Saturday, January 30, 2010

Tour Meltdown


I am back home earlier then planned. After previously having to cancel this ride I was determined to go this time no matter what so I set out only to ride into one of the hottest days on record in northern NSW.

How hot? - damn hot!!

Yes that is 44 degrees or 111F in the old imperial measurements. This was in the shade at Nymboida coaching station on Australia day, the heat was ferocious. When riding I was blasted with oven hot air if I opened my visor and half suffocated in the stifling heat inside if I did not. It really was beyond uncomfortable and downright dangerous as I could not keep enough fluids up and ended up dehydrated, exhausted and starting to get brain fade and wanting to nod off. I stopped and took stock of matters then checked into the first motel I came to where I jumped under a cold shower then rested in air conditioning with a big jug of iced water.

The next day I felt mostly recovered with the exception of some heat rash from the previous day however the day was soon heating up and I needed to do a reality check. Checking the weather the towns ahead of me today were forecast as 38 degrees and next day 41 degrees at Albury. I very reluctantly decided that it was not feasible to ride as planned. I weighed up rerouting via the coastal roads to but it just didn't add up as with the exception of one day in Victoria all the roads I targeted for this tour were inland.

I decided then to spend some time exploring a few places in and around the New England Tablelands area of NSW hoping that the temperatures in that area would be cooler due to the altitude, which for the most part it was. First I rode to the Wollomombi Falls which totally amazed me. The photo doesn't convey size of the gorge but it is enormous, (actually the photo is crap and this trip marks the end of my use of a compact cameras) the falls are claimed to be the 2nd highest drop in Australia.

This is much bigger than it looks

Next I really got adventurous and hit the dirt to visit a place I had long wanted to see. Point Lookout is 1563 m (5127 ft) above sea level and is located about 20km off the Waterfall way. The road is unsealed most of the way but was in superb condition when I visited, smoother than many sealed roads I have been on with gentle curves I could easy maintain 60 to 70 kph. The views from the 'eagle nest' viewing area were jaw dropping, I would rate this one of the best lookouts in Australia and again my photo does nothing to capture the scale and grandeur.

Amazing view from point lookout



I took a run down from Dorrigo to Belligen and did a few runs over the superb mountain section just south of Dorrigo. I tried to capture some with the new action video camera but the results are simply not worth publishing. No fault of the camera which seems to do a good job but where I mounted it was too susceptible to vibrations. On my way down I was stuck behind a convoy and as I reached the bottom a blanket of heat engulfed me. I did a u-turn and incredibly had a car free climb all the way to the top. Wow what a ride! What a road!

Top of the range Belligen to Dorrigo

Another thing I had wanted to check in this area was the East Dorrigo Way that runs from Coramba to Ulong and on to Dorrigo. I asked the guy in the servo at Coramba what the road beyond Ulong was like and he said it was kept in good order and only about 10 k unsealed - so I thought I'd give it all a go. The climb from Coramba to Ulong is a superb motorcycle road, very similar to the Oxley h-way tight stuff in the forest. 20- 25km of well surveyed 30k rated corners with tar in excellent condition which you ascend to a lofty point from the valley below.




The road from Ulong to Dorrigo is some of the worst unsealed road I have ever taken a road bike on, and its a good 25 k long. It took me ages to cover this road despite being a very capable dirt road rider. In places the road reduced to a 4 wheel drive track with large sections of the soil washed away leaving only rocky outcrops exposed. You need to approach rock with plenty of care when equipped with road tyres. Finally I made it across and on the approach to Dorrigo the road is again excellent and soon I was at Dangar falls, one of the dozen or more excellent waterfalls that are scattered about this area.


At least it was shady and not too hot

After exploring Cathedral rock national park I caught up with some fellow riders at Fusspots cafe in Ebor, another place on my list to visit and they told me to take the road opposite the rest area before descending the range to Belligen to see another good lookout. I enjoyed the food and coffee at Fusspots and noted it was a popular spot with riders coming up from the coast or from Armidale. The ride down from Ebor to Dorrigo on the upper part of the Waterfall way is just wonderful to 'flow' along. The lookout tip off paid off too. What a stunning part of the country this is.



