Oxley HighwayI basically only decided to go for a ride on Thursday afternoon, and even then it was no firm plan, more an idea.
4 days off work with more of less half decent weather seemed too good to just use around home. Thursday evening I hatched a half baked plan to do a 4 day ride to the Tablelands way and getting all my gear ready and working out a route took late into the night. Next morning I was so tired and the weather was still wet in parts so I decided it was foolhardy to attempt that ride.
Friday evening and the weather was better so I revised my ride back to an old idea I had of riding to Armidale and using that as a base to ride a loop to Gloucester via the Oxley Highway and Thunderbolts Way. And my mate from Alstonville after looking at my plan decided to join me for the ride which made for a real change to my often solo long distance riding.
Saturday morning and I was on the road at an earlier than normal 6:00 am Queensland time to counter the hour I would loose as I crossed the border into NSW daylight saving time. This proved to be a blessing as I got a almost car free ride over Currumbin range and with the exception of some young couple wanting to fool with me in their Mazda 3 (yawn) at Uki I got another perfect run right into Nimbin.
The road from Nimbin to Lismore, minus the usual stack of cars, is really a superb ride. I must go back and take some photos as this road deserves a better mention than I have previously given it, just need to get it at the right time of day.
After meeting my mate we set off to Grafton but not via the Summerland way and Laurence this time, rather via backroads to Woodburn and the Pacific highway to Maclean. This route is not too bad as you first of all get some very nice riding over to Woodburn and again from Maclean to Laurence. Secondly the highway section whilst boring has then become a much smaller distance than if you rode say Ballina to Grafton. Oh and you get a ferry crossing before Laurence which makes for a nice change.
South of Grafton I again steered onto the Orara Way to Coffs Harbour to revisit the fabulous Eastern Dorrigo Way to Ulong. This really is a superb road to ride, a twisty mountain climb that throws so many corners at you your going to need a rest by the time you drop into Ulong. There is not alot there, a pub is about the only thing in town open, by the looks most everything else has long closed down. You need to turn around here as the road ahead becomes nothing better than a 4 wheel drive dirt track however the ride downhill actually flows better due to the camber and better radius of the road downhill.
Ulong theatreRejoining the Orara Way it too flows nicely into Coffs Harbour and I am sure both would be popular with local riders. Had a brief look at the beach, the temperature was rather hot so we did not linger that long and rode south to start the Waterfall way. I think there is an old pacific highway that runs along the side of the boring new one however I had not checked prior so will keep that in mind for another time.
The Waterfall way was brilliant as usual. The climb up the range to Dorrigo is a beautiful set of pure hotmix curves that rarely decrease in radius or have any bumps or road grit. Stopped again at the lookout at the top of the range and then enjoyed the upper section of the Warterfall way which is flowing open gentle curves that take you to Ebor up on the highlands.
Such a dramatic change in temperature from steamy hot in Coffs Harbour to chilly at Ebor where we had to put on the warm gear and switch to winter gloves. Had another look at the Wollomombi Gorge but unable to capture it in any of my photos then trouble struck. The fuel line clip on my mates MT-01 let go and by the time he realised nearly all the fuel had sprayed out. This problem also happened to me with the MV Agusta, the design is flawed with the clip on type fittings on a bike eventually coming undone.
Lucky the line could be reaffixed, however fuel ran out soon after so I travelled in to Armidale to get fuel and returned. It was pitch dark on the way back to Armidale and I had a rabbit run out which I hit but luckily did not cause damage or affect my riding. I was very glad to get off the road that night.
Day two and we elected to go across the Oxley Highway first as it was mostly fine at that time rather than risk it being wet later. Ran into a light spot of rain for just a few kilometres and the road was damp for a little more but otherwise had a great ride over to Gingers Cafe where by chance I met some people from the Buell forum up from Sydney. After a chat we decided to push on and rode over to Wauhope, again with a couple of damp patches from passing small showers of rain.
I think I had previously stated I was not sure if the Oxley highway should hold the crown of Australia’s best motorcycle road. I am still not sure but it is a very special experience.
Above & Below - Oxley highway
Off the range it was again warm so off came the winter gear. Riding south there was rain clouds aplenty about and as we turned west to ride via Landsdowne I was hopeful we might skirt the rain but leaving Landsdowne we rode over a crest and straight into it. I think it took me longer to get into my wet gear than I actually needed it as by the time we got to Taree it was again fine. Peeled the wet gear off at Maccas and had lunch and then riding out of town there was a wall of rain ahead of us so backtracked and rode via Wingham which for while gave me the impression we had missed the rain but alas we ran into it again before rejoining the Bucketts way.
Just after the rain, overlooking Gloucester.
Riding west we cleared the rain in 15 minutes and by the time we got to overlooking Gloucester the roads had long been dry. All the rain was east of the range so we had a dry run all the way from here. The climb out of the valley on the Thunderbolts way is amazing, you climb so steeply you feel the air change from warm to cool to cold and emerge from the forests on top of the mountains. The first 90km from the south is magic riding the last section of the Thunderbolts is a bit boring but not so long that it becomes an issue.
Thunderbolts way, Walcha.
Armidale is a great base to ride the surrounding areas and if you stay there have a walk down the cities malls where you will find many historical buildings of various time periods. I was up early on Monday to try get some nice photos but I need to practice some more I think to make use of the morning light.
Art deco, Armidale
Coming home Monday I wanted to ride the Gwydir so we rode up the New Englang highway to Glenn Innes. This is not a particularly interesting ride but not the worst bit of highway either. Early in the morning chilly air it suited me to just cruise along, the Black Mountain range used to be a good bit of road but has been modernised like much of our highways, however there is some curves and undulations still to mildly amuse.
New England highway, Guyra
A truly fantastic ride is the Gwydir Highway from Glenn Innes to Grafton (or visa-versa) a great mix of curves and varied elevation and vegetation. We had lunch at the Laurence pub and it was nice to sit out overlooking the river and relax before the last leg. Riding north again via the highway to Woodburn then via Coraki on a great bit of road that follows the river before some bumpy road over to Lismore. I bid farewell to my ride partner there and took the road Lismore to Kyogle which is not too bad, bumpy in parts but varied enough to not be boring.
Last of all home via Mt Lindsey which had alot of grit from road works on the QLD side and an end to 3 big days of riding.
Saturday Sunday Monday