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Slidecars in the Top of The South

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    • Town/City: Wellington
    • Bike: BMW R80 G/S, R100GS & M72 Sidecar, Gilera Runner ST200
    • Rank: 1200cc Rider

    Day One – Wellington To Hanmer Springs
    Gus was only a few weeks out from being rebuilt – had a shake down run across the Remutakas to Carterton for mushrooms, but no offroad yet. So a wee bit of an unknown. But as ready as I could make him for this ride.

    Heard the others go past on the motorway Wednesday night at 10.30pm, very distinctive sounds, but I wasn’t quite ready to go, & given loading for the overnight ferry to Picton wasn’t scheduled until after 11.00pm, not really feeling pressured to get to the Ferry. Calm, clear night, no wind.

    Met at Bluebridge. 2 solos – Bill on a Triumph, Tony on a Honda Rally bike. Four slidecars, 2 LHS – me on Gus & a Velorex 562 sidecar, Norbert on an R60 & Ural sidecar, 2 RHS – MD on a Ural, & Ken on a Dnepr, both BMW repowered. No passengers.

    Bugger all sleep for the night. Heard the safety briefing at 2.30am, up at 5.15am.

    We hit Port Underwood Road in the early morning light. Very picturesque, but hard on the eyes once we topped the hill (sunstrike), tight, & once the seal ended quite corrugated on the bends.

    I was tail end charlie. A slow people mover just ahead, on a winding descent into Robin Hood Bay. The bike stalled, we were going too slow to crash start, so I hit the starter. There was a big BANG, & then the starter screeched over, but would not engage. I knew exactly what had happened. Cheap valeo clone, & the nose casting had broken. Rolled to a stop, fished the broken pieces out of the flywheel & then enlisted the aid of 2 burly Gerrman tourists freecamping on the foreshore to assist me crash start Gus.

    Moving quickly along, a few kms on found Tony coming back towards me to check what was going on. Together we pressed on to catch the others. But a few kms after meeting, on a downhill, there was another issue. This time with a noise at the front, then the brake locked. I assume a piece of gravel had lodged between the magnet & speedo pickup, & broken that away. The magnet then stuck to the disc, & locked the brake. Rolled the wheel backwards, discovered the issue, picked the magnet out, then continued on.

    After a magical mystery tour of Blenhiem, found the 5Tapped Cafe & Bar (behind Harvey Norman) for breakfast & a coffee. We used that as a base to tap a number of Airhead contacts to try to source at least a Valeo starter nose casting. The backup plan was for me to leave the bike at Picton & take the ferry back to Wellington to pick up a Bosch starter I have salted away.

    After a few calls, MD was successful in finding a working Valeo, rebuilt, but not fully trusted by a prior owner, & held back 20 yrs as spares. That’ll do nicely. Huge thanks to Wayne Brock for not only giving it to me, but also for taking time out of his day to deliver this to us. MD quickly fitted it in the car park, & we were mobile again. Only 10.30ish so hadn’t lost too much time.

    Over Taylor Pass, one of the fords had a huge hole in the middle of it, which was briefly exciting, regroup at Awatere Valley Rd.

    Whilst we had planned on looking up Mt Altimarloch, they are reporting to be logging up there, & we were already running late, so by passed that.

    I always find the Aware Valley / Molesworth interesting but long.

    The speckling on the photo is airborne dust

    Yes, there are two Slidecars in this picture

    Stopped at the Molesworth Cob cottage, then the Homestead to regroup. The Homestead is still munted from the Kaikoura earthquake.

    Part way along Molesworth bottomed out the front suspension, & dislodged the snap ring that the fork guard rides on. Thought that unsual, it was twisted, so I was unable to reinstall it, so took it off. The zip ties I used for suspension travel indicators weren’t at the bottom of the forks, so a head scratcher. Maybe I hadn’t calculated spring coil bind correctly – I thought I had plenty of room.

    Jollies Pass Rd was rough, & full of significant potholes.

