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Motorcycle Paradise

Australia Moto-GP Motorcycle Tour


This is a older post but I have updated the photos to high res from the originals and added a few more I found from the ride to refresh the content a little. The roads in this ride have changed very little if at all since then, road infrastructure in Australia is very stable with few new roads away from the cities being built. What is posted below is the same now and will be same in another 20 years from now.  


Day One Brisbane to Kempsey.

Things started out nice and warm, here in Brisbane it was 30 degrees and I really didn’t think to take winter gear however I was soon to find I the southern states have very different weather to the tropics.



Took awhile to get out of the city being a week day, then I went over Mt Lindsey and Summerland way and down the other side in the farm. Being Spring bugs were out in force with the fields in bloom.

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Sunny at Grafton, but when I filled up got a warning about weather south.


My first challenge came when I encountered a hail storm after lunch south of Grafton at Nymboida and had to hide myself and motorbike in a rural bus shelter. It was a wild storm but passed quickly enough to allow me to suit up with my wet weather gear and ride on. A miserable ride over the range, shame I was there in wet as its a superb bit of road but naturally in the rain and with the summit in cloud and cold it was no fun.

I had some luck as the rain or hail somehow dislodged my headlight lens (front of motorbike was sticking out but otherwise undamaged ) I stopped after the Nymboida range to take a photo of low lying clouds in the valley and a guy pulls up on a Suzuki SV1000 who had a misfire from wet plug leads, so while there he noticed my headlight fogged up (which was odd) I then saw the headlight glass loose and ready to fall out which would have killed the whole trip on day one! Very fortunate discovery and also the other rider had some cable ties that I used until next day when I glued the lens back in. Wild storms lashed the whole area that afternoon (and worse the next day). Another storm chased me all the way down the Waterfall way road to the coast. Each time I would stop within minutes the rain would start so I kept moving to stay in front of it.



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This photo shows how dark it got. I took cover in a rural bus shelter just in time.



Click to watch hail storm

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The dark storm clouds above that chased me down the Waterfall way.


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Day two Kempsey to Cessnock

I experienced some great riding in fine weather over the Oxley highway and visited the Aspley falls before Walcha. Then onto Thunderbolts way which is one of the best rides in the new england region then a zig zag back over to the coast on the sweepers of the Buckkets way. Then down the fabulous old highway at Bulahdelah and back over to the Devils Hills to Booral. After running late the previous day I was sure I would have plenty of time this day to sight see at will however I again was late arriving the motel. My kilometre target each day was already proving to take more time than I had calculated.

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It can only be one place with a sign like that - the Oxley h-way

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This huge ravine actually runs beside the road near Walcha on the Oxley h-way
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Thunderbolts
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East from Gloucester




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The deserted old highway near Bulahdelah - motorcycle magic
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Day 3 Cessnock to Tumut



The next day the temperature plunged. Warm initially in the wine region of Cessnock . On the Putty road I had to stop a few times and add more clothes until I was wearing all my gear and still it was cold. I had seen a number of motorbike groups the previous days however today there were simply hundreds of motorbikes on this road and I began to get an idea of how many people ride down to the GP. At the half way roadhouse there was 30 or more motorbikes stopped all QLD plates and a continual flow of motorbikes going past.


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Waiting for a convoy of bikes on the Putty road
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Riding over the Bells line of roads it got misty and the cold was such I had to stop try warm up - which in turn gave me time to enjoy the wonderful views.

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Blue Mountains
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I was totally underdressed and underprepared for such a ride
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By the time I made it to Bathurst it had warmed up again but I had an idea that more was to come so I went to a BCF shop and got some thermal underwear, I should have gone further and equipped myself better with a windbreaker top and pants perhaps from the fishing section but I was still not aware of how the climate was in the southern parts of Australia living in Brisbane where this time of year is 30 degrees and and winter is 20 degrees. I had a nice ride then to Tumut via the excellent Lachlan Valley h-way from Cowra to Boorowa and the historic Harden and more good road via Beggan Beggan. This is a really interesting area and I had planned to stop and see more but as would happen each day I simply didnt allow enough time to stop as I would have liked.

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Above - Cowra to Harden, more interesting than some may think.


Day 4 Tumut to Bainsdale



Up early and onto the Snowy Mountains highway and good thing I purchased the thermals as the temperature was crisp and cold. Now I am seriously wondering why the Snowy Mtns h-way is not listed in the Australian top 100 rides atlas. A truly superb road, well surfaced, good surveying, wonderful curves - its what I expected the Alpine way to be when I rode that last year.

