Anne Beadell's Simpson Desert & all that

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by RIver seeker, Aug 19, 2019.

  1. RIver seeker

    RIver seeker Adventurer Supporter

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    Just over a year since I completed the Canning Stock Route and now a chance to do the long haul East to see what the Simpson Desert has in store. Same bike (trusty 2009 DR650SE with 68,000kms on the clock), a different riding partner (Maurice also on DR650SE) and no support. Planned the trip for 3 months and knew we had to carry additional fuel to the 35 litres in the safari tank on our bikes. Maurice had x2 10 litre tanks made up for him and attached to his rear subframe. I opted for the 20 litre Desert Fox collapsible fuel cube. The extra fuel was for the 780km leg between Ilkurlka settlement and Coober Pedy. I also opted to carry a Kenda Trakmaster 130/80 x 17" rear tyre to change along the way.
    By the time I had loaded up the food, water and camping equipment plus tools and spares it was getting kinda cramped on the bike 20190716_173139[1].jpg

    Maurice opted to refresh his motor before we left and also change 5th gear - on a previous trip he had noticed it getting noisy. All servicing complete and bikes ready to go - I was using the Kenda Trakmaster on the front from the Canning Stock route coupled with a 40% worn D606 on the rear. Maurice had chosen the D606F for the front and a Metoz rear.
    Plan was to ride up to Laverton from Perth using a combination of tarmac and dirt roads before heading across the Great Victoria Desert to Coober Pedy. Then around the bottom of Lake Eyre up to Birdsville before crossing the Simpson via the French Line to Mount Dare. From here up the Finke Desert Race track to Alice Springs and back to Laverton along the Great Central Road before returning to Perth via Kalgoorlie 20190819_160916.jpg
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  2. RIver seeker

    RIver seeker Adventurer Supporter

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    Day 1
    A little chilly in the morning and whilst putting my knee braces on I got a call from Maurice - his bike was pumping oil all over his driveway. He had popped a final drive seal out from behind the sprocket drive. I explained about the seal retainer plate and we then spent the morning getting the parts and plate required to effect the repair. Maurice opted to delay the departure by one day whilst he ensured the seal was good and no more nasty surprises - a blessing that the seal hadn't come out whilst he was riding...
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  3. Amphib

    Amphib A mind is like a parachute....

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    :lurk
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  4. RIver seeker

    RIver seeker Adventurer Supporter

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    Day 1 (take 2)
    OK - we both met up at the Caltex at the bottom of Greenmount Hill 0630hrs and we were away. I had a sinister vibration when changing up into 5th gear but this soon disappeared as the speed picked up. Cold and drizzly morning and by the time we got to Meckering (WA's claim to fame for an earthquake) it was warm up time with cheese sausages and coffee all round. Maurice's bike had quite a bit of sag in the suspension but it was the way he liked it setup and it worked well. I basically didn't touch my suspension and it also seemed to work well. At Southern Cross we refueled our bikes and this revealed a difference in our fuel consumption. Whilst I took on 23 litres Maurice put in an extra 2 litres - OK he probably came further than me before we met at the Caltex 20190728_123951[1].jpg
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  5. RIver seeker

    RIver seeker Adventurer Supporter

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    Pushing on up through Bullfinch we encountered the first dirt road - it had been a while for Maurice so he took it easy but soon got into the swing. We were aiming for Kookynie that night but as it got later in the day we opted for a roadside camp along the Evanston-Menzies road. It was here Maurice surprised me with a 2litre cask of wine - I wasn't particularly keen but it didn't hang around for too long. Cold night and thankful of the warmer sleeping bag plus the thermolite liner. Tried the first of the dehydrated food packets - very handy and you just add water. 20190728_092008[1].jpg
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  6. RIver seeker

