“You just have to accept you are too big for the bike and you can’t do it” my wife said. You would think as a Clinical Psychologist who’s been married to me for 21 years she would have known better than to slap me with a glove and lay down a challenge like that. Or maybe she knew what my response would be.
Up to that point I’d abandoned my 2 year goal of riding my little Repsol CBR125R (Little Mango) 2000km in 24 hours. It had not been done before in Australia. Blown engines on two previous attempts have been disheartening and expensive. But the day following my wife’s unfair comment Little Mango was being serviced and a 12.30am start was pencilled in. Fingers were crossed that the heatwave out west and the violent thunderstorms locally would take a break for a day. My wife just shook her head. I couldn’t see if she was smiling.
I threw together a 2003km route that avoided the Hume Highway, the scene of the two motor explosions. The route also included a bailout close to home for an SS1600k if needed. The last 400k’s or so were reasonably close to home, just in case she blew again. A plan for failure rather than a failure to plan. The ride had one rule. No matter what I was not going to take the bike past 8,500 rpm, even downhill with a tailwind.
Here’s the route
With a docket at 12.37am I rode off into the dark from the Shell at Hexham, my only concern at that stage was that the expedited preparation of the bike didn’t include sorting out why the Denali D2 LED’s once again refused to operate on full intensity.
I rode the very familiar route towards Denman and beyond. This time without the usual cold or fog which was relaxing and a nice change. The ever present wildlife however provided the balance required to keep me very alert. My target OA for the ride was 85kph, I knew in previous runs through here on Little Mango that I could manage that without flogging the bike. But I was running this road twice today and just because it was to be the slowest leg of the ride it wasn’t the place to panic.
Under at streetlight at Mendooran I filled the tank from the 10 litre jerry I was packing. From previous runs I knew I had enough on board to make it to my first docket and fuel stop at Walgett (585 kms). This isn’t the only bike I have that I use this exact strategy for. Between Gilgandra and Gulargambone I had a couple of near misses with kangaroos. During that stretch it also got surprisingly cool but the heated grips sorted that well enough when I remembered I had them on the little CBR.
As the sun rose over Gulargambone I finally looked at the etrex noted I’d picked up a touch over 7 minutes on my ride plan so I took the opportunity to stretch the legs and call my wife. I also tested out the Camelback, which is now a permanent fixture in my LD kit, that I’d decided to try seriously for the first time. Housekeeping done it was time to get back on the road and head for Walgett. The BP was supposed to open at 7am, the plan saw me arrive at 7.22am. I was hoping that Walgett time isn’t like Fiji time and the servo would be open, the little bike likes the Ultimate 98.
I arrived at 7.21am, still with the 7 minutes in the bank and spent 10 minutes filling the bike and emptying the… well you know. I took note of the fuel economy and realised that the different riding style and the new, second hand, motor was running with surprising efficiency. This might be a bonus!
I really like riding in the stretch Walgett – Brewarrina – Bourke. Not sure why, it’s strangely beautiful in it’s desolation. The roos you see are huge but mostly dead in the day, the emus run in chaotic packs that make me laugh until they cross my path. I think it’s also that around the 700k mark which for me is the point where the general chaos that is life is processed and completely replaced by the serenity of the open road. Out there nothing exists but the sound of your motor, your favourite tunes and what you can see.
My last stop at Bourke riding the 125 was a debacle. This time I stopped at the Bogas on the way into town for an iced coffee and a corner docket. “$10 minimum on the card, love.” “Charge me $10 for the iced coffee, dear.” “Pardon?” “I don’t need anything else, sorry.” “OK, no worries, I’ll just run it through at the right price.” “Thanks, much appreciated.” Always works!
The mid-morning was getting warm and turning from Bourke towards Nyngan put me head first into the building wind. Time to tuck in, knuckle down and appreciate the Camelback. I was heading into Bogan country. Fortunately the wind didn’t slow me down too much unless I sat up. My OA was safe enough for now.
