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Old 11-03-2011, 02:11 AM   #1
ThomasOz OP
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Melbourne Cup - 1st ADV ride - 1st report

My first ride report…
… or how I failed in Dargo

Well, some of you knew I was going for a 4 days ride over the Melbourne Cup weekend. I had posted few questions for the preparation of this ride. I know my profile says “adventurer ” but the reality is, I’m still pretty much a Noob (proof of that coming up).

But I’ve learnt a lot during this ride. So for the sake of other Noobs who, as I was until Saturday morning, feeling anxious about going on their own, here are my share of tiny anecdotal experience acquired during this ride.

My bike? Transalp XL650V 2006, all stock except for the screen.

Friday (J-1):
It all started with few more things to get on Friday before the departure.
Things to do:
  • Get front and rear spare tubes
  • Pick up riding boots from repair man (4 months only and the sole was already hanging off the rest of the shoe)
  • Get tire spoons and other bits and pieces
  • Load my new paniers (Enduristan Monsoon soft paniers)
  • Get a dry bag (in this case of small 15Ltrs from Kathmandu)
  • And so on.

Bad luck, shoe repairman didn’t manage to glue back the sole to the shoe. So made the manufacturer’s guarantee and the shop manager gave me credit of the boots value toward a new pair. Anyway, all ready:
  • 16kgs in the panniers (8kgs on each side)
  • 4kgs of clothes in the small drybag
  • city topbox stayed at home, sorry Givi
  • New screen from installed and pretty (I think)
  • Not much loading, but compression damping adjusted for the load (was told to do so, but I’m not sure I needed it with only 20kgs extra).

Night before the ride, the bike is all swanky and impatient… me, I’m getting anxious and I’m sure I’ve forgotten something….

… that’s right, I need some petrol in the machine and check the tire pressure before I’m off. Will do that in the morning.

Saturday – 262kms (all tarmac):

Well crap, I need some petrol before going. Good time to take a shot of the loaded bike, ready to rock and roll.

I also need to sort out my maps… that’s what I forgot! No GPS for the Nooby… well, I went back home to quickly sort this out. My quick fix: the thick plastic bag storing spare vacuum cleaner bags and gaffer tape to make it stiffer and worn resistant. Lodged between the dashboard and the screen, perfect spot. I’m gonna keep this map-bag because it worked and stay waterproof.

Ok, here I am getting to the ride. Today’s plan: get to Venus Bay via the nicest possible road. I’m not sure if this is nicest possible, but it must be quite close. Direction, east to Warburton and the Yarra Junction, once at the junction that’s when things get fun, especially since the bike is working really well.

The tall trees, green dense bush and twisty road make it a real pleasure. I know that Melbourne – Venus Bay is not that long a ride, so I take my time, stop for coffee, and discover that this road has a lot of potholes… far too many, but there’s no one on the road, and life is sweet.

The photo makes it look like I’m on gravel, but this is just the side of the road. It’s the downside of riding on your own, there’s no one to take pictures of you in action for prosperity.

A little detour to go as far as Noojee before turning south toward Neerim. That is also a really nice sealed ride all the way to Warragul. There, I wasn’t far from the freeway and could imagine all the poor sods on there, while I’m enjoying the scenery on the back roads…. It’s a terrible thing to own a car and only thinking about getting to B from A. But the more on the freeway, the lesser on the nice roads. ☺

Another break on the up hills to Leongatha, feeling great. But had to depart when a minibus full of kids decided that me stopping here must be a sign that it’s a good idea to stop here. ☹

Arriving in Tarwin Lower, where I had booked some dry accommodation (camping is for the next trip), I feel I’m getting close to the coast with all these weekend fishermen and fish infested rivers. I didn’t realised I was actually 500m from the motel, so I had a break there only to find out during this break that I was so close. Nevermind, enjoyed the peace before the last wee bit of road.

Dropping the paniers to the motel, I went for a bit of a ride toward Venus Bay, only to find myself facing a kangaroo very close to the road, not quite on my path but enough to really, really scare the hell of out me. The rest of the ride (maybe an hour) was at very slow pace… very slow…

Note to noob-self: breaking hard is not enough, will have to practice the counter-stirring thing so that it becomes natural. To my disappointment, I just fixed the bloody beast and broke hard… not at all what I should have done and a greater chance to actually hit it. I like them, they’re cute… but not in my face or under my wheels please.

