Tony Jones reports on the Club ride he organised for 5 Feb 2017:
Originally, the ride was to have covered about 320 km through the scenic rolling hills north of Melbourne before stopping for lunch in Alexandra before returning home via Yea, Flowerdale (stopping at the famous pub for refreshments, of course!) and finishing up at Whittlesea. This was changed when I realised the Herald Sun Tour and their support crews would be jamming up the roads in the area… bloody cyclists! Then there was a bushfire that closed the Bulla-Diggers Rest Road, which was on the revised route, and of course, Melbourne’s infamous weather which had forecast for torrential downpours and severe thunderstorms! Perfect day for a ride, you say?!
Not surprisingly, given the forecast, the turn up for the ride was minimal.
Jeff Gillman and myself waited at BP AA Calder Hwy Outbound until 9:00am before making our way across to Bulla (via the re-opened Bulla-Diggers Rest Road). Passing through Oaklands Junction, we headed for the Whittlesea coffee stop on twisty backroads via Konagaderra Road, Darraweit Guim, Wallan, and Eden Park on the superb Janna & Glenburnie Roads.
Ugo had just arrived at the coffee stop, so the timing was perfect! While we were enjoying our coffee, there was a very brief shower, which barely wet the road, but it did prompt us to check the weather radar! The plan was to ride to Flowerdale for a counter lunch at the pub via Strath Creek / Kerrisdale / Yea; however, this was scrapped when the radar indicated heavy rain to the north of us, smashing the intended route. To the south was clear and dry, so we headed for the Coach & Horses Inn, Clarkefield, on some outstanding roads that took us back through Wallan, Romsey, Kerrie Valley, and Riddells Creek.
After a nice pub lunch and an enjoyable ride, we headed back towards Melbourne Airport via Wildwood Road to Oakland Junction, where Jeff and Ugo turned towards the city, while I headed home to Sunbury.
All things considered, and despite dire predictions about the weather, it was a great ride of some 220 km or so on DRY roads under cloudy skies, which kept the temperature down to a very pleasant 27°C. Good roads, great scenery, good company and lots of laughs, and we didn’t get wet! Everything you need for an enjoyable day out on the bikes!
L-R: Jeff Gillman, Ugo Baglioni, and Tony Jones at the Coach & Horses Inn, Clarkefield.
And if, after seeing the photos, you like the look of the official Muster cap, we believe there may still be some available if you wish to purchase one! Please e-mail Muster Committee member, Kevin Steinert, to check.
Usually, what goes on tour stays on tour – until now! Groff spills the beans on an adventure in Aug/Sep 2016 by a group of SR500 Club members.
Five Honda XR125s, five SR500 Club members and a map of Vietnam – what could possibly go wrong? President Gillman, Paul Newbold, Peter Hickey and Dave Moss joined me in Vietnam recently to ride from Ho Chi Minh City up to Sa Pa and then back to Ha Noi – a distance of around 3500 km. The bikes were hired from OffRoad Vietnam in Ha Noi and sent by train down to Ho Chi Minh City where we picked them up. In Vietnam, a 125 is considered a ‘big’ bike and they were, in fact, just the right size for the trip. Dodging water buffalos, kids, dogs and other road users means anything more than 80 km/h is reckless.
The plan was to follow the little-used Ho Chi Minh Road up the west of the country, rather than the busy and dull Highway One route made famous by the Top Gear trio in 2008. The Ho Chi Minh Road follows large sections of what used to the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail – the route used during the war with America to take supplies from the north to the south. The Vietnamese made the road using the shelter of jungle canopy to hide its presence, which led to the Americans defoliating large sections of the country searching for the ‘enemy’. One story we heard on the trip was that when the Vietnamese road builders came to sections of the rocky mountains too difficult to pass, they’d light flares there at night and the Americans would bomb the area, breaking up the rocks and allowing the road to continue.
We visited Dalat (home of Vietnam’s only vineyards, and producer of the legendary Dalat Red) and the resort town of Nha Trang, before joining Ho Chi Minh Road proper, where it twists and turns for hundreds of kilometres through mountains and jungles. The roads and scenery were spectacular. Highlights of the trip included a night in Khe Sanh, which was also a lowlight, in that it took a couple of days for all of us to stop singing the Cold Chisel song inside our helmets. Gillman, in particular, suffered terribly.
We left the Ho Chi Minh Road when we got into the deep north and headed to Sa Pa, a village in the mountain range that separates Vietnam from China. While it’s hard to pick the best riding in Vietnam, the climb here was memorable, taxing even the reserve power of the 125s. From Sa Pa, the road winds back to the nation’s capital, Ha Noi, where the Australian crew enjoyed some ‘rest and recreation’ before heading home.
There were two crashes (Hickey, twice), the first of which snapped the end off the gearchange shaft. It was welded back together by a local bike shop which refused to charge for the service. Newbold broke a chain when he was attempting to cheat during an engine-off race down a mountain, but apart from this, the trip was incident-free. Oh, Hickey ran over a puppy which had gone to extraordinary lengths to manoeuver itself under his bike’s wheels. The coroner’s report suggested suicide.
What did it cost? Airfares excluded (tip: AirAsia is currently selling flights from Australia to Vietnam for May 2017 for $180!), a holiday like this is pretty cheap. The total cost for each bike rental for three weeks was $350 and that included training them down to Ho Chi Minh City. With three meals a day, drinks (beer is between 70 cents and one buck a can), fuel and accommodation in hotels each night, we were lucky to spend $50 a day, and some days were considerably cheaper than that. Admittedly, we got the bikes at ‘mates rates’, but full price isn’t that much more expensive.
