Monday, December 21, 2020

Well, I Didn't See That Coming


Hey there! 

It has been a little while since I have had anything to say, what with 2020 doing what 2020 has been doing. December - finally, in a year which has been the longest 10 years of our lives!

Anyway, Sunday the 6th of December saw me doing this.......

Not the view I usually have but I was on a special mission. You see, since I sold my F800GSA back in February I have been really missing the adventure bike. They are so easy to ride AND capable of tackling anything.
Since the Beemer went down the driveway for the last time (actually, from well before that) I had been perusing BikeSales, Gumtree and FB Marketplace. I was specifically scouring for Yamaha T700s, Honda Africa Twins and to a lesser degree BMW F850s, hoping to spot a bargain or some deal that was too good to refuse. 
Unfortunately, CoviD job cuts made this an exercise in futility. Research became the order of the day instead. Watching what was listed, for how much, how much interest was shown and how long bikes were on the market for became the name of the game.

Back in February there were plenty of second hand bikes for sale. But as the Government's stimulus measures kicked in the price of bikes, motorcycles, campers, name it, went through the roof and obviously became quite scarce(or the other way around, actually because, well, economics).
 One particular bike caught my attention because of how well spec'd it was. It was well priced and at the time I though about making a cheeky offer but I was afraid he might accept and as it wasn't my prefered bike, I decided discretion was the better part of valour. The bike disappeared after about 6 weeks so I thought it was sold.
Fast forward to the end of November and as my research continued what should pop up again? Yup, that same bike.....only $4K cheaper.....

After a day of should I/shouldn't I, checking with that model's gurus AND getting Ministerial approval I called the seller. He confirmed he had pulled the advert when CoviD made everything too hard. After a bunch of questions and him passing the "bullshitter" test I was confident enough to tell him that "I'll take it"!

Now it was a mad scramble to organise everything as I was starting to be rostered some flying again on top of the warehouse job I have been holding down since August, plus the bike was located THREE states away. That is a long way in a country as big as Australia. So, a crazy plan was hatched......

Jump on a jet late Sunday afternoon, leaving a muggy 34C Brisbane day to touch down in chilly (12C) Launceston. I was off to a random pub, the Centennial Inn, which turned out to have a great restaurant attached. After the rush of the flight and taxi ride, as I sat in the bar/restaurant it hit me how much I have missed my work overnights this year. I have taken them for granted for a decade and a half but this beer/wine/dinner was sublime and so relaxing.

The next morning the bike's owner very kindly drove an hour and fifty minutes to pick me up, then another hour and fifty minutes back home. He seemed a decent bloke and talking bikes, Covid lockdowns, pubs and some politics, we got on well.

Arriving in Bernie we went straight to his house where I began to inspect the bike. 

Looking around his garage it was obvious that he looked after his gear as everything was ultra tidy and his dirt bikes and mountain bikes were immaculate as well.

The bike was a 2018 model with just 9000km under the wheels.
Fitted with -
Full Ohlins suspension
Arrow slip on exhaust
Scott steering damper
Garmin Zumo GPS wired in
Genuine locking panniers
Barrett soft pannier racks
Givi tall screen
Givi 15lt lock on tank bag
Denali LED driving lights

Plus all of the original parts that had been removed!

A quick test ride was conducted - a mere formality as I was pretty well committed by now and the Dunlop D606 front tyre was obviously all wrong but the bike still shone. Cheque and receipt exchanged I set about loading up all of the original gear, plus the meagre stuff I had brought with me. This took a little while and I had to admit defeat with the original exhaust and screen, which Ben would post to me.

So, all loaded up like a supertanker I wobbled off, looking for a place to topple over as this is one tall bike! 
But if I did I would have the biggest shit-eating grin on my face as this is one fucking awesome looking and equipped bike!! And how good did it sound with that Arrow pipe?!!

What IS it though....? 


A 2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports in immaculate condition. 
Did I mention the immaculate condition?? 😛 Yeah, it is in IMMACULATE condition.