I rode over to Corryong and taking the wrong route via Tooma and this turned out to be a great ride, very scenic. It was about now that I first encountered a large group of riders from Sydney which I would bump into all the way to Bairnsdale. Nice enough guys but a few were riding dangerously and I would move ahead of them due to my stopping less but not traveling at warp speed only to have them roar past me on wrong side of road on blind corners to all pull up a short way down the road. This happened at least 4 times and it got to the point where I got a bit pissed off with their riding like they were in a Mad Max movie (I was not exactly dawdling but these guys were either 200kph wrong side of road or stopped middle of road to smoke).

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Snowy Mountains Hydro


Murray Valley highway, Tawonga gap and the Great Alpine road, really superb riding roads. A little rain to end the day but nothing more than a brief shower and by the time I got my wet weather gear on and sat at roadwork stop for 30 minutes the rain had cleared.


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One of the before mentioned riders in their usual location on the road.

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Tawonga Gap, Hotham and Tambo river near Bairnsdale

Day 5 Bairnsdale to Melbourne



I was going to visit Phillip Island today and take in a few sights and return for the GP. I wasn’t staying on the island as I wanted to see Melbourne and it seemed better value to do that and take a shuttle bus.

On Friday leaving Bairnsdale I was upbeat about making it at least to the island without rain as seemed to look like one of those Brisbane days that are overcast but don't yield rain, how very wrong that was. Leaving Sale towards Yarram I knew I was in for it - black wild storm clouds and almost like night it was so dark then down it came. I got lashed by a massive storm with high winds and freezing cold rain. I struggled on to Yarram by which time my hands were numb my nose was running non stop and I was shaking with the cold. My thanks to the attendant at the Mobil for letting me place my motorbike under cover and some words of encouragement. You know its cold when the locals are wearing beanies indoors and their breath is steam, now add rain and riding a motorcycle and being wet in certain places... after changing some clothes and rearranging some stuff I went to the nearby heated Coffee Palace cafe with lots of other riders trying to warm up. In hindsight I should have stopped and taken cover in one of the rural bus shelters like I did in Nymbodia and totally wait out the storm. Also in hindsight I should have had far better rider apparel. It was a tough test that nearly got the better of me. I crept on at a slow pace, I stopped a few more times and spent another hour or so in a diner trying to warm up. I didnt make it to the island for a look which might have been a good thing since the traffic probably was heavy. A beautiful area and nice roads but the Victorian weather was a total shock. I would not even leave home if it got that cold in Brisbane let alone try motorcycle touring.

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The rain stopped at Yarram but I ran into more all the way to Dandenong.


I liked Melbourne. The city heart was nice.

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Race day and I went prepared for the cold weather but it turned out fine, in fact I ended up getting sunburned. It was great to hear the MotoGP bikes and see their real speed. There was so many people there to see Casey Stoner (claimed to be 150,000 on tv?) It was perhaps more than the track was set up for, but anyway an interesting experience. I walked the whole track and liked the end of the main straight where you could see and hear the bikes at 300kph. It was a very blokey type of crowd with a lot of bearded men in HSV jackets smoking and drinking Jim Beam or VB... well seemed that way in most parts of the track. In future if I went again I would buy a a Grandstand seat on the main straight with view of pits and start. That would have been good, but the entry is already so expensive that I am not sure it is affordable. Without that your views are restricted unless you get back a bit which then defeats being there in some ways.


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Look at that podium!

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Week 2, Day 1. Dandenong to Ballarat via Sorrento and the GOR.



I rode off to the Great Ocean Road. The weather again turned cold and when I arrived at the Sorrento Ferry the number of other motorbikes there meant I missed my 9.00am ferry and had to wait an hour. This was to have a flow on effect later in the day.
The GOR is a wonderful ride. I disagree with those who say it is over rated - popular with grey nomad campervans and too many low speed limit areas yes, but the road itself is amazing. I was leaving the ocean part of the GOR and moving into the Olway national park mountains area when I realised I was far behind schedule thanks to the 100's of motorbikes that clogged the roads and meant simply getting fuel was a very long queue. Frustration set in a bit also as by now I was sick of all the bikes everywhere I went. Pull up for a coffee or lunch and zero chance to get a table. Even trying to get ice coffee from general store and its totally empty. Always getting slowed by cruisers riding in formation or hassled to go faster by sports bikes that cut you up on crests or blind corners. So I just wanted to leave them behind and made a big mistake of trying to pass too many and got a speeding ticket.



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I felt stupid as there was a lot of police presence already on this road and I had been careful to keep the pace moderate on these obvious high risk areas. On the other hand I had enjoyed a fair bit of spirited riding on this tour and the officers gave me a ticket for the speed at the top of the hill when I passed not the bottom which would have been much higher and seen me walking home. Oh well that’s life, chances are you will get a ticket at some time or another.

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I went on to the 12 Apostles and ran out of time to do more then this today. Superb twisty roads and magnificent scenery. I was still a bit angry at myself over the ticket so I didnt take as many photos of the mountain roads around this area but some excellent riding to be had between Lavers Hill and Princetown.