A little walk to the cost at the very end of the Venus Bay peninsula, I had a nice walk. Unfortunately, the photos came out crap. But here’s a little pond which was a great place for a break in this walk to the beach that was turning endless.

Note to self: read the map at the beginning of the walk that says 2-3hrs walk track. Because after 300kms on the road, and wearing the full riding gear and helmet… pfff not that cool, is it?

Ate at the Tarwin Lower pub. A bit disappointed with the fish/seafood menu there which I was expecting to be fantastic… But I had a grilled snapper which wasn’t too bad. A couple of beers to wash this down and I crashed in bed early.

... Sunday is to come
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Old 11-03-2011, 02:25 AM   #2
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Day 2 Sunday

Sunday – 318kms (about 30kms on unsealed stuff ☹ ):

Sunday, early start. Check out at 8.30am and direction the Walkerville (note to self, check pronunciation of the name of places before asking a local, because exchanging the R for a N makes up a different town name that doesn’t exist and surprised the local and embarrassed me).

On the way to Walkerville, there is a little excursion down the south coast to go and see a lighthouse. Now to get to the lighthouse is a little 5kms unsealed road. This is my very very first unsealed road on the bike. It’s early enough and perfect to learn to stand up on my pegs. Until then, all I did was stand up for the odd speed bump near work. But 5kms of unsealed, with no one is a great opportunity to find a comfortable posture on the pegs that fits me and the bike.

Well, maybe I have long legs and short arms (which is quite possible, but possibly subtle because no one ever mentioned it to me). But standing on my pegs means that I have to be quite forward (visor just above edge of bike screen) for me to rest on my legs. If I want to shift some weight toward the back or lower my weight, I end up holding on to dear life from the handle bar.

Now pulling hard and the handle bar to stay up is not comfortable at all, I haven’t found a way of keeping the throttle steady this way… And I can’t use the clutch and therefore changing gears. It seems that my pegs are too far forward when standing and handle bars too low. But it’s very comfy when sitting… so I guess I’m doing something wrong.

Anyway, the lighthouse is in a pretty magnificent spot:

As I am walking back to the bike… hell broke loose… and rain came down pouring… from about 10am until 5pm… pretty much non-stop (far left of the lighthouse in the photo…. The mean clouds are coming quick).

A beach at the bottom end of a very scary wet sand road full of 4WDs and tourists (including me). Going down hill was scary, uphill much more fun.

So I press on… wanting to get to see other things before the rain and clouds limit my visibility…. Well who was I kidding? It just started hard and stayed this way until I arrived in Maffra.

On my way, I stopped at the Foster for a bit of a lunch and petrol. There I met Gary and Ian, from Brisbane, on v-storms 650, who have been touring Australia for 7 weeks, clocking up 18,000kms on the road.

Nice chat. They encouraged me with my solo first ride, and I rode away from Foster with a great spirit of adventure… Rain, what rain? I’m on the road, I have all the time in the world, rock’n’roll !!!

Well, that was until I arrived in Agnes. A very small place, but gosh, it can rain in Agnes! I was really soaked… but decided to turn north to go and see these Agnes Falls. It was raining so much, I had no visibility with my visor (turning head around for the wind to blast water away, only solve the problem for 1 second, and although I enjoy watching tennis, this is not ideal). But I found out that my sunglasses get ride of water faster (probably because the lenses are curved a lot more, maybe). So I opened the visor and took the sting of the rain in the face for the 20kms to the falls. It must be a nice ride on sunny days.

Note to noob-self: when the carpark is steep downhill, do not park the bike at the bottom end facing down. With the wet mud and two big 4WDs parked on either side, it took me ages to push the bike backward up (slippery ground and exhausted wet me) so that I could turn around and leave the carpark. Do you think some one would have helped me out? No, an imbecile looked at me and joked: “and I thought I was crazy driving under this rain”. Meanwhile, I was sliding backward with the 230kgs bike.
Anyway, I got out, learnt my lesson and $$&#@$#@* the dude on the carpark

I finally arrived in Maffra, land of the Dr AT, where I couldn’t get out of my wet heavy gear. Had a laughing crisis, stuck with the pants halfway down for 10mns. I just wouldn’t get out of it… too sticky too wet. Laughing out loud didn’t help, but what a nice way to end a crazy crazy day.

