This was the most enjoyable and fun IBA ride I've done.
Russ and I started planning this in 2009, and Ed came on board not long after, and after a few false starts ( Weather closing the roads etc), Russ did a 800km test ride in 2012 and a few more false starts we had planned to do the run in the first week of october last year, but the weather gods had other ideas and the roads were shut so we postponed it to easter this year. The Road gods smiled on us this time.
Thanks mate, I haven't laughed so much on a ride in a fair while. Was a cracker of a run. Tar all the way home ( had to be at work pronto), not much fun on a dirt bike seat, the airhawk failed to proceed whilst leaving Melbourne so stock dirt bike seat all the way. No luxuries on a DR650!
This is a ride that has been on the minds of several people for a very long time and the fact that the first two in the country have been done so close together simply indicates that all that thinking came to a head at the very same time. For the record, I have only ever talked to Wombattle about a Dustybutt once in conversation over dinner at the Parkes Muster, it was in a conversation about him owning an AT, a Super Adv and a S10 and went something like this:
Me: So, when you do a Dustybut which would you use?
Him: I’m not doing a Dustybutt!
Me: Uh huh, riiiight.
So in light of that conversation all I can offer is a heart felt “Well done!” to Craig. Having now done it in a team of 3 (and I use “team” rather than “group” deliberately as I explain below) I can only admire the accomplishment of getting it done solo.
Russ and Thommo have been thinking and planning since about 2009 or 2010. I only really started getting dragged in when I first got the red Tiger in 2011. Between various cancer treatments and general life getting in the way and a couple of false starts notwithstanding, it has been a while in the planning! We have all at various time banged out 1600s and others “off the couch”, but a Dustybutt is a different beast and is not something that you can just roll out the door and do one weekend when you feel like it. Even finding a route on which it can be done is a good challenge and requires more than the average research.
There are plenty of dirt roads in Australia and linking them together is doable but documentation and fuel become a real factor. Then almost by definition that route will be remote and take time to get to the start so even any prior scouting requires a solid commitment in itself. Not to mention leave provisions for those of us that are mortgage slaves, then there are weather windows – for the OS readers, most of the likely areas in Australia have periods of the year that daytime temps are happily sitting above 40°C/105 F additionally some of them are well into northern tropical areas so the wet season is right out (not to mention the snappy handbags at the river crossings) and while many of the others options in more arid regions, rain is uncommon but when it comes it is with little warning and closes roads for weeks. We found this when we were set to go in early October last year; Leave booked, hotels sorted, bikes prepped….then large rainstorms scudding across central Australia bringing more rain than they have seen in the last three years combined bringing a halt to the best laid plans.
To say we weren’t disappointed to be pipped at the post to getting the first one in Australia done would be not quite truthful but in all honesty we had all discussed the very likely prospect of it happening (especially after the delay at the end of 2016) and while getting the first was recognised as a nice bonus, we were clear it wasn’t the motivating factor to try and get this done.
Even up to the last week or two, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make this one. New job at work, in-law’s 50th anniversary blah blah blah…But then I got all selfish and said “Buggrit, I’m not missing this now!” As far as good ride prep goes the preceding week was a good illustration of how not to do it. I had a developing head cold, work was snowing everyone under, Russ lost his wallet…Can anyone spot our deliberate mistakes?
And then bundling out of Canberra on the Thursday [strikethrough]morning[/strikethrough]…err, afternoon was a comedy of errors/faffing…blown fork seals on the eve of a 1000mile dirt day anyone? Scurrying around town looking for new seals and the equipment to change them on the road blew our schedule well and truly, but at least it provided entertainment to Thommo and Ron! Nyuk nyuk nyuk! Whoop whoop whoop!
To my eternal shame we trailered the bikes to Mildura and we eventually rolled into Ron and Marls’ place only about 5hrs off plan. Then up in the morning for a little last minute training on the old Renmark road. Good plan but after only 10km I was starting to have serious doubts if I actually had 1600km of this in me. A stop and dropping air in the tyres made thing a little better but the demons were gibbering and hooting loudly.
