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On a Sunday

Last Sunday (19/1/04) I had one of those moments that all motorcyclists live for. Challenging roads, good company and a bike that was eager to get into the twisty stuff. It's still summer over here in Australia but typically for Melbourne it couldn't make up its mind.

The morning was cool with gusty showers coming across around 8am after a clear sky at dawn. The ride was due to start at 9am but after a few phone calls was put on hold whilst we waited hoping it would clear. Around 10am the weather cleared somewhat and just four of us headed off followed by some light drizzle.


My Centauro

Being an official CIMAA (Classic Italian Motorcycle Assoc. Aust.) event I'd expected a bigger turnout but the weather has a habit ruining the best laid plans. I guess the thought of all that shiny chrome and Italian electrics getting wet put them off. After picking up a fifth rider along the way we headed out towards Warburton which is located in the Yarra Valley 60k's to the east of Melbourne.

The trip to Warburton can be a bit tiresome on weekends with traffic, speed cameras and cruising police cars to contend with. But the trip is worth it. Once there we stopped at our favourite eatery the Wild Thyme Café for morning tea.

To give the Cagiva Elephant, Morini Camel and the early BMW GS a taste of the dirt they craved we headed out to the Acheron way. This has around 15 klms of unsealed road between two gloriously smooth and curvy sections.

Just out of town you turn left and head up towards Mt Donna Buang. This is one of my all time favourite bits of road. It's all uphill, smooth and contains a mixture of sweeping straights and tight corners. The scenery is a mixture of fern glens and tall gums. Today we were turning off at the turntable around a third of the way up but it's worth a ride to the top for the view. In winter, there's often snow there and it's a popular tobogganing destination. Over the years we've developed a tradition of having an engine off race to the bottom whenever we reach the top. Surprisingly, shaft drive Guzzis do rather well and I've seen 100 kph an hour on the clock many times on the downhill straights. It's quite a weird feeling riding a totally silent motorcycle and it takes some getting used to. Cornering is particularly strange with no power to drive you out and the tendency to over brake going in.

But today we turned off and headed into the dirt which proved to be in very good condition. The dirt boys disappeared into the distance whilst my Centauro and the VFR Streetfigher took it at a more sedate pace. The final stretch of bitumen whilst narrow is smooth and flows through a beautiful panorama of tall trees and regrowth forest. One of the reasons for taking this road was the promise of little traffic. This proved not to be the case on the day with around 10 cars and four wheel drives threatening to take the entire width of the road when they passed.


Our Route (in blue)

Once we hit the Maroondah highway we turned right and headed to Marysville to top up our tanks. The town was full of bikes. This wasn't surprising as it's a popular starting point for both scratchers and rock hoppers. Once out of town we turned up the access road to Lake Mountain a popular cross country skiing destination in the winter. This road is a delight being wide and mostly smooth apart from a couple of tight hairpin bends. Hmm, ran wide on one of these on the Daytona once. Ended up in the gravel with the front wheel on the bank. At the bottom you travel through tall timber that slowly gives way to mountain views as the road skirts along the edge of the mountainside. You can feel the air becoming decidedly chilly as you climb higher. There was little traffic, which was a bonus. Most of the boy racers head straight past.

At the top we stopped for a rest and a quick toilet break before heading down and turning left onto one of the boy racer Mecca's on the east coast, the Reefton Spur road. On the first few k's we were passed by at least 30 bikes travelling in the other direction. Jeez, it looked like it was going to be an interesting ride. Fortunately the traffic died off and we saw only a couple more bikes as we carved through what I can only describe as a scratcher's paradise. Left right left right, knee out, lean over and accelerate out of the corners. Play it smooth and this road rewards you with turn after turn of rhythmic motion. The beast was enjoying this too. It felt rock solid in the turns and with a little body language seemed to flow from corner to corner. The deep v-twin pulse reverberating through the trees as the revs climbed to be followed by a fruity cackle on the overrun.


At the top of Lake Mountain with Phil of Guzzi Exchange on the left

I'm running Sporting compound Metzler M1 tyres on the Centauro at the moment. And whilst I have slight misgivings about them in a straight line (they feel slightly nebulous), in the curves they inspire confidence.

The surface of the road was perfect, there wasn't a twig or gravel patch to be seen. Take on this road after a storm and it's BYO chainsaw. I once did the whole road at about 40kph weaving between fallen branches and piles of bark.

The Spur has another reputation too. It's claimed its share of bikes and even rider's lives. A shattered fairing was a grim reminder of the consequences to those who overstep the mark. Because of this repute, the boys in blue have been known to blitz the area. We only saw two through there on the day. One was knee down on his BMW and well into the spirit of the road.

Every journey has an end and before you know it you are out of the hills and passing parked bikes and the Reefton Pub a great watering hole for bikers. From there it's a quiet run back to Warburton for a relaxing latