Gravel Geezers Big Bike Ride 2015
November 10, 2015 at 7:26 pm #10241
It starts differently for everyone. I was planning on heading to Whangarei very early on Saturday morning but I was having a slow day at work on Friday so I decided to leave mid afternoon. The sun was shining and my Ducati was ready to go too.
I packed some clothes, sleeping bag and gadgets, kissed wifey goodbye and headed off into Friday traffic across Auckland.
As expected, it was bloody slow going all the way up to Silverdale but beyond that, not too busy. I wasn’t going fast and the Ducati was purring along using bugger all revs. The Continental TKC80 knobbly tyres seemed fine on tar seal and time passed quickly until I reached Whangarei where I stopped to call Rob.
“Come around” he said, “We’re having a BBQ”.
I jumped back on the bike and reached Robs’ man-pad in about 15 minutes where Rob, Michael and Kel were already enjoying a beer. Mike Beuker turned up shortly after and we shot the breeze for a while before Mike headed home and Rob fired up the
BBQ. Copious quantities of red meat and a tasty salad are soon ready to eat so we all tucked in. After dinner we discussed the ride route and enjoyed a few more beers before we all hit the sack at around 9.30pm.
Sunrise and birdsong woke us up reasonably early and we had a bite before going out to pack up the bikes.
By about 8.30am, Russell and Camilla had turned up. Rob gave us a wee riders briefing noting that this was a casual exploration ride, not a race and ended with his usual “be careful out there”.
We started off the ride with Rob, Kel, Mike Beuker, Michal Wright, Camilla, Russell and myself (Mike Breen). Two Honda Africa Twins, one Honda Transalp, a Yamaha XT 250, Yamaha WR250R, KTM1190 Adventure R and a Ducati 821 Hypermotard SP.
Some of the bikes had street trail tyres, some had more off road oriented tyres and I’d fitted Continental knobbly tyres to my Ducati. We all had luggage except Russell who was only able to ride with us for the cash as he had to get to work that evening so was only carrying a small tank bag.
Pretty soon we are off. The morning was glorious as we headed out on Mangakahia Rd though Titoki toward Nukutawhiti and Twin Bridges for our first stop.
After a short pause for a few photos we were back on the road again and heading toward the first gas station so Mike on his WR250 and Camilla on her XT 250 could fill their quite small petrol tanks.
From the start of the ride at Mangatapere through to Twin Bridges and Kaikohe we cruised at around 90 to 100kph. After Twin Bridges Kel and I headed off at the front and Kel set a nice pace but one that required very little braking and only a few gear changes to set up for corners. The twisty road from Twin Bridges to Kaikohe is mostly tree lined and at that speed; we had plenty of time to enjoy the landscapes around us.
I followed most of the other bikes at one time or another and concentrated on riding smoothly without braking much. As we rode I shot video of the riders in front of me. We stopped at Kaikohe and filled up then headed North West toward the Hokianga Harbour.
Eventually we reached into Rawene and rode down to the ferry terminal. A ferry was loading as we arrived and we were waved on board as soon as we got there. Parking the bikes to the right behind a BMW that had already boarded, we paid the ticket lady $5 each and enjoyed the pleasant trip across Hokianga Harbour toward Kohukohu. The water was millpond smooth and the bikes just sat on their sidestands for the short trip across the harbour.
Stunning weather and a high of 22 degrees with no wind to speak of had been the norm and it wasn’t about to change.
Attachments:November 10, 2015 at 8:19 pm #10250
We got off the ferry, headed north and stopped a few kilometers up the road at the Kohukohu pub and cafe for brunch. A relaxing half hour was spent chatting over our coffees and pies while Rob and Kel tried to figure out where Neil was.
Neil had come up from Auckland but we had missed each other at the start. He’d been quite close behind us but on a slightly different route. That had bought him into Rawene just in time to see us pulling out into the harbour on the ferry. At the Kohukohu bar and cafe, we finally made contact and found that Neil was on the next boat. Heading back to the ferry landing we waited in the sunshine until he arrived. Neil was riding his Africa Twin (AT) so that made three with Rob and Kel plus Mike Beuker was riding the spawn of AT, a Transalp.
Heading East towards Warawara Forest we enjoyed winding sealed roads and continued on at a relaxed pace with some position swapping from time to time. The idea was to see if we could access the coastal forest road north of the Hokianga inlet and ride up the coast. We rode through Panguru, turned a little south on Windy Hill Rd toward Rangi Point and stopped for a rest.