    Made Hanmer Springs, & took a cabin at Alpine Adventure Holiday Park – we’d been there last year. Cooked dinner rather than try lucky dip at the pubs.

    Google maps tells me 264kms, & about 6 hrs riding time.

    • Town/City: Wellington
    • Bike: BMW R80 G/S, R100GS & M72 Sidecar, Gilera Runner ST200
    • Rank: 1200cc Rider

    Day Two: Hanmer Springs to Clarence River Reserve:

    We decided to take the Inland Rd through to Kaikoura, in part to allow the others to see the damage from the earthquake. It also allowed us to gas up in Kaikoura, & also get in food for the trip into the Clarence River Reserve.

    There’d been a few changes since I was through last. The road diversion down into the stream bed has gone & the road was reinstated back above it. Last time it just ended…

    Lunch at a Bakery in Kaikoura, then took SH1 north to see the road repairs. Still a lot of NCIR vehicle around one year on from my last visit. Went as far as the 10 minute queue near Ohau Point. But we didn’t want to wait, so turned around at that point.

    I took a few quick snaps from the moving slidecar (camera on a tether around my wrist) – I knew there was no traffic behind me. But missed the bigger slips.

    Gassed up, got in supplies, then headed back to the Kahutara Stream.

    Access to the Clarence River Reserve is along the streambed, then up into a farm track. There is locked gate further along which you need a code to allow access. The track winds up into the foothills, then along a ridgeline, & up onto a steep switch back climb. At least part of this shows as a slip / scar in the hillside. Around about then you realise how high you are – stunning views back to the Kaikoura flats, but if you get it wrong they’ll need to chopper your body out.

    Yes, there is a sidecar in this picture

    Looking back towards the Inland Kaikoura Road

    Peak elevation is Blind Saddle at 1057m. From there the ride descends via a track cut into the hillside

    Then a series of loops.

    I had been Tail End Charlie again, taking photos, then riding on to part catch the group, then taking more photos. That meant I needed to press on in portions of the track. The greater speed meant that the forks were getting a real work out. Unfortunately on a couple of erosion ruts, the forks bottomed out fairly hard, & immediately after one such hit I noticed a big fork oil spill. Closer inspection showed the fork had been bottoming into the disc bolts, & this had shattered a portion of the fork leg, which resulted in the dust seal & oil seal retaining clip coming free. To push these back in required the removal of the fork guard, a fairly painful process (both in time & literally, when you are juggling a hot brake disc & an allen key that would work better if you removed the wheel). Skinned my knuckle big time then, which coated everything in blood. Yummy. Thanks Ken for staying with me while I worked that out.

    The forks were still useable – I just needed to make sure I didn’t bottom out. But the brakes were covered in fork oil, & were…challenging.

    Through two fords of the Herring Stream, to Wardens Hut.

    Clarence has its own little micro climate, & I’ve always found it bloody hot in there. This year was no exception. I expect it is also freezing in winter.

    Made Wardens about 3.00. This was built in 2007, & is a very comfortable modern hut, which we used as our base overnight. 12 berth hut. Rain water tank, typical DoC composting loo (with its own little eco system) 200 metres away.

    It was pretty hot, so stayed there until about 4.00, & then suitably coffeed up, Bill, Norbert, Tony & I decided to press on towards Forbes Hutt to look over that.

    The track runs along the stream bed with about 16 stream crossing to a junction. At the junction you can chose to go to Forbes Hut over a hill, or continue to follow the stream. I believe the stream bed is the prettier route, but the others headed across the hills so I followed. This has some clay component, & I bottomed out again on an erosion rut, which required rebuilding the fork leg again. Fortunately Norbert came up with a great ratcheting tool which made this a relatively quick affair.

    Met Tony & Bill coming back up from Forbes Hut. It was full – looked like a family was in it. Bill wasn’t keen to go down to stream – he was concerned the Triumph would take a while to de-water.

    A large part of why I was so keen on the Clarence is that the confluence of the Clarence & Herring Stream was so damned photogenic when I was in a few years ago, so I was keen to ride down to the stream. Managed to convince Tony & Norbert that it was the right thing to do, so off we toddled. Another 5 stream crossings on that route.

    Unfortunately not quite the right time for this photo

    Similar spot, different time of the day, from 2011

    Back to Wardens (16 more crossings), cooked up dinner (vension sausages, bread & Uncle Bens rice).

    Just as dusk was approaching a stock truck arrived from Muzzle Station, driven by one of the farm workers. He had 3 bulls in the back. So we chatted to him for a while about his role, the track & life. Interesting chappy. Lived here all of his life, used to walk in when he was a kid (4 hrs he reckoned it took him). He’d just bulldozed the track. He also talked about the Kaikoura Earthquake, what it felt like, & what it took to reopen the track in. Part of the track was lost. Took a contractor 2 weeks just working on one portion of it to get it open.

    It lowered our feelings about to being a little hardcore bringing in sidecars, given he was going to do that track, in a truck, in the dark.

    After he left settled in with a nice bit of rum & chippies for the night, later by candlelight.

    • Town/City: Wellington
    • Bike: BMW R80 G/S, R100GS & M72 Sidecar, Gilera Runner ST200
    • Rank: 1200cc Rider

    Day Three: Clarence River Reserve to Hanmer Springs:

    Bacon & eggs for breakfast.

    Packed up the sidecar, tidied the cabin, & the headed for the summit with a sense of foreboding, nervous about the switchback descents on the other side of Blind Saddle. A little rain overnight that came to nothing – which could mean that the other side of the range might be wet. Given a heavy clay component to the track….ummm.

    And then there was the issue of – ‘Brakes, they only slow you down’… Juan Manuel Fangio.

    Beautiful day at Blind Saddle itself, floating above the clouds. We spend a bit of time on the summit making the most of that, before descending into the gloom.

    Hauling on the brakes gave me some retardation, & I was glad I had a low 1st gear. But I was fairly relieved to get past the switchback unscathed.

    The clouds were burning off as we came further down. Took the Inland Road, then turned south towards the Hundalees. Stop/goes at a couple of roadwork sites. The workers were always friendly, one was a young tourist on a working holiday. They all waved to the passing traffic.

    Just after the Hundalees, we took a minor detour right onto Ferniehurst Rd, through to Hookhamsnyvy Road (yes that’s a real name – not misspelled). This was shown in MDs Kiwimaps book as a 4WD track, but was actually a delightful flowing gravel road through Mendip Station, with cattlestops between paddocks. That hooked back onto Leader Rd, & looped us back to Cheviot for lunch.

    Onto reserve just outside Cheviot. Last year I was the most economical of the five sidecars. This year, 1st equal for fuel consumption. The difference is in exhaust & gearing. Same motor. Same carbs. Same sidecar (weight & air resistance).

    Lunch at Paddock Cafe. Very nice lamb pie & coffee. We were there last year as well. Unfortunately the staff got a little confused with some touring Aussies on bikes ordering on our table no. Nothing that a large appetite couldn’t resolve.

    Gassed up at the 24 hr unmanned prepay Allied Fuel station. The Challenge pumps round the the corner weren’t working.

    I was originally going to detour around Random Spur Rd, as that runs over farmlands, is a non maintained road, & I thought it might stress the forks. But as it happens, while it was pugged up from recent rain, it was fine.

    That led onto Kaiwara Road, which we had huge fun on last year. A few gates on the way through. Nothing our friendly rally bike rider Tony couldn’t help us with. Real Cowboy & Indian feeling territory.

    That runs onto St Leonards Rd, & out to SH7. Then the drone back to Hanmer Springs. Actually pretty cool travelling at the back. The four sidecars set up a sound like a radial aircraft engine.

    Different cabins this time. Five piled into Cabin 22. I took a little solar powered cabin 23. Fish & chips & burgers for dinner. Tony got a ride in a sidecar.

