Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Beautiful one Day... Perfect The Next

It's been a while and a lot of roads have been travelled - too many to write about! But after an amazing days riding in the beautiful D'Aguilar Range north west of Brisbane I knew it was something I needed to share!
The Queensland tourism board once promoted the slogan "Beautiful one day, Perfect the next" to describe life in the far north-east state of Australia and they got it absolutely right - especially if you ride a motorcycle!
Just 15 minutes out of Brisbane city via Waterworks Road and the road starts twisting through mountainous rainforest with towering trees, huge palms, ferns and spectacular, breathtaking views (if you're able to take your eyes of the road to look).
With my mate on his Ducati 848 and myself on the Speed Triple climbed higher up the twisting, winding road we felt the temperature drop and the air became crisp and damp.
Words can't explain how good it was... perfect road surface, spectacular scenery and following a Ducati 848 echoing the mountainside with that sweet v-twin anthem.

Mt Nebo is home to the first little cafe on the way up. We kept going and being cautious to obey the speed limit we pull up at Mt Glorious Cafe, already crawling with bikers at 8:30am with every bike imaginable lined up on both sides of the road.
Following a local had many benefits, the road into Mt Glorious has a 50 km/hr speed limit; it's wise to stick to it!
But, some people never learn, a kid coming for a morning coffee on his GSXR found out the hard way - pinged as he rounded the corner with the cafe in sight - as he took off his helmet the bike cop was already there writing him the ticket!
After coffee and great breakfast, we decided to keep going down the other side of the mountain and do the loop through Fernvale and back to Brisbane.
I thought the mornings ride was the best I'd had for years but there was more to come!
Heading down the mountain, surrounded by towering rainforest reminded me on riding in the Otway Ranges in Victoria.
Eventually, the road opened up into wide sweepers and countryside similar to the Wye River area west of Apollo Bay - it went on forever. The only thing that that's dodgy is the way farmers here let their herds wander along the side of the road eating grass - they didn't seem to want to come out on to the road which was good!
We finally reached a t-junction & pulled up - my mate called it "bullshit corner". Apparently all the bikers pull up after riding the stretch of road from Mt Glorious and share their knee scraping stories. Sure enough, as we stood chatting, one by one, sports bikes of all shapes & sizes pulled up with riders eager to have a cigarette and share their tales.
Turning to the right at the t-junction leads to Somerset Dam and a little place called Esk with cafes and craft shops. To the left, the road winds around the edge of Wivenhoe Dam and back to Fernvale.
I was told that heading back around Wivenhoe Dam was a good option and to top it off we swapped bikes.
I threw my leg over the Ducati 848, turned the key, hit the start button and wanted one!
That ride was one I wont forget - what a bike! At first, it felt like it was under-powered but once into the mid-range it just wanted to take off. The steering was heavier than the Speed 3 and needed more counter-steering on the bends but the entire bike felt so stable it was incredible. The rumble of the v-twin testastretta engine and the mid-range torque it produces makes this a fun bike to ride.
The road to Ferndale was incredible with lots of wide sweepers and big straights to test out every aspect of riding skills and machine.
Apparently Ferndale has a great pie shop that's a popular stop for bikers on the week-end loop around the mountain.
We followed the road back to the Ipswich motorway and followed it back into Brisbane, over the Storey Bridge and home - what a day!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It's been a while...

Well I can't believe it's so long since I wrote an update! This time last year I was preparing to head north to Brisbane for 6 months to warmer days and a sunny winter but this past week in Melbourne has felt just as tropical with record temperatures over 30c - the longest spell of hot weather in history.

Not much has been happening on the motorcycle front - a few short rides but nothing spectacular.
One thing I did do was setup the suspension on the Speed Triple and it made an amazing difference. The factory settings were all over the place with the back rebound adjustment set to 1/4 turn when it should have been 2 by default - no wonder I felt like I'd been kicked in the nuts after a days riding!!
I measured the static sag and the pre-loads didn't need any adjustment but the damper rebound and compression were all out on front and rear. I set them all to 2 turns and it made an incredible difference - much smoother on the goat tracks they call roads and with the softer rear end the monos are on tap!

Streety 675 isn't doing much these days and I think it's time for someone else to have some fun on it - it'll be on bikesales soon so if you know anyone wants one let me know. It's barely done 10k kms and has all the extra accessories.
I'm planning for another European to take it's place in the garage - maybe one from the land of Chianti, Agostini and Tiramisu.