While I was considering the increasing temperature of the day and acknowledging that I was well past where I thought I might require the jerry refill, two kangaroos bolted out of the trees from my left. My only thought was, “I can’t miss them.” Perhaps there was another word preceding that. I tried to pick a line between them. I didn’t have the grunt too get around the front of the first one, I didn’t have the road to go behind the second. If I braked the second would jump straight into me. That would be very bad.
I connected with the rear end of the first roo as it passed in front of me. All I could see was a big wall of grey fur. There was a marked, dull crunch but fortunately the bike wasn’t upset too much. The second one jumped behind me. Lucky. I didn’t stop straight away. I listened to the motor, checked the steering, tested the brakes and checked for anything that felt odd, including my body. I noticed I could see roadway where I should not have been able to see it. Then I stopped.
The roo strike had taken the whole of the right side fairing off including the blinker. The headlight assembly was still there and the wiring harness was hanging in mid air. The roo’s tail had smacked the front mudguard which was cracked in two places but stable enough. Here’s a pic of the damage taken later.
For about 1 second I thought that the ride was over. Then I got a little cross and decided while the bike was rideable I wasn’t stopping for anything. The heated grips had lost power, didn’t need them. The auxilliary lights no longer worked, didn’t need them either. The blinkers didn’t work, well they are for other road users not me and besides, I only had another 1000kms to go!
I refilled the tank from the jerry and off I went, more determined than ever to succeed. The fuel consumption was such that I was able to ride through Nyngan and comfortably make Gilgandra and save a stop, fantastic! I arrived at Nyngan right on schedule with the 7 minutes picked up on the first leg still banked, but only just.
The wind was behind me heading from Nevertire to Gilgandra which afforded me the opportunity to sit up from time to time and stretch. I was starting to suffer, my knees in particular, from the dissonance between my size and Little Mango’s available space. The stop at Gilgandra was welcome and I used some of the time I made up with the tail wind and saving the stop at Nyngan to stretch out a bit and reset.
Riding back through Mendooran, Dunedoo, Merriwa and Denman it was difficult to resist the urge to push a bit harder and maintain my focus on keeping the revs down to limit the risk of another engine disaster. While it was good to be back into some hills and corners the bike slowing down up hill at this stage of the ride was disconcerting.
During this part of the ride a few things fell off the bike and one of the parking lights fell out of the front of the fairing and extinguished itself. I panicked a bit, worried that the headlight might have stopped working.
I made it to the BP at Beresfield 12 minutes ahead of schedule and used all of it to get set for the night. I was elated when I saw that the headlight was indeed still blazing. Only 400k’s and some change to go.
The turn around was the Donut (BP and McDonalds) at the Pacific Hwy and the Oxley a Thrumster (near Port Macquarie). I had decided to have something to eat and was aware that at night the BP makes you prepay for fuel. This is a dead waste of time, so to be efficient I filled the bike up from the jerry in the McDonalds carpark. 1 docket and no double shuffling the bike.
Then came the the home leg. I found a semi trailer that looked in good nick whose loss of speed uphill and speed limited downhills made it a perfect companion for drafting. This allowed me to sit up for most of the trip home which was very welcome. I was really, really feeling it by then.
The planned finish was Hexham, Google maps supported the distance at 2003kms but the etrex read 1998kms. The planned OA gave me 30 minutes grace and I still had a touch more than that so I passed through and finished the ride at Lambton. With the final docket obtained buying my traditional twin pack of Cherry Ripes, Jeffrey the servo attendant knew exactly why I was there and had his pen ready to sign the witness form.
Here’s the etrex stats
My wife got up to greet me, smiling a strange smile like she thought she might have been responsible for me finally getting this monkey off my back. I’m grateful to never need to try that one again.
Here’s a couple more photos of the bike. It’s being fixed but now between this and the engines I’ve now bought it twice.
The roo tail left it’s mark
Does it look symmetrical. Looks a bit like the busted terminator “I’ll be back”.
Edit: 28 Jan ’15. Little Mango’s home now and all fixed. His Iron Butt career is over, maybe.
And a special new style certificate turned up for this ride recognising the “Not Right” nature of it, despite having ridden quite a few that would have qualified in the past. A nice bonus from the IBA.