The “race that stops a nation”, the Melbourne Cup is a major sporting event on the Australian horse racing calendar, however, those who like to ride powered steeds typically turn it into a long weekend holiday and head for the mountains. It’s the beginning of Spring, the snow and ice has gone from the high country and the motorcycles are out. We did 1639 kms in three days of great riding in sunny, though sometimes windy, weather.
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Day one: Geelong to Bright via Melbourne, Bairnsdale, Mt Hotham and the Great Alpine Road.
It’s not much good me going to bed too early prior to a big ride, as I’m often so full of anticipation that I don’t sleep well anyway and wake up often to check the time. The morning came eventually and I met Marty at a nearby servo ready to go at 5.50am. This departure time ensures that we don’t get stuck in the bottleneck on the run into Melbourne that is the West Gate Bridge. The ZX14R had 975kms on the clock, though I’d had its first, 1K service done earlier in the week. It was a cool 90 C and hovered around that for the first hour or so. Around two hours later we pulled into Yarragon for our fist pit stop with Melbourne well behind us and the sun shining.
From there it was a pretty boring run along the freeway to Bairnsdale, although the 110kph speed limit helps a little.
After a lunch stop in Bairnsdale we headed to Bruthen then up the Great Alpine Way. This section tends to be mainly open sweepers and we made pretty good time. After another break to shed a layer of clothes it was another good run up to Mount Hotham where we pulled in to take a few photos. There was hardly any snow left at all, although there was a cool gusty wind blowing. We had barely pulled in and a large riding group pulled in as well.
The run from Mt Hotham down to Harrietville was very instructive for me – namely that the new ZX14R is quite a different beast to ride in the tight downhill twisties than the old one was. It needed substantially more physical input and change of body position that I was accustomed to and I must say that I didn’t really come to grips with it for the whole of that section of the ride. Added to that was that there were bicycle riders racing downhill as well who were just a bloody nuisance as they blocked up the tight corners. Marty steadily rode away from me on this section and we met up under some shady trees in Harrietville, before riding into Bright via Mystic Mountain to see if any hang gliders were flying.
As we pulled into the petrol station to fuel up I spotted a black ZX14 that looked remarkably similar to the one I had traded recently, parked with a group of bikes nearby. I strolled over, and sure enough it was it. I’ve subsequently had an email from Mark, the new owner, who had only taken delivery of it the day prior to heading off on a Snowy’s run as part of a group of 21 riders. We checked into our motel, changed and headed for the recently expanded Bright Brewery, where we sampled a range of brews. We’d done a little shy of 600kms for the day and after dinner at the pub and a Jack Daniels nightcap it was off to sleep reasonably early.
Day 2: Bright to Corryong, then a Snowy’s loop including Cabramurra (nearly) Elliot Way,Tumbarumba, Jingelic, Walwa and then back to Corryong for the night. Approx 440 kms.
The weather forecast for Sunday had indicated some drizzle possible, fortunately that turned out to be completely wrong! After brekkie at Jackie’s Place we headed for Corrong via Tawonga Gap, the Gundowring road and the Murray Valley Hwy. This was a brilliant day of riding in perfect conditions. I gradually began to get the hang of negotiating the big ZX14R through the tight stuff, but still at a reasonably conservative pace. There were lots of other motorcycles in the Snowys, probably due to a big motorcycle based, fundraising event staged at Thredbo called the Snowy Ride
Interestingly, along the spectacular Murray River Road (C546) through Walwa, which was our last section for the day, we came across not one, not two, but three highway patrol cars coming towards us, each about 5 minutes apart. Two were from Vic and one from NSW. Phew!
Shortly after we checked into the Courthouse Hotel we heard the rumble of more bikes as some of the members of the Melbourne Sportsbike Riders’ Club pulled in. Their group was spread over a few accommodation venues. My CB1000R riding neighbor Mitch was part of this club and he introduced us to quite a few of the group which made for an entertaining evening at the pub. Below is a pic of one of the two nicely sorted ZX10’s from their group.
Day 3: Corryong to Albury via Walwa, then Rutherglen, Shepparton, Negambie, Seymour, Tooborac, Bacchus Marsh to Geelong. Approx 610 kms
Monday dawned pretty cool at around 3 degrees C, however, the sun was shining which made for an inviting start to the day’s riding. Mitch joined us for the run home. We left around 8.00am and took the scenic route along the Murray River Road to Walwa and beyond. It is an enjoyable and really picturesque route – mountains on one side and the Murray River on the other. I just love cruising this stretch of road, though at that hour I’m always vigilant for kangaroos, fortunately we saw none. We skirted around Albury and Woodonga, then headed west to the historic town of Rutherglen, a prolific wine producing area, for a breakfast stop. And just to add to the enjoyment, there was a vintage motorcycle rally in progress. The old machines lined up along the main street added nicely to the ambiance of the town.
From here we tracked down towards Shepparton and Marty was able to navigate us around the outskirts, so we continued to make good time down to our next stop at Nagambie. Unfortunately the cold wind was blowing quite hard which detracted a little from enjoying the ride, though the sunshine was welcome. I kept plenty of merino layers on under the leathers and at least didn’t get cold. At Seymour we turned right and headed to Lancefield via a scenic route through the township of Tooborac. From there it was an uneventful run home which left enough time for cleaning the coating of squashed bugs off the bike.
And so ended around 1630 kms of enjoyable riding through some glorious, scenic countryside without a drop of rain for the whole trip. The two ZX14R’s performed flawlessly. It was a thoroughly enjoyable three days of riding that also provided me with the opportunity for me to get a better feel for the new machine in a variety of road conditions.