It's always hard selling bikes that have been fun to ride and have never let you down - it's like saying goodbye to an old friend. But, the garage just isn't big enough...

Sadly we did say goodbye to an old friend a couple of weeks ago with Beau our oldest cat & mate saying goodbye to us after 17 years - he's off with his brother Casper now but they're both with us still in so many ways. It was a tough few weeks and now that we've got no furry kids to look after we decided it was time to do some travelling.
First, it's the trip of a lifetime - the Isle of Man TT races 2014 accompanied by our good friends Pete & Leone.
The accommodation's booked and now it's just a matter of getting flights organised. I can't wait to feel the rush when those bikes tear past doing 200mph while we sit on a dry stone wall by the side of the road - almost close enough to smell the sweat from their armpits!

I spoke to Paul, one of the guesthouse owners in Douglas & he told me about a bloke from Melbourne who took his Vincent over there last year and won a cup for the bast vintage bike. His first question was "Are you bringing you bikes?" When I told him we weren't he said it'll be the biggest regret of the trip as it's awesome riding around the island on the crazy Sunday when there's no speed limits. He said the atmosphere is fantastic - we can't wait.
We'll be on the corner at Creg Ny Baa for some of the racing as our accommodation is out that way.
To make sure we get the planning right we organised a catch up at the halfway mark between Adelaide & Melbourne with Pete & Leone - so Mt Gambier became the agreed meeting place to have the official Euro 2014 planning workshop. It was a great week-end (except for a speeding fine) and we've got a good idea now of the trip next year & the girls are happy - I think... If you're ever in Mt Gambier the Indian and Thai restaurants are definitely worth a visit but watch out for the manager in the Indian place with the name badge complete with photo - he doesn't like people hanging around after they're eaten!!
Closer to home, I did an early morning ride to Forrest and found a great little place for breakfast. It's a micro-brewery that makes cider and beer but also has a great little cafe. I recognised the girl there from our early days at the Martians in Deans Marsh.
To be honest, I called in at Martians one Saturday and it felt like it had gone downhill a bit - the service wasn't great and the coffee isn't what it used to be. The usual girl and her partner weren't there so I'm not sure if it's been sold.
Anyway, the little place at Forrest was doing a roaring trade with all the mountain bikers up there doing the track rides.
The coffee is roasted locally and the breakie was amazing - it's a good ride too, just a little past Deans Marsh.
I had a blast from the past a couple of months ago when I bumped into Daytona Dave in Mitre 10. He's still into scooters and has completed a few big rides. He's even customised his own scooter chopper complete with extended front forks & ape hangers - apparently it's the rage in the UK.
I think he'll be on a sports bike again one day though - he was telling me that Glen still has the 1098 and Ben just swapped the 1098 for a BMW1000RR - an amazing piece of kit aparently.

As for scooters, I heard the rattle of a two stroke coming through my gate and it was Russell across the road on his newly restored Vespa complete with side-car. It's a tiny little thing & he looked odd with his   6 foot + frame sitting on it. I gave it a bit of a burn around the driveway & the sidecar took some getting used to - I nearly ripped it off on the wall by forgetting it was there a few time - close!
Next ride for me is definitely going to be a road trip somewhere - Swifty that used to ride a Speed3 now rides a Harley Street Bob and send me a video link of his trip with mates to a place in the middle of nowhere called Ivanhoe - it's a great piece of footage and worth a look - Burn Ranga Burn.
Then Terry, the project manager I'm working with rode to Brisbane & back on his new Ducati Multistrada - what a trip. He rode all the way back down the coast & over the alps - maybe I'll do it with him this year.
So, till next time (hopefully sooner than 6 mths) ride safely...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Old days revisited

At last the weather's starting to warm up and those chilly winds are getting less. Everyone tells me it's been a long cold winter but I was lucky enough to spend most of it Queensland so missed the worst of it in the early months.

So time to get the gear out & head out on the road for a bit of a burn. First thing I needed was a new helmet so I went online, did some research and in the end Peter Stevens gave me a better deal than I could get online.
I ended up with an Arai Corsair-V which is a beautiful lid - right weight, comfort and fit for my head. There's even an adjustable spoiler to reduce wind turbulence, however, it still generates a lot of wind noise and maybe even more than the previous Arai Vector I owned!
All the Arai helmets have had the visor vision extended by 10mm which is one of the more noticeable improvements.

