Day 1: Live update – Odometer 14252km. Currently in Narromine. I’ve never ridden the Africa Twin fully laden before until this trip, and boy does the additional weight make a huge difference to the bike’s dynamics. Taking it easy for now, especially after the earlier drop in my own garage! Loving the fresh air out here.. It’s been a long time coming, after a year of work, work and work!
Rookie mistake #1: Strapping on a whole mountain of luggage for a road trip without considering the impact on the dynamics of the motorcycle.
It’s 10 o’ clock in the morning on a fine Saturday morning. The sun is shining, the wind blowing a pleasantly cool breeze to my face. The chirping of birds, only drowned out by the hum of lawnmowers a block away from my house. My motorcycle is fully loaded with everything needed for me to survive the harsh conditions anticipated ahead, rims freshly shod with a pair of new Heidenau K60 50/50 tyres, ready to take on the many thousands of kilometres of tarmac and dirt in the upcoming two weeks.
What could possibly go wrong when I am still within the familiarity of home, in Sydney, from where I have been living my whole life. I’ve already become accustomed my Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin that I had purchased as a second hand 3 months ago with 7000km on the odometer at the time, having spent 6000km on it over that period of time as a regular commuter and work vehicle. The Africa Twin was where I felt I belonged, a place that has become second nature in which where I can sit myself down and know that a world of freedom was just a twist of the key away.
However, this was the first time ever that I’ve loaded up the bike with all the gear that I needed for my trip, which meant that I had no idea how the significant weight addition would affect how I could handle the bike. I had got it all wrong from the start, by leaving the bike on its centre stand. I don’t exactly have the longest or strongest legs, so getting the inherently top-heavy Africa Twin off its centre stand in its unladen form have always been a very slight obstacle to achieve without losing my balance. Add a few kilograms to each side pannier and the top box, and it becomes a challenge.
Yet, that wasn’t all that I had loaded for this time. Try at least 20kg on each side pannier, 20kg in the top box with a 5kg bag over it, and equivalent of 21kg of fluid on the pillion rack with another 5kg bag on this too. That’s pretty much almost 100kg of luggage strapped up on a bike that weighs 228kg in its wet form! If having a few things in the panniers make the bike that little bit more challenging to move around, then it should have been registered in my mind that having such an unwieldy mass would be hell for me.
I believe that everything that I had packed for the trip were absolutely essential. Everything, with the exception of one group of items: Food. This could have been stocked up later on as amenities become less available on the road, yet inanely I felt that I needed to carry four 6-packs of Up n Go and five 1-litre cartons of Almond milk. Yep, you read that right. There’s no need to go berserk on things that can still be purchased later on. Don’t go nuts like I have!
Here’s a very simple list of what I had taken with me. Although it is not a comprehensive list, and I may likely have missed out on a few, I have noted the main items that I feel may be a good insight:
- Tank bag:
- 13000mAh battery bank (enough to charge my mobile phone three times)
- Hand sanitiser
- Left pannier case:
- Food (a lot of them) including:
- Instant noodles (easy to prepare, doesn’t take too much space)
- Multivitamin tablets (to keep up with any nutrients that may be lacking whilst on the road)
- Tuna cans (I brought 20 95g cans with me. Sounds like overkill, but they can be a lifesaver if you happen to be stuck in the desert for days)
- Up n Go and Almond milk, as mentioned above (I can’t survive without my almond milk. Don’t judge me)
- Portable butane gas stove
- Sleeping bag strapped on top of pannier
- Food (a lot of them) including:
- Right pannier case:
- Tools (including the small things like gaffa tape and zip ties. For the spanners and wrenches, make sure that you take only the ones that you know will work on the bike. No need to take those that won’t be used at all under any circumstance!)
- Spare tyre tube and tyre repair kit
- Foot pump
- Insect repellant and citronella candles
- Chain lube
- Fold up shovel
- Tent strapped on top of pannier
- Top box:
- Second camera
- Drone camera
- Camera tripods
- All charging equipment for electronics
- Solar charger (works, depending on exposure under the sun. Not as effective and reliable as an onboard charger on the bike, but still good to have as a second option as it folds compact)
- Bag on top of top box, containing toiletries
- Pillion rack area:
- Two 7.5L Rotopax petrol canisters
- 7.5L Rotopax water canister
- Backpack strapped on top of Rotopax canisters containing clothes
Alas, as seen in the above set of photos, I had dropped the Africa Twin in my own garage as I was pushing it off its stand. As it was the bike’s first fall, I was momentarily discouraged at the thought of embarking on this road trip with such a luggage set up. If I failed in completing such a basic function, how well am I going to negotiate all the unknown challenges that wait to engulf me in the days to come?
Riding out of the garage, and leaving town, I felt uneasy and extremely nervous after my little mishap. With a dispirited heart pulling me back from regaining confidence, I rebuked against the natural instincts within me that are telling me to give up, and stay at home. Self esteem had been a mighty demon that I’ve been fighting throughout my teenage years. Although, now in my late 20s, I truly do believe that I’ve made great strides to this day to overcome this part of my character, remnants of the past Dave still linger.
I constantly have to remind myself that there is no value in fear, and that failure is an integral process towards the road to personal learning and development. Most of the time, I simply swallow the figurative concrete pill, and just deal with what I am served, and that’s the best way to overcome many, but not all, situations. Less thinking, more action, don’t die, done. That’s pretty much a simplistic way of describing my romps on the road but the apprehensive side of me tends to keep me in check against overdoing things.
A light, easily-manoeuvrable motorcycle is what everybody would prefer for the long road, but that’s only possible when you’ve got a whole crew with the safety of a support truck behind you. As a solo rider, you are obviously required to carry everything that you need. With the additional weight, as mentioned previously, it consequently changes the whole dynamics of the bike.
The weight of the bike contributes greatly towards the symptoms of fatigue. It’s not immediately detected but, after many hours on the saddle, you realise that your body is more tired than it would be if you weren’t carrying so many things with you.
Subconsciously, I’ve been applying more effort in keeping the bike upright, whether it be crawling around town or cruising at speed on the highway. Ironically, I believe that I had it easier on my Panigale tourer last year, as the bike had a lower centre of gravity as well as a substantially lower wet weight.
Overall, apart from the earlier drop, the first day on the road from Sydney to Cobar was pretty much a non-event. As my main goal for this day was to go as far away from Sydney as possible, I did not take much time in spending time in between destinations. The only desire within me was to set up camp for the night on an empty field in the middle of nowhere, where I can simply look up high to a moonlit sky, a place where I can pitch my tent in the calm of night, and wonder what life will bring in the next 13 days ahead. No need to over-analyse or worry about trivial matters in this moment of time. To be blunt about it, a simple life is a blessed life.
Basic Statistics for the day:
- Route: Sydney, Bathurst, Dubbo, Cobar
- Total distance: 654km
- Range of temperature: 8°C to 19°C
Expenses for the day:
General map route: