Thanks WhereIS! Just got back from the first 'proper' ride I've been on for a while (I can do my place to Montrose and back via Mountain Hwy, Mt Dandenong Tourist Hwy and Ridge Rd in about an hour, so have been doing that rather than exploring further.) So, having a full day to ride, I decided to roam a bit further. A while back, along with a couple of other users, I came up with a loop from my place through Montrose, Monbulk, Emerald, Cockatoo, Gembrook, and back. Looking at it on a map, it looks great. What neither Google Maps or Garmin Mapsource (WhereIS maps) picked up on was the long-standing dislike of sportsbikes for dirt roads! Me being the primarily nocturnal creature that I am, I didn't get moving until about 3pm - having not taken the ever-earlier sunsets of May into account. The ride should have taken a bit over of 3 hours, meaning that, travelling at the speed limit, I should have been back by 6ish. 3 months ago that would have been fine, but nowadays it's pretty dark by then. Generally not an issue, but I was going rural, where street-lights are few and far between. So there were the two issues that I was blissfully unaware of as I slipped into my still new Astars suit, clipped the Zumo into it's cradle and eased out of the driveway. The intended route started with my 'regular' squirt up Forest Rd, Mountain Hwy and Ridge Rd to Montrose. From there it was into the unknown as the friendly voice in my ears through the wired Earmolds from the Zumo pointed me East. It is worth mentioning at this point that another annoyance was becoming painfully apparent - wired Earmolds are horrible things if left hanging in the wind. Now, I use these things every day on my way to and from work, but they are tucked into my jacket where the connections are protected. I have even gone to the lengths of wrapping and padding the connectors so that they don't knock together. The problem is that any contact at these connections is transmitted directly up the wires and into your ears, suitably amplified so you can't miss it. What I was discovering was that wind noise behaves in exactly the same way, and the wrapping I had done was woefully insufficient to prevent this. Being clad in a 1-piece suit meant that I couldn't tuck the wires in, as there was no exit point for the cable to get to the Zumo. The result was a couple of hours of transmitted wind noise that was probably worse than it would have been with no plugs. I am working on a solution to this, and a write-up of the Earmolds in general which will be up soon. Anyhoo, an hour or so into the eastward journey and the sun did what it does, and went down. This I was expecting. What I wasn't as prescient about what the accompanying drop in temperature. It had a been a cool afternoon, but riding in the sun had been decidedly pleasant. No sun and the drop of something like 5 degrees in half an hour (felt like 15) was not so. Needless to say the wonderfully cooling ventilation of the Astars suit continued doing it's job, above and beyond what I wanted at the time. Now, I had come across a couple of intersections where the Zumo had politely directed me to turn off the nice sealed road to a washed out, rutted rural dirt-track. Well, they were actually quite good as far as dirt roads go, but the GSXR, shod with Michelin Pilot Roads, isn't exactly a dual-purpose machine, so in each case I decided that the sealed road heading in vaguely the same direction was a better bet. This is essentially my attitude to exploring with the GPS - I load the route at the start of the ride, but from there take it's direction as suggestion rather than compulsion, knowing that every time I differ from the plan the machine will recalculate within a few seconds and figure out a new way to get to the next checkpoint. So there I was, on completely unfamiliar roads, in the dark, getting rapidly colder, with a 9.5cm 'map' that didn't know the difference between a freeway and a goat track. When the road I was on somwehere outside Cockatoo went from nicely sealed, smooth bitumen to hard-packed gravel I had little choice but to continue, albeit at greatly reduced speed. It was one of those dirt roads that banks sharply at the edges, meaning that I had to stick to the centre wheel track to avoid the washout or the alternative of having the tyres slip out from under me and into the ditch running along the side. Needless to say, a bit of road that doesn't seem all that long when you're zipping along at 80 concentrating on your lines and lean becomes seemingly endless when crawling along at 30 trying to pick out every rut and pothole in the small pool of illuminated road ahead. This was the story of my progress for the next hour or so, and everytime I came to the end of a stretch of dirt to a sealed cross road, it would last only a couple