This is my ride report for the ride last Sunday. This was day 3 of a 4 day 2600km ride. (others of the group I was with have written reports of the other days).
The only time I've done the Dargo High Plains road before was (I think it was) when I had the ZX9. In any event it was a long time ago and hence why it seemed a good idea to do it this weekend.
The sign said only 62km to Dargo after all....
Well first 2 km or so was bitumen and we'd been told there could be as little as 20km of dirt left, although Greenie remembered it as 34km. Either sounded fine. Greenie led us off and we spread out on the dirt to leave room for the dust to settle as much as possible. The first section was fine, but it then went a bit rocky. Couple that with some steep sections and the fact that you're on a ridge and the mental difficulty rises a touch... I thought hang on, isn't this supposed to be a High Plain, not a ridge top with alternating drops either side. Still I didn't think about it much as I had to watch the road. There were about 6-10washouts from the rain that were quite rocky and made potholes that were for road bikes, deep. It wasn't dangerous but wasn't something you'd want to attempt without plenty of concentration. A couple of them you'd get just plain wrong, so to minimise the bashing of the suspension I'd just hit the throttle to open the suspension and smooth them out a bit. Luckily in 3rd this is not too savage (2nd's another story). The K is a big heavy bike to take on the dirt which makes downhill braking and cornering...er... interesting at times.
Thankfully the linked brakes only work from the front lever. The rear brake pedal controls only the rear. I didn't bother turning off the ASC or ABS. I thought if I was going that fast, the bike wouldn't turn anyway! One thing I did do was set the suspension up to rider and luggage and comfort damping. This increases the ground clearance, and allows more travel - thanks for the idea Chris. It takes some of the harshness out of the ride on dirt.
About 10km in and we're on the high plains part of the ride - what a magnificient view. We stopped for a regroup and photo opp. Pic 1 Looking South across the plain https://picasaweb.google.com/1071070...35640023507634
Pic 2 looking north, back the way we'd come.
Greenie suggest I lead off so we share the dirt catching. I was happy with that and away we went admiring the crisp mountain air, clear skies and fantastic scenery. We came across a more wooded section with some heavy duty 4WD doing something (shrug). I love it when they're all kitted out for the rugged aussie bush and give you a look like "wtf? some guys in leathers on road bikes - on this road! They'll turn back". And we give them a casual wave and keep going. I remember last time we did this road the rocky section intimidated some recreational 4WDs who turned around, and we kept going on our 1WD machines - classic stuff.
Anyway, the km's rolled along under our dusty tyres and we passed about 4-5 vehicles all up. They were all taking it easy so no real moments, as long as you stayed on your side of the road. The next undulating section added a challenge. The recent rain had made some water channels along and across the road. No where near as bad as the earlier washouts, but with shading from the trees it made it hard to spot them at times.
The km's ticked by and I thought... hmmm must be coming to the end soon... Well it did - of the good dirt at about 45km anyway. There was now another climb down the mountain on rocky dirt with alternating drops either side. This one seemed like it was on an older alignment that was narrower and possibly steeper than what we'd experienced on the way to the plains. Again it's a bit daunting when you see it after 40 odd km of dirt, but not dangerous if taken sensibly in the dry. All up the dirt was just on 50km. We regrouped at the start of the tar. I reset my suspension to road settings with the ESA buttons (without even getting off the bike) and Greenie led off down towards Dargo.
I was looking forwards to a drink break at the Dargo General store. 50km out of the 62 on the sign done, I thought great 10mins or so and we'll be there. I don't know why, but the bloody sign is wrong. It's 73km from the start of the Dargo High Plains road to Dargo. So with Greenie in the lead, I did my best to keep him in sight.
What a glorious ride. The same hot mix from 8-9 yrs ago flows from left to right, right to left on 35-50km/hr corners all the way down the mountain. That's about 18-20km of flowing corners, only marred by some subsidence dips on the inside of some corners, but it's in pretty good condition overall. The flowing corners stop about 4-5km from town - which I didn't remember. I'd falsely remembered the downhill hotmix corners going all the way to start of the town.
It's at this point you see the first signs of civilisation, but it's just some farms and town signage so you get a false "are we there yet" sense every couple of corners for another 5-10mins as you expect to see the General Store round every next bend. This is worse for me as I'm buggered from the combined dirt and the hot mix. Eventually you get to town.
The General Store is amazing, it carries, the range of gear - fishing, camping, food, petrol AND is an authorised KTM spare parts outlet (albeit a dirt bike outlet not SuperDuke parts though so luckily the big KTM is reliable).
Lunch is drinks sandwiches, pies and a chat with some locals. The owner of the store is an older guy who still rides. When ordering we tell him we've come in from Hotham on the High Plains rd. He says, he knows a great run back via Berrigan (?). I point out we've done about the level of dirt we can as we're on road bikes. Loz goes for his standard fair and tries the local plastic wrapped pastie... He really has a thing for pasties LOL. I don't know if it was any good, but he wasn't complaining.
