The motorcycle community like all communities is made up of a wide range of different sub cultures. There’s the sports bike riders with their fast sports bikes and often bright leathers; the tourers with huge heavy bikes complete with surround sound and arm rests for the pillion; the adventure riders with big tall bikes and utilitarian luggage systems who look like they’re ready to travel the world; the one percenters – the outlaw motorcycle clubs who live by their own code; the commuters whose only interest is getting to and from work cheaply; the scooter riders – I know very little about this group; the weekend warriors and latte riders whose bikes come out on the weekend all clean and polished ready for a ride on their favoured bike roads and hanging out at a regularly frequented cafe. Then there are the off road riders with bikes in the back of utes, riders in bright outfits with armour vests. The list just goes on and on. Then there are the brand specific traits as well.
Obviously these are broad generalisations.
Then there are endurance riders – a strange breed who get a perverse pleasure in riding longer and further than what would seem ‘right and proper’.
I’ve always liked longer rides but it wasn’t until 2009 that I was introduced to endurance riding and a group of like-minded individuals who don’t mind going for a days ride to meet up with others just for a coffee. This was my kind of crazy.
My first real long ride was a 1000km ride to meet a bunch (what’s the collective noun for endurance riders?) of soaking wet riders in Nambucca Heads for lunch. When I turned up I found a community, names that were previously just screen names. People that I related to, people that also enjoyed riding a long way for no other reason than just because. I was hooked.
However, 1000km was just the start, an entrée.
In endurance riding the main player is the American organisation aptly named the “Iron Butt Association” (IBA) and to become a member you need do and document a 1000mile (1600km) ride in 24 hours named SS1600 or saddle sore 1600. This is the minimum qualifying ride. My first SS1600 was in 2009.
The IBA have a number of other certified rides, but the one that is often talked about in endurance circles is the 50CC – 50 hours coast to coast. To me a ride like this was out of reach, I didn’t see that I had the stamina or determination to pull off a ride like this. So I put it out of my mind.
Then … Last year I found out that my brother-in-law was getting married on the other side of the country and my very supportive wife suggested, encouraged, persuaded, mentioned that I may like to ride as her and her mum wanted to take the train. With about a millisecond of thought I agreed. Okay it may not have been that long.
It was only a couple of months ago that the idea of attempting a 50cc even entered my head. I’m going that way anyway, why not give it a crack. So a plan was formulated.
The closer the time got the more anxious I became of the ride. It is hard to get your head around a ride like this. So while people knew that I was riding to WA I decided that I would keep the 50cc under the radar as I didn’t want the added pressure as I still didn’t believe that I could do it.
The ride –
With a 2:39am receipt safely stored I head off into the night and attempt to get out of Sydney. Apparently I zigged when I should have zagged. Nothing like starting a 4000km two day trip trying to get out of Sydney when all your gps wants to do is send you up back roads. Agh I don’t this. I finally get onto the M5 and try to get my head back into the game. By the time the city lights are melting into the background, and my driving lights are beams of light in the early morning fog, the enormity of what I’m attempting starts to really weigh on me. My first 100km ticks over and I realise that that is only 1/20th of today’s ride … then there’s tomorrow. How can I possibly do this.
It’s like eating an elephant I’m told – one mouthful at a time. So I start to only focus on my next stop or turn.
As I approached Mildura and the Victorian border I was greeted by a friendly face on the side of the road only for the moment to be shattered with a rosella flying straight into my right shoulder and glancing off my helmet. Nothing like a kamikaze bird to interrupt your train of thought!
It was great to have Ron cover a few miles with me and a few brief words before he turned back.
And then in no time I was in South Australia and enjoying their road network.
However the sky was starting to look dark and ominous.
And before very long I was in the mist of a crazy storm cell with wind trying to force the bike off the road and with gusts that meant you couldn’t just lean into the wind. Along with the wind was the rain. This wasn’t falling it was being hurled at you sideways. I had to maintain a decent speed in order to maintain stability, too low and the bike was forced offline too easily. All the while I was trying to stay on the crown of the road to keep out of the deep puddles on the road which would rip my feet off the foot pegs.
And the water just kept on rising. With the thought of being trapped in the surrounding angry flood waters I retreated to the worlds end rest area at the top of the hill and discussed options with other travellers. Upon looking at my phone there was a warning issued to everyone in the area for destructive winds and hail. Yeah roger that.