    RIver seeker Adventurer Supporter

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    Day 2
    Up reasonably early (got light so we got up...) = bitterly cold so stoked up the fire and warmed before getting breakfast. Finished off the Menzies road surviving a full frontal from a 4WD not looking where they were going. Buzz up the highway to Leonora before refuelling - yep, Maurice was using more fuel than me - I took on 25 litres whilst he put in 27.5 litres. He was running a standard 15t front sprocket with a 44t rear whilst I was 15t frnt and 41t rear. He had also put another type of carby Mikuni TM40 Pumper on instead of the BST 40. After another short dash of tarmac to Laverton we prepared for the 1380km stint through to Coober Pedy in South Australia. We topped up the water bladders and our camelbaks and look towards the next 2-3 days of adventure/turmoil/uncertainty/exhaustion 20190728_123939[1].jpg
    THe first part of the track is fast - 100kph+ most of the way. Plenty of corrogations but at the right speed you don't feel them - Len Beadell (the guy who built most of the outback roads in Australia) liked to try and keep them fairly straight (hence the name Gunbarrel for one of them). By the time it got to 3:30 we had covered a fair distance and decided to camp beside the road. Plenty of fire wood and reasonably soft soil to sleep on - all good and feeling pretty happy with ourselves 20190729_080947[1].jpg
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  7. RIver seeker

    RIver seeker Adventurer Supporter

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    Day 3
    Yep - getting up with the light was combining with my bodily functions on a regular basis - I didn't mind as I could always get the fire going and warm up. One of my pains in the morning was rolling up my sleeping mat - it is a Klymit Static V insulated mat - really good against the cold and remarkably comfortable for all the size of it. But trying to roll it up every morning and getting all the air out so it could fit into it's packet - I almost thought about not using it but persevered - it gave Maurice a good laugh as all my expletives were used in trying to get the air out and it down back into its pack Static V.JPG
    This was the day when riding got interesting... 20190729_081016.jpg

    At Yeo Station we caught up with a couple of 4WD's heading for Neale Junction to go down the Connie Sue Highway (named after Len Beadell's daughter). The place looked a decent spot to stop but you would have needed to bring your firewood with you. The track had deteriorated to plenty of sand and occasional holes of bulldust. I had 20 litres of fuel sitting behind me surrounded by the Kenda Trakmaster plus another 14 litres of water on top - I affectionately named the mass behind me Rodriguez - it was like carrying a pillion passenger. Owing to the amount of room I had to move on the bike I relied heavily on throttle control to keep the bike upright. I couldn't stand up and it wasn't too long before I had an off - deep sand into a right hander - squirted the throttle to bring the front end up - oops.. a bit too much and now on the RHS of the track - squiggled back to the left before gracefully lying it down in the middle of the track - Maurice was in fits of laughter, I felt like I was wrestling a bull by the horns all the time. Last 50kms into Ilkurlka badly rutted and corrogated.
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  8. RIver seeker

    RIver seeker Adventurer Supporter

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    Day 4
    Tried out the donkey shower at Ilkurkla - I should have gone second as I reckon I created more steam from the water coming off my body than the water being hot... Today saw the first breakage of the trip. I had already replaced the OEM chainguard once before with a JNS Engineering chainguard and it had broken on the Canning Stock Route. Very kindly I was offered a replacement made from sturdier material - this failed in exactly the same spot as the earlier chainguard. It must be the Australian conditions - I heard a faint rattling and when I stopped found the damage. I took it off and had every good intention of fixing it up when we got to Coober Pedy but somewhere along the way it disappeared 20190729_135359.jpg
    My Scottoiler was working just fine until Maurice thought it was a bit of electrical cable and dislodged the nib/dropper after helping me pick the bike up after another fall.

    After 200kms of tough riding I gave in to exhaustion and we stopped for the night. It gave us a chance to change over my rear tyre (Dunlop D606) for the Kenda Trakmaster. 20190730_150429.jpg
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  9. cascade63

    cascade63 Been here awhile

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    Interesting start and looking forward to the rest of your trip.

