50CC Newcastle to Perth on 149cc's (my 1st) - Nov 2013

Skidoo

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LEADUP
I had been discussing and researching long distance rides with several people on small capacity bikes for about six months, I purchased a Honda 125e a few months ago successfully completing a SS1000m. This air cooled bike is not capable of anything greater than this as it took me seven minutes shy of 24hrs to complete the ride. I re-read ride reports that Peter (OX), Craig and Franz did and decided on the Yamaha YZF R15 as my next tool in an attempt of a 50CC. I enjoyed the scenery on the East West route and had travelled it several times this year so it made perfect sense to attempt another 50CC with a possibility of extending it to a 100CCC, even though the maths didn’t add up.

I starting trawling the net and purchased a 2012, YZF R15 with only 3,000 kilometres on the clock. The 1,800km return trip to pick it and another bike up was just a slight inconvenience in the planning.

The proposed ride presented me with two challenges; firstly I needed to substantially increase the lighting capacity of the bike and secondly needed to fit additional fuel that could be utilised effectively. I spent time experimenting with lighting, I contacted Yamaha Australia seeking assistance regarding alternator output and the power needed to operate the injector system, they didn’t bother replying.

Ox sent a volt meter and some tubing to assist in mounting the driving lights, it was modified to operate three banks of 20 watt LED’S (1.67amps draw per bank of 20w). I experimented replacing the standard headlights (35w/35w) with HID’s (35w/35w). Without running any LED’S, the running voltage dropped from 14.1v to 12.9v (5,000rpm). A substantial improvement in light output was noted on low beam, high beam was substantially brighter but unable to be adjusted suitably when switching from high to low beam. After testing I decided to discard the HID’s and finally selected a 20 watt bank of fog LED’S to assist low beam and two 20 watt banks of led spots to compliment high beam. I was happy with the output and the alternator output was a continuous 13.1v and I had the option to turn one led bank off if required and this doubled as a redundant system.

I utilised the ‘old’ milk crate again, it is well known to many riders and has made the pilgrimage numerous times already to the West. I fastened it to the frame with the aid of ‘Gater Straps’ allowing the Jerry can to be utilised efficiently during refuelling.

Bike serviced, new Pirelli tyres, plan re-checked, fuel stops visualised, weather suitable pending the traditional winds along the long flats this time of year, all go, can’t wait to get started.

I departed Dubbo on the R15 late Thursday to check in at the motel that night for a Friday 0230hr departure. After eating a light dinner at the motel and consuming several glasses of water I finally showed and hit the sack at 2100hrs but as usual found it difficult to drift off due to the pending trip.

Alarm chimed at 0115hrs, I had a hot shower, packed the bike and pulled into Perry Street BP Newcastle at 0210hrs. I felt I was mentally prepared as the previous coast to coast runs had given me exposure to what I will experience during the crossing. On arrival at the BP I was greeted by Bill, I have lost the number of times Bill has come out early to sign forms, he’s a legend. The bike was fuelled, the 10 litre Jerry filled to half capacity as I didn’t want to carry unnecessary weight, OX and Craig arriving shortly after, we chatted for some time discussing the madness, lighting and the plan.

I purchased some gum and the depart receipt was stamped 0228hrs. After goodbyes I departed on my first leg to Gilgandra stopping some 1km away to give way to a train. Roadworks just outside Denman stalled my progress again for a few minutes. The traffic controller chatted, asked where I was going this time of morning and said, ‘is that possible on a bike’? He flagged me through wishing me luck and apologetic for the delay.

Riding small bore bikes long distances is hard work, you have to continually ride them and just twisting the throttle doesn’t always increase your speed. Any change in the pitch of the road has a direct impact on forward speed and making appropriate efficient gear changes at the right time is crucial otherwise forward momentum is lost quickly and time cannot be made up except in reducing fuel stops times or trading of rest stops. It is worth being mindful that ‘flogging’ the bike is not in the bikes or the riders best interest as the purpose of the ride is to complete the ride then you need to get home.

