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The Great Australian Ride – Coast to coast and the right to boast

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This entry is part 3 of 17 in the series Adventure Rider Issue #23

Riding across Australia is pretty much every-one’s dream.

It’s a tough proposition. There’s adventure-riding with the challenge of having to share a room at a country pub and maybe repair a puncture, and there’s the adventure-riding with several weeks of toughing it out in tents and swags, bodging up repairs to make it to the next town, and the ‘next town’ being a settlement of perhaps a few dozen people two days’ ride away.

Riding across the centre of Australia is the second option.

It’s not for wannabes.

The Great Australian Ride (GAR) is an opportunity for riders to make an attempt at crossing the Wide Brown Land with some proven support – but no hand-holding – and at the same time, make a serious contribution to a charity that deserves serious contributions.

Help where it’s needed

In 2017 the GAR will tackle the double crossing for the first time.

Stuart Ball, based in Killmore, Victoria, is the driving force behind the GAR, and he’s hoping to offer a crossing experience to suit a wide range of riders.

“This year we’re doing two rides, both 21 days,” explained the very approachable KTM rider. “East-to-west is the harder route and it’s called ‘AdventureMax’.

“Then I’ll have a week’s rest with the crew in Perth, and we’ll come back with a new, fresh team that wants to go from west to east – from Steep Point to Byron Bay. That’s the easier route and we’ve called that one ‘BushCraft’.

“What I’ve found is you’ve got experienced guys looking for something extra, and if they’re in the same teams as guys who are a little less experienced it can be limiting on pace. This way we can better cater to those two types of guys – or girls. We’ve taken women across too.”

That charity that benefits from the GAR is Red Nose. Formerly Sids And Kids, it used to concentrate on families affected by Sudden Death Syndrome. Red Nose has widened its umbrella to offer grief support in other areas.

“Last year we raised $73,000,” remembered Ball. “This year, doing two rides, we’re hoping to raise double the amount for Red Nose.”

AdventureMax

Starting from Byron Bay, the AdventureMax route takes in Texas, Lightning Ridge, Bourke, Tibooburra, Cameron Corner, Innamincka, Birdsville, The Simpson across the QAA Line and French Line to Mt Dare, then into Alice.

Ross River is included, which is a nice run through the rivers and gorges then Kings Canyon, Uluru, The Olgas. onto the Great Central Highway, Docker River, Warakuna, Warburton.

From Warburton the route heads north on to the Gunbarrel Highway for around 380km of serious adventure, then up to Carnegie Station, Wiluna, Meekatharra, Overlander Roadhouse, Hamelin Pool and Steep Point.

BushCraft

The west-to-east BushCraft route kicks off from Steep Point in WA, then Hamelin Pool to Murchison, Cue and Laverton.

From Laverton it’s the whole stretch of the Great Central Highway – 1129km – to Uluru. From Uluru to Kings Canyon, and into Alice for some r’n’r and some bike maintenance.

Leaving Alice the group takes the Donohue Highway and hits Jervois, Tobermory, Boulia, Bedouri, and Birdsville.

From Birdsville the GAR heads home via Cameron Corner, Thargomindah, Cunnamaulla, Bollon, Texas and finally Byron Bay.

Long service

Doing a GAR would be a tough ask on any bike, but for 2017 Stuart’s KTM will clock up GAR numbers seven and eight, and even before the start of the 2017 double, the odo is showing 107,000km.

And Stuart’s not giving the bike a break.

“I’m looking to have a crack at John Hudson’s crossing record in May,” he said, in a matter-of-fact kind of way.

“I got from Steep Point to Warakuna in 27 hours. That’s almost halfway across the country, so things were going good, but the KTM faltered.” A wiring-harness failure was the problem, and according to Stuart’s description the harness: “…fused on the frame and just shut down.”

It didn’t seem to register as a big problem.

“We’ve just got all the gear here now – a new harness and all the rest of it – so I’m looking to have a crack at John Hudson’s record in May.”

Be a part of it

Rider numbers are capped at 12 each way, but there’s still a space or two as we write this.

If you reckon you have what it takes to tackle the ride of a lifetime, and would like to support an organisation that specialises in support, log on to thegreataustralianride.com or go to the Facebook page of the same name.

You’ll find videos, images, thoughts from riders who’ve faced the challenge and whole stack of tips and information on how to prepare and what to carry, as well as how to sign up.

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