last post before continuing to parallel the Hume through Moss Vale to Bundanoon and rejoin the Hume just before Goulburn. Here, depending upon time I could turn off again towards Bungendore and eventually approach Canberra from the west (actually closer to where I had to go in Canberra for the meeting) or follow the Hume and rush in from the north.

So after getting quickly out of my area I was on the road towards Picton and followed the route I had taken the other week. The roads were dry, there was some cloud, but it wasn’t even 7am by this stage. I had miscalculated the temperature though. The day before at 7.30am it was 23C. Today it was more like 10C so the summer jacket with a very light t-shirt (actually designed to wick away sweat) just wasn’t cutting it.

At a stop I dove into my top box and dug out the other t-shirt and light fleece that I had packed. Though still drafty through the summer jacket it did improve things a little. None too soon as the temperature continued to drop as I rose up into the Southern Tablelands.

Highland Way, NSW
Highland Way, NSW
Eventually I was past Bowral and Moss Vale. I turned away from the main road here as it leads back to the Hume and I headed for Bundadoon, Tallong and several other funny Aussie named places. The stretch we had covered the other week, that I had just finished was lots of small busy towns, with 50kmh speed limits and very little “open road”. This all changed from this point on.

I had a good hour or more of 100kmh roads with sweeping turns and no traffic. Even now it was still early (9am) but while cool, it was fine and I really enjoyed it. I determined to investigate if I can cut out the previous parts of the route by staying on the Hume in order to get to this new part much quicker next time I come this way.

My head!
My head!
Eventually it had to end and I was on the Hume. I decided I should actually get to my meeting seeing as I was already late (they had been warned not to expect me before lunch) so I followed the Hume down around Lake George to Canberra, eventually arriving at my meeting just before 10am. Cracking open my top box I was happy that my tricky packing meant that my uniform looked no more crumpled than if I had been wearing it in a car and had just driven down from Sydney.

Lake George is funny thing. A massive lake with very little water for many years. Occasionally it fills up (originally they didn’t know where the water came from as there are no rivers flowing into it, I’m not sure if they’ve explained it yet) and before they built the dual carriageway, could even cut the main road out of Canberra. Most of the time, probably 3/4 of the lake is used to graze animals.

Lake George
Lake George
I spent the night at a nearby base and again reviewed weather and routes. I decided that I would head though Queenbeyan then Goulburn to hit the nice part of yesterday’s ride. Then after that  part, I’d hit up the Hume to get home to family. Again, weather looked okay, though during the evening there was a lot of dark clouds and a little bit of rain about.

About 5.30am I left the base and started out. Another great road was the stretch all the way from Queenbeyan to Goulburn. About 90mins of 100kmh, open roads with nice curves to cruise along at a steady, quick pace.

It started to get pretty wet, so a stop and I was off again in my wet weather clothes. I use goretx jacket and over pants that I bought at camping stores as I find it much more effective than most “wet weather” gear that is available in Australia. It stopped raining about 15mins later and when I stopped for breakfast in Goulburn about 7am, I put the gear back in the top box. It didn’t come out again for the rest of the trip, but it had done its job 🙂

Breakfast at Goulburn was a hot pie, but I was having the same trouble with temperatures that I had yesterday. Note for next time, check the rain AND the temperature forecasts.

Goulburn, NSW
Goulburn, NSW
That beautiful leg from Goulburn to Moss Vale awaited and it didn’t let me down.

I missed a turn somewhere and ended up on the annoying stretch from Moss Vale, past Bowral etc that I had planned to avoid. I checked the map eventually and decided to carry on as the next on ramp to the Hume was at the end of the Mittagong stretch. No point in doubling back, too far.

I did have one bad moment. I had been following a school bus looking for somewhere to pass. I called it and pulled out and was about even with the bus when I decided that there wasn’t enough road left to get in front, pull in, slow down and make the turn that was a lot closer and tighter than it had first appeared. I braked to let the bus come past and turned back behind him. Safe, but there was several seconds there where I was on the wrong side of the road on the facing any traffic that decided to come around the corner. That could have ended very badly. A poor decision, that thankfully didn’t end badly.

I got home about 10am, so both rides took about 5 hours. I had a great time, found some fun roads and put some proper miles on the bike again. Harking back to an older post, I definitely enjoy solo touring/riding much more than group ride. I enjoy the social part of those rides, but maybe I could just meet them at every stop rather than riding with them or something like that. Something to consider for the future.

Now it’s time to put up the Christmas tree, fix up the lights on the house, and I have a lamb roast to cook 🙂 Yum.