A few kilometres out of Denman it was getting cold, I had underestimated how cold it was going to be, after passing through several gullies it cut right through me. My hands were becoming increasingly colder and uncomfortable, there was no protection provided by the R15. I had worn the wrong gloves, I had liners but they were in my pack and I decided if things don’t get warmer I would have to stop at Dunedoo, the stop would not be wasted.

I felt if I refuelled early at Dunedoo I would save time later by not refuelling outside Gilgandra. I did not like the cold and my mind was jolted back into reality when a Kangaroo was about to jump across the road in front of me approximately 25km East of Dunedoo. I could hear its nails on the bitumen as it pumped its powerful legs against the ground; it was eerie as the R15 is a relatively quiet bike and all you hear at cruising speed is the wind, I could clearly hear the noise of the kangaroo jumping across the roadway. I hit the brakes and locked up the rear wheel giving me a buffer zone and it passed safely in front of me, I have had too many altercations with wildlife lately and spotted several small groups of Kangaroos on the side of the road for the next dozen or so kilometres.

The LED’S illuminated them clearly with plenty of time allowing me to take evasive action as required. Passed through Dunedoo, it was slightly warmer now and was almost at Mendooran, happy with the pace when the low fuel warning light glowed, I backed off slightly hoping I could roll into Gilgandra, dream on. I knew I couldn’t but tried anyway without sacrificing too much time. I ran out of fuel about 10km short of Gilgandra, I moaned in pain as I dismounted the R15 in a fairly unorthodox manner, normally I exercise every 30 minutes however I found it very difficult and painful and altered the exercise program to hourly, deciding this was as long as I could safely stretch exercise breaks out as it was a painful process moving around at all on the R15. I unhooked the Jerry and quickly dumped fuel into the tank. I opened my first bag of trail mix and placed it on my console allowing me to select the fruit/nuts as required. I arrived and refuelled at Gilgandra, topped up my camel back, completed my fuel stop paperwork, filed the fuel receipt and continued towards Warren. Wind was minimal and I was travelling to time, I passed through Warren and be blowed I hit a red light, more roadwork’s. Time ticked away, finally a few cars and a truck appeared, I finally had clearance to proceed and pushed it (as much as you can push a 150cc), the road had a badly corrugated section that shook the bike violently and reluctantly had to back off. Once I passed through the corrugated section I started to relax and riding was now a pleasure, the temperature had warmed, wind was minimal and I was now riding in synergy with the R15, we were finally working together.


Cockpit is at capacity

Refuelled both tanks at Cobar, had an iced Coffee on the run and departed quickly heading towards my next fuel stop between Wilcannia and Broken Hill. Had a great run passing Emmdale Roadhouse, would have loved to have stopped for a meal as they provide awesome meals and are friendly hosts with a motorcycle background. As I passed Wilcannia a group of young girls were walking across the main road and one played chicken with me, this is a regular occurrence with the locals, as I continued I shook my head as I passed the burned out general store and motel with barbed wire woven into its fence keeping unwelcome guests out.

I continued, weather was absolutely perfect, fuel warning light came on again and the bike started spluttering about 67kms West of Wilcannia, I refuelled, quick nature stop and gone just outside five minutes. Traffic from Cobar was light and the only wildlife spotted were the usual herds of goats that are usually benign and three emus that weren’t really sure where they wanted to go. It’s a bit harder to escape their path on the R15 when you slow down and then try to accelerate away from their path.


Reducing wind resistance increases speed by up-to 8kph

As I pulled into Broken Hill I noticed a familiar BMW and clocked in at 1535hrs, five minutes outside my plan and things were looking good. Quickly refuelled both fuel tanks, had a Kit Kat and lubed the chain, Allan had travelled some 500km to say hi. We departed about 20 minutes later towards Coburn, Allan tried pacing me but soon realised that any undulation in the road or slight change in wind direction caused my speed to change substantially. My speed varied between 85 to 105kph (GPS).