The rest of the ride to Marree was largely uneventful. Tagging in and out with Thommo through Burra, Peterborough and Hawker then catching up at the end of the bitumen north of Lyndhurst for a sundown run into Marree providing more fodder for the hooting doubt-demons. Stunning light but I could really see jack-shit behind all the dust.
Saturday was scheduled as a prep and check morning with a scouting ride in the arvo, we knew Thommo would need to change his tyres but we hadn’t counted on a quick and dirty fork seal change. Thanks to Thommos idea of just flipping the fork upside down and removing the bottom cartridge bolt to allow the stanchion to come out things weren’t actually too bad and the job was done surprisingly easily.
Even in time for a burger before an afternoon ride up the Oodnadatta track to Lake Eyre. For me this ride allowed me to regain some of the ground the demons had taken yesterday and the bike was feeling good.
The local servo had been more than accommodating with help and space to do the various running repairs so of course when they offered $15 dollar dinner at the caravan park and “I might even get up and do a couple of numbers…” we were obliged to ignore the screaming warning sirens and flashing lights and troop along at the prescribed time.
Words utterly fail to describe the evening that ensued. The dinner was about what you’d expect for $15 (although the homemade strudel and icecream was actually pretty good). The “entertainment” and resulting mood at the table with 10 strangers on the other hand was another matter! The self-control and discipline required to do any sort of ironbutt ride pales into total insignificance when compared to what was required to not catch another diner’s eye and spit your steak and vegies across the table!
Mercifully the three of us begged off early with an early start in the morning. It was decided on the way back to the pub that a night being serenaded by the local servo woman with a karaoke machine ought to be regulation part of any future dustybutt attempts starting in Marree!
Witness forms explained and signed by the publican and then bed for the usual not-sleep prior to a big ride
3am came around and after drinking-for-effect instant coffees saw us with atm receipts in hand and off up the Birdsville track. My doubt demons had used my downtime well and were out in full force, especially when I realised 10 or 15min up the road that I hadn’t turned my tracking on or even reset my gps trip. Amateur.
The first part of the run was steady-steady and had us settling into the groove, working out just what we were likely to get away with and what else was going to be wanting to share the track with us. The afternoon before we had discussed just how this was going to play out and had come up with the idea that every 15km or so the lead rider would pull aside and let the other two through. This had a number of benefits, it meant that each of us was bearing the load of being at the front in the dark and also that we could keep checking on each other and should the worst happen we would only be ~15km before the others realised. It also meant that even though we were sitting a kay or more behind each other to avoid the dust we would get a turn in the fresh air every 30km or so. It worked really well all day.
There wasn’t too much wildlife about really…just enough to stop us getting cocky. A few roos, some cattle, what I think was a horse, a couple of dogs and then just as it was getting light a smallish pig. Enough to keep us on our toes.
Just as it was getting light proper we were onto a recently rebuilt section that I had to keep double checking wasn’t actually sealed. A beautiful way to greet the sunrise!
It didn’t last and we were back into the gibber plains stuff and the 6” deep gravel with some very large rocks in the creek crossings. Then the last 100odd km south of Birdsville was fantastic smooth sand with just enough bulldust holes to keep you on your toes. The Kato was humming with big standup drifts around sweeping corners and strong and stable under power through the deeper sand patches. WOOHOO!
My first time in Birdsville but we weren't hanging around. Refuel and a quick shot in front of the iconic pub and then straight back out the 4.2km of bitumen on heading back south on the dirt. The pace back to Mungerannie used every bit of Thommo’s DR’s “105km/hr comfortable speed” and again had us working really well as a group. The temperature was starting to climb and the 1 or 2 minute stop every 30km meant a quick drink from the camelback or a small bite to eat. Distance riding on road allows you to eat and drink pretty much when ever you want. Riding on the dirt like this is a very different game – no opportunity to drop your guard or take a hand off the bars even for a few seconds. So the very quick little breaks worked well for us.
