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Motorcycle Paradise

Thunderbolts and Oxley loop

Easter was already a 5 day weekend due to ANZAC day falling at the same time. It was not surprise lots of people decided to do a trip somewhere.

I literally made my mind to go the day before and packed up the bike on Thursday evening and booked a room at the Top Pub Uralla as my first night. Next morning a mate confirmed he would join for part of the day and I rode down to Lismore via Murwillumbah and Nimbin to meet him. Heavy fog made it slow going.

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We rode over to Woodburn and south on the Pacific highway to Maclean rather than the Summerland Way which after Casino is perhaps the most mind numbing road after the Hume. I was in my winter gear so was feeling a bit warm waiting for the ferry to Lawrence.

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Riding over Nymboida range this time was pleasant, previous I have experienced a hail storm and 45 degree heat wave there. We took the road to East Dorrigo which might not be as good as the Waterfall way descent but was car free and has plenty of curves all the same and after a refuel and rest we rode the Waterfall way and my friend returned home whilst I rode south to Wooloombi Gorge.

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Still plenty of time up my sleeve I took a walk around Armidale park and streets to view some of the autumn colour and heritage buildings.

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Then on to Uralla and checked in at the Top Pub. Hard to find much in the way of value these days however this is the separate wing of the pub at the rear with ensuite rooms for $35 a single a night, not flash but clean with tea/coffee etc tv and a comfy bed that’s value. Had a decent meal there too next to the fire place. A good reason I suffered earlier today the winter gear, this high country gets very cold, already just in April it is about as cold as mid winter in Brisbane.  

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I had a problem to solve that evening, where to get e new visor for my Shark RSR helmet next morning. I had left home with a brand new iridium visor fitted from ebay and I know to wash these by hand which I had done during the day however this thing was junk, the coating was starting to scratch and go cloudy with just a couple of gentle cleans. I Googled the 3 bike shops in the nearest major town of Tamworth and next morning headed straight there in the very brisk morning air.

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As luck would have it two shops closed for Easter and the other could not help. Looking at the visor over a coffee I could see the coating was so fragile that any touching would make things worse rapidly and it was another 4 riding days before shops would be reopening. I had to make a tough call there and then because I know from previous rides that getting things in the country towns is not so easy. I tried to get a visor for a KBC helmet many years ago on a tour and road into every bike shop from the Snowy Mtns back without luck, even getting a common size tyre on my MV Agusta was difficult on tour as I think people pretty much order things in and little stock is kept on hand unlike the city dealerships. I think it would be impossible to get tyres for this bike if not prearranged.

So I decided to stay riding in the New England tablelands rather than go further as worst case scenario I could buy a pair of sunglasses from a petrol station and ride home with the visor up once the day has warmed up. Not too many bugs in Autumn either to make it possible, still there are always some and I dunno how the Harley guys deal with that.

I rode from Tamworth to the Thunderbolts via Port Stevens Range which was a fantastic ride. The route starts at Nemingha east of Tamworth and joins the Thunderbolts way after the boring initial bit out of Walcha not far from Nowendoc. Note the last 5 minutes of this road was unsealed roadworks which I hope means it will be fully sealed in the near future. 

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After this is my favorite part of the Thunderbolts way. You plunge down from the pine tree forest in a series of sublime curves where you experience the defy gravity feeling for an extra long time in each radius.

This brings to mind something that I was pondering on this ride. Why try and get through every corner quickly? Seriously, isn’t it the defy gravity feeling in the corner we riders enjoy so much? I understand the young sports bike rider challenging themselves and testing their skill/manhood, been there long ago, but for the rest have a think about it sometime.

Dropping down into the valley the next best part of Thunderbolts winds its way along the river. A sea of tents and camper vans were lined up in the camping areas. Funny how people load up a tonne of gear and drive a hundred miles to get away from it all and then set up camp a few feet away from dozens of other campers all busy staking out their claim – seems just like back in the ‘burbs they left from … Buckets way starts well enough but it really gets into a bad state by the time you get closer to Taree.

