A timely email from Clubby last week announced the Tenere Tragics Summer Shakedown ride in the high country with Tragic Sweep Troy coming up from Victoria with a posse to meet any local starters in Bombala. I thought it might be great preparation for March’s Tenere Tragics Ride, my first one, so I jumped quickly at the chance to join in.
A late start for me, 7.30am for a cruise down the M1, M2, M7 and Hume to meet Clubby at 11am at the BP Southbound Marulan. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been to this servo as the first stop for a ride (313kms) usually just as the sun is coming up, but today was going to be different. I fuelled up and Clubby arrived on the strangest Tenere I’ve ever seen. A WR250 in Tenere clothing. Here’s a pic I prepared later.
I was feeling nervous about what I was getting myself into. I’m an off road muppet despite having spent some time putting around in National Parks over the last few months by myself without a clue about how I was going – confidence levels low. Oh well, in for a penny.
At the first taste of gravel I stopped to turn down the traction control and Clubby took off along Stewarts Crossing Road which was awash with loose stones and very slippery. I was already wondering what I’d got myself into. After a while I saw Clubby up ahead stopped at a right hander. He, thankfully, took off while I was trying to get around it. I was unsuccessful but managed to gracefully park the big bike at least pointing in the right direction but in the drain between the road and a bank. A deep breath and I was off again until we were stopped by the Mongarlowe River which was showing 0.8m across the causeway. I’d like to say I was happy I had to turn around and go back across those stones but with only one “moment” heading towards a drop rather than a bank we were back out onto Mayfield Road soon enough. Clubby said the road was slippery and he’d stopped because that first right hander had brought people undone before. Too late for that info Clubby! I’m thinking now he left as I approached the bend because he didn’t want to witness my exit from the corner. Shortly after however he witnessed me drop the bike on it’s side as I came to a stop near him. I’ve got a reasonable excuse but it doesn’t matter. After 77,000kms STEN has finally had a little rest. I was so quick to pick it up, still laughing, I didn’t even get a photo. Next time!
Soon after that we were at Braidwood for fuel and some health food from the servo. Clubby seemed strangely happy that I didn’t require focaccia and a latte and was willing to take my repast from the gourmet selection in the servo’s pie warmer.
Clubby led me through Nerringa on Captains Flat Road, Harolds Cross Road and a right into the steeper and gnarlier, by my standards, Coxes Creek Road and a bit of a loop in Main Range Road. I was starting to warm up a bit, some of this was more challenging than I’d been on before but I was taking it easy and had no moments. Rocky Pic Road upped the ante a little for me and we punched back out onto Captains Flat Road and made our way to Jerangle, Peak View, Numerella and other places I’d never heard of.
There were bits and pieces of tar but it was mostly fairly easy gravel roads and way less traffic than I’m used to seeing. Nimmitabel appeared from nowhere. The bakery is impressive and the coffee is great, double shot flat white with no eyebrow raising please. Springfield Road, Avon Lake Road, Sherwins Creek Road took us through Wind Farm country. I have strange fascination with wind farms and I had to stop for a pic.
Clubby was waiting patiently at the next intersection (he showed amazing patience along the way) and I think at the time he was wondering if I’d binned it. A very fair thought really, I reckon I was looking pretty dodgy despite feeling almost comfortable by now. I was however having a ball, gaining confidence on unfamiliar surfaces and still had had no more moments worth reporting.
We rode to Bombala via the Snowy River Hwy where I took the lead for a while and blew off some dust arriving a touch later than expected. Tragic Peter E. was waiting for us in town near a bottle shop. After a quick g’day we fuelled ready for the next day and checked into the Maneroo Hotel. The Victorian contingent were arriving much later. The bike went to bed, the dust was washed off and the local RSL was given our support. The $12.00 Ocean and Earth was delicious. Others taking part in tomorrow’s ride trickled in, and I learned what “Dirty Bird” was.
Up late for me for a 7.30am breakfast at the Hotel, the low cal bacon, eggs, lamb chop…you know. Others arrived and soon enough there was a group of 10 or so ready to leave with a ride variety of bikes including an interesting looking KTM – Kawasaki Transalp Mutant ridden by Marshall.
The ride was being led by Norm Watts, a legend. A gentleman to talk to but a weapon on two wheels. This was my first ever full day, proper, group Adventure Ride and I had no clue what I was up for, no clue where we were going and no clue if I was going to make it back in one piece. The Tenere Tragics and others gearing up looked serious to me and trepidation made my teeth rattle, in a good way.
We headed south from Bomabala onto Mila Road all the way through Bondi State Forest. Troy, Tenere Tragic sweep extraordinairre, and Clubby adopted positions towards the rear of the pack to keep an eye on things and it became quickly apparent that a corner-man system was the go for the day. All good for me I’ve done plenty of that in HOG rides. Ironically I only made it to second position once quite late in the day just in time to see Norm disappear into the dust with no hope of me catching him. By the time he got to a corner I wasn’t second any more.
At Craigie Road we turned left and made our way to Lower Bendoc Road and to the Bendoc Orbost Road. All of this was pretty nice gravel road, not too challenging but there were some things for me to get more used to, first the dust and second the pace up the straight bits. It became clear I needed to pick it up a bit between corners rather than just mosey along and admire the view. Leaving the surfaces aside, this was a different style of riding in toto. During this part of the ride standing on the pegs really clicked for me. There were still some weighting issues, particularly with acceleration, to sort out but I felt relaxed. A good thing too, because a right into Gunmark Road then into a less maintained Goonmink Rocks Road, Bendoc State Forest in the Errinundra National Park took me straight back out of my new comfort zone and impending doom welled up.
I absolutely realise that this was business as usual for the others on the ride and I’m grateful that the progress and tone of the ride didn’t make me feel pressured to overdo it to keep up. I held a steady line and hopefully gave people plenty of room to pass me if they wanted to. Then I’d watch them as they rode past trying to work out how they were doing it!
There were lots of stops, chats through helmets, referencing paper maps and drink breaks. Generally I stop only when I need fuel, I eat and drink on the bike and don’t talk to anyone except to tell them the bowser number closely followed by “Credit”. This was a pleasant change but also had the effect of keeping the group together. One of the stops was near Goonmink Rocks.
I took a photo or two, had some sultanas and a muesli bar, a drink and realised that everyone had left their bikes and disappeared into the bush. I had a “Picnic at Hanging Rock” flash closely followed by “I hope there’s no Virgin Adventure Rider hazing ritual coming”. I caught a glimpse of Clubby who explained everyone was walking up to the “Rock”. I didn’t know why or what rock, but why not? After a quick lesson on how to walk and climb in non-broken in Tech 7’s I was standing on top of a rock saying cheese for a group photo. Hopefully I’ll get a copy of it at some point.
Not long after we were back on the bikes moving forward and turned right into Hensleigh Creek Road, left into Coast Range Road and my comfort level shifted again. Then we stopped for a moment and Norm took off into the bush followed by others. I wasn’t initially aware there was even a track but it had a name, the Tennyson Trak. Not familiar with track description terminology, Clubby later described it as “unmaintained twin track 4WD”. My initial description of it was “F’n Hell, what am I doing here?!!!” and sphincters at both ends were making cat’s bums. I was following Geoff A, who was riding a V-Strom with 80/20 road/offroad tyres down a steep decline covered in leaves, sticks and loose rocks. He had a very ugly traction moment (my description of what I saw, he might have been happy enough with it) at the sharp left hander at the bottom of it and a cliff waiting to fall over. He was impressive all day on that bike and those tyres. And I’m still not sure how I didn’t end up off the edge. Here’s a quick pic of one of the nicest bits of the track.
I thought a few times “I hope this is over soon and I’m glad I won’t have to ride back up that”. Murphy, as always, raised his head. The track suddenly dropped very steeply away, Norm without even a pause rode over the edge followed by Clubby and Dave P. who was on a wild looking KTM 990 Adventure. Thankfully the next rider stopped and we lined up behind. I couldn’t even see the track over the edge and I could hear a consensus of “No Way’s” brewing. A little while later Norm and Clubby came back up to us followed by the roaring KTM. There was a huge tree blocking the track at the bottom of the hill, we were turning around. Suddenly riding back up the hill was a blessing, there was no freakin’ way I was going any further down that slope, tree or no tree.
We wrestled the big bikes around and I couldn’t get traction to get moving up the slope, not a great start. With some help I was on my way quietly very concerned about most of the trip back up the hill but particularly the sharp right and steeper slippery bit that I knew was coming up towards the end of the track. I had a chant going “Don’t Stall, Keep Your Feet on the Pegs, Don’t Stall, Keep Your Feet on the Pegs…. ” and while I’m sure it wasn’t very pretty I made it all the way to the top without a pause and without hitting anything. Business as usual again for many on the ride but I was elated. Scary and awesome it was all at the same time. This time though the conversation reflected the difficulty level and general happiness we all made it out unscathed. I’m pretty sure Norm was kicking back wondering what all the fuss was about.
We had a rest at the top, maps were consulted and we took Hepburns Road, Craigie Bog Road and headed towards Delegate for lunch. At one of the corners we decided to ride up Delegate Hill for a look and a group photo, what a great spot.
Before heading to the Delegate Pub for a rest, a drink, some food and debriefing.
The day was really warming up, the consensus was a more or less direct route back to Bombala with Norm volunteering he knew of a couple of dirt detours off the Bombala-Delegate Road we could take on the way which turned out to be through the Craigie State Forest joining back on to Mila Road.
Back at Bombala we’d clocked up 239kms for the day and ridden up and down about 4,700m. My confidence and off road skill definitely improved over the day and I identified some things I really need to work on. The post ride chats saw me talking to Dave (KTM990) who gave me some great tips re weight distribution and bending my knees more which turned out to be gold when I tried them out the next day. Thanks Dave!
We then offered further support to the local economy at the RSL.
Clubby wanted to get away early, 6.30am, we left Bombala after some quick goodbyes by 6.20am. The weather was perfect as he took us into gravel alternative to the Snowy River Highway we’d ridden in on taking a left onto Gunningrah Road. There were roos, rabbits and cows about, a roo had a kamikaze run at Clubby early on but all was good. We were riding along the ridges in the early morning sunshine and the mist had settled into the valleys, wow!
Back on the Snowy River Highway for a bit we then turned right on to Springfield Road towards Nimmitabel, back the way we’d ridden south only two days ago. Riding on these roads today felt completely different after the huge lessons of yesterday. I was hanging back to stay out of Clubby’s dust but much of the way I was just riding along with him enjoying the scenery. Getting the big Super Tenere around corners felt easy and safe and I settled in for a great day. Of course Clubby had some things in mind for today that he’d deliberately avoided on the way down that were to remind me of my muppetry off road and bring me back down to earth (not literally as luck would have it).
In the meantime though we really needed to capture the moment
After this photo he even let me ride in front for a while which gave me time to take this action shot
and spend a moment admiring this view.
And then a healthy breakfast at the Nimmitabel Bakery and a morning double caffeine shot for me was in order. Here’s Clubby with a big post muffin smile.
We left Nimmitabel and retraced Friday’s route until we turned right into Badja Road/ State Forest then left onto something called the Slap Up Firetrail. Still a reasonable surface but more up and down with tighter corners. I was really having fun. At Bald Peak Road we stopped for a moment and Clubby gave me some warnings about things I might encounter, in particular mud and water behind erosion mounds and steeper terrain. I listened carefully and enjoyed the extra challenge. A left onto Flat Range Fire Trail followed by a right on to White Ash Fire Trail kept me busy but not stressed as we made our way through the Tallaganda State Forest.
It was gravel all the way and we worked our way along a different route towards Braidwood that led us to the Bombay Fire Trail. We stopped again and had a chat about what was coming up. This was the track he didn’t bring me up on Friday and it had a couple of creek crossings which were to be my first ever that didn’t have a causeway. For me this was rough and hard going, tight corners, steeper bits, lots of mounds to ride over and trees waiting for mistakes. But I took it steady and just picked my way through it without any issues. Clubby waited after some of the trickier bits to make sure I’d got through, all good each time. Then he stopped half way down a steepish downhill. I saw the creek at the bottom and he signalled me to stop. Clubby it’s easier for a noob to stop a 260kg bike at the top of a slope mate :-). He gave me detailed instructions about the approach to take crossing the creek and offered to go first and take a pic. Well it was either going to be glorious or disasterous but either way it’d be worth having. To get a good angle Clubby stood just outside the line he told me to take. There was a steep, long and scary looking uphill after the creek I needed to ride up. In fear of losing it and running Clubby over and having a straighter run at the hill I went too far left into slightly deeper water and the result….glorious imperfection!
Stop laughing, it was a big deal for me! Another smaller creek soon after that and way too soon the Bombay Fire Trail was done and we were in Braidwood revisiting the restocked pie oven. We stopped there for a while and chatted about the weekend after which we retraced our route to Marulan on Mayfield Road where we said our goodbyes. Thanks again Clubby for the opportunity to share the ride and to Troy and all the other guys, what a great weekend away and something completely different for me.
Clubby helpfully related the various roads and trails we rode on to what I might expect on the Tenere Tragics Ride in March. I’m feeling much better about it now and I’ve got some things to work on between now and then. Adventure riding… I’m hooked.
Then for me back into familiar territory, 300+ k’s of processing the weekend while kicking back and enjoying the freeways. And I still don’t get bored on them either!