Here is a screen shot of the weather radar. I was under the black patch near Burra (north east of Clare).
After much discussion and a few phone calls I decided that any attempt of trying to get around the storm would only result in 3 hours extra riding with no certainty of getting through. It looked like the ride was over. I was stuck. All I could do now was wait.
With the rain coming in sideways there was no place to hide. No chance of grabbing some sleep while waiting to see if the river would come down. Luckly a nice caravanning couple took pity on me and sheltered me and gave me coffee before I went down to test the waters as cars were now getting through.
I waded out until the water went over the tops of my boots, great now I have wet feet. The water was still very angry and moving fairly fast with rubbish in it. If I proceeded I can only see two options, get washed into the guard railing or get washed off the side of the road where there was no guard railing. The risks were off the chart. So I turned around and went back to the comfort of the van where they proceeded to feed me dinner. Bonus.
By the time I finally got through I had been sitting there for over two and a half hours. That’s a lot of time to lose on this type of ride.
And with all the rain, there was gravel all over all the roads in the area including Horrocks pass which made it a lot more tedious than normal. At the bottom is the compulsory banner shot at the memorial site but it was getting quite dark by this time.
From Port Augusta I started to lose sight of the prize as everything got harder. The darkness really set in, it was still raining with wind gusts and it was cold. I was sore, my feet were still soaked, and even though I put more layers on and I was still cold. I had 450km to Ceduna to the promise of a warm shower, but that felt like an eternity away.
I lifted up my visor at one stage for some fresh air and a huge gust of wind ripped the visor clean off the helmet. I couldn’t believe it. Quickly backtracking I found the visor in the middle of the road … luckily un-damaged.
By Wudinna I’m cold, sore and tired. This ride had the better of me. I was filling the bike up with my jerry cans under the shelter of the closed service station when the publican wandered over to offer a room if I needed it. As I only had under 2 hours to go I thanked him for the offer and set off into the rain.
At some point after that the rain stopped and I was unable to continue safely so I pulled over on the side of the road and sat on the ground leaning against a power pole with my helmet on and keys in my hand. I fell asleep within seconds. Looking at my spot it looks like I had about 30mins sleep.
My receipt in Ceduna shows that I was 1 minute over 24 hours so missed the ss2000 if that was what I was aiming for.
By this time I could not see how I could continue. I just couldn’t do another day like today. I was beaten. Tomorrow I would sleep in and make a new plan. I asked the counter staff what the check-out time was anticipating that I’d want all that time. When I got to the room I had a shower to warm up and check Facebook to see all these positive support messages. I then looked at where I was, and what I have done. I decided to dig deeper. I will not give up.!
So I set my alarm an hour and a half later then I originally planned as I was confident that I could drag it back over the day and quickly fell asleep.
Thursday – A new day and a new outlook.
I really like the road heading to WA and all the subtle changes to the landscape. The wide open spaces, the big sky, a place to just let the world wash over you as the miles clock over. The time only interrupted by road trains and a large contingent of grey nomads heading east.
However heading west you are generally running into a head wind and today was no exception. This really plays havoc with the bikes fuel consumption. The fuel light came on earlier than expected and while I had 5 litres of fuel in the bag I decided to roll off slightly to conserve fuel and try to make it rather than have to stop twice. I must have been close to running out as I thought the tank only held 21 litres.
The thing that I learned yesterday was that my plan was very conservative. My moving averages in my plan were lower than I typically run and this allowed me to effectively bank extra time that I could use to have additional or longer rest stops.
By early afternoon I had slowly dragged my plan back onto track and I was starting to believe that I could do this. But I was also starting to get very tired again. When I pulled over to cash in some banked time I realised that I was still dressed for colder early morning riding and the extra layers were adding to my heat exhaustion as the temperature was now around 36 degrees c.
From here the ride went fairly smoothly with fairly consistent fuel stops and rest stops.
The ride into Perth was very strange. Not having been on this road before and doing it in the dark and being fairly tired I have no idea what the road actually was. Was it a small range? Was it a cutting? Was the road builders just playing silly buggers? It just felt like I was going in circles.
And then I was there in Perth. And with a welcoming committee to guide me to the correct final destination. Thanks guys!
And it was done. The final fill up and receipt just before midnight on Thursday or 48 and a quarter hours since I left Sydney.
Now to get home. But it’ll be cruisy, taking in the sights, and doing some exploring.