50CC - Newcastle to Perth on a 149cc's - May 2014

Skidoo

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#1
Planning
I had previously completed a 50CC (Newcastle NSW to Scarborough Beach WA) with 7 minutes to spare on the Yamaha YZF-R15 (149cc). It was a hard ride, continual gear changes, moderate wind, minimum amount of rest and no respite from riding the bike hard for the 3,960 odd kilometres. It struggled on hills, could not maintain a decent MA but never let me down on this challenging ride

I had a couple of previous attempts at the 100CCC; however weather conditions and mechanical issues let me down on another. This is the risk when riding a small capacity bike. Recently I changed my starting point to Coogee (Sydney NSW) as it reduces my transport leg to slightly less than 400 kilometres from Dubbo. My usual weapon for these longer rides is a GTR1400; it’s not affected by wind, rain, truck blast, luggage and is comfortable to ride. It easily maintains any speed dialed into her. The R15 is the opposite; the manufacturers claim the 149cc engine produces 17hp; this really isn’t much to play with.

I carried minimal spare parts comprising; puncture repair kit, two spanners, two screw drivers, cable ties, duct tape, silicone tape, chain lube, spark plug, fuses, radiator fix, needle nose pliers, multipurpose tool, 375mls engine oil and two torches. Clothes carried, well I didn’t carry much; all up tools, clothes and water weigh less than 11kg. My main concern is I would be close to 4,000 kilometres from home and I had to be self sufficient as communication is patchy and spare parts not easily accessible.

My goal was attempt a 50CC, if successful continue onto a 100CCC, I appreciate there are numerous variables and technically the return leg would be very challenging to say the least. I really don’t know if I can achieve it but it is something that I would like to give a dam good go at.

Approximately 30hrs had gone into the development of the lighting and electrical system. The original duel 35watt halogen bulbs were bypassed and I finally settled on one 55watt HID and a 20watt LED bank. Brake/tail light and front clearance lights were replaced by LED’s saving approximately 20 watts, this saving could be redirected to more important tasks. The LED provided immediate lighting, when charged the HID gave me the mid range required for comfortable night riding. The single low beam 35watt bulb was enhanced with an additional 20watt LED bank focused towards the left of the roadway. An auxiliary switch allowed me redundancy of the aftermarket lights if they failed. The alternator produced 13.8 volts under full load whilst powering the iPhone and GPS.

An auxiliary fuel cell with electric pump was fitted, tyre configuration changed and I increased the front sprocket by one tooth and added a heavy duty ‘O’ ring chain. I added an aftermarket ECU and made a custom exhaust system as I was unable to obtain one in a reasonable time. I was offered a modified cam, advised the benefits of altering valve angles etc. This would greatly enhance power output but I feel this was not in the spirit of what I was attempting. I wanted to keep the bike reasonably standard excluding a couple of direct bolt on accessories that anyone could buy at a reasonable cost.

I travelled to my start location two days early, planned to have one full rest day and it would be a short run from my son’s place in Cronulla to Coogee on the second night for the commencement of the ride.

Day 1
My depart receipt read 2356hrs, one hour four minutes early from my scheduled depart time. I was rested, ready to go and thought why wait for the inevitable. It was slightly overcast but not cold, I had four upper thermal layers in place, two pairs of silk gloves under my gloves and my toes were warm and snug inside the boots with two pairs of thermal socks.

I worked my way towards the freeway with light traffic, previously I followed Fran’s on another attempt and the speed limit was 80kph, I had factored this into the ride however the new posted speed limit was 40kph! The bike was running sweet; this was a joke as I was part of a snake heading south following the red taillights. Not sure exactly how long the 40k limit was in place but my calculations showed I had lost close to 20 minutes. The roadwork’s finished, I put that behind me and opened the R15 up, it was a pleasure to ride. The previous work on the exhaust, and dyno tuning had paid off. I was able to sit on 100kph (GPS) comfortably on the flats with no wind and actually hit 123kph passing a truck downhill. Maximum speed hadn’t increased however the torque was noticeable on the hills, it was a different bike. I was now pushing it harder through the gears, during testing I was told to change gears at 9,000 preferably 9,500rpm to maximise torque. I found this difficult as I tend to nurse machinery; I noticed the change in performance immediately. The exhaust sounded sweet at lower speeds however at 85kph all that could be heard was wind.