    I caught up with these guys in Boulia Queensland, 3,300km from home. Nothing extraordinary about that apart from I work at the same place as Maurice in Perth. The likelihood of bumping into someone like that must be pretty remote.
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  10. RIver seeker

    RIver seeker Adventurer Supporter

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    Hey Cascade63
    You're on the money - there is definitely more. I had some bad news with a death in the family - attended the memorial in Sydney and picked up another DR650 and rode it back to Perth - another adventure to be tagged onto the end of this tale...
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  11. vector6

    vector6 slipstream

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    condolences for you loss, In for more trip pics.
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  12. RIver seeker

    RIver seeker Adventurer Supporter

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    Day 5
    Great to see the Milky Way from inside the tent during the night - difficult to explain if you haven't seen it but generally light pollution gets in the way. After breakfast and packing up it was strange to ride the bike without the spare tyre nudging me in the back and reminding me to stay seated. Before setting off we heard a distant engine noise and was glad to see Robert and Alison round the corner aboard DRZ400 and XT250 respectively. Chatted for a while before setting off - conditions a little tough to start with deep rutted sand and blind corners but soon got the gist of it. Nice to ride bike again and stand-up to control.
    Hit a big hole and didn't think too much off it until I heard a distant beeping as Maurice caught up with me with a left thong in his hand. Very grateful for his eagle eyeness but was shocked when I went to reattach the footwear to my bike and noticed one of the bladders had dislodged, lost it's cap and we had just lost 6 litres of water... We still had approximately 4-5 litres of water between us but it was going to be tight to get through to Coober Pedy (another 400kms of sandy corrugated track). OK we should have had more water - I can hear that one coming and this trip highlighted the perils.
    One thing I noticed after the days ride was my hands were ineffective in doing anything other than hanging onto the handlebars - I couldn't even undo the tyre valve caps with my fingers - had to use a pair of pliers! I put this down to maybe old age and the onset of arthritis or some other medical condition. It wasn't until we were in the middle of the Simpson I found out the real reason.
    You know when you think you are down on your luck and you come across some other poor soles. Well we had been warned there was an escorted party of 8 vehicles coming our way. They were being guided by none other than Len Beadell's daughter Connie Sue. Those of you who are familiar with Western Australia and off-road will know the Connie Sue Highway which intersects the Anne Beadell hoghway is named after Len's daughter. We came across them fortunately whilst they were stopped. What we didn't realise was the reason for their stopping. One of the group was towing a trailer and had lost a wheel (actually the wheel and axle had sheared off). Not wanting to share in their misery we pushed on and later learnt they were stranded there for another 6 days waiting for one of the party to complete a 1,000km round trip to a road house on the Nullarbor to pick up spares... We came across other trailers that hadn't fared so well and basically had been left to be scavenged and return to their natural state.
    Made use of limiting the water that night with Uncle Bens ready made chicken rice, Laksa soup and fruit in a pouch... We felt sure the next day we would bump into another party in a car and get water from them... 20190731_133349.jpg
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  13. RIver seeker

    RIver seeker Adventurer Supporter

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    Day 6
    Slept without the flysheet on again to watch the stars but woke to frost across the sleeping bag and everywhere else - sure glad I had the sleeping bag liner in as did Maurice (he actually had two liners plus his sleeping bag).
    20190802_062321.jpg
    First job was to get the fire going again and then reassess the water situation - amazing how when you want to conserve water it just seems to get lower by just looking at it. Limited water in the camelback to 0.5 litres for the day and hope we come across a car party. Filled up the tank with the remainder of the fuel from the Desert Fox 20 litre fuel cube - it kinda looked like I had enough but wasn't sure - desert riding through loose sand for 785kms with 55 litres of fuel - we should be ok yeah?
    Maurice discovered he had been speared in his left Wolfman even though he had beefed up the protection - it managed to release 1 litre of engine oil through the bag - messy. He had his revenge by calling me Mr Squiggle from the tracks I was laying down - the track was still throwing up surprises and after a while Maurice had had enough and took the lead. I was riding to conserve fuel (or so I thought) - in reality I was probably using more fuel and soon realised this before taking the lead again as we approached the Nuclear testing grounds of Totem and Emu. One of the original signs placed by Len indicated we were getting close to Coober Pedy (even though the units were miles 200 sounded a lot better than 320)Track started to straighten out and came with the corrugations - Ok with 21" and 17" wheels respectively at 85kph+. Only fear was what was coming the other way so senses finely attuned for any signs of other traffic. 20190801_101415.jpg

