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...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mickey Bourke's Annual Ride

What's the weather going to be like on the week-end was the question I kept asking as it got closer to our day of departure on Saturday morning. We were off on a week-end trip to Koroit staying at Mickey Bourke's pub.

It's a ride that was initiated by Rob & Priscilla from Melbourne years ago and has become an annual pilgrimage. Last year I departed the group at Lavers Hill, deciding to come home instead of heading on to Koroit, but when I pulled away I made a promise to go all the way this year - and I didn't regret it!
We all met at Moriac outside the little general store that has extended into a little coffee shop - even boasting the best coffee in Geelong. A couple of the guys tried the brew & I didn't hear any complaints so can only assume it must be ok. I'll definitely be stopping to try it next time I pass that way. All up there was 9 bikes with the trumpy's having the majority.
Bill was on his new GS1200 - an awesome bike that provided the capability to raise and lower the suspension as he rode along - handy on those dirt roads through the bush! Geoff & Bill had recently ridden the BMW GS1200s to Queensland and back - they're definitely the bike to use for touring - I wonder how the new Triumph Tiger matches up...
Our first stop was at Martians which was being invaded by the Volkswagen comby club - there were all shapes & sizes & colours in the car park - a bunch of surfies had been returned by aliens and dropped off in Deans Marsh!
Next stop was Apollo Bay via Skenes Creek Rd through Forrest and Barwon Downs. It wasn't the best ride - wet roads and lots of cautious cars doing 40 km/hr and not wanting to let us pass-very frustrating. It was good to reach Apollo Bay for lunch.
I think it was Rob's idea that we take a photo opportunity by the harbour - problem was, half of us didn't know where exactly it was. So there was a bit of a tour of the general area before we found our way to eventually regroup and line up for the
group photo.
First lesson learned - don't tie a knot in the cord that holds the ventura waterproof cover on the bag - you won't get it off... especially when you need to get stuff out of the bag. Well, Minger could have been without his pyjamas all week-end if P wasn't a knot undo expert :-)
We left Apollo Bay and there's not much I can say about the ride to Apollo Bay - it was awesome & we all had a fantastic ride through that beautiful rain forest and then the lush green valley up to Lavers Hill - we talked about it non-stop when we stopped. Rob S would have been smiling for days after that ride on the Daytona...

Then the road to Port Campbell which is different but just as much fun - the first and only cop on the trip sat outside Port Campbell in a 4x4 with his radar pointed directly at us - he must have been disappointed when we all saw him and stayed within the limit!

Heading out of Port Campbell there was some great stretches of road with big sweepers and a big burn with the RC8 and the flying Daytona left me tingling (and smiling :-))
It was great to finally reach Mickey Bourke's in Koroit - we were all looking forward to relaxing with a cold drink. It's an old Irish Pub with lots of character & I felt at home right away.

Koroit was a farming town populated by Irish immigrants and had potatoes as it's main crop. Now it's dairy farms with wafts of fresh warm milk hitting you as you ride past the processing plants.

The cider and guinness started flowing in the pub with stories of the days ride. Bill shared his incredible stories of riding a Yamaha 400 across the world from Singapore in the 70s - even riding through Afghanistan and the middle east - made me realised I haven't really lived. I would love an evening sitting just listening to Bill's stories - better than Charlie & Ewan!
The food was perfect and for a country pub it was impressive. Jane's calamari didn't last long when she offered to share.
A few glasses of the local pinot & it was time to invade the pool room and get the jukebox cranked up. It reminded me of a night with the Geelong RATs in Bronte Park Tassie - we played pool, drank beer and rocked the night away with the jukebox bashing out our favorite tunes form the 80s & 90s. Rowan, the youngest amongst us must have wondered what he'd let himself in for - surrounded by these aging rockers singing along to Bob Marley & Queen :-)
Team Mac were doing well on the pool table until we had to call on the reserve when one half of the team disappeared - that's when Team Stokes got the opportunity to claim victory.
After a good night’s sleep - in between truck compression braking, we all had a hearty breakfast & got the bikes fired up.

The plan was to take a ride around the old volcano at Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve and stop off in the Information Centre. It's an amazing place & straight away we spotted several Emus in dense undergrowth by the lake. They're huge bird & I'm glad they don't get angry with motorbikes...
It's definitely well worth a visit - lots of local aboriginal history, geology and if you want photos of Emus, Wallabies and Koalas then a few hours there would probably make sure you get a bit of everything.
Priscilla suggested we swap bikes as I'd never ridden a Daytona 675 and I’d mentioned the night before that I'd love the chance to try one.

