Last weekend I rode in Maschine’s Alpine Run 21. It was three days Adventure Riding that used the wonderful town of Mansfield, Victoria as its base location. Here’s how it went.
Day zero for me was a transport leg from Newcastle NSW to Mansfield by the most direct route. 880kms of freeway riding on the Tenere 700 is easy enough although cruise control would make a huge difference taking away the need to constantly check your speed which can vary quite a bit if you aren’t paying attention. I managed to knock over the first 700kms in exactly 7 hours including the 30 or so minutes I stopped for fuel, snacks and an obligatory photo at the Ettamogah Pub.
I arrived at the Alzburg Resort in Mansfield which was ride central and was met with a smile by the Maschine Crew. When booking on the ride I had an option to find my own accommodation or let Maschine book it for me. I chose the latter option, based on previous experience Nick and Trudi always find the best options for accommodation and my studio apartment at Alzburg did not disappoint.
Social engagement is a huge plus in these types of events. While unloading the my bike I met Ken and Trevor for the first time. Shortly after packing we were in the bar and making plans for dinner prior to the ride briefing what was to take place at 8pm. There were 50 or so riders at the briefing, it was a thorough description of the route for Day 1 to go with the GPX files and route sheet with all the info you would need on the day. The whole ride crew were introduced and there were a surprisingly large number of first time Adventure Riders in the group, many of whom had done the rider training provided as an option earlier in the day.
Each day of the ride was to be a loop that started and finished in Mansfield. This format was great. The T7 was loaded to the gills on the transport legs and everything just dumped into the room for the duration. No packing everything up and checking out each morning and sticking it in the luggage van to unpack and check in that afternoon. Just ride, get off the bike, look for a beer and repeat. It was also a great option for those who prefer to trailer their bike to the ride.
Day 1 – Craig’s Hut
There were a few less experienced riders in the carpark looking for someone to help them with navigation and as most of them were on R1200/1250 GS’s likely to also help them pick their bikes up. So we all tagged on to Ken and Trevor who were riding SWM 650’s. We hit the first muddy section quite early on and a couple of the riders got their first off’s out of the way. Rain wasn’t forecast for the day but it had been raining during the week so there was some slippery stuff about.
Weather and other factors can change the route when it’s pre-ridden in the morning by the team so sometimes last minute changes are required. The main Adventure Route was marked with bright yellow arrow makers, enduro break outs, if you were game, were marked in pink. The overriding rule was that if the arrows don’t agree with the GPX file then follow the arrows. This happened for the first time quite early in the ride and didn’t present any difficulties. After a while you become better at spotting the arrow and the guys did a great job with them throughout the ride.
The loop was roughly north east, Madhouse Road seemed appropriate, and a morning tea/early lunch stop was taken at Whitfield.
After that a quick visit to Paradise Falls that were sadly not worth the steep trek in the Alpinestars Tech 7’s today.
Not too far after the Falls some riders were doubling back on the route. We soon found out why when we came to a long, steepish, rutted, shitty red clay climb with a number of erosion mounds thrown in for good measure. There was a WR450 on it’s side in the grass, its rider standing looking at it and there was evidence of crash bar gouges in the ruts in the lower parts from the riders who had turned back. They had clearly decided this climb wasn’t for them.
After some discussion and determining the only possible route up the climb it was a close call but we decided to give it a crack. I wasn’t too concerned about tackling it on the Tenere 700 however one of our number was on a GSA and lacked experience and wasn’t confident he could dogde a tree that was very close to the line and nearby deep rut. One in all in – and we all made it first go! Phew!
The next part of the ride was a mix of good trails and climbs some steep, some very rocky which kept us focussed and occasionally brought people undone through loss of momentum. We came out onto Circuit Road and scooted up to Craig’s Hut. What a spectacular place to visit.
We soaked the views up for a while, snacked and shortly after leaving turned right down Monument Trail, past the warning signs. This track which was very steep, greasy and quite technical and the smiles on the newbies faces after getting their GS’s down it was pure gold. From there it was an easy ride back to Mansfield to check in, grab a beer and debrief.
Dinner was provided that night at the Bos Taurus Steakhouse. Another big plus with Maschine events is that if they provide a meal it’s going to be a good one. Three courses of yum!
Day 2 – Rain – Fun or not?
A little bit of rain overnight and some forecast throughout the day could be fun or could be hard work. Last night’s briefing described the route and we were told that tissues would be provided for those who needed them. The route saw us ride around the western side of Lake Eildon with some spectacular views along Skyline Road then down into Eildon for a brief break if required. An easy peasy morning on the dirt.
I wasn’t ready to stop at Eildon and followed Dino and Brendan who were riding an HP2 and GS respectively. I didn’t actually meet them until our first break with helmets off. From Eildon we spent a little time on the Goulburn Valley Highway where I saw a sign to a tourist attraction.
Later we made a left turn onto the dirt eventually on to Blue Range Road (as far as I can tell). Here it got interesting. Brendon was in the lead and we happened upon a 10 metre mud hole of unascertainable depth and no way around. After some discussion Brendan took the right side and I saw the front of the beak on his GS go under water just before the bike started to head back up out of the hole. On the way down I was very worried he was going to disappear. After seeing that Dino took the left side and thankfully it was a bit shallower. I followed Dino, my T7 is very tall but more of it went under water than I was comfortable with.
The height of the T7 was good in the bog holes but not so great with the trees and bushes that were closing in more and more around the trail as we progressed. A few times the helmet was nudged by low hanging branches at my ducking limit.
This was the first of four similar bog holes, kudos to Brendan for boldly testing all of them. A number of the riders took one look at the first one and decided to backtrack and rejoin the route later. At the bottom of this run we had a rest at the only concrete causeway we saw in the three days. Beautiful spot for a breather and an opportunity to inspect ourselves for leeches that were everywhere.
The next stop was the Rubicon Historic area where we took some time to look at the abandoned infrastructure. It was an amazing area and worth going back to to check out.
We eventually punched out onto the Eildon-Jamieson Road and while it was wet and showery, who wouldn’t enjoy a beautiful, windy, slippery tar road in the rain on knobby tyres. In a moment without rain we took the opportunity to admire a view.
By the time we got to Jamieson I needed a pie and chai and thought that being only 37kms by road from Mansfield the adventure for the day was over. I could not have been more wrong.
On the way back to Mansfield we turned right onto Howqua River Road and wound our way up into the mountains. Then quite a number of bikes were heading the other way. We were told that there was a steep clay downhill that some had had no success on and they had abandoned that part of the ride. Dino and Brendan had a quick chat and continued forward, it couldn’t hurt to look I guessed.
We stopped at the left turn on to Howqua Hills Track and looked over the edge at the top of the climb. The event photographer Nick was standing about 50 metres down the climb with his camera ready. For me that’s a bad omen. I asked Nick a few questions about successful or otherwise attempts that others had made and while I’m sure he was telling the truth I was suspicious he might have been playing politician to get the shot. To be honest I was thinking very seriously about turning around, the downhill was very wet, very rutted and it was all clay. Then without any conversation Brendan launched his GS over the top, Dino followed and I found myself alone with a difficult decision, do I have a crack and perhaps give Nick the shot he was after.
I watched Dino, it didn’t look pretty, rear wheel locking, bike sliding around, feet everywhere…^#4k it! Here I go. First gear, rear brake, font brake when possible, clutch, locking the rear and paddling the left foot was the only way I could do it. My left boot was getting more and more caked with mud so traction with it went out the door and it became heavier and heavier as it started to resemble the height of Gene Simmon’s concert boots. Nick had the camera ready.
It’s never as steep in the photos is it? I was clearly very focussed on what I was doing, and just a bit terrified.
The track went down and down and down and down for quite some k’s and on many occasions I found myself saying “No, No, Nooooo…..” but kept it together. We all made it to the bottom without falling and at that moment the heavens opened up. The track headed straight back up the next hill. Dino quietly shared his opinion that while it was raining if the way up was the same as the way down we were done.