The stop in Mungerannie (about half way, incidentally) on the way back to Marree drove home another lesson of the day. If you are considering trying this DO NOT count on the same speedy fuel stops you are used to when doing normal IBA runs. It is a cliché, but people are in no hurry out here. In many places there is only one operating bowser and the person inside is rarely sitting waiting to reset the system for you to fill your bike! This was the only time I thought that running this ride solo would be better.
Back down to Marree at 14:45 and very nicely ahead of the plan. We all were feeling realy good but knew that this wasn’t a ride to feel complacent about, Don’t give it an inch! The caravaners had us shaking our heads…its no wonder these people die out here - maybe a few more of them should. Then back onto the road we rode yesterday arvo.
It was only a few kays in and I noticed how different it was than only about 24hrs ago. The ruts seemed deeper and the loose bits softer, surely it couldn’t have been that much extra traffic over it just on the Sunday morning. The further towards William Creek we went the worse it got. We later realised that we were all thinking the same thing along here, that being how Craig had commented that this was the GOOD section of his run. If it got worse on the other side of William Creek then even bigger props to him!
The final half hour or so into William Creek was getting tough, the sun was starting to drop straight into our eyes but the temps weren’t dropping yet. Low to mid 30s isn’t too bad on the road, but with all the extra effort and movement required on the dirt I had been pretty wel dripping in sweat since about 10:30 this morning. We were all feeling it when refuelling there (more mucking around and having to ask for the bowser to be turned on for the third bike…) and more hideously priced water ($4 for 600ml anyone?!)
The sun finally set properly as we were heading back towards the Borefield track turnoff to Roxby Downs. A to-close-for-comfort herd of cows across the road had me stopping to clean my aux light lens in the half light and served as a timely reminder to keep thing together. Then a brief stop to allow the queensland to put some warmer gear on at the turn off (I’m still sweating my arse off at this point) and down the Borefield road to meet with some of Craigs rabbits.
Now for all of his denial of animal testing it would seem it has worked, the vast majority of bunnies that started crossing the road very quickly realised the error of their ways and turned their little fluffy tails around quick smart! Evolution by IBA Riders, people! There a Nature paper in there for someone!
At some point along this road we started playing with the idea of running as a group rather than stretched out over 2 or 3km. Thommo’s lights weren’t as good as Russ and mine and the road was wide and really good, so why not? We were having a hoot banging along 3 abreast at about 95ish watching various types of wildlife flee to thundering juggernaut as it swept down the road, and then just like the frog in the slowly heating water we noticed that the track had got significantly narrower and the corners were getting tighter…not that we backed off of course but we later discovered we had all again been on the same wavelength and each decided that while this was all well and good and a damn good hoot to boot, it would probably pay not to run a repeat performance on the way back to Marree!
One of my most memorable rides I’ve had for a while.
Into Olympic Dam only to discover that the closest servo had no power at all so onto the BP 10km further in. Quick refuel and realise we are well ahead of time so a puie and an ice coffe sounded pretty bloody good. Good thing we were well ahead as when I jumped back on I had no spotties! AAAH!
Alright, don’t panic. The light had dropped in and out a couple of times on the way in, maybe it’s just a loose connection. Bit of a rummage in the wiring and nothing immediately obvious. Shit.
OK, so even though we said we wouldn’t, since Thommo’s lights are marginal and mine have dropped out how about we just run close together again…but maybe a little more sedately this time, huh?
20km up the road my lights kicked back in, WOOHOO!
A bit of shuffling the order back and forth to keep Thommo well lit up the Borefield track and then turn right for the last 70km back to Marree. Don’t cock it up now fellas, keep it together.
