While I’ve completed a few of these rides now, I wouldn’t say they are easy, just that our approach to them is more casual. We know what it takes. A ride like this is not about speed it’s about consistency. It’s spending time in the saddle not in the cafe sipping your latte.
The Saddle Sore 1600, or 1600km in 24 hours. The minimum endurance ride certified by the Iron Butt Association (IBA).
The Plan – I really don’t like up and back routes and I don’t like just sitting on freeways, so I always try to incorporate some interesting roads, and a new road if possible, so the plan was a fairly simple round trip, Canberra – Narrabri – Walgett – West Wyalong and then back to Canberra.
Rolling out of the servo in Canberra at 4am we were on backroads. This was one part of the trip that I knew we had to be cautious about as we were going to be on back roads in the first light which is also means a heightened risk of wild life and especially kangaroos. And there were a lot of roos out there! A number testing out the ZX14R’s braking ability and my level of attention. Nothing like kamikaze roos to keep you awake and alert. Russell commented later that he saw my head light pattern on one Skippy that jumped in front of me … that’s getting way too close.!
However for all the risks these rolling back roads are just beautiful to be on at this time of day. You just have to exercise caution.
After a quick fuel stop in Bathurst we kept heading north. However the start of the second leg was tough – I generally find around dawn to be tough as this is when I get the yawns. Apparently Russell was also struggling so when he signalled that he wanted to stop in Mudgee for a bite to eat and coffee I was more than happy to accommodate.
Knowing when to stop, and stopping, is very important and key to safe long distance riding. There is always a risk when riding with others to just push on – so it’s important that if you have to stop that you do. Russell and I have had the conversation many times about giving each other permission to do this.
Finding riding partners to do this type of riding can be hard to find – not only because they have to enjoy these crazy distances but it’s important to have someone who has a similar riding rhythm to you. We have a similar pace and riding style so there is no additional mental energy spent trying to figure out what he’s doing. And I’m lucky to have a couple of great riding friends who enjoy these distances.
Here’s Russell thinking I’m taking a photo of him – actually it’s a photo of the passing train…
Rolling passed Pluto I had the thought about taking photos of all the planets on the solar system drive. No that detour up to sliding springs will suck out more time than I’m prepared to give today. So instead we just stopped at Saturn for a quick photo.
The solar system drive fans out in five directions from the sliding spring observatory at a scale of 1:38,000,000. See my photos a previous ride.
As we headed further north I was taken aback. I knew it was dry out here but I was shocked at just how dry it is. Paddocks of dust with hardly any tufts of grass. Towns on level 4 water restrictions, bridges over rivers of sand or at best puddles. Floodplain signs that just seem cruel on such as barren landscape.
Sitting at road works I look out and wonder how the farmers out here cope. How they look out every day and wonder if it will rain today. Whether they can make ends meet.
And the scary part is that it’s not even summer yet.
As we approach Walgett we turn left onto the Castlereagh Highway were we start heading south. We are now just over half distance.
I was surprised to find a number of large murals so I quickly pulled in a took a couple of photos to add to my big murals collection.
Rolling south I remember a sign about 20km out of Coonamble from the last time I was out this way. I couldn’t remember what it was advertising but I just remember that it had “Saddle Sore” and I knew that I had to pull in and get a photo of that given that we are doing a Saddle Sore 1600 and I was actually getting quite saddle sore as we had been in the saddle for 1,000km so far today.
Pulling into Dubbo we are only two tankfuls from home. Sitting at the roundabout contemplating which fuel station to use when Russell runs into my pannier. Well actually I think he forgot about his lights mounted under his mirror and just got too close.
Only a few kilometres out of town though I get a call over the intercom … “I’m going to have to pull up and make some repairs” Apparently you can’t hit my pannier with your driving light and get off scott free! The driving light mount had broken off leaving the light swinging in the breeze.
And what does any good touring motorcyclist never leave home without? Cable ties and duct tape.!
From here we start loosing the light. I’ve said it many times I love being out riding watching the sun coming up … riding through the day and watching the sun setting in a blaze of colour and then blasting into the night with your lights out front focusing your attention and only the sound of your bike to disturb the thoughts in your helmet.
And tonight was no different with red glow being refracted off all the clouds around.
Pulling into Canberra at 11:30pm we had been on the road for 19.5 hours and ridden 1,666km. I may or may not submit the documentation for this ride to be certified as I don’t need them all certified. Often it’s just nice to get out and have a good ride, see some countryside, and just hang out at service stations around the country.