Category Archives: Members

Members reports – rides, rallies, rebuilds

Assault on the Salt – an Adventure Trip to Lake Gairdner

Here is a report from Club member, David Merritt, on his adventurous trip to Lake Gairdner for DLRA Speed Week in March 2010, at which he reached a top speed of 104 mph on his SR500.

It began early on Sunday morning. The next few days would see the result of months of planning. Once I had opened my mouth and announced that I was going to race the SR on the salt, there was no choice but to follow it through.

Picked up chief engineer, Simon, and brolly dolly, Rina, before daylight and headed north out of Adelaide. Mid-morning found us in beautiful Port Augusta – the wind had icicles in it and the rain was gusting in. Onward to Iron Knob and turn right – no need for a map! Around 160 kays of dirt road later we splashed over a rise and saw for the first time the breath-taking splendour of Lake Gairdner with more water in it than a dry salt lake is supposed to have.

After setting up camp and talking with fellow enthusiasts who had been there longer and more often than we had, we were still none the wiser about when racing would begin; however, the consensus was that something would happen sometime. We feasted that night on Coopers Ale, spaghetti bolognaise, red wine, Big Sister pudding, custard and port. Consequently we all slept well to be awoken Monday morning to the sound of rain on the canvas; however, as forecast, the wind began to blow, we got some sunshine, and scrutineering began. This was an adventure in itself – the SR does not like being push-started at the best of times, and on dirt, it would not play the game, so the roller starter was muscled down the hill to prove the lanyard switch would work. After being told not to use the front brake because there were 150 kays of salt to slow down on, we were stickered and arm-banded up and ready to go racing!

Waiting in the queue the next morning, the mood was upbeat, then onto the salt, at last. We chose a spot in pit lane, set up our pit, fired up the SR and had a couple of runs down the practice track. Managed to get the chat from Animal (the DLRA enforcer) for going too fast on the practice track and paid the price by running on into the water at the end – the SR was literally frosted with salt. Next came the drivers meeting – procedures were run through again and by about 3.30 pm on Tuesday afternoon, things were starting to happen. This was the first year that the DLRA were offering two options – the main track that goes for nine miles and is used for setting records, as well the GPS track where they attach a GPS unit to your bike and use it to record the top speed. It goes for three miles, which was more than enough.

Some quick preparation saw us in the queue not too far from the front. This being the first time round for a GPS track, there were some teething problems and a few delays. With about three competitors in front of us, we fired up the SR and then endured a 20 minute wait before being ushered to the start line. Into first gear and ease away – stalling would have meant going back in the queue and the day was coming to a close. Pin it in first, second, third and fourth, changing up at 7,000 rpm – watch the tacho and into top gear. Lie down, think small and wait for the 3 mile marker – just myself, the SR and a sea of white. Sit up, back off and try to focus on the GPS unit velcroed to the tank – 104 mph, one short of the predicted 105!

As the bike ran without a fairing and the only change I made was to drop two teeth on the rear sprocket, we were happy with the outcome, but as they will all tell you, salt racing is addictive and the thought of making multiple passes over a few days will no doubt bring us back to the salt. We had to leave on Wednesday due to team work commitments and the familiar mix of roadhouse coffee and V drinks saw us back in Adelaide late that night.

The Lake Gairdner experience should be on any petrol head’s bucket-list. Salt lake racing only happens at Lake Bonneville in America and here in South Australia – it’s a high octane adventure in the middle of nowhere.

None of this would have been possible without the assistance and support of my friends Simon (Jeremy Burgess) Willgoose and Rina (Redbush) Grotto – without them this would not have happened.

Thank you also to the SR500 Club – maybe one day I will make it over there for the rally.

2023 Rally – A Club Member’s Report

Drew Jackson, Rick Carbis and Andy Carmichael rode all the way from Townsville (QLD) to attend the 2023 Rally in Bethanga!

Here’s Drew’s account of the long ride down and back.

Then There Were Two.
Alternatively:  Three SR500s to Bethanga 2023.

The idea of riding our SRs all the way from Townsville to Bethanga on the Hume Weir was first floated by Rick after riding to the annual SR500 Club Rally from Warwick in 2022. “Why don’t we ride all the way next year?”, asked Rick. My silence should have been sufficient response. Then Andy, who had an SR with a very worn engine, said he’d like to do it if he didn’t have to camp. The stories we told about getting soaked in 2022 and then riding home via Tumbarumba and Batlow in the cold discouraged the camping option. I had intended to do my usual thing and carry [trailer] the SR to Warwick and ride from there.

Bike preparations were still under way at Andy’s place two days before departure. My bike received a new set of sprockets and chain, tyres, valve check and oil and filter change. I added Slime to my tyres to prevent sudden deflation and to seal any small punctures. I added some zip ties, chain lube, a litre of 20W-50, and a roll of Gorilla tape. The others packed enough tools to do an engine rebuild on the side of the road.

We departed on Sunday morning from the BP service station at Cluden after a coffee. Our first stop for fuel was at Charters Towers. My bike had used 6.6 L to cover 140 km. The next fuel available was at Belyando Crossing, the only fuel available between Charters Towers and Clermont – a distance of about 370 km. The fuel here is expensive. Clermont was next where we refuelled and had lunch at the Commercial Hotel. Rick’s SR refused to start after lunch and needed a new plug to get it going. Our destination for the day was Emerald and the trip meter ticked over 639 km – 10% of the journey done.