The gravel road around the north side of the Hokianga Harbour was pretty good but damn dusty! Apparently there had been no rain for weeks. To escape the dust add much as possible, you either had to ride real close to the bike in front or lag way behind. It only helped a little though and soon we were all covered in dust but happy to be exploring these roads. After our stop on Rangi Point Rd, we hit the forest and found ourselves riding on a white gravelled road that was fairly well swept. Speeds were higher and the tone of the ride changed noticeably from that of the tar seal sections preceding.
Attachments:November 10, 2015 at 8:30 pm #10259
I pulled in on the way along this road and shot some video as the team passed by as well as a few shots of some of the bikes on the road.
We stopped to regroup at a Tee intersection and after a wee chat, Kel and Michael headed off down the hill toward the water to see what the road was like and whether it might be an interesting option. I hooked a left up a short rise to see what was there but it was only a small quarry so I rode around its base then headed off to see if I could catch Kel and Michael.
This bit of road offered more traction and I was giving the Ducati the welly. It did spin up pretty easily but that just made things more exciting as the back stepped out and drifted a little around corners. My suspension was not quite dirt bike but with the long travel on the Hypermotard SP; it was pretty damn good. A wide grin fixed itself across my face and that was to stay for the rest of the day!
Attachments:November 11, 2015 at 6:35 am #10269
I’ve been on half a dozen rides up north with these guys and they are very well organised and welcoming. If you get the chance, go on one of their rides and they’ll show you some great routes and you’ll have a ball.November 11, 2015 at 11:05 am #10270
We regrouped again at the tee intersection and then headed off along the forest trail. I had the bit between my teeth and raced off ahead so I could give the growling Ducati some work. With nice clay track beneath the wheels and little loose metal to deal with, the Hypermotard was in its element! I was sliding it more and wheelspinning out of the corners all the time laughing inside my helmet. Michael too was having fun on the little WR250R. It couldn’t keep up with the grunty Ducati on the straights but more than made up for that in the corners and soon Michael was close behind. We came to a small clearing on our left with nice ocean views (by this time we had reached the coast and were heading North). There was an open clay area that looked inviting. It was rough and rocky so I figured it’d be a nice challenge and grabbed the brakes, hauled it up to flick left and see how the Duc handled the clay. At slow speeds it was easy going and, thinking about dollars, I kept the speed within sensible limits to reduce the chances of denting my pretty Marchesini forged rims.
As we were in there fooling about; the rest of the team caught up and passed us so we set off after them and caught up in another clearing where a family were out enjoying some quad riding. Kel had a chat with the Maori Dad asking if the forest was open etc.; it all seemed good so I again took the lead and crossed a small stream ford and headed on down the road. About 2 km along I spotted a road heading down toward the beach on the left. It doubled back but looked promising so, as this was an exploration ride, I took that road less travelled. Unfortunately it only lasted about 500 metres before we came to a private property sign and a gate. We certainly didn’t want to upset the locals and screw it up for future riders so turned back to the main road.
Another few kilometres along the road and we could see Mitimiti ahead. Just before it was the Sandtrails Hokianga settlement and we stopped there for a good long rest and refreshment.
Mitimiti was only another 500 metres ahead but we found a nice open field overlooking the ocean and parked the bikes there. Looking inland we could see signs of some trails on the hills Rob suggested that these might lead to Pawarenga on the southern side of Whangape Harbour. We were later to see those trails from the other side of the harbour.
I refilled my chain oiler; the Tutoro manual oiler was working really well and my chain was always wet with fresh lube and much cleaner than some of the others. Looking at the bikes I was directed to Michael’s late modification. Having just 23km on the bike when the ride started at Casa Searle; Michael had not yet fitted a belly pan and didn’t want stones chipping away at his motor. His solution was straight out of Formula 1: 5 ply wood panels bolted in place and they were working really bloody well!
Leaving the beach after around 40 minutes, we headed back along the road we had come in for about four kilometres and turned left onto West Coast Rd. That took us East and back through Panguru but along the northern side rather than the southern road.
Heading North on Runaruna Rd, we cruised into Broadwood for gas and then hooked West again on Kaitaia Awaroa Rd to Herekino where we took the Whangape Rd to the top of Whangape Harbour.
At Broadwood Kel tried to sort out his rear tyre. He’d fitted a new one for the trip but hadn’t paid attention and didn’t notice that only one side had beaded. Not wanting to pop a tube, he tried to pump it up as high as possible to make it bead. We all had icecreams and a rest in the shade behind the shop/gas station while he worked on it. Unfortunately that didn’t work as the gas station pump was almost as gutless as Kel’s portable DC air pump!
This was one of those twisty roads we all love but it was hot, dry and really dusty. This was exaggerated by coming across a few more cars on the road. As we neared Whangape, I slowed a little to film riders coming up behind me. Neil, on his Africa Twin had the same thought and had fitted his GoPro camera to the front of his bike to shoot me. We rode along for a few km’s at a pretty good pace given the dust and loose metal until we stopped at a small cemetery on the left. As we waited for the team to catch up, a white van pulled out of the cemetery (Urupara) and headed off in front of us. Rob was in front on his AT and, knowing we didn’t have far to go and not wanting to upset the locals; he rode slowly behind the van which seemed to get slower and slower driving along the middle of the road. It was almost like they were deliberately blocking us and just as Kel got impatient and pulled out to ride past us all and overtake the van, the driver stopped in the middle of the road! Rob, who was just behind, damn near dropped his bike as he tried to avoid tail ending the van. Then the damn thing started off again but thankfully only for a few more hundred metres before pulling right (without indicating) into a driveway. I’m sure the same sense of relief came across us all as we finally passed the van and were able to pick up some speed again.
It wasn’t too much further down that road following the inlet to our left that we came to the end of the road and pulled over for another rest, some sightseeing and a photo session. For Camilla and I it had seemed as if we were heading the wrong way; we were somewhat turned around and disoriented by having the water on our left as we road south. Weren’t we supposed to be heading North?! Rob confirmed that we had indeed been heading south and that the water was not the open sea but the upper reaches of the Whangape Harbour.
We stopped at the waters edge for about half an hour as Rob checked out the hills above the church across the bay to our right. We could just see a road: Warawara Forest Rd, Pawarenga where the top road from Mitimiti should come out. Rob was checking it out for future opportunities and it did indeed look bloody attractive.
Oddly, along the coast opposite us were three old churches. We wondered why three churches would be needed and pondered whether it was because of tribal jealousy or perhaps different religious sects (Anglican, Catholic and Mormon). The churches were a nice touch though and did add some interest. We could not get to them this trip but put them into storage for the future. Looking on my Google map at home I see one was the Holy Trinity at Mehopa, Northlands but although I could see buildings on the map; I could not identify the others.
Attachments:November 11, 2015 at 11:29 am #10279
Having picked up Neil at the ferry, we now had three Africa Twins and their evil spawn: a Transalp. We had been stopped at the point for a good 20 minutes and the Honda riders decided that the world needed another photo of some Africa Twins so we lined em up and shot them! Mike added his Transalp to the shot so we shot them again!
Finally we decided we had better hit the road again as we had to get to Ahipara before the pub closed. We headed back out the road we had come in on and after some 8 to 10km turned left to explore Owhata Rd. This short gravel road led us out to the sea alongside a nice inlet.
At the end of the road there was a 4WD track with a vehicle warning. Ignoring the sign, Kel shot off to explore and I followed. Not far in Kel got stuck on a slippery rise and was giving the AT hell to try and get over the top. It looked impossible so I parked up the Ducati and went to push him. Only the two of us were in there at this point and I took the left hand path which proved a little easier. The Ducati, with its knobbly tyres, easily rolled on over and through to the other side where I parked it up.
Kel parked beside me and as we looked down to a possible beach excursion, wondering if the bikes would make it; we heard a call behind us.
The others had decided to follow us and Camilla, who had ridden through the muddiest parts, was falling slowly toward the bank. The grass was really long and soft so both she and the bike stopped rolling right away and Camilla got up immediately saying “I’m OK”. We all headed off to help and pretty soon realised that she had snapped the front brake lever off at the base. It was unusable. After a bit of thinking, we took out one of the long clutch case bolts and screwed that into the perch giving her a little bit of front brake.
Off we went again, heading back along Owhata Rd toward Ahipara and our overnight stop. We all knew it was not too far now so we left Mike Beuker to watch out for Camilla and her ‘No 8 wired’ brake lever and headed off. At the T intersection (left to Ahipara, right to Kaitaia), we stopped and waited, and waited, and waited. Finally Rob headed back to see what was taking so long and quickly turned up again with Mike and Camilla following. It seems we had been a bit over zealous on the bolt we put in the brake and hadn’t left enough free play. The brake fluid had heated and expanded pulling the brakes on and dragging Camilla to a stop (luckily not abruptly!). Mike had freed it up so she could continue and we all took off to Ahipara campground where our fellow local Geezer, Jef Iken, wasn’t waiting for us…………………300km out of the way and he was off sailing a Whaka!
