One of the realities of Iron Butt riding is that often before a multi-day ride you need to get your bike serviced or tyres changed prematurely so you are properly covered for your intended distance. Many LD riders have spare wheels for their bikes and swap them depending on the plan but this isn’t really feasible, read affordable, when you have multiple bikes or a turning bikes over because you wear them out. Others have a growing collections of used tyres in the garage that’ll most likely just take up space until he or she who must be obeyed demands their disposal. If you are like me they never end up going back on the bike.
After having done a bunch of one day rides lately I was in the mood to step back up a bit. It was time to knock over something a little harder to reset the head noises life gives you with some miles on the road. I was thinking about riding to Perth and back again (50CC /100CCC) but looking in the shed I saw three potential bikes none of which had the service interval or rubber left to make a trip of that distance. All of them however had some rubber and miles to go before cash needed to be spilled.
Karl Pirchmoser (Skidoooo) solved this dilemma by referring me to a comment made by the IBA Rules Guru, Ira Agins, confirming that, other than during a very specific ride, it was completely OK to swap bikes during an IBA ride as long as it was properly documented. The plan popped out, 3 bikes, 3 days… The Cheapskate SS5000K. No service costs, no new tyres, no accommodation costs, breakfast and dinner/supper at home, awesome! Not only did I not need to fork out cash, I didn’t even have to spend very long thinking about routes, I had plenty one-day plans, I just needed to stitch three of them together.
Day 1: SS1600K on the Harley-Davidson Road King
Today I intended to ride the lap I usually take Iron Butt newbies on. It’s easy and safe with freeway in the dark and some scenery in south western NSW in the daylight. I particularly like the Road King on this route, you get a chance really appreciate the laid back, loping, rolling momentum of the heavy V-Twin as it disposes of kilometres with a disrespectful growl.
With a timestamped docket in my wallet I left the local servo in Newcastle just before 4am and rode off into the mist and rain to the south on the M1. It was wet but not too cold and traffic wasn’t heavy so it didn’t take long to settle in to the seat and kick back. Without any disruption to the calm I found myself through Sydney and heading towards the Southern Highlands. As expected it cooled off a little until the sun rose which gave me pause to reflect on the lack of heated grips on the Road King but not as much pause as the cost of getting them fitted gave me once when I enquired.
On a southerly run through here I usually fuel at Marulan but I had an inkling I’d make it through to Goulburn (345kms) which would be great news time wise because it would set me up to save a stop and as a result some time if i could build on it. My feeling was correct, I made it to the Big Merino in Goulburn. I’m happy to admit that plan B for a bad decision was a 4 litre Rotopax jerry full of fuel in one of the panniers. I’m not a complete idiot.
The red car in this photos almost conceals the ramtackle.
The showers and mist dissipated as I continued south down the freeway past Yass and Gundagai turning right towards Wagga Wagga. I was reminiscing about riding in this area only a week ago on the FarRally when it was very, very wet out here. Is reminiscing the right word for something that happened only a week ago? I guess at my age anything remembered is a bonus. Back to the ride… I fuelled up again at Gillenbah (700kms) and in doing so saved that stop I hoped to. The original plan was for fuel at Wagga Wagga and a corner docket at Gillenbah to prove the route. A couple of HOG Chapter members rode in for fuel while I was there but they didn’t come over for a chat, maybe I looked too serious in my KLIM Adventure gear and flip face Shoei. Then came the Newell Hwy to the lovely little town of Jerilderie and almost the half way mark at 806kms. I really like riding in this area of New South Wales and the day had turned out just plain beautiful. I apologise for the oxymoron. Maybe the fuel economy was due to the fact I was running without the top box today!
After Jerilderie I turned east towards Howlong and Albury where I stopped for more fuel before turning north towards home on the Hume freeway. Some riders call the Hume the “Doom” and pish pish it for being boring. Love it or hate it, the Road King is in it’s element on a slab. The great ease of it’s forward motion gives me time to pay attention to people in cars, truckies and ponder the traffic patterns as I weave though it at a GPS monitored 110kph. It also provides an opportunity for deep, internal reflection. Surely that can’t be boring unless there wasn’t much reflecting back.