    We still hadn't come across any other traffic and although I had a mouthful of water I was not feeling the best. Literature says not to camp in the zones around where the bombs were detonated and after a hard day we pulled in approximately 130kms out from Coober Pedy 20190801_141414.jpg

    That night we finished all the water and no sign of other traffic.
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  14. RIver seeker

    RIver seeker Adventurer Supporter

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    Day 7
    Another cold night - not sleeping too well - waking up and not getting back to sleep - could have been an effect of dehydration. Track getting straighter and knowing we were only a couple of hours out of Coober Pedy meant we picked the pace-up. Mainly 5th gear on corrugations that would shake the stuffing out of any 4WD - the DRs handled it perfectly (maybe a little too perfect). Always conscious of what could be coming towards us I had already planned my escape route out to the left hand side of the track if it came to a limited response decision time. What nearly caught us out was the dog fence - stretching from one section of South Australia up to the Northern Territory it keeps dingos at bay. Only trouble was it stretched right across the track without any warning - you had to turn right and go south for 5 kms where you came across a gate. Once through the gate you turn left and travel up the other side of the fence 5 kms to where you first came across the fence
    20190802_080033.jpg

    On a roll we continued our good progress towards town when I encountered x2 4WDs out of control travelling in the opposite direction. Obviously trying to escape the punishment of the devilish corrugations they were smack bang in the middle of the track. Fortunately the track was wide enough for me to pass on the left hand side. You could see their wheels turn towards their left but momentum and the skittishness meant they continued in the same direction.
    The last 40kms into Coober Pedy were on a good track that had been graded - all good. My number plate had vibrated to the point of virtually falling off so I helped it - too tired and thirsty to fix it for the road
    20190802_092718.jpg
    Coober Pedy means 'boys waterhole' - I also heard it called white man living underground - not sure which one is correct but glad to have some control over the colour of my wee now...
    Maurice worked his organisational magic and found us an underground bed & breakfast run by an entertaining Edward. It was an incredible experience - hunting for opals a side of a hill had been converted into living quarters (not sure how much opal was found though). The vents on the top of the hill were the natural ventilation for each of the rooms below.
    20190802_164232.jpg
    With a constant 24 degrees C throughout the year it makes for pleasant living. The whole setup has been done very well with individual rooms and a central living area, kitchen, bathroom, computer access, etc... There was even a collection of DVDs from which I picked Priscilla - Queen of the Desert - topical as the film was made around the area along with others including Mad Max, Stark, Kangaroo Jack, Pitch Black, Red Planet, Opal Dream
    20190802_173858.jpg
    Needless to say we eat well that night - sleeping inside was good for a change (nice being warm). We had been talking to a few travellers and they had recommended we travel West to East on the Simpson (wind blows in this direction and shaped the dunes to provide a gradual climb up before a drop off on the other side). I wasn't particularly fussed which way we went but you know how fate plays a hand? Well this decision would definitely show how if we had made a change things would have been different later on in our trip.
    Worked on the bikes - fixed up the Scottoiler (or so I thought), reattached the number plate, adjusted the chain whilst Mo figured out a way to fix up his connections for the UHF radio to his helmet and PTT switch (he lost a vital cable along the Anne Beadell)
    Edward had sold us the idea of looking out across the Breakaways from our kitchen window - he wasn't kidding....
    20190802_174722.jpg
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  15. RIver seeker