Fortunately the way up was in slightly better condition and there wasn’t too much clay. But the water was cascading down the track in large volumes, visibility was an issue and we happened across some 4WD’s coming the other way. One of these groups were stopped at the top of a climb that left very little room for us to aim at to get past while slipping and sliding all the way up to them. Eventually we made it out and back to Mansfield. I’ll never forget that section of the ride, it was so far out of my comfort zone it was ridiculous. Brendan and Dino are accomplished riders, the only thing that got me through it was the Tenere 700. Its’ definitely not the place I’d want to be on my GS.
Some others who tackled the track behind us shared their own stories of “many, many falls” and being caught by Nick Selleck who was sweeping the ride. Nick is like an energizer bunny and helped out by not only riding multiple bikes through the really hard stuff but reportedly doubled one of the riders cup a climb on his bike to save them the walk. Nick’s a legend! This group didn’t get back to Mansfield until 7.15pm some two hours after us but they were still all smiles.
Dinner and war stories were held at the Mansfield Hotel and once again three courses of yum were provided.
Day 3 – Winding down
Today’s route was intentionally more open and easy to allow people to complete the ride at a reasonable hour and be fresh enough start heading for home if that was their preference. It was a north west loop though the forests and Strathbogies.
There was no rain today and occasional dusty conditions but the forests were fresh, lush and the riding was generally fast, open and loads of fun.
I teamed up with Ken and Trevor and a group of other riders for today. During the loop we stopped at Swanpool for a break and a chat, no-one was in a hurry and the mood was mellow. From there we headed into the Mt Samarai State Park which was amazing riding with plenty to see along the way.
I turned the wick up for a couple of the sections and found a lovely spot near Lima East to have some fruit cake and was for the others to catch up.
We arrived back at Mansfield about 2.30pm. There were lots of goodbyes, contact details exchanged and elbow bumping. Every time I’ve been on one of these types of rides I’ve met people that I stay in touch with, it’s a wonderful aspect of participating in them.
I had decided to stay an extra night at the Alzburg and do the transport leg home fresh in the morning. Nick and Trudi from Maschine welcomed me to join them for a Thai feed that night and during a weak moment I signed up for their next Maschine event, the GDR Stage 1 from Mount Zero in the Grampians to the Hunter Valley in May this year.
The transport leg home back up the Hume Highway was another nice day out. An early morning photo at Lake Nillahcootie was a must.
I gave the Ettamogah Pub pic a miss and stopped at Holbrook for fuel, a pie and a pic of the HMAS Ottway.
I stopped for fuel at Yass, some Maccas at Sallys Corner, more fuel at Pheasant’s Nest and was home by 4.45pm. I was feeling a bit tired to be honest.
Review of the Maschine Ride
Normally a list of positives and negatives would appear here. In groups like this if things start going wrong people talk and you hear all the bad stuff. There was none of that in the group and nothing I experienced made me feel short changed. As expected there were a couple of offs and broken bones and the riders were recovered and looked after properly.
The route markers and sweeps did a stellar job of keeping everyone on track and getting everyone through despite the difficult conditions on Day 2. Everything ran like clockwork. Nick and Trudi were always available to answer questions with a smile. The adventure route had it’s challenges partly due to the weather but we were never put at an unreasonable level of risk despite people’s personal comfort zones being stretched. There was lots of communication between riders and the crew happening throughout the ride in a WhatsApp group created for the ride that worked really well.
Those who opted for the harder Enduro Routes were pre-warned and weren’t disappointed. The accommodation provided was great, the food provided was great and there were no nasty surprises when comparing the promises on the ride information and what was delivered. While Maschine’s rides are perhaps more expensive than some other ADV ride companies I’ve never had pause to feel that value for money was not provided in abundance and it certainly was on this occasion. I should say that I paid full freight for the ride so my comments are completely objective.
Negatives? Sorry, I’ve got nothing.
Thanks to Nick Fletcher Sports Photography and Maschine for allowing me to use a few of their images.