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Northwest Or Bust

This entry is part 5 of 16 in the series Adventure Rider Issue #39

Colin Bayman, one of the famous Bayman sisters trio, spearheaded another great Perth Adventure Riders epic in Northwest Or Bust.

Northwest Or Bust

Northwest Or Bust

Join a ride with a big group or a small group? Is there any advantage to riding in a big group? Of course there is. For example:

• Somebody else does the planning (thanks to those who do)
• There’s a backup in case of emergencies (thanks to those who provide the support), AND
• There’s an opportunity to meet new people and get their spin on the world of adventure riding.

Are there any disadvantages? Plenty, but you can just ignore them and enjoy the ride.

Northwest Or Bust

Northwest Or Bust


The numbers for the 2019 Perth Adventure Riders’ annual Northwest Or Bust ride totalled 29, and precision logistical planning came to the fore.

Grant Cashion was drafted in as support driver and chef, while Taine Hynes handled the second back-up vehicle. Both were tasked with looking after the mostly grey-nomad bikers on their oldies’ tour of WA’s northwest.

Support drivers sorted, next up was Mike Littlefair as the ride leader, taking no prisoners and punting a DR650 that proved ‘it’s the rider, not the bike’.

Backup ride leader for the second half of the week was Neil Barnes. Neil piloted a Tiger XCX800 at speeds more akin to a low-flying aircraft.

The hard-core adventure riders bitumenised north from Perth to Geraldton, windsurfing capital of the west. The latte-sipping adventure riders trailered bikes up to protect precious new rubber and old arse-cheeks. On arrival they parked up at the home of beloved Gero Dero, Merv Martian, and his sidekick Barry, ready for the off.

An iconic outback photo shoot on the road to Gascoyne Junction.


Evan Homan kicked off with a poor-startingDR650, thanks to his less-than-meticulous maintenance schedule. He spent the rest of the week dreaming of a KTM790R while simultaneously trying to kill his DR.

He failed miserably. The DR soldiered on like a faithful donkey. Evan was also first recipient of the fairy wings. He’d left his wallet in his car and had to make a quick U-turn to retrieve it.

Evan was only outdone by Steve ‘Killa’ Davies, a fly-in Pommie and long-time resident of NZ, and therefore possibly a
‘Peewee’. Steve repaid his Sussex school-mate, Neal Allen, by trying to not only kill the KLR borrowed from Neal, but also Neal’s own DR650.

After an hour on the bitumen heading north from Gero the group finally hit the dirt tracks. The off-road surfaces featured for the next week and led to the first overnight stop at Murchison Oasis, where the pampered went to their prebooked accommodation while the campers pitched tents.

Clayton Isbel on the sole water crossing.

Murchison Oasis to Gascoyne Junction

Day two dawned set to be the first full day of dirt. Drew Peach emerged from his tent with the comment, “It was almost cold last night”. That’s the way the campers like it.

The day threw up some nice sandy tracks where it was best to pick a clean line. It wasn’t easy for the bikes at the back of the pack, but no problem for Craig Holt and Rob Van Koolbergen. The pair punted their Africa Twin and KTM 1290 through the sand with aplomb.

The day ended in the luxury of the Gascoyne Junction Roadhouse, just in time for the West Coast Eagles game followed by a nail-biting Mugello GP.

Neal Allen and Steve Davies chose to spend the night gazing at each other at their candlelit table – time which could’ve been used for critical bike maintenance.

Majority rules: 12 DR 650s and five DRZ400Es.

Junction to the mount

A new day started with Drew Peach donning the sweep vest and Ewen McGregor hotly contesting being allocated the fairy wings. Ewen felt he was the victim of a major injustice for a minor misdemeanour from a kangaroo court.

The route for the day included open gravel roads, with the dust mostly cleared by dependable West Australian winds.

Mount Augustus, the biggest rock in the world, was the destination. Most of it’s underground, but that’s merely a technicality for parochial West Aussies.

The open sections allowed thoughts to roam and promoted enjoying the open spaces. Calvin Nelson, a recent convert from Dukes to dirt bikes, was in the zone when three large, galloping steers looked set to cross in front of the fast-moving bikes. Sphincters were clenched, anchors applied and tyres slid. No damage was done and the steers were left to gaze at the diminishing dust clouds.

At a regroup, Neal Allen was found pulling his KLR apart. Killa Davies was looking sheepish and rued the choice of a candlelit dinner over maintenance the night before. Another benefit of a big group was there being plenty of expert spectators around to offer lots of advice, most of it of little help.

It’s best to stay out of punching range when offering suspect advice.

Once mobile again the impressive Mount Augustus loomed on the horizon and was a guiding landmark for the next 100km or so.

Bob and Ruth at the Mount Augustus Tourist Park were genial Pommie hosts and Grant Cashion cooked up a storm of scotch fillets and snags…that was after he was rescued. Drew Peach, the sweep, forgot to sweep the support vehicles.

The fairy wings were Drew’s for the following day.

Rob Van Koolbergen’s Starship Enterprise rested up in its own reserved spot at the Mount Augustus campsite.
Drew Peach patted his trusty DRZ after it safely got him through the rain to Murchison Oasis.

Mount Augustus to Cheela Station

Campers woke and poked their heads out of their tents to the beautiful sight of the rising sun on Mount Augustus.

