Monday, March 24, 2008

Bathurst and Back on a Bike, Episode III

There really is nothing like coming down the road towards Mt Panorama. It is an awesome vista as you come over the small rise on the main road to the track. As you get to the top of the hill, you look up and see the huge letters proclaiming that it is "Mount Panorama". As soon as you see that, your heart begins to beat a little faster as you know you are within moments of riding over the hallowed ground of some of Australia's greatest moments in motorsports. As you cruise past the pits, which is an impressive building these days in its own right, you really can imagine the noise and the crowd and the cars that make that once a year pilgrimage that is known on sporting calendars as "Bathurst".

However, this time, I was headed towards the motor museum that had been built on the entrance to the main straight and to spend a few hours poking about the exhibits. There are just as many bikes on display here as there are cars. And if you're really lucky, you might even be able to have a chance to own some motorsport history as several cars on display are up for sale! It is interesting to read about all of Australia's racetracks, including the ones that don't exist anymore. There is quite an extensive model collection of race cars and then there is the Peter Brock wing with a small area that holds a few of his race cars. After spending a couple of hours here, I then rode back to my accomodation to get ready for the Saturday evening dinner with the Ducati rally.

Dinner was a lot of fun, with me sitting with some more people that I had got talking to about Ducati's, of course! Some more folk from Sydney, again several of the women were pillions. One of whom was in the process of getting her licence to ride as well. After 20 years of being the pillion! Couldn't believe that she had taken that long to want to get up front herself! Along with the entertainment of those who had dressed in the theme of the evening...being GOLD, they also gave away a couple of awards and fined some folk for some very funny things that had happened during the day. The fines were all given in a great spirit as the NSW Ducati club gives the money to the Spinal Unit in RNS. I think by the end of the fines, people were just throwing money into the bucket regardless of the fine! An auction of a Troy Bayliss signed helmet and shirt followed, along with a couple of autographed books on motorcycle racing. A good evening, shared with great people and lots of fun.

Sunday morning, I gave the bike one more once over, as best could be done with half of Mudgee's road works on it and headed on up to the concourse that was being held. I arrived unsure of where to go and pulled up near Desmo, who rode a Ducati Monster. She called out "What are you doing up here? You should be down there at the concourse!" A friendly greeting for a Sunday morning which made me feel pretty welcome. Starting the bike back up, I made my way cautiously back down to the concourse, as everywhere was gravel!

After parking the bike in the appropriate section for its age, I went and chatted to a few new friends who were also admiring the bikes both old and new. Of course, the years from 2000 on was the section that had the most bikes in it, with the others only having a handful each. Even the nineties did not have many bikes, which surprised me a little.

It was decided that the judging would take place and that they'd do it by the most fairest way possible. By getting everyone to put up their hands for their favourite bike for the decade that was being judged! This was a fun way to vote as we all had a chance to have a laugh and vote for our friends bikes. When they got to mine, I stood at the back of the crowd calling out "Vote Yellow! You know you want to!" Of course, the bike that beat mine was a beautiful and rare SS FE. The FE being the Final Edition of the carby bikes. This one was bike number 444 and only had 22 thousand kilometres on the clock. I think that it was trailered to the rally but it sure was a pleasure to see one of these special bikes on display. And especially as it was along side my bike which in contrast was the first edition of the 900ss with fuel injection. I was proud to get the 2nd place trophy next to such distinguished company!

After the concourse, it was time for everyone to get moving and head home. Most were heading back to Sydney and some that were travelling further had already gone. I had decided to only go as far as Dubbo as I wanted to catch up with a friend who had recently moved there. I also wanted to break the trip up and not have to travel in the heat of the day like I had on the Friday to get there. But before I left...I just had to ride that track once more.

Well, maybe just a couple more times...

In the end, I really had to stop myself from going round Mt Panorama again! I had to get going before it got too hot!

All in all, it was a terrific weekend for me. It was a wonderful way to get out on the bike and build my skills on it. At no point over the weekend did I think..."Oh no. I have to get on the bike again!" Rather, I couldn't wait to get back on the bike again! I had a fantastic time meeting new people and I sincerely hope that they enjoyed meeting me! (Even if I do ride a yellow Ducati! But that's okay, there were quite a few others who do as well! Red isn't everything!) Next year they're talking Queensland and I'm already thinking ahead to that trip!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bathurst and Back on a Bike, Episode II

As promised...

After fueling up on the way out of town, we were to head off towards Rylstone via a scenic route through some of the state forest. I guess for the staff in the fuel station, it might have been a familiar sight to see all his pumps taken up by bikes as he sure seemed none to fussed as we lined up to pay him our measly dollars! I don't think there was anyone paying much over 10 dollars a fill!