I decided to “test my luck” and go for Goulburn to try to save another stop on the way back. It doesn’t sound like much but 20 minutes saved in not making two stops today is 20 minutes more sleep I get tonight before heading out for tomorrow’s 1740km ride. Efficiency always adds up and never more so than in a multi-day IBA ride.
At Jugiong I stopped for a muesli bar and a daytime photo of one of last week’s FarRally bonus locations, why not! It was a touch easier to find in the daylight.
I did make it to Goulburn on fumes, filled the tank and ate a fairly dreadful servo sandwich. Not part of my usual routine and I won’t be doing that again. The other lowlight of the trip was the dreadful stench of garbage on the M7 near Eastern Creek, who’s idea was that?!. The rest of the ride back to Newcastle was uneventful with only a quick stop stop for coffee at Macas at Thornleigh. I arrived home for a late dinner just after 9pm making Day 1 a touch over 17 hours 20 minutes or so for 1648kms (Etrex). I bought my traditional post ride Cherry Ripe twin pack to get a docket… “No, I don’t want a second one for only a dollar.”
I had a plan mapped out to shift the farkles (GPS, SPOT, Etrex, Snacks, tools etc) from one bike to another. This was a slight disadvantage in changing bikes mid ride, but hey, I got to sleep in my own bed once that was done.
Day 2: SS1600K on the Yamaha Super Tenere (STEN)
It doesn’t take 24 hours to ride 1600kms so backing up three in a row gives you a little time to play with each 24 hour period. So I took an extra hour to rest during the night and lined up at the local servo at 5am. Today was a bit longer 1750kms or so. I needed one of the three rides to be a touch longer in order to make the total ride more than the required 5000kms. Because of the remote, open route with no planned delays it made sense that today be that day.
I took a familiar route west out of Newcastle and struck fog and mist started not long after getting on the Hunter Expressway. Here was my view heading towards Merriwa after the sun came up. The heated grips on the Super Tenere were on and appreciated as were the BMW Pro Winter II gloves.
The fog continued to Dunedoo where I stopped for a muesli bar near the pub. As you can see the town was packed this time of the morning.
I turned right towards Mendooran where I would normally need to refuel from a jerry. I had 2 x 10 litres on board and with yesterday’s fuel range successes in mind I decided to ignore my instincts and keep going. I rode 90kms in reserve and made it to Gilgandra, cheering on the inside. No doubt running the Super Tenere without the side panniers contributed to this. There’s no point dragging stuff through the air you don’t need.
I filled the front tank at the Shell Truckport and took the road to Narrabri, today was about some roads I haven’t been on this year and some I have never been on (I think).
Holiday traffic was about and so were the wide loads
and a t one point I got a bit of a fright coming past the front of a truck I was overtaking and glimpsing a speed camera on my left. I grabbed a corner docket at Narrabri planning to use the jerrys between there and Bourke but by another stroke of luck I made another 90km foray into reserve and filled the front tank only in Walgett. It was this stretch between Narrabri and Walgett I don’t think I’ve been on before.
This piece of great fuel management (a.k.a. luck) allowed me to really push the fuel legs out so I got another corner docket at Bourke rather than fuel and filled the tank from the jerrys at the Bogan sign between Bourke and Nyngan. I was wary on this road, last time I rode down here a kangaroo took half the faring of my CBR125R off during half way through an SS2000K.
This fuel got me through Nyngan and back to Gilgandra where I took a nice relaxed stop, utilising some of the banked time back at the Shell Truckport. They do a fantastic plain burger and a reasonable coffee. I also filled the tank only, leaving the jerrys empty, crossed the fingers and made it back to Newcastle without stopping again! Crossing the fingers worked out but it was very, very close. Yep, I’ve called myself an idiot.
All up 18hrs 44m for the 1747kms for today’s run. Sadly they were rewaxing the floor at the local servo so I missed out on my post ride Cherry Ripe and had to settle for an ATM docket down the road.
I’d planned the farkle exchange on to the next bike for the morning with a bit of a sleep in to take advantage of some more of spare time I had.
