Touring with Gibbo:
1/2 Lap of Oz: Review and Advice
This is always important on a long trip. When you are travelling with mates, you can share the load which always makes a heap of sense. Once you return you often ask yourself.. 'why did I take that... never used / wore once'! In my case 1 pair of trackie dacks and mercifully the tyre repair kit. Luckily, we did not have an issue with any of the bikes on the entire 8,000km trip, remarkable!
For this trip you do need:
* New rubber all round. Trust me you don't want to be on a worn rear tyre half way down the Stuart Hwy.. You have no hope of getting a new tyre until Alice, where there is a good bike shop, but, they may not have your size tyre. You will probably use the best part of a new rear tyre on this trip.
* Full service, don't be tight, get that done and new oil and filter.
* Tyre repair kit of some sort. I took a Motol inflation can, Bill had a tubeless repair kit and pump.
* Spare Ocky straps, they do wear.
* Water bottle.
* Good sun glasses or green visa and sunscreen.
* A reasonable tool kit. Modern bikes will do 8,000kms on the new oil as you are operating at perfect levels for the oil all day, everyday. No need to change oil over this distance.
* Unless you want to pay outrageous fees at Yularra (Uluru accommodation), you will need to camp, and its fun. Camping does mean weight/ stuff. You choose how much comfort you want. For me I camped 4 times and really enjoyed each one.
The Trip itself:
If you are doing this on your own, that's a different experience, you just need to be super prepared out there. However, if you are riding with mates, don't take too many (I reckon 4 is enough) and make sure you have ridden a lot of kms with them as a group. We have been riding together for something like 40 years off and on, so we know each other well... the good, the bad and the very ugly. Fortunately for us, we are all relatively early risers and don't stuff about. We like to be on the road by 8am and off the road by 4pm. This is a very good way to go with all the suicide wildlife out west.
It's the nature of riding - we all have our owns styles... the speed we like, the position we like in the group, etc.. This should work itself out naturally. Some of us just don't give a shit where we are in the group, while others like this or that. There is usually someone who likes to lead, and someone who likes to be 'tail end charlie' which is fine, so long as they don't power away and leave the rest behind, or 'tec' is so slow there is always a wait for him or her. Our rule of thumb was to sit on the speed limits in town and 10k or so out of town, then sit or 10kms/h above the limit, or thereabouts. This means 140km/h in NT, which is fine for most, but, you just go through a shit load of fuel, and when your paying $1.90 a litre for 91 (and that's all you can buy), it hurts. After the first rush of blood Camooweal to the Barkly Homestead Road House, we decided that really 130kms/h was enough. The main deal is the group sits on a speed that everyone is comfy with, and this is always a compromise.
Then there is the issue of who wants to go or do what. It's unlikely that everyone wants to do the same things together all the time. There is no problem with, just have people come and go as they can and do what they want. We went from 4 to 3 to 2 to 1 to 3 to 2 to 1 over the length of the trip. Be flexible and, above all, smile a lot, have a well developed sense of humour, and don't get pissed off. There is no point going away as great mates and coming back doing the 'no talkies'.
Roadtrains. These can be a problem. They can be up to 55.3metres long... Now that a long way when they are sitting on 100km/h and you are passing them. Be bloody careful. The good thing is the truckers are all experienced and been doing this for years and generally the visibility is good; you can see for many kms.
Fuel: I have mentioned this in the trip section, but this can be critical. First, if you cannot run on 91, don't go, or take an additive so you can. Fuel supplies can be dodgy on the Stuart and 98 and 95 rates as the last priority for deliveries. Also understand if you are running 91 you will have a shorter range per tank. Don't believe the locals re. distance. They just can't do maths. We almost got caught with our pants down doing the loop from Alice out west. If the Hermansburg servo had not been opened, we would have had a big problem. We took 91 with thanks there.
Camping: To camp or not, that is the question. The answer is camp. You will need to take more crap, just be sensible. Kog even took his beach chair.. A fold up little number, I wish I had taken one. You can get away with no cooking, but I took the basics, so i could boil the billy and do noodles, which was great. For breaky I stuck with muselli bars and water. I should have taken muselli and UHT milk, as Bill did. That was a good move.
Net access: There is only one deal here. Have Telstra. There is no other player in the bush... None. You will have 3 to 4G access pretty much everywhere on or near Highways. If you rely on another provider you will be stuffed.
The Final Word:
It was a great trip, for me 8,022kms in 19 days. We were all pretty flexible most of the time, and we are all still speaking to each other and still great mates. This is a good thing.
Would I do the trip again... Probably not. I own a B&B business, and while a lot can be done with phone apps. and phone calls, it's too long away for me. There was at least 2 week's work to do when I got home to get things back to normal. However, it has definitely given me the desire to more kms. My wife and I think about 10 days away is the limit for me. You can do a lot in 10 days riding... I may well be coming by your place in the not too distant future... put a cold one in the fridge for me. You never know when the Vulcan and I may be passing.
Yours truly and my gorgeous Vulcan. Let's hit the road again.