I felt like going for a bit of a ride but didn’t want to go by myself so I developed a cunning plan. I knew Rob was doing a Trans Australia Insanity (Byron Bay NSW – Denham WA – Byron Bay NSW in less than 6 days). I pretty much knew the route he’d do and if I turned up somewhere along it as part of my ride he wouldn’t have time to tell me to bugger off, he couldn’t stop and wait me out, he couldn’t ride somewhere else – a captive ride partner! Brilliant! Well at least it’s an interesting concept. Perhaps another day.
The truth is I’ve been watching his awesome ride unfold from a position of experience having done it a while back with my buddy Karl. Having been in touch with Rob the day before, which was a tough day’s ride for him, I offered to head out to Gilgandra and keep him company as he made his way to Byron Bay. He thought that would be OK so I hatched a quick ride plan that would see me deliver him on time to his wife and with luck develop into an SS1600K. Timing was the key.
I did my sums and determined the best time for me to leave Newcastle was as he was passing Emmdale Roadhouse. This would see me arrive in Gilgandra 15 minutes or so before him so I could have everything ready to leave when he arrived. The last thing I wanted to do was hold him up.
I readied the recently ridden and unwashed KTM1290 Super Adventure and left Wallsend with a start docket of 10.44am. A bizarre start time for an IBA Ride. I rode familiar ground down the Hunter Expressway then the Golden Highway and was greeted by something that really shouldn’t suprise me
Then not to much further on it happened again. I rode to the front of the queue and the lollypop guy warned me they were spraying tar and it would take about 10 minutes. So I took a photo in front
Waiting, waiting, took the helmet off, got off the bike and had some Gatorade (I always have some in the tank bag) and ate a muesli bar. I put the helmet back on and got ready to go. I waited, I took a selfie wishing that the yellow side of the sign was in front of me not behind. Me taking a selfie, I must have been desperate! It was pretty warm too.
Eventually we were let go. Next was a quick stop to put the Dunee in Dunedoo
It was there I got a message from Rob. I hadn’t considered that Rob might have a couple of breaks along the way and I would arrived at the Shell Truckport about an hour before him. Never mind, all good. I definitely won’t miss him this time.
Then just to add a bit of salt into the roadworks wounds this happened almost within sight of the Shell. I wonder what these guys think when I whip the phone out take photos. Maybe they think it’s a selfie.
I checked the SPOT and Rob was at Nevertire so I had plenty of time for a burger and a drink – it’s well known I’m fond of the plain burgers at this roadhouse but usually only eat at night. But there wasn’t much else to do.
Rob arrived with Knave, who’d been riding with him for a while but not as long as he’d anticipated because of some dramas he may share elsewhere. Rob needed some food and time out so we sat with him and had a bit of fun. “I’m serious about this Rob, you’re going to need to harden up if you want to stick with me. If you can’t keep up I’ll leave you behind.” Just friendly banter to keep him focused and give him something new to think about. Knave and I discussed the ride schedule and timing from this point on while Rob ate and got himself ready to leave. While all that was happening I cleaned Rob’s headlight cover and aux lights, it was approaching dark. Here’s a pic of Rob clearly feeling great and having a wonderful time. Look how clean that headlight cover is!
Knave turned towards home and I led Rob out towards Coonabarrabran at my usual $1.06 give or take. I told Rob I’d ride at about that pace and if he wanted to pass me he was welcome to. He did after a while, tapping his watch. No probs, the K1600GTL with Akrapovic pipes sounds great from behind. There was a moment of GPS/Time confusion at Coonabarrabran, Rob had punched Byron in and it wanted to go another way and he was worried about time. He confirmed he wanted to go through Gunnedah and Tamworth and he fell in behind me. We were doing fine.
On that point. Riding across and back across time zones can do your head in particularly when you start to get the little brain farts a few days in to the ride or the doubts start to set in as you approach the end. On big multi-day rides it doesn’t matter what the local time is except if you are trying to hit a fuel stop before it shuts. But that should be planned for before you start. It really only matters what the time is in your end location. My practice is to set my GPS and bike clock on the time zone I want to use for the whole ride and that’s all I take notice of. A day is 24 hours from my start time and whenever the sun comes up, goes down or what the local time is is irrelevant to my scheduling. I knew Rob had started this ride on Daylight Savings Time and what time he had to finish. I had my GPS and bike clock set up for DST despite it having finished the previous weekend. Call me lazy or clever, I don’t care! But at least that way there’d be no mistakes I’d be responsible for. I found out later that Rob’s flash BMW clock updated the zones as it went. For me that would be a nightmare.