Briars at Bowral

A PortraitSo, time for another ride. Another start at work with the crowd. I’ve missed a few rides, but many of the usual suspects were in attendance. Again a wide range of folks, brought together by our shared love of bikes, rides and service to our nation. A wide range of folks means a wide range of bikes – the learners, the trailies, several cruisers, a couple of sports, and of course the sports tourers (me). 14 in all, so a big turnout.
We hit the road almost directly south from Penrith towards Campbelltown. A wind through some back roads bought us to a gear shop that the guy organising had checked out. Some good gear at cheap prices. If I had known we were going shopping I would have brought my topbox and more cash. I will be back as I’m in the market for a new jacket. Here’s a shot of the carpark….

A classic GSXR750
A classic GSXR750
We rolled on southwest from there, heading up through Camden towards Picton. A couple of wrong turns (though nice roads) led us astray for a while. It was revealed at the sign that read “No Through Road”
Oops, Dead End
Oops, Dead End

 

But we eventually hit Picton, we thought to stop for lunch or at least a coffee, but the front runners had other ideas. A hungry mob of riders followed along.
Mighty ZZR250 roll by
Mighty ZZR250 roll by

 

We left Picton and eventually hit the Hume. There aren’t a lot of options here unless you head far south, so a few kilometres of flat top ensued. Never the most fun and the learners with 80kmph limits and little 250s weren’t impressed. We left the freeway at Mittagong and followed the old Hume through to Bowral. About the time I was about to head somewhere to eat on my own and damn the rest the front end of the mob turned into the carpark.
Briars Hotel & Pub, Bowral
Briars Hotel & Pub, Bowral

 

Lunch!
Briar’s Hotel – LUNCH. a starving mob descended upon the hapless bistro. They ran out of cutlery, there were missing table numbers and it was a madhouse.

Actually the place was pretty busy before we arrived. The food was nice but a little expensive that your usual pub bistro. They did let us line all our bikes up out the front and one of the waitresses even came out to take our picture (I’ll add that one when I get it off my mate’s camera)

Some of our bunch
Some of our bunch
Out the front were a couple of the Bash cars. These cars join big convoys of similarly extraordinary cars raising money for the outback.
Thunderbird 2
Thunderbird 2
Thunderbird 4

Parked outside the pub
Parked outside the pub
After lunch we headed home, following much the same route. Until Picton. Here we took a road directly north that I hadn’t used before that lead us up towards Warrigamba. The party spilt and I headed with the group heading home. This lead me onto a couple more stretches of excellent roads so it wasn’t like our fun had immediately finished.

With the long days here now rides can stretch past dinner time in good light. But with Mrs probably run off her feet by our two little princesses I figured I had probably better head home to relieve her 🙂 And stay in the good books of course so she lets me out again 🙂

Report Card Time

Photo practiceThis week I took my VFR in for a major service. I’ve been after a “second opinion” for a while. It’s not that I’m not happy with the place I normally take it, but I’ve never heard anything good about the place, though no one can give me specifics.

A mate offered to pick me up and drop me off so I booked her into a smaller workshop that has a very high reputation. The bike has 116,000km on it and it has been a fair while (time wise) since it’s last major service.

Late afternoon the shop called. I don’t know about others, but I always get a little nervous when the shop calls in, you never know what they will say. Though normally if its late afternoon, its all done with nothing to report.

So it was with a little concern that I answered. The shop guy asked what I’ve been doing to maintain it. I was honest and told him that I do little more than lube the chain and check the tyre pressures. I am totally lost mechanically so I just make sure that it’s clean and serviced regularly. He replied, well keep doing what your doing as your bike is fantastic shape considering its age. I was very happy with that comment.

He said it had been in need of a tune (as expected), the pads will be due about the next service or a little before but otherwise all good.

I got to the shop and was taken aback at how the guys couldn’t stop raving about its condition. They said there is often a little trepidation when test riding a bike with this amount of kms on it as you never really know what shape its really in. Apparently the main mechanic got back from the test ride and told the boss he should have a ride.

If that’s not an endorsement of my bike I don’t know what is. I have to say I am still chuffed at such glowing praise of my bike and even the way I’ve been looking after it.

Now hopefully after a long period of ride absence (apart from the commute) I’ll be able to report again in a fortnight or so following a ride. My wife’s been filling in for some broken staff at work the past weekends, so it’s been a month or more of chasing the kids about instead of riding. I’m in two minds whether to join a short city fund raising ride or to go for a solo proper one. I’m starting to think the second.