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Spots stretches the Tiger's legs- Bris->Wollongong(LONG)

Discussion in 'Roads, Touring, Journeys, and Travel' started by Spots, Jul 9, 2008.

  1. Not really sure where to start with this, but The Start is as good as any, I suppose! I feel a bit sheepish posting this when this kind of endurance is 'standard procedure' for Iron Butt/Far Rider types... But for me it's a big personal achievement. Not just the distance, but for riding this 'quick' over so much twisty road. 1200km is a large number of kilometres to cover in one go.

    I had been overdue for a crazy long-distance trip, and the chance to attend a gathering of friends in Brisbane seemed just the excuse. What better way to stretch the Tiger's legs and test its sport-touring ability than a little jaunt to the next major city?

    Modifications were added; A 52L Givi topbox & rack, a Starcom1 Advance comms/audio mixer, UHF radio, and a Powerlet 12V accessory power outlet. A puncture kit and 12V air compressor were purchased, just in case.

    The trip up was of little consequence. 930 kilometres of Pacific Highway superslab action with some Sydney friends in a car in convoy with me. As I remember it, the trip North was 900 kilometres of roadworks and lollypop men, punctuated by brief periods doing the regular speed limit.

    The Tiger had no trouble with that at all. 5.1L/100km from Sydney to Brisvegas. Not too shabby. I'd develop a numb rump about the 200-250km mark each time, but it wasn't all that bad. Suspect that that could be addressed with a slightly taller seat, to allow my thighs to carry some of my weight. Maybe an Airhawk or similar.

    No, the trip back was what had me worried. Apprehensive.

    The furthest I'd even travelled by motorcycle in a day is 800km. As the sole driver of the MR2, 1057km. Both times I was superslabbing it - relatively straightforward highway, few twisty roads.

    The goal would be to head back to Wollongong using almost nothing but twisty roads. Mt. Lindsey Highway, Summerland Way, Clarence Way, Summerland Way again, Waterfall Way, Thunderbolt Way, Bucketts Way, and the twisty bits around Singleton and Wollombi.

    1200km, most of which is twisty mountain road, on a fully laden motorcycle?

    As Loz described in my other post - "Now THAT's a f***en day's riding!"

    After Sunday's events had finished - four hours of lasertag, of all things... Definitely going to be sore in the morning - I packed my bags and prepped the bike for an early departure. Five hours sleep to be had once the bike was ready.

    Let's fast forward a little.

    Mt. Gravatt -
    First fuelstop; about to begin the ascent to Mt. Lindsey to the south of Brisbane. I'd already said goodbye to my hosts, managing to get underway at 6:35am - half an hour later than expected, but not to worry. I'd dressed for the cold air I anticipated to find at the top of Mt. Lindsey and the rest of the Great Dividing Range, so down here it was a bit hot inside my layers of gear, waterproof overpants. Leaving the tinted visor up keeps me cool for now - and more importantly lets me actually see, since the sun has barely crawled above the horizon!

    Can't help but feel a little odd, surrounded by armour, supplied with water from the camelbak around my jacket, senses extended by the reach of the UHF CB on the handlebars - even if there's nothing of interest being discussed on the truck channel at this point.

    I'm certainly the odd one out here - riding against the flow of commuter traffic, on a bike rigged for anything but the usual commute.

    It's a good 50 kilometres before you get out of traffic. 90 kilometres before the road begins to do anything interesting or impressive; Just after Rathdowney the first real twisties show up. A chance to try to wake up my tired body and get into the swing of things.

    Mt. Lindsey -


    Mt. Lindsey notes:
    "A little sketchy. Patches of rough, crappy road, patches of pristine racetrack finish. too nervous and too wet/damp/blind to push it".

    This was my first patch of twisties with the fully laden Tiger and the wet shadows, cold air, relatively high altitude (400m ASL) and dubious cornering lines weren't making me any more confident. The road shifts bizarrely from pristine Black-Spur-esque racetrack smoothness to wrinkled, torn-up half-arsed repairs every few hundred metres, making every straight a new surprise.

    Not too impressed with that, but soon enough confidence grows, the corners become a little easier to read, and a little faster too. Time to start making up some time!

    Casino to Sandilands -
    Now this is more like it! Fast, smooth, sweeping corners! I see a sign advertising 'Rider's Retreat; 10km' with a painted silhouette of a rider on an old cafe` racer. I never get there; I reach my turnoff and overshoot it (too excited by the magnificent corners!), turn around and find the hidden turnoff. It barely looks a road at all. In fact, it's... gravel.