Would I do it again? Hell yeah !!!! What would have make it nicer, would have been a nice magic spray that would deal with rain on the visor.

I had some plans to invade Dr AT’s home (and his family time) for a crash course in AT/TA maintenance… but by the time we got in touch, I was out of my pants and too exhausted to put it back on. My I was blessed with a few tips to go to Dargo from Maffra and which track I should avoid. After all, the Transalp is not a 2-strokes little mud eater.

Monday will come soon....

ThomasOz screwed with this post 11-03-2011 at 03:19 AM
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Old 11-03-2011, 02:32 AM   #3
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Day 3 Monday morning

Monday – 250kms (about 150kms on unsealed stuff !!!):

Monday is big day, I’m finally going to Dargo !!!! I’ve heard so much about this place, its pub, its store, its tracks, the river crossing and the rally (which I missed this year). YEAH !!!!!

So Maffra to Briagolong then the magnificent Freestone Creek Road! No caravans allowed? GREAT NEWS !

Along the river, this was fantastic… finally some time ‘alone’ on the road (save few 4WDs but apparently all locals picking up wood for next winter I assumed). Some driving a bit fast on these roads for my liking.

Time to continue practising my “stand on the pegs” posture. Well, things were getting better in straight lines. Still a bit hesitant at low speed in curves. But damn, I still can’t gather the courage of changing gear. It seems that once I’m standing, my feet’s purpose is to keep me on the bike and any other operations should be done by… I don’t know, my arse?

Also, I am not big fan of these ripples in the dirt made by the rain storm… the back wheel doesn’t seem to be touching the ground all the time in between ripples, and the chain and throttle sounds like a real mess when this happens. Note to noob-self: learn more about suspension (as I presume there’s something to do with suspension and the speed).

I realised, being on my own, on a new road surface without another more experienced rider to observe that there are many things I didn’t know and didn’t get answers to:
  • what speed people actually ride on this dirt on a stone bed (it seems)? I stayed at whatever I was comfortable with and felt in control of the bike: 30-40kph with a peak at 50kph+ toward the end when it gets wide and harder surface (how’s that? No idea, certainly no Coma pace, but I’m trying to stay alive)
  • what gear I should be on? I mostly stayed between 2nd and 3rd gear because that gave me constant throttle control (engine break and punch when needed).
  • Sometimes, when it was going downhill steeply, in 2nd gear it was almost “free wheel” which was too fast for me and I didn’t feel I could control the bike (bottom end of the throttle), but in 1st gear I wasn’t moving and being rude to the bike. This remains a mystery to me. But I got by, I’m not sure in the most efficient way.


Catching up the main sealed road some 30kms from Dargo. I felt really alive, having survived by 40kms on dirt!!!

Now, this wasn’t the end of the guilty pleasures, because the road to Dargo is actually very very very nice too. Up, down, left, right and a tarmac that is actually in good conditions (except for the couple of wombats on the road, sun-tanning their bellies). I really liked it too

Finally: DARGO!!! That, to me, means a LOT !!!!

Now, because I’m a bit bourgeois and didn’t want to do the whole camping thing at the same time as trying myself to some mild ADV ride, I ended up here:

I was sort of hoping that some other ADV riders would rock up to the place and I would have offer them to share the cabin and tell me stories (and answer my questions about dirt riding, see above). But none, so I had the whole cabin for myself and well, that is comfy but… hey I was waiting (where were you).

Nevermind, Dargo Store was there and I was kindly advised to go talk to Lyn at the shop, another Transalp owner (and therefore a happy person). Well, Lyn was really really welcoming and nice. She showed me which track I could take and where to go for the afternoon exploring. Really really nice. Thank you Lyn !!!