Passing Yass is always cold; the temperature was close to five degrees, I was clothed appropriately and didn’t find it uncomfortable as I passed the service station adjacent to the highway. I started pumping fuel from the 19 litre auxiliary tank into the 12 litre main tank. Now that’s easy I thought, the main tank was topped up within minutes with no stopping required, I had saved a few minutes and I would keep doing this throughout the trip minimising weight over the rear axle.

A corner docket was obtained at the Westpac Bank in Wagga Wagga, I thought this may be faster than stopping at a service station, well I missed the street because I was thinking too far ahead, I feel the time advantage dissolved as I obtained a docket without stopping the R15’s engine.

I was off again, within minutes on the outskirts of town headed towards my first fuel stop at Narrandera. The air was still, the bike hummed comfortably at 7,500-8,000rpm.



Reducing wind resistance

I arrived at Narrandera at 0620hrs, right on schedule even after the lost time on the expressway. This is a fast stop; I refuel, top-up water and have a loo break. I only refill the 19 litre auxiliary tank with as much fuel as needed. My plan was as I approach the refueling point, I pump enough fuel previously calculated into the main tank and only dump as much fuel as needed into the auxiliary at the petrol pump saving several minutes as it has a very wide throat facilitating re-fuelling.

The R15 responds instantly to the starter and I’m off again, weathers fine, feeling great and running on schedule. Everything is running well, the refueling process is working a treat, the electric fuel pump dumps 12 litres into the main tank in less than five minutes.

The road weaves into the horizon as it pushes forward, traffic is light and I pass several caravans, yes, I actually pass them and can maintain 100kph easily on the flat and mildly undulating roads. If feels so strange passing vehicles on such a small capacity bike.
I stop at the quarantine checkpoint at Yamba in South Australia and am asked, ‘do I have any fruit or plants to declare’, I gesture to the dried apricots that I have been chewing and am cleared to continue. I’d love to get a photo here but I have a mission and don’t want to disrupt my tempo.

As I approach Mildura the Murray River has dozens of house boats tendered and my mind starts to wonder as I pass near a paddle steamer going downstream, the weather is absolutely perfect, what a day for a ride. I pull into the fuel station at 1126hrs, refuel and a guys looking over the R15 and wants to talk about the lighting on such a small bike, I’m polite and head off after a quick stretch. The slight rises in the road don’t cause much concern and I have settled down to a steady pace, the wind rises in a few areas that cause little concern to the overall leg. I stop a few kilometres passed Renmark to stretch, have a leg cramp that has been nagging for a while and I need to work it out, might as well have a loo break, so much faster than using restrooms at service stations. The wind is picking up as I head towards Port Augusta, I keep pushing the R15 and it doesn’t let me down.

I refuel at Port August at 1753hrs, dump 16.54 litres into the tank, I’m feeling great, nothing is sore, ahead of schedule and have a 20 minute scheduled break. I eat two Chiko Roll’s with added salt (I don’t usually add salt to anything I eat) and a carton of iced coffee whilst I check the engine oil and lube the chain. I find the next 468Km to Ceduna long, lonely and fatiguing, especially the last 70 odd kilometres with minimal traffic experienced in both directions.



Some of the risks in the area

The design of the Yamaha R15 does not make it an ideal long distance tourer; I would say it is probably better suited for commuting around town. I modified the rear pegs allowing me to stretch out my legs and actually lay on the tank bag to eases leg and hip pain. The main advantage is the substantial drop in wind resistance and up to 8kph can be gained in windy areas by laying flat against the bike. This position allows my shoulders respite from the continual pressure in the standard leaning forward position. This configuration works well, I have travelled over 30,000km’s on numerous rides in the last six months with minimal long term pain.

I head off, in darkness towards my last leg before having a break. As I approach Iron Knob there is roadwork’s, they have been working on this section for months, I slow to the posted limit, am temporarily disorientated with the numerous signs, witches hats and feedback from my bright lights. Once through this mess I continue and pass through Kimba. The seven metre tall galah towers into the air with its head missing in the fog. Kimba is a significant part of the trip as it represents the halfway point from the East and West points of Australia; tourists are often seen taking photos in the town. To me, Kimba doesn’t bring pleasant memories, it represents cold and discomfort, the weather is usually miserable. I approach and pass the service station at 1955hrs, what, its open, several trucks are parked outside. It’s supposed to close at 1900hrs as Wombattle and I had previously experienced.