Day 3: SS1600K on the Honda ST1300 (MYST)
Today’s ride was simple but the planning was complex. Karl Pirchmoser (Skidoooo) left Dubbo on 9 April to head to Perth as part of a bigger ride that included a 50CC Perth-Newcastle riding a tiny, weeny, diminutive and small Yamaha YZF15. The simple part was that I was going to ride 830kms due west to Emmdale, meet up with him and keep him company on this leg of his ride back to Newcastle. The complex part was timing. Karl’s original plan had gone to gastro so his timing was up the air and planning was on the fly. My 3 day ride needs be complete by 3.53am, Karl had an extra hour or so up his sleeve to complete his 50CC. Karl’s original and plan B had him leaving Ceduna at 4am so based on his OA (overall average speed including stops) I planned to leave at 8am.
I was up at 6am, checked Karl’s spot and found that he was about an hour and a half ahead of his plan. He had not stopped at Ceduna and had sent me an SMS letting me know he had pushed the schedule forward. Bugger!!!! So a mad with rush farkle swapping, getting the riding gear on and getting out the door saw me with a 7.12am docket and on a mission to make Emmdale on time.
If I didn’t beat him there I was in strife for distance if I turned around as he passed me. If I didn’t turn I would be on the back foot playing catchup. Despite the potential differences in cruising speed between the ST1300 and the little Yamaha catching up to an efficient rider like Karl will never be easy.
The start of today’s route to Gilgandra was the same as yesterday, but the ST1300 with a 16 litre auxiliary tank meant that stopping for fuel wasn’t required for a very, very long time. Stopping for roadworks the other side of Jerry’s Plains did happen though.
Ironically yesterday when there wasn’t any time pressure the lights were green both ways. It was a glorious day, I stopped at Warren for an iced coffee and a docket (IBA rules dictate we have to get a docket at least every 600km, even if we don’t need fuel) and then continued out past Nyngan to Cobar (670kms) for 35.8 litres of fuel. It’s nice to know at that economy I had 860kms range, good info for future plans. This was the first time MYST had been to Cobar so I had to stop for the compulsory picture.
I sent Karl a text from Cobar letting him know what I was up to and while riding the 159kms to the Emmdale Roadhouse I expected him to ride past heading east. I kept counting down the k’s and working out how long it would take me to catch him given the different cruising speeds of the bikes. It was all academic though because fortunately I made it to Emmdale before him and the first pressure point was instantly gone.
There’s three fifths of no mobile service at Emmdale and as a result I had no way of contacting Karl or seeing where he was. So I took the jacket off and the earplugs out and ordered a bacon and egg roll, a coffee and some water to top up the Camelback. I settled in chatting to a backpacker from France who was half way through a 3 month stint working there. He got the job on Gumtree! I have no idea how they make food so fresh way out there in the middle of nowhere, the B & E roll was delicious. Or perhaps I enjoyed it so much because it was the first sit down meal I’d had in a few days.
Karl turned up a closer to his original plan time, he must have taken a break along the way somewhere. This was a little bit later than I thought but that wasn’t a problem. He had some food and needed to take a short break.
Sleep anywhere that man, legend! So I went back inside, sat quietly in the aircon and finished off another coffee. Then I checked my fingernails, hair and makeup, felt the dents in my head the helmet makes and thought about the meaning of life for a while. I came to the same conclusion I reached while riding the Harley on the Hume only two days before. Sadly it’s my meaning, you’ll have to work out your own. I then pondered on what there might be to do in a world without mobile devices. I only came up with taking more photos.
Not too long later Karl was up and ready to go. The remaining pressure point for my ride was that my three days were up at 3.53am. Karl had a couple of hours more to to finish his 50CC but as another experienced LD Rider Karl fully understood the timing issues and we chatted about contingencies. It was getting close to 5pm so time was counting down and need to be monitored. My GPS was saying I’d arrive back before 3am but that was without stops and assuming we could manage the speed limit. That certainly wasn’t going to happen.
Having more than 8 times the engine capacity of the might YZF I wasn’t too worried when Karl then left me standing at Emmdale getting ready to ride. I soon passed him, put some distance between us, stopped and tried to take a pic. It’s hard to do!
and another time I took a video. What a sound!
We then settled in for the long, steady haul home. In the late afternoon and early evening it was all about wildlife management. This basically meant riding through the hoards of goats, sheep, kangaroos and smaller kritters hoping that they didn’t jump out and hit you. We stopped at Nyngan for our last scheduled fuel stop (Karl has an auxillary tank on the 150). While there we got ourselves ready for the night and the cold I knew was coming from riding out there the previous evening. During that stop with all the rearranging I forgot to make the call home. Sometimes just firing off the SPOT just isn’t enough, oops!
