1650kms Dirt 24hrs CB125F Road Bike!

After completing my Iron Butt Association Dusty Butt (1610km/1000 mile in 24 hrs on dirt) ride on a Yamaha WR250R a while back I was left wondering if it was possible to do it on a smaller bike.

About 6 months ago I bought a Kawasaki KLX150 to test to determine if it was possibility. The fuel range seemed an issue and the 8hp motor didn’t quite have the zing I hoped for. I invested in a race exhaust system, a small auxiliary fuel tank that would get me between fuel stops and had some conversations with a local Kawasaki guru about rejetting and whacking it on the dyno to see what we could get out of it. I didn’t get around to fitting any of the mods, procrastination was my friend, but there wasn’t any other road registerable off-road bike on the market that small. And a 150cc motor always seems too big.

During the Ironbutt Association Muster in Echuca Vic this year we got to talking little bikes and the CB125E came up in conversation. I knew SS1600K’s have been done on this bike on road, it had a decent range and a comfy road seat. It got me thinking and I went to Honda’s site and discovered the Honda CB125F. A fuel injected recent evolution of the air cooled 125E with 11hp and a purported range of 400-700kms from the 11 litre tank! But it was a road bike, more like a scooter with gears, had bugger all suspension travel, 18″ alloy wheels and front forks the thickness of a toothpick. But the kicker was the price $3600 ride away with 12 months rego!

I mentioned it to Mrs Wom who was probably pretty tired of me devoting thought cycles to this ride and she told me to stop mucking about and go and get one. At the same time she cleared a week in her calendar, booked accommodation and picked the day I was going to do the ride. That forced an immediate end to procrastination. I had about three weeks to get ready and the first week of that I was heading to Tasmania to ride my 1250GS with friends.

I went to Chris Watson Motorcycles, Cessnock and spoke to Chris Watson who had a bike in stock. He offered me a good deal on the bike and offered his workshop staff to do whatever I needed to get the bike ready. That included heated grips, a couple of USB ports, finding a way to mount my Baja Designs S1 aux lights and fit 90/90 18 Heidenau K60 Scouts with tubes. The K60’s were the only offroad tyre I could find that would fit and it was the same tyre for the front and the back! Chris suggested some spacers in the front forks to increase the preload which was done too. The rear springs had 5 preload adjustments to choose from.

I went to Tassie and came back picking the bike up (ex the tyres that hadn’t arrived) 6 days before we were leaving for South Australia to do the ride. Lincoln and the team at Chris Watson Motorcycles did an incredibly good job of getting it ready to that point, quality workmanship for sure. I had organised to take it back to them the day before I left for Coober Pedy for its first service, the tyres and a race chain. Their advice was the OEM chain might not be up to the treatment it was going to get. I excitedly rode the CB125F for the first time and put 650kms on it over the next two days. The weather was bad for the next two and I took it back to Chris for the last of the prep now it was “run in”.

To that point I was feeling I had a 50/50 chance success given how the bike had performed on road. However, the heavier tyres and tubes had a noticeable impact on performance so I dropped my odds to 33/67 against. But that’s good enough for me. And the seat was comfy!!

The Landcruiser was packed and that evening I put the Honda on the trailer with my Tenere 700 World Raid. The T700 was a backup bike if things went wrong with the Honda. It’s 2000ks each way to Coober Pedy and I wasn’t coming home without a Dusty Butt Certificate in the bag.

Bikes on trailer at Emmdale Roadhouse

Mrs Wom and I dragged the bikes out there in two days. The photo above at Emmdale Roadhouse, the one below is obvious.

Landcruiser and bikes on trailer at Coober Pedy Blower

My plan for day 3 was to take the bike for a 100km shakedown ride to see what it was like on the dirt. I was worried that it would be horrible and I might change my mind so decided to rest properly instead. We were pretty tired after the long drive too.

We went out for coffee and cake at the Big Winch which has a nice view of the town.

Coober Pedy view

Over coffee Mrs Wom out of the blue asked if I wanted her to follow me on the first leg as far as William Creek. If it turned out to be horrendous I could just hide the bike near the road somewhere and we could drive back to Coober Pedy, get the trailer and pick the bike up or I could start the ride again on the T700. It wasn’t a bad idea and more lighting than the very good Baja Designs S1’s would provide might not be a bad thing either. I said “no”, she seemed very keen and persisted so I said “if you really want to”. She’s a genius but I have no idea if she knew what she was getting herself in to. We’ve been out that way before in the Landcruiser but not at night.