Day two, we were headed for Eidsvold. We stopped for breakfast after an early start at Duaringa, another place with expensive fuel. Rick need some Loctite to secure his throttle lock. After arriving in Eidsvold we had a go at fixing my indicators. There was a blown fuse and they worked with the engine off. Later, we actually fixed them by wiring in a new indicator can. The Star Hotel has increased its prices for the rooms and is no longer on my recommended list.

Day three, we headed towards Warwick, Durong and Dalby. We had a good breakfast in Mundubbera at the bakery. The roads in the Burnett are varied with some narrow bitumen and some that could throw you out of your seat. The roadhouse at Darr’s Creek has good food and coffee; their bacon and egg burgers are among the best I’ve had. We stopped at a friend’s place to admire his collection of classic cars and bikes. We were running ahead of time so I took the scenic route through Toowoomba, called ‘the bypass’. It was then on to Nobby, Steele Rudd country and the home of Sister Kenny who revolutionised the treatment of polio victims. From here we went to the Irish Pub in Clifton for a Guinness before I took them through the backroads to Allora and Warwick. We stayed with my sister in Warwick who has been very generous in hosting small groups of my riding friends over the years. We did a few running repairs to the bikes after visiting the local Repco store. My indicators were fixed (thanks, Andy) and the oil leaking from Andy’s tacho drive was ‘sort of’ sorted. My bike needed some oil – about 150 mL. Total distance so far: 1,639 km.

The next morning, we were off to Gloucester and the very good Roundabout Hotel. They provide a lock-up garage for the bikes and rooms at reasonable rates. We headed down the New England Hwy and had breakfast in Stanthorpe, before tackling Bolivia Hill, before heading to Glen Innes. Here we had a disaster of Biblical proportions – Rick dropped a full bottle of Chivas Regal on the driveway of the servo. It smelt great, intoxicating even, but undrinkable. From this point on I was given the task of transporting the vital supplies as I had plenty of space in my panniers as they weren’t bulging with tools and spares. The ride from Uralla to Walcha is fine, but the ride from Walcha to Gloucester is finer. The long hills required a run up and a downshift on my bike as I had raised the gearing to 17/42. There were lots of big adventure bikes headed for Walcha as there was a big rally on there in the coming days. There were plenty of BMW GSs, as well and a couple of Husqvarna 701s. The last few kilometres into Gloucester were good fun. We had now completed 2,120 km – so one third of the ride completed.

The ride from Gloucester, the next morning, to Singleton was over a road that was just a series of patched patches, but the corners were fun. We got separated in Singleton by the heavy traffic before being reunited at the Ampol on top of the hill. We headed to Denman where we had some more coffee. We took the shortcut out to the Bylong Valley Way. This is a great road with a couple of good twisty sections to enjoy. Our lunch stop was at the Rylstone Hotel, a place with good rooms and lock-up accommodation for bikes, but we were off to Bathurst where Andy insisted on doing a lap of The Mountain.

We indulged him by doing two. It was then to our motel for the night and the Irish pub for dinner and another Guinness. Luckily there was a Dan Murphy’s opposite the motel and a replacement bottle of Chivas was liberated from the shelves. It rained that night and the forecast for the next day was bleak.

An early start had us on the road through Perthville to Trunkey Creek. It was cold so we donned our wet weather gear to keep out the chill. The road from Trunkey Creek to Crookwell is another good ride on a bike – not a lot of traffic and plenty of corners. We had an encounter with wildlife when a kangaroo decided to hop down the road directly in front of me. It stayed on the centre line for some time. Doing a steady 40 kph, this ‘roo was not giving up his spot on the highway. From Crookwell, we went to Gunning, before joining the Hume Hwy to Gundagai. We sat behind a B Double that was doing a great job of punching a hole in the wind which allowed the bikes to cruise along easily. We left the highway at Gundagai and refuelled before looking for lunch. Andy and Rick joined a long line of coffee drinkers at the café. I decided to head off to Granya and Bethanga via Tumut, Batlow and Jingellic. The ride along the Murray Valley Hwy is always enjoyable with the Murray River on the right and good farmland surrounding it. I ran onto reserve just out of Bethanga. Andy and Rick continued on the Hume to Wodonga before turning up at the Rally site.

We eventually went to our accommodation at the Hume Resort to freshen up before riding back for dinner. The food at the Rally was very good as usual, and the desserts were brilliant. It was good to catch up with so many of the regulars. The ride back to the resort was pretty slow.

We woke early the next morning and arrived well before breakfast. We had a coffee and chatted with other early risers. Breakfast was excellent and we waited for the group to assemble for the ride to Tallangatta. This year there seemed to be a larger number of SR500s on the ride. After a coffee and curry pie, we headed back to the Rally for the Show ‘n’ Shine and the cricket. We arranged a taxi to get us to and from the Saturday night dinner. Again, excellent catering was on offer.

Andy was awarded the Long Distance Award this year. We were only half-way through the ride at just over 3,000 km. The taxi picked us up early so we didn’t get a chance to kill more redundant brain cells.