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A spot that looks as amazing in real life as in photos

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End of a rather long day nearing Ballarat.

Week 2 day 2. Ballarat to Bright.


Next day and OMG its freezing cold and drizzling rain in Ballarat. Crazy as last night it was warm balmy night. I was in a T-shirt and hot walking back from a pub to the motel. Today it was really miserable conditions so I made my way slowly north east to Seymour and fortunately the rain cleared soon out of town but the cold remained. Skipped the old h-way ride from Seymour as suggested in the top 100 rides atlas, Mansfield to Whitfield next.

An absolutely cracker of a road that has a bit of everything - one of the highlights of the tour. Today I am running ahead of time - for the first time on the whole trip so I try to get a new rear tyre at Mansfield but they only have a touring compound but at Wangaratta I find a bike shop with a Michelin Pilot so I go with that rather than wait until Sydney to get something. Bit expensive but my rear was already quite low.

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Victoria has so many historic towns.

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Mansfield - the corners go on and on (click to see larger photo and look)

Week 2 day 3. Bright to Cooma.


This was to be my 2nd high country riding day and I had planned to revisit some of the great Alpine road however its 2 degrees in Bright so I elect to skip Mt Buffalo as I am simply so sick of being cold. I enjoy the Tawonga Gap more this time without hordes of other motorbikes and then I managed to find the Redbank road which I missed on the way down first time but its average and in fact the excellent surfaced main road from Wodonga has nicer curves and as good scenery.

The Murray River road is however a true gem. I remember this road from when I was young and I am glad it remains the same superb road with lots of sweeping curves. This road reminds me of all the old roads traveling on with my parents when I was a lad – the white round wooden posts and rope fence used to be a common feature of roads in the past.

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Arriving Bright. A wonderful town.
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The Hume water level was low, the upper reaches were dry like the dams in Brisbane.
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At Corryong I decide I have to jetwash the Brutale. By now there are so many dead bugs on the leading edges and front of bike that a swarm of flys descend onto it anytime I stop and its disgusting. While here also I elect to skip the Alpine way as there is a lot of snow visible on top and I am sick of the cold. I manage then to find my way to Cabramurra via the Tumut Pond dam the route. This is another service road for the Hydro scheme and really not well surfaced or surveyed. Then down to Cooma on the Snowy Mtns h-way that does indeed turn out to be excellent riding for a early finish in Cooma to warm up.

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Above. View to the Snowy mtns , Snowy Hydro dam, Cabramurra - Australia's highest town.
Week 2, day 4. Cooma to Sydney



Next day I decide to alter my route again. Since I had already seen Brown Mtn I elected to ride north to Canberra and down Clyde Mtn on the Kings h-way. Not sure if this was a good choice or not as it was cold as hell all the way to Canberra where I simply got lost. I got down to the sea at Batemans bay to finally be warm again. Clyde mtn is a fantastic ride although I hear the police love that road.

Kangaroo Valley was very nice this afternoon and I again ran out of time. I really wanted to stay longer in the area but at least I got to a couple of the lookouts. I got into Sydney late and thus it was wise that I got the tyre when I did as my original plan had been to obtain same this afternoon instead.

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The Clyde mountain is a fantastic climb that will test the clearance of many motorbikes
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Looking towards ocean from top of climb into Kangaroo Valley, and Fitzroy falls top of next climb out of the valley.


Sydney. Beautiful harbour, the opera house and bridge, I liked the rocks area however somehow the rest of Sydney did not appeal so much to me. Its a very big busy place so would need time to adjust.

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Week 2, Day 6. Sydney to Armidale.



Heading towards home on the 2nd last day the weather again turned cool. The Hawkesbury region was a bit of a let down both the roads and the scenery not quite as as I had imagined but perhaps I just struck it on a poor day. A lot of bikes on the Wollombi road from Sydney which is better surface than the bumpy Wisemans Ferry area and has nice curves.

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Not rain (thankfully) just haze or fog all the way north to Wollombi

I cut over from Maitland to Stroud Road via Dungog and made a great find. The road via Paterson is nice scenery and well surfaced but then I find the road beyond Dungog to the Stroud Road is a superb bit of riding - beautifully surveyed and near new surface in parts .Back on to the Thunderbolts way and from Gloucster to Nowendoc is some great sweeping road. The resurveyed new river section suits me fine.

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Old road near Dungog


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Love the Thunderbolts way - its one of the best rides for me.

Week 2 Day 7. Armidale to Brisbane.



Last day and it’s still cool this morning and I don't feel warm enough to switch back to summer gloves or remove my scarf until I get back to Northern Rivers shire. I ride down the wonderful Gwydir h-way a road I have never ridden before simply as there is so many other nearby great roads but now I know why people ride this going south as it's a top bit of road - however via Ebor to Armidale over the Nymbodia range is hard to bypass.