I had an early dinner, a nice massaman curry. While having dinner I read a post on Facebook from a friend who was in Coober Pedy at that time waiting for repairs on his suspension and diff damaged by the corrugations on the Oodnadatta Track in the area I was about to ride. I’d have preferred not to see that.

I went to bed by 6.30pm and slept like a baby to 12.30am. I sprang up, had some muesli, a shower, threw my riding gear on and went through my pre-ride checklist to make sure I had everything in the right place. Then we left the accommodation, Dinky Di’s Dugout, it was awesome btw.

I secured a start docket, turned on the etrex, maps on the phone and music at the Shell at Coober Pedy at 1.27am and went through the checklist for that location then left. I stopped briefly at a couple of signs at the start of the dirt while Mrs Wom took a pic through the windscreen then I rode off into the night.

Road Advisory Sign William Creek Road start of Dusty Butt.

Just near the mines I busily dodged large rocks on the road and about 5 minutes later a kangaroo had a good go at taking me out twice. I’m not sure what Mrs Wom was thinking when she saw that, she hasn’t said much yet.

The William Creek Road wasn’t in great shape. There were stretches of rocky gravel, corrugations, big and sharp rocks scattered across the road all waiting to hole a tyre or break the tiny alloys on the CB125F. Getting closer to Anna Creek Station and William Creek there were long sections of road prolific in bulldust holes and washouts. The little Honda was a real handful in these conditions with no power to drive through the unmissable obstacles. I was trying to ride around as much of the bulldust I could see because they would just sap power and set the front wheel to tucking under while spearing me off in any direction it felt like. The SA Outback Road Warnings suggested these issues were there but they were much worse than I expected and I began to question my life choices. The speedometer readings were not giving me confidence that I could finish this ride.

I nearly hit a cow while corrugations were bouncing me towards the side of the road around a sharp corner near the Anna Creek crossing but eventually made it to William Creek. I was already thinking about the corrugations ahead that broke my friend’s 4×4 suspension. Oh well, in for a penny – in for a pounding. I’d only done 167kms, one tenth of the ride, in over 2 and a quarter hours.

There were some reasonable sections and some horrible sections on the Oodnadatta Track. The corrugations felt horrendous and I couldn’t get the little Honda up to a speed where they felt “ironed out”. It was worried that the bike would just fall to bits. Slowly though, the signs to the local landmarks passed by in the dark. Coward Springs, Lake Eyre South and after what seemed like an eternity I arrived at the intersection with Borefield Road turning right towards Roxby Downs. The bottom half of Borefield Road was in pretty good shape, the top half not so much. Somewhere along that road the sun came up. I needed to use the fuel in the jerry can so I emptied it into the tank and took a quick photo.

Sunrise during Dusty Butt ride at Borefield Road

The bulldust holes coming up to and over the crest of the rises on the last half of Borefield Road were diabolical on the little bike and in many cases unavoidable. There were also areas of deep truck ruts in hardened mud to be avoided and near Olympic Dam there was along area of roadworks that required dodging graders, trucks, water sprayers making red mud and freshly tipped soft, deep dirt. After that I got to the 12km or so of bends leading into Olympic Dam fortunately in daylight at this time so no roos.

Along here I felt my time wasn’t going so well so I decided to stop for the turnaround at Lavricks Roadhouse rather than ride the 7.8km’s extra to the BP in Roxby Downs. I wasn’t keen on doing this, I’ve experienced slow and indifferent service there once before but I hoped that it might be quicker than riding the extra distance for good service. On that occasion I think it might have been. However, I left there knowing that I was behind the 6 hours worst case scenario I needed to do each leg in to complete the ride in 24 hours. Mrs Wom rang me as I left town. She was back in Coober Pedy watching my SPOT track and knew I was running behind. I wasn’t ready to give up at that point, I’d make a call when I got back to Coober Pedy.

I rode back through the bends, dodged through the roadworks, back through the diabolical bulldust holes and noted that the corrugations didn’t feel as bad this time. It took a little while to realise that although the wind wasn’t strong it was now behind me and I was holding better speed. This made the riding much more comfortable by skipping over the corrugations and at one point on the Oodnadatta Track I reached my top speed for the ride, 97.6kph.