The return journey was via a different route. Our first stop was at Temora to look at the Aviation Museum. We used our seniors cards to get a discount on admission. Unfortunately, a large part of the collection was in Newcastle. We now had to choose which path to take. I thought heading to Gulgong would be the go, but in the end we headed for Dubbo, Parkes and Coonabaraban. We made good progress until the rain caught up with us just on dusk. We found a motel with a room for three and parked our bikes undercover. There was a Chinese restaurant across the road so that’s where we went. A good bottle of red and a banquet went down very well. The best Chinese food I’ve had in years.

Our goal the next day was Warwick again, but the rain was all around us. We dodged the rain to Gilgandra and only got light rain as we went through Manilla, Bingara and Warialda. I told the other two that the pub at Yetman was a good place for lunch. Wrong! It was closed! So we headed for Texas on the border. Texas used to have the cheapest fuel in Queensland – it wasn’t this time, but it was a lot cheaper than in NSW. We had lunch after refilling the bikes at a takeaway place in the main street. The food and coffee was excellent and the prices very reasonable. Rick went to the op shop to see if he could get a set of rain pants. The lady who ran the shop told him that her husband had a rain suit that he wanted to get rid of, so we waited for it to arrive. Free! It was a good fit. Friendly people, those Texans. We took the road through Green Up. Emus and kangaroos added to the flowing flood-ways. The Sena [intercom] came in handy to warn the others of hazards ahead. I used this road many times when I lived in the area. Then the heavens opened and visibility was terrible. Rick’s SR started to backfire and eventually stopped. WD40 got it running again. We pulled into the Karara Hotel and applied more WD40. We arrived in Warwick tired and wet. We spread out our gear to dry. We had a great meal and hit the hay early.

We were within striking distance of home now and we just wanted to get there as quickly as possible. We went to Dalby, back through Darr Creek for breakfast, and then to Munduberra. Here we refuelled before heading to Eidsvold. We intended to get to Rockhampton, the half-way point. From Eidsvold we took the Abercorn Road past the Bunyip Hole. This is where Rick went off the road and ended up in Rockhampton by helicopter and his bike back in Eidsvold on the back of a tow truck. His new rain suit was cut off in the hospital, as was his new SR Club t-shirt and his TRMCC jumper. He has six cracked vertebrae in his upper back and will require weeks of rest.

Meanwhile, Andy and I stayed in Monto for the night. If you’re going to fall off your bike, then Monto is the place to do it. The locals who came to our assistance were fantastic. The emergency workers were very professional and did a great job.

After all the drama we still had to go to Rocky and we dropped into the ED to see Rick in his birthday suit – all his clothes were in Eidsvold. Luckily, his wife had flown up from Brisbane and she’d been shopping for the essentials. After telling Rick that his bike was in good hands, it was time to push on.

Andy’s bike was starting to go downhill. The engine was struggling. It was amazing that it had made it this far. We headed north to Mackay. I have family in Mackay, so I spent the night with my grandkids and Andy pushed on to Townsville. He made it at about 8:30pm, his bike smoking and leaking oil from many places. I took my time and arrived home in Townsville just after midday. Total distance: 6,272 km.

My bike is still running well; the only casualties being the horn, the neutral light and a hairline crack in the muffler. I have fixed the horn. The bike was filthy, so I spent an hour cleaning it up. It still isn’t pretty, but it is half decent.

Would I ride to Bethanga again from Townsville on a Yamaha SR500? No, I would not! I’ve done it now. Next year, I might ride my R90S all the way.

2022 Rally – A Club Member’s Report

Drew Jackson and Rick Carbis rode all the way from Warwick (QLD) to attend the 2022 Rally in Bethanga.

Here’s Drew’s account of the long ride down and back.

The Year of the Floods 2022

La Niña tried its hardest to stop us getting to Bethanga for the rally this year. With the pandemic intervening in previous years, and advancing age, it was worth the risk to head south and hope for the best. There had been heavy rain and storms in Central Queensland leading up to our departure, so we changed plans and rather than ride all the way from Townsville, we decided to take the bikes in the ute as far as Warwick and then ride the 1,510 km to Bethanga. Rick’s SR500E was a recent rebuild and it had only been on the road for a few weeks, and it was using a lot more fuel than normal, so it wasn’t fully sorted. With just days to go before departure, Rick was still building racks so he could mount his BMW’s Krauser panniers to the bike. While re-jetting his carburettor to fix the economy problem, he created a starting problem. He sorted that out after some advice from a friend. My bike had done the trip twice before, so I used the same old throw-overs and gear. The bikes were loaded into the ute with some modifications so that they’d fit with the tailgate partly closed, and a replica number plate attached. It was fully loaded.

The first overnight stop was in Eidsvold. We stayed at the Star Hotel that is currently undergoing extensive renovations. Our club [Townsville Restored Motorcycle Club] uses the Star regularly. The owner is friendly, and the prices are fair. We arrived in Warwick the following afternoon, unloaded the bikes, and set them up. Rick’s SR was very heavily loaded, and the side stand was struggling to cope. Eventually he shifted the tools to the opposite pannier to prevent it toppling over.

