Burger, beans and bridges

I took advantage of an improved weather forecast for Thursday 21 August and took run inland to central Victoria to visit the Moto Bean café as recommended by Raymond Herd, on his excellent Sandgropher motorcycle travel blog.

Again it was a fairly cold, around 7C for most of the morning, however, it is still winter I guess. My route was from Geelong to Ballan, then Daylesford and on to Malmsbury – specifically the Moto Bean café.

You may have guessed that the Moto Bean café is a moto themed café. It is a new purpose built building and rather than following the ‘1960’s diner’ theme, the owners have opted for a slightly industrial /warehouse style – and have pulled it off really well. The place is spacious, warm and inviting – especially for motoring enthusiasts of any discipline – but also generic enough not to scare off non moto enthusiast patrons. However, it’s certainly great to go to a café that has magazines lying about that are of interest – namely a good selection of motorcycle magazines.

As is my habit duty, I sampled a tasty burger which the chef was happy to cook for me even though it wasn’t quite time for the lunch menu to commence. I also had a very friendly, welcoming chat with George (who is one of the owners), who took the time to explain the background of some of the display bikes, the construction of the café and some local scenic rides.   Unfortunately I didn’t make it to Mt Alexander, but will be back to check out the area soon.

Did I mention that they also roast their own beans?

Have a close look at the motor grafted into this K0 series Honda Four.

Malmsbury is also home to a large brick and masonry arched bridge built between 1858 and 1860, known as the Malmsbury Viaduct. Its just a walk through the park from the café.

As I was leaving the cafe, a friendly patron suggested that I should also check out the historic Taradale Viaduct which is just a few kilometres down the old Calder Hwy. I was lucky enough to snap a train traveling over it – just as in the pic on the history info plaque. Now compare and contrast the bridge itself in the following two pics.

I’m guessing that you noticed that in the 1862 pic the bridge is constructed of only masonry columns and no iron work. The iron columns were added much later in the 1930’s to cope with heavier trains.

After taking some shots of the bridge I headed over to the pretty Sutton Grange road and from there over to Castlemaine for some fuel, then home to Geelong via Maldon (out of my way a little I know), Newstead, Creswick and Lal Lal –skirting around Ballarat.

For all the pictures, click HERE (then press ‘Slideshow’)

All up, a grand day out riding. A new venue, enjoying some tasty food and hospitality, some new roads to explore, with a little history thrown in to add interest.




RIP Vernon Train

Vernon Train, along with Mike Lockyer, rode motorcycles around Oz in 1953 to prove the reliability of Renolds chain.  I recently contacted Danny Curran (who re-enacted the ride in 2012 with his mate Craig) , with a view to obtaining a copy of the book “Operation Transmatilda” which is comprised of  Mike Lockyer’s diary notes of the ride and 150 excellent photos of the trip.

Danny informed me that Vernon had passed away in early August and his funeral was in Benalla on 7th August. Sad news indeed.

I made a brief post regarding Vern and Mike back in 2012. Below is my original post….

Here’s a great story about two ‘fellas who rode around Oz 60 years ago to prove the reliability of the Renolds chain – the employer of one of the riders. The story claims that only 10% of country roads were sealed at the time. There’s some great old footage of the bikes and an engaging interview with the two old guys. It’s on the ABC web site, CLICK HERE  

Two fellas have done a re-run of the trip earlier this year (2012). They left from the All Brit Rally in Newstead. Here’s a link to their blog CLICK HERE

My thanks to Danny who sent me a copy of the book, signed by Vernon and Mike, (& him and Craig). Many thanks Danny, I will treasure it.

Danny also informed me that Mike will be at the Sunassist Motor Show on the 21st Sept in Mildura showing off the bikes.

RIP Vernon Train.

A wet day on the Great Ocean Road

…well actually not all of it was. From Geelong to Lorne was sunny and 12 C. From Lorne to Apollo Bay there were occasional drizzly showers, but the road remained dry, also 11C-12C. From Apollo Bay to Lavers Hill was wet – I guess that’s why it’s called rain forest! The road was very wet, however, was not too greasy because it was properly wet rather than damp. It was 7C most of the way along there and I was really appreciating the new heated grips. Lavers Hill was foggy and wet, but was my lunch destination. An excellent hamburger and a hot drink from The Shoppe really hit the spot. The rain had stopped on the section from Lavers Hill to Gellibrand, though the road remained pretty wet. Remarkably the roads from Gellibrand through Colac and back to Geelong were completely dry.