Now began the 2200km trip home. 250km of that would be by boat as I needed to cross Bass Straight via the Spirit of Tasmania. The ferry left from Devonport, which wasn't far to ride from Bernie so I enjoyed the cool riding conditions and stopped for lots of photos and to just ogle the beauty of this beast.
The following photo was in front of the local church in Penguin, Tasmania. I was trying to sell the boss on a warehoue parts-picking version of the AT.

 Apart from making the ferry on time I had another dilemma to solve. As regular readers of my irregular posts would know, I am in a challenge to pedal my (or a) bicycle for at least 15 minutes per day, every day of 2020. I haven't missed a day and I certainly didn't want to fall out of the challenge so close to the end. 
So, after trying to find a new, more road oriented front tyre for the AT and failing, I thought I best try to find a bicycle.

Lobbing into Giant Devonport I waited for the owner to be free of customers before starting.
"I have the strangest request you are going to hear all week" I began. Filling him in on the challenge, he listened, then offered me a basic mountain bike!
 I was stoked!!
Dumping my riding gear in their office I pedalled off in a flat looking direction (Tassie is pretty lumpy) in my RST pants and bike boots. Luckily it was cool and I felt like a school kid who was wagging school!


Taking the bike back to the shop I thanked them profusely but couldn't persuade them to take any money for the 20 minute "hire" of their bike. How generous is that?! Everyone buy a bike from Giant Devonport!

Back on the Honda, I wandered over to the waterfront to be in pole position for the boat. It doesn't look very big in this photo but she be a sizeable barge. Just like the AT.......

I dutifully lined up two hours before the sailing, like instructed but I was basically the only one there for an hour and a half. Covid had passenger numbers waaay down despite open travel being available for weeks now.

Yep, just me and these two guys from Melbourne. Waiting....

Eventually we were let through the front gate. I was apprehensive about dropping the big girl on a wet, slippery metal ship deck as I had read of it frequently happening. I shouldn't have worried.  The loading was straight forward and I was off to find my cabin in a jiffy.

It was cosy and I had to share with some random stranger - yet another hypocritical action during this CoviD-social-distancing mantra time. There were plenty of empty cabins, the shipping company obviously didn't want to pay to have them cleaned.....

At least my room mate seemed like a nice bloke. I tossed him some ear plugs just in case I snored 😁 then headed upstairs to watch us push off and sail away. It had been a very windy week but the ship's captain said tonight would be nice with only 25-30 knot winds and 1.5-2 metre swells. Yup, a millpond!

Charging for the deep blue. (OzRunways doesn't have a ship icon for some reason 😆)

Food and drink was found on the restaurant deck and I settled in to a few beverages and talked bikes with the blokes from Melbourne until late.

The next morning I was awake at about 0530 and could see out the window we were very near to Princess dock in Melbourne. It seemed to take forever to dock and get the trucks off (freight has priority over the general public apparently) We had to unstrap our own bikes and I was the first one off, being at the head of the line. Again, I was worried about slippery decks and short legs but it was fine. 

I motored out into Melbourne peak hour traffic following my new gps. I had a rough idea of where I needed to go but the gps was taking me in the opposite direction! Maybe some freeway on-ramp that I didn't know of? Nope.

 ( I would discover that night that it was set to "adventurous" routing so god only knows where it was taking me!)

Finally on one of Melbourne's heavily speed camera policed freeways I had one eye on the traffic and the other on my speedo. I needn't have worried. Later in the day as I became more comfortable with this new cockpit I noticed that the speedo over read by 7-8km/h compared to the gps.

It was bloody cold this morning at 13-15C and I stopped near Kilmore to fix my glove/sleeve interface. Man, I wish I had brought my winter gloves! Here I had a light bulb moment. Didn't Ben say the bike had heated grips? After a quick search I found the actuator on the left grip........ahhhhhh.

I wasn't sure of my fuel range yet. Added to the fact it was cold and the fact that the Hume (Doom) highway is adorned by average speed cameras I was dying of wind chilled boredom and pulled off the highway at Euroa for fuel, food and coffee. I was pleasantly surprised at how little fuel the big Honda had used. 450 km out of a tank should be very achievable on solid roads!