We did a side trip to Brisbane in the ute on Tuesday before arriving back in Warwick on Wednesday and getting on the way, south, at midday. We headed off on the New England Highway and stopped in Stanthorpe to check our fuel economy. Rick’s economy problem seemed to be solved. The hot start button was doing its job, almost. It wasn’t shutting off so the idle was staying high. We turned off the New England at Uralla and headed for Walcha down Thunderbolt’s Way. A very enjoyable ride. We stayed in the Commercial Hotel in Walcha where we were able to keep the bikes in a locked shed for the night.

The following morning, we repaired Rick’s cruise control and headed further south, towards Bathurst. This took us to Gloucester, Dungog and Singleton and then onto Denman, where we stopped for lunch and asked about a shortcut to the Bylong Valley Road and whether the road was open. We were told by a council worker that it was open to light vehicles. This is where we further practised the art of pothole dodging. This used to be a great ride, but the state of the road has deteriorated to the stage where it is only a good ride now. The tight, windy bits are still good. 30 kph posted corners are fun on an SR500. We stopped briefly in Sofala before arriving in Bathurst, and naturally we did a couple of laps of the track before finding our accommodation for the night in an Irish Pub that is under new management. We locked our bikes in the beer garden overnight. The Guinness was great and so was the food.

Friday morning, we headed off on the last leg. We turned off the main western highway and headed towards Crookwell via Trunkey Creek. The first time I rode this way there was still a section of dirt. Now it’s all bitumen with lots of corners and very little traffic. The posted advisory signs range from 15 kph to 55 kph. This road is a great way to travel south. We refuelled in Crookwell and headed for Gunning. We needed to get to Bethanga before dark, so we did the unthinkable and took the Hume Highway to Albury. We stopped in Gundagai for lunch. The Hume was boring, but it saved a bit of time. I told Rick that we’d do the more interesting route on the way home – Jingellic, Tumbarumba, Batlow and Tumut.

We arrived at the sports grounds to be met by Marcos who had kindly packed a couple of chairs for us. My odometer showed 1,510 km.

The rally was great, and it was good to catch up with people after all the lockdowns and restrictions. We’ve all aged that bit more.

On Saturday we rode to Dartmouth dam, and that was spectacular. We had lunch at Eskdale before returning to the rally through some light rain. Saturday night was good, with plenty of red grape juice and Rick taking home the Long Distance Award. I’m glad the trophy was easy to pack, as I don’t think his bike had room for much else.
The rain on Saturday night had managed to soak everything in my tent – sleeping bag, clothes, everything. I woke once the grape juice wore off and shivered and shook until morning.

Getting ready to leave meant putting on the least wet clothing we had and putting on our wet weather gear over the top to stop the wind chill. After breakfast we headed off home. It was raining and it was cold, especially around Batlow. Rick had gone numb. Once we came down off the high country to Gundagai, things improved. We headed to Jugiong for coffee, and then Harden and Bathurst and Rylstone. We stayed at the Globe Hotel in Rylstone. Highly recommended. The following morning it was off to Mudgee, Gunnedah, and eventually to Tamworth. Once we were back on the New England, it was an easy ride back to Warwick. I caught up with family over a Chinese takeaway meal after reloading the bikes into the ute for the trip back to Townsville.

The drive back north was uneventful. We stopped overnight in Dingo at the Motel before heading home via Emerald, Belyando Crossing and Charters Towers. The Holden returned 8.8 L/100 km for the 3000+ km trip, which is pretty good considering the load it was carrying.

Next year, Rick is determined to ride all the way – a 6,300 km round trip, depending on how many windy roads he takes.

2017 Rally – A Club Member’s Report

Drew Jackson and John Davies rode all the way from Warwick (QLD) to attend the 2017 Rally in Bethanga.

Here’s Drew’s account of the long ride down and back!

The ride to the Rally began in Warwick on Wednesday [Nov 22] and it was raining. We usually ride down to the Bruxner Hwy via Killarney, Legume and the Tooloom Scrub to Urbenville and eventually to the Bruxner; however, with the rain, we decided to go directly down to Tenterfield on the New England Hwy.


Our bikes are good back-road tourers, but constant highway speeds seem a little cruel. The KL250 Kwaka is happy at 95 kph, and so is the SR, especially as the round trip will be about 3000 km.

The Bruxner Hwy from Tenterfield to Drake is a great ride with a good variety of corners, but take care, as there are a couple of corners posted at 30 kph that tighten up pretty quickly and have caught out a few riders. Just before Tabulam, we turned south and headed for Grafton. Because of the small tanks on our bikes, it was necessary to fill up whenever we needed to cover more than 150 km. Both bikes were getting over 25 km/L, but running out of fuel is not much fun, so we were being careful.

After a quick lunch in Grafton we headed towards Ebor and Armidale. This is one of my favourite roads, with plenty of corners and only light traffic – it was a pity it was still raining lightly. The new Metzeler on the back of the SR was performing well on the damp roads. From Armidale, we headed to Uralla, and then Walcha, where we spent a very comfortable night at the Apsley Arms Hotel.