    • Town/City: Wellington
    • Bike: BMW R80 G/S, R100GS & M72 Sidecar, Gilera Runner ST200
    • Rank: 1200cc Rider

    Day Four: Hanmer Springs to Picton

    Headed over Lewis Pass with an intention to stay at the River Inn at Takaha.

    The Lewis is good riding & very scenic. But the weather had definitely changed & the 26 degree days earlier in the week were now 16 degrees at Hanmer, & 10-11 degrees over the Lewis. Given I was still dressed for the hotter days, I froze. Scenery becomes less attractive when you are cold.

    Stopped at Springs Junction for a pie & coffee to warm up. Took the opportunity to slip in my jacket liner to improve comfort.

    The GPS died right as we were about to set off. Given I’d changed the batteries at Hanmer I was perplexed as to why that might be. My only explanation is that I may have hiffed the new batteries & kept the old ones.

    Had a bit of serious sliding action going thru Westbank Road. The brakes were largely back after 2 days of hard riding. I think I’ve basically burned off a lot of the fork oil contamination

    Up & over Maruia Saddle. Very pretty & tranquil in there. But not somewhere to be going fast & then met a 4WD. Which we did meet. Four of them, fortunately all parked as I came across them.

    Down to Murchison for a gas-top up, then pressing on down SH6, turning off to do the Tadmore Glenhope Rd. Interesting to note ‘no long vehicles’ signage – last time I was through there they were logging, which really encouraged you to keep left.

    Tui Rd, which leads into Sherry River Rd. In the forestry section I hit a couple of erosion ruts hard. The first popped the dust seal out & I thought I’d gotten away with it. But actually behind the fork guard it’d bent the retaining spring clip, & the next one knocked that completely out. The only way to repair that was to clip the twisted portion off. And there went my hopes of continuing. The spring clip holds in the oil seal & fork bushes. If those started to move I was in trouble. So at the next stop I advised the others I was going to call it a day & head for the ferry.

    So off through Nelson (blowing like a bar steward there), over the Whangamoas at speed (well relative sidecar speed – no one passed me), Queen Charlotte Drive (not too much traffic surprisingly) & back to Picton at 5.00. Booked on the interislander (as they don’t differentiate between sidecars & normal bikes). A pint & chips at the Seamus Inn, then onto the Kaiarahi for the 7.30pm sailing.

    Met Kerry P on his way back to Wellington on his R9T scrambler. Thought I recognised him. I’d bought touratech pannier for my 640a years ago, & it turns out we had a few mutual friends. Had a very convivial cruise back to Wellington with him. Docked at 11.00pm, home shortly after.

    I’m not sure that the fork legs are supposed to look this are they?

    Anyone got WP 4860 fork top (in good nick) they want to move on? These were from a 2003 KTM 250SX

    • Town/City: Tauranga
    • Bike: Suzuki DR650 ADV, BMW R100GS
    • Rank: Round the World Adventure Globetrotter

    Oh Crap! Thats nasty.

    • Town/City: Wellington
    • Bike: BMW R80 G/S, R100GS & M72 Sidecar, Gilera Runner ST200
    • Rank: 1200cc Rider

    Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of humour:

    The top fork leg that sent me home (because of damage) would not relinquish the oil seal & bushes without me attacking it with a Dremel. The brake disc bolts had effectively peened the seal in place.

    The Valeo starter motor Wayne provided in Blenheim got me home – but no further. Tonight, after fixing the fork damage, I went to take the sidecar for a test ride. This is the first ride since coming off the ferry. I got as far as the top of the drive. I stopped to shut the garage door, & when I went to restart, the starter had died. I can smell burnt electrics. I suspect the magnets have won their battle with the epoxy that held them in place… Still, for a cup of coffee & a chocolate chip cookie, I’m not complaining. It did an excellent job.

    This from MD:

    After Steve returned we went to Takaka and stayed at The River Inn.

    I stayed on the next day, the others headed for the boat after a detour to Caanan and a visit to The Pacific Motorcycle Company in Richmond.

    Bill & Tony detoured over the Maungatapu Track.

    Great ride & everyone should visit the Clarence Reserve.

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