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I road via Lansdowne before a blip up the highway and had mapped out a route from Kew to Lorne and over to the Oxley. The friendly folk at the Kew servo told me there was a lot of dirt which I had not seen on Google maps so I rode on and the Bago road to Wauhope is not that far further down the highway, the other route looked like it had some great curves in places so one day I might try it anyway.

The Oxley highway, what more can I say to previous. Each time I ride this road it gets better, I particularly like from Gingers crk west to the end of the forest where the road serves up a series of near perfect sweeping corners which would be some of the best riding I have experienced anywhere. They work hard to have such a good surface on a minor connecting route such as this, it is a tribute to the efforts of the local road crews who I am told are also riders and take pride in the Oxley. It is a better ride than any of the switchback mountains I rode in Europe and I have not ridden the famous USA roads (yet) but with three times the corners I am confident the Oxley would compare well. I have tried but it is impossible to capture it in a photo, you simply have to experience it.

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I was the last rider to leave Gingers after a late coffee and cake and punting along in the forest I was thinking gee that light is fading fast better get moving or the wildlife will soon come out and then I saw a wallaby on the side of the road ahead and realised I was already out a bit too late. So what to do, go faster to get off the roads sooner but if something comes out then your speed is high or go slow but then be on the roads later as more wildlife comes out – both are a negative I guess. Leaving the forest at the start of the 110 k/ph posted open part of the Oxley the sun was shining again so I decided to try cover the non forest and mostly fenced road into Walcha quickly. This was working fine until about 35km out when I hit reserve. Seems the CB likes a drink at higher speeds.

I did a quick splash and dash with fuel at Walcha and road straight on to Uralla where I had secured the last room in the town earlier in the day. More of those Kangaroos next xx km signs leaving Walcha and by now the sun was all but gone so busy time scanning for skippy next 30 k and very glad to get off the bike in Uralla just on dark.

Another enjoyable night drinking with locals, this time in the Thunderbolt Inn hotel as the Top Pub was a bit rowdy. The next day the zipper on my Alpinestars WP10 jacket broke and that kind of killed things given it was freezing cold outside in the morning. I was not able to do much riding but had a great breakfast in the the only café I know with a Ducati superbike replica parked inside, on the corner across from the Top Pub you can’t miss it. And it is great to find some real coffee when touring.

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I eventually patched things and only option was to wander back towards home, the fog was still heavy in places. I took my time and explored a few historic towns along the way and despite once again something stopping me from going further I had a real good time.

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14 comments

  1. Can't wait to ride the Oxley Highway after your comments.

    I'm heading back to Aus in August (most likely to Sydney) and was wondering how I'd live without European roads. Seems I have just as much to look forward to in my own back yard :)

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  2. Love your work Warren. I hope the hands held up ok. I was down that way with some mates on a 4 day ride the week before Easter but we belted down the New England to Glen Innes then to Inverell and to Barraba where a couple of the group grew up. Their local knowledge certainly took us over some great roads. From there backroads to Coonabarraban to visit family (theirs-not mine) and finally east to Singleton and Glouster. Thunderbolts to Walcha when the heavens opened and the boys decided to head straight home up the highway to Tenterfield then east to Sandilands then north via Bonalbo, Woodenbong, Rathdowney etc.. It was my first ride with this crew and so I just tagged along. But I made up my mind I'd make the effort to go back down on my own soon and have a proper poke around. Your ride has given me a framework to build on. (I do love the Lawrence ferry).

    Photos are great too - you certainly have the knack. Thanks again for sharing. I always look forward to your blog posts. Cheers rb

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  3. Hi Rob, there is some great riding here albeit spread further apart - but also with less cars. If you could shrink the joint down it would be wonderful!

    If you ride up to the Oxley then stay two nights and some great riding between Ebor and Nymbioda - the pub there does great lunches and is owned by Russell Crowe who has a farm somewhere nearby. On the way from there to Coffs is East Dorrigo way which is lovely side trip. Then there is the Waterfall way from Bellingen to Ebor, the Oxley from Wauchope to Walcha and Thuderbolts way from Walcha to Gloucester. Oh and I almost forgot the Gwydir from Grafton to Glen Innes if you have the time to loop around there.

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  4. I enjoyed reading the write-up IC.