An early start the next morning saw us in Gloucester for a coffee after an interesting ride over some pretty rough sections of road. From Gloucester, we headed to Dungog, and then Singleton and Denman. The next section was the Bylong Valley Way to Rylstone; this is great ride with great sandstone formations and plenty of tight corners in a couple of places. I hope the protesters manage to keep the coal miners out of the area. From Rylstone, we headed to Kandos, Ilford, Sofala, and Bathurst – there are plenty of good corners on this section. Our destination for the day was Blayney where we were booked into the Royal Hotel. It was steak night at the Royal and it was booked out – every table in the pub was taken, but the barmaid found us a spot, and for $12 we had a steak with a great selection of sides. We had done about 650 km and we only had about 500 km to go to get to Bethanga for the Rally.


From Blayney, we headed to Cowra and then Boorowa and Jugiong where we joined the dreaded Hume for a few kilometres on the way to Gundagai. It was good to get off the Hume and head to Tumut, Batlow, and Tumbarumba for lunch. We were getting pretty close to our destination, so after a pie and a coffee, we refuelled and headed off to the border at Jingellic. The ride down to Jingellic from Tumbarumba is another good ride, with plenty of good sweepers, and with the aid of gravity, the bikes performed well.

After crossing the Murray River, we turned along the Murray Valley Hwy and headed towards Granya where we turned off to Bethanga. We arrived mid-afternoon and set up our camp before going to the hotel to meet a few of the regular Rally-goers. All up, we did 1615 km getting to the Rally.

The Rally is fully catered and the food is very good and the prices charged are fair. Hot showers are available and there was a cricket match to watch on the Saturday. Saturday night was the official part of the Rally, with awards given out for the Show ‘n’ Shine – Best Original SR, SRX, and so on. There were some very interesting bikes on display.



The Rally was very good and the SR Club did a great job. The venue is a cracker, with a fair amount of shade and green grass to camp on.

The ride home was a lot faster, as we took a more direct route – back to Tumbarumba, then up to Cowra, Wellington and Gulgong. The next day, we headed north to Coolah, Manilla, Bingara, Warialda, Yetman, Texas, and finally to Warwick via Greenup. It was a long day and we did have a break at Yetman at the Codfish Hotel.


We refuelled in Texas – still the cheapest fuel in Queensland.

Over the six days, we averaged 500 km per day, even given the rest day on Saturday.


The ‘Nam Files

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…!


2016 Rally – A Club member’s report

Drew Jackson from Townsville (QLD) attended the 2016 Rally in Bethanga in November 2016.

Here’s his account of the long ride down!


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.

First fuel stop, Tabulam (NSW).

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.

Walcha (NSW).

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.

Summit, Thunderbolt’s Way (NSW).

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.

Phipps Cutting is a rest area on the Bylong Valley Way (NSW).
Bylong Valley Way (NSW).
Bylong Valley Way (NSW).

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.

Mount Panorama, Bathurst (NSW).

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.

Wyangala (NSW).

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.

Gundagai (NSW).

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.

Kennedy’s Reserve, Thologolong (VIC).

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.

Made it! Bethanga (VIC).

The ride home is another story!

SR500 Restoration

By Mike Wischusen

In 2004 I bought my 1981 model SR500 with 56,000 km from a Melbourne dealer for $2500 with the intention of getting familiar with a larger capacity bike before I bought something more interesting.

My previous machine was a neat little Kawasaki ZZR250 to learn on, which was a great bike, but you had to ring it’s poor little neck to get it going. The SR was a fairly tired old girl, but looked OK from a distance. I discovered later, after I bought it, that parts of the frame had a nice coat of rust that had been over-sprayed with black paint, presumably just to get through a roadworthy. Nice! It had an SR500 Club sticker on the fender, so I presume the previous owner was a member.

I grew to like the SR so much, even though it was temperamental, rusty and grumpy on occasion (much like myself), that I decided to keep and restore the old girl. The attached photos show before, during and after. I have kept it basically stock standard, with the exception of swapping the carb for an TT one (simpler), and the mirrors. I also replaced the dipstick with a Japanese designed-for-SR’s thermometer, which has been superb. The exhaust is a stainless steel set from Overlander Equipment in Warrnambool and has been great; much lighter than the standard pipes (and a bit louder, but not objectionable).

The companies I am happy to recommend for their work on my bike are:

Bike Magic, 11 Roberna St,  Moorabbin, VIC. Ph 03 9532 0626. Contact : Graydon. Not the cheapest, nor fastest, but excellent quality workmanship.

Hydroblast, 12/20 George St, Sandringham, VIC. Ph 03 9597 0387. Contact  Greg and Louise . Friendly and helpful.

Huntingdale Electroplating, 23 Shafton St, Huntingdale, VIC. Ph 03 9544 6079. These blokes do a lot of Harley work, so are familiar with plating bike parts, and I have never had any complaints with their work.

Yamaha City Spares, Level 1/329 Elizabeth St, Melbourne, VIC. Ph 03 9672 2500. Was a great help in tracking down rare spares.

And Mike Cowie (SR500 Club Member) for helping when I got a bit stuck with something.

Being my first resto, I read and re-read any manual I could find five times over to make sure I was doing the right thing.

It took 12 months from start to finish, and has certainly been an education. I was fortunate with the availability of new spares through Yamaha and ebay.