So, I got to try it out a few weeks ago when we had a visit from an ex-pat from Adelaide - Pete came over for a week-end visit and we arranged a nostalgic burn down to Deans Marsh with Cam on the Daytona R.
Both Pete & I were itching to get on the Daytona & we both had our opportunity! The rain stayed away and it was the perfect day for a cruise down through the Otways.
We all had the chance to swap around bikes and Cam felt like he was a big sail in the wind when he rode the Speed 3 after the Daytona - he was getting knocked around like Mike Tyson in the upright position and couldn't wait to get back in behind the fairing on the 675R.
Martians was quiet except for a few dirt bike riders and it looked like it might have changed owners - I haven't been there for about a year & didn't recognise anyone. It didn't feel as welcoming and the coffee has definitely gone downhill! We hung around for a while & then took off on the trip home.
It was my turn on the Daytona and the first thing I did was stall it trying to get out on the road :-/
I thought, maybe I'm getting too old for these fast bikes where you need to sit like a jockey! Then I got out on the road... whaoooooo :-o It was awesome - what an experience - it howls and that's just with standard equipment! Once it's up to speed the riding position becomes quite comfortable - the hardest part is holding it back! The adjustable Ohlins suspension is incredible and makes cornering on those bumpy rodes feel uneventful. I loved every bit of it - except for the bits where I had to ride it at 60km/hr - then it becomes painful - mentally and physically :-)
It was great to see Pete & Leone again and I'm keen to get back over to SA later in the year to go an a few rides with Pete into the hills - the roads over there sound fantastic and the revenue collectors aren't as prolific as they are here in the 'we'll get you' state!
Anyway, looks like time to book a few long week-ends away and get a few more kms on the bikes. I can't wait for the weather to get warmer and the days longer.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Awesome Geelong Coffee

I have to share my latest discovery that just happens to be right here in Geelong!
Having spent some time in Brisbane seeking out a decent coffee, I finally found an app that I could use to sniff out the best caffeine hit in town. It's called Beanhunter - and it works! If you only want the best coffee then this is the app for you! It kept me alive while I was in Brissy when I found a little South American owned cafe called SIP.
So now I'm back in Geelong, I thought I'd see what was rating highly in my home town. To my surprise it was a coffee shop in an industrial area called Breakwater - not the sort of place you'd expect to experience a good bean! So, I had to check it out... the place is called Cartel and it is truly unbelievable!
Driving through the industrial estate, I wasn't sure what to expect. Walking through the door was like walking into a coffee den - the roaster at one end of a cosy labyrinth with a mix of sofas and classic wooden tables and music that immediately injected a chill out vibe.
The staff are passionate about everything coffee and even tea - there was a tea room with 100+ different varieties. The coffee is roasted on-site and the roasting area is open so you can have a look. They do everything from expresso to plunger to drip coffee - I tried a cold drip filter coffee fr the first time and was amazed how good it was - straight out of the fridge. Some areas looked more like a science experiment from a school lab :-)
It's an educational experience, the staff all too eager to tell you about the origin of the beans, the way the coffee's produced and some background on the way it's grown and harvested. I love the place. There's even a picture of Her Majesty on the wall - what more could anyone want...
After a few amazing coffees & a few sampler expressos I was almost ready to run a marathon.
If you're a coffee or tea lover then you've got to visit when you're in Geelong. If you visit on a Saturday you might have to park a few blocks away as they reckon it get busy - I can understand why!
Check it out online - www.coffeecartel.com.au
Once the weather gets warmer & I get out on the bike then it'll definitely be a stop here on the way.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Where's the whales?

Brisbane River
After 5 months in BrisVegas it was time for my final flight back home to Geelong last week & the thermal long-johns have been on ever since :-) At least we're heading towards Spring in the next few weeks so with a bit of luck the sun should start moving higher in the sky so the days are longer and warmer.
Point Addis lookout

