Day 1: Newcastle NSW to Geelong VIC (Torquay) – 1111kms
An intentionally later start this morning than usual at the local servo. A casual observer/SPOT watcher might think today was a short transport leg but was actually the start of a planned longish multi-day ride. If everything went like clockwork this ride was to finish 9 days later at the same time of day.
93TigerBill assisted with the sendoff and paperwork and I rode out into quite a nice morning heading south through Sydney then hopping onto the Hume Hwy. I was wondering why all the fuss was being made about an arctic “weather event” bringing cold and rain, it looked to me like it was over. Just past Goulburn I wasn’t wondering any more. The temperature dropped quickly below the teens and settled at 8 after dipping to 5 and the rain set in. At my first stop, the Dog on the Tuckerbox at Gundagai, it was even too miserable to take a pic of the dog which is sort of a tradition for me. I filled the bike, took some time to eat, warm up, switch on the heated vest and put on the down jacket I had packed for the sub zero temperatures I was expecting in a couple of day’s time.
Here’s a pic of the wet ST1300 in the rain at Gundagai.
The weather didn’t really improve during the rest of the ride south but it wasn’t really an issue. Just part of LD riding that we all accept without fuss. I initially intended only to stop once in the 1100k’s today but with little improvement in the weather and the sun going down I needed to stop briefly at Wallan VIC for a hot chocolate and defrost before banging out the last 100 odd kilometres to Geelong.
I should point out that the ST1300 is fitted with a 16 litre auxiliary tank and that with good fuel and steady riding gives me a range of 800-900kms. I’ve been working on 500+km intervals between stops for a while now in order to achieve some of the sections of this ride efficiently. I wanted to practice them today and tomorrow for the main event coming up.
I arrived in Geelong on time, organised some take away Chinese and contacted Nico, a FarRider, who had kindly offered to give me some help getting away tomorrow morning for the start of my first south-north 50CC (50 hours Coast to Coast). I packed everything I wouldn’t need access to in the morning an lined them up in the “right order” near the door of the room ready for a quick getaway.
Day 2: Torquay VIC to Port Augusta SA – 1029kms
After a good night’s sleep I was up at 5am, packed the bike and was almost ready to close the door when Nico arrived to escort me to Torquay, the start point for the 50CC. It had been raining overnight and was quite cool. So the down jacket and the heated vest were already on and I slipped a pair of Hotteeze into the boots. I haven’t tried these ones before, very nice. At Torquay I filled the bike and organised the paperwork.
Nico signed me out and then led the way, deciding despite the cold and pretty crappy weather it would be fun to go for an early morning ride and keep me company for a while. Typical LD Rider! Here he is.
I was grateful for the local knowledge and for not needing to follow my GPS which was complaining loudly about the faster route Nico took. Thanks mate.
We wound our way onto the Midland Highway and around Ballarat and out on to the main road west. Nico pulled over in Beaufort, it was time for him to turn around. I suggested some coffee and he gave me a bit of an odd look thinking I’d be on my way as I was “on the clock”. But with only 1029k’s to ride I wasn’t in any hurry today which I guess is a bit strange given the ride I was undertaking. So coffee, bacon and egg sandwiches and a nice chat were in order. 30-40 minutes later I was on my way. I had in mind to stop at the Pink Lake for a quick pic, I rode past it in January this year on another IBA ride and made a mental note to grab it next time I was in the area.
Then another quick stop for a pic at the SA border before getting fuel at Border Town, my last planned stop before Port Augusta 576kms away and some more non stop practice.
Adelaide traffic wasn’t too bad and only one small directional hiccup making my way through kept me on track as far as my timing for today was concerned.
After a nod of respect looking up the road to Wilmington at the cloud covered mountains I arrived at the Highway 1 Motel just on dark. I checked in and headed off to the 24hr BP close by to grab a plain hamburger. I don’t know why I bothered, the service there is awful, the burgers not much better. In any case I ate, called my wife, filled the bike, went back to the motel to get ready for another quick getaway planned for just after midnight SA time.
The end of two easy days preparing for the main event. I was excited.
Day 3: Centreline 24, Port Augusta SA to Darwin NT – 2722kms
Awake at 11.15pm I scoffed down some sultanas, a muesli bar, some biscuits and I was out the door heading for the Shell Coles Express servo next door for a signature and a start docket for the biggest day planned for this ride. A Centreline 24 from Port Augusta to Darwin which Google says is 2722kms.
I walked in to the shop and grabbed an iced coffee from the fridge. The attendant, Richard, saw the folder I was carrying and I could tell he knew what I wanted. He told me he’d signed Iron Butt forms before and was happy to help out. With half the iced coffee skulled and the rest in the bin I was on my way into the darkness. The Baja Designs Squadron Pros and S2’m mounted above the mirrors on the ST certainly made a huge dent in the darkness though. The squadrons are simply amazing lights! It was about 10 degrees at the time, I knew it was going to get a whole lot colder before it warmed up.
About Pimba I had a little technical glitch with a mirror which saw me fussing around in the dark for a bit. I rode past Glendambo which was all closed up and my first fuel stop was Coober Pedy 546kms from Port Augusta. The temperature had dropped to 1 degree and it was windy. I needed to effect some minor repairs to the bike and my fuel stop routine was upset. After I left I felt something wasn’t quite right and about 15kms or so out I realised I couldn’t remember putting a docket into my wallet. I stopped and looked – no docket! I said a very bad word but nobody was around to hear so it was OK. I know that the IBA would probably be OK with a lost docket, there wasn’t anywhere else I could have gone and I could have proved the stop with my credit card statement. But I was furious I had made such a simple mistake and was determined to make it right no matter what the impact to the ride. So around I went and I retrieved a copy of the docket from the very obliging attendant.
With more time wasted than I really had for this very time critical ride the temperature dropped to minus 2 but mostly stayed on -1 to 0 degrees as I rode the next leg to Marla. I’m not sure if it was the stress from the mistake, the cold or the ordinary BP hamburger but during this leg I began to feel quite unwell. I arrived at Marla, only 234kms from Coober Pedy only needing to get a receipt. The IBA requires that receipts are no more than 600km apart. The next fuel stop planned was Alice Springs which is more than 600kms from Coober Pedy so I needed a receipt somewhere between he two to comply with the rules.
At Marla I needed to take a moment and a bit more to sort out the nausea and stomach cramps. I didn’t think I’d take any photos today but while I wasn’t progressing anywhere near as well as I thought I might as well take one here.
After a while I felt a little better so I continued to ride north but at that point in the ride I had already accumulated 54 minutes stopped time. This was bad, my usual stopped time in a 24 hour ride is 80-86 minutes for the whole day. I needed to get much more efficient if I was going to get anywhere near the plan and that meant maintaining a decent OA (overall average speed) and minimise any further stopped time.
I set off at a very easy pace in the last bit of South Australia while I got my head together. Fortunately I was feeling well by the time I’d reached the border and the 130kph speed limit. Now I had an opportunity to build an OA that would see me finish the ride within 24 hours. If I couldn’t build it I would not make it.
The next stop was the Shell on the way out of town in Alice Springs. I was cross they didn’t have 98 PULP as it signalled the start of my fuel consumption going from high 5 to low 6 litres per 100km to 7 or more. I shook my head as I pumped the weird sweet smelling dodgy fuel in that you get in the Northern Territory into the ST.
North of Alice Springs are Australia’s only unlimited speed zones and it was in my plan to use this to my advantage. Other IBA riders had mentioned topping up the fuel tank at Ti Tree to ensure sufficient fuel for the second unlimited stretch around Barrow Creek so they can reach Tennant Creek. My strategy was to calculate the maximum average fuel consumption (7.8 litres per 100km) that I was very comfortable would allow me to reach Tennant Creek without stopping. I couldn’t see any point in going flat out and making an extra stop. Speed in IBA rides does not necessarily equate to progress.
The wind had dropped, traffic was very light, the sun was high and not in my eyes and the bike and fuel consumption together selected 170kph as the efficient cruising speed. Higher than that it got too thirsty. I passed through Ti Tree, Barrow Creek and was in Tennant Creek ahead of schedule. To explain the limit, there’s no speed limit but you can’t ride dangerously or negligently and you always should ride within the conditions. I obeyed the law to the letter. I read a ride report by Knave a while back who mentioned travelling at 170kph for an hour and now I know what he meant. It’s really what bikes like GTR’s, FJR’s, ST’s and GT/RT BMW’s are built for.
I made the 508kms to Tennant Creek without stopping and without running out of fuel. I chose the Mobil service station rather than the more popular and busier 24hr BP. I filled both tanks, emptied one, ate some sultanas, a muesli bar and drank an iced coffee. At this point I was very close to my ride plan time but still had 900kms to go. The next stop, 405 kms up the road, was Daly Waters. I set the cruise to a speed that would not get me noticed and was on my way with a minimal delay.
As I rode up the Stuart Hwy during the day I took in the scenery, old flat topped mountains, red soil, various road houses and tourist icons like the Devil’s Marbles. I was glad I’ve done this road a few times before, it would have been a big shame to come here and not have any pictures of this spectacular part of Australia.
I arrived at Daley Waters within minutes of my ride plan. During that leg it became very clear that the NT fuel and the 130kph speed limit required fuel consumption to be monitored very closely if I was going to make the full distance to Darwin (589kms) without stopping again. I filled the bike ate some food from the top box and was out of there very fast. I was determined to keep fuel consumption to less than 7.4 litres per 100km and aim for a moving average for this leg of about 126kph. There were a few towns and some 110kph areas towards the end that would slow things down.
I was feeling great, thinking (as you do) to pass the time. Fatman and Lynne’s recent 50CC ride on this route came to mind. The 50CC is demanding enough without riding it two up but how great it would be to have someone to share a ride like this with in what is usually a very solitary sport. Their tale of this ride was one of the things that inspired me to alter my early ride plans to have a crack at it and extend the ride past Darwin. I thought of the other riders who have successfully done a Centreline 24. Davo, the founder of FarRiders, OzRider, OX-34 who are the three listed finishers. Lionel and Ziggy who I believe have done it (or should have) and Tabledrain who once rode 3000km in one day up this way. All icons of the sport who I respect greatly. I wondered what they did to keep their mind occupied during a ride like this. Enough of that, time to focus on finishing this sucker.
The sun went down, I saw a few kangaroos and cows about about but nothing close as the sun went down. At one point after dark while heading towards a bend I was blinded by a ute flashing its lights. My eyes recovered part way around the bend as I between a bunch of cows on either side of the road. Thankfully none were in my path but the heart rate took a while to settle. Pine Creek, Adelaide River and other familiar places were put behind me. Fuel consumption was close to my comfort zone but would reduce when the limit dropped. In any case I hit reserve about 40kms out but knew I’d be fine.
At Noonamah I rode up to a FarRider, Brickman, who had come out to meet me and assist. After a short chat he, and Loubre, escorted me along Tiger Brennan Drive into the city. It can be difficult after such a long ride through remote regions to get your head around traffic, traffic lights and quick direction changes so it’s really nice just to sit back and follow someone who knows where they are going without having to think too much. Thanks guys.
The Shell in Daly St Darwin is a common end point for 50CC’s and the Centreline 24. Riding in I saw Allan and Julie H (who were holidaying from SA but watching the SPOT track), and WendyL. I arrived exactly on my ride plan time 11.20pm (Central Time). It was fantastic to have people to share my enthusiasm about getting this ride done. After a quick chat it was time to get a Cherry Ripe twin pack and an end docket to seal the deal.
We laughed and chatted for a while and the witness forms were duly signed.
I then went back to Wendy’s place who kindly offered me some sausages and salad and a spare bed for the 6 or so hours remaining before I was to leave Darwin for the next leg of the ride. I really appreciate your generosity Wendy, thanks again. I slept very soundly indeed.
The Centreline 24 stats from the Etrex for those of you interested in the numbers.
- Total Distance: 2760kms (remember the double back to Coober)
- Moving time: 21:25
- Stopped time: 1:40
- Overall Average: 120kph.
Today’s ride had also made up for the shortfall in kilometres ridden in the first two days. I was now squarely back on IBA pace from the start in Newcastle with 8 or so hours banked. Tomorrow I’d be heading west and into areas I’ve never ridden before. I was ready for it.