of ks before returning again to dirt. On the whole, thankfully, the standard of the surface was pretty good, all things considered. The darkness, temperature and slow going was taking it's toll however, and it wasn't too long before I decided to abandon the planned route altogether and hit the "Go Home" option on the Zumo to find the quickest way home. By this time I was somewhere down around Pakenham Upper, and it had gone 5:30. My expectation was that the Zumo, which doesn't understand the concept of fun, will always send you on the fastest, straightest route to your selected destination. Given that I was losing feeling in my fingers and tiring of the constant roar in my ears, that was just fine with me. What I didn't know was that in the area I had wandered to the were no main roads. What there is, and what the Zumo decided was the fastest way back, was the worst corrugated, loose-topped bit of single lane gravel I have ever ridden (which isn't saying much, really, but it was pretty unpleasant at the time!) Not having the patience to find an alternative I rattled my way through the slowest, most mentally intense few kilometers of my riding life. Thankfully I had the road pretty much to myself, only having to negotiate one car coming the other way, although it did make me wonder what I would do if something important shook loose on the bike and the phone failed to get reception... Looking down at the GPS, I noticed that the ETA for home was rapidly approaching 8pm - it now being a bit after 6. The Zumo calculates the ETA based on the 'class' of roads on the route - ie freeways = 100km/h, highways = 80km/h, main roads = 60km/h, back roads = 50km/h. Given that I was doing 30km/h, if that, the ETA was actually getting further away rather than closer! Another 2 hours of same had me a bit apprehensive, particularly when my fuel light started to blink at me. Eventually of course the road spat me out at Emerald, where I managed to find the only servo in the world that didn't have a single item in the pie-warmer. I would have eaten a week old vegetarian sausage roll just for the temperature boost, but I had to be content to feed the bike and continue homeward. The roads from here on of course were much better - all sealed and in great condition. The trade off was that there was a lot more traffic in both directions, and still no street lights. Picking corners in the dark with an oncoming car glaring out the lane markers in front of you and an impatient ute up your clacker is an adventure of it's own. When I got to Belgrave I again looked at the ETA on the GPS, and only then had best feeling little light-bulb moment I've had for a long time. While I am almost totally unfamiliar with this part of the world, I did know that Belgrave was the end of the suburban train line, and only a couple of stations out from Upper Ferntree Gully. It certainly wasn't going to take over an hour to ride the few clicks up the Burwood Hwy, but the GPS was still on Daylight Savings time. I would be home and warm and fed in less than 20mins. I know that to many of the experienced long-distance tourers, overnight adventurers and dirt riders among you this will all seem rather mundane, which in all honesty it probably was. However, for me, totally unprepared for the cold, and now accustomed to droning up and down the freeway every day and not having done this sort of thing for quite a while, and never on this bike, it was quite an eye-opener. There are many things that this has taught, or at least reminded me of: If I'm going to go exploring, go early so I can be back in relative civilisation by the time it gets dark and cold. Do this route again and scout it out in the daylight, so I can find the dirt and find a way around it. (Next Monday/Tuesday) If I am going to be out after dark, be prepared for the cold! Find a way to shelter the Earmold wires from the wind when wearing the 1pc. Find out how to disbale Daylight Savings on the GPS! (Now done) Wash the bike AFTER a ride, not just before! All in all I actually had a really good day. There are some great roads on that loop - twisty, smooth and pretty much deserted on a weekday afternoon (except for the compulsory slow-moving van and light truck with trailer in the twistiest stretches where you can't get past them!) The scenery is pretty good too, especially up in the hills. Above all it was great to finally get out and use the bike for what it's good at - leaning over and punching out of turns rather than plodding along in a straight line down the Eastern. It is also another step I know I need to take in life's great journey to HTFU. I am now going to do everything I can to go for a decent ride on one of my (usually) two days off. The other one I will set aside for the many little projects and mods I have planned!