The run into Yunta was fine; I had to pull over just outside Mannia Hill as I was hit by continual leg cramps. Allen stopped next to me, I had a quick stretch and the R15 wouldn’t start. I had only been stopped for a minute or two and I said something like I’m stuffed now! My mind was focused on the ride, running to the plan and this was not in the plan. Allen said something to me but I really didn’t hear what he said. I subconsciously checked ensuring the stand was up, kill switch on, pulled in the clutch and pressed the starter again, presto it bust into life purring at 1,250rpm. We headed off, Allen had to refuel and I wasn’t going to stray from my plan and he soon caught up some kilometres later. Allan commented later that he was surprised how long it had taken him to catch up.

I had to dump the Jerry into the bike some distance before Wilmington for the run through Horrocks Pass, it was wet, real wet and due to the poor light and time of day there was no chance of a banner shot. I had been looking at fanging it through the hills however there was too much to risk, I had never ridden in the wet with the R15 before, come to think of it I had only ridden about 500 kilometres on the R15, 400 of them were to get to the starting point of the ride.

Refuelled at 2031hrs at Port Augusta, 21 minutes outside schedule, I still had to tighten, lube chain, check and add 200mls engine oil. I also removed the low beam led bank as the front nose section of the bike was vibrating starting about 500kms ago; I think this may have started near Warren with the severe corrugations. Overall this was a slow stop, I really didn’t want to get back on the bike, my legs were burning, knees aching and I was looking for excuses to abort the ride. I had been in continual discomfort since Broken Hill and until now had been able to mask it well. I was still on a mental high however that was in conflict with my body.

To help overcome fatigue I consumed small amounts of trail mix on a regular basis and this also provided nutrition for me as I had not scheduled breaks for meals due to time constraints. From previous rides I notice my attentiveness always drops from one to one and a half hours after sunset, to mitigate this fatigue, I eat and carry out mental calculations to remain alert until this phase passes. It usually takes about half an hour to pass and doesn’t return until many hours later where I repeat the process. Tiredness and fatigue tends to creep up on you and it’s important to know your body well. How do you identify fatigue, this may vary somewhat between riders, however lack of responsiveness is a real safety issue. I actively look for fatigue by executing various mental calculations, assessing my alertness to the environment, any changes in speed and my riding technique.

Headed off towards Ceduna, wind was picking up, my body started to ache again; I refocused and concentrated on fighting the wind and undulations in the roadway attempting to maintain a reasonable speed. Allan took the lead, wow, what lights, that was one less thing to worry about, saw a kangaroo but other than that had an event free run into Ceduna arriving at 0251hrs (EST).

A long lonely road across the ‘Paddock’

Pulled into the Ampol, dismounted and plunged the fuel nozzle into my tank, waited, waited and waited. Allen walked around the corner going inside, I followed a minute or so later, the place was open but we couldn’t find anyone. More time wasted here, we then headed off to the Shell and refuelled, food availability was limited, frozen hamburgers and sangers were available, I really didn’t feel like getting crook so stayed with the trail mix. Allan was talking to the attendant about something ‘where are you going’; I really didn’t hear the conversation as I was in a world of my own. Allan had arranged a motel, I was reluctant to stay in one but geared to sleep on the ground minimising off saddle time. I have previously found that time can be saved not unloading and reloading the bike after a rest.

The key was in the door waiting for us; I rechecked times and set the timer for 90 minutes. I had reduced my rest time to make up for lost time previously; this stop was very expensive due to running around getting fuel and accommodation. I unloaded much of the bike, however probably didn’t need to however I would have been unable to sleep due to large numbers of people wondering around Ceduna that time of night. I didn’t have a shower, I lost so much time already I just needed some sleep. I jumped out of bed when the alarm chimed, glanced over and Allan was still sleeping soundly. I packed the bike and off to the Shell for a depart receipt, I purchase a bottle of water, the attendant said so you are really going to Perth today, I nodded and she said have a safe trip as I departed. Within minutes I was off, my body didn’t feel too bad and I was again on a mental high focusing on the next leg.