First challenge was sitting on it – what a difference to the Speed Triple! Once I was on there and the cramps in my hips subsided, my immediately thoughts (apart from being an old bugger) was, they’ll need a winch to get me off again! But, it wasn’t long before I actually loved the riding position – everything feels so compact and busy compared to the Speed 3 but it was amazing how good it felt once we were out on the open road.

That characteristic howl that comes with the 675 engine takes on a new meaning as you open the throttle. We headed back in the direction of Warrnambool and then took off up the Hopkins Highway towards Mortlake – a fairly boring road with a few good sweepers here & there.

In the end the Daytona felt so good I didn’t want to get off… but Priscilla wanted her beautiful bike back :-)

Cobden was the place picked for a fuel stop – according to Rob’s GPS it was a Mobil servo but when we got there it was a Shell servo that had just stopped trading that day! I think I saw Cobden 3 times within half an hour & at one stage started feeling dizzy – ahhh technology, whatever happened to good ole paper maps – maybe it’s the baby boomer in me J

A stop for lunch at Bucks in Camperdown and then it was off to somewhere – we didn’t really know where… all was going well, scenery was awesome and roads exactly how you want them on a bike.

Next we doubled back through Terang, Timboon, Scotts Creek and Simpson making our way towards Lavers Hill.

Then came the elephant in the bush – a dirt road up ahead. My first thought was – we can trust Rob, it’s probably only a couple of kilometres. Big mistake – 14 km’s later and a bush dirt road with corrugation, mud, stones as big as boulders, all in the depths of the rain forest.

My mind flashed back to a few years ago – crossing the mountains on a dirt road one of our ride group got separated and stuck out on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere with a puncture – it was a nightmare. But in the end we made it to the bitumen & I could understand Charlie & Ewan’s joy when they kissed the bitumen road after days on dirt. We all had a good laugh about it as we pulled up - we'd survived...

Lavers Hill was at the end of the road from hell and it just got worse – the sky opened up with hail and the temperature dropped – this was really testing us. But we pushed on, up the Cape Otway road and it dried out giving us the last taste of excitement as we pulled uphill towards Geelong.

We soon reached the point of separation; the Melbourne crew pushing on to get fuel and on to the highway back home and the two Geelong bikes having just a 30-minute ride to a warm shower.

It was a great week-end, plenty of great roads and good company – I’m already looking forward Mickey Bourke’s 2012 J

Monday, May 30, 2011

Here, There, Everywhere

Not sure how much everyone's getting out for a ride these days but I know my days out on two wheels have been few & far between.
First of all we went to the UK for all of March & then when I got back I ended up working between Hobart & Melbourne. Hobart's beautiful - great food, coffee, scenery and people - check out 'Next Door' in Collins Street if you're down that way - best coffee & great service.
That project finished but then it was off on another one working in Sydney & Brisbane! It's all great for the air miles but not so good for the ride miles :-)
I had a burn a few weeks ago with a few mates from Melbourne. My mate Mark's just bought himself a new Street Triple R & he loves it.
He's already got heaps of after-market bits and there's more on the way. It looks & feels great to ride - seems a little different to the earlier model Street 3 in the riding position - the bars seem flatter and lower. I wasn't sure about those new lights but they're growing on me. Anyway, our ride took us up through Greendale and Blackwood then Daylesford and Hepburn Springs hotel for lunch.
I gotta say, the roads were absolutely terrible - like goat tracks in places with patches on corners to cover holes and really uneven surface - if TAC and VicRoads want to improve road safety then why not start by fixing up the appalling roads - they're outright dangerous for all road users - not just bikes.
Anybody asked where our bike tax moneys going now? Remember, the new state government is the one that promised several years ago to remove it if they got elected... just like the public transport promises - all smoke & mirrors! Maybe we should write to the local member & remind him - especially Denis Napthine as he was the one at the bike protest rally!!
Last week the Speed 3 got another accessory - anodised brake reservoirs. All went well with the back one but then the front one came to a standstill when I realised I needed 2 brake bleeding kits. So, another job to finish next week-end. They do look a lot better than the plastic ones.
The weather in Hobart was beautiful when I was down there working & I couldn't stop thinking "if only I had trumpy down here..." maybe I'll get back down for a holiday later in the year and get to ride on those beautiful roads.
Looks like the local RAT group is kicking off again - I think there was a ride last week-end. I wasn't around so didn't get to join them - maybe next time...