This time on the long bulldust sections on the William Creek Road with the benefit of sunlight the conditions indicated that I should keep to the left side of the road and just ride at the holes rather than slow down or try to avoid them. Depth varied but there luckily weren’t any sharp edges or bug ruts in them. The front end would still try to tuck, the bike would still try to shoot off in any direction but while I couldn’t stand up on the bike I could apply downward pressure on the pegs to try to stabilise the bike and push the bars to try to keep the front wheel turning forward while still losing speed. However, It was quite physical and hard on the body particularly given I’d already been on the bike for about 10 hours.

I stopped along the way to empty the jerry and took another pic.

Oodnadatta Track during Dusty Butt ride

I managed to dodge all the sharp rocks and boulders closer to Coober Pedy and arrived there a full 35 minutes ahead of schedule. I filled up, grabbed the docket and didn’t need to eat the food I had in the tank bag because Mrs Wom had a ham and cheese toasted sandwich and a can of coke ready for me. I scoffed them down and we chatted briefly.

Half way back at Coober Pedy

I knew I was heading back into the wind and the next leg would be a brutal slog. I also knew that more of the second half of the ride would be in darkness and while being elated that I was now ahead of schedule I knew I was going to lose a chunk of that buffer getting back to Roxby Downs. I had no idea how much.

An exit plan was needed, so Mrs Wom agreed to drive back to William Creek later in the day, have dinner and get a room. When I passed through there the final time sometime about 10.30pm I would make the call, depending on time and fatigue, whether or not to pull the pin on the ride and stay in William Creek. I did not want to tackle the William Creek Road in the dark again just to transport the bike back to Coober Pedy if there was no prospect of making it within 24 hours. It was still very possible that might happen.

Back into the wind the little bike struggled once again to keep a decent speed. I was hoping to stay above 75kph but lots of times I was less than that and the full corrugation punishment was on. Fortunately in the daylight I could more easily identify smoother areas of road and miss corrugations where possible. But where they were unavoidable it felt like the bike and I were about to shake apart. Once again, one by one, I ticked off the landmarks. Lake Eyre looked beautiful but there was no stopping for random pics today. I needed to be disciplined and a couple of minutes could make all the difference.

I emptied the jerry into the tank at the intersection with Borefield Road, the sun was about to go down and there was no point waiting until it got dark.

Oodnadatta Track and Borefield Rd during Dusty Butt

There was about 106kms to go to Olympic Dam and the last turn around. My speed up Borefield Road felt markedly slower, I was heading straight into the wind. The sun went down and the kangaroos came out, I had half a dozen sphincter moments during that section and at one point I found myself completely stopped in the middle of a herd of cattle crossing the road. I was hoping they were well away from there on my way back. I knew the kangaroos would still be around. I also had a couple of sphincter moments in the roadworks. They were carefree about what condition the graders, machinery and trucks left the surface in when they finished up for the day. “Just whack a 40kph sign on it, she be right mate , no-one uses this road at night anyway! Too many roos and cows.”

I arrived at Lavricks Roadhouse and my time buffer had been reduced to 25 minutes after 17 hours 40 minutes of riding. I ate from the tank bag and went inside to pay. The attendant was on the phone messing around with a card payment machine. There were other people lined up to be served. I grabbed a can of coke and opened it. It was gone by the time the attendant turned around. He looked at me and others and went into the kitchen a short time later returning to the phone and machine. My Tourette’s got the better of me. A while later someone from the kitchen came out and asked who was next. The guy at the front of the line who probably heard my involuntary utterance offered to let me in and be served. I thanked him profusely, paid for the fuel and coke and left the empty can on the counter almost running out to the bike, some more of my time buffer blown.

So I had 416kms to go in darkness hopefully with some wind assistance. Despite approaching 18 hours on the bike I felt mentally alert but not in good shape physically. My body had taken a beating up to this point. Mrs Wom rang and I told her it was line ball whether I’d get to William Creek on time to finish the ride. She agreed.

Back through the bends, another struggle through the roadworks, more dodging the worst of the bulldust but with enough speed to make the corrugations barely acceptable. I enjoyed the good section towards the end of Borefield Road and even took a moment to admire the sky and huge moon rising to my left. I channelled Dory for a while “Keep on riding, keep on riding, keep on ….” I Ticked off the Oodnadatta Track landmarks in reverse order and only 250km later arrived at William Creek.

