Tuesday, July 3, 2018

New England Mid Winter Motorcycle Trip




It has been a long time since I did any motorcycle touring but an opportunity arose last weekend. A few months back my Bro had told me that the Sydney boys were planning a ride up to the Oxley Highway in NSW for the end of June. I pencilled it in but it would depend on my roster. When the roster came out I actually had seven days off across that weekend. 
Game On!

I decided to get a days jump on everyone and head down on the Thursday afternoon so that I could squeeze some extra riding in. Hell, I needed the practice with my last big ride being over two years ago when the Sydney lads had escorted Rick to Queensland.

I planned on heading down via the Mt Lindesay Highway to Kyogle, then Casino before climbing the range on the Bruxner Highway to Tenterfield, then down the New England Highway to Glenn Innes for the night. It would be cold up on the range so I would wear my RST suit coupled with my merino layers to keep me warm. I didn't have much space in my seatbag but that wasn't a problem with quality clothing.




I set off on time at about 11am on a fine, sunny winter's day. Just a standard day for Queensland at this time of year. I made good time with my planned fuel stop being in Casino, 210km(130mi) away. This is easily withing the range of my R1 as it is good for about 300km in touring mode. My body, not so much...but 210km was fine this day.

Filling up the bike I had a change of heart. Instead of turning west, up the Bruxner, I would continue south on the Summerland Way to Grafton, the turn west, up the Gwyder Highway. I had not been that way since waaay back when I first bought the R1.
The Summerland was dispatched in short order and there wasn't much traffic which was very nice. It meant that I was going through Grafton at peak hour - school pickup time. This made for a slow transit and as the ride from Grafton to Glenn Innes is 160km(100mi) I needed to top off with fuel. I stopped at the little independent servo on the western side of Grafton, grabbing a choccy milk for energy.

Grafton top up.

As soon as I rolled out of the service station I realised my mistake. I was about to do 100 miles into a setting sun, even though it was still relatively early in the afternoon. Being mid June, the sun was low in the sky at best. If I had stuck to my original plan I would have ascended the Great Dividing Range early afternoon and then had the sun over my right shoulder as I turned south on the New England. Bugger.

It wasn't too bad. The worst of it was when I crested a hill with a bend on it, to the west. Then I couldn't see much at all. It wasn't until I got below the overhang of the range and I was in shadow that things became somewhat more pleasant.

I stopped at a lookout over the Mann River. Nice.

Mann River lookout and the road is just getting good.

The road proceeded to get tight and twisty as it climbed the range now. It was good to get a feel for the bike again.

Gwyder twisties.

It was getting cold as the sun sank into the west and I gingerly cranked the wrist. I wanted to get to Glenn Innes quickly to escape the cold but I had to be careful of the kangaroos. I had two jump across the road in front of me while I was doing $1.20 and so got to practice some emergency braking!
Looking in my rear view mirror I saw an amazing sunset that I just had to stop to photograph.

Wow.

The temps plummeted with the sun.

I rolled into Glenn Innes right on dark and went straight to the petrol station. It has always been my policy to fuel up upon arrival into a town. That way, no matter what happens overnight I have the range to get out of Dodge......

It was about 3 Celcius now.....brrrrr

I had pre booked a room in the Grand Central Hotel. While I hadn't stayed there before I had eaten there in the past and the food was GOOD. That last time I was there for dinner I got chatting to three different motorcyclists who all rated it as a motorcycle friendly place to stay. Good enough for me!

Simple but suitable.

I quickly dumped my gear in my (unheated!) room and jumped into a warm shower. It was then downstairs for a beer and I was in for a treat. They had a local IPA on tap, brewed at the nearby Hamlet of Deepwater. I can attest to it's quality with IPAs being my specialty.....

Into the dining room for a feed and I sat near the fireplace. I enjoyed a fantastic pumpkin soup entree, followed by a very nice steak and veggies. This wasn't standard pub fare and would have stood up against the food I get dished up at the fancy work hotels. Awesome!

Perfect on a minus 3C night.

Back to the front bar for another couple of Deepwaters.....I love country pubs and their fireplaces.


One last beer and I headed up to the common room. There were three others in there watching the football. One of them was almost home from a driving trip to the Northern Territory. He noticed my motorcycle boots and said he had a Triumph Tiger 800XCX. We chatted all things motorcycle for about an hour before I decided to turn in. Despite the forecast minus three in the morning I wanted to be on the road by 9am at the latest. 
I didn't want to have to rush the day tomorrow to meet the lads.

Day 1.