I made good pace to Penong, I always enjoy looking at the windmills and this morning was no exception, they stood out and glistened in the almost full moon. My body was still holding up except for my thighs that started to ache already. I didn’t see any wildlife except for a splattered kangaroo in the middle of the road that I ran straight over. A car was coming from the other direction and I just didn’t see it, it was mushy and what a stench, I didn’t stop and continued towards Nundroo, I often see wombats in this area but nothing today. The sun rises as I approach Nullarbor roadhouse, stop for a photo, in hindsight this was a pretty dumb thing to do, estimating I lost three minutes as I savoured the sunrise, I topped up the bikes fuel tank again before departing.


It’s important not to miss the turn

Arrived Border Village 1042hrs (EST), 22 minutes outside schedule, I made up time by substantially reducing rest time so things were almost on par. Refuelled both tanks, water topped up and headed for the fruit inspection gates at Border Village. Any fruit honey etc., no only dried fruit here and in the backpack, they record my rego and I get the clear to continue. I find the staff talkative but I don’t tell them where I’m off too rather just saying I’m off for a ride as they always ask questions, all I want is to get going. The wind and heat were building up, I had to work the R15 much harder than I had anticipated being mindful not over pushing it.

Passed through Mundrabilla slightly behind schedule and arrived Caiguna for a scheduled fuel stop almost one hour behind my plan. I always find the older console operator miserable, she never smiles or appears happy and she didn’t let me down this time. I always try and make her smile, it’s a game I play with her, younger staff operate the roadhouse at night and they are much friendlier and appear much happier. I made this a fast stop and was underway quickly. My mind continually processing numbers but I was slowly wearing down due the continual wind and heat.

My body started to ache again, you get all the usual thoughts, is it worth it, I only have to ride back again, if I turn around now I will save time later. I needed to change my thought process as my mind was starting to betray me. I played mental games, refocused on the goal and pressed on chewing on some dried mango and nuts. I ensured my fluid intake was over 2.5 litres four hourly and I remained adequately hydrated for the entire trip.


The R15 chewing up the thousands of miles

Gusts of wind made the ride challenging to say the least, you would lean into the wind to maintain a smooth path, suddenly it would change and you would find yourself in the middle of the road, worse still on the incorrect side. Occasionally you would get a boost from behind but on one occasion I found myself facing a road train well and truly head on, I aggressively counter steered and the R15 moaned as I tossed it almost onto its side to pull it back onto the right side of the road; that was close. I’ll never forget the look of the truckies face, no doubt mine was also a little startled to say the least, this was really physically hard going.

I felt my mind drifting; I was physically and mentally tired fighting with the wind and had trouble remaining focused so I found a spot on the edge of the road, set my alarm for 15 minutes and had a power nap laying supine on the red dirt. I awoke refreshed and continued however the wind had not let up. Every undulation had an impact on my speed, I had to really drive the R15 hard and I arrived Norseman at 1936hrs (EST) about 75 minutes behind schedule. A quick refuel of both tanks, tighten chain one click, lubricate, check engine oil and off again.


The long straight road

Through Coolgardie still fighting the changing wind and road undulations the low fuel warning light came on again and I had to put a few litres of petrol in the fuel tank just out of Southern Cross. I only put a couple of litres into the tank so I didn’t have to top up the Jerry can again until the first leg was completed.

I wheeled into the Southern Cross servo mentally checking my times as I entered 2357hrs into my log. Ah I parked at 45 degrees to the bowser, a sloppy entry but my mind was busily calculating times and thing were now pretty serious, I completely forgot about the pain and discomfort. As I dismounted the R15 I heard the familiar purring of a FJR and as I turned, Mike (Ziggy) said ‘It’s surprising who you run into’, I said I only have about 20 mins leeway, he gestured to continue doing what I was doing. I refuelled and I asked Ziggy to take the lead, we headed off with Ziggy setting a steady pace that I was never able to mirror due to my limited 17bhp on the R15.