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Raspberry lookout, Gwydir h-way.

Back over the lower boring part of the Summerland way I reflect on all the roads I have enjoyed and consider I am starting to change what I think makes a good motorcycle road. Lots of tight corner roads are not uncommon. Even elsewhere a series of tight corners is easier to find than a series of sweepers. A road with good surveying offering nice sweeping corners, and a good surface is something I am starting to enjoy more than all the tight switchbacks around where I live.

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Some people have already asked me would I do the trip it again. Sure, I would but I’d be better prepared and to be honest not tour at the same time of year as the GP. Some people may like many other bikers around but I found it overwhelming to have hundreds of them. I’d fly to the GP or better still I’d fly to the Malaysian GP which I think might give a better user experience than the Aussie one and the airfare is about the same as domestic flights anyway. Then I would do this tour later in October perhaps early November when Victoria might be warmer (does it ever warm up?) or I’d go in Autumn and see the coloured leaves and have fewer bugs. I would change to visit less travelled roads with more time to see things and perhaps I would not go as far as the Great Ocean road unless I was seeing more in that region as take the GP out and you might choose to turn around well before Melbourne.


I sure learnt a lot on this ride. 6300km is a not an insignificant figure and too much for two weeks even if not taking days off like I did. About 400km per day would be better if wanting to have time to see things.

Well hope you enjoyed this ride report.

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11 comments

  1. Well done on the recent tour down south.
    I have been reading your blog for several months now and have been most impressed. The info you have provided has been excellent in preparation for a recent trip I did from Albury up to Mt Tamborine and return. Much of this trip I did is what you have just completed, and the rest further south I have done previously in the reverse direction.
    When on the trip up north I met up with another Brisbane rider who also reads your blog and has posted a comment. I will keep in touch.
    Nigel from Albury.

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  2. You lucky bugger - was wondering why it had been so quite here!

    Great write up - looks & sounds like you had an awesome time. I covered a lot of those roads when I did The Snowy Ride back in 2005 - was a fantastic experience and reading your review really brought back some of the memories.

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  3. Thanks Nigel, nice to hear from you and glad my ramblings could be of some assist.

    Hey Beaker, it was a top ride despite the cold and 10,000 bugs. I want tear offs next time :)

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  4. Been looking forward to this post and you haven't let me down.
    My boss rode down to the race from here in Brisbane over 2 weeks and he also rode the GOR. He told me he only got wet once on the whole trip, the liar.
    I notice the luggage on the back of the Brutale, you sure do travel light for a 2 week trip.
    Your thoughts on packing for such an adventure as that one would be a subject in itself.
    Your comments about the lack of time for side trips etc strikes a chord. Distances in Australia between major centres means that serious kilometres often need to be ridden if one is to get the trip completed within the time available. My wife in particular likes her days to be around 300klms to enable nice casual breakfasts in the mornings and a little time to sightsee during the day and time in the afternoons at the evening rest stop to just relax with a little daylight. I'm fast becoming a fan of this viewpoint and trips are now shorter as a result, but more relaxed.
    Anyway, great read and much appreciated. Peter of Brisbane

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  5. Hi Peter,

    Thanks for your comments, I might do a post on how I pack so light, it is something I have fine tuned from international travel. The distance per day was something I got wrong most every day. A lesson learned and 300k up to max 400k would have been better. Actually one of many of things learned :) regards.

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  6. Hi Peter, great write up on your journey, im sure many including myself turned green with envy as they read. Your photos are excellent and really make the reader feel as if they were along for the ride with you.

    Your previous question regarding depth of field, can really only be solved with apeture control, wide apeture = blurred backgrounds.

    Cheers
    Aaron GC

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  7. Ah yes Apeture control is a feature my camera does not have. Perhaps I can update it in the future as I often want more control over shots.

    I didn't have as much time as I would have liked on this tour and some places I didn't come away with very good photos. Of course the weather was against me at times too I guess.

    Glad you enjoyed them all the same.

    IC.

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  8. Congrats, you completed your tour and facing many problems and still completed bravely and read your complete blog and I guess first day was more difficult.

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  9. I just came across this site and it's very impressive. The huge amount of information and pictures have caused me to lose 3 hours of my day. Thanks for the great work and keep it up!

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  10. Great reading and a lot of useful info, thanks. I am doing the trip to PI this year and will be following more or less the same route. Just one question did you have problems finding accommodation at that time of the year, would you recommend to book ahead?
    Cheers

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  11. Hi Stef, I did book ahead and there are so many bikes on the more popular roads that some places would be booked out for sure.
    I'd probably ride a little different to this if I went again. I'd skip the Snowy Mtns ad continue south via Bega/Bombala and then return via Falls creek and couple days in Bright and ride all the good roads there instead of the Great Ocean Road.

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