Day 2

I was up at about 8am and it was COLD!! Minus three Celcius for Glenn Innes last night! I had my yoghurt and museli bar breakfast then loaded the bike up for a 08:30 ride off. I could have waited until later and enjoyed a warmer ride but I wanted to be ahead of schedule today so that I could catch the Sydney lads at Gloucetser and ride up with them.
The old R1 cranked very slowly in the cold morning air but thankfully it caught and she purred away while I put the rest of my gear on. That gear included an new set of DriRider winter gloves. My old Walden Miller gloves were great but 1) they were purchased in 1991 and 2) I couldn't find them!



Anyway, it was a crisp clear morning and a great one for a ride. My RST suit was nicely warm, even without the thermal liner in the pants. I just had merino longjohns on there and they did the job with much less bulk.
I was passed by some long loads coming the other way. Two HUGE blades for a wind turbine went past, towed by a prime mover with a little dog trailer waaaayyy back, supporting the hub of the blade. They must have been 50m+ long and it's a shame I wasn't running the GoPro here to get a photo.

I basically put my head down and motored to Walcha this  morning for my first fuel stop and morning tea break. It was bloody cold at Walcha. It always is! I estimated 10C at best but I still sat out the front of the cafe' in the sun while I had a coffee and a bacon and egg roll, watching the bikes roll by. There were a lot of bikes of all types and it was only Friday morning. Motorcycle touring is just like cycling in that you can't carry much and rely very much on the local communities which in turn creates jobs in small towns. Win/win.


Walcha refuel stop.

I headed out the road to Wauchope - the famed Oxley Highway. I had decided that I would meet the lads in Wauchope and not Gloucester, thereby saving myself a few hours of boring motorway with them from Gloucester to Macksville. I would meet them at Wauchope, about 60km before Macksville.
Once you get to the twisty bit of the Oxley that winds it's way down the range to the coastal flats there are purportedly 300 bends. I would have to see how accurate they were with their count!


Mid way to the twistys, looking back to the West.


Oxley transit.


After some more straight line work I finally came to the telltale signs that indicate it is going to get a bit more interesting.


Getting interesting....

There has been a lot of debate about "safety improvements" that have been made to this western part of the Oxley in the last few months. Australia has become a real nanny state over the last 20 years or so and in the authorities drive to have ZERO road deaths (seriously? It is impossible to control all drivers and conditions, let alone the medical issues some people suffer from) they have installed little raised "blobs" of some sort of mortar or asphalt, painted white, to mark the centre line and the road edges. While they have some texture, I would hate to be running a little wide (or tight), especially in the wet and hit a row of these rumble strips. The front end would surely fold and you'd go down. There is currently a petition running to have these removed but I think there is little chance of it happening. If riders rode within their abilities and kept the accident rate low then the road would not attract attention. The fact that it is a quite remote section of road, difficult to access, even though it is smack bang in the centre of the east coast of NSW makes it even more noticeable to the emergency services that are called out.
Unfortunately you can't legislate for stupidity.......

Lane marking madness.

I enjoyed the tighter, slower stuff and I was soon at Ginger's Creek cafe'.  The cafe is perched on a small area of flat ground between two 35km/h corners so you need to be careful and ready when entering or exiting! As I pulled up there was a group of guys from QLD on adventure bikes just about to hit the road. While the R1 is awesome in the tight stuff I had little doubt these guys would be just as quick and a LOT more comfortable as I was along here.

Ginger's Creek.

I had a coffee and a water here while faffing around with my GoPro.

A rather pleasant little deck at Ginger's Creek.

The GoPro is anything but "seamlessly easy" to use and quite frankly I think I wasted $500 there. It takes good photos and video when it works but the connection to the phone, while great in theory, just doesn't work well. The current issue I have is that if the Bluetooth and wifi are set to on on my phone, the GoPro turns itself on, silently of course, about 15 seconds after I switch it off. As you can imagine, this is simply awesome when you get the GoPro out to use it and find it's battery is flat! The only way I can stop it happening is to turn Bluetooth off, then my car hands free will not work.
No wonder GoPro are going bust.

"You are Here".



The Ging'

I motored down the mountain toward Wauchope, enjoying the 300 bends plus a few more as I turned around and went back up the hill a little before returning to the task at hand, getting to fuel at Wauchope.

I lost count of how many bends there were.....



While getting fuel Steve(Chillertek) messaged me that they were about to leave Gloucester. I decided to meet them on the side of the motorway about 20km east of Wauchope. Almost as soon as I stopped by the side of the motorway my phone was ringing. It was Steve saying that they were going to ride through Wauchope. Well, I wasn't riding the 20km back there to meet them so pointed the R1 North to Macksville. I would meet them at the pub!