On our way out of Bathurst, we passed a few cars heading in the same direction. At the time, I sat behind a couple of the older Ducatis. I knew when the rider in front accelerated as his old bike would let out a cloud of smoke as it was burning a bit rich and it certainly smelt like it too! However, as old as it was, the old Duke could still keep up with the rest of them!

It was good to get off the main highway a little further up the road. I think we must have startled a few drivers. Ducati's are known for their noise and if you thought that a group of Harley riders were loud, then you've never heard Ducati's when they're in a group! Along with engine noise, most also have the loud clacka clacka sound of their dry clutches rattling away on their bikes as well. In fact, some are even louder as they have open clutch covers. Even I turned my head once or twice when I heard a bike come towards me, as I wondered at first what the noise was. It didn't take me long to work it out!

We took a left turn to head towards a tiny village called Sunny Corner. Here as we headed into the forest, the road was wide and smooth, the beginning of bike nirvana! You could almost see everyone wanting to go faster but not wanting to as they had been warned that just around the corner we'd have to pull up and slow down because of the road surface as we turned right. The excitement of the group was beginning to mount I think!

The route took us back towards Cullen Bullen and onto the main road between Mudgee and Rylstone via a small town called Portland. It was here that I recall seeing some kids on the side of the road, waving at all the bikes as we went through town. The houses were tiny weatherboard and fibro places, I guess the town had sprung up for the logging and mining that was going on nearby. I thought it would have been great to be those kids on the side of the road, hearing all these bikes ride past and nearly regretted being part of the ride as that was one aspect that we were missing out on! But that thought only lasted a moment of time as we got back onto the main road and headed towards Capertree. It was there that we had a quick stop to get the group back together again before the next leg.

We pulled into Rylstone for morning tea. It would have been nice to have spent a little more time there but we were already running a bit late I think and so we were encouraged to be quick about getting food and drink. A shame really as it was a place I'd not been to before and was interesting enough to warrant a bit of a better look, I thought. Could be a good excuse to go back there, though the Bylong road into Rylstone wasn't all that great a surface. I know I slowed down on it a bit as I found it jarring and rough on the bikes suspension.

After being hustled to saddle up again, I took the bike for a quick drink at the local servo and then headed out for Sofala. We came out onto the highway for a short time and it included a stretch through some road works. Unfortunately, the road had just been wet down again by the water tanker and it was a tip toe through slimey lime base. It also made many of our bikes very dirty and on my bike, it completely obscured the number plate and rear tail light! Some people didn't think that that was all such a bad thing though!

When we arrived at Sofala and found that there were some bikes that were clean, everyone wondered which direction those bikes had taken! As it turned out, a group had gone the wrong way but as it turned out, they'd probably really gone the right way!

Lunch at Sofala was a lamb roast with baked veges. Everyone ate together in the local hall, at least those who didn't want to drink at the pub. It was great to sit around the table with people who were willing to share information and have information shared. Everyone had something to offer in the way of information and opinions on riding. It went a long way to making me feel welcome in a group of people that I'd not had anything to do with. Even the NSW club president, who had been the organiser of the event, was more than delighted to meet me it seemed. I couldn't fault anyone's hospitality.

After lunch, I was invited to head back with a couple from Canberra, as it was a make your own way to Bathurst affair. This was a great time as Alex and his wife, Helanna had given me some very useful advice in regards to my riding into corners. As they rode ahead, I got the chance to be behind, working on my techniques. We even pulled over after a particularly twisty bit of road and discussed how I'd ridden it and if I was feeling like I was going into corners better. Which I certainly was. Left hand cornering had up until that point been a slightly unnerving affair for me, I was not feeling confident with it and struggled to do left corners as well as I could do a right one. After being told to drop my shoulder into the corner more, I found it made a huge amount of difference and was impressed that I was cornering left as well as I could corner right.

Well, looks like again I will continue this story...

Stay tuned folks!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bathurst and Back on a Bike!

Last year I had joined up with the Ducati Owners Club of NSW. I joined because it is often a good way to find parts and information for your vehicle, hence why I am also a member of the Chevrolet Car Club of NSW as well. The membership has often paid for itself with information!

This year, I saw that DOCNSW was advertising the National Ducati Rally in Bathurst and so I decided that I'd very much like to go to it. It would be a great way to meet a group of like minded and new people, I thought.

So, last Friday saw me load up the panniers and head out early for my first really big trip on the Duke. I planned to reach Dubbo by mid morning and have at least a two hour break there. I had a great run down the highway to Coonabarabran and then onto Gilgandra. By the time I arrived at Dubbo, I could feel that the weather was starting to warm up!