A couple of dirt riders from elsewhere in Vic come in and Greenie and they have a chat about the good dirt tracks around the area.
After about a 45min stop we're off. I lead out of Dargo and then see the sign to Bairnsdale. WTF? It's 86km... Wow, We've already done Tawonga Gap twice today, the bulk of the ride up Hotham and the Dargo High Plains road. Now we're going to go further south (away) for another 105km before Bruthen and then the Omeo Hwy for 95km back to Omeo... This is turning into a big day!
The road to Bairnsdale on the southern side of Dargo is older, but quite good. The biggest challenge is the strong southerly making it a bit of effort to corner smoothly and keep the speed up. Not much traffic helps though. We fuel up at the first servo in Bairnsdale. Then head off to Bruthen. I stop in town at the ATM, but manage to stay ahead of Loz and Greenie, we'd already agreed to regroup at Bruthen on the corner of the Omeo so no dramas with anyone getting lost.
We head off up the Omeo Hwy with Greenie and Loz in front. We take it easy for the first 15k, where there's lots of places a cop could park, but can't restrain ourselves once we hit the canyon/river bends. This is a magic road only spoiled by the couple of road work sections, the fear of red/blue lights and the 2 or 3 turns that are decreasing radius (and remembering which ones they are!). Both Loz and Greenie are fast smooth riders, and they make you faster by being able sit behind them. It's not that I'll necessarily take the same line, it's just using their speed of turn to help judge the corner. Their skill takes the guesswork out of it :-)
The plan was to stop at the servo at Swifts and not go into Omeo and then coffee at the Blue Duck. However being a Sunday the servo is closed, so into Omeo we go for fuel. Greenie and Loz, again decide there'll be no cops and set a cracking pace on the open sweepers the 25km to Omeo. as we're already at Omeo, we decide to have a coffee at the Omeo bakery and not bother stopping at the Duck, plus I think we all need a regroup before tackling the Omeo to Anglers Rest. We haven't stopped for more than the 5min fuel stop at Bairnsdale in just on 200km. About 4pm we roll out of Omeo and head up the Omeo Hwy.
I'm very conscious that Gavin had his off on this section of road coming back from the World Superbikes, because he was tired (as I am now) so happily go for slow and smooth and let Laurie and Greenie scarper off in the distance. For the time I'm watching them, it's great to see how smooth and consistent they can be for corner after corner, even after such a big day. I'm a few minutes behind at the Duck, and we all head off together.
This time we decide to stay pretty much as a group in the hope the noise will keep wildlife away and if the worst happens to one of us we'll know about it. So we take the Falls turn off on to the Bogong High Plains rd together. Loz is at the back, and I'm working hard to stay 1-200mtrs behind Greenie. As we climb up and into Rocky Valley the sun is now low enough that I can't see a thing coming out of every 3rd or 4th corner. Riding into corners with the left arm up blocking the sun causes the air to cavitate under your arm/helmet and create a loud low pitch hum which is a right royal pita. Still this direction is the only way to home.
We have 1 more regroup point and somehow I end up in the front. Bugger, I wanted to watch someone elses' lines from Falls to Mt Beauty. At this point I decide, I'm not pushing it down the mountain, so no hard accelerating and braking between corners. Just 3rd gear and mostly engine braking and trying to be smooth. The guys are following me down, and Loz is in the position of watching the multi-bike snake, slither down the mountain turns - always a great sight.
About 20km down from Falls, I slow down to let Greenie passed, thinking I must be slowing him up. He slows down as well. I think damn, I wanted a brake from leading for a while, but he seems to be content to sit there or not understanding why I slowed. Later that night I learnt he was nearly as tired as me and quite happy for someone to set an easy pace. I finally run out of "smooth" about 3-4km before the gravel above Mt Beauty and ride a couple of corners very poorly. Not dangerously, but just not as coordinated as I should be and it does cause the guys to bunch up and brake more than they would otherwise have to. A couple of km later and we're on the yucking gravel laden road into Mt Beauty. 8km later, we get to Greenies, pick up our bags and book into the Mountain Creek motel. Grab a shower and an 1hr later are having a glass of red over dinner at the Bogong hotel with Supe, Chris, Loz, Greenie and Ali.
We had a few clouds on the southern side of the ranges, and that southerly to Bairnsdale. Other than that the weather was perfect all day. I don't know if I could live in this part of the world, but I sure love riding there.
All up we did 50km of dirt and about 500km for the day. This is about double what the normal Tawonga/Hotham/Falls loop is. It's no wonder we were so tired.
A huge day with lots of dirt and twisties, but well worth it. We beat the worst of the cold down the mountain, and had no issues on the road just lots of km. And what would a ride with these guys be without some dirt - after 13yrs it's a tradition.
Thanks to Loz and Greenie for the great riding company on the Sunday and all the guys for such a great weekend.