I had a chuckle while passing through Mallaley, its the third time I’ve been through here in 6 days but at least this time it was in the opposite direction! We rode through Gunnedah, stopped for a helmet chat as we entered Tamworth and decided to push on and fuel up at Armidale Airport which would be the last fuel stop we’d need to make. I’d already put an extra layer on at Gilgandra and did my “night setup” there because I knew it would get dark before Tamworth and it would start to get cold.
Rob said he had a litre of fuel left at Armidale which surprised me, the KTM had nine. One day I’ll pack a jerry and ride it until it runs out. The economy is just amazing. We rugged up more and I broke out the winter gloves and vest ready for Guyra and beyond. Cold can effect you really badly when your body is fatigued, it should be managed proactively. I checked that Rob was going well and had done everything he needed to do before heading into this last leg of his ride.
It was a decent run up the New England, not too much traffic. Rob needed a stretch at Glen Innes, while he was stretching I took a pic. Through my earplugs I could hear the local dogs barking like crazy in their houses as Rob walked up and down the footpath. A little yapper in the brick house behind and a bigger one next door.
Before pushing on we decided to grab a warm drink at the local Macas. In terms of a finish time Rob was doing fine but he was a bit apologetic for this delay. He actually was listening in Gilgandra and was worried he was holding me up! I assured him that this was his ride, he could take whatever time he needed and I’d let him know if I thought if things were getting tight time wise. I reassured him that things were all good in terms of him making it on time. My ride didn’t really matter. I also confirmed that based on my experience we’d make up time on the GPS’s on the Bruxner. I’m sure he’ll write a great report from his perspective so for now I’ll stick to my “ride”.
I will say though that the KTM’s still not farkled except for the GPS, etrex and SPOT stuck on. It’s got no coms, no music and importantly for rides like this no auxiliary lights. However in the dark Rob’s Clearwater Sevinas lit me up from behind and I just rode along up the highway bathed in beautiful white light. I just pretended they were mine.
Just before Tenterfield a smallish roo came across the road from my right. As I took some evasive action to the left it sped up towards me and I had visions of the beautiful KTM getting battered and scratched. I instinctively did something you should not do at 100+kph. I stuck my leg out like a big black jousting lance and lined its head up with my heel to stop it hitting the bike. My Daytona boots have a steel shaft running through the sole and they are much more sturdy than they look. My heel was numb for a while, some pins and needles and a warm feeling came and went. But I felt the roo’s head and neck give way and Rob, who thankfully rode around it safely, later reported it had seen it’s last day. The KTM was saved! Rooball!
At Tenterfield we had a quick discussion about the copious corners that were coming up on the Bruxner Highway to Casino. We rode comfortably at our own pace which saw me for much of it out of reach of the Sevinas whose shadows were a bit disconcerting in the tight stuff anyway. The road is a bit rough and the KTM’s electronics and suspension eats this stuff up. I was having bags of fun.
Apology time…. In the past I’ve accused the KTM 1290 Super Adventure’s cornering LED’s as being a gimmick. This has largely been from seeing them flicker on and off occasionally around corners here and there where one wondered why they bothered. Tonight however, in complete blackness, cranking around corner after corner from between 25kph hairpins to 65kph sweepers these things were amazing. They progressively come on the more you lean and if you are looking where you were heading it was bathed in white light that was brighter than the headlight. It only fell short of lighting my path perfectly on one mad right 35kph closing hairpin and I can’t think of a way light could bend quite that much. It worked better on right than left corners because guard rails, bushes etc on the inside of the corners interfered with the light somewhat but it was certainly better than nothing and ordinary aux lighting. Now I’m a convert. These things rock in a difficult night cornering situation like this! Apology done. The headlight’s still rubbish though.
After the corners, where we’d made up all our stopped time at Glen Innes and some more, we rode into Casino and stopped for a chat. Rob made the call to “Get this done” so Lismore and all the little places with lots and lots of speed zones and corners were dispatched until we rode into the BP at Byron Bay where Rob’s wife was waiting, very happy to see his epic adventure over. Congrats Rob, what an amazing ride. I can’t wait to read your report of the whole thing. Here he is, all smiles at the end.