Not much room to move

The temperature is dropping, fog is everywhere, I pass through Wudinna, the home of the eight metre granite sculpture symbolising early settlers in the area, grain and sheep. It’s eerie, the sculpture is encompassed in fog and its outline can be seen like a giant in the distance. The fog continued and thickened, I had to back off as visibility became challenging, I could only see one to two broken lines on the roadway, a few trucks passed slowly in the opposite direction but the fog just didn’t let up. My goal was to arrive at Ceduna 30 minutes inside the 24hr window allowing me two and a half hours sleep. I had a 15mm self inflating mattress and I have no issues sleeping on the ground, if I have shelter, it’s a bonus.


I pull into Ceduna at 2346hrs, feeling great but covered in heavy moisture, I had to ride the last twenty kilometres with the face screen partially open and my balaclava was soaking wet. I immediately go inside, buy a drink and get my paperwork signed for the end of the SS2000K. I refuel the bike, park it in the usual IBA Motel, go inside and pay for the fuel. I pass my credit card to Sarah; she is a console operator at the Shell service station, I have lost the number of times we have chatted during my numerous crossing across Australia.




Stats for the end of day one


Day 2
The alarm chimes at 0140hrs and I wake easily, bugger, the fog is still thick. I roll my bed, pillow and strap them onto the bike. Check the engine oil and chain tension. I go inside, buy a cool drink as my depart receipt, say my byes to Sarah and head off. I had one hour forty minutes sleep and feel refreshed ready for the second leg.

I pass Penong, in fog, the usual conglomerate of windmills are partially hidden with only their outline seen through the light. I continue to head west towards the Nullarbor roadhouse; my eyes are tiring from poor visibility, I decide to have a powernap about 13 kilometres short of the roadhouse. I pull to the side of the road; park the bike, set the alarm for 20 minutes and rest against the warm engine and drift off. I’m often asked, ‘when should I stop for a rest’, I find this difficult to answer as we are all different. There are so many variables and influences that can impede making our decision making process. This stop was about 12 minutes short from shelter and rest facilities, the risk calculated to continue was too great. I use mental math's, i.e. calculate distances travelled at specific speeds, eta’s, spatial awareness and my general mental state to make a decision. If uncertain, I always stop and stretch my legs, the risk of not stopping far outweighs any potential goal.

About 15 minutes later I wake, disable the alarm and again head off into the thinning fog. As the fog lifts, a breeze is starting to manifest and I notice I need to work the R15 a little harder.

The R15 happily detours from the main road into Border Village at 0801hrs for a break. I fill the auxiliary tank with 14.5 litres and proceed inside to pay. I sit down on a comfortable chair for a few minutes, eat a chocolate bar, have a cool drink and have a breather. I take a couple of pictures and proceed through the quarantine station, as usual I have nothing to declare and take the mandatory picture of the SA/WA border sign. This was an inefficient stop, even with planning the photos too much too long.


Border Western Australia

I start winding her up again, slight gusts of wind impede my progress, the engine is running well, more torque and it fights against the wind, still hard work but making better progress than my previous crossing. The motor is humming like a sewing machine, absolutely fantastic for such a small engine on such a mammoth quest. Three highway patrol cars overtake me about 20 kilometres west of Eucla. I later find out there is a truck roadworthy blitz in May every year and the locals, not that there are many of them call it the ‘May Madness’.



A well know landmark

As I pass Madura I see one of the highway patrol vehicles stopped. I continue towards Balladonia being my next scheduled stop, the wind gusts increasing in both intensity and duration. I had to work hard fighting the R15 as many of the gusts just dragged me across the road, she had spirit and I kept riding her hard pressing forward. The other hidden danger is the ‘B doubles’ when they pass, not a pleasant experience with the wind blast. I finally pull in and refuel with 22.3 litres, the next leg is over 570 kilometres and I need to ensure I have enough fuel. With both tanks filled I have a range of potentially 950 kilometres. I am running about 45 minutes outside my plan however I had factored additional time for such issues.