A sight on the Cathedral rock national park road

I went to explore the Tyringham road. This is the alternative way back to the Grafton - Armidale road which I had never heard much about. I guess with the Waterfall way nearby perhaps it would be easy to not mention this road but it's another superb road for motorcycle riding. Gentle curves lead to a steep and spectacular descent which then becomes a classic twisty back road without any fat all the way to the intersection.



Great riding in North Dorrigo

I tried again for some video action on the terrific descent on the Armidale - Grafton road to Nymboida but the footage is poor so unfortunately nothing to show. I will experiment some more but am not particulalry fussed on video still. I visited Russell Crowe's museum of interesting things at Nymboida and had lunch at the Coaching Station which I presume is also his? Heaps of interesting sporting stuff collected by Russell on display inside the pub and friendly folk behind the bar - glad my plans changed so I could relax and take it all in.





I found a way to improve the ride between Grafton and Casino when using the Summerland way by riding via Laurence. Heading south the turn off comes just as you are starting to get super bored with the Summerland. The road immediately lifts the spirit with a series of gentle sweepers and there is enough more to keep you entertained until Laurence. After Laurence the road is gentle but scenic with the mighty Clarence river nearby and more then just a few curves keep your brain engaged. Alternatively you can ride the scenic river road for a few km which places you just a few metres away from the water.



That's about it for this ride report. I never got too far but somehow it worked out ok as I really enjoyed the Tablelands area and think I will go back and do a future 3 day ride in this area, when the weather suits. I also avoided the rain that came in on the roads I would have been riding the last two days so here's to avoiding that and trying it another time.



A couple of suggestions for roads to ride in this area and nearby.



Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tour time

Thunderstorms

I am all set to go on tour bike is prepped and I just need to put my bags on and go. The weather forecast has improved and while there is always a chance of rain it looks like the main issue will be high heat and thunderstorms in the afternoon. I will need to get up early to ride more before the heat of the day and finish sooner, especially if a big storm brews up.

The only problem with this is I might have to stay in motels rather than pubs as planned which then means I need to revisit my intended stop over points. The reason being at a pub or B&B you usually don't have facilities to prepare breakfast in your room whereas at a motel I can pick up something light the night before and place it in the rooms fridge and there is always tea and coffee etc.

Alternatively a option is to leave early from a pub stay and find somewhere to eat at the next town. This can be a bit hit and miss, the last time I tried this I ended up riding 150km before coming to a town big enough to have a cafe that opened for breakfast.

Slow down in country towns

Speaking of small town cafes, I was contacted by a reader who asks if I can bring to attention the issue of motorcycles not slowing down in small towns. He speaks of Grevillia on the Summerland way but this applies to so many places I ride. If you enjoy the freedom of riding country roads and not having to look at your speedo every 5 seconds then do slow down in the townships along the way otherwise the local police will be forced to respond and things will be ruined for all.

Video

I have flirted with video a number of times but always returned to still photography. I purchased one of those cheap action video cameras from eBay recently that capture You Tube resolution video to a SD card inside it. You are meant to mount it on your helmet but that proved harder than it looked with the rubber strap slipping off each time. I have secured it to the bike and will see how it goes, I just want some footage of the road and scenery and not the action/speed type video so long as it doesn't shake too much 640*480 capture will be fine.

A Motorcycle Paradise reader from Canada showed me some of the video she took when touring Australia at last years Moto-GP and this rekindled my desire to try it myself. Here is a link to Nancy's videos , do take a look if you have time.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Fine and Hot



Coolamon Scenic drive

I only meant to go for a small ride today however I got a bit carried away.

