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Our Island Home

This entry is part 3 of 16 in the series Adventure Rider Issue #39

Peter Haydon ponders the nature of adventure in our island home.

Our Island Home

Our Island Home

As I looked to plan another route to Phillip Island – the group’s 25th MotoGP – I became a little nostalgic.

I thought back over our achievements and adventures of the past 25 years…what we’d ridden, where we’d ridden, and more importantly, where we hadn’t been.

I got to thinking, ‘I wonder what the meaning of ‘adventure’ is?’I blew the dust off my old Webster and looked up the word: ‘an exciting or remarkable experience’. I thought: ‘Yep. That about sums up the last quarter of a century travelling to the Aussie MotoGP’.

But an adventure can become habitual, so much so that no matter what else is on that time of year – you know, the small stuff like the daughter’s wedding or birth of a first child – it has you thinking: ‘How am I going to get out of it so I can still go with the boys?’

One of the dotted lines on the map, the Eildon-Warbo Road.
Eagerly zooming in on that little dirt road which would provide ‘an exciting or remarkable experience’.
All avid road riders in the early years.


For the past 25 years our ever-expanding GP ride group has habitually travelled to the Australian MotoGP. The first two years were in Sydney and the past 23 have been at Victoria’s Phillip Island – more commonly referred to us just ‘The Island’.

On our first year to The Island in 1997 we were all avid black-top road bikers, and although we could punch down the Hume Highway and be at The Island in a day (albeit a long one) we always had the adventure bug and chose to ride down over two days. We did the same heading home, pulling out the old paper map to see what different roads we could travel along the way.

Twenty-three years later the majority had evolved to adventure bikes.

As the years rolled on we began to run out of blacktop options, and as we scanned the old half-torn maps for a different backroad the little back lines would eventually fade to become little dotted lines. That generally meant dirt.

Back then blokes were precious about riding their pride-and-joy road bikes on any form of dirt, so it began to impose some limits on our adventure.

Twenty-three years later the majority of our MotoGP ride group had evolved to adventure bikes. We’d ditched the paper maps and now eagerly zoomed in on the Hema to find that little dirt road which would provide ‘an exciting or remarkable experience’…that little dotted line we used to see on the old paper map?

Awesome! Let’s go!

A stimulating riding experience both physically and visually.
You’ve got to love an adventure bike for this kind of riding.

Slick job

In 2019 the 14-strong group came in from all over NSW and Queensland to assemble on a late-October morning in Wagga Wagga, NSW NSW.

Five of the group, still avid road riders, made their own way while the remaining nine, with not a lot of dirt choices to the border, decided to punch straight down to Yackandandah into the hills of Victoria to finish the day in Mansfield.

We parked out front of the Yackandandah bakery for smoko and were soon looking for the source of a burning-oil smell. A wisp of smoke from Spike’s Benelli Trek Amazonas revealed the oil-filler cap had been overtightened and cracked, most likely during its service just days before, and was releasing oil out onto the hot crankcase. As soon as Spike touched the cap it sheared off, leaving the plastic thread in the casing.

A quick bush fix was in order.

While Spike removed the broken thread I found the local ag shop and bought a 20mm, threaded poly plug and some thread tape to fine tune the thread tolerance required on a such a precision job.Wammo. We were set to go…until Spider’s V-Strom wouldn’t start.

After some head scratching we played around with the clutch switch and found the fault. I grabbed a paper clip from the bakery and whacked in a bypass.

Wammo. Again.

It was past time to get the bloody show on the road!

A quick bush fix was in order. A 20mm, threaded poly plug and some thread tape to fine tune the thread tolerance.
The group came in from all over NSW.


Turning left out of Yack we headed through the rolling hills and plantation forests toward Lake Kerferd, popping out at the little village of Stanley and running along plantation-forest roads which offered beautiful views across to Mount Buffalo and eventually rolled us into Porepunkah for fuel.

From there we blasted along Buckland Valley Road and the Goldie Spur Track, quickly ascending into the hills above that provided some stunning, close-up views of the bare, rock escarpments of Mount Buffalo and the Buckland Valley below.

As we descended the rocky western side there was a notable increase in temperature on what was already a warm day, and Steve launched an unsecured saddlebag off his Africa Twin into the scrub just short of the Yarrarabula Creek Track intersection.

Steve retrieved his saddlebag while the rest regrouped and had a quick suck of the Camelbaks before following the SEC access track.

Spider on the V-Strom lost the front wheel in a mud patch and laid the big girl down. Uninjured, and with just a slight dint to his pride, he picked it up and continued on to a superb, freshly maintained access track winding over to the Rose River Road and into Cheshunt for a late lunch and bevy at some sort of Austrian-inspired café.

With the McDonalds Spur Track closed we finished the day twisting along the blacktop via Tolmie and into Mansfield for our first night’s stop.

Overnight rain provided some dust relief.
Motorcycling Mecca – the greatest racetrack in the world.

An Island Mecca

Grey skies looked to threaten the next day’s ride on the dirt, but we continued as planned and headed off from Bonnie Doon to find ourselves high up on the ridgeline looking back down over Lake Eildon itself.

The overnight rain provided some dust relief, and with only one log truck to contend with it was an enjoyable, fast, winding dirt road that continued through the Rubicon Valley and Mount Torbreck Range to pop out on to the Reefton Spur.

We’d thankfully dodged a storm that had gone through earlier, but it made the wet blacktop run into Warburton an interesting one as the tar road was completely littered with sticks, leaves and bark. You’ve got to love having an adventure bike in those situations.

It began to pour at Warburton as we fueled up and everyone scrambled for their wet-weather gear then set off towards Gembrook and Nar Nar Goon.

The rain began to ease as we navigated the farm roads to Lang Lang before popping out onto the Bass Highway for a quick squirt to The Island for the next three nights.

As we rode over the San Remo Bridge for the 23rd time and looked out over the waters of Westernport Bay, it still gave me a buzz. I had a feeling of accomplishment at arriving at the motorcycling Mecca – the greatest racetrack in the world.

Wonthaggi brekky stop.
An excellent dotted line: Grand Ridge Road.

Grand Plans

After two days of what really was out-standing GP racing across all the classes, we departed The Island on the Monday planning to do a 700km day via the Grand Ridge Road, Dargo, Omeo and Barry Way, with the intention of being in Jindabyne by nightfall.

After a quick brekky stop at Wonthaggi then blacktopping it to Foster, we wound our way up a charming, narrow, tree-lined road overlooking a lush green valley.

There was certainly no drought down there! The area had received good rain over the previous couple of days and it proved a little slippery in places for some, especially Spike, who was running 80/20 tyres on the Benelli.

At the Gunyah Junction on the Grand Ridge Road we turned right and continued along the eastern end towards Sale, with the road providing a stimulating riding experience both physically and visually.

Dargo for lunch. The bulk of adventure bikes looked remarkably clean for being in that neck of the woods.

Man down

After grabbing fuel at Sale we continued to Dargo for lunch and arrived to find a number of other adventure bikes with the same idea. I must say, the bulk of them looked remarkably clean for being in that neck of the woods.

From lunch we took the Birregun Road over to Omeo.

Being a little dusty, rocky and narrow at the start, the group began to spread out to get some clean air as it wound its way to the top. But once up there the road widened and opened up, as did the throttles, and a fast run across the snowy mountain peaks eventually finished on the Upper Livingstone and Cassillis Roads. That was when I received a phone call from Scotty who was riding tail-end Charlie. Spider had binned his V-Strom and was a little busted up.

It was somewhere around the Dogs Grave area. While trying to avoid a rut up on the high side, Spider’s wheel had dropped in and the ’Strom had bucked him to the ground, landing him heavily on his side.

First-timer, Scotty Waller.
Spider had binned his V-Strom and was a little busted up.