.... that's only the morning bit... the afternoon is coming up soon.
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Old 11-03-2011, 02:42 AM   #4
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Old 11-03-2011, 02:55 AM   #5
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Been waiting for this report and quietly worrying you were still out there- took a look yesterday and didn't see you off the side of freestone creek rd so figured it wasn't my fault

Err, atgreg still has his at and lives in NSW,

As for the standing thing - try rotating the bars forward a bit +/- removing those useless rubber footpeg things +/- fitting bar risers (I even had some in the shed- next time), it'll come and when it does it'll feel wrong to sit down.
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Old 11-03-2011, 03:01 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Dr AT View Post
Err, atgreg still has his at and lives in NSW,
Sorry Dr AT. sorry sorry sorry...
I wasn't sure if I should use your firstname or not. That I would have gotten that right.
Sorry again!
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Old 11-03-2011, 03:04 AM   #7
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Don't appologise to me, I take it as a compliment- gregs a great bloke . See you next time.
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Old 11-03-2011, 03:14 AM   #8
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Nice report and pics Tom.

It takes a while to get used to dirt on any bike, given a little time you will look back at that 5km stretch and think "What was I stressed about?", this thought will come to you about 40km in to a 60km stretch of dirt you are riding on a two week trip.

For solo pics, a mini tripod can be bought from Dick Smith or Big W stores for $10 [it is actually small enough to fit in a glasses case- with the glasses still in there ].

1" bar risers and maybe a foot peg lowering kit would help your standing position [just do the bar risers first as it will not affect your seating position too much if your legs are already comfortable on the foot pegs- check that your brake/clutch/throttle cables-hoses are long enough with the risers fitted].

Your report is making me miss Victoria yet again I'm an ExMex from Western Victoria and the outer eastern suburbs around Ferntree Gully/Wandin North/Scoresby areas.

Invest in some crash bars and hand guards/bark busters.

Also learn how to pick your bike up, back to the bike-bum against seat is the best method [plenty of "how to" vids on youtube].
This one is a fairly good example.

And if your bike is going to fall just let it go, it is better to have to repair the damage to the bike [usually minor like scratches, indicator and maybe clutch/brake lever] than spend time recovering from torn shoulder muscles/injured back/broken leg-arm.

The first drop will make you cry, after that it just becomes routine [and when you drop it, take pics before you pick it up. Doing that gives you time for the adrenalin to stop flowing and for the brain to start working out the easiest and safest way to pick the bike back up].

So many places to ride, so little time huh?


Figures I post after your second instalment, told you the 5km would feel like nothing.

Ockrocket screwed with this post 11-03-2011 at 03:21 AM
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Old 11-03-2011, 03:34 AM   #9
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I've ran out of time so the rest will be tomorrow.

Thanks for the comments and advices.

Dr AT, I've investigated this afternoon the rotated handle bar, it seems that it would work, but it rotates the whole lot (controls for indicators.... too). So I'll rotate further the break and clutch levers to start with.
Metal pegs are on the shopping list, so is a potential handle bar riser. I'll dig further.

Originally Posted by Ockrocket View Post
And if your bike is going to fall just let it go... The first drop will make you cry
Yeah, funny that. With all the long debates about Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor, here's something I've learn watching the Long Way Down before I even got my license. When Ewan's wife tries to prevent her bike from falling, he screams at her to let it go or 'you'll hurt yourself". That has stayed in my mind. And has proven useful in Dargo... no more tears left indeed.
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Old 11-03-2011, 04:33 AM   #10
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Nice ride report & pics . I rarely stand up while travelling on dirt roads . Even on tracks I only stand up when it gets really bumpy .
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Old 11-03-2011, 04:43 AM   #11
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Great report so far - looking forward to the rest
1987 XLV750 long gone, 1994 YZF600 gone, 1999 XTZ660 Tenere gone, >> 2008 Honda Varadero - click here to see <<, 2008 Suzuki DRZ400E. Simpson Desert by DRZ, July 2012
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Old 11-03-2011, 06:29 AM   #12
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Great ride report looking forward to the rest .

Cheers Ian
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Old 11-05-2011, 03:38 AM   #13
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Nice work. looking forward to the rest when you get around to it.
I'll be interested to hear how the panniers went. Did they survive and did they keep everything dry?
You think hiring a professional is expensive, wait until you hire an Amateur!

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Old 11-06-2011, 12:57 AM   #14
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Looking forward to more of the RR.
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Old 11-06-2011, 01:43 AM   #15
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Nice work with the Alp! Subscribed
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