Karl suggested we stop at Gilgandra briefly and the lady in the Shell cafe was surprised that it was the third time I had been there in two days. She was also surprised that I didn’t want a plain burger this time. The evening then cooled off significantly through Mendooran. More kangaroos and wombats were out to play and we were kept pretty busy. Close to Merriwa Karl needed to put some more warm gear on. No too surprising, I know from my own experience that riding into cold after four or five long days on the road can play havoc with your body’s ability to keep warm. Riding down the hill to Merriwa we were greeted by a huge Blood Moon in the night sky, it was spectacular but focus on the road was needed.
We’d discussed that at some point I might need to leave Karl to ensure my 5000km ride was completed within the 3 days. By the time we got to Denman the ETA was 3.12am and Karl suggested I leave him. I started to forge ahead and then turned around to find him again. If I made it, I made it. Of more importance was making sure Karl was OK and just finish the ride together no matter when that might be. One shouldn’t lose sight of what’s really important and sometimes you can get too caught in your own pursuits to see the bigger picture.
On the other hand shortly thereafter those freaking road work traffic lights had us sitting in the middle of the night for 5 minutes for no reason at all!!!! I knew they’d get me again and was strangely relaxed with Karl parked next to me, bikes idling away.
Soon after we were out of the bush and back on the Hunter Expressway, still losing time on the ETA because 110kph just wasn’t going to happen. When we got into Newcastle proper I took the lead and escorted Karl to the BP at Parry St, a traditional start and end docket point for the 50CC ride from Newcastle. My docket time was 3:21am, I had 30 minutes to spare…easy. And Karl had knocked off another amazing 50CC ride on the pee wee. The pic is of me, not him. I used the one without the teeth Karl :-).
With a twin pack Cherry Ripe purchased, the paperwork done and sms’s from various LD riding friends, including OX-34 who was watching from Tokyo, it was time to head back to my place for a chat with the missus. She had been up early keeping an eye on us on Spotwalla too. She has assumed because I left an hour early I’d arrive home an hour earlier than planned. She made a fair comment about lack of contact during the ride. I was happy Karl was there to absorb some of the heat though.
Back tracking, thanks for keeping an eye on us OX and for the encouragement along the way. Gus, you too and anyone else who was spotwatching. We found out later that both SPOT’s were not showing movement for a while after Gilgandra and concerns were emerging. Fortunately they updated before the cavalry was called. It’s nice to know you are out there.
Today was 1663kms in a touch over 20 hours. Another good day out and a great end to the three day ride.
So there it is 5058kms (3161 miles) 3 days on 3 bikes. Free accommodation in a proper bed, home cooked meals, the Cheapskate SS5000K was done and dusted. All up less than $500 assuming I didn’t lose any receipts. But the bikes were all full when I left, they are all empty now. I’ve also got at least four tyres to replace and three bikes to service although I might get another ride out of the Tenere. It was as cheap as, but only if you don’t think about it too hard.
Take home notes
- Changing bikes takes time unless you have three sets of farkles. Simple things like moving coms, mounts, iPods, the SPOT, the Etrex and doing any re-pairing of bluetooth is stuff you don’t need to worry about on normal multi-day ride. But to do this you need to plan the exchanges. Even write a list so it’s efficient and you don’t forget anything. I found it easier to do before taking the rest break than after.
- Changing bikes also adds to the documentation. Extra witness statements, extra dockets and more paperwork to submit. Be organised.
- The ride plan looks like great fun, but what slipped my mind somewhat was that it was still over 5000kms in 3 days. The fun of the point of difference shouldn’t distract from the preparation for taking on such a difficult ride.
- Using the whole three days worked well, rather than doing a 24 hr cycle and leaving 6 hours spare at the end of the third. There’s something to be said for not finishing too early.
- Unless you really know what to expect, don’t plan to ride the last 800kms at 90kph. It was a privilege to ride with Karl but the time lost, under normal circumstances, could be used for rest or for getting back out of animal danger areas while still light. I wouldn’t change that bit on this ride though.
- Having the bikes backed into the garage so I rode them straight out was appreciated by the family and neighbours.