    Clarence Way -
    Woah, hang on there, Spots! You researched the crap out of the route. You even looked on Google Maps at various points along most of these roads - ESPECIALLY Clarence Way - to check that it was paved. And in the satellite photos it is! What's this gravel?!

    This is gonna be a repeat of the last big interstate twisty-road-following trip I had, where I got tricked into using a 55km unpaved road in the MR2, lowered suspension and all, isn't it? Did I program the GPS wrong? I checked the satellite photos to make sure this wasn't going to be a repeat of that episode!!

    Meh. Still, the GPS says it's only 35km until the next turn, the sign points to Grafton and that's the next stop, I'm on a medium-travel bike which used to be marketted as an adventure tourer... Why not?

    Sitting down is suicide. "Stand up!", I shout inside my helmet. "You've done mountainbike events on totally slick tyres, this is just the same! Just the same.. but with a 250kg bike... just.." - I catch myself trying to sit down again; the bike wobbles nervously on the loose surface, I stand straight back up. "STAND! UP!"

    "250kg mountainbike..."
    "250kg mountainbike..."
    "It's easy... it's just a biiiig mountainbike on slicks... You've done it before..."

    20km in and my legs have had it. Truth be told, it's been months since I've been offroad on my actual MTB, and 20km of steering my giant "bicycle" by pushing down on the pegs is taking its toll, likewise the not-quite-standing posture needed to absorb the bumps and ruts at these speeds.

    I sit down and try to put my faith in the bike. Shut down the bit of the brain that listens to the 'squirming' of the MR2 and Tiger mid-corner and distract myself with the GPS to see just what the upcoming turn is, 15km away. The Tiger can look after itself, I figure - it's as much afraid of crashing as I am. I'm praying inside my helmet for some actual road. "15km - Via point". I swear loudly inside my helmet as the Tiger squirms on the rutted surface. It's not a turn, it's just a virtual waypoint I made to steer my route. As if to heckle me, a green sign appears not long after - "Grafton; 108km"

    No way. 108km of this? You're joking, right? Still, no way out but forward. I've told the GPS to get me the hell out of there if it can find a paved road nearby, but no joy - only way out is through.

    Pressing on, the gravel gives way to pristine, smooth clay. It's a little wet, a little greasy, but it's smooth enough that I can sit down and pretend it's a road.


    Then some actual paved road! I try not to get my hopes up - as I discovered on the MR2 adventure, paved sections on a dirt road are usually just there to protect easily rutted sections. I'm not disappointed - it's only there to protect a bridge.

    More rutted gravel road - this time with deep, fear-inspiring gravel. I stand up, grit my teeth, try to summon up my sand riding technique (as yet untried on a motorbike) and let the Tiger do what it wants so long as it doesn't stray off the road... Sheer terror on a stick.

    It's not all doom and gloom.

    My confidence grows enough to pick up the pace on the dirt, especially with my brain's "sideways detector" switched off. 70, 80, 110kph on the smoother parts, slowing down for corners. Only deep gravel and tramlining ruts pose a real threat to the Pilot Roads, and dodging shallow potholes becomes second nature.

    The paved sections come with increasing frequency. Clay becomes the unpaved surface of choice, and the dirt/gravel roads less rutted, less deep. More and more pavement - particularly in sections with spectacular twists and turns around the hills. A highspeed, twisty reward; encouragement to put up with the offroad "transit stages" between.

    Finally we're at the tail end of Clarence Way and the road is now exclusively paved. No cars, no trucks, no lane markings - Just me, the Tiger, and swooping, sweeping paved bends. The surface is good - a little rough, but the Tiger laps up the bumps with ease. In fact it's amazing just how little it cares about the surface corrugations. Unperturbed but for the biggest of the bumps.

    I had a moment of clarity out there on Clarence Way. The other roads may have been more spectacular, but none gave me such a feeling of liberation as the unexpected reward for battling the gravel and mud.

    "Magical paved sections, swooping and sweeping... nearly touched pegs, several corners... touched a toe... 125kph... cows... little traffic. Utter magic. Gone to heaven."

    I fill up in Grafton, take off my cold weather clothes and spend lunchtime smirking at the handful of people gathered around Stratocat, looking him over and wondering just what a tall, semi-faired sportsbike is doing splattered with clay, mud and dust.


    "Is she quick?", asks a guy in a ute as I climb back into the saddle of the bike.
    "Enough", I grin, thinking of my average speed over the paved sections. "Quick enough."

