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Easter Canter

Discussion in 'Roads, Touring, Journeys, and Travel' at netrider.net.au started by PatB, Mar 24, 2008.

  1. Much to my shame, as owner of one of the archetypal tourers, it's been a very long time since I rode more than an hour or two in a day. More than a decade in fact. I'm not sure why really. It just hasn't happened.

    That looks likely to change in the near future, however, as I'm planning a substantial and quite ambitious trip which, if it happens, will get a commensurately substantial write-up here.

    In the meantime though, I need to get a few more long day-trips under my belt, both as practice and to find out if I've still got the stamina to spend a day in the saddle and then get up the next morning ready to do it all again. And the next morning and the next for a week or ten days.

    This Easter Sunday, a mate was due to race his Yam LC350 at Collie with the local Historic Club. Collie's a new track about 200 km from Perth. Not having seen it before, and wanting to put in some kms, I decided to go along to provide moral support and a helping hand to load the bits back into the van when it all went pear shaped.

    Instead of taking the direct route, I decided to take a long swing through the Wheatbelt and Great Southern, pushing the distance out to over 300 km each way. Not too taxing on the R1100RT ubertourer, but a start.

    Before setting out, I debated whether to put the thermal liner in my jacket. Putting it in would have entailed finding it and I was impatient to get moving so, with a "Well, it's bound to get hot later" I rolled out of the driveway in an unlined DriRider, a t-shirt and thick leather jeans.

    A few minutes later, fuelling up at the Lakes, the decision still seemed reasonable as the grey pre-dawn light heralded the arrival of the sun. Pulling out onto the Great Southern Highway, I flicked on the heated grips, set the screen to its highest setting and thought warm thoughts.

    Being Easter Sunday in rural Western Australia, I was somewhat uncertain of fuel availability. The R1100 gives me a comfortable 350 km on a tank and an "oh sh*t, please let me find an open petrol station soon" 400 km range. I reckoned that the run to Collie would be decently inside these figures and that there was a strong likelihood that Collie would have an open servo to set me up for the run home.

    Half an hour after filling up, I'd skirted York and was on the road south to Beverley when a light shower of rain made a couple of things impossible to ignore. The rain itself was only enough to see a few droplets chasing each other up my visor, but the clouds they came from stretched from horizon to horizon and showed no sign of letting the sun, which was definitely up by now, through to warm imprudently dressed motorcyclists.

    The other realisation was that the heat from the heated grips, wonderful as it was, was getting to about 10 cm below my elbows, before being sucked from my body by the wind which was finding its way past the barn-door and through the mesh panels of my jacket.

    I was starting to get seriously cold.

    On the bright side, as stated previously, heated grips are fantastic. Mine, combined with the big RT mirrors that act as hand protectors, render anything other than light summer gloves redundant at any time of year here in WA. Where my leathers were keeping the draughts out was OK too. It was just my torso that was suffering.

    The roads were pretty much empty, though, and the bike was running like a dream. Out on the open road the R's biggest failing, the crudity of its transmission, is largely irrelevant and it becomes possible to really enjoy the excellent riding position, the ample torque from the twin and the brilliant ride and handling from its unconventional suspension.

    At the speed limit or thereabouts, the gently undulating Wheatbelt roads were despatched entirely in top, with all necessary speed adjustment for the gently sweeping bends done on the throttle. Not being fully familiar with the roads, I didn't completely ignore the advisory speeds for the bends, but soon found that the big R was utterly undramatic at 1.5 times the signed figure and could very easily have gone faster still, had I been in the mood for a spirited ride.

    Beverly passed, complete with Vampire(?) jet at the roadside, more or less opposite the strange, golf-ball dome that used to be (not sure if it still is) the local servo. It's a wonderful period piece from the 60s or 70s. I hope it's Heritage listed because it would be a great shame if it went. I must take a few photos some day.

    Beverley is also home to an odd little aviation museum, seemingly made up of the contents of someone's shed and the more removeable bits of the Vampire. I didn't stop this time but I've been before and it's a worthwhile way of spending half an hour and a couple of bucks if you're passing through.

    As I headed for Brookton, the sun rose higher behind the murk but, crucially, the temperature didn't and life remained uncomfortable as the roads, clouds and bike continued unchanged.

    Brookton proved to be shut, as did the next significant centre, Pingelly. The few roadhouses that I passed may or may not have showed signs of life, but further investigation didn't appeal.

    Eventually, though, Narrogin hove in sight. A substantial town holding the promise of, at least, a roadhouse pie and watery coffee. To accompany my rising spirits, the clouds parted and I actually felt a touch of the sun on my back. Things were looking up.

    Things looked up still further when, as I toured the town centre in the distant hope of finding an open cafe, I spied an open bakery selling, oh wonder of wonders, a wide variety of hot pies.

