21 August, 2010

Biking adventures – 1H 2010 .... disaster’s about to happen, and not just once ..........

Firstly, I sold the ST 1100 in December last year and now dedicate my riding to Burgmans. Although having said that, I’ve also taken the Aprilia Mana 850 out for 2 test rides but it is very Burgmanesque given it uses electronic CVT technology licenced from Suzuki. If I was going to buy a naked road bike it would definitely be the one to go for but it is very expensive for what you get.

I also test rode a Buell 1125R – the last of the Buells are now being sold, the end of an era. The Buell is an in-your-face raw and visceral experience – VERY fast and powerful but an absolute dog around town. If I could afford an exclusive dedicated track bike the Buell would definitely be the way to go though.

However, Burgmen is I’m sure what you want to hear about so here we go.

After all the difficulties in getting B2 running after its immersion, which all boiled down to the CVT Pulley Position Sensor (PPS) being the culprit, it happened again! - would you believe it? In March there was a flash flood when I had B2 parked at a customer site and lo and behold the CVT flooded again! – what a coincidence! the bike has now drowned twice! Needless to say, the PPS died again and I had to get a new one.

Over Easter 2010 I decided to ride B1 up to the Flinders Ranges again and had a great time riding and exploring.

This time I elected to take the coast road west to Adelaide and then head north to Ororoo, rather than heading directly inland. In many ways, this was a reverse of last year’s ride.

The first day’s riding took me along Victoria’s famous Great Ocean Road, and B1 was in its element – swooping and diving through the tight turns, with magnificent cliff top views to add to the experience. By late afternoon I crossed the border into South Australia and camped overnight in Kingston S.E. Next morning I followed the coast northwards through the salt lakes of the Coorong National Park salt lakes before heading inland and taking the ferry across the Murray at Wellington (same ferry as last year) and then heading weat to Mt Barker and Hahndorf for some further swooping and diving through the Adelaide Hills before riding North up through the Barossa valley and arriving back in Ororoo and camping at the same campground as last year.

The next day I decided to do a full circuit of the Flinders. First stop was Wilpena Pound where I did a fast walk up to the top of Mary’s Mount – I was quite surprised how fit I was, climbing walking up and back in half the time of most other visitors. From Wilpena it was north to Blinman, and the road is now fully bitumenised with some nice corners as the road follows the curves of the hilly undulating countryside. From Blinman it was west to Parachilna through the gorge. This was around 50km of gravel tracks through some very pleasant hills and dales, across dry creek beds and around blind crests. A most enjoyable ride except for the dust kicked up by the ubiquitous 4wd drivers. Parachilna was quite disappointing – really just a rail junction with a hotel - albeit the hotel does a roaring trade in cooking native animals (ferall meals) with emu and roo being big on the menu.

The most important thing about Parachilna, however, is that from here you head North on the bitumen to Leigh Creek form where you meet the gravel taking you up to Marree and then on to Birdsville – so I will be heading back that way again in the near future.

From Parachilna I took the road south again back to my camp at Ororoo and next day left for Mildura and Swan Hill, where I set up camp on the banks of the Murray.

The following day was Easter Monday and I decided to meander South to Melbourne, avoiding the main highway as much as possible and taking as many gravel and back roads as I could.

At lunchtime I arrived in Bendigo only to find the main street blocked due to the annual Easter Parade. I had head many great things about this but in all my years in Australia had never seen it before. The parade is most famous for having the longest Chinese dragon in the world – and at an impressive 50m it really was.

What really stood out though was the community involvement in what is really a small town affair. In particular, the vast majority of participants were Chinese! It was most interesting to observe the amount of community involvement, effort and commitment that the Asian community had made, whilst by comparison the European presence was tired, lack lustre, and paltry. I do believe this says a lot about the way Australia as a country is heading and that hopefully the new wave of Asian immigration can shake up and revitalise the small rural communities that have been allowed to wither by the ex-convict Irish Australian stock.

The parade was a most enjoyable affair and after it completed I chose to continue my meanderings along the backroads. Little did I know what was in store for me as disaster struck!

I was leaving town heading towards Newstead following a P-plater driver in an old Holden Astra. She pulled over on to the left verge without indicating and stopped at the side of the road. I continued driving straight ahead when she suddenly did a right hand turn (no indicators) across in front of me into a driveway!!

I grabbed both brakes hard, locked up and low-sided down the road on my left side stopping a metre away from her car. I was still in my seat and astride the bike when I stopped sliding but my left foot was stuck under the body work so I had to enlist Ms P-plater to help extricate myself (that’s the polite version of events anyway). Turns out she had her licence only 3 weeks but blames me for the accident because I never actually hit her car! I ended up with scratches down the left hand side of the bike, broken indicator, broken screen and bent centre stand. Fortunately my clothing took the brunt of the damage to myself and I ended up shredding my leather jacket, pants and boots. Luckily the gear protected me well and all I had to show for it was a sprained ankle, a few bruises and grazes and a haematoma on my hip.

This was only my second motorcycle accident since 1978 (when I was in Africa) and like my other one in 1997 (where I had only owned my Suzuki PE250 for one day) it was directly the fault of the other driver – very annoying!

Like my accident in 1997, the insurance company ended up writing off B1 and wanted to me to forfeit her in return for a financial payout. I refused to do this and was eventually able to negotiate a settlement where I bought B1 back as salvage. With minimal replacement parts (indicator lens and screen) I patched her back up and went through the rather costly ‘written off vehicle’ inspection process to get her back on the road. So all ended up well ….. for the moment.

In the last week of May I decided to test her endurance and offroad capabilities again by doing a 600km day circuit from Melbourne to Licola to Jamieson and return to Melbourne. I had done a similar ride on B2 a month or so earlier, heading up to Jamieson via Woods Point, however, the Licola road is a lot rougher and higher.

The road was due to be closed for winter the following weekend so I knew it was make or break that weekend. A constant downpour ensured that I was the only bike on the road as I hit the 100km or so of dirt that heads up (and down) to the summit of Mt Skene at 1600m. The first 50km or so was fairly good going as I could power on up the hills and enjoy the rain protection provided by B1s bodywork. Once I hit the top though the road became muddier and slipperier – not fun at all under brakes, as the Burgie’s CVT dies not provide the low speed engine braking other bikes can. It took me 2 hours to cover the final 50km as I slipped and slid down the mountain.

The following weekend it was time for another road adventure as I headed off with half the mountain madness crew for a ride over the top of Falls Creek before that road was also closed for the winter.

The morning was a great ride and we stopped for lunch at Whitfield only to find Neil and Lorrain limping in with a flat rear tyre on their Triumph Sprint. I always carry a tyre repair kit with me and was able to put it to good use plugging Neil’s rear (tyre that is).

We made good time in the afternoon, crossing the Tawonga Gap for the run down into Mt Beauty, and then up the road to Fall’s Creek. The road was damp in parts so we slowed down considerably and as we took a hairpin left hander I spotted two lyrebirds walking by the side of the road. I’ve lived in Australia since 1963 and this is the first time I have seen lyrebirds in the wild – quite a magical experience.

On reaching the top of Falls Creek it started to get very cold – just slightly above freezing. Rather than waiting for the other riders to catch up I decided to lead the pack of bikes down the road to Angler’s Rest, and Omeo – our stop for the evening.

Now it is worthwhile to first say a little bit about this road. It is a tight, steep and windy road that has only recently been bitumenised (January 2009). I have ridden it twice since then, both times uphill and I did not like the road surface at all.

In the Alpine regions in Australia the road builders build roads in two stages. They first put down a bottom layer of rough bitumen and let it sit for two years before putting on the top layer of hot melt asphalt. In addition, the first layer of road surface uses a different type of aggregate – round pebbles instead of coarse screenings. What they did at Falls Creek though, beggars belief. They never swept the road after the first surfacing and as a result the surface is full of round pebbles just waiting for a bike to apply a cornering force and for them (the pebbles) to start rolling sideways.

Knowing this, I took it very easy as it is a most unsettling experience riding this road.

To cut a long story short, around 8 km out of Falls Creek I took a gentle left hander at around 50kmh. Before I knew what had happened, and without warning, B1 slid out from underneath me and I low sided on my left. My immediate thoughts were “Damn, not again…”, before the rear wheel gripped and I high sided over to the right.

My first action was to switch off the ignition (the tip-over sensors had done their job and switched off the engine) and then to run around the corner warning the other riders to slow down.

At first I thought I must have hit some ice on the road – so quick and uncontrollable was the slide – but on closer inspection I realised that the inside of the corner was covered in ball bearing shaped ‘white pea gravel’ that the road builders had put down and that the regular parade of passing vehicles had pushed into a pile.

Now to add insult to injury, not only had the pea gravel caused me to go down but it had viciously eroded and tore out huge hunks of B1’s bodywork and my riding gear – the damage was far, far worse than in the previous incident with a torn off mirror, bent handlebars and broken brake lever along with bodywork hanging off left right and centre – thank goodness for duct tape!.

As for myself, I came out of it totally unscathed with not a scratch on me……. or so I thought at the time.

The rest of the ride was uneventful and I returned to Melbourne safely. I elected not to claim on my insurance as I thought having two accidents less than 2 months apart would not bode well for my future insurance coverage. I ended up repairing / rebuilding the damaged bodywork myself … not quite as easy a job as last time as this time it wasn’t just scratches I needed to repair.

A few days later though I was reading a newspaper when I thought to myself – hmm, my reading glasses must be scratched because I can’t see through them properly. .

I thought nothing more of it until a week or so later I had cause to look at something with just my right eye and realised my vision was clouded and I couldn’t see any detail.

I went for an eye check and as it turns out I have a haemorrhage in the retina of my right eye – no doubt caused by my head getting tossed from one side to the other during the high side. It will take another 6 months or so for the blood in my retina to dissipate so improvement in my vision is relatively slow.

B1 now has over 93,000km on the clock and is my dedicated ‘adventure bike’, whilst B2 is my comfy tourer. However, I had the opportunity back in June to acquire an almost new K8 Burgman motor, CVT and complete rear end including swingarm and rear wheel/tyre.

My plans are to keep the new motor ready for swapping over once B1’s engine and CVT fail – in any case I want to see the magic 100,000kms come up on B1’s odometer before I consider the change. Hopefully that should occur before the end of 2010 so there will be plenty more adventures in store.