Australia’s longest straight road

As I approach the Fraser Range my body is starting to ache, the pain slowly working through me, I start my stretching regime again, move around and refocus pushing the discomfort aside. I find by focusing on something intensely, it is possible to tune out almost anything. Things are going well, and I’m feeling much better, the gusts have subsided somewhat, I am starting to re-evaluate my plan, do I need to do another 50CC? Was my mind starting to betray me or was their another opportunity? I let my mind drift, curious where I’d end up, you have plenty of time to think on these rides without distraction. About 45 minutes later I pull over about 20 kilometres east of Norseman, have a stretch and loo break.



More rain




The long road

I love riding; these longer rides on small bikes, they really challenge me. I need an excuse to ride this sort of distance because they do hurt. My body usually returns to normal within a few days but there is a personal cost. Most people in their right mind wouldn’t just go for a 2,000, 4,000 or 8,000 kilometre ride on such a small bike, absolute madness, I agree but add a challenge, a specific reason and if there is a possibility of success I’ll give it a go.

Now please excuse me if the following events are not 100% accurate as my mind was racing with opportunities because of my location in Western Australia. I rang Ziggy, I kept the plan fairly quiet and he was counsel to me on a few issues. I can’t remember if I got through on this call or a little later on the second call or exactly what was said however I considered dumping the 50CC, it was my ride, I had nothing to prove and was considering a different challenge turning north at Merridin, on a different plan. What a fantastic area for riding, I had previously made another plan if I had difficulties with this ride.

Now, Scarborough beach was only about 700 kilometres away, even with the breeze I was confident that I could pull it off with about 30 minutes to spare. I can’t remember what Ziggy said but during the conversation I decided to finish what I had originally started, I do remember Ziggy saying I needed to maintain the same pace.

I raised the tempo, still fighting gusts but pulled into Southern Cross at 2040hrs, dumped 15.2 litres into the tank and was off again. The sky started becoming very dark; a storm wasn’t too far away. It started sprinkling, I maintained a blistering pace on the little R15. It was pouring as I hit the Greenmount hill, absolutely pouring. I pushed the bike as fast as I dare in the heavy rain, the Pirelli tyres hung on perfectly, not once did they hesitate or feel insecure. As I hit the base of the mountain a FJR waited and escorted me to the Scarborough beach service station.

My arrival receipt was stamped 0124hrs. This was 30minutes inside the 50hr mark and about one and a half hours outside my plan. I bought a chocolate and got the documentation signed. This was 23 minutes better than my previous attempt on the R15, the difference being I was feeling much better physically and I had almost an additional hours sleep at Ceduna.



Arrived at Scarborough Servo

I felt great, refueled the bike and wheeled it to the parking area and chatted to Ziggy for about 30 minutes. I just felt like having a chat as we rarely catch up in person, I appreciate this would chew into my return time but hey, it’s only a ride. I was pleased with what I achieved, I was feeling fine, it looked like the weather would be kind on the return trip with a tail wind so I planned to continue and attempt a 100CCC taking a rest further down the road as necessary.


Stats for the end of day two

Epilogue
About 30 kilometres out of Perth I hit a kangaroo head on, the forks collapsed on impact, I hit the roadway hard cracking the Kevlar/Carbon-fibre helmet in several places. I was dragged under the bike until it hit the dirt, it flipped landing on my back, and no doubt it was not a pretty sight. It was pitch black, wet with no Telstra coverage, I decided not to use the SPOT as I thought I wasn't too bad and lay there until someone turned up about 45 mins later. In hindsight it was not a smart decision and did I get it from Jody for not using the SPOT many hours later when I rang her from Casualty. She was pleased I was OK and said, ‘now about this riding’ . . . . . . . , I said we will discuss it when I get home dear!

I was released from hospital, walked like a cripple, flew home over two days as the back has extensive bruising, my right side is starting to come good as are the other injuries. I hope to return to work next week after taking two weeks off.




The end of a battler

Wearing appropriate gear saved my life, the ambos couldn't believe the mess and lack of serious injuries, the A&E doc said much the same and said I really shouldn't be here.

Much to my partner’s annoyance (to say the least), I have started farkling my second R15. This is much easier as I have a blueprint of what is required from my previous R15.

What’s in the pipeline you ask, well, you will have to just wait and see but I’m not done yet?