    Well, they advertised a wide variety of hot pies anyway. The Vietnamese ladies behind the counter were most apologetic as I worked my way down the list of desirable but out of stock products. Eventually I settled for a chicken and veggie and wandered outside to eat sitting in the thin sunshine. A hot pie seldom tastes so good as when consumed through blue lips to enter an ice bound stomach, and this was a particularly good one.

    Say what you like about multiculturalism, but if it allows the ownership of rural bakeries by people whose cultural background compels them to sell hot pies to chilly motorcyclists at 9 am on Easter Sunday, I'll defend it to the death :grin: .

    As I was leaving, the bike's sense of humour manifested itself when the starter motor stalled against compression (as it seems to do occasionally when the engine comes to rest in a certain spot) when I attmpted to make a rapid getaway to avoid making conversation with the town drop-kick who'd unerringly homed in on a new face. Sub audible threats involving large hammers, a need for scrap aluminium and the cheapness and availability of mildly crashed GTR1000s which always work got things moving again, albeit with the ABS lights flashing merrily as they sometimes do when the battery's had to work a bit harder than usual. Nothing that an idiot free stop and restart didn't cure though.

    Leaving Narrogin, I headed west for Williams (which was shut) and on through ever denser trees to Collie, where I rolled into the open Caltex with 304 kms showing since my previous fill up. 18 litres of Premium went in, giving a figure of, pretty much spot on, 6l/100 km, which, I'll admit, was a bit disappointing, as I don't do much worse than that on my semi-urban commute.

    At the pumps I got talking to an older guy on a fast plastic (possibly a ZXR something or other but I didn't get a good enough look) who'd made the same lack of jacket liner mistake I had. He was heading for the Historics too, and gave me more detailed directions to the track (which is 10-15 kms out of town) than I previously had. Nice chap, but judging by the volume, he maybe should have started wearing earplugs 20 years ago. For that matter, maybe I should too :grin: .

    I only missed one turning and got to the track mid-morning, to meet up with Brian and his LC. The news wasn't all good, with a seizure and resultant crash during practice the day before, followed by a frantic overnight rebuild involving wet and dry and a borrowed cylinder hone to alleviate some of the damage to the right hand cylinder. On the upside, Sunday morning practice had revealed no further problems.

    In spite of the hectic atmosphere, I was plied with hot tea (you're a life saver mate :grin: ) before my hosts had to line up for their first race and I wandered off to find a vantage point.

    The first lap went OK and the black LC seemed to be going well in the middle of the pack, but, reaching the braking point at the end of the back straight, I saw a lot of smoke come off the back tyre before the bike went out of sight. I entertained some hope that he'd simply overcooked the back brake, but when he didn't reappear I assumed the worst and headed for the paddock entrance to help push back to the van.

    Sure enough, another seizure, though, thankfully, no crash this time. So that was that for the day. A squint at the plugs revealed no obvious mixture problems so diagnosis was delayed pending a proper strip down and check at home.

    Fellow stroker racers offered sympathy and suggestions, confirming the sporting and comradely nature of historic club competition.

    With nothing else to do for the rest of the day, we wandered around admiring bikes, watching the racing, drinking tea and eating ham rolls. Highlights, for me, were the astoundingly fast A-Series HRD (the proto-Vincent), with a noise guaranteed to revive any coma patient with red blood in their veins, and the Kwak KH250 with the same.....er......patina as the one I was offered for 90 quid twenty years ago and a forest of battered expansion chambers sprouting around the rear wheel. Obviously a budget effort and also sounded brilliant in its own way.

    The Collie circuit itself promises to be an excellent venue. The track is short (a good lap is well under a minute) but interesting and the paddock is small and intimate. A relatively small meeting such as the historics, isn't dwarfed by the facilities. It's all a bit stark at the moment, but when the landscaping matures, it promises to be very nice indeed. An excellent alternative to Wanneroo.

    Racing over and casualties loaded, I headed home in late afternoon, retracing my route of the morning. The trip was pretty much a rerun of the morning, minus the cold and the pie. A brief stop at Pingelly confirmed that it was still shut and I completed a 10 minute leg stretch without a single vehicle passing along the main highway.

    Back on the road, my heart rate increased for a moment as an oncoming car revealed its policeness, but my indicated 120 evidently didn't upset its occupant as he didn't pull the U-turn of doom or even look my way.

    The final 60-70 kms was a little hairy as I was now riding into the setting sun and visibility was a bit limited, but I made it safely enough, to roll into my own driveway having covered 650 odd kms in 6.75 hours on the road (including pie stop, leg stretch and two fill-ups).

    Best of all, I was comfortably ache free this morning and would, given the chance, have gone and done it all again today. Admittedly, the RT must be generously credited and does not form part of the plan for the Big Trip, for reasons that will become clear should it happen, but, all in all, I think I can do it :grin: .