I arrived at the Nambucca Hotel about 30 minutes before the others and enjoyed the passing show of locals....

Day 2 accom and watering hole.

The lads were quick to get off their bikes and into a few beers. It was nice to see some familiar faces and to meet some new ones. We soon learnt that Rick, also coming from Brisbane, had run out of fuel about an hour away, near Dorrigo. There was nothing we could do except keep buying beers until he fianlly arrived about 2.5 hours after everyone else. He may have copped some shit over that event.....

We retired to the Star Hotel for dinner, which was very good. This pub was a bit more happening so we stayed for a few more ales and to listen to the band. They were actually very good at the covers they did. A very entertaining night was had by all.

Star Hotel, Macksville, goes OFF!!


Day 2 Route.




Day 3

Strangely, the lads were a little slow to get going this morning with Douggie, our group leader banging on doors at about 8am. I was showered and ready to go but first we sauntered off to breakfast where I tarnished my image by ordering a vegetarian breakfast.....

We rolled out at about 9am, heading north to Bellingen, then up the Waterfall Way to Dorrigo. The twisty section above Bellingen was fun but there is simply too much traffic on this bit of road to have much fun.

Entering Dorrigo.

We stopped in Dorrigo to stretch for a minute before blasting out of town toward Ebor. This was spirited riding and a bit above my pay grade these days so I went as comfortably as I felt. Stopping at the intersection with the Waterfall Way we had another stretch.



We then scooted pretty quickly across to Armidale for fuel, then on to Uralla, our over night accom for tonight.

Armidale airport refuel.

We had pushed into a very stiff breeze climbing up on to the range. That, combined with the fairly cold day (about 12C), and perhaps too much exuberance last night, saw most of the softcocks errr... others not wanting to do the highlight of the day, a dash down the Oxley Highway to Ginger's Creek and back. Some of the softcocks errr... others did ride to Walcha, then decided to head back to Uralla while Stu, Dave and I went on down the Oxley to Ginger's creek.

We didn't mess around getting down there and were soon at the start of the twisty section. A quick rest stop and I put the GoPro on. Lets Go!

Oxley fun about to be unleashed! Stu and his Tuono.

We were soon getting stuck into it and having a ball. The road was dry, mostly clean (the odd stick from the wind today) and very little traffic. 

Chasing Tuonos. They sound awesome! Dave is just up the road.

We made our way down to the Mt Seaview lookout, so only about 250 bends down.....before turning around and heading back to Ginger's Creek. Chasing the Tuonos up the hill was just fucking great fun! Their bellowing exhausts drowned out my howling R1. It isn't often you are cranked over, with the throttle pinned on an R1 and thinking "geez, I wish this thing had more go"!!

Me, chasing Dave, chasing Stu.......

Arriving back at Ginger's Creek we stopped in for something to eat and drink. The food is great here and I hope everyone that rides past stops because it must be tough to make a living here in the middle of nowhere.
As we were about to leave a booming motorcycle could be heard coming from quite a way away. It was another Tuono! These things are like opinions.....
Dave and Stu chatted all things Tuono with the guy. They all LOVE the bike, stating it is the best handling bike they have ever owned. I can attest to the power delivery out of corners, so to have the handling as well? Lucky buggers! If I had more time and money a Tuono would definitely be on the shopping list....

Mr Tuono, Stu and Dave at Ginger's Creek.

We mounted up again and started the long slog back to Uralla. We really should have stayed in the pub at Walcha as it would have been about 45km less riding for the day. The others were coming down through Walcha tomorrow, on their way back to Sydney so I don't know the reason we had booked in Uralla?

Oh, well. We hooked it back, splashed some fuel in and hammered back to Uralla, arriving at 5pm, just before dark and with a few sprinkles of rain on the visor.
I found my room after a little mixup (sorry Dave, luckily you were decent!) with keys and jumped into a hot shower. It was well below 10C now and the shower was great. I think it revived my adrenal gland, which had had a good workout today!

Dave's Aprillia and my trusty old R1.

Marching into the front bar of the Top Pub I found it pleasantly warm with a couple of log fires burning....or was it the heat of the bench racing from the lads?
A great night of very good food and top beers was had. With basically transit-miles for all of us tomorrow we enjoyed a late night.

I needed to try a few of these.


Geoff's MT-10, Stu's Futura(ridden by a mate) and Stu's Tuono.