    Grafton to Dorrigo; Summerlands Way -
    I've re-met Summerlands Way. The road is smooth,and soon begins to tighten up and begin to climb as we approach the aptly named 'Clouds'.

    "OMFG - moderately tight, good surface, climbing up and down the mountains. 'Holy shit!'"

    The road through Clouds was incredible - good surface, minimal traffic encountered in my direction despite my quick pace. Fairly technical, very fun. I've got confidence with the bike despite all the weight it's carrying and the corners hold few if any surprises. This road blew me away and if it weren't for the "moment of clarity" I had on Clarence Way, this would be my favourite by far. Left, right, left, right, S-curves, sweeping bends, uphill, downhill, good visibility through the turns and no surprises. Just cornering nirvana.

    I decide that the Tiger's third gear is made of terror. First and second accelerate too fast to really notice how quick you're being launched down the road - it's over before it starts - but third, third has the muscle to pull out of the corners, and launches you down the straights on a rising wave of rocketship thrust with no end in sight. Faster, faster, faster... Wow.

    If this is just the road to Dorrigo... then what must the legendary 'Waterfall Way' be like?!

    Waterfall Way -
    "Sweeping, swooping, vivid landscape and views. Reminds me of GOR (Great Ocean Road)... Not too technical, very fast and sweeping, flawless visibility through turns."

    Waterfall Way is the high-speed sightseeing section. Riding across the top of the world, surrounded by dramatic hills and plains - so vivid and unnatural. Like something you'd see in a painting, or anime`. Nowhere near as technical as Clarence Way and Clouds, but a welcome change of pace and a chance to enjoy my flight over the hilltops at a comfortably quick rollercoaster-like pace. I could easily go faster than my 'quick' pace on this road, but the Givi rack warns against exceeding $1.20 and the Tiger's manual suggests $1.30. I split the difference and enjoy the ride.

    I stop in Armidale for fuel and to upload the maps for the second half of the trip into my GPS. 616km down and I don't feel tired at all. On the contrary - I've never felt so alive.

    New England Highway (briefly) and Thunderbolt's Way -
    A brief transport stage on the NEH makes me glad we took the Pacific Highway to Brisbane. Few lanes, low speed limits and massive amounts of traffic for a weekday.

    The CB is full of life, though - distant warnings of 'candycars' and 'hairdryers' interrupting the music played on my helmet's speakers. Useful info, too - the first couple are just before my turnoff onto Thunderbolt's Way.

    "Rather plain... and then rather dark. Patchy surface quality + ambiguous crners + lack of light = meh"

    The flatter, straighter part closer to Walcha is a lot like a subdued version of Waterfall Way with less spectacular scenery - fast, sweeping corners, though longer and more boring straights. The sun goes down on me here, but the Tiger's highbeam fills in the details.

    Just as the sun is fully extinguished, catching glimpses of the first handful of stars to the sides in the dark and gloomy sky, the descent begins. The road tightens. The forest closes in around the road, and we begin a steep descent down from the hills - It's the twisty section of Thunderbolt's Way.

    It's hell. We're in dusk now, so all the Australian wildlife comes out to play. Wombats. Wallabies. Kangaroos. Wombats. Some skitter across the road in front of me, thankfully leaving plenty of distance between us. Some lurk on the side of the road and fortunately stay in place, no doubt afraid fo being pounced by the big mechanical cat.

    The corners are hard to read.

    The surface is patchy at best, large potholes at worst.

    It's pitch black, and with the bike leaned over to tackle the tight corners, I can't see a fricking thing.

    My brain's in overdrive trying to read and predict the road, looking for clues and flickers of distant roadmarkers in the darkness. Expecting wildlife to jump out at any moment. I'm sure it's fun during the day, but this wasn't fun at all.

    Halfway around one pitchblack corner I spot the telltale spattering of gravel all over the road, and gaping potholes.

    "Nup! I've put up with a lot of shit on this road, but that's the final straw. F*** this, I'm taking my bike and leaving!" If only I could. Survival mode from here on out - I just want the Tiger to get me to the twin Caltexes on the F3 freeway, 140km away. It means that I abort the final twisty leg through Singleton and Wollombi, but I don't care - It's too dark, I'm too stressed, I'm too tired.

    Thunderbolt's Way had demolished my morale and worn me out physically and mentally.

    I roll into the twin Caltexes on the F3 freeway for fuel and a fast-food dinner, groping around the underside of the bike with a foot, searching for the sidestand, and eventually rest the bike on its stand. Catching a glimpse of myself in a mirror, it's evident that I look and feel like something the cat dragged in. Not far from the truth, either.

    Food and a less-rushed break makes me feel a little rejuvinated, but it's evident that every time I stop for fuel, it gets just a bit harder to lift a leg over the Tiger's high seat and slide into the saddle. Because the pillion seat is occupied by a tailpack, I have to hoist my right leg high, Monty Python "Minister for Silly Walks" style. Perhaps it's best that I don't have a taller seat?

    This time I just sorta stare at the Tiger's saddle and will it to somehow get beneath me. Strangely that doesn't seem to accomplish anything, so I resort to gingerly lifting the right leg as high as it'll go, resting it on the seat... and then just sorta falling onto the bike's saddle with a heavy, tired sigh. Good enough.

    (Seriously though, it wasn't until this stop that I actually felt tired and sore. It was like a lightswitch - Before the foresty twisties of Thunderbolt's Way I could have rode another 1200km. After? Take me home, I'm done.)

    F3 Freeway, superslabbing to Sydney and Wollongong beyond -
    No notes for this leg. I've been on it so many times. It's good fun at night time - not too much traffic, and enough twists, turns and hills to keep it interesting while not encouraging the wrath of an excessively slow speed limit. The familiar road cheers me up a little. I've made it through hundreds upon hundreds of kilometres of twisty roads as fast as I could comfortably manage and haven't crashed yet, and that cheers me up even more.

    Not content to see me at all happy, the clouds that have been threatening me all day with a downpour finally deliver their end of the bargain. In bucketloads. So much so in fact, much of the Tiger's muddy coating is gone by the time I get home. I soon discover that my wet weather overpants need to be re-waterproofed. Ho hum.

    The rest is uneventful superslab, so I'll spare you the details - Suffice to say, cresting the peak of Mt. Ousley Road and seeing the familiar lights of my current home, Wollongong, was more than welcome. A new personal achievement for road-vehicle endurance, and the Tiger's first real opportunity to show its ability as a sports tourer.

    This bike continues to amaze me. Urban work, sports riding, touring... It does it all. With a little more tweaking (and a bit more physical endurance on my part), we'll be a good combination for future attempts at crazy long-distance rides.

    The boring stats:
    1206.5km covered in
    14hrs 16min rolling time;
    16hrs 21min total time elapsed.

    Average fuel consumption: 6.0L/100km
    Fuel consumed: 72.4L
    Bugs killed: 759
    Coworkers who think I'm crazy: 2 out of the 3 who asked why I was hobbling around like an old man today.
  2. Excellent write-up Spots !!!!!
    ( Only read half so far .. will finish when time permits .. damn work interruptions) Looks one hell of a days ride :)
    55km on gravel .. standing up on pegs ? :shock: Man I bet your calves are fcuking huge by now :p
    Well Done mate... bbl to finish this impressive read.
  3. Like most of my posts, it's a bit TL;DR, innit? :LOL: Gotta compensate for the lack of photos with words!

    On the bright side, my legs have recovered today. No more hobbling about the office. :cool:
  4. Well done, great write up - will keep a mental note about Clarence Way :wink:

    Thunderbolts, downhill at night :shock:

    Big day, and on superslab would have been an iron butt - but where's the fun in that :p
  5. Re: Spots stretches the Tiger's legs- Bris->Wollongong(LO

    First class write up. Well done. This was a particularly evocative phrase :LOL:
    You touch on it briefly, and note it wasn't an issue, but with an average speed of 85KmH over 14 hours you must've had some fatigue issues right?
  6. Re: Spots stretches the Tiger's legs- Bris->Wollongong(LO

    Cheers, guys. :)

    By the time I got to Thunderbolts Way, definitely - Thinking back, I was making all kinds of sloppy decisions (which wasn't helped by the lack of visibility), and by the time I reached the twin Caltexes on the F3 I was more stable on two wheels than on two feet. Getting off the bike there, I realised just how bad my fatigue was, and made a note to take my time eating dinner and not rush myself.

    Certainly up until Armidale though, I didn't feel fatigued at all. I kept well hydrated with the camelbak, and fuel stops were about 200km apart on average - some longer, some shorter. A chance to stretch the legs and relax for a bit. The Tiger's suspension absorbs most bumps nicely so there's little "jarring" fatigue; the upright seating position is comfortable, with good wind protection.