At every incline or gust of wind the R15 had to be worked to maintain a reasonable speed. I ran out of fuel about 60 kilometres short of Perth and refuelled on the side of the roadway. Ziggy headed off to refuel himself and we caught up almost at the bottom of Greenmount Hill on the outskirts of Perth. Not know to me Ziggy had updated the welcoming party and they were ready to guide me through to Scarborough Beach for the end docket. As I neared the city, I saw three bikes (Gus, Michael & Jeff) outside the servo waiting.

These guys are always ready to assist riders from the East on their quest and complete the necessary documentation. They gestured me to continue, I had already slowed and had trouble changing down from sixth gear and the bike hesitated not liking my tardy gear changing, I followed them to Scarborough Beach BP service station. Every second traffic light appeared to have been red slowing our progress, however we finally made it, I parked the bike and waited at the electronic door for the attendant to open the door, As I opened my wallet another guy pushed in trying to pay for some cigarettes but he didn’t have any money, time was ticking away, I said to the attendant I’m on the clock mate can I pay for the Kit Kat, he took my money and said he had to first cancel the previous purchase, I was starting to get a little frustrated, I finally got a docket was time stamped 0121hrs (0421hrs EST). Made the trip with seven minutes to spare, the guys signed the paperwork; we had a quick chat for a few minutes and was chaperoned out of Perth back to Greenmount Hill for my return trip.

My initial plan was to attempt a 100CCC on the R15 even though the maths clearly showed this was a huge ask of such a small bike, anyway that was my plan and I like a challenge and I have to get home.

The run through the mountain and towards Northam was a breeze but I needed some rest. I found a quiet comfortable location beside the roadway and had an hour’s sleep. After the alarm chimed I fired up the R15 and headed towards Southern Cross. It was a reasonable ride but my pace had slowed slightly. I refuelled and was looking forward to my break at Norseman as I had planned a longer stop to have something hot to eat, my first hot meal in days. The wind had picked up slightly, I refuelled at Norseman, ordered a burger with the lot and a side of chips and went outside and readjusted the chain by one click and lubricated it, I went inside and enjoyed the burger but couldn’t finish it. Made a quick call home and headed off after a thirty minute break, bit longer than anticipated but my body enjoyed the break.

The wind on the Nullarbor had picked up. I was all over the road again and at one stage I was travelling at 65kph on the straight. A truck must have felt sorry for me as he passed waved to the back of his rig, I followed him for about 120 kilometres, awesome and I was maintaining a steady 101kph. I was not making up any time rather maintaining a steady pace. Unfortunately I had to stop for fuel and the wind again payed its toll on my moving average as I had to punch through without any assistance. I kept pressing on and as I passed Madura, the kangaroos were seen on a regular occurrence, I counted 50 then gave up, I have not seen that many kangaroos for years, the road looked like a killing field as I weaved amongst the carcases. I reviewed my game plan and reluctantly ‘pulled the pin’ as I realised it was impossible to achieve the averages required.

I stopped for a rest on the side of the road before Border village; it had been a long hard day. I woke some time later and continued into Border Village at a relaxed pace. I continued home via a scenic route and had an indirect altercation with another kangaroo fracturing a metatarsal in my right foot, that’s another story; I can’t seem to avoid them.

The bike ran well and I need to do some work on the front fairing/nose. I think the rubber mounting points may be worn. Tyres lasted well and they have about 30% rubber left.

I had tender thighs for about two days however it didn’t affect my day to day activities, it was refreshing to stay off the bike for more than an hour.

I found the experience mentally and physically challenging, it was the most demanding ride I have yet undertaken. It has changed my insight into long distance riding and makes you’re more efficient in all process, I loved it.

Just after submitting my application I received the following email from MK

Karl,

You have totally and completely lost your mind

Mike