Stu's Tuono


Uralla Top Pub. Great staff, food and beer. The best night in a pub in a long time!



Softcocks...er..most of the group's Day 3 route.(+ they went to Walcha and back, an extra 90km)


Stu, Dave and I did this extra bit, down the Oxley again. AWESOME!


Day 4

We started with a quick breakfast in a cafe' across the road. When we hit the road it was time to split with Rick, Doug, Craig and I heading north toward Brisbane. The others were going southeast for Sydney.


My '02 and my Bro's '15.

We retraced our steps from yesterday toward Armidale and Ebor, heading for Grafton and the warmth of the coastal plains. It was bloody cold up here on the range today, with the temperature hovering around 5-6C for most of the first few hours.
The road from Ebor to Grafton is quite narrow, rough and very twisty. This, combined with all of the sticks that were littering the road from the strong winds (plus too many beers last night) saw me backing right off today.
We eventually made it to Grafton where we bid farewell to Doug and Craig, who were heading south toward Coffs Harbour. They had an extra day to get back to Sydney and were making the most of it.
Rick and I topped up with fuel in Grafton and motored for Kyogle, our next fuel stop. Here we turned east and took Kyogle Road to Uki. This was a very bumpy, stick strewn road and I did my best to hold Rick up along here!

As we came to Uki we started seeing heaps of bikes. I had forgotten this was Sunday afternoon and we were in the Gold Coast hinterland now, so we had all sorts of sqids on sportsbikes tooling along.
To say that some took some interesting lines would be an understatement. They also seemed to think because they had a helmet on they were anonymous and could do whatever they wanted. I was in no mood to be held up by their shenanigans now and finally got past these twats at some road works. Rick was behind me and didn't get a clear run but he later said that a guy on a MT-07 undertook him!! That is, passed him on the left side, in his lane!!

We finally got clear of them as we turned off and took a lesser known road through Tyalgum and Chillingham. Rick hadn't been this way and after a bit I waved him through so he didn't have to look at my rubbish riding any longer.

Waving Rick on his Tuono through (yes, there were 3 Tuonos on the ride). You pass on the right kids.....

We rolled into Brisbane at about 4pm, a totally respectable time. I was a bit tired but I wasn't very sore at all despite 550km on a sports bike with just three short stops for fuel.
My bro said that they encountered heavy snow for 20 minutes on their drop off the range. If only they had gone down the Oxley to get off the range as quickly as possible, rather than track across it in a south easterly direction......as weather here in Australia comes from the southwest.

Day 4 route.

Thanks for the invite Bro. I had a great four days on the bike, the longest trip I have done since New Zealand in 2014. I did about 1980km, which is about 4 years worth of riding for me! It was my first chance to try out my Technic rebuilt suspension and I must say it seemed to work perfectly for me.
I was making rapid progress both days that I rode the Oxley and in the past the rear tyre would be all balls of rubber, indicating that the tyre was working hard. This trip though the tyre looked quite smooth and clean despite me getting stuck in with the right wrist...... so I guess I can recommend Technik for their work....just don't leave your bike with them!










Cheers.

























10 comments:

  1. How were your knee's after this trip compared to the last one?

    It was fantastic riding with you again bro, another NZ South Island trip you say, when's it happening?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. February next year, I'll sort the route...

      Delete
    2. The knees were perfect. I didn’t have any aches or pains. Well, nothing compared to riding a mtb 1200km across the Arizona desert.......

      Delete
    3. NZ? Dunno but you better let me know when to aim for holidays by November this year otherwise it won’t happen.

      Delete
  2. Those new Aprillias have more power and torque than your old R1, and probably a lot better handling so thats probably why you were wishing for a faster bike. Not to mention Stu is a C grade racer and Dave is not slouch either,,,,

    Your ride was a lot different than ours.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, still, its a frickin' R1! Dave was on fire that day.

      Delete
  3. Fantastic photos, onboard and the dusk photos were great.
    Makes me feel home sick, would love to join a ride like this.
    (I'd be in proper gear not leather like Steve) ;) haha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You would have proper gear because I can see you appreciate technological advances. Ask Steve how many pairs of leathers he has versus how much textile he owns.....
      Oh, and right back at you on the photo front. Love your blog. ;)

      Delete
    2. 3 sets of leathers, 0 set of textiles. Aren't textiles something 3rd world countries import to make canvas tents?
      Who wears textiles in WSBK or Motogp? Thats right loser....

      Delete
    3. So you race MotoGP or WSBK? Get a practical suit for the REAL world.....

      Delete

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