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The Geezers Far North Adventure Ride

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  • #8599
    Michael J Breen
    • Rank: 400cc Rider

    Had a great weekend in Northland again. This time we headed up for the inaugural Geezers Far North Adventure Ride organised by Rob Searle and Kel Rood. This was a ride for experienced or brave folk. It wasn’t a ride where we’d be going slow and worrying about stone chips or other folks ideas about how fast we could enter or exit a corner.

    Sue was on again off again as to whether she would come with us. Sue doesn’t enjoy gravel riding so much on the back with me; perhaps that says a lot more about me than her……. Anyway, on Friday she decided to come and I’m sure everyone was really happy to be able to chuck their extra gear in the back of the 4WD and ride unencumbered.

    This time I bought two bikes and gave one to Paul O’Connor to ride while I rode the other. We swapped from time to time but in the end both of us preferred the 2 stroke 300 for this stuff as it’s so light and crazy fast but also docile if needed. Bill Cooney also came this time and bought along his Husaberg FE300 which is almost a KTM300EXC like mine. This was Bills first 2 stroke road ride for decades and it would be fair to say he’s a convert. The setup of his bike was a bit soft and it had not been thrashed by the previous owner so actually got better as the ride progressed and as Bill cleared out some of the carbon that must have built up inside it.

    We met at Rob’s place in Maungakaajhggvqa (or something like that anyway) and headed off to meet 3 or 4 others who were waiting for us about 65km away down the gravel road. The first section was banked switchbacks and the recent Rally of NZ had been through sweeping the road for us. This was almost Formula 1 stuff! The surface was hard pack with just enough moisture on top to keep the dust down but with so much traction it was hard to keep the front wheel of the KTM690 n the ground at times.

    We had with us two relative novices to gravel Adventure riding in Camilla on her Yamaha XT250 and Fiona on her SV650. Unfortunately, Fiona’s bike was shod with more road based tyres and that coupled with her almost ‘learner’ status made it a less pleasant experience than it could have been. The SV was a real handful and we could all see Fiona wasn’t having fun. It wasn’t a surprise she pulled out after about 50km. Hope to see you again Fiona but with better tyres and/or a lighter bike.

    I was having plenty of fun on the 690 and doing my usual thing: following real close so that I could feel the thud thud thud of the breeze on my helmet………..oops, that was rocks wasn’t it!? By the end of the ride my visor was stuffed, I had a broken indicator and the chin vent on my expensive Arai helmet was shattered.
    But I digress…..This first section was a bit fresh and there was also a bit of fog around so vision was challenging particularly with the low sun. We arrived at the first stop and met four more Geezers on a Husaberg 570, Beemer 1200, Kawasaki KLR650 and KTM 525. After topping up the tanks on the small tank bikes, we headed off to tear up the countryside.

    Bill was only just getting the hang of his ‘new’ 300cc Husaberg and wanted a ride on mine to compare. His had low gearing so 1st was almost useless on gravel and Bill was finding the power delivery a bit peaky and violent. It had that tendency to suddenly light up, wheelspin and fling gravel everywhere as he was in a corner so hanging on for dear life might describe his first few dozen km. We swapped bikes for a comparison and Bill liked my setup much better. Although there are some differences; these two bikes are very close. Mine has much taller gearing (14/41 vs his 14/47) plus I have a Rekluse clutch, a big gas tank and have set the suspension up for gravel rather than for trail riding. Bill really liked my setup and, once back on his bike, started using a gear or two higher so that the bike had a greater spread of power through big corners. Pretty soon he was speedway riding the thing and firing massive showers of gravel at me. I closed the gap so that the stones hit me low down and not in the chest or visor but I did get a fair amount of scary ‘heavy rain’ on occasion (actually this was a feature of the trip. I was showered in gravel by Bill, Paul, Rod, Gordon, Kel, Rob, Mike, Neil, Tonto and MIke at various places but that’s fine; I’m on an Adventure Enduro bike and it’s built tough to take that kind of abuse). The areas of pain were my shins where there was a gap between my boot and knee guard and my chest because I’d forgotten my bloody chest protector! I had a chest protector but could not access it until we met Sue at the Tokatoka Tavern near Dargaville where we stopped for lunch.
    The scene was set and flying metal was to be a feature of this ride. My personal score was two headlights, one indicator, one visor, two fork protectors and lots of little dents etc all over other bikes. Tonto reckons the two strokes fire out way more stones than the four strokes and we confirmed that later when Bill and I swapped places.

