One aspect that will have a profound impact on your trip is the extent of preparations exerted to minimise the burden of any future challenges. This can range from route planning, accommodation bookings and servicing of your bike, down to the finer details such as toiletries for personal grooming and using the most suitable chain lubricant. The way that you utilise certain items may also make it that much helpful for you in making the most of your trip.
As shallow as this suggestion may sound, considering that the open road is meant to be the focus of entertainment, a comprehensive and extensive variety of music, as well as a bluetooth headset, is one thing thing that I would recommend to anyone looking to embark on a road trip for more than just a few days. I’ve had my fair share of multi-day trips on a motorcycle before this whole journey, the most previously for 5 days on the Multistrada out on the Great Alpine Road, and I’ve never really felt the necessity for music on-the-fly. I am a firm believer that all your senses should be working full-time to enable defensive riding techniques and, to me, this means ears open to be actively conscious of your surrounding environment. Moreover, I’ve always felt that the bouncing revs of a bike is to be my sole source of aural delectation. After a few days and a few thousand kilometres, however, even the constant symphony of a glorious large-capacity Italian L-twin can become tiresome. Fatigue is one thing that can easily become your demon and, although it’s no substitute at all for regular rest stops and good quality sleep, music can be of a huge benefit against boredom when faced with endless highway lengths.
More than just a convenient storage compartment, the tank bag on the Panigale also served as a chest support. Resting my chest on the bag, employing a race tuck position with the face directly behind the windscreen and buttocks slightly towards the tail, had greatly reduced the strain applied to my wrists and back, and this had enabled me to travel such vast distances on what is one of the most uncomfortable modern superbikes on the market. Being also a much more aerodynamic posture, the comparative lack of wind resistance meant that it was physically less fatiguing to my body. You may scoff at this particular suggestion, but with the tank bag it really did do the trick, albeit probably only viable for a supersport style bike with lower handlebars so this would not work on upright bikes. Try it out for yourself in the next big trip if it suits you.
Here are some other items that might be overlooked, but worth mentioning:
- Sunglasses: A good pair of sunnies can very much substitute a tinted visor that would get in the way of precious luggage space.
- Heated gloves: If you are embarking on a winter trip, this is something that must be considered. The hands are the hardest parts to keep warm with conventional gloves, and there’s nothing worse than trying to reach out for your clutch and brake levers whilst enduring through a case of frostbite.
- Battery bank: Ensure your electronics are well-charged. Nothing more annoying than a phone with a flat battery.
- Jerry can: This will act as your reserve fuel when you run out of petrol. It may save your day.
- Food: My favourite emergency food would be a box of muesli bars; easy to store, simple to eat and keeps the fast food places at bay until you make it to your intended food stop.
- Wet wipes: Great for freshening up in between a long ride day, and an effective way of cleaning off grease. It does work!
- Water: This might be the most important item to carry. Do away with sticky and sugary sport and soft drinks. I would recommend carrying a minimum of 2 litres of water at all times, topping up wherever you can.
What are some of your must-haves in a massive road trip? Comment down below!
Day 17 – Devonport to Strahan via Zeehan
Ambient Temperature: 3°C to 14°C
Sleeping at a servo overnight is one thing, trying to get a restful night on a recliner seat is another. The overnight trip on the Spirit of Tasmania was the worst ferry ride ever, compounded by the raging seas which prevented me from taking a real break, occasionally shuffling around on the seat and swapping positions, eyes closed but constantly wide awake. I would have loved a cabin ticket, however they were none available at time of booking from a week ago. I would highly recommend absolutely everyone to take a cabin if travelling by night, as the recliner seats are more suited for daytime passengers.
I had initially intended to visit Cradle Mountain, a place of prominent natural beauty within the Central Highlands of Tasmania, and regardless of the season, I was prepared for the worst. The worst was what was presented to me, in the form of absolutely no access to the area, as the national park was snowed in, to the extent where visitors in the location were not able to leave.