At the campground we quickly sorted out the rooms and unpacked. Dinner and booze were on the agenda so, after a few of had showered, Kel headed into Kaitaia to get his tire popped on correctly and pick up beer while most of us headed to the shops for fish and chips and to buy beer across the road.
The beer shop was closed to our great disappointment. It was only 4pm, what the hell?! Rob and Camilla asked me to wait for their fish and chip order so they could shoot into Kaitaia for beerzies too.
Not long afterward we were all settled and the party started. I love these events as much for the overnight stays and inevitable party, as I do for the riding. All sorts of topics were discussed and of course we discussed the events of the day and planned the following days ride too. Kel had picked up a couple of old levers from a junk shop and I figured out how we could modify one to fit Camilla’s brake lever. It really just needed a tang cut off. No hacksaws were produced but Rob had a nice Leatherman style tool that had a saw in it. I started the cut and after a bit, left it to Mike and Michael to cut the rest off. That worked pretty well and we got stuck into our food and beverage (too much beer was bought but we were determined not to carry it all so partied on until around 11am when most hit the sack. All the beer was gone and all that was left was a little cider. Kel and I were in bunks and not yet really sleepy so we burbled on for another hour with the music playing us to sleep.
Day one was done and dusted!
Attachments:November 11, 2015 at 3:39 pm #10288
Day two and I’m awake at around 6am listening to the birds squabbling in the bamboo bush. Kel is awake but not making much sense: I though he was sleep talking but apparently he was talking to me. I get up and make some instant coffee. It’s bloody awful but coffee is the only thing that starts me up nowadays. I gave one to Kel and went outside to start loading up the bike again.
We had decided to get an early start so that the Aucklanders could ride back home at a reasonable hour (3pm was a target).
Most of the others were already up or just getting up so it all looked good for that early start.
Camilla however, had been slightly dizzy and was a bit uncoordinated. Sadly she had to make the call not to ride day two and called a friend to come collect her bike. Camilla seemed as disappointed as we were but you don’t take risks with possible head issues and she made the right call. It was a little sad leaving her behind but pretty soon we were all ready to go so we said or goodbyes and headed off toward the east coast.
We planned to stop in Taipa for breakfast and set of on the convoluted route the northern boys had planned for us: taking in lots more gravel and roads less travelled.
The first road we hit was the aptly named Sandhill Rd; a long and pretty much straight road north toward Unahi. If yesterday was dusty, this road hinted to us that today’s ride would be a dust dinner from go to wo. It was already quite mild at 7.30 and could only get hotter, drier and dustier! The sky was blue with some insubstantial cloud that fooled nobody! We’d have loved a light drizzle for an hour but it was not to be.
That first road was a hell of a start: it may have been kinda straight but it made up for that with abrupt little hillocks. A roller coaster it was and it offered us all a nice skills challenge to wake us up. To start with, the ground below was hidden below the dust and we couldn’t see it behind the bike in front. I found myself guessing a little what the terrain was doing beneath my tyres but hey, never mind: lean back, be light on the suspension and keep the power on a bit. All good, nobody crashed and nobody cried. We spread out after a while: a 500 metre gap seemed to work for visibility and the ability to breathe air with a dust to oxygen ratio below 2:1.
The road hooked back south down Gill Rd after a few km and took us into Kaitaia. We gassed up there and carried on south on SH1 for a while before turning in and out between main roads to find the best gravel. From SH1 we took a sharp left on Clough Rd and then hooked left again to explore Church Rd.
The forestry around wasn’t dense but was certainly pretty.
Church Rd took us to SH10 not far out of Kaingaroa but we turned off again just before Kaingaroa onto Duncan Rd to do more gravel. It seems we just were dusty enough yet! Duncan Rd led to Fairburn Rd and more loverly dusty gravel. Some was pretty thick but never really had us challenged.
We rode up and down Peria Rd and round and round Orua Rd which finally took us back to SH10 near Cable Bay and we eventually made it to Mangonui for brunch. Town was busy but not overly crowed. We rolled into town and parked at the seaside across from a pub and cafe. The sun beat heavy on our heads as we sat at that cafe eating bacon eggs and sausages with coffee. One of the local bike clubs had a gathering the night before and there were bikes everywhere.