Anyway, the weather didn't stop a couple of us getting on two wheels & taking a trip down the Great Ocean Road last week.
It's been so long since I've ridden the GO road that I forgot how beautiful it is. The scenery really is breathtaking, and with the road snaking along the cliff edge it's got to be one of the most amazing places in Australia.
We'd heard there'd been a few Southern Right whales spotted along the coast near Apollo Bay so we were well armed with cameras ready to stop at a moments notice. The pillion on the Speed3 was the lookout!
The Arab Cafe - Lorne
It was the perfect day for a ride, sun shining, no rain and no wind. The road was a bit wet in places and there was quite a bit of damage to the bitumen just before Apollo Bay, but overall it was a steady, smooth ride with very little traffic to hold us up.
Our first stop with The Arab cafe in Lorne for a coffee - great to be sitting outside that iconic bike cafe again & the R1 still hangs above the serving area at the front. It's all kitted out ready for bikers with the outside coat hooks for jackets and little shelves outside for a bunch of bikers to rest their coffee cups while they tell each other tales of their motorbike adventures.
As always happens with bikers, we got chatting to another guy who pulled up on his latest purchase - a Spyder! He'd ridden bikes of all shapes & sizes all his life & decided to give the Spyder a try - he was actually still learning how to ride it - very different to riding 2 wheels he reckoned. Interestingly, he'd spend some time working in Leicester and because of his connection with the fire service, he did a tour of the Triumph Hinckley factory after the 2002 fire. He had some great stories.

As we were about to get up & leave we were visited by a friendly cockatoo - he was a cheeky fellow - came right over to us & gave a few naughty squawks asking for food!
We jumped back on the bikes for the best part of the road - the ride from Lorne to Apollo Bay. There was still no sign of whales but it was like a having a tonic getting out on those roads again and experiencing the awesome scenery.
With no whales in sight, we stopped for a bite to eat in Apollo Bay. Looking back at where we had come from looked bleak - dark clouds & overcast. It made us shiver thinking about riding back again.
Our assumptions proved right - as we headed back along the winding Great Ocean Road, the temperature dropped and even with double layers and thermals, it was chilling right through to the bone!
A quick ride via Bells Beach and a stop at Torquay but still no whales - maybe they've all gone north to Queensland where it's warmer :-)

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Beautiful one day, perfect the next

Queensland... the longer I work and live in beautiful Brisbane the more I realise how wonderful this sub-tropical region really is - it's but still 20c on most days and the leaves are still on the trees!

Even the wildlife is amazing - there's a rustle in the bushes - then a bearded devils runs down the path in front of you...

It's been 4 months now since I agreed to come north and work for a few months - it wasn't hard! With thoughts of Winter in Melbourne and travelling on a public transport system that's overcrowded and unreliable, it was easy to say "Yes"!

The month after I started working in Brisbane, the commuter train from Melbourne to Geelong got stuck for 5 hours - easy to predict the Victorian public transport system! I've already sent Myki an e-mail telling them how fantastic the Brisbane GO card is for public transport - it was cheaper and it actually works!
The only thing left to do is get the Speed 3 up here to rip up the roads on the hinterlands around the Sunshine and Gold Coasts. I got a quote last week from a company called Bikes Only - the Triumph dealer in Brisbane recommended them - now I just need to organise it. I'm working with a bloke that tells me about his brother & the 5 Trumpy's in his garage - he's been giving me maps showing me some awesome rides and I plan to meet up with his brother on his Thruxton once I've got my wheels on the ground up here.
Another guy was telling me how good it is on the Queensland Raceway track - they have ride days that are cheap and it's easy to get in a few laps in the sessions.
The only thing I struggle to understand is the football up here, though the Lions are starting to draw the crowds. State of origin has everyone buzzing at the moment - lots of maroon jumpers in the street. If Queensland win the decider I've been told not to expect too many people at work tomorrow - where else but Queensland!
A couple of week-ends ago I had a surprise visit - Cameron, that's Leone's boy, turned up on his new Daytona 675 R. What a bike - Ohlins, Brembo's the works - it looks awesome & I'm sure it's amazing to ride.
I hear Pete's coming back in a couple of months & he'll be throwing a leg over that babe for sure! Cam's already made some additions with short levers and I'm hoping he gets that arrow nderseat pipe on there at some point. He's gonna have fun...
It was great to catch up with Pete & Leone recently when they drove over in the Roller - life in South Australia is definitely suiting them well. Next time Pete comes over I think it'll be time for a burn down to Deans Marsh to catch with with some old faces.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Melbourne Cup - Annual Bright Pilgrimage