Regarding the engine , I was deliberately slow and methodical due to being my first engine strip down/rebuild, but generally all went well, with the only major problems being splitting the engine cases  and removing the flywheel, which was a right bastard to get off. It finally came off with an almighty BANG which scared the cr@p out of me.

I found taking digital photos of every aspect of the bike’s strip down helped enormously during the rebuild. Thank God for digital cameras. I would recommend this to everyone considering a restoration. Take detailed photos of everything, before and during the strip down. I guarantee you will be grateful for having them as a reference when it comes time to rebuild. Also having labelled re-sealable bags and plastic containers for the copious fittings, bolts, etc. was a Godsend, along with those large cheap plastic storage bins to store all the bits and pieces safely. I bagged and labelled everything religiously.

Once I had it all back together, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and try and start her. After about four kicks, she fired!… then immediately began revving it’s guts out. I almost shat myself! Being aware that you are supposed to be gentle with rebuilt engines full of new parts, I switched off immediately. After many hours trying to figure out where on Earth went wrong (was the cam chain mis-aligned? was the carb faulty? did I forget to take my medication? etc., etc.), I discovered the pull throttle cable was misadjusted and misdirected through the frame and this was holding the carb permanently open.  After fixing that, the sun came out. All was well with the world, and I had a shiny new/old SR500 to play with.

If you are thinking about restoring an SR, dive in the deep end and swim like hell and you will get to the other side eventually. Just be methodical and determined. Before you start, decide what kind of restoration you want to do. From a general daily rider, all the way up to a concourse rebuild, it all depends on what you want to achieve, your passion for the bike, and how deep your pockets are.

Accept the fact that NOS parts won’t come cheap, read every manual you can find, and be nice to the parts person behind the counter and he/she might try harder to get some of those Unobtainium parts you are desperately seeking. Fortunately, most, if not all, SR500 parts are still readily available through Yamaha or ebay. Track down a parts book for your particular model. That little book will be worth more than it’s weigh in Unobtainium.

With the recent official release of the FI SR400 by Yamaha into the country, I’m not sure what, if any, parts are interchangeable. That would be a good question for the lads in the Club to answer. However, there are quite a number of international companies that offer parts support to SR owners – Yambits, Wemoto, Vanem, Deus,  and KEDO, to name a few.

If you find yourself getting to the point where you think it is all too hard, don’t fall into the trap of selling it in bits. I hate seeing incomplete restorations for sale on fleabay. Dont give up. Tuck what you have done away somewhere in the garage and have a break from it. Get back into it when you are ready. And don’t be afraid to ask for help from the SR500 Club lads. It might cost you a couple of beers, but the knowledge, support and enthusiasm within the Club is incredible and will inspire you to keep going.

I had to sell my SR, sadly. However, I sold it to another passionate SR enthusiast and I feel content  knowing it has gone to a good home. I will always miss the old girl.

Good luck and be safe on the roads.

Mike W

Tasmania – a club member’s report

Drew Jackson from Townsville, QLD, attended the SR500 Club Ride ’round Tasmania, 11-20 March, 2016.

Here’s his account of the trip:


The opportunity to ride around Tasmania once more was too good to miss out on, especially as the ride was going to be chance to use my SR500 on some this country’s best motorcycling roads. When the SR500 Club first floated the idea, I signed up straight away – this was at least 6 mths prior so I had plenty of time to sort out the logistics (and earn the brownie points needed). There was no way I was going to ride the SR500 6000 km on the mainland just getting to and from Tasmania. The thought of having a 38 year old bike break on the wrong side of Bass Strait and then having to get it back home meant that the ute was going to do the big kilometres on this trip. I booked the Mazda on the ferry, and once a rough itinerary was available, hotels and motels were booked online. I then contacted a friend, John, in Warwick and asked him if he wanted to come along for another crack at Tasmania. He had recently downsized his bike as, like all of us, he’s not as young as he used to be. His Kawasaki KL250 was set up for touring, with pannier racks, heated grips and 12V outlet. Given that the bike only had to keep pace with SR500s, then it was thought that the Kawka would do the job.

It is cheaper to take a fully loaded ute across the Strait than two motorcycles.

The drive to Melbourne took a couple of days and with diesel prices as low as $0.99 per ltr, the cost wasn’t too bad. I stopped in Mackay the first night after leaving on Thursday afternoon and driving through torrential rain. It was really pissing down and I had visions of road closures and lengthy detours. So I was up at 4:30am and off to Warwick. More rain! It did stop before Rockhampton, and the rest of the drive was uneventful. We loaded the bikes and camping gear into the ute after doing a final tappet adjustment on the SR, and planned for an early start, with Canberra being our goal for the day. We left Canberra mid-morning and headed for Lakes Entrance where we set up camp in the recreation grounds ($20 for a tent site). They have a big problem with rabbits – the bloody things were everywhere! We arrived in Melbourne in the middle of a heat wave – 37°C! We spent the night with my brother in his fur shop in the suburb of McKinnon. The following day we planned to check out the bike shops in Elizabeth St. We left the ute in a side street near the port with our gear stuffed into the cab and our bikes chained to the ute’s tray. Then disaster struck!