Riders on the inaugural NW Or Bust trip had promised this section had the best riding, and no-one was disappointed. There was a long run not far from Mount Augustus, a winding, undulating 4WD track that brought smiles to all dials. The road signs sung out like a navigator in a WRC rally car: ‘Dip’; ‘Sweeping Left’; ‘Crest’; ‘Sweeping Right’; ‘Gate’; ‘Floodway’.

It was too much fun.

Dave McAuliffe, on the original adventurebike, a KTM640 Adventure, was riding it like he stole it, keeping Neil Barnes company at the front. Others were having their own private battles down through the field. At a regroup, Dave had ignition problems on the Kato. Peter Puttick, an auto-electrician, provided a bush fix. He wired the ignition to the heated grips’ switch, bypassing a bird’s nest of wiring, and Dave was soon on his way.

The other Ewen McGregor’s tasty KTM690 Rally Raid.
Restored Well 19 on the Wool Trail, originally dug in the 1890s and of vital importance to early drovers.

Irwin Fryer had a bingle crossing a dry, shale-covered riverbed, dropping the big KTM1050 and tweaking his knee trying to hold up the 250kg beast. The Kato was loaded on a support trailer and Irwin ended up heading home on the bitumen from Cheela Station, choosing discretion as the better part of valour. He’ll be back.

Craig Holt, on an Africa Twin, copped a puncture. The Honda was also shuttled onto a trailer to be fixed at Cheela Station to keep the group moving. The military-standard logistics were like clockwork.

On arriving at Cheela Station, word went around that Killa Davies had now added his buddy Neal Allen’s DR650 to his ‘killed’ list, with the DR requiring new wheel bearings. The logistics kicked in again. Jason Bari arranged a set to be flown from Perth through his mining-service company.

Tall tales and true.
Colin Bayman led the queue for the much-appreciated nosh-up provided by the Murchison Oasis crew.

Hard-workin’ Huskies

Cheela, a working cattle station near Paraburdoo, was headquarters for the next two nights. It’s a fine operation and looked after the group very well, with top tucker and a singing-and-dancing chef.

There was nice accommodation in dongas for the pampered and a good campground for the real adventurers.

The next day was maintenance day for the killers in our midst, or a trip out to a local billabong for the rest, and at breakfast the second morning, Roley Bayman, the eldest of the Bayman sisters trio, was surprised with a ‘sausage’ cake resplendent in birthday candles for a significant birthday. Steve Davies donned the fairy wings, adding to the party atmosphere.

Bodies and bikes fuelled, everyone was soon on their way back to Mount Augustus, relishing the WRC track in reverse.

The group was humming along, each rider finding their own place in the pack.

There were more smiles on dials, and looking at the dials of Frank McGrory and Nigel Denis, it was obvious Husky 701 riders do have more fun.

The crew was soon back in Mount Augustus and took over the on-site bush pub again.

Mount Augustus to Murchison

The rising sun shining on Mount Augustus is something it’d be easy to get used to, and it was the opener of another day.

But as time moved on the sky became ominous and black clouds loomed. Tracks, familiar from the ride north, led to the Murchison Oasis as the storm taunted, fooling everyone into thinking maybe they’d skirt around it.

The rain began about 100 kilometres out and all made a beeline for the oasis, and as the track pushed further south it became wetter and puddles began to form.

All were soaked to various degrees and the road was closed not long after.

Colin Bayman tested the range of his 17-litre Safari tank and managed 391.5km. It was an impressive range, but the total distance for the day was 392km.

The not-so-impressed Colin had to push the DRZ the last 500 metres.

Majority decision

Almost 60 per cent of the total number of bikes, 17, were Suzukis. That tells its own story. Of that subset, 12 were DR650s, from bog standard to tricked-out. Joke-teller and bike-builder Steven Gernhoefer’s DR650 had YZ forks and a hydraulic clutch. Five DRZ400s made up the remainder of the Suzies.

There were six Austrians of various ages, sizes and colours. At 20 per cent of the total, they were the next biggest grouping.

A lone Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha and a Triumph made up the remainder.

The most important statistic? 27 riders with smiles on their dials.

Suzukis led the pack. Steven Gernhoefer, Peter Bayman and Drew Peach on the road to Gascoyne Junction.

Wet, wet, wet

Rain fell steadily. The oasis campground was sodden and all accommodation was booked. Nobody looked forward to pitching tents in the wet.

It’s called Murchison Oasis for good reason. The staff opened the club rooms so all could sleep under cover. If that wasn’t enough, they set up a big fire to warm bodies and dry gear, and then put on a fantastic hot meal. The only possible improvement would’ve been to open the club bar. They did.

What a bunch of legends!

Beer flowed, and as the night wore on, people peeled off from the fire to the dry club rooms. With each extra person the rumble of snoring grew louder, and by midnight the prospect of a good night’s sleep became less and less likely.

Evan Homan’s walk of shame due to a lack of meticulous maintenance.
Ewen McGregor’s KTM proudly donned the fairy wings.

The long road home

By next morning the rain had passed and the group splintered as each plotted a different route back to Geraldton and beyond.

The bulk of the group met at the Hampton Arms, south of Geraldton, for a night of bench racing and reminiscing.

It’s a wonderfully eccentric country pub; a mix of Harry Potter’s Ye Olde Curiosity Shop and Fawlty Towers. It was a fitting location to officially end the trip before the reluctant trek back to civilisation.

A big thankyou to the logistics crew who made all this possible.

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