Did we get lost? Yes, mostly due to Newbold’s slavish devotion to SatNav which regularly took us in completely the wrong direction or detoured us through major city industrial estates. My map-reading also occasionally got us into trouble as the writing on the goddamn maps is so small. It seemed to be bigger when I was younger. Did we fight? Of course, but fortunately, having the Club President on the trip helped. He regularly used his supreme diplomacy skills to separate the combatants. Would we do it again? In a heartbeat…!
L-R: David Moss, Jeff Gillman, Paul Newbold, Grant Roff, & Peter Hickey.
Drew Jackson from Townsville (QLD) attended the 2016 Rally in Bethanga in November 2016.
Here’s his account of the long ride down!
GETTING TO THE RALLY
The annual SR500 Club Rally was the destination for a week-long ride. The ride began in Warwick on the Darling Downs after travelling from Townsville in the ute. My riding companion was already with his Kawasaki KL250 Super Sherpa packed and we set off south on Tuesday morning [15/11] with the intention of covering about 400 km per day and arriving at the rally on Friday [18/11]. We had decided to travel the back roads to avoid traffic and find as many windy roads as possible while still heading south. So we headed to Killarney and from there we headed for Urbenville through the Tooloom Scrub. These roads are narrow, but good fun. From Urbenville, it was then off to Tabulam for our first fuel stop.
The service station was out of 95 octane, so I filled the SR with 91 and it ran just fine at the speeds we were doing. The KL used about 10c less on this section and a quick calculation on the phone returned a consumption figure of 66 mpg (imperial). I don’t like L/100km. From Tabulam we headed down the Clarence Way towards Grafton where we stopped for a pie and cold drink and to fill the tanks again. The SR only holds 12 ltrs and the KL250 only 9 ltrs, so keeping them topped up was essential. From here we headed to Armidale on the Waterfall Way, one of the best roads in NSW, especially the first section to Tyringham – really good fun on the SR as you can ring its neck and enjoy the handling. John was having a ball on the KL as well. We refuelled just before Armidale and again our consumption figures were within a few cents of each other. Our next stop was Uralla before heading to Walcha. This is where the first signs of trouble emerged. I was following the KL when I noticed a couple of puffs of white smoke from the exhaust. We pulled over and checked the oil, but all seemed OK and we spent the night in Walcha at the pub. They provided a shed for the bikes.
The next morning, after loading all the gear, we were about to head down Thunderbolt’s Way when the KL refused to play ball. It wouldn’t fire. John is a skilled mechanic, so we set to work to diagnose the problem. We had spark, compression and fuel, but nothing could coax the KL into life. So after an hour it was decided that I should push on and John would catch up at our next overnight stop. I headed off towards Gloucester on my own. There was a lot of roadworks and some of the hills required a bit of a run up and even the occasional downshift to maintain a good speed.
I stopped in Gloucester for coffee and rang John to see if he’d managed to revive the KL, but he was stumped. He eventually rang a mate who came and took him to Newcastle where repairs took a couple of days. As a result, he didn’t get to the Rally, which was a real shame as we were going to catch up with some of the SR Club members who we rode around Tassie with earlier in the year. I eventually rejoined him in Canberra after the Rally for the ride back to Warwick.
From Gloucester, I rode to Dungog, Singleton, and then onto Denman for lunch – a schooner of Toohey’s Old. It was pretty hot and the Bylong Valley Way was waiting. This is a beautiful part of Australia and the protest signs along the way made me wonder for how much longer will it remain beautiful. The coal miners want to stuff it up like they have the Hunter Valley. The road itself is great with a variety of sweepers and tight sections.
By the time I arrived in Rylstone, I’d had enough for the day, so I took a room at the Globe for the night and was seated in the bar in time for the Happy Hour. They also provided a lock-up garage for the SR. I am an early riser, and after a quick breakfast, I was on my way south to Kandos, Ilford, Sofala and Bathurst. I did of course do a couple of laps on Mt. Panorama. It still staggers me how the likes of Crosby and Hansford could do the speeds they did around the mountain.
From Bathurst, it was once again on to the back roads after a short ride on the highway to Woodstock, where I turned south to Wyangala, Boorowa and Harden.
This is a very pleasant ride and again plenty of corners and bugger-all traffic. Because of the early start, I had plenty of time to cruise along at a relaxed pace, and the SR was running really well. The Airhawk on the seat made it even better. Eventually I arrived at Jugiong where I had to take the Hume Highway for a few kilometres to Gundagai. Sitting on 110 kph was OK, but the SR prefers a gentler pace.
From here it was off to Tumut and Jingellic. The road along the Murray was interesting as recent rains had filled the Hume Weir and the water was backed up all the way.
A huge contrast to the drought conditions at home in Townsville. Eventually I made it to Bethanga and proceeded to set up camp for the weekend. I had arrived early, but a few other members had as well. In total, I had ridden 1680 km to the Rally and my fuel consumption varied from 62 mpg to 75 mpg. I did lose one bolt from my side cover, but I had a spare. The oil consumption was nil.
On Saturday, 15 October 2016, the SR500 Club visited Mid Life Cycles in Cremorne (Richmond), to check out their premises, and extensive new Royal Enfield showroom. The staff at MLC made us very welcome, and Mike even took a Continental GT for a test ride. The visit was followed by an alfresco lunch at a nice café in Swan Street. An enjoyable morning had by all!
Important! After a successful monthly Club meeting at the Royal Standard Hotel on 27 September, the Club has decided to hold the remaining two meetings of the year there also (rather than at the Limerick Castle Hotel).
So, on Tuesday 25 October, and Tuesday 29 November, please meet us at the Royal Standard Hotel, 333 William St, West Melbourne, for our monthly Club meeting. Everyone welcome!