John’s Great Ocean Road Ride
by John H
This ride report was originally published in the October 2010 issue of the Motorcycle Tourers club magazine, ‘Chain Lube’.
This ride report starts with comments that others have made of our route and destination, the world-famous Great Ocean Road
“The GOR is always an incredible ride, if only because it offers everybody the opportunity to get ‘in the groove’ – find the right gear to devour kilometres of 40 km/h corners, right, left, right, using just the throttle to effortlessly feel like a moto legend. And look like one too, in one’s own mind at least. Spectacular coastal vistas unwind all around, making the whole experience feel almost too good to be true. Blue skies and sunshine were the icing on the cake.” – Rolf, MMT Otways ride, 23rd August 2009
“That was a lot of fun… If next week turns out like today, I’ll be very happy.” – Justin, upon arriving at Skene’s Creek, MMT Otways pre-ride, 12th September 2010
And now let us move forward to 12:20pm on 19th September:
“Well that was the least fun I’ve had on a motorbike in a long time!” – Justin, upon reaching the shelter of a petrol station canopy at Apollo Bay after a very wet ride from Lorne
I believe that my ride is the third in the last four months to involve an absolutely fantastic day’s weather for the pre-ride being followed by some pretty cruddy weather on the actual day of the ride. First it was Adz’s June ride through the Spurs. Then it was David’s Mansfield ride that never made it past Buxton. And now my rainswept and windswept Great Ocean Road ride. I propose a new solution: let’s just all turn up for the pre-ride instead of the actual ride!
A week before my ride, the lovely Juzzie accompanied me on a pre-ride trip to confirm that the planned route was do-able. Juzzie headed off through the early spring sunshine on a beautiful Sunday morning, making it down to Lorne by about 11:30. With the sun shining and little traffic, we had an absolute blast heading along the Great Ocean Road.
Justin rode well ahead of me, and managed to finally get rid of most of the chickenstrips on his racing slick tyres. We headed inland at Skenes Creek, heading down everyone’s favourite bark road (Taunton’s Track) which so many remember so fondly from Rolf’s ride last year through these parts. Juzzie helpfully suggested I include that road in this year’s ride only if I have a deep desire to be beaten up by ride participants. I also attempted to ride along a gravel road to the superb Carlisle River road some of the Tourers may remember from our trip back from Kangaroo Island early this year, but we discovered it was about to be closed for roadworks. (Let’s hope that includes sealing it!)
The highlight of the day for Justin was afternoon tea in Birregurra. There we were, having afternoon tea with me in the middle of one of my famously tangential stories that just keep going, when Justin’s attention was strangely distracted (funny about that). Some apparently gorgeous young guy (Justin thought 18, I thought younger!) wandered up the street and smiled and said hello to Justin, who squeaked back “Hello!” Said teenager then hopped in the car with someone I presume was his father, and was clearly checking Justin out as he was driven past us. “That’s it”, said Justin. “I don’t care where else we go next week, but we are stopping here on the way back!”
So it was with much anticipation we looked forward to the main event. Hours before the ride, the Bureau website suggested there might be some chance of rain, but it would be at most 1 millimetre.
I arrived at Shell Laverton at about 8:45 and saw a couple of motorcyclists, one well-weathered bloke who I was fairly certain I’d never seen before and another rather handsome fellow who looked vaguely familiar, but on a bike I’d never seen before. He came over and (re)introduced himself: it was Tim, who was last seen on a ride getting on to two years ago when he rode a yellow Ducati Monster, but had now moved over to a shiny new white Kawasaki Z750, which boasts as standard features that were apparently only optional on the Ducati, such as the facility for the motor to actually start up on demand and keep running. The shiny little Z was brand spanking new, with painted lines still visible on the tyre tread.
(So there, Justin, yours is no longer the newest bike in the club! 😛 Nya!)
Speaking of Justin, there was no sign of him yet. I assumed that he must have decided to meet up with Brett at the Sth Yarra pickup.
I’d recognised Arbel on the GSX-R600 exiting the freeway, but he seemed to keep heading on somewhere. (We later established a few minutes later it was McDonalds, for breakfast!) A few minutes before 9, Brett arrived with reinforcements from South Yarra: Fab, Arron, and Ken.
Still no sign of Justin. Brett checked his phone and found there was a message from Justin, who advised he was running late, saying something along the lines of “I ran outta gas! I had a flat tire! I didn’t have enough money for cab fare! My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners! An old friend came in from outta town! Someone stole my car! There was an earthquake! A terrible flood! Locusts!! It wasn’t my fault I swear to God!!!” We decided to set off, and let Justin catch up with us along the way.
Compared to other MMT rides which have seen bikes as diverse as a CBR125, Yamaha Majesty, Ducati 1098, BMW and Harley Davidson all heading out together (each displaying their own different approaches to corners, acceleration, and fuel range) there was a relative uniformity as we started off. Other than Arron’s Suzuki GS500, everyone was on a 600-750cc bike, and other than Ken’s Ducati, everyone was on a Japanese bike.
We had a typically boring run down the Princes Freeway, made interesting only by the presence of a VW Golf driven by a man who had a refreshingly new and different understanding of the purpose of lane markings. We heading off onto the ring road around Geelong and collected Phil, resplendent in his orange helmet, on the Aprilia Tuono by the time we exited at Barrabool Rd. A quick stop on the side of the road to make sure we had everyone present and accounted for revealed we were still missing a certain white/blue Triumph and peroxide blond rider. As I squeaked back to my bike and dark clouds began to grow menacing, Fab pointed downhill to the vast acreages of open farmland towards Gheringap and Cressy, which unlike the ranges to our south were being bathed in glorious sunlight, and suggested that we should just go ride around there.
