With two days to go riding in the summer holidays with mates, some new riding was needed. With both north and south extensively covered last year it only left west.
West in January can get a bit hot and bothersome, so plenty of zigzagging was in order to keep the ride in the New England area and hopefully cool, and the finished course looked a bit like a dragon’s head.
A night to spare
Because this was a midweek ride with four days’ notice it kept the number of riders with two days and a night to spare.
An early meeting at the Promised Land, saw Cain (990), Gibbo (990), Dean (690) and Phil (DR650) following myself through the fog past Dorrigo. A quick refuel at Ebor got us to the start of the main dirt on the brilliant Old Ebor Road.
Old Ebor Road is a ‘roo-spotters paradise and it didn’t disappoint, although it might have been a bit early for some of the roos, with what looked like their jammies on, almost white and fluffy as they tried to cuddle your front wheel.
Apparently a local resident found out Tom frequents this road and is opening a coffee shop? With no latte drinkers on this tour we powered off toward Wollomombi.
KTM versus ‘roo
Rolling New England countryside followed as we worked our way past scenic dams and rows of poplar trees lining the smooth granite road winding through AV station and on to Wollomombi.
More undulating granite followed willow-lined streams through paddocks dotted with sheep, and we were almost lulled into a relaxed cruisy morning when a ‘roo disturbed by the DR whispering past decided to jump Cain.
Unfortunately for the roo, Cain saw him coming at the last second and a handful of throttle dispatched the ‘roo soundly. Roos be warned there is nothing soft about 990s with hard panniers. I’m not sure you can say the same about 990 riders though.
Entering the dragon back section behind Wollombi through more undulating farmland and numerous ramps which unfortunately flat spotted both my rims (not that I was going fast) and a short tar section with flowing corners, then climb onto the ridges of Greenhills Rd into Guyra for chips and gravy, burgers and fuel.
Refuelled, we hit Baldersleigh Road, and to avoid any re-enactments at Marty’s mistake we turned off early onto Old Armidale Road. Off Old Armidale Road an inviting dirt road snaked west, so a touch of exploring and cattle mustering was in order, but when I hit camels that was west enough. We turned back onto the dragon course and onto Black Mountain looking for a lair, a few old houses, fuel and a highway. But the only lair was in our group.
The shortest six kilometre section ever saw us overlooking Malpas Reservoir and a ‘Stop Survive Revive’ stop had us feeling refreshed and after a freshly graded Sunnyside Road invigorated as well. The loose road hanging on the side of hills and through gullies had the 650 riders grinning like hoons.
A short highway transport then a series of dirt lanes had us right to the edge of town when a walking track ground everything to a halt. Bloody Google Maps! Just because I had it set on walk didn’t mean I wanted walking tracks.
Suburban special test
Disappointed at backtracking and one-way streets, no through roads and town, a familiar road turned up, so back out of town we headed to pick up the desired dirt roads of the original course. Apple Tree Road proved fun dirt roads can exist in town, along with a short grass section and nice water crossing, all less than two kilometres from the city centre.
Part two of the suburban special test involved four blokes steering a trolley through Coles in full moto gear doing a bloke shop, terrorising little old ladies while Marty attempted to sell discs and KTM accessories in the car park to no avail.
After a successful hunt we filled a pannier up with ice, beer, meat and other goodies distributed across the bikes we headed for camp.
No point camp
Just four kilometres out of town we were back onto sparkling New England backroads soaking up the atmosphere and riding smoothly through where historic Hillgrove used to be and out to Long Point where, according to National Parks’ website, push-button barbeques and water waited at the camp.
Finding neither, we had a look around after a short walk to Chandler Lookout where a wedgetail eagle put on a dazzling display just metres away, soaring on thermals then retreating as soon as cameras where pulled out as wildlife often does. You just had to be there.
Retreating back out we continued on to Wollomombi falls to cook dinner then had to move a considerable distance to camp on the side of the road, still nice night though.
Next morning we were up early and headed straight to Gorges Junction through countless ‘roos and curves and a blast out to the point for a quick look. More curves clinging to cliffs followed as we wound our way down following the Macleay River to Bellbrook for fuel.
Leaving Bellbrook we crossed the Macleay River and headed down the road of gates to Toorooka. This is a fantastic road, nice and tight and reduced to grass on some section as it weaves its way through farms, across creeks and through the odd gate or two (around 10).
Traditions were upheld before crossing at Toorooka then onto Collombatti lookout for a look.
After listening to too many stories about the climbing ability of 990s, how easy Kilprotay is and DR riders are a bunch of girls, I didn’t think Gibbo would mind a little ridge section that is not only a favourite of mine, it’s steeper than I had remembered (you don’t really notice steep hills when you ride a DR because the bike just flattens everything).
So after a couple of steepish hillclimbs, and descent and worse in front, guilt got the better of me and we turned around and went the girl’s way, which also had a couple of decent downhills that gibbo thought were worse than Kilprotay.
Nice tight ridge trails had the boys warmed up by the late Macksville lunch break so we cruised home via Valla and Martells Road, content with a good couple of days away.