Finally a fine day that I can get out for a ride. Seems many other people were thinking the same thing. I saw it was already 31 degrees at 8.00 on the digital sign at Ormeau - it was going to be a real hot day. There were many bikes on the M1 north bound, probably to Mt Glorious as I headed south and there were numerous groups riding either side of the border ranges.





Burringbah Range


I was glad to get onto the roads less traveled and away from them all, don't get me wrong very happy to see more people enjoying the southern ranges but today I was wanting some 'time out' away from everyone just me and my bike and some nice curves to try clear my head.





Hills over looking Byron bay


By the time I left Burringbah the bikes thinned out and I quite enjoyed the ride over the rest of the Tweed Valley way then Coolamon Scenic drive and the roads in the hills behind Mullumbimby before stopping for a rest and plenty of fluids at Federal. Took a look about some back roads there at some property for sale (I'm dreamin') then rode up the hill and turned onto Repentance creek road.





Nice block of land


I wasnt sure where I was going at first and decided I might as well see what the pub at The Channon is like for lunch. The road work is finished and no gravel left, its a good bit of road out there now and I noticed a few bikes already aware of it. The pub forgot my lunch order (this seems to happen to me more often than most people) I was already forming a few choice words to write about my experience here however they refunded my money and shouted me a drink and then insisted I stay while they make me lunch free of charge! While I really needed to get rolling how could I refuse - so here's to the Channon Hotel.





Rolling hills near The Channon


I was then further pleasantly surprised to find premium fuel was available at the general store so I could refuel there and make it my turn around point for todays ride.


Route here.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Overboot comparison.


Here in the tropics you really cannot wear waterproof boots in anything but winter, to do so otherwise will end up with feet as wet from perspiration as feet out in the rain. I have a new pair of overboots which I sourced from the UK via eBay for just 8 pounds.

These boot rain covers are made of a vinyl material with a thin sole made of a harder vinyl material which is also used on two patches on the boot upside where they may contact a gear shifter. The covers are quite difficult to get on due to the zipper openings being placed at the side which means you need to do a fair bit of pulling and stretching to get them on or off your boots. This isnt a size issue as they are very large and easy have room to fit larger boots once you have them on. I am a bit unsure about how long these might last before I bust the zip trying to get them over my boots.


Old on the left, new to the right.

My old overboots also came from eBay UK, overboots were (and still are) not easy to find here. These are actually cycling rain overshoes which are made of a neoprene material that is waterproof. By comparison these are on in a matter of seconds, you slip your boot in and pull the stretch material back and fasten it at the rear of your boot with velcro. These covers are semi open at the sole, there is a base section at the toe and elastic in the middle and the cover is held in a way that it shields the sides from rain but has your sole open. These would not suit a full size motorcycle boot but are fine for shorty boots and riding shoes they are perhaps slightly shorter than optimal and your rain pants obviously need to be long enough to reach to your boots.



Both fold up quite small. I think the new ones I would want for a extended day of rain riding where as the old ones have proved themselves in a storm or showers that I have been able to ride away from.

Update well the vinyl ones are rubbish to try use in real life. Trying to get them on side of road was not good and yes the broke soon after.

I purchased a third pair of overboots for just a couple of dollars from ebay. These are simple in design no sole just a vinyl tube style of cover with elastic that hooks over the toe and a strap under the boot. So just your basic rain over boot. These can be fitted in seconds but like the cycle rain boots they well allow a little bit of water to get to the area at the base of the boot were the leather joins the sole. Particularly when water splashes up from the road. After a couple of hours rain riding this part of your boot/shoe starts to get wet through. So both these and the cycle boot covers are good for a shower or riding after a storm has mostly passed or to get you to shelter but perhaps not for extended day of riding in rain. If you have some limited waterproof agent applied to your boots then perhaps can do extended rain riding with these. I did a 7 hour ride in rain with them over non waterproof boots and remained ok but the night before I applied a coat of shoe shine and I think this helped. They did get a little wet in the base by days end however pretty good result. Ultimately decent waterproof boots are the best bet. 