We decided to get a tram into the city, but as John stepped into the tram, his knee went bung. Really BUNG. We got off the tram and he went to a pharmacy to get some painkillers and a walking stick, but he couldn’t walk, even with the stick. We were in deep poo. We managed to catch a taxi to the Royal Alfred Hospital and I wheeled him into emergency in a wheel chair. After waiting a couple of hours, the doctor took him into a cubicle and prodded and poked his knee and didn’t really think he should leave. John explained that he was going to ride a motorbike around Tasmania for ten days. The doctor was probably going to send him to the psych ward at that stage! So she drained a bucket of fluid from his knee, X-rayed his knee and released him with a pile of pills and warnings. We took a taxi back to the ute and eventually found ourselves on board the ferry. John hobbled into the bar and after several cool drinks and a good meal, he went to sleep. The knee was going to play up for the next three weeks, going from feeling pretty good, to feeling pretty awful. Once underway on the bike he was fine – it was getting on and off that had its challenges. Luckily it had electric start.

Once off the ferry, we headed for St. Helens where an old friend was going to let us leave the ute while we were on the ride. He also told us he’d come and pick us up if we broke down anywhere in Tasmania – another retiree looking for something to do! We were asked to leave our laundry behind as well. Great! Clean clothes would be great. That night the rain started and even though we looked at the computer radar images, the clouds weren’t going away. So we set off in the rain and hoped it wasn’t going to ruin a good ride. The rain cleared after 50 km, and the ride to Devonport went well, with the SR and KL making good time. We were to meet the rest of the group on Saturday morning as they got off the ferry. We found a room at Molly Malones Irish Hotel, with a lock-up shed for the bikes. The following morning at 6am, we repacked the bikes and prepared to leave. It was still dark at this time and I flooded the SR. I did the usual thing to clear the combustion chamber and turned the ignition back on. The backfire that resulted shattered the morning peace and would have woken the dead! Luckily the bike started next kick and we melted into the darkness before anyone called the police looking for a fool with a shotgun!

Now this is where the title comes into play. We found a lone SR500 parked near the ferry terminal surrounded by BMW GS1200s and other motorcycles of various sizes and capacities. In the end, only three SR500s and one XT600 Ténéré were in the group. Oh well! As they explained, it’s an owners’ club, not a riders’ club! After introductions, it was off to Stanley, but not directly. We went to Sheffield first for breakfast, then on to Wilmot via some tight windy roads that skirted Cradle Mountain. Our first fuel stop was at Waratah. The SR was running well, apart from a small oil leak, and the economy was looking promising (65 mpg). The main group then headed up to Burnie via the main highway. However, the road we chose was the Hellyer Gorge Rd (Murchison Hwy) which I found to be a great ride last time I was there, and as the weather was fine, we figured that we shouldn’t miss the chance to ride it while it was dry. So after some spirited riding, we arrived in Stanley and found the hotel we’d booked months earlier online. The booking was there, the room was good, and the beer was cold. We then climbed up ‘The Nut’.

The following day, we headed off to refuel and found that the service station at Stanley was out of business. John’s KL was on reserve and we weren’t sure where the next fuel was going to be. His KL only holds 9 ltrs and it had been on reserve for a while. We rode slowly towards Burnie and found fuel at Detention River. They also did a very good bacon and egg burger! The others caught up with us and we headed to Wynyard to top up, just in case. Our destination for the day was Queenstown, but there is more than one way to get there. Some of us wanted to go via the Reece Dam, but this was after riding though Hellyer Gorge again. This is where the first mechanical problem occurred when the Triumph Speed Triple picked up a puncture in the rear tyre. Now this was interesting, as finding the hole wasn’t something these possums had done before! So with some sage advice, soapy water was found, and the leak detected. The hole was plugged with one of those screw in repair kits and the 12V socket on the KL provided the power for an air compressor, and we were on our way again.

The road around Reece Dam is another gem, with a combination of fast sweepers and tighter corners – really worth it. It’s great when you are already enjoying one of these roads with endless corners when you come across a sign telling you that ahead is another 11 km of windy roads! We had lunch at Tullah. The road into Queenstown from Zeehan was a great way to finish the day.

That night we had a really good steak at one of the motels, and retired for the night. The next day the weather was beautiful, so we rode to Strahan. This is another twisty ribbon of bitumen, and very enjoyable. The pub sold cold ale, so we supported it before heading to Zeehan. This is not an exciting ride and was disappointing after what we’d ridden previously. We had lunch in Zeehan before riding back to Queenstown for the night. We cooked for ourselves on the motel BBQ – a pretty good steak with tomato and jacket potatoes. We were doing it tough!

The following morning it was time to head south east to Hobart via Derwent Bridge (breakfast) and we stopped at The Wall. I didn’t think a lot had changed there since our last visit, but it is a ‘must see’ in Tasmania. The Lyell Hwy is another good ride, and after going through New Norfolk and getting fuel, it was off to Hobart. The GPS came in handy, finding our motel, which had views over Hobart. A few of the others were staying here as well. We took the bus into the city as we expected to find a pub at some time in the afternoon. We met up with one of my old friends from way back and he took us for a tour of the University Campus near Constitution Dock. He’s doing a PhD on the environmental impact of the dams, etc. We arranged with him to go for a ride out to Strathgordon the next day. Again, the weather was perfect, but there was question mark about the availability of petrol on this road. We rang the Wilderness Lodge, which had just re-opened the previous day, and fuel was available – at $1.73 a ltr! I’m glad the bike had cured its drinking problem! The scenery was stunning and the effects of the bushfires and drought were obvious. A great day on great roads.