We headed down Barrabool Rd which has some nice corners along its 90km/h sections, and then headed south down Devon Rd, crossing over the Princes Highway and heading onto the Cape Otway Road. Local farmers had erected various crudely painted roadside signs near their gates to advertise various saleable items, which included horse manure, “calf poo” with an advertised price of $1.50 (what, per lump?) and a VE Holden Commodore. (Some would say there’s a bit of a theme emerging here). After passing near various places I can’t pronounce the names of without Justin laughing at me (Modewarre, Gherang, Murdiboluk and the adjacent Wurdiboluk Reservoir) we then took a left turn towards Deans Marsh. We kept up a brisk pace but within speed limits, which turned out to be a good idea as parked off into the shrubbery on one side of the road there was a Holden Captiva (such an appropriate name for a police car!) fitted with radar apparatus.
At Deans Marsh we were just pulling off our gloves and helmets when we heard the approach of that characteristic three-cylinder engine note that could ONLY be a 675cc Triumph Daytona (or a 993cc Daihatsu Charade). Sure enough, Juzzie pulled into view, desperate for a bathroom visit and a flat white (in that order). We engaged in a little fun at Juzzie’s expense by pretending that we were in fact putting our gloves and helmets back on again to leave immediately.
The clouds were looking a little threatening as we pressed on from Deans Marsh, but other than a few light spits we had a pretty good run all the way down to Lorne.
At Lorne I advised the group that I would be handing over ride-leadership to Juzzie between here and Apollo Bay, so that those wishing to take corners faster than I do could be liberated from watching me brake through every corner. However, we need not have bothered. The weather hit just a couple of kilometres out of Lorne such that Juzzie, who had forgotten to bring a grater to cut some extra grooves in his near-slick race tyres, was forced to slow down to the point or riding almost as slowly as I did!
It wasn’t too bad at first, a few patches of drizzle merely making the road a little greasy so you didn’t lean too hard going through the corners (I never do anyway!) but could still enjoy some brisk riding. I put my newly acquired CBR600’s 4,000 rpm of extra rev range and thirty extra horsepower to good use overtaking a short convoy of car following minibus following hopelessly incapable van driver veering all over the double white line, and was soon free to enjoy the corners while they were still dry-ish. After Kennett River however it really did get nasty, with gales of wind and enough drizzle to ensure everything (the road, the bike, the clothing) got a good soaking.
On one of the sharper corners around this point, both Justin and myself found ourselves being caught in a bizarre atmospheric dynamic as the wind hitting the cliffs combined with the water on the road to cause us to both our bikes to slide around. My bike felt almost like it was “walking” as it slipped sideways. I wondered what the fancy ABS brake and electronic steering damper sensors would have been making of all this. It seemed be even worse if you slowed down, because then you lost your forward momentum. Once again, the “just look where you want to go and let the bike take you there” rule seemed to be the best bet.
We had a fuel stop at Apollo Bay, and then pressed on to Lavers Hill. As soon as we got away from the coastline, conditions improved considerably. The stretch between Hordern Vale and Glenaire had roads that were nice and dry and we managed to take advantage the dry bitumen and unobstructed corners.
It started to get a bit damp again as we headed uphill into the forests north of Glenaire, but we knew we were only a few short minutes away from the promise of burgers, schnitzels and crispy hot chips with everything at Lavers Hill, so on we pressed.
After lunch we passed through Weeaproinah, the wettest location in Victora, which was ironically quite dry as we rode through. We then turned on to the Colac-Beech Forest road, newly reduced to an 80km/h limit. We ran alongside the embankments and bridge remnants of the former Colac-Beech Forest “pufffing billy” railway, through beautifully forested scenery with the occasional patch of open farmland or recently harvested timber.
At Colac we encountered something not seen since the group left Kings Way at 8:30 that morning: a traffic light controlled intersection! We turned onto the Princes Highway and followed it towards Geelong, passing a rather tragic looking (yet strangely Gary Larson Far Side-esque) dead cow along the way.
The sun had been out for quite a while by now so when we peeled off onto the Cape Otway Road again, we got to enjoy those nice sweeping bends away from the A1 with perfectly dry bitumen. It’s mainly straight along the road from then onwards, and some of us took the opportunity to flex the right wrinst a little and blow a few cobwebs out of our exhaust pipes. I was going along rather quickly, really looking forward to fresh slice of Cafe Birre’s delicious blueberry brulee, but noticed I was being caught up by Justin, who was clearly VERY impatient to get to Birregurra for something else even fresher.
Alas, it was not to be. There was no brulee for me, and no high school prom queen for Justin. I was able to find solace in an equally delicious fruits of the forest cheescake, whereas Justin had to endure various jokes (most of which came from me anyway) about children and nurseries.
As we headed further away from the prospect of any roads with any corners, the weather just continued to improve. Brett took grabbed a few photos (including one of us being overtaken by a Volvo!) between Birregurra and Moriac. I realised as I got to the turnoff at Winchelsea that I had neglected to observe the proud MMT ride leader tradition of involving at least one U-turn, and decided that here was as good a place as any to take part in this sacred rite. Having got that task out of the way, we retraced our steps back along Devon and Barrabool Rds to the deathly dull M1.
Thanks to everyone for showing up, and I’m only sorry that our efforts in getting to the GOR nice and early weren’t rewarded by equally nice weather. Special thanks to my special man Brett for picking up the troops at South Yarra, doing photos along the way and also going as tail rider. Thanks also to Phil and Fab for tail rider duties/photographs respectively.