    (I discovered a few years ago that excessive speed for the conditions can be very fatiguing - Bruce Highway is a nightmare if you go much faster than the speed limit. With that in mind, I think it helped that while my average speed was high, my maximum speed was relatively low. A lot lower than it could have been, anyway. Comfortably quick.)
  7. WELL DONE !!

    Great ride and terrific writeup, first beer is on me when we meet.

    Edited to add after reading your last reply. Learning the lead up points of fatigue is important, then acting upon it is vital. Anytime you make an error and learn from it is worthwhile. Next time you will do it easier (if there is), trust me.
  8. Top write up and a great ride!

    I echo Alex's comment; Thunderbolts downhill in the dark :shock:!!!

    Padded cycle shorts under your leathers are the way to go; a MUST for long trips, no matter how good your bike seat is.
  9. Well, I know that now! ;)

    I had hoped to squeeze through Thunderbolt's Way before the sun went down, but my late departure and a bit of timewasting (didn't always co-ordinate attire changes with fuelstops, etc) ruined that. Huge sense of foreboding as the sun went down.

    Lessons learned for next time. :)

    Davo - Thanks, I appreciate it! One thing I wanted to mention - I 'borrowed' one of your tricks from the GTR1400 report; I wasn't riding to Wollongong, I was riding to Mt. Lindsey, then Casino, then Grafton, then Dorrigo... That helped, a lot.

    Often quite a shock to look down at the trip computer and see '377km' or '625km'. Even '800km' seemed surreal. "But I only just started riding!", I'd say to myself, clicking the computer over to time-elapsed. "... eight hours ago." :shock:
  10. Great write up mate!

    It's also good the see that the revised Triumph styling, ie More road than dirt orientated still held up well to the unpaved sections. Nice trip, great bike!
  11. Excellent trip - better write up! Well done Spots.

    When it comes to additional padding for the seat, I looked around but couldn't come at spending hundreds for something that may not do what I wanted.

    Was chatting with another ST1300 rider and he recommended a BeadRider.

    I checked them out and thought for $50, can't go wrong. http://www.beadrider.com/ Haven't tried it out on a long ride yet and I do feel like a Taxi Driver but will let you know how it is.

    Look forward to hearing about your next ride!!

  12. great report spots...
    i really like those 1050 tigers...i actally looked hard and long at some before deciding on the vfr
    awesome stuff mate...look forward to your next ride report
  13. Bloody well done. The body can do a lot when the head is working properly, and when that goes to bits you're absolutely right to get on a highway and ease it home.

    1200km is about twice what I've ever done. It's a pinch to Davo but a massive ride for any normal near-rider!
  14. great read. cheers spots :biker:
  15. Glad it helped, I chunk everything down in life. What seems an insurmountable problem or distance is not when you look at it that way.

    "No one ever started climbing Mount Everest thinking they couldn't" Davo
  16. Aside from Pilot Roads being a bit nervous on really loose dirt and gravel - afterall, they're pretty slick - the Tiger handled the unpaved stuff pretty well. The experience reminded me a lot of the Urban Polaris event, where I rode my mountainbike on similar dirt roads using 26" treadless racing slicks - if you can ignore the "squirmy" feeling and be mindful of poor turning grip, it's not that bad.

    Prolly wouldn't take the 1050 Tiger on an actual offroad trail though - the rear brake caliper and brakeline hangs below the swingarm, which would be an issue in deep sand/mud or big rocks, and there are other design decisions which make it less crashworthy. In that regards it's more of an 'all roads' sports-tourer like the Ducati MultiSPAAAARRTAAAA than an ADV bike like the V-strom and GS. :)

    Cheers, WGM - I'd be interested to hear how it goes. You're right about the "taxi driver" look though. :LOL:

    Gotta get myself on one of those FarRides, to make my lunacy official. September's the next one, I think? :grin:
  17. Cheeses Spots!

    Admittedly the Blade is not a long distance bike, but after a 500k run one day, I ooooozed off the bike still stuck in the "riding position" for 5mins while trying to walk inside...eurgh!

    Anyone who sets off on a bit of a 'trek' has got my admiration...And I reckon you had the perfect bike to do it on, actually.

  18. Hmm, nearly time for a sequel... :grin:
  19. Excellent write up Spots. That was great. You couldn't have picked a better bike to do it on either.

    I once did 900 kay in a day on an Aprilia RSV Mille. Me and Deyago did a similar thing and took the Hume home at the end once fatigue set in but fark me, I could barely get off the bike once I got home. :LOL: :LOL:
  20. Great write up spots, am planning a trip to brissie later this year and some of those roads are on the hit list, but doubt i would attempt it in a day well done