    RIver seeker Adventurer Supporter

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    Day 8
    Rest day - around Coober Pedy. Mo continued to work on his UHF connections - got to give it to him - he is persistent if nothing else. Had to go out to the Breakaways just North of Coober Pedy - a little bit of nostalgia - when travelling around Oz on a working holiday back in 1988 I was with the wife in an old '76 Falcon wagon and we got bogged on our way out to this vista. No such trouble this time around with a well defined road and signs - no chance of falling down an opal miners shaft... 20190803_160905.jpg

    Nice afternoon round trip of approx 100kms - get there at sunset and you get to see the colours change across all the contours. Back along another dog fence and you begin to get an appreciation of the desolation
    2019-09-16_19-40-27.jpg
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  16. RIver seeker

    RIver seeker Adventurer Supporter

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    Day 9
    Chomping at the bit to get going again - ride fever gets you bad when you are looking for your next adventure. Refueled at the local Shell and opted for the 10l bladder instead of the 20l cube - wasn't quite sure how much fuel we would need for the Simpson but fate would play another hand in helping me to shape this decision. Up the track to Oodanatta was pretty quick but stony. Famous for the Pink Roadhouse we refueled and met Harry. He had just come East West on the Simpson along the French Line on his DR650. He had run out of fuel as a result of the track being badly cut up and diverting from the French Line to Rig Road. He had 45 litres - OK so the bladder went into the tank and I filled up the 20l cube... 20190804_115448.jpg
    Out of Oodanatta we missed the turnoff for Mount Dare due to roadworks but soon figured it out and only completed an additional 20km - good old map reading skills still exist!
    Road up to Mount Dare was fast with plenty of undulating whoops. At Eringa waterhole we bumped into a couple who were 'seasoned' Simpson travellers. We got talking about the condition of the French Line and they reckoned it was cut-up due to the Birdsville bash (music festival in the middle of the desert) having just been completed. Listening to them their logic seemed sound and we took on their advice to take the WAA line in place of the French Line. I lost the heel of my left thong due to much dangling around the exhaust - she'll be awlright...!
    20190804_150424.jpg
    The last 8kms into Mount Dare were pretty rough. Getting old must make you softer - we took a cabin for the night and thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality of the staff - Mo a little more so as he tried to find the bog in my room later on
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  17. RIver seeker

    RIver seeker Adventurer Supporter

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    Day 10
    Baptism for the Simpson on the cards for today. Reasonable road out to Dalhousie Springs but plenty of large rocks. When the signs slow down oyu take heed especially at cattle grids - they are launch pads if you hit them too quick. Anyone who has been to Dalhousie Springs know about the luxurious water temperature of around 38 degrees C all year round. We arrived mid morning and enjoyed the easing effects of the continuous warm water coming from the earth. If you are there in the evening watch out for the mossies - they are ferocious apparently.
    20190805_104734.jpg
    My welcome to the Simpson was the biggest bulldust hole I have ever seen. I thought I could ride it through but it seemed bottomless and by the time it reached up under my front mudguard I was on my ear pretty quick. OK lesson learnt - slow down and observe what's coming up. It shook my confidence a little and Mo took the lead until he scared himself a little as well. Alright, respect the desert - this ain't a Sunday ride - we have got to pace ourselves
    20190805_112716.jpg
    First decision was to go either French Line and experience the cut ups (maybe more bulldust holes?) or divert onto the WAA line via Rig Road. Rig Road it was - longer way round but from the advice we had received probably our best bet
    20190805_112733.jpg
    After a shortish distance we came to the junction with the WAA Line - yep straight on. It seemed a little rough and I was beginning to get a pasting from the constant holes and uneven swales created by errant 4WD's. OK it was going to get better - not really. After an afternoon of constant pummelling we pulled into a sheltered area between two dunes and began the constant battle with the flies
    20190805_110413.jpg
    This is the route we ended up taking - each colour represents a day's ride...
    Simpson routes.jpg
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  18. RIver seeker

