Snowy Mountains 2017 ride report

Snowy Mountains ride, 21-24 November 2017

The Club’s inaugural pre-Rally Snowy Mountains ride was blessed with fabulous weather (except for a short, sharp thunderstorm, which will be described later!), great roads, beautiful scenery and plenty of laughs for all the attendees, most of whom had never ridden in this region before. The ride officially started in Khancoban on the Wednesday morning and concluded back in Bethanga at the SR500 Rally on Friday afternoon.

Craig and Matt met in Yea on the Tuesday morning to lead a ride via Whitfield/Beechworth to Bethanga for any interested members, but as it turned out, no one else arrived, so they enjoyed a small group ride on their own! Ian, David, Ryan and Tony had trailered their bikes and camping gear to the Rally site earlier on Tuesday and were ready to go when Craig and Matt arrived. Departing Bethanga around 3:00pm, the group rode in very warm conditions on the legendary River Road around Lake Hume and beside the Murray River before taking a short break in Walwa to re-group. A short distance from Walwa is the famous Tintaldra Hotel which sits at the gateway to the Snowy Mountains. After an obligatory ice-cold schooner on the pub’s veranda (yes, it is bad luck and possibly illegal to go into the Snowies without first having a cold beer in Tintaldra!), our group crossed into NSW and followed the Tooma Road and Alpine Way into Khancoban, which would be our base for the next few days. After settling into our accommodation in Khancoban, we met at the pub for drinks and dinner, where we met up with Brendan and Nick van de Zand (who had trailered their bikes and camping gear in a few days earlier), and Jack Bridges.

On Wednesday, we were greeted with beautiful blue skies and a gentle warm breeze – just perfect for riding in the mountains.  Departing Khancoban around 9:00am, we headed for our lunch stop at Jindabyne via the Alpine Way, stopping at Murray 1 Power Station, Scammel’s Lookout, Geehi Hut, and Tom Groggin station on a very narrow stretch of the Murray River. The Alpine Way was in superb condition, with everyone enjoying the long climbs and steep decents on twisty roads through the magnificent scenery that only the Snowies can provide. After we all took a break and re-grouped on the top of the Great Dividing Range at Dead Horse Gap (1,582 m), the tight roads leading to Thredbo opened up and became wide, open sweepers as we made our way to Lake Crackenback and Jindabyne. After lunch and re-fuelling in Jindabyne, we rode towards Berridale and picked up an awesome little backroad linking us to the Snowy Mountains Highway, which in turn lead us to Adaminaby and Kiandra on wide, open, very fast sweepers (just ask Matt and Ryan!) where you can see for several kilometres in the distance and really enjoy some great riding. After another re-group and drink in Adaminaby, we headed back into the mountains at Kiandra where we picked up the link road to Khancoban via Cabramurra, Australia’s highest town. Khancoban is around 70 km from Cabramurra and virtually all downhill. The road takes you through stark tundra-type landscapes where brumbies live, and over the massive Tumut 2 and Tooma pondage dam walls. Our route back snaked through some really tight twisty sections on good quality, but narrow roads, constantly rising and falling before we rolled into the undulating plains around Khancoban. After a few beers and dinner in the local pub, we all had relatively early nights as we’d done a lot of riding that day and had another big day in front of us!

Our planned route for Thursday would take us back up the Cabramurra road and back into the mountains where we would turn toward Tumbarumba on the Elliot Way before stopping in Tumut for lunch. Brendan and Nick, mounted on their XT500s, decided to hit the dirt for the day on various roads in the mountains, so the road group now consisted of six riders. The start of our ride re-traced Wednesday’s last leg from Cabramurra, but because we were riding in the opposite direction, the scenery and roads appeared from a totally different view and were just as enjoyable as before. Turning onto the Elliot Way, we rode down the mountain on smooth twisty roads to the bottom of the valley where the massive Tumut 1 underground power station is located. Normally there are tours available for visitors, but the station is undergoing some maintenance work, so plant visits have been temporarily suspended. Maybe next year! The Elliot Way is truly a motorcyclist’s dream as it snakes along the bottom of the gorge beside the Tumut River, crossing little creeks and cuttings before climbing up onto the plains towards Tumbarumba (pine plantation/logging), Batlow (apple orchards) and onto Tumut (logging and sawmills). After a bakery lunch in Tumut, the group headed for home via Talbingo, past the huge Blowering Dam and back onto the fast sweepers of the Snowy Mountains Highway. Re-grouping at the Cabramurra turnoff, it was obvious that we needed to put on our wet weather gear as the sky where we were going was black. Really black! Within a few minutes there were spots of rain. Then the rain got heavier, a lot heavier in fact. Then the thunder and lightning started, and the rain got really, really heavy – just like a tropical downpour in Queensland! Just as we got to the really twisty bit, about 5 km from Cabramurra, it started to hail – not golf ball size, more like marbles, but there was so much of it, the road was completely covered, just like a snow storm! On some corners the rain was washing the hail across the road in large drifts just to test our nerve and throttle control skills! Everyone made it to Cabramurra – unscathed, but soaked. No one dropped their bikes, but everyone’s wet weather gear had failed to varying degrees and we were wet; very, very wet! After a short break in Cabramurra, the skies cleared, allowing us to ride down the mountain in sunshine, which made it tempting to take off the wet weather gear. None of us did, which was a good thing, as about 10 km from Khancoban, the rain started again, making it a soggy end to an otherwise fabulous day. All up, we covered over 380 km on the day, saw some beautiful scenery and enjoyed some of the best motorcycling roads in Australia.

Friday morning came all too soon, and there we were, packed and ready to head for Bethanga and the Rally. Brendan and Nick had left earlier, while Dave and Ian decided to ride via Corryong along the Murray Valley Highway. The rest of the group rode back along the river road past Walwa and on to Tallangatta over the Granya Gap. Craig decided to head to Koetong for lunch at the pub, Matt had to go to Albury to buy a new rear tyre. while Ryan and Tony enjoyed a leisurely break in Tallangatta before taking the Granya Gap again on the way to Bethanga.

In summary, the ride went as planned and everyone who attended enjoyed absolutely great weather, relatively empty roads and incredible scenery. The trip covered around 1,100 km from Bethanga and return. No one dropped their bike or had any reliability issues, and everyone rode within their capabilities, so all things considered, it was a fabulous few days of riding with like-minded motorcyclists on a range of different bikes. Well done to all who attended! Roll on 2018 so we can do it all again!


Tony Jones BMW R1200GS
Ryan Jones Triumph Speed Triple 1050
Brendan van de Zand Yamaha XT500 & SR500
Nick van de Zand Yamaha XT500
David Prior Yamaha XT600 Ténéré
Ian Janetzki Yamaha XTZ 750 Super Ténéré
Matt Vellere Suzuki GSX-R750
Craig Lemon Yamaha TRX850