That’s a Wrap – Three Weeks Just Isn’t Enough.
This time around I thought I’d re-post my piece here for those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to see it.
A lot has happened since that post: I’ve managed to add a few farkles to Bluey, my trusty Bandit 1250, I’ve explored a heap of South East Queensland (SE QLD) and parts of Northern New South Wales (NSW) and I had the pleasure of meeting Dan late last year while he was up this way.
The meeting was a spur of the moment thing and I’m glad we took the time to catch up with each other, I’ve never met a more approachable bloke, he’s someone I’m proud to call a friend.
Another important milestone I’ve achieved since that first guest post, was a 6-½ week 8200km trip to Tasmania with The Pillion. It’s by far is the most ambitious trip I’ve ever undertaken on a bike, two up, and one that will stay with me for a long time… or until I’m too old to remember anything anyway.
The Lead Up
Most people would just get on the bike and go, but for us it isn’t so easy. We have a large family and a single income, so there was lots we had to nail down before we could head off.
Apart from booking passage on the Spirit Of Tasmania, accommodation for the time we were in Tasmania, pre-paying bills and making sure the pantry was stocked with food for our teenage kids, we had to prep Bluey.
The Bandit is a great bike, and I can see why so many people like them: A capable commuter, does OK in the (not too) twisty bits and is an excellent tourer that will overtake with ease two up with 140 litres of luggage on board, and still pull 390km from its 19 litre tank while.
But there were some things we needed to do to make Bluey suited to the type of touring we were planning on doing.
The first thing we had to sort out was the luggage situation.
We’d tried the soft pannier thing in November 2013 on a trip down to Sydney. This proved to be a dismal failure with the seams letting go less than half way through the forward leg of our trip.
I already had a 24 litre Givi tank bag and SHAD 40 litre top box, so I did what I should have done in the first place and shelled out for a set of hard panniers.
Again I opted for SHAD. They are a new design that don’t use the traditional rectangular frame. Instead they use a 3 point (3P) attachment system. Each pannier holds more weight than the old system (10kg compared to 5kg) and is rated to 120km/h. Although I’m confident they wouldn’t blow off at speeds well in excess of that.
The other thing we had to sort out was a decent seat. We’d already gone the sheepskin seat cover and Air-Hawke route. That worked up to a point, but I came to the conclusion the engineers at Suzuki must be a bunch of sadists.
Just about everyone I’ve spoken to in recent years has said the same thing about Suzuki seats. Be it the Bandit, the Gladius or some other similarly styled bike, the seats are angled forward, so much so, that it’s very difficult to stop your goolies getting turned into patties against the tank.
The pillion seat is no different. If I hit the brakes, even just a little, The Pillion slides into me, which in turn pushes me up against the tank.
Viola! Instant patties.
So we went the custom seat route.
This made a huge difference in not only comfort, but riding confidence as well. I was no longer concentrating on holding myself off the tank and could focus on actually riding the bike. Likewise for The Pillion.
We also had to do the usual pre-trip checks which included a servicing, a new set of tires, chain and sprockets and brake pads front and rear.
The Forward Leg
It’s just shy of 1800km to Melbourne from Brisbane, a trip you can knock over in a couple of days if you wanted too.
I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow of our ride down through central NSW. I will say it was damned hot though.
Even though we’d left Brisbane in the wee hours of Friday morning in light rain, by the time we’d arrived in Tamworth at 15:00 the same day, it was 43°C. This continued on the following day when we headed further south to West Wyalong.
We had to contend with 40°C that day. That meant we had stop more often than we had planned just so we could cool down and rehydrate.
By Sunday we were over it. It was 38°C when we rolled into Melbourne at 14:00, and I gotta say The first beer didn’t even touch the sides as it went down.
Early Monday morning we boarded The Spirit OF Tasmania for a day crossing of Bass Strait to Devonport. An easy days ride to be sure, I mean you can only do so many laps of The Spirit before you get dizzy.
Now, even though The Spirit is small when compared it to other cruise ships, it’s may –be a third the size of one of those Cunard liners, but it was by far the biggest boat I’d ever been on, and a car ferry to boot.
The voyage took about 10 hours. In hindsight I’d do a night crossing next time – man it was boring. But it was smooth sailing with only a 1.0m swell. Hell, I didn’t even get seasick.
Tasmaina: First Impressions
All those things you’ve heard about Tasmania are true.
It’s a place that’s been left behind by progress, which in itself isn’t a bad thing because that means the people are super friendly, especially if you’re on a bike.
I mean how many places do you go to, that when you pull up on the side of the road in a town someplace to wait for your mates, you get not one, but two groups of people pull up next to you inquiring on your well-being.
“Are you OK mate, you need directions or something?”.