It was a great ride to get a feel for the new Michelin Pilot Road 4 tyres.  They are meant to be the ‘ducks guts’ (that’s a highly technical term) in the wet and I found the bike felt sure footed all day. Additionally, I’m sure that the bike turns in more quickly in the tight twisty stuff compared with the old PR3’s. These are exactly the type of conditions where it really pays dividends having great gear that is fit for purpose. I was comfortable and warm all day despite the low temps and rain, and thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

New tyre and a cold winter’s day

I pulled the back wheel out of the ZX14 yesterday and had a new Michelin Pilot Road 4GT fitted. The GT is an interesting evolution of the Michelin Pilot Road (sport- touring) series in that it is specifically designed for heavy motorcycles and has a combination of bias ply and radial ply in its construction. There’s some more info on the Michelin site HERE
but a better overall explanation on MC News HERE. It has a hard compound center, and the edges are medium compound. Mind you, feeling the center section (OK, I’m resorting to American spelling in this post just to appease my spell checker!) of tread it actually feels VERY soft  to touch – so ‘hard’ is a relative term in this case. .

Below is a pic that I took last night before the tire had been used. Note that the sipes and tread grooves don’t go right out to the edge of the tire as they do with the PR 3.

This was my first ride for a few weeks after a burst of wet winter weather and being away on holidays, so I was keen to ride. I took a familiar route inland from Geelong to Forrest to visit the Red Dog (pictured previously in this post), have a hot chocolate and a friendly chat with the owner, Emma. Did I mention that it was pretty damn cold this morning?

From here I took to the twisties to Apollo Bay, confident that the new tire was scrubbed in. From Apollo Bay I ran the inland section of the Great Ocean Road to Lavers Hill, then Gellibrand then down to Colac. This route offers the best combination of fast open sweepers and tight hairpin curves, though care is needed this time of year. There are some slippery, mossy spots and some damp corners under the tree cover.

The scenery along this route is pretty special as well! One of my favorites, where the GOR crosses the Aire River.

After a stop at the Gellibrand store for another hot drink, I continued on to Colac and dropped in at Steve’s place on the off chance that he was home. Fortunately he was and we had a great catch up and a look at the progress of his most recent Norton model 18 restoration. Steve’s just had a crack at his first paint job – pretty impressive I think. Well done mate! I wish I had your skills.

I took the highway home and arrived back in Geelong just before dusk, just as it began to get really cold again.

The ZX14 felt great now that it has a pair of PR4’s on it. However, realistically it’s too early pass judgement on the PR4 GT. I’ve been caught before with a new concept tire that felt great at first but after a few thousand kilometers was terrible on my specific bike. Even the highly rated PR3 that came off the rear had some scalloping on it that I think is quite unacceptable on such expensive tyres. The scalloping issue is reasonably common when one speaks with ‘real world’ riders, but hardly gets a mention in MC magazine tyre review articles.


Gloomy but great!

Well its only two days away from the winter solstice Down Under and its great to be able to get out for a mid week ride. I basically wanted to do a test run in my textile gear with the merino wool layers underneath to make sure that I will be warm enough for next Sunday’s Ulysses club ride when a max of 10C is forecast at our destination (meaning that most of the ride will be in much lower temps). Despite being gloomy and overcast, all the roads were basically dry which was an unexpected surprise – especially so for the section through the Otways. Here’s a map of the ride – pretty much my ‘backyard’ but some of the twistiest roads in Victoria anyway.

The temp was around 7C when I left home and became colder as I headed away from the coast towards the Otways. I even stopped a bit later to take a pic of the ambient temp reading. Other than showing 4C ‘Outside’, you will see that the traction control (KTRC) is set on 2 for these conditions, but I still have full power selected (F).

I mentioned that the road was mostly dry, because if you look really carefully in the bottom right of the pic below you can see the contrast with some pavement that was completely dry and that the riding line wasn’t actually 100% dry and just a little dampish.