    RIver seeker Adventurer Supporter

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    Day 11
    Good start to the day with Barry and his wife rocking up in a 4WD and giving us a couple of mandarins each - amazing how you hanker after the simple things in life and the mandarin was one of them. Deliciously juicy and sweet I ate the first one and saved the other one for later on in the tank bag...
    The WAA line wasn't getting any easier - still holes and scalloped out dune faces. Couple this with right angle turns at top of dunes and you soon realised the WAA line wasn't the barrel of laughs we thought it was going to be. Over one particularly soft and tricky dune I stopped at the next dune waiting for Mo - he didn't turn up. After a call on the UHF he had got stuck on top of the last dune - said he was ok. After another 5 mins I called again and he was still ok. OK - wasn't getting us very far and after 15mins I turned around to come and assist. Bad move - the dune prior to getting to Mo I had already crossed in one direction but in the opposite I was spat off - it probably needed a different riding style - instead of powering up to the top and then powering off slightly on getting across the ridge I should have kept the power on all the way to the bottom (you can see my bike at the bottom and if you follow the track to the horizon Mo is just visible as a black dot)
    20190806_102545.jpg
    Bike on my ankle, Mo up the next dune - I realised this was not a good look. Wriggled my foot out from under the RH pannier but the bike was lying on its side down the dune. Pulled all stuff off back of bike and managed to get it upright. Ride down to the bottom of the dune and then back up to get the stuff removed.
    By the time I got to Mo he had virtually buried his bike by trying to dig it out - impressive effort
    20190806_105145.jpg
    I was close to exhaustion myself but realised the only way to get the DR out was to push it over and drag it out.
    20190806_105220.jpg
    It took us nearly 5 hours to complete 50km before we got to Erabena track - no more WAA line even though the map showed it as the shortest route. I had fallen off plenty and nearing another total exhaustion moment. From the map above we looped down to pick up the Rig Road again before reaching Knolls track and heading North towards the French line. We stoppedand made camp at the junction where the WAA line ended and joined Knolls track. We met Russell there who had just completed the section of the WAA line we had declined and he said it was the toughest 4WD section he had encountered in the Simpson. You got to hand it to these 4WD guys - they certainly know what us motorcyclists want - two cold beers were nectar! We also pushed our luck and filled up our water bladders with Bendigo water (where Russell was from). During the night when nature called I could have sworn I saw a Tasmanian Tiger - whatever it was it had a bushy striped tail (possibly a fox?)
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  19. RIver seeker

    RIver seeker Adventurer Supporter

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    Day 12
    Cracked on to the French Line and found it - really OK...
    20190807_110959.jpg
    Sure there had been traffic but all in all it was much more rideable than the WAA line. When I was coming across the Anne Beadell I couldn't figure out why my hands were completely ineffective once off the bike. As it turned out my gloves were too tight. Figured this out and rode the rest of the Simpson without gloves - so much less painful but did suffer a few cuts and scrapes. Figuring out the approach to the dunes needed a balance of speed and knowing when to slow down/accelerate/power off. Get it wrong and you either don't make it to the top or you endo over the crest - I did both.
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    You know how if you are travelling you come across others going in the same direction? Well we met Bob and Pete at Poeppels Corner - couple of WA lads enjoying the thrills of what Australian deserts can throw at you. As we progressed towards Birdsville we crossed paths several times.
    After seeing the effects on a 4WD Nissan (it had broken its back) we continued on for another 40km before stopping for the night.
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    Checking the bike over after stopping I could see my cush rubbers poking out from behind the sprocket carrier. The bearing had collapsed and the sprocket was now running on the spacer
    20190807_160515.jpg
    Bob and Pete pulled in behind us and set up camp. They then cooked up a storm and invited us over for tea - lifesavers! The boys also agreed to help out the next day by carrying my panniers and other load to take pressure off the bearing. I had decided I was going to try and make as much headway towards Birdsville as I could. Didn't sleep too well that night
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  20. bomose

    bomose Long timer

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    I have heard of guys taking strips of carpet along to help get out if deep sand. Put it in front of the rear tire to keep the tire from digging down. I don't ride in anything like that, so don't know if it would work for you.
    #20