After some heavyish showers overnight I got up thinking that the offroad sections of today’s ride might be cancelled and I was thinking about potential riding that could be done on tar to have a look around the Flinders Ranges. I was staying in the Eco Lodge at Rawnsley Park Station again today so I went minimalist and took the panniers off the bike and before I left I took a moment to enjoy the view from the verandah of my digs.
I turned up at the congregation area at the normal time, there weren’t many riders about but straight up I was told the route was good and to head out. A couple of other Tragics on 660’s were leaving at the same time so I decided to tag along, happy that I was to get off the beaten track. Happy for now at least.
The route started at the gate of Rawnsley Park Station with a left and a quick right off the Flinders Ranges Way on to a nice gravel road and in about 7k in turned left and rode to the top of a hill for a very scenic view. The picnic table was the only thing up there.
Back down the hill and continuing on along the road about 11k’s in there was a bit of slippery mud about, nothing to worry about. As I got further up the road patches of mud were becoming more frequent and about 25kms in I saw a longish patch of greyish mud, looked for a line and just as I was heading for it a bike passed me on my right necessitating me taking on the mud on the left of the track. For a moment I watched the bike that passed me pitching and sliding about but things became suddenly difficult for me.
Before I knew it I was thrown off the bike, flying through the air and slapped into the mud landing on my shoulder and head. I took a moment and decided to get up. The bike was lying on it’s right side, engine stopped. A couple of bikes had stopped behind me and Richard was walking my way. I backed onto the bike and put it back on it’s wheels and Richard, who was clearly impressed with my short flight, helped me move it to the side of the track. It was hard going and Richard remarked that pushing the “f5king heavy thing” had cured him of wanting a Super Tenere. Here’s Richard.
Mud was new to me, this situation was new to me and frankly I didn’t have much of a clue what had happened and what my next move was. Another quick look at the bike answered the first part of the puzzle. Mud had fouled the Big Block on the front, jammed up under the guard and the wheel simply stopped turning.
I could feel that my shoulder, ribs and right thigh had copped it. The helmet did it’s job and was half covered in mud. Richard quietly set about taking the front guard off. Others on bikes that seen me stranded stopped before this mud were doing the same thing to their bikes. Clearly that was the next move and I was extremely grateful for Richard’s assistance. Here’s the bike ready to go again with the front guard strapped to the spares bag.
So there is was, my first off in about 250,000kms since my return to riding – cherry busted. I started to ride forward and noticed that I couldn’t change gears. A quick inspection revealed a bent gear lever and Richard quickly came to the rescue and sorted that with a tyre lever supplied by another rider nearby. I was on my way again.
About 500m down the road I found myself in some bright red mud. There were a few bikes stopped ahead of me and before I had a chance to consider why I was hitting the mud with my body again. Another quick body check, and once again I had to pick the Super Tenere up. This time it was the rear wheel that had fouled up and stopped turning. The front wasn’t looking too good either.
I internalised some profanities and was wondering what the plan might be now. Some more bikes came back along the track, they’d turned around because the track ahead of us was apparently really bad. That didn’t help my planning. I tried to move the bike forward but after some effort even all 1200cc’s of the Super Tenere were not enough to turn the rear wheel. The mud on the track however was so slippery I was able to push it forward with the rear wheel locked. I looked at my boots at one stage and there was so much caked on mud on the soles I had a moment of understanding of what Gene Simmons goes through on stage but was no longer in the mood to party that day.
One of the turned around riders came to help until I got an opportunity to put it on it’s stand and with a rock and tyre lever I cleared it and now through the sticky stuff took it for a short ride off the track to fling the rest off. There was no going forward and some nasty mud behind…. WTFace!
Following the lead of another rider on a 660 I took on the rocks and shrubs on the side of the road to get around the muddier bits as I made my way back to the Flinders Ranges Way. On the way out I passed the ride sweeps heading further in to see if there was anyone in need of assistance. As I understand it their bikes ended up on the trailer behind the 4WD support vehicle. It was carnage!
Arriving back to the tar a number of riders were assembled, re-assembling guards where required but most had been turned back at 11kms in and all other riders were told to give the first loop a miss. The advantage of dragging the chain a bit in the morning I suppose. Most were heading north to try out the second loop. I decided to head back to the Eco Lodge to assess the bike’s fitness and my fitness to continue riding for the day and make a decision about what was next for me.
Back at the digs I got most of the accessible mud off the bike and washed what mud I could off the KLIM Latitude suit and cleaned the caked on mud off the side of my helmet. I was feeling a bit beaten but it wasn’t very far north to the lunch rendezvous at the North Blinman Hotel so I decided to take an easy ride up the tar straight there. I’m glad I did, what a fantastic little ride that was, incredibly scenic, enough corners to keep you happy and enough causeways over the road with gravel and debris in them to keep you on your toes. There were roos and emus a-plenty but not near the road at the time.
There were plenty of Tragics at Blinman and plenty of stories going around about mud and some difficult creek/river crossings swollen by the overnight rain that created some level of havoc and bike drownings on the second loop. Peter, another Super Tenere rider I first met in Bombala a while back, had a familiar muddy mark up one side of his riding suit. The mood was jovial and there were a number of discussions about various routes back. Call me a puss – I was heading back down the tar.
Not far south of Blinman I passed a line of 660’s then I was passed by a couple of Super Tenere’s. I recognised the rider of the second, Maria Costello and decided to tag along. You can certainly have some fun and learn things from watching riders of her calibre doing their thing. I did notice that during that period of the ride the clutch was slipping while trying to accelerate out of the corners. It turns out that I’d likely done some damage trying to extricate the bike from the mud with a locked back wheel earlier. Bugger!
I shot past the entrance to a lookout I had marked for a visit on the way back so I backed off and turned around. The view was spectacular again and photos just don’t do it justice, particularly mine!
From there it was a short trip back to the lodge where I cleaned up and headed back to the gang for the group photo. On the way back I took this pic near the restaurant at Rawnsley Park, the sunlight was incredible on the ranges.
We lined up for some group shots, here’s a pic of people getting ready to have a pic taken. The boys all in Tragic yellow shirts and ready for the end of 2016 River to Ranges event meal and celebrations
The Tragics were a great bunch of blokes and the four day ride was a whole lot of fun. Very challenging for me as a relative novice off road rider having been exposed to surfaces I’ve not ridden on before and learning lessons about trying to ride in mud the hard way. I wasn’t daunted by the offs but I was grateful my injuries were very minor. The bike, other than the clutch, had some strange looseness in the cockpit/screen (that turned out to be a broken bracket), the bent gear lever, and some minor cosmetic damage was going to get me home.
As often happens in these types of events there were awards handed out to deserving riders, who may or may not have been keen to receive them but all in good humour. I was honoured to receive the hardass award in some part based on some of the longer rides I’ve done and my initial plan to ride the 1600k’s back to Newcastle tomorrow. I had to admit on receipt of it though that the events of today had made me rethink that plan and I was going to just take tomorrow as it came. But right then a couple of Gin and Tonics were in order.