A big day out

22 Feb 2018

Gave The Camel XR600R a bit of an airing yesterday – ended up covering almost 600km and taking in some of Tasmania’s best roads and scenery.

The original plan was a 200km run up the east coast to ride Elephant Pass, but having done that with plenty of time to spare I headed inland to Ben Lomond National Park to try out Jacobs Ladder.

Elephant Pass is touted as one of Tasmania’s ‘must ride’ roads. Tight, twisty and technical, it’s the type of road where a supermoto will do a sportsbike like a dog’s dinner…so The Camel did just fine.

Jacobs Ladder is a single-lane hairpin-climb dirt road within the Ben Lomond National Park. Suddenly very conscious of The Camel’s Staintune exhaust, the 30km/h speed limit didn’t bother me one bit and I idled gently up and coasted back down on zero throttle getting unexpected thumbs-ups from groups of hikers along the way.

Tempting as the dirt hairpins are, you’d have to be a complete arse to show this place any disrespect. I’m not generally big on scenery, but stunning dolorite rock formations, pristine alpine flora, the elevation, and the almost total silence, make this place truly awesome in the classic sense of the word.

But enough hippy-dippy bullshit…how’d the XR600R handle a 600km outing? Well, the bike didn’t miss a beat but the rider was beginning to falter a bit by the end of the day.

The first 160km went by in one easy sweep up the coast. Offering plenty of curves, changes in elevation, and some really twisty bits, the A3 is an entertaining bit of tar and, with 14/44 gearing and the ‘big’ 140/80 Heidenau K-60, The Camel ate it up effortlessly.

I could easily have kept going, but I’d left home with the tank just over half full so, with the need for a toilet break pressing, I stopped for the first fill-up of the day at Bicheno. The next fuel stop came some 320-odd kilometres later when the big 22-litre Acerbis tank went onto reserve. That’s the first time I’ve hit reserve, which (after an almost 19-litre fill) looks to give a healthy three or so litres to spare.

I’d always figured 250km a good figure to refill at, but having covered much of that 320km con brio The Camel is obviously safe for 300km (maybe even 350km) between stops. Not so much the rider though.

That first 160km was a breeze, but at around 300km – after negotiating Elephant Pass, crawling through road works, and blasting down some beaut country roads – I felt the need to stop, have a coffee, and stretch my legs a bit.

Just as well, because I’d missed a turning and had an ‘extra’ 100km loop to get to Ben Lomond. No problem, suitably refreshed I hopped back on the bike, headed north towards the national park, rode a few nice dirt roads, and eventually arrived at the top of Jacobs Ladder none the worse for wear.

A few quick photos (told you I wasn’t big on scenery) and a bit of nosing around (oooh look, a wallaby) and it was back on the bike for the 200-odd kilometres trip back to base.

Much of which involved droning along the highway at 110km/h…which is where “some discomfort” occurred.

Diving down backroads you move around on the bike a bit but, after 500km in the saddle, ‘numb bum’ set in pretty quick once on the highway proper. Wind wasn’t much of an issue, but holding the throttle open in one position took it’s toll even after having lightened the return spring (click here for the modification – well worthwhile). In short, the final 50km was…ahem…a test of endurance.

That said, I’m far from ‘bike fit’ and this was my first really long ride on the XR600R. With longer fuel stops, and a decent break for lunch, I figure you could do 800km a day pretty comfortably providing you weren’t stuck on the highway for too long.

Regardless, a 600km (left at 10.00am, got back in time for tea) round trip isn’t a bad day out for what’s essentially a 20-year-old chook chaser….or an old bloke like me.