The end of Rob’s ride meant the resurrection of the rest of mine. This involved doing some math. My mistake of leaving Newcastle too early and spending that extra time in Gilgandra essentially burned an hour’s rest. I got settled into my hotel room by 2am and this is how most of the stats looked at that time.
Yep, the max speed doesn’t show. If I showed you what a 1290 Super Adventure can do when overtaking 2 road trains in one hit you’d all want one! I left the Etrex on the bike and running overnight so I could get a snapshot of the whole ride at the end.
My plan was to ride 464kms down the worst road in Australia for keeping a decent pace, the “Pacific Roadworks Speed Camera Highway Patrol Crap Surface Highway” to Taree. TomTom quoted 6 hours, Google Maps 5 hours 25 minutes. So if I was going to ignore TomTom and leave myself 15 or so minutes leeway I’d need to leave by 5am. That left me with 2.5 hours to sleep. Not likely. I momentarily considered abandoning the room and hitting the road but asked the question “Do I really need another SS1600K that badly” The answer was “No, and that queen bed looks comfy!” But I still set the alarm for 4.45am. I didn’t really think I’d do much more than turn it off and roll over.
Sleep didn’t come easily and 4.30am came around. I woke as I normally would at home except today my wife wasn’t getting up to go for a run. There was some noisy weird bird outside though. I spent 10 minutes trying to ignore my body clock, got up, drank some water, ate the hotel biscuits, packed the bike and I was ready to go at 5.04am. The KTM was full of fuel and it had the range to do the 464kms in 5+ hours without stopping. The question was whether I could physically and mentally do it without stopping. Oh well, only one way to find out.
Coming out of Byron onto the motorway to Ballina is fine and then the road turns to t5rds for much of the next 350k’s or so to Port Macquarie except for a bit either side of Coffs Harbour and the Kempsey Bypass. I had my IBA focus head on and was riding as efficiently as possible, risk free and within the limits. Braking hard into low speed zones, accelerating hard out of them, counting every second and taking every opportunity to make up a minute here and a minute there. All the while the roadworks and lines of slow moving traffic were taking almost as many opportunities take my gains back. The riding was not fun at all but trying to beat this challenge and getting determined became fun.
One thing that did keep me busy was a galoot in a ute. He’d fly past me in an overtaking lane and back in the single lanes I’d legally overtake one or two cars or trucks at a time leaving him ultimately behind. The next overtaking lane he’d roar past again. This cycle was repeated four or five times. Small things amuse small minds I know, but it was enough to keep my head in the game and give me something that actually turned the congestion and endless lines of slow traffic into some semblance of a good time.
Grafton, Coffs, Kempsey, Port Macquarie, I can never remember what order Macksville fits in, and finally I emerged onto some decent dual carriageway and the ride was nearly over.
At the Taree Service Centre I got straight off the bike, walked into the Caltex and picked up a Cherry Ripe Twin Pack. The docket 10.16am. Done!
Here’s the stats. Just enough to get across the line for an SS1600K and Google Maps later confirmed 1620kms for the whole route. I can’t believe the stopped time of 6:12. That’s a full night’s sleep for someone who just went out and did one! A bit different to my usual 1hr 26mins in an SS1600K. The whiteout didn’t wash off the etrex screen either :-).
Now I needed not only a witness but in the rush to leave yesterday I didn’t bring any spare IBA paperwork. A perfect solution came to mind. Less than 1km away from my finish location is Fineline Motorcyles owned by Iron Butt Rally and FarRider legends Shane and Annette Cudlin. Annette greeted me warmly and told me I looked tired. I told her what I’d been up to and she offered me coffee and facilities to print out a witness form. She then graced it with her signature and insisted on a photo. Dusted! Thanks Annette, I really appreciate your help and the coffee. It was also nice to catch up and chat. Here we are.
Frankly I fell apart a bit after that and after some down time I took it very easy during the couple of hours ride back to home for a nanna nap.
Congrats to Rob again on an amazing ride and for allowing me to tag along for a while. It was fun!
Here’s the map of my ride. SS1600K number 27 I think. Mrs Wom asked me why I bothered finishing the ride as an SS1600K. I said I didn’t know. But I didn’t ask her why she was running 13 marathons this year!