One aspect of riding in cold conditions that I have become more wise about is stopping reasonably often for a hot drink. My first stop was in Forrest and I pulled up at  The Corner Store, which I’d been meaning to try for ages.

It’s mainly a mountain bike enthusiasts shop that has a small cafe as well. I was the only customer and had a lovely chat with Bec about the local MTB single trails as she made me a mug of excellent hot chocolate (I’m not a coffee drinker and usually Coke zero (AKA “black asprin” pulses through my system ). Mountain biking has become a big thing in the Otways and Forrest hosts a couple of major events each year.

Here’s some of the stock they have

OK, one more picture, as I said I’d give them a good plug!

Actually, one more pic – lessons for the girls! If Cathy’s as passionate as Bec is about MTB riding it must be a great experience! Hey guys, what about something for overweight old dudes who’d love to learn how to ride the trails as well?

While we are on this deviation from motorcycling, I should mention Flyboy’s excellent blog of his MTB riding. Click HERE

OK, back to motorcycling.  From Forrest I headed to Apollo Bay for a bite to eat and another hot chocolate (and I resisted the marshmallows again!). To my delight, the road was virtually deserted, I was quite warm and had an excellent brisk run to Skenes Creek turnoff. Things only got better when I rode the GOR from Apollo Bay to Lorne without seeing another vehicle going in my direction. Unprecedented in my recollection! That along with the dry tarmac made for for one of the better GOR rides in recent years – so much so that I didn’t stop to take any pics. As I cruised through Lorne a cop on an unmarked BMW police motorcycle had a good look at me, and there was also another cop in the 50km zone on the edge of town with a radar gun. If only they’d hassle a few of the drivers who cross to the wrong side of the road around the curves and those slow coaches who fail to yield (pull over) into the overtaking lanes.

I got home in no time having had a great winter ride. Only 210 kms in duration but lots of fun riding and checking out a new coffee stop. Just as a post script I should add that with 3,000 kilometers on the new Michelin Pilot Road 4 front tire I’m still really happy with it – the bike felt really sure footed in today’s cool conditions.




Motorcycling Australia roadside assist

Just a ‘heads up’ to anyone who has had the Roadside Assistance service offered via Motorcycling Australia – Australian Riders’ Division (ARD) . MA (and ARD) are no longer providing a Roadside Assist scheme and now recommend Motorcycling Alliance which is operated by Motorcycling NSW Ltd.

I only found this out when I rang MA to find out why I hadn’t received a reminder for renewal of my roadside assistance subscription.

Unfortunately the ARD website www.ard.org.au no longer exists and a quick scan of the MA website didn’t provide any info about this either. It would have been far more sensible for that site to remain live, explain the change and then direct people to Motorcycling Alliance! I’ve spoken with a MA staff member and suggested that they need to be more pro-active re publicizing the change.

Hi-Viz to be compulsory for learner riders in Victoria

A chance comment in a conversation with one of the salesmen at my local motorcycle store today led me to follow up on the proposed new Graduated Licensing System laws that will commence in October this year.

Current learner rider restrictions are LAMS approved bike, must display L plates, no mobile phone use, zero blood alcohol, can’t carry a passenger or tow a trailer. Some of the key features that are additional to current requirements will be that learners:

  • wear hi-viz vest or jacket
  • must have the headlight on at all times
  • can’t ride a manual gearshift bike if tested on an auto.

Once licensed, the restricted period will be increased from the current one year to three years. From 2015 tougher licensing requirement will also be introduced.

Full details HERE

Other than the fact that the Hi-Viz and daytime headlights are not evidence based initiatives (much contradictory research exists), it nearly took my breath away when I read that the State Gov’t are spending $2.92 million to implement this scheme FROM THE SO CALLED “Motorcycle Safety Levy“.

An interesting footnote is that when in opposition our current Premier agreed the Levy was unfair and promised to revoke it when in government. Yet another example of a politician breaking a promise – who would have thought!



Monday’s forecast was for fog followed by sunshine, which was very welcome after a wintery weekend. Better still, there is great Autumn (Fall for those of you in North America) weather forecast for the rest of the week. I left home around 10.00am in fog, however, it had lifted by the time I was 10 kms down the road. Just for a change I planned to ride the inland, rainforest section of Great Ocean Road in a clockwise direction, which provided a different perspective on this very familiar countryside – which I really enjoyed.