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Back to Reality

Well it had to come to an end sometime. The last part of our travels was spent in Hong Kong which we explored for 4 days. It's still as hectic as I remembered it back when I was here 4 years ago.
Next time I come here it'll be to stay in a hotel on Hong Kong island - after 4 days of getting harassed by hustlers trying to sell me a suit, handbags or a Rolex watch in Nathan Rd I felt like jumping into the harbour :-) Kowloon is the cheaper area but it lacks the style and variety of eating places and bars that can be found in Lan Kwai Fong, Wan Chai or Soho.
We took the ferry to Mui Wo to meet up with the bus to the Big Buddha and Po Lin Buddhist monastery. It was quite a cooler day-about 18c but chilly in the wind. The ferry took about 30 minutes and then a hair-raising bus ride through the hills of Lantau Island for 50 minutes.
The Big Buddha was amazing - the monument sits on top of the mountain looking out over Hong Kong and the Pearl River delta. Inside there's an actual sacred artefact - a fragment of bone that belonged to the Sakyamuni Buddha. When he was cremated his remains were distributed to temples all over the world - it's claimed that the relic on display inside this bronze Buddha are genuine remains.
Two weeks later this all seems like a distant memory - it's now back to the world of reality & work. Sounds like nothing's changed out there on the road either - I heard the cops had taken over Martians cafe in Deans Marsh last Sunday & were going through every bike that went past. My source told me the cafe was empty except for 3 bike cops doing what cops in Victoria do - lucky he didn't end up shot or tazered - I thought, it would have been ironic if I'd gone out for a burn on my first ride & had the welcome back to "the place to be"... now here's your fine :-(

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Doc Martin

I've arrived in Port Isaac in beautiful North Cornwall. It's a little fishing village that's well known by fans of the TV show Doc Martin as Port Wenn. Last night, sitting in an old smuggler pub with oak beams and a roaring fire with a pint of local cider and a plate of fresh haddock, it felt like i was in heaven :-)
There's lot of fans of the TV show wandering around taking photos and with filming for the new series about to commence in 2 weeks time its going to get very busy.
Today it was the quest for the holy grail and following in the footsteps of King Arthur we visited Tintagel Castle - legend has it that this is Arthur's birthplace.
The castle is perched right on the edge of the cliff and archeological evidence has shown that a celtic encampment was here in 500AD - about the time that Arthur ruled and fought against the Saxons.
I'm nipping around in a little Peugot 308 diesel but would love to be on these roads on Trumpy - they are absolutely fantastic bike roads. I've seen quite a few Street Triples flying past having fun on the twisty, winding roads. Instead of kangaroos to watch out for its deer - they wander wild and there's warning signs that they're on the roads. There's also badgers - they're about the size of a wombat.
There's ice cream with clotted cream on top, cornish pasties the size of dinner plates and everywhere has fish & chips with mushy peas on the menu - a very healthy diet!
This is definitely cider drinking country - one pub I went into asked me if I wanted a normal cider or the one that would ensure I couldn't stand up after I drank a pint!
It's a beautiful part of the world & the only regret is not having a bike to ride on these awesome roads - even the guy that owns the B&B I'm staying in is an old sportbike rider & tells me the roads are sensational on a bike.
Next stop is St Austell in the south and maybe a visit to the Eden Project or the Lost Gardens of Heligan. Not long & we'll be back in Australia - first thing I'll do is plan my next trip back to this beautiful island.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Life in the ole blighty