This is the busy east side of the peninsula and you just never know who you meet on a bike ride. Kel recognized a gal from Northern rides past: she was across the road watching us park standing there with her helmet in hand. I recognised her too; we’d meet on other fund raisers and the Distinguished Gentlemans Ride recently. At the café there were a number of other bike riders already eating their breaky. We sat beside them, a couple of crusty gents with some nice ladies who were also friends of the Northland Geezers.
Lunch over, we headed south out of town and took a right turn into Backriver Rd. This looked promising and Rob thought it might take us through. We are exploring after all. Bad choice! The surface was thick, loose and dusty. I was sliding all over the show and had to be very careful on the throttle. The Ducati breaks loose pretty easy, even in low power mode (I had set it up with traction control off, ABS on low and down to 75HP). It was a pity really, the road would have been brilliant if it had been swept, lots of tight corners. We cut our losses then and doubled back to the highway riding along a few km’s to find a good route back into the rough stuff.
Not far down the road we stopped to check the map at Kohumaru Rd.
Kel and Mike hooked a right. Neil followed soon after and I took off too. Nice bit of road starting off quite fast. Some of the others were behind as we came to the intersection of Kohumaru and Kenana Rds. I stayed to wait for them after Kel, Michael and Neil took off straight ahead following Kohumaru Rd due South.
Rob and Mike arrived soon after and Rob again checked his maps. “Uh oh! Looks like they’ve gone the wrong way” he said. “That way hooks around to the north and takes them back to Mangonui”.
We waited…..and waited. We waited some more. Surely they’d stop, realize we weren’t coming and come back. ……….. No, not at all. Phone reception was crap but we finally contacted the front bikes. Kel reckoned Kohumaru Rd was all good and they’d carry, on meeting us further ahead. Rob, Mike and I took off East down Kenana Rd and then Tipatipa Rd at pace to catch up and finally did so 30 odd km later. Kel had ridden in to meet us and Neil wasn’t far behind. We all headed off again together to meet Michael who was somewhere up ahead.
Attachments:November 11, 2015 at 4:06 pm #10301
Neil slipped somewhat behind this time and had stopped to bend up his mudguard which had come loose and was dragging on the tyre. He turned up at the intersection of Oyangaroa Rd and Airstrip Rd where Michael was waiting. Neil set about fixing his Africa Twin: I was tempted to say something about Honda reliability but merely giggled internally as Neil worked on another ‘dodgy old Honda’.
Off we went again, following Otangaroa Rd south toward SH1 near Mangamuka. This was a sealed section of road but it was nice to get away from the dust for a bit. On SH1 we headed south again through Umawera until we hit Rangiahua Rd where we turned right to escape the main highway. Horeke Rd followed on from there and although it was a sealed road; it did offer us a few bloody awesome bends to negotiate!
Horeke Rd bought us back out to the Highway at Okaihau. We took Lake Rd to again get off the highway and skirted around Lake Omapere turning right onto TePua Rd and on to Kaikohe for gas.
Gassed up, we took Magakahia Rd this time in the opposite direction but instead of riding directly to Twin Bridges; we hooked a left into Orakau Rd and more dust!
Neil had been on his phone at times talking to his friend Dave who was somewhere around on his Yamaha FJ1200. They were determined to meet up. We continued riding along on Orakau Rd until we came to the junction of Orakau, Pokapu and Matawaia Maromaku Rd. There we rested and waited for Dave to show up. The dust had dried me out and I was filthy with it. The still cool orange juice in my panniers was luxurious. I ‘Pledged’ my visor clean and got out the music so we could relax in the sun to some tunes. Each sought a slice of shade under a tree as the sun was vicious.
Finally Dave arrived at the corner. Brief introductions were made and were then immediately followed by a frenetic ride down Pipiwai Rd to Wrights Rd where Kel, Rob and I stopped to wait for the team. This is where we said our goodbyes. Mike Beuker heading home, Michael, Rob and I to Casa Rob. Kel. Meil and Dave to Kel’s workshop probably to fondle his other Africa Twin. We dodged THAT bullet at Wrights Rd!
Rob led Michael and I down Wrights Rd where the dust again choked us, blinded us and made us all laugh with pleasure. These are Robs ‘home’ roads and he set a healthy pace. We spaced out a bit to reduce the choking sensation and to be able to see just a little bit. Around 30 more kilometres down the road we finally arrived back at Casa Searle. Rob kindly offered tea or coffee but I wanted to get home in the daylight and miss the traffic so I said my goodbyes and headed back home to Auckland.
Attachments:January 23, 2018 at 11:13 pm #20762
Rank: 50cc Rider
Nice Circuit, a group of mates did a similar ride on our LC4 640’s a few years prior.
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