My first stop was the West Barwon dam.

I then tracked further inland through the Otway Ranges to Apollo Bay for lunch at the bakery. The road conditions were a bit a bit tricky actually, with sunlit entries to curves dry, but the shaded exits wet and greasy ( or vice versa). However, it kept me on my toes and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. From Apollo Bay my next stop was at Gibson’s Steps – near the 12 Apostles.

View from Gibson’s steps. (Grrr – dirty lens on camera!)

I didn’t stop at the Apostles and continued on to near-bye Port Campbell for a drink and some fuel. The bike was showing the ambient temp as 18C. The place was virtually deserted except for some international tourists in their camper vans. To my surprise a couple of people headed for the waves for a swim. (Perhaps they were from the UK and thought it was summer!).

The ZX14 probably didn’t really quite need fuel,especially at $1.75 per litre! However by gassing up here I was able to do a non stop, inland run back to Geelong.  After concentrating hard in the twisty and shaded sections of the ride, it was actually great just cruising along through the farming country with the sun shining on me. By the time I got home at 4.00pm the air was getting chilly and I had done 379 kms of enjoyable riding.




Broadford Bike Bonanza

Mrs Tarsnakes & I have been attending  Broadford Bike Bonanza at Easter since its inception 6 years ago by Motorcycling Australia as a fund raiser for its historic / museum division. We don’t camp trackside, however, many folk do make a weekend of it. Previously the event has be sponsored by Honda, however, Penrite oils had the naming rights this year. Just to repeat from previous years’ posts, this is a historic event, with no racing, just demo laps and many disciplines of motorcycle sport represented – road race, motocross, trials and speedway – as the complex has specific tracks at the one site for all of these disciplines. The main theme this year for the road race track was the “Castrol 6 Hour Race“, which was a production motorcycle endurance race run in Australia between 1970 and 1987. This was a race where a win on Sunday meant sales on Monday, and Kawasaki had a great run on wins in the 1970’s with the mighty Z900, winning four years in a row from 1973.

However, I think a consequence of the “6 Hour” theme this year was that there were far fewer older British and American bikes present compared with previous years. The Velocette theme last year led to huge numbers of old Brit bikes being represented. Not that I mind Japanese bikes of the 1970’s, as they were my formative years of motorcycling!

I wish I could tell you the tale of a TX750 that was raced and podiumed by a Geelong motorcycle shop in one of the 6 Hours, however, I’ve been sworn to secrecy.

A famous 6 Hour winner, who was later disqualified, was Joe Eastmure on the 315 CC Suzuki. I still think he was brilliant, whether the little Suzi was ported or not. He later won in 1977 with Ken Blake on a BMW K100RS, stopping the big Kawasaki’s run of wins.

We always love looking at spectators’ bikes as well. This was a nice example of a mid 1970’s GT750. We enjoyed talking with Alain, the owner & restorer.

How neat is this tastefully modified 450 Ducati?

I also sneaked of few pics of my own when a photo shoot with Sir Alan Cathcart and Rex Wolfenden’s “T-Rex” Honda was being shot.Sir Al was giving the photographer all the instructions for a heap of static shots of the motorcycle before posing with Rex.

I suspect that you may see a pic like this one above in an upcoming feature article about the bike by Cathcart!

Others were having on track professional photo shoots done during the lunch break as well.

The beast!

We caught a shuttle bus over to the Speedway circuit for a 4.00-6.00pm speedway spectacular – which the Vincents in particular certainly provided. We were told by an official that the shuttle service had finished at 5.00pm so we walked all the way back to the track (a long way with a damn big hill), only to find the shuttle buses running again as we left around 6.15pm – a stuff up that I was not impressed with after a long day on my feet!

Not racing, just a demo – sure!

Again, there were all shapes and sizes of riders on all sorts of motorcycles riding in the demonstration laps – even a Vespa scooter sharing the track with Laverda’s, Nortons and some iconic 1970’s Japanese bikes. High budget to no budget at all , it is certainly an event that offers access for all levels of historic motorcycle enthusiasts.