I was meeting up with a fellow forumite from Ransomed Heart in Dubbo for morning tea and then lunch. The brief I had given him was that I required a place where I could see the bike! As I cruised down the main street, I kept an eye out for the Coffee Exchange where he would be waiting. As I pulled over into a designated motorbike spot, I saw that my friend had managed to get a table right next to the parking spot! He asked if I thought that it would be suitable enough for watching the bike...funny guy!

After this great visit with Lighthorseman (as he is known on Ransomed Heart), I saddled up again for the two and a half hour trip to Bathurst. As I came into Orange, I could feel that the weather was really warming up and was not surprised to see a temperature gauge saying it was 36 degrees! By the time I arrived in Bathurst, I could feel that my clothes were just saturated with sweat! I was sure glad to have a shower that evening!

Saturday dawned another glorious day, however it also held the promise of another hot one. I was eager to be off and after giving the bike another once over, made the short trip up to Mount Panorama where those on the rally were staying. (I had opted to stay with a friend who lives in Bathurst, seeing as I didn't know anyone!)

Mount Panorama is the hallowed ground of the greatest race in Australia's motorsport history! It has been where many men over the years have either succeeded or failed in their desire to tame the mountain! Now famous for the biggest V8 Supercar race of the year, a gruelling all day event held every October, it started out as a premier motorcycle track. These days it is a far cry from the dirt track it started out as. Now, it is probably the most perfect bitumen you can drive on as when its not being used for motorsport, it is a public road. Of course, the speed limit is set at 60km/hr and it is two way!

So, as I pulled out onto the smooth bitumen on Saturday morning, the sound of the V-twin burbling behind me, I couldn't feel but awe at being there. Sure, I've driven around it before, know how steep it hills are and tight its corners are but there was just something about riding out onto that hallowed ground. I actually drove up the Chase and up onto Conrod Straight, heading for the accomodation where the other Ducati riders were gathering for the day's events.

As we began to meet up, the organisers told us where we were going for the day and that the first thing we would do would be turn right onto Mt Panorama and then do a lap of the track! This really had me worried at first because I seriously didn't think I was ready for that first thing in the morning! As we headed out and then pulled out onto the track, I could see the long line of bikes that were now beginning to stream out along the road. It really was an awesome sight to see!

We then headed on around the left hand corner onto the pit straight and all too soon were flashing past the pits and onto the first corner of the track. It was beginning to get very exciting! As I took the first corner, concentrating on my riding and trying to ignore anyone else around me, I began to hear others overtake and make their bikes go fast up the hill. Unperturbed I just took my time and enjoyed the experience.

By the time we got round the track and back down to the place where we'd head off into Bathurst, I was kind of regretting that we had to leave and couldn't do another lap! But it was okay because I knew that the mountain would be waiting when we got back for the day and then I could try it again!

Well, as much as I hate to do it...I'm going to continue this in another post tomorrow! I know you'll all be waiting to hear about the rest of my weekend!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Cars, Coffee and Celebrations...

My trip to Melbourne ended pretty well. The only downer to it was that my luggage didn't make the same flight home as me and came in on the next flight the following morning. I was very happy that it did arrive home of course!

Celebrate the Bean was a huge day on Sunday, with many people being drawn to the Coffeesnobs stand. I think the aroma of roasting coffee was what drew them in first! We had popcorn poppers, bread makers, stainless steel bowls with heat guns and of course a range of commercially available home roasting devices on display.

As well, the display that had people really amazed and fascinated were the open containers of coffee that went from uncooked through to dark roast. Many people did not know that coffee is green before being roasted to brown!

It was a hugely fun day and I enjoyed working the stand along with some fellow coffeesnobbers who also showed me a lot about roasting! And considering that I was very kindly given a coffee roaster, I needed to learn all I could!

Yes, I'm now going to delve into the realm of home roasting. It has been something that I've tried to resist doing, on the grounds that I just don't have time for it. But this little machine has shown me just how easy and quick it can be to do. There are many benefits for someone like myself to home roast, particularly as we are so far from any roaster. I must admit, when I got back to work the other day and had a coffee there, I was disappointed and frustrated with the taste of it.

So, I'm on the quest to have coffee the way I like it...all the time!

Apart from having a blat in the M3, we also went and had a look at what was on offer at the Melbourne Motor Show. A little disappointing in the way of great concept cars but there was enough to keep me amused. It's been funny this week to show friends a picture I took of the lime green Lambourghini and then tell them that its my new ride, whilst also explaining that it comes in yellow to match my bike and that it was a hard decision to chose colour! One lady wanted to race out the back of the shop and see it then and there!

Next weekend, I'm off to Bathurst on the bike for the National Ducati Rally. So this week will see me detailing and getting it ready. Cleaning it won't do too much good, however, as I'm sure by the time I get there, it will be covered with 6 hours worth of road grime again! Oh well, it'll make me feel good I guess!