It feels like a long time ago since Melbourne Cup - it's taken me ages to write an update. I got started, then stopped, started again several times & at last I'm finishing it. Life's been hectic lately - work hours just seem to creep up & leave no time left to do the things we enjoy!
As usual, I was as keen as ever to get back up to Bright on the cup day week-end last year & my mate Mark was as keen as I was to get on to those beautiful mountain roads on his new Street Triple R.
We found a great place to stay in a hotel right on the river that turned out to be perfect and the weather was good, though there were some warnings of heavy rain on the Sunday.
We set off on Saturday morning with a plan to meet on the Plenty Road, just before Whittlesea.
All went well & we both reached our meeting point in the Bunnings carpark a few minutes apart. The ride along the Western Ring Road was a bit crazy with roadworks everywhere & rutted bitumen that sometimes felt like I was riding in an ice rink!
Our first stop was going to be Yea for breakfast. It was a beautiful start to the week-end ride taking those roads out past Flowerdale into Yea - the area is just starting to come back to life after the bush fires but it is still daunting when you witness the extend of the burnt forest around you & think about the people that once lived there.
It didn't take long getting into Yea where a hearty breakfast went down well and it was then on to Mansfield.
The big surprise came at Bonnie Doon - there's now a lake right up to the Bonnie Doon pub replacing the dry scrubby valley that was there a year ago. It was so unreal we had to stop at the pub for a second look! It was beautiful - ski boats were tied up at the waters edge, their owners in having a few ales at the bar. Ahhh the serenity...
A few old vintage cars passed us on the way and we found out there was a rally scheduled along the Whitfield Road the following week - lucky it wasn't this week-end as the road was going to be closed - couldn't get that far without having fun on the Whitfield Road!
It's always great on that road & I always have a laugh when I think of a ride a few years ago when Stefan had a falcon fly into him & then cling to him with its talons sticking into his jacket - it isn't so much the event that makes me laugh but the animated way he described his dilemma and trying to get this bird of prey off his jacket as he continued tramping along on his bonnie!
As usual a stop at the Mountain View pub was a must - it was getting warm & there was still a fair way to go so it was hard leaving the shaded beer garden to continue the journey.
But we got going and eventually pulled into Bright & into the Riverside Hotel. It's a great spot & we had rooms with sliding doors out onto a lawn overlooking the River Ovens - beautiful.
A quick freshen up & it was almost a jog to the brewery.
However, on the way to the brewery we got distracted - there was a German Beer Festival on in town with a huge Marquee, Umpa Umpa band, bars, German beer and girls in Bavarian outfits - this was like a dream!!
But even this couldn't stop us from our target destination - the Bright Brewery for a pint of Fainters! After a few Fainters we staggered back & became very sophisticated with wine, cheese & biscuits on the terrace...
The next day we started early for the loop around Mt Hotham, Omeo, Anglers Rest, Mt Beauty and back via the Tawonga Gap.
The ride up through Harrietville was beautiful, the river flowing along on the left with the mountainous backdrop - how good can it get!
Then is was up over Hotham on an adrenaline ride after I had a close encounter with an R1 coming in the opposite direction. It was so close I could smell his aftershave :-)
As usual a quick stop in Dinner Plain is always good for a coffee & gave us the chance to share tales of our bikes , the road & the views.
It was all looking good until we approached Omeo & the skies started looking black - then the rain started. We reached Omeo just in time - the skies opened up and it poured.
We met a bunch of guys on Trumpies from Albury - most of them were on new Tigers & talked very highly of them - might have to try a ride one day!
We quickly set off for the Blue Duck pub at Anglers Rest while there was a break in the weather.
It was still very wet on the roads so we were a bit careful on the winding road along the side of the mountain that leads to Anglers Rest. There's some great spots to camp along the river and do some fishing - a thought for a future trip!
From Anglers Rest the riding was tough in torrential rain & we had to stop & run into the trees to take shelter & get the waterproofs on for some serious wet weather riding up over the back road to Falls Creek.
This road was sealed a couple of years ago and has now settled to make it a beautiful riding road - also makes a great circuit ride from Bright through Falls Creek and into Mount Beauty.
Everything except snow hit us as we road over the mountain - rain & thick fog with freezing temperatures made it feel like an endurance ride. Finally we got to Falls Creek & kept going to the glorious sunshine in Mt Beauty.
A quick fuel stop and a stretch - then it was onto one of my favorite roads - the Tawonga Gap Road - it just gets better every time!
So, we finally got back to Bright - my mates new Street 3 had been fully tried & tested. It certainly had a bit of everything thrown at it throughout the day.
The next day it was back to Melbourne with a stop at the Myrtleford Butter Factory for breakfast (highly recommended) and then back the way we came via Whitfield and the King Valley.
Now that I've finished writing this it's got me thinking that I need another trip back up there again...