    What was the condition of the road surface on Thunderbolts? I haven't been that way for a couple of years and it was pretty rough back then...

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  5. Thanks Skitta, I am actually going to buy myself an SLR camera next as I find my smaller camera frustrating and can't see what I am shooting on its small screen so often get home and find out I missed the shot I wanted.

    Hands seemed not too bad in the Held lined gloves I was using for this trip and am trying some new things.

    I came back Tenterfield and Bonalbo - The Bruxner highway East of Tenterfield is superb, Bonalbo was more rough than I recall but has some sections resealed, not enough of them but still it sure makes a good short cut to or from the Tablelands if you skoot down the New England it is really not a long ride to base camp.

    IMO you have to ride a long way south until you come across another similar cluster of quality riding roads. There is some scattered along the way of course but the next area I would base myself for a couple of nights might be Bright or Bega so having this nearby is something to value.

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  6. Thunderbolts is overall in good shape White Tiger. The section in the forest before the descent into the valley is a patchwork and the descent (climb depending direction) has some surface break up and related debris. From Nowendoc to Walcha I didnt ride but last year there was some new and some bumpy, the worst section near Walcha has been resurfaced. The valley to Glocester had a lot of new surface a couple years ago and this is still good.

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  7. I find your reports very informative and thank you very much.

    Eight of us travelled the Lions Road, Nymbodia, Waterfall way to Belligen and back to Armidale and the Oxley over the long weekend.

    I believe that the three bikes going past you just before Walcha were from our group

    Thanks for the very helpful info

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  8. Hi Rohan, Sounds like you also had a good ride, I saw the headlights coming up behind me on the Walcha when I was doing the maths on my fuel situation.
    Did not think the big four would be as thirsty on the faster roads as not working hard but it is not a particularly frugal engine to begin with so I should not have been surprised.

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  9. I did the Mt Lindesay, Summerland, Bruxner, Bonalbo, lunch at The Crown in Urbenville, back to Rathdowney loop Sunday (24th) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSp0KWMz8OQ they speed off, I do my own thing :). Speaking to the publican at Urbenville, he said a lot of the new sections on the Bonalbo were where the road had been washed away from all the rain back in Jan when Urbenville was cut off. The Bonalbo might be bumpy but it ain't nowhere near as bumpy as coming from Legume to Urbeville.

    Thanks for the write up IC. Am curious, what kind of range are you getting on the Honda before hitting reserve?

    Michael

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  10. We decided to refuel at Long Flat to save time and return to Armidale where we stayed the night. That day we did the Oxley four times.

    For some reason (perhaps poor fuel quality) we got the worst consumption rate on the final leg. Nothing to do with the high speed of course.

    Next day we did Numbodia and then Tenterfield to Casino

    We are from Central Queensland and the next planned ride is North Queensland.

    We will trailer the bikes to Townsville and ride on from there. You should think about it.

    Regards

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  11. Hi Michael, I was getting about 195km to reserve on the CB I rode in Japan. They have a 14.5 litre tank, 3.5 litre reserve I think. Mine has not been as good averaging reserve at 180km. However I just realised mine only had 1500km on it before this tour so that figure will improve.

    On the Oxley I hit reserve at 165km. Once your out of the forest you tend to burn though fuel on the open fast section, my mate's MT-01 usually hits reserve and my Buell Lightning very nearly ran out, however my Firebolt was very frugal on same road so aerodynamics certainly plays a part.

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  12. Warren Love your work. I hope that the hands in the air ok. I went down that road with some friends on a journey of four days of the week before Easter, but we prevailed in New England Glen Innes to Inverell and Barabbas where a couple of the group grew. Their local knowledge took us over some of the major roads. From there, roads lead to Coonabarraban to visit his family (his, not mine) and then east of Singleton and Glouster. Thunder Glide Walcha when the heavens opened and the boys decided to head back up the highway at Tenterfield then east then north via Sandi Bonalbo, Woodenbong, Rathdowney and more. It was my first trip with this crew, so I followed. But I made up my mind I would do an effort to get back on my own soon and a suitable bag around. Your trip gave me a framework to build. (I love ferry Lawrence).

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