This happened more times than I can remember; and it was quite unexpected at first. I soon realised that this was just the character of Tasmanians; they’re really friendly and helpful.
Take Launceston for example. It’s the second largest city in the state but you can walk from one end of the CBD to the other in about 10 minutes.
And the scenery. I’ve never seen such spectacular vistas and untouched ruggedness before.
Look At All Those Twisty Roads
Another thing Tasmania is famous for is its roads: It really is a motorcyclists paradise.
The main highways are well maintained with 100 or 110km/h speed limits, but it’s not until you get out onto the minor roads that you can have a bit of fun.
Having said that, many of the roads need to be treated with respect. Some corners rarely have the sun on them and as a result they can get a layer of moss or leaf litter build up. When you mix that with dampness, you soon realise you can become unstuck very quickly.
We found this mostly in the more rugged north-west corner of the state where there are steep escarpments and rocky outcrops hiding corners for most of the day.
When you head over to the southern side of the state the tight hairpins and switchbacks become some of the best sweeping corners you’ll ever come across.
Unfortunately these sweepers can lull you into a false sense of bravado as we found out after riding The Lake Leak Highway from Campbell Town to Swansea.
It’s a 70km stretch of well maintained roadway with a mostly 100km/h speed limit and a mix of tight and sweeping corners.
We were OK coming through there, but the day after we rode it a young bloke lost his life on the same stretch of road we had just ridden.
With any place where nature takes precedence the is wildlife. On the mainland of Australia it’s mostly kangaroos, emu and wombats that you need to look out for, but in Tasmania you need to factor in the Tasmanian Devil.
These little critters, as cute as they are, are literally everywhere and are active from dusk till dawn. There was rarely a day went by when we headed out for a ride and we didn’t see at least 4 of 5 of these buggers on the side of the road at dawn, obviously they lost the fight with whatever had cleaned them up.
When you add Tassie Devils to the roos, wallabies and wombats that already stray onto the road, you can see it’s best to stay off the roads at when they are active.
Apart from the natural beauty of Tasmania and its great riding roads, Tasmania is full of history. Everywhere you look the architecture reflects the early English settlers of the early 1800’s, who were mostly convicts and their guards.
The workmanship of the sandstone buildings and bridges are just breathtaking. Even the cottages in the cities, some over 100 years old are something else.
The Pillion and I spent three weeks in Tasmania during late February and early March. This seems to be the best time of year to go, because it’s not too hot or cold and there’s very little rain. It was rare that we needed to wear a jumper under our riding jackets, in fact, I wore a T-Shirt and jeans every day we were there.
Be warned though, the day can start our sunny and warm but turn quickly. I got caught the day we headed up to Cradle Mountain. It was 25°C when we left Devonport, but got down to a very wet and windy 4°C by the time we arrived at Dove Lake.
We didn’t get a lot of rain during the three weeks we were there, maybe 2 or 3 days worth in total, but that day was the worst by far. That 4°C doesn’t take into account wind chill of course.
Did We See It All?
In the three weeks we were there, The Pillion and I based ourselves in Devonport, Launceston and Hobart and even though you can ride from Devonport on the north coast to Hobart in the south in a little over 4 hours, three weeks is nowhere near enough time to fully explore the state.
There are hundreds of little out-of-the-way places that are only accessible by following gravel roads. We did follow a few of those on the Bandit, but in reality an adventure bike would be better suited to that task.
We missed out on St Helens and what the north-east corner of Tasmania has to offer and we also missed out visiting Strahan and Queenstown over on the west coast.
We are definitely going to go back… although I don’t think you could fully explore the place on a typical vacation, you really need to spend a few months there to do it properly.
Just make sure you take your bike.
So that’s it. A wrap up of our trip to Tasmania, Australia.
If you’re keen you can go back through some, or all, of the posts I’ve done about the place in the following links.
- Zero: 24 hours before we left for Tasmania.
- Devonport – The Arrival: A wrap of our 3 day ride down and Bass Strait crossing. (Posted from Tasmania)
- The Promised Land: Why so many riders make their way down to Tasmania. (Posted from Tasmania)
- So Much To See: 2nd week in Tassy and I highlight some of the places we’ve been to. (Posted from Tasmania)
- Cherish Peace For The Sake Of Those In Pain: 20 years since the Port Arthur massacre.
- Stanley: Pop 481: Stepping back in time.
- The Boat Shed: Dove Lake at the foot of Cradle Mountain.
- Hidden Places: Small trips reap big rewards.
- The Reward: Local knowledge and an unplanned route.
- Port Arthur Tasmania: Port Arthur in pictures.
- A Quickie: A quick stopover yields spectacular views.
- Cataract Gorge – Natures Fury: The difference a few months can make at one of Australia best known gorges
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