1st July 2008
Trevor Brooks was on the wrong side of the planet for the Longest Day Ride, so he took his Triumph T100C for his own Shortest Day antipodean adventure instead...
In 2005 I missed the Longest Day Ride by a whisker. In í06 I missed by a couple of weeks and in Ď07 I was three months adrift. There was no chance Iíd make the í08 ride so I got out for a ride of my own on the same day, our shortest day down here.
This week the bike is pretty standard, aside from the 50s tank badges. It runs ye olde points but Iíve ditched the Zener for a modern reg/rect box and thereís a chrome slide in the Mk1 concentric.
From my forest hideaway I have 10 miles of cross-city madness to negotiate before swinging the Triumph down the steep winding hairpins of Galston Gorge to the old wooden bridge across the creek, then snaking back up the other side. Iím off to Wisemanís Ferry, 50 miles northwest.
The next 40 miles are an invigorating ride through wintry air along a broad rocky ridge. On my right the bush falls away eastward to the Pacific. To my left the rock tumbles down to plains stretching west to the Blue Mountains. Iíve come to love this environment, though I appreciate the green and shady lanes of England as much as I do this sunburned country.
Eighteen months ago Iíd ridden the bike a thousand punishing miles through the heat and dust of an outback summer. Actually, Iíve always wondered where the outback stopped and the inland began. Or is it the other way round? Anyway, that ride didnít do the engine any favours, so in early í07 the bore went out to +20 thou with new pistons, rings, valves, guides and springs plus some work on the combustion chambers. Now, she sings.
With just short of 50 miles on the clock I pull into Hawkins lookout, high above the Hawkesbury Riverís deep green water. The cool of the morning is slowly yielding to the warmth of the day and I stretch in the sun. Two hundred years ago the steep 3 mile descent to the river took convict iron gang number four more than 3 years of backbreaking labour to complete. For me itís just a gentle glide down to the settlement named after Solomon Wiseman.
Wiseman was a Thames lighterman who moonlighted for the British government, taking sloop-loads of spies across to France. Not wanting to return empty handed he brought a few French spies back with him, plus the odd barrel of wine. His reward was transportation to Sydney (Ďthankee kindly yer worshipí) arriving in August 1806. Ten years later he was granted 200 acres on the fertile Hawkesbury river plain to help feed a hungry colony. He started the ferry service and got a finger in several commercial pies, leaving his mark and name on the township.
I take the ferry across to the western side for a run up to the Settlers Inn. This is a 12 mile stretch of twisting, partly unsealed roadway with valley views across to sandstone outcrops. The bike responds eagerly to a lift in velocity, except for the speedo, which gets a nervous twitch past 60 and panics over 70.
After lunch at the Inn I ride further north, over 20 miles of dirt and gravel masquerading as a road. Recent rains have dampened much of the dust but opened up plenty of potholes. I relax my grip on the bars and let the bike walk around on the loose stuff, mostly using just engine braking and gear selection to give some control. Under light braking Iím getting the back end to gently step out before feeding in the throttle at the apexes of the bends, woohoo!
Letís face it though, the T100C is styled only vaguely on the lines of the 50ís enduro bikes, long before we discovered real trail bikes with seats that go right up to the filler cap. But itís great fun, even if this rough going plays havoc with bodywork, mine as well as the bikeís.
Once up out of the valley I turn south, ridge-running on tarmac once again. The Pirelli Scorpions perform well on dirt and tar, without the thrumming you get with knobblier profiles. The road carves its way through the bush for 18 miles and Iím glad I raised the gearing by an extra tooth at the gearbox. Not much on paper, but 60mph is a few hundred revs lower and noticeable on the road, in fact it would happily cope with 2 extra teeth for general road work. If I did more off-road miles Iíd swap back to the standard 18, but Iíd love 5 well-spaced cogs in the box.
Mid-afternoon and the sun is low as I swing westward back towards Wisemanís. Thereís now a noticeable difference in temperature between riding in the shade and in the sun. The road descends to run alongside the river again, a gloriously fast section, with 12 miles of continuous sweeping curves.
On this faster going I sometimes feel I missed an opportunity when rebuilding the engine. I considered fitting a 530cc kit, a larger single carb and manifold, and siamesed exhaust, not for more top speed, just a little extra torque and slightly longer legs. I was put off because I wanted to avoid any need to rebalance the crank and the temptation to re-engineer it to a 76į throw.
12 miles on at Spencer I grab a drink from the general store. In summer this place buzzes with houseboats. Today thereís just me watching a lone fisherman hang a solitary line over the side of his dingy.
Another 17 miles and Iím back at Wisemanís fueling up. The bike tends to pink under load on standard petrol, but runs well on 98 octane and a splash of valvemaster. Iíve covered about 130 miles from home and, at little more than 50mpg on these roads, thatís close to the range limit.
The day finishes with close to 180 miles on the clock. Last year my shortest day ride turned into four days on the road. This time Iím at home with my feet up just as the Longest Day Ride kicks off. Maybe running so late for í08 means Iíll be in perfect time for í09. Maybe!
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