Mrs Wom was waiting there with a coffee in a thermos and a smile. She knew I still had a 15 minute buffer. In theory I only needed to average 71kph for the last 167 kms, not crash, not hit a rock and puncture, not hit a kangaroo and hope that the impressive little Honda kept going without falling apart or missing a beat. I was still mentally good, I guess you don’t have a second to let your mind wander when riding like this and it wasn’t my first rodeo. Physically I was cold, a bit shaky but grateful for the heated grips. My quads were burning, my grip strength was reduced, my neck and shoulders were aching, my jaw and teeth were sore from clenching in fear and, despite the comfy seat, my backside felt like an over enthusiastic dominatrix had taken to it with a cat-o’-nine-tails.

I drank the coffee, emptied the jerry into the tank, embarrassingly fumbling with sore sausage fingers spilling fuel, and left there with 10 minutes buffer still remaining. Mrs Wom jumped into the 200 Series and off we went. I didn’t even get to see the room we had there. I expect it was palatial.

The Anna Creek crossing and the bulldust holes were up first and I made it through. I was feeling stressed being so close to the end with so many things that could bring the ride undone. I kept left and rode at the bulldust holes as planned. I dodged the sharp rocks and boulders further along the track. I had three good kangaroo scares to keep me alert. It seemed to go on and on and on and on. The time to destination didn’t seem to be moving. At last I saw a familiar red light in the distance that marks one of the mines. All too slowly it came closer and closer and suddenly I was riding through the big rocks near the mines at Coober Pedy.

Finally back on the tar Mrs Wom overtook me and headed for the Shell Service Station ready to video my arrival for the finish.

I arrived at the Shell, hopped off the bike, gave her a hug (Mrs Wom not the bike), walked into the servo shop, found a Cherry Ripe, ordered a pie and secured my finish docket timestamped 1:04am. Total ride time of 23hrs 37mins and finished it with 23 minutes to spare. I had even made up a little time from William Creek!

Cherry Ripe at the finish of the ride in Coober Pedy

So that’s it, Almost 24 hours straight on a little air-cooled CB125F in Outback Australia. Lots of pain, lots of emotion, lots of doubt and lots of determination and lots of encouragement from Mrs Wom. Subject to certification it’s now the record for the smallest capacity bike to complete an Ironbutt Association Dusty Butt anywhere in the World.

Reflections and geeky stuff

  • Despite whining about the service speed at Lavricks Roadhouse if I had followed my original plan to get fuel at the BP Roxby Downs It would have added 24 minutes to my ride time. Any service delays there and I would not have finished the ride in time. Despite my frustration it was the correct choice.
  • I thought about and wore correct layers for the whole ride which meant I didn’t need to add, remove layers or my camelback and I just used the heated grips to regulate temperature “feel”.
  • I did some body routine changes over the preceding week which meant I didn’t need to take off most of my riding gear at any of the stops saving at least 10 minutes…at least!
  • My overall average speed (including stops) needed to be 70-71kph to complete the ride in 24 hours. So my minimum moving average needed to be 75kmph to allow me time to stop, eat, fuel etc.. My measured MA was 75.9kph OA 70.3kph. Stopped time (3 stops at fuel turn arounds and 4 jerry stops including the last one in William Creek) was 1hr44mins. Pretty efficient given the conditions.
  • That’s my third and last Dusty Butt.
  • I’m eternally grateful to Mrs Wom for supporting me in these rides and sharing the experience in her own way. I’m sure she’ll share her thoughts on the ride but I can’t imagine how she felt seeing me being thrown around that track on a little bike covered in dust, dodging roos. It was intense. I can’t express how much comfort there is having someone keeping an eye on things ready to send out the cavalry if anything had gone wrong. These rides are higher on the risk scale.
  • I’m also grateful to Chris Watson Motorcycles, Chris, Lincoln and the service team for setting prepping the bike in less than a week and for their assistance and advice re setup.
  • If you know anyone looking for a low kilometre used CB125F, one elderly gent owner and complete dealer service record hit me up.
Etrex collected the stats along the way during Dusty Butt Ride

6 thoughts on “1650kms Dirt 24hrs CB125F Road Bike!”

  1. Done and dusted, literally! Nice read and well done on the ride. Thank you for sharing the story of your dusty butt ride. You know some poor fool will now do one on a scooter. 🙂

  2. I wouldn’t use that bike for a trip down to the shops. Well done, Craig! Your pain and suffering are always a joy to read about. 🙂

  3. You still know how to amaze don’t you Wom. Congratulations to yourself and Mrs. Wom. for your combined effort. Cheers.

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