Saturday, October 10, 2009



Some days you just have pinch yourself to be sure you're not dreaming.

Last Wednesday was one of those days.

I'd rolled into Mittagong in the Southern Highlands just south of Sydney to hook up with one of the best blokes in the Australian motorcycle accessory importing game, Graeme Baynes from Honda Australia, who is the big chief of Honda's motorcycle spares and accessories department.

Ages ago we were chatting about how we were itching to get out for a ride, so long story short, Baynesee got on the blower to Glenn Hoffman from the GHR Honda race team to enquire about the possibility of getting hold of a couple of Hondas for us to take out for a 'spin'.

Faster than you could say, 'X marks the spot', Hoffo dished up the keys to not one but two of his most treasured race bikes of all: the CRF450X that Jacob Smith used to win the Australian Safari this year, and the CRF450X that Ben Grabham raced to victory in the Safari last year.

That's right: Australia's meanest, fastest and gnarliest CRF450Xs were ours for the taking ... on ya Baynesee!

So last Wednesday morning we bowled up to the GHR race team HQ like a couple of wide-eyed pups who couldn't believe their luck. 

Hoffo promptly wheeled out the pair of mighty red devils (which are still in the exact same spec as when they crossed the finish line in their respective Safaris), gave us a tech briefing of all of three minutes and then said, "Righto, have fun and we'll see you when you get back tomorrow!"

Woo hoo!

Baynesee and I promptly took off across to Wombeyan Caves and up to Taralga, where the weather turned absolutely ugly, in the form of rain and howling gales. We grabbed a dog's eye at the cafe in the main drag of Taralga, pulled on the wet weather gear and got set for a cold run all the way north via the forests to Oberon.

As it turned out, cold proved to be an understatement.

As we hammered north up Nerrong Road, the cloud cover dropped, then deepened, then started absolutely dumping its guts with snow. Yep, snow!

And this was full-on, white Christmas, freeze-your-cods-off snow! In the middle of October! Go figure.

By the time we got past Mount Werrong the white-out was getting worse and worse, so we peeled off west to the tarmac and headed to Black Springs, where the roof of an old servo allowed us to take some respite and get out of the snow and warm our hands against the header pipes as the GHR Honda Safari weapons idled contentedly. 

As freezing cold as we were, we just couldn't help but note the irony that we were riding Australia's ultimate Australian Safari race bikes -- desert bikes -- through a snow-storm! 

As the snow pelted down we had no option but to climb back aboard the bikes and knock over the last 30km into Oberon, where the Big Trout Motel awaited. We couldn't get there fast enough -- the only problem was, the faster you went, the more the frost-bite from the wind-chill bit into your finger-tips.

Making the motel was a sense of relief and we spent the next 90 minutes locked in the room, fighting over the radiator and blower heater to dry out our gear and get some feeling back into our toes and fingers. 

As legend NZ trail boss, Joe Forsyth from High Country Trail, once told me, "Riding in snow is fun, but only for the first 30 minutes -- after that you just freeze!"

Thankfully the next day delivered a whole bunch better weather and Baynesee and I enjoyed a ripper day's ride in the forests surrounding Oberon before taking aim back to Mittagong the same way we had come. Along the way Baynesee managed to get his trusty Canon cameras out and shoot a veritable gigabyte of photos of the thundering red rockets doing their thing.

Now, the Honda Safari bikes are absolute weapons, that's the only way to describe them. The roll-on power of the engines just have to be experienced to be believed (they pull like 650s!), while the suspension on Jacob's bike is bone-hard -- that's the only description for it! It's made for hitting gutters, ditches and obstacles at 100kmh-plus all day long.

The bikes are also decked out to within an inch of their lives in set-ups, mods and fine-tuning preps that really set the GHR Honda team apart from the pack. Winning a Safari is one thing, but being the winningest team in Safari history just speaks volumes of the capabilities of Hoffo and the entire GHR team.

After almost 450km over the two days we rolled back into the GHR Honda workshop grinning like cats that caught a couple of canaries. We had been absolutely privileged to be given free-reign on two of Honda Australia's most decorated CRF450X race bikes, and we knew it.

Thanks for the ride, Hoffo, and thanks to everyone at Honda for giving us the green-light. 

Look out for the full story on the GHR Honda CRF450X Australian Safari-winning race bikes in TRAIL ZONE issue #27, on-sale in mid-December.

-- Clubby,

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