Sunday, September 26, 2010



The golden rule of dirt bike riding is never ride alone. There's safety in numbers, right?

So there was myself and Russ, way out in the middle of nowhere on some ride or another months ago, when we kicked back after a long and dusty day on the trails and I pondered: "You know, Russ, my fellow swarthy adventurer, maybe we should throw one of these rides open to the public and see if anyone wants to tag along?"

Russ, who was picking a sesame seed from a toasted watercress and avocado focaccia from between his two front teeth at the time, replied: "Yeah, sure, whatever ... pass the horseradish and garlic mustard, would you?"

Fast-forward to last Saturday morning and the 2010 TZ/ORE Reader Ride presented by AdventureMoto was all set to fire into life at Maccas at McGrath's Hill on the north-western outskirts of Sydney.

Steve Smith from was onboard as ride sponsor, so we had a back-up crew and support vehicle, while longtime ORE Forum moderator Graham 'Whitey' Whitehead had been roped in as trail boss for a two-day run out to Lake Wyangala (where he has a property) near Cowra and back again.

A whopping 30 riders had registered for the overnight ride with 27 actually making the start at Maccas -- where only one thing was missing ... Whitey!

Russ took the call from a frazzled Whitey, who had managed to snap the right-side fuel cap while filling his KTM Dakar V-twin at home with a quick-fill fuel churn. Oops.

Two rolls of electrical tape from Whitey's shed later and he rolled into Maccas albeit a little late, and then with half a roll of duct tape from my Camelbak, we had the fuel cap stuck in place and we were off!

It was a motley group of thrillseekers we had onboard, ranging from some hard-core and well travelled adventurers to rookies making their first overnight ride with nothing but what they carried on their bikes and backs.

We set off north-west up the Bells Line of Road, threw a right at Kurmond and then climbed up Mountain Lagoon Fire-Trail (which has recently been graded as smooth as a freeway!) and popped out at Bilpin to keep heading west across to Mount Victoria, then down into Hartley before chucking a left to drop down to Cox's River and then eventually arrive late-morning at Oberon.

Wolfy on his purring 1200 GS had offered to lead the way first-up and with precious little in the way of drama amongst the pack (save for a rattled-loose chain guard on a DR-Z400), we decided on an early lunch at Oberon before taking aim south for Taralga, now with Whitey in the orange vest and leading the way.

Leaving Oberon, there was a little confusion at Whitey's first cornerman post (ie: no cornerman was posted, oops!), but we figured it out and off we charged, Whitey leading us on a high-speed strop down to Shooter's Hill and Mount Werong and then on to the tighter, twistier and twin-track Range Fire Trail which eventually dumped us at Jerrong Road for a quick blat down to Taralga.

There was a bit of a wait at Taralga, as one of the KTM Dakar V-twins on the ride needed a little rest to get its breath back and threw a tantie with a curious electrical problem -- which eventually proved to be a busted battery terminal. That fixed and Adam AKA 'Dakrr' was soon firing on all cylinders and spraying shrapnel once again.

At Taralga we picked up Whisper and a few of his mates, so the pack was swelling as Whitey rallied the troops and we headed west to Lagan and then Binda, where the dust was still thick and a few sharp turns caught out blind riders and one KTM 640 (no names, hey Norman?) needed a rest and stopped for a lie-down -- facing backwards on the bank on the opposite side of the road to the direction of travel. Oops!

Out of Binda we kept punching north-west to Bigga, then on to Reid's Flat, the entire countryside looking green and lush since the last time I'd been in the area almost two years ago. But, mate, the roads were dry, as evidenced by the dust all day long.

The final ride north into Lake Wyangala is always a good one, as you climb the ranges and get your first view of the lake. Two years ago the lake behind the dam was barely living up to its name -- now there's a heap more water in it after this year's rains, but mind you, it is still only at 35 per cent or so capacity.

We rolled into Wyangala Waters state park on the edge of the lake and soon found our digs for the night -- six camp sites ... or patches of grass and dirt, to be more precise.

Say what?! Camping?!

As you might have gathered, motorcycle camping is a foreign subject to me ... or at least it has been in my 27 or so years of dirt bike magazine publishing. Show me a motel room, a cabin, an on-site van or even a donga at Cameron Corner and I will show you a happy man!

But I knew going in this weekend would be a new experience, so I came prepared.

I had an Ultimate Adventure Kit Biker Swag from Mr Swagman, which I have to say I was pretty stoked with, lashing it to the Barkbusters on the TRAIL ZONE XT600Z Tenere Project Bike at one end, tent pegging it to the ground at the other and setting up my own 'personal space' moto camping base station amongst my fellow two-wheeled travellers.

But then I turned to gaze over the neighbouring sites, and holy flyscreen Batman! It was tent city!

Igloo tents and air mattresses were popping up all around me, but it was the Wolfman who threw down the winning hand: he unleashed a kick-butt Nomad motorcycle tent, which is big enough to sleep you and your best mate (not that there's anything wrong with that ...) AND has a carport to park your bike under!

With tents pitched and swags unrolled, it was time for a little moto camping Masterchefing! Ahh yes, and once again I came prepared.

Reaching into the sizeable confines of my new Giant Loop Great Basin saddlebag, I gathered my kitchen utensils: a brand new Jetboiler Backcountry Gourmet Cooking Set (how good is that name?) that's the size of half a loaf of bread and a Tupperware box of delicious kitchen treats lovingly prepared by the missus (bless her!) was mine for the plundering.

So, while others tent pitchers in the paddock might have mocked my minimalist Mr Swagman set-up as they choked down regurgitated reheated freeze-dried pre-packed meals (oh Russ, what was that alleged chicken-in-honey-soy-sauce substitute you called food?), I feasted!

For starters there was Jatz crackers, cheese and cabanossi with a fine piccolo of Henkell Trocken bubbly -- sure, this might not have been the Qantas Club, but it wasn't far off.

Next up came main course, which saw the Jetboiler sizzle up a mighty feed of fillet mignon with onions, accompanied by fresh coleslaw. Oh mate, it was good! A few Blonde tubes as chasers to wash it all down, followed by a delicate of serving of diced peaches for dessert and then a little camp fire bonding with some of the boys, and I was one happy little moto camper indeed.

By 10.11pm I was plum-tuckered out and snug as a bug in a rug in my Mr Swagman Biker Swag ... talk about all being right with the world.

Life was good as I started stacking the Zzzzzs ... until Wolfman and the lads rolled back into camp after heading into the local club for a feed and to watch the Dragons/Tigers clash on the big screen. At least they kept the camp fire bench racing to a dull roar ...

Day two dawned fine and clear once again, and while my tent city neighbour, Brett, was the first one up and out, I was not far behind as I fired up the Jetboiler again and stirred up a mighty feed of oats with sultanas and brown sugar -- and how good was it! The best.

Right there, right then, life was good. Just me, my Mr Swagman fold-up stool, my steaming serve of oats, a glorious sunrise over a (near-dry, admittedly) lake bed and my trusty Tenere at my side -- does it get any better? No way!

By 9am we were all up and into it for the return journey to Lithgow. After 430 quite uneventful kilometres the previous day, the 330km ride home would go some way to making up for it.

The ride back from Wyangala is a good one, with Whitey basically leading us on a straight line east-nor-east through Pennsylvania state forest to Trunkey then on to Rockley and Oberon.

Unfortunately it went a little pear-shape at Rockley, when the cornerman system once again broke down and a dozen or so of us went left instead of right and ended up almost in Bathurst before Russ hauled down the troops after reaching a corner and finding no cornerman. Oops.

After much scratching of heads and contemplating of navels, we all turned around and retraced our steps to Rockley, where indeed we found the rest of pack waiting, so off we went in the direction of Oberon.

But then at Oberon, Big Al was on a corner and waved me down as I approached, and said: "Hey Clubby, have you seen Terry?" I replied, "Terry who?" To which Al said, "Our mate Terry, he hasn't come through and now the sweep and support truck are here -- he's missing!"

Uh oh. Double-oops.

Nothing like a missing rider incident to spice up your day.

After much more scratching of heads and contemplating of navels, Al and his mates decided to head back to look for Terry – who could have been anywhere between Pennsylvania and Rockley ... -- as myself and Glenn the sweep and Big Pete the support truck driver carried on down the hill from Oberon to the lunch stop at Tarana.

Being Sunday arvo, Tarana was a happening place, so the queues for a feed at the pub were long, giving me time to contemplate what might have happened to Terry and his high-mileage but well prepped DR-Z. If it was a breakdown, the next rider would have found him. If it was a crash, the next rider would have found him (so long as he was visible, of course), but if it was another cornerman failure and he'd taken a wrong turn, well ...

About halfway through my burger I was drawn from the table by the sound of some rumbling dirt bikes coming down the main street -- it was Al and his posse -- and yes! -- Terry was in tow ... but so was another bloke, Mark on another DR-Z. What the?!

Turns out Mark (who was on the ride on his own, hence no one had missed him, triple-oops!) had gone missing like Terry at an intersection, and after figuring something was amiss, they had teamed up and made their way to Oberon, where they bumped into Al's crew. Nice work, boys.

From Tarana the ride started to break up as various riders started to head for home. Many of us stuck together for the short blat across to Lithgow, during which time Big Pete copped a flat in the support truck (how's that, the only flat of the ride!), but a quick plug with one of AdventureMoto's tyre repair kits and we were mobile again.

Out of Lithgow, Wolfman took the orange vest again to lead us home via Hartley, Bell, Bilpin and then a trail I never knew existed through the Devil's Wilderness to pop back out at Kurrajong and the run down the hill to the Big Smoke.

Come 7pm and I was rolling back into the TZ workshop, the Tenere purring contentedly with another 760km under it wheels for the weekend and the milestone 10,000km ticking up on the odo as I cruised down the M2. She's been a faithful beast this one and with every ride I enjoy it more and more. For this ride she scored a set of Hyperpro fork springs from Touratech Australia and an Ohlins shock from Steve Cramer Products and having firmer suspension made a world of improvement to the bike, especially with the added load of swag and camping gear.

In the post-ride wash-up Russ and I have to pay a big thanks to all the boys who tagged along for the ride. The consensus seemed to be plenty positive -- not even the dust and the occasional cornerman hiccup could dampen the enthusiasm of most of the blokes to come back for more. I think what makes these rides work is just getting away for the weekend, meeting a bunch of new blokes and just doing nothing but riding and talking bikes -- a pretty simple formula, really.

Wolfy and the boys from AdventureMoto also deserve a big round of thanks for their support and back-up -- on ya lads! Do yourselves a favour and get on to and order up big!

Whitey gets a big yay for the day as well, for leading the route and showing us all a part of the world that is heaven-sent for adventure bike riding. Punch Lake Wyangala into your GPS and then just get out there and explore.

And if you do drop in for a night at Wyangala Waters state park and you see a lone Tenere parked in a lake-front camp site, a Mr Swagman kit tethered to the bars and a bloke wearing a chef's hat hunched over a Jetboiler with steak and onions sizzling away, make sure you drop by and say g'day -- that'll be me!

PS: Keep your eyes peeled on TRAIL ZONE and for details of our next reader ride.

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