Being first-aid trained, Scott and Stibby sprung into action and soon suspected from Spider’s symptoms he may have some rib damage and a punctured lung.

An ambulance was arranged, and it was an anxious wait as Spider grappled for each breath. Thankfully a forest worker arrived and it was decided to pile Spider into his ute so he could be driven out to meet the ambos a lot sooner. Scotty and Brett then set about leapfrogging Spider’s bike between them to get it the remaining 25km to Omeo.

While all this was occurring the rest of us continued to Omeo and began to work out the logistics of getting Spider’s bike to Omeo, as well as storing it and finding some accommodation for the night.

Two ambulances drove through town around 20 minutes later and headed out to retrieve him. I managed to secure a local guy who, for the right price, would take us up to recover the bike with a trailer. He also had a place to store the bike. Shortly after this Stibby arrived on Spider’s bike having chosen to leave his lighter Tengai in the scrub. He was then driven back by the local to retrieve the Kwaka. It was decided there was nothing else anybody could do, so I suggested the rest of the group should continue and meet up with the roadies at our prebooked accommodation in Jindabyne before it got too late.

The group departed, first onto Limestone Road then Barry Way, racing the setting sun while dodging numerous ’roos and deer to arrive in Jindy at around 8:30pm.

A chilly late afternoon in Hotham.

Pushing on

In the meantime, while arranging all the logistics, a Ténéré rider pulled up and asked if we were waiting for the guy who fell off the V-Strom. He said he’d passed the accident site just after it happened, reckoned the guy didn’t look too bad, and that a couple of Panadol would have him up and riding again. An hour later Stibby arrived with the rest of the crew to inform us Spider was being choppered to Canberra.

I guess the ambos didn’t have any Panadol.

With some generous help from the locals we left Stibby’s old Tengai (the least worthless bike) and Spider’s baggage at a private garage in Omeo.

With accommodation options slim in that town that late in the day we opted to refuel and punch it over Hotham before we lost all the light. We hoped to find a place in Bright for the night.

As we rode the chilly Great Alpine Road our thoughts drifted to Spider and wondered how he was doing.

It brought a bitter taste to the mouth and an abrupt end to what had otherwise been a great weekend.

Arriving in Harrietville, and feeling a little down about the accident, I decided I’d just punch it home the remaining three hours in the dark. The others chose to stay in Bright. If ever there was one thing I bought for my Tiger that proved its
worth, it was the twin 30-watt LED spotlights. I very rarely ride at night, but to have had them for just this one time showed they were worth their weight in gold.

They safely guided me home. I arrived at around 10:30pm.

The 2019 group. Rear, from left: Brett, Dave, Spider, Lid (hiding), Spike, Scotty, Steve. Centre row, from left: Thommo, Stibby, Gaz, Timee. Front row, from left: Beeper, Haydo, Ronny.
Twin, 30-watt, LED spotties were worth their weight in gold.

Join the club

GP Run #25 was certainly an exciting or remarkable experience.

As I reflect back over the years we really have been fortunate to have only had four major incidents that involved some form of hospital treatment, with no real major ongoing injuries. We even have a perpetual trophy for the lucky ones who make the cut. The citation reads:

‘This award recognises the out-standing efforts by an individual who, whilst riding en route, or returning from, Moto GP, sustained injuries requiring medical treatment due to the rapid departure from their motorcycle. And by the grace of our little biker angel, lived to ride another day. Quote: “Obviously your ambition outweighed your talent.” Casey Stoner – 2011.’

Sure, there are higher risks associated with off-road adventure riding, but really there are forms of risks on all types of roads. When faced with a situation while riding, be it speed, road surfaces or other vehicles, it just comes down to that right or wrong split-second decision we make in response to the situation which determines what the outcome will be.

As for our mate Spider, he recovered at home in a recliner with seven broken ribs and a punctured lung, and Panadol certainly didn’t cut it for the pain.

Welcome to the Crash And Smash Club, Champ.

Roll on MotoGP #26.

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