Well it's just over a week now that we've been back in sunny England. The weather's been chilly but beautiful blue skies & sunshine every day - just like the Spring days I remember.
The little country lane ways in the Cotswolds have come to life with daffodils, snowdrops & crocus flowers. I just wish I had Trumpy over here - the roads are unbelievable. Twisty & hilly with great surface and no speed cameras!
They've even taken speed cameras off the motorways as they reckon they were too dangerous - people were too busy watching out for speed cameras instead of concentrating on the road. Driving down the M5 doing 150 km/h its a regular occurrence to have cars pass us in the outside lane.
One thing you wont see over here is beaten up old cars - the government provided a grant for people to scrap their old polluting cars & buy newer emission reduced vehicles. For years the UK has had a policy whereby every car has a roadworthy conducted annually - called an MOT. It's another level of safety that makes sure vehicles on the road are safe.
I've started looking into buying a bike over here & letting a friend keep it for me until I can come back again - might be good for riding up to the Liverpool ferry to the Isle of Man. A bloke mentioned to me today that an old bloke he knows is selling a BSA Goldstar that he's had for years - might be going for a good price.
Bikes are generally cheaper than Australia - especially Trumpy's. I saw a 2005 Speed Triple with all the extras for $7k - it was a lovely bike & would be awesome on these roads. A Ducati 848 costs about $550 for the week to hire - that includes tax and fully comprehensive insurance - not bad!
It's definitely the best time to come over to the UK for a visit - the weather is warming up, the days are getting longer and the seaside towns are still free of the holiday crowds they get in the summer months. Over the course of the week we've visited Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Avon and Gloucestershire - every one of them providing a history lesson going back to the 14th & 15th century, after all, this is the land of King Arthur & the knights of the round table.
Today we had a beautiful 12c day in Weston Super Mare - sitting on the pier eating cod & chips is hard to beat. Then a clotted cream ice cream - all very healthy I'm sure :-)
Next week it's off to Cornwall and the home of Doc Martin - Port Issac. I've also had a tip to stop at an old pub on the way - a place called the Highwayman on Dartmoor - apparently it'll give us an experience I wont forget!
I'm looking forward to a few local ales when I get into Cornwall - I've tested a few scrumpy ciders and they definitely hit the spot...
So, this week Bristol, then Cornwall and back to Hong Kong next Sunday.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Just flew into Hong Kong

Well its 1:45am in Australia & 10:45pm here in Hong Kong - we've just arrived in Hong Kong airport and have a couple of hours before we board for the second torturous leg of the journey to London.
It's an amazing airport, built on a bed of rock formed from demolishing two adjoining islands. The mud on the sea bed had to be removed before the foundation rock could be laid - it took two years for dredgers to suck up all the sea bed silt. It's an impressive site with a terminal that stretches 1.8km. I know all this cause I watched a documentary on the plane!
Best part of this airport is that it has free internet, is spotlessly clean and has fantastic public transport into the city. It's even got a public transport ticketing system that works!
The journey from Melbourne took about 8 hours - feels ok for the first 2-3 then there's just no comfortable position that can be accommodated in that tiny space called a seat. We had access to the business class lounge but it was like taking a toy away from a child when we had to board economy :-) It was good to catch up on some movies & watch the entire first series of The Office again.
So, now its onward to London & 10c...

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Arrow Exhausts on the S3

Well, I took the plunge while the AU$ was looking good against the US$ and bought a set of Arrow exhausts for my bike. It was an awesome buy from in Florida with a saving of nearly $500!!
Once I got them in the mail I couldn't wait to get them on - but one problem - they needed a new tune loaded on the bike's ECU!
So, I rang around and the advice from the service department was that I needed to leave the bike in the workshop for a day!
My intention was to fit the exhausts at home, then ride in and get the tune loaded on Saturday morning!
Eventually, I ran out of time with Xmas fast approaching and lots to finish at work before the break.
Then I started doing some reading on the forum (brilliant site for all things trumpy) and found out about a program called TuneECU - it's a free program developed by a couple of guys in Europe that provides access to the bikes ECU - it's brain.
All it needs is an interface cable that just happens to be the same one used by Volkswagon and Audi for tuning cars.
So, straight on to eBay I bought a cable for $20 and downloaded the program with the tune for the Speed 3 with high arrow exhausts.
It was as simple as they said on the forum!! Remove the light fuses, attached the cable to the bike from the computer, turn the bike on, run the program on the laptop and update the new tune - easy! The main thing is to make sure the battery is well charged beforehand.
TuneECU also comes with lots of diagnostic and test options as well as the tuning features. It's all provided free with the option to donate via Paypal to the developers to help them refine it even more. They provided a huge range of tunes for all Triumph motorcycles with lots of support from engineers around the globe.
Once all was loaded and a quick visual inspection, I took off for a burn - what a difference the arrows make to mid-range!
It didn't seem too different to the bottom end though the front does seem to pop up a lot easier now! The weight is the other major difference - the arrows drop a couple of kilos of the bike weight for sure.
I've kept the baffles in the exhausts for now and they still seem to bark... taking them out is simply a case of removing a circlip. If you're looking for anything Triumph then I'd highly recommend The customer service is fantastic and Mike (the manager) makes purchasing online simple.
Only one thing I'd recommend to anyone fitting arrows - make sure you put a medium threadlock on the bolts that attach the carbon bracket to the bike - one of mine came loose & took off on my first big ride!