    After lunch we headed out for more fun and excitement. Most of the riders are very experienced and ride very hard compared to most other Adv rides I’ve been on. Camilla, on the 250 Yammy, was new to the game but was doing really well. We were running the corner man system and she was never very far behind the bunch. We never really waited more than 10 minutes and Kel was tail end Charlie so was making sure she learned some new technique and stayed out of trouble.

    Toward the end of the day we stopped at an intersection to regroup. Kel pointed out the Beemer 1200 headlight glass to me. It was shattered to hell and they said I’d ‘done it’. I shrugged and laughed which did seem to make the owner a little peeved. In my defence I’d have to say I wasn’t the only one spitting gravel: EVERYONE was INCLUDING that Beemer! As I passed most people I tried to go wide and throttle off a bit but, on thick gravel, even the slightest acceleration will fire rocks backward. The lesson for ALL gravel riders is not to blame but to prepare. It’s absolutely inevitable that you and your bike WILL be hit by rocks. Protect the expensive parts at the front!
    The Beemer rider decided to pull out after that and didn’t come out with us the next day. A pity really as he’s a nice bloke and a good rider too.

    Lots more cool gravel, lots more swapping positions so we could tailgate other riders and then, about mid afternoon, we came to the first ‘challenge’ section. The paper road Rob, Tonto and Kel had found was mainly grassy but was also pretty rutted. Before the top it became very boggy and had deep bloody trenches that were something of a problem for heavier bikes and less knobbly tyres. I was on the 300 two stroke and found it challenging but not really a problem. Clutch control was the key and with the Rekluse auto clutch in my bike coupled with the tiny mass: I just cruised through the messy stuff. I stopped just past the top with Rod, Rob, Gordon and Bill. After about 15 minutes there was no sign of the rest so Rob and I headed back to help them out of the goo. We found Mike, Fiona, Neil, Mike2 and Paul having a bit of trouble. Of them, Paul was having the most trouble so, after helping Mike 1 get his Zooki 400 past the slipperiest bit (he had cloggy tyres tread), I walked back to help Paul. Paul was puffing, red in the face and unable to speak human words although there was a kind of growling coming from him that made me want to turn around and walk the other way! Turns out the 690KTM was too tall for him to get his feet down and it also had Adventure street tyres with too much air pressure. After letting out some air I rode it up for him and went back to get my 300. When I got there Paul was sitting on it with the back wheel in a deep rut and the front on the grass; he was knackered and couldn’t muscle it around. I helped him pull it into the rut and he decided to ride it up. “Watch the wheelspin” I said, too late as he showered me with mud as I pushed him to get it started forward. “Let the auto clutch do the work, put in a gear higher” I said as he wheelspun up the hill.

    That got us most of the way up but I’d stopped ‘Pauls’ 690 behind Gordon who was having a bit of trouble on some really slimy uphill clay. I pushed a bit and weighted down the rear end enabling him to ride up that bit and we went back for the 690. By this time I was pretty bloody knackered myself so with the help of Mike 1, we pushed it up that bit. By this time Rob had cleared mud from Mike 2’s bike and decided to ride it up for him as Mike was almost as knackered as Paul had been. Rob gave it death and that momentum carried him up without any drama at all; we all cheered him and I’m sure he smiled.
    There wasn’t much more in it that day. The paper road had taken us a good couple of hours so we pretty much headed off to our nights stop.

    By first days end we had lost two riders and all of the rest of had big grins on our mugs; even Camilla who had done a fabulous job on her first ever gravel adventure ride day. We stopped in Dargaville for the night while Sue and Camilla took the 4WD up to the town to collect take-aways and booze for the nights recap. The after match function was excellent and we all got on very well. Of course some of knew some of the others but I don’t think anyone knew everyone so it was a swap stories night where we talked about the days ride and about our lives. Much beer and cider was consumed but we all went to bed a little early knowing there was another big day ahead.

    Day 2 follows tonight

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

    Where’s day 2 @michael_j_breen?

    Keith Fenwick
    • Rank: 400cc Rider

    I was looking forward to it as well, the plot thickens.

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