Australia Day Motorcycle Tour

I am going to try for my 7 day tour again starting on Australia Day.

I was staring at the calendar and then it presented itself to me, if I could get the days off after the Australia day holiday then from Tuesday 26th January plus the weekend and Monday gives me the 7 days needed. So I have secured those days off.

The long range weather looks not too bad, may be some rain still in the north of NSW. That said the Elders weather site rain predictions for northern NSW coastal areas seems to always be in the high 75% chance - it can't be raining there every day - the area simply doesn't get that much rainfall.

My route is a similar to last posting but revised again.

Day One is Brisbane to Walcha via Mt Lindsey and Summerland way then I will ride over to the coast (if fine) as the Summerland way from Casino to Grafton is more mind numbing than the Pacific h-way. I will exit the highway at Mclaean then take the back roads into Grafton besides the river which has a ferry crossing. Instead of Nymboida I want to try the adjacent road south then ride up the Waterfall way and on south to Walcha pub for tonight.

Day Two south via Thunderbolts way then to Singleton via Dungog and some back roads and then two roads I have wanted to ride for a long time, the Bylong Valley way west then south towards Lithgow and next I tackle the Tablelands way to Oberon and further south before stopping at the Taralga pub tonight.

Day Three should be a fun ride with lots of varied roads. Leaving Taralga south to Goulburn then west to Yass where I intend to tackle the Yass to Tumut road that has some unsealed sections but otherwise is said to have lots of nice corners. Some more back roads near Batlow that I heard were a better option that the main highway. I will ride the Murray river road and cross over Mt Granya which is another reccommendation by a reader of this blog then breifly join the Murray valley highway next to the Hume before I ride over to Beechworth and up Mt Buffalo before stopping at Bright.

Day 4 is perhaps the highlight of the tour, starting with the Tawonga Gap, then Mt Beauty to Falls Creek and down the other side to Anglers rest and lots of curves south to Omeo. Now the ride down from the alpine areas to the Tambo valley which is superb then I turn east before Bairnsdale to Orbost where I turn North and tackle the Delegate-Bombala road. A little bit of dirt on this road as well as 100+ k's of never ending corners. But wait there's more! After Bombala I will be zig zagging over the 4 mountains that lie to the east to make my way to Bega for tonights stop.

Day 5 starts with a coastal ride from Tathra to Bermagui before joining the highway to Batemans Bay where I ride via the Clyde river national park and climb Clyde Mt on the Kings highway which is a really nice ride. Bit of highway to get back to Goulburn and then ride the Tableland way again. From Oberon I am going to swing right towards the Blue Mountains, the road here past the Jenolan state forest should be interesting and I am aiming for Blackheath pub tonight.

Day 6 will be big. I hope the weather for the latter part of the tour is ok as I reenter the NSW mid coast area, the current rain capital of Australia. I am going to first cross the Blue Mountains and head north on the putty and over to Gloucester via Dungog then if fine ride the Bucketts way over to the coast and a little bit of highway 1 north before cutting across some back roads with a few k's of dirt to get on to the Oxley west to Walcha.

Day 7 I have the option to stay on the west highway if its raining otherwise I intend to ride down the Gwydir from Glenn Innes to Grafton then keep it simple for the run home on the Summerland way and My Lindsey.

Click on days to see the maps.

I have placed all the maps into my GPS, this tour (now on it's third attempt) still to be first one I use just a GPS. I find it clunky to get maps into my Garmin 760 nuvi. The only way I know thus far to get from Motowhere to GPS is do the route and then save the .gpx file then it has too many waypoints in it to be useable on my gps and also is a track file not a route file so I load it into GPSbabel and convert the file to a route file and reduce the waypoints in it from 500+ to 50. Then I can use Mapsource or GPSexpert to load the file to the unit. Then I have to load the route in the unit from the data area to the routes area. No wonder I still like paper maps.