We rolled into Marree three abreast again at about 11:45…~20hrs 45min and about 7 years and we’d got it done, there may have even been a wee fist pump or two. The next best bit was that the bar was still open and I got my finish receipt from buying a beer. Never tasted sweeter.
Now if you’ll just excuse me for a moment’s introspective navel gazing; I’ve ridden several IBA distances with other people before and they have all felt pretty much like I was riding a solo run which was coincidentally at the same time and place as the other riders. This one was very different. I really felt like we completed this as a team effort, we worked together and kept an eye on each other. We knew we didn’t have a back up anywhere close by and so we were very much each others backup. I am truly honoured to have done it with Thommo and Russ and thank them for the experience that will stay with me for a very long time.
I think even more than normal, if things go wrong on this ride, they will go wrong very, very quickly and the likelihood of catastrophic outcomes is even greater. I don’t say this to try and make the achievement look bigger or out of some inflated self-worth, but rather to try and press home the importance of having your shit very securely in one sock before embarking on a dustybutt. It is “only” a 1600, but it is by far and away the most intense distance ride I have done to date. Not sure if it was the hardest or not, but definitely the most intense. The flip side to this is that at no stage at all during the day did I get the yawns or find my mind drifting, 100% focused the whole time. Man, I slept well that night though.
That is the best RR ever written on an absolutely awesome ride....And I totally agree with this "The caravaners had us shaking our heads…its no wonder these people die out here - maybe a few more of them should.".......the grey nomad/city 4WD migration has begun and we are now getting up to 4-5 recovery calls a day at our remote communities. HUGE CONGRATS to ALL!!!
Much congratulations for a truly epic Adventure (pun intended) ride.
Quite a few of us knew of your planning exploits for this ride, eagerly anticipated.
Now this shows how you did it successfully!
Well done Team!
Woo Hoo! Awesome report, great route and some good advice about planning and the advantages of not doing it solo. Sub 21 hours too, you must have been on the boil the whole time. I hope my ride report was helpful to you. Those doubt demons, particuarly at the start of the ride sound very, very familiar and I'm not sure with this ride they are ever packed fully away.
No hard feelings with your fishing attempt Ed, I tend not to take bait any more. I'm surprised it rated a mention. I prefer to keep to myself as much as possible. Loose lips... you know. That's why I shut you down and didn't ask you (or anyone else I thought might have been capable of knocking one off) if there were plans afoot. Although I'm sure if I did ask you'd have looked at my lightly packed Africa Twin with spare fuel and a fresh set of knobbies on it and said "We've got one planned for next week Wom. We're hoping to be first to do it. So you don't have to be home until next Thursday? That's a shame, you could have come with us". If you were freaking nuts that is.
A huge congrats to the three of you for knocking off a very difficult ride. Being first, second or 50th doesn't matter, it's a matter of luck. There were at least three attempts at the Heaven to Hell before Karl and I finally knocked that one off. Hopefully our successful rides will encourage others to have a crack at it. It's awesome!
Team. A group of people or animals joined with a common goal in mind. A fantastic effort by your team of determined, focused and committed members. The particular roads you selected throw up many variables, that you overcame with cautious riding and concern for fellow team members. Ed, Russ and Thommo, you are to be congratulated both singularly and as a team. Your ride report will be the basis for many future Dusty Butts I'm sure. In fact as I type these words I can see members from East, West and central preparing trip schedules for future exploits. Bring them on.
According to the William Creek Facebook page, they had a big dump of rain on the 24th that closed some of the crossings to the South of them. After being thwarted by the weather twice, both we and Wombattle were lucky to get the windows we did.
Catching up on these reports, again Ed fantastic run for the three of you and to add to the ride yo have given us a great report to boot. Just goes to show how much planning most riders do in preparing and completing these rides.
Is it posible for you guys to put a map up. Guys as in your three and Craig. Im interested in the routes and I get a better impresion/concept of the regions you all used to put these rides together.