GOOD TIMES ON GOOD FRIDAY: CLUB Y & TRAIL ZONE TRAIL RIDE OBERON
The awesome thing about holiday long weekends is getting away with your mates and your bikes and roosting it up for a good ol' time in the sticks.
Which is precisely what we did on Good Friday when we took up an invite from Club Y head mistress Cheryl Muldoon to lead a trail ride for the Yamaha owner's group in the lush green hills surrounding Oberon in the Blue Mountains just west of Sydney.
Myself and Dr Phil headed the charge, with me on point-duty up front as Trail Boss and leading the way, and the good Doctor bringing up the rear as Sweep, dealing with the carnage and getting everyone home in one piece -- hopefully!
So we kicked off from the renowned Big Trout Motel at Oberon bright and early on Friday morning, with the plan being a nice and cruisy 200km or so trail/adventure ride to ease everyone into the dirt.
Our pack was 14-strong and included a few 'celebrity' participants, such as legend Aussie womens enduro racer Alison Parker, who was breaking in a new WR-F for next week's Yamaha A4DE at Portland, and industry heavyweights such as Adventure Moto honcho Steve 'Wolfman' Smith, Ficeda Accessories main-man Racin' Dave Maddock and Yamaha Australia execs Hiro Koike and Denis Roberts.
The range of hardware at the Big Trout 'parc ferme' included everything in the Yamaha off-road line-up, from Club Y member Keith's XT250 through TT-Rs and WR-Fs to Denis's mighty XT660Z Tenere -- complete with stock tyres slicker than Uncle Fester's hair cut.
I immediately knew I would have my work cut out for me, in terms of leading a course that would give everyone something to smile about at the day's end.
With a diverse range of bikes and riders, everyone has to be ready for a little give and take -- and the rookies like Keith need to be ready to be thrown in at the deep end.
About 40km later everything was going swimmingly and the pack was making good time ... until we hit the first section of single-track I had hand-cut for the ride. It was in a massive stand of pine trees and the rain three days before the ride had made every branch and sapling on the ground as slippery as a butcher's work bench.
As we regrouped, Ali P (no relation to Ali G -- allegedly) decided to test the protective qualities of her new WR-F's bashplate by practising her giant log crossing technique ... and promptly took a trip over the hangers. Luckily she came out smiling and went back for more.
Then we hit the single-track and 100 metres in Denis and his slick-tyred Tenere were looking for the bypass, so I sent him and Hiro out to the nearest fire-trail with directions to meet us at the next major intersection.
Cutting a fresh line up the first long hill, I reached the top and waited ... and waited ... and waited. Big Al on his snarling KTM EXC thumper appeared, then so did Mullos on her TT-R and Kellie on her WR-F. But there was silence after that.
Turns out there was a bit of carnage back there on the hill as the rest of the pack struggled with the greasy log crossings.
Playing the role of Trail Boss to the hilt, I said to myself, "Self, they'll be right, the Sweep will get 'em all up!" and roared off to the next cornerman position and kept on going.
Long story short, Dr Phil did get everyone up and save for Al's Kato weeping a little hot water from a radiator hose clamp, we all eventually regrouped with Denis and Hiro and left the gnarly pine forest single-tracks behind us.
From there it was on to morning tea (albeit a little late) with support vehicle driver Terry, then came a sweet section of trail down to the Kowmung River and on to Dingle Dell.
There was just enough water in the Kowmung to make us check it carefully before diving in and across, however it was the renowned 'Swamp' crossing on the Boucher Fire-Trail that gave us more reason for concern.
The Swamp has been getting pretty chopped out by 4WDs over recent times, so the exit banks are steep and slippery. But that didn't stop Iron Man Russ Turnley from ORE leaping headfirst into the black abyss aboard his Adventure Moto WR250R and promptly sinking to his waist -- which means anyone else would have been knee-deep in the gloop.
Russ bulldogged it and made it out alive, at which point Wolfman followed him in on his WR250R and chose an alternate line that was equally deep and gnarly.
We dragged Wolfman out but right then I made the call for the rest of the pack to take a detour, which involved a piddling one-metre wide crossing of the creek downstream. Only problem was, the alternate crossing was almost one-metre deep in a V-shape, so it was a little tricky ...
We did our best to fill the crossing with logs, then started the procession of bikes across -- which promptly resulted in CARNAGE!
Racin' Dave was the first to go down for the count, his kickstart-only 250F leaving him hucking a lung on the side of the trail as he tried to get it lit up on the bank of the exit side after stalling a couple of times.
Then came Denis and the Tenere, which Dr Phil offered to ride across. Not even a multitude of gnarly European ISDE experiences could get the Doctor through unscathed and he promptly went down like a sack of spuds on the greasy logs -- so it was all hands on deck to drag the mighty adventure machine out of the hole.
Just about everyone binned it here, but the best was left to last thanks to Lizard, who was actually across, up and out of the hole when he suffered a bad case of whiskey throttle and his WR-R launched in a rev-driven panic up, around and back down into the creek, off the metre-high bank in spectacular fashion! Struth!
Thankfully Lizard's landing in the creek and reeds was soft, so once again it was all hands on deck (with Al tripping and falling into the creek as well!) to get Lizard back on the trail.
But the carnage wasn't over: Wolfman rode Lizard's bike back to the track, but got hooked up on a giant green tussock and was promptly slapped hard onto the ground in an impact that left him nursing a tender thumb.
After all that, how good was it to meet up with Terry for the lunch stop and get some sausage sangas and drinks into us?! After all that work, we needed it.
With about 80km remaining for the afternoon, the ride back to Oberon should have been pretty cruisy. And it was -- until we hit another section of single-track.
At this point I suggested to Denis that he take the Tenere around it, but he was having none of that -- that's the spirit, mate!
So with the Tenere's slick rear tyre spinning like a top, Denis hit the grassy trail and started the climb up the hill -- and was doing unreal until the last ten metres, when he missed the exit out of the bush and went straight ahead -- directly up a near vertical bank, which he hit with gusto in a take-off attempt Robbie Maddison would have been proud of.
Only problem was, Denis was on a 200kg-plus Tenere with street tyres!
I've got to give Denis full marks for trying, but the forces of gravity just weren't on his side and the Tenere promptly spun a 180, flipped and crashed down on its right side -- thankfully WITHOUT Denis beneath it.
I was right behind Denis and it looked brutal -- but bugger me if he didn't jump back to his feet in no time flat. We ran to the Tenere to pick it up, fearing the damage report -- but all that was crunched was one rear view mirror and a scratch on the right side of the tank. That was it! Lucky ...
And on that note I calculated everyone had enjoyed their money's worth, so we cruised home via the fire-trails all the way back to the Big Trout Motel, where the post-ride smiles and bench racing indicated good times were had by all on Good Friday in the Club Y and TRAIL ZONE trail ride.
Lizard and Denis scored my bonus Trail Boss Bravado awards -- for their respective crashes -- so each of them scored a TRAIL ZONE T-shirt. Wear 'em with pride, boys!
Believe it or not, we're backing up for more carnage and chaos with another Club Y and TRAIL ZONE trail ride next month (Saturday, May 8), this time over at Clarence near Lithgow, and this one is going to be filled with single-track as a pure enduro ride.
If you want in on the action, check out the www.cluby.com.au web site and email firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll see you there -- just bear in mind fresh knobbies are recommended!
-- Clubby, www.trailzone.com.au