I redirect myself towards West Coast where the roads turned from damp to frosty, and the cold conditions aggavated my focus due to lack of sleep. It was only a matter of a few tens of kilometres until I reached an extensive progression of mountainous roads caressed by inches of snow. My riding confidence decreased inversely in proportion to the increased coverage of snow, frost and wind to the point where I found myself crawling along desolate twisties at a measley 60km/h in a 100km/h zone. Turning back towards Launceston was an option that I was considering, but fulfilling my satiety for photographic rapacity sustained my will to venture out towards unknown territory.
Along the way, my clutch no longer applied as much pressure for smooth gear changes. Over an hour of riding, and the quickshifter no longer worked, and I suspected that it may be due to the clutch fluid requiring a bleed out or replacement. To ensure that the clutch plates were being engaged fully, the clutch lever was adjusted so that there was more travel for the lever to apply the needed pressure. However, this also meant that I needed to reach my fingers out substantially to grab the lever, which really detracted from fully engaging in my ride, and also promoted fatigue.
Both a physical and mental battle had to be put forth as an offering to this day’s roadtrip altar. Reaching the coastal areas of Zeehan and Strahan*, I find myself in the eye of an oncoming storm, a soothing calm that settles my motographic paroxysm*. Ultimately, I reach the end of my ride for the day, finding my haven of relaxation at Strahan YHA, a rudimentary and featureless hostel. The hostel manager Jen, however, made every effort to ensure that I felt welcome and well-equipped for a pleasant stay, which was great as I was the sole person staying at the place for the night. Settling into a pack of muesli bars and a bottle of water, I ease myself to a much needed sleep.
*Strahan: Pronounced as “Strawn”.
*Motographic paroxysm: An impulsive state of mind whereby the importance of being able to photographically capture a momentous motorcycling experience overrides the logical function of one’s normal thought process.
Day 18 – Strahan to Hobart
Ambient Temperature: -1°C to 7°C
Out on the cold wet roads of the wilderness of Tasmania once again, I approach Queenstown, a mining town which is surrounded by cliffside roads along mountainous hills. Due to the severe fog and constant light rain, I was not able to see the most out of the twisties in the region. This is one place where I’d love to visit again when balmy conditions replace the wet climate.
As I progres further towards Derwent Bridge, the road turns into the snowy landscape as seen from the previous day. The conditions were worse, however, as temperatures dipped down to near-subzero temperatures in the middle of the day, and certain parts of the road were scattered with snow. I relented from even attempting to ride the speed limit, as the very few local cars would overtake me. Some of the drivers out here are serial speeders.
Eventually, I reach the end of the national park and head towards Hobart. Just like that, the atmosphere changes from a dull and gloomy forest to a glimmer of hope displayed from a cloudy but sunny country landscape. Gigantic overhead power lines indicated the end of the wilderness, and a road back to civilisation. Suddenly, the 100km/h speed limit made total sense. Suddenly, I was no longer held back by unfavourable road conditions. Suddenly, it no longer mattered that my waterproof gloves and boots were soaking wet. It doesn’t matter where you’ve ridden, what you’ve ridden, the dry roads of Tasmania are more enticing, more safe, yet more exciting and relaxing at the same time. There’s a reason why Tasmanian roads are rated as one of the best riding roads in the world.
Day 19 – Hobart area and Mount Wellington
Ambient Temperature: 1°C to 10°C
I decided on a simple relaxing day on the road today by exploring the metropolitan Hobart area. Visited various places such as Mount Nelson and Sandy Bay, but the highlight is of course the dramatic Mount Wellington, which is viewable from all corners of the city with it’s craggy terrain and snow-covered peak.
The clutch issue had to be resolved as soon as possible, so I searched around for motorcycle mechanics in Hobart that were open and ready to be able to provide servicing. Eventually, I had my bike looked at by the guys at Motorworks Motorcycles, who were very friendly and helpful. They are the official dealer in Hobart for Triumph and Husqvarna bikes. As they had no experience with Ducati bikes, they were only able to help me out with a clutch fluid change, but this did make a significant difference to the overall feel of the clutch lever. I was no longer having to stretch my fingers out just to reach for the clutch lever, and having to fully engage the lever to even allow for an acceptable gear change. The quickshifter issue remained, but I could do without it until I get back to Sydney.
To be continued…