The following day, it was off to Swansea on the East coast. Nowhere is very far in Tasmania, so there was no rush to get there. We stopped at Richmond, where the British Motorcycle Owners Club had a display going in the town hall. After looking at some very good bikes, it was off to the bakery for breakfast, then off to Swansea. Again, my online booking had been successful and a cabin was ready. We unloaded the bikes and headed north for a look at Freycinet Peninsula. This is a very picturesque spot, but the cost of getting into Wineglass Bay was just too much, so we contented ourselves with views from the Coles Bay public bar! The wind had picked up and was blowing very strongly. The following morning it started to rain and showed no sign of clearing, so it was on with the wets and off to breakfast at the bakery on the Northern side of town. The ride to St Helens was pretty uneventful and the rain stopped for us before we got to Bicheno. We had a look at the bike museum there, but I didn’t take any photos. We decided to take a detour on the way and found the turnoff to Elephant Pass. Another set of winding corners took us to a pancake café where we had lunch before going to St Helens via St Marys Pass. We were reunited with the ute and used it to get supplies from the bottle shop. We stayed with friends and played cards into the night.

Launceston was our next stop, and the road to Scottsdale, and then Launceston, is a ripper. We stopped at Derby for coffee and caught up with a couple of fellow SR members on BMWs. After a couple of photos, it was off again on some really good roads. Our motel was across the park from the Automobile Museum, and so we headed over there to check it out. Launceston wasn’t very busy, and finding a café took a fair bit of searching. By this time, John’s knee was playing up, so armed with a bottle of red and a six pack, we headed back to our motel.

It was time to bid farewell to other members of the SR fraternity and head back to St. Helens again to pack the bikes and say farewell to our friends, who once again had done all our laundry! We had one more night in Tasmania, so we drove up to the North East and went to Mt William National Park. This was a dirt road and the graders were ripping it up, so progress was slow. We then visited Tomahawk Point and Bridport before calling it a day and spending the night in a cabin at Low Head.

Great Lake (central, northern Tasmania).

We were due to sail out in the afternoon, so we headed for Great Lake (above), which was really only a little lake, due to the drought. But what a road! I was tempted to unload the SR for one final assault on Tasmania’s highway system, but I didn’t. I’ll leave it until next time! We had lunch in Deloraine before heading up to Devonport to catch the ferry.

Our next adventure involved trams again, and getting out of Melbourne. Next, Broadford [Bike Bonanza]!

PS: John is still waiting for an MRI on his knee.

A joy forever

Letter of the Month, Classic Motorcycle Mechanics, Issue #242, December 2007

By Mike Wischusen, Melbourne

I was in the process of selling my place so had to get my very tired Yamaha SR500 over to my mate Ian’s place for storage 30 mins away. I agreed to meet him at a designated spot at 7.30am as I wasn’t sure where his place was.

The SR had a leak in the rear tyre and would go flat within half an hour.

As many SR500 owners know they can be a tricky bike to start at the best of times, so I pumped up the tyre, tried to start the bike and flooded the engine. By the time I got her started the tyre was already 40% flat, so I switched off as it was going to stall anyway.

I pumped up the tyre again, tried to restart and went through the same process. Kick… kick… kick… flood engine, finally get started, squishy tyre, switch off, pump up tyre… you get the idea? I did this four times, getting more and more aggravated each time and all the while getting later for my meeting with Ian.

I finally got it started with a pumped up tyre, went to ride off and one of the indicators lenses fell out (I previously replaced the lens screws with non-standard ones, Stupid, stupid, stupid!). I turned around, rode back up the drive and got off the bike, which promptly fell over as I didn’t put the side stand down properly. Then I woke up the neighbourhood with a very loud “FFAAARRRKKKKK!!!”

I must have looked ridiculous in full riding kit swearing profusely at an apparently dead motorcycle leaking  fuel all over the driveway. After fixing the indicator I finally got it started with a semi-pumped up tyre and careered madly down the road swearing at anything that moved. I got to Ian 30 mins late with a flat tyre, a bent clutch lever, mangled indicators, and steam coming of my ears, vowing that the Yamaha wasn’t a classic bike as is commonly thought of, but just a “total heap of s@#t that deserved to be set of fire and thrown off the nearest cliff”. An unfair judgement I know as I can only blame myself.

Ironically two years later I have just completed restoring it as my first restoration. I couldn’t stay angry at it forever and it now runs and rides beautifully, and starts first kick.

I love the magazine [Classic Mechanics] and haven’t missed an issue for years. Your series of articles on the XT500 rebuild was a great help during my restoration.

How about a series on 1971 Kawasaki road-trails before I start on my next project, a 1971 lime green Kawasaki 350cc Bighorn? If you are going to dive in at the deep end you may as well do it properly!