Even though I had only stopped for 20 minutes it was noticably warmer now and much more pleasant riding as I ticked off the kilometres and the towns. Albury, Culcairn, Henty, Yerong Creek, The Rock, Wagga Wagga then my next fuel stop at Temora. 363km and I felt pretty fresh! After a stop for fuel in the main street, where the young attendant said she thought it was a great looking bike, I stopped for a quick look out the front of the Temora Aviation Museum. It is amazing how many houses are now part of the "air park" where houses have hangers and taxiways up to the back door.

I buzzed along the quiet western roads toward my overnight destination just 150km up the road. This was another draw to purchasing this bike. I would get to break the trip home with an overnight at "home" with my Dad, whom I hadn't seen since July due to bloody Covid border restrictions.

About 30km out of Forbes I ticked off the following milestone. This bike isn't even run in yet!!

I stopped for fuel before heading to Dad's place as I planned to leave early in the morning. Here, another random guy said "that is one good looking bike"! I can't argue with him because it does have a certain presence in the I have never owned a bike that elicited this type of response from Joe Public before.

It was great to see Dad but also a bit of a shock as this year has been tough on him. At 80 he is doing pretty well for a kid who they thought wouldn't make 12. He checked out the AT and I offered him a ride but he said he didn't have a step ladder handy....

I didn't mess around the following morning, getting away early and going hard. Parkes, Peak Hill, Dubbo, Mendooran (with a quick pub photo stop) then Coonabarabran for fuel. 

Ogling the rugged good looks in Coonabarabran.

Then it was a quick squirt up the highway to Narrabri. I planned on taking a new-to-me way home from here so not knowing fuel availability I topped up after just the 100km mark and had a bite to eat. It was starting to get warm now and my RST suit is too hot to be comfortable above about 23C.

Not a bad chicken salad roll.

From Narrabri I wanted to check out the very promisingly named Killarney Gap rd. As I followed it I was climbing toward the volcanic looking Mt Kaputar. I have noticed this imposing (for Oz) peak many times from the main highway and was pleased to be getting a closer, if only quick, look. (This isn't it though, just some random peak in the range)

The best bit about this road was the complete lack of traffic and a more challenging road design. I will definitely be back here again only next time at a touring pace.
Rolling into Bingara it was getting HOT! The main street was very pretty and quite busy. I love traveling through these little towns as they are off the beaten track, located between the two main North/South inland routes in NSW.

Continuing on to Warialda I noted one of the Blue Trees on the western edge of town. Check the link for details on what it is all about.

Pressing on I was starting to wonder about my fuel level. I knew there wasn't much out here but didn't know how far to the next town that would definitely have fuel.
Rolling into the tiny hamlet of Yetman I saw the little general store had fuel and food. I thought it was time for a drink anyway and I could peruse the map. Seeing that it was only 40km to Texas I decided on no fuel but a couple of cool drinks and a short break as I had been pretty much just twisting a throttle ALL day.

Icy drinks and some outback Aussie art by John Murray.

Filling up in Texas I decided to push on quickly. The ride east out of town was an eye opener, being quite twisty and hilly. Another definite return ride was needed.
Another quick stop for fuel at Stanthorpe and I was on the home stretch with just under three hours to go. 

Eventually I made it after about twelve hours and 1020km for the day. It had been a loong, busy few days and while tired, I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable the bike is. It will need some seat reshaping to help lower it so that I can get a more confident purchase on the earth as it is a HEAVY beast when loaded up.

First thing next morning I flicked the dirt bike tyre and fitted a Bridgestone Battlax AX41 to match the one fitted to the rear. The bike immediately felt 1000 times better. Not totally unexpected!
The D606 just wanted to continue tipping in and I had to actively steer out of every corner once I'd tipped in just to stop it from spudding me into the earth on every bend for the last 2000km.

I also organised a roadworthy and transfered the registration from Tasmania to QLD. As anyone who has dealings with any State transport authority knows, this can be a long and arduous process. While it took over half of the day the Transport dept bit was surprisingly easy! 
Apart from the seat, I just need to sort the suspension for me now. It is set for a 160kg rider PLUS his gear, so it is a bit fcuked up for a featherweight such as I.😉

I finished the day just sitting there, beer in hand, admiring that ugly mug.
Happy Days!!