I had my little Versys 650 LAMs bike serviced and had fresh tyres fitted a week or so ago and I thought "I've only ridden it 4 times" so I should take it for a spin. Since riding the first 1000km day last summer, the bike has lived away up the coast but I only pillion my nephew "Nevertire Nic" on it every now and then.
Last week my mate and fellow Versys rider TigerBill and I were in the shed and he showed me how to wire a 5 pin relay. I had some spare lights hanging around so fitted them up. Now I have spots on highbeam and low, wide gutter lights on low beam. Slipped on a throttle lock, RAMmed up a GPS, squeezed a 10L jerry can into the top box and the bike was ready to get going.
With a start in Hexham just north of Newcastle at 00:20hr Saturday morning (Odo 6472km) I headed south into a lovely night of riding. Not hot, not cold - ok, a bit cold by Goulburn.
Typical of me it seems, I had no idea of the tank range on the Versys heading off on a distance ride. This is the third generation and has now grown a 21litre tank. On a low powered bike that weighs about 210kg wet, that should give a range of 400km or so. With that 10L in the jerry can I could maybe get 600km range.
It’s a lumpy little twin at low revs, but smoothes right out at the speed limit and travels along nicely. I stopped at a roadside stop south of Goulburn and had drink while I put in the 10L but otherwise just cruised along in the dark until South Gundagai (05:27hr, 7010km odo, 528km GPS). At that point the LAMS bike (Learner Approved Motorcycle Scheme) was happily holding pace.
The sun came up behind me soon enough as by then I’d swung west along the Sturt Highway. Still great conditions for riding. I’d seen maybe 4 kangaroos on the Hume Highway, but no wildlife out here, through the town of Wagga without putting my feet down and with the roadside vegetation thinning I made it out as far as Hay. (09:03hr, 7361km odo, 873km GPS). I refilled the jerry, having carried it empty through the last leg and topped up the front tank for a total of 28.33L.
From here it started to get warm. North toward the Kidman Way across the Hay plain - the flattest place in the world:
I paused a couple of times, first in Merriwagga to pour water up my sleeves and down my back at a great Iron Butt Motel just off the main road, then again just up the road at Hillston for more drink supplies. It was still well before midday, but the temp was in the high 30Cs so I kept a better watch on fluids from here on in.
The last time I road the Kidman Way was with Nevertire Nic on the back, heading south for the Iron Butt Association Muster in Parkes last July. Cold, green goat-manicured grass and pretty that time, the road was now white hot and fringed by dry long grass with only one goat in sight.
I hid in the shade at the Grain Road turn-off and topped up the tank with the jerry can, washed my face, sucked on the diluted Gatorade from my Camel Bak and wondered what the hell I was doing out here…. 42C is hot.
Next stop Cobar (13:48hr, 7797km odo, 1301km GPS)
I put 10.5L into the front tank and left the empty jerry in the back – not needed from here on in. A couple of quick phone calls, a full wet down of the under layer to fight the heat and headed east for the first time. At night time this bit of road can be entertaining, with all sorts of furry creatures on hand to keep a rider on his/her toes. Today it was just a nice green and red set of undulations straight to Nyngan followed by a flat green and gold run down the Mitchell to Nevertire, all at steady pace.
Turning northwest up the Oxley Highway I get that familiar ‘heading home’ feeling. Its still nearly 500km from Newcastle but feels like a well-worn commute. It is lumpy and bumpy and just meanders along through the farms at 110km/h with always something to catch your eye. I love this road. Approaching Gilgandra I could see some summer storms up ahead. I’d made my decision where I was heading – Coonabarabran – and wondered if I could thread the needle through the clouds. Nope. Riding faster than the storms, I passed through a few heavy patches with the cooling effect a blessing. The telltale tinkle of hailstones was company for a while.
Last fuel at Coona (18:10hr, 8197km odo, 1693km GPS) and a quick back-track for a turn south east onto the Warrumbungles Way. I’ve only ridden this road twice before. The first time was in the middle of the night with TigerBill northbound – looking for bonus locations on Ghosty’s practice rally. The second time was again with TigerBill on our ‘IceMan’ LDLR last summer on an equally hot day. Today was a gem. No traffic at all, just a private road run through little valleys across creeks and through farmland framed by blue sky and green hills. Beautiful country. I carried on at the same angle through Coolah onto the twistier Vinegaroy Road to Cassilis.
From here it really is nearly home.
With the sun behind me and again no traffic the final couple of hundred kays was a nice relaxed way to finish the day ride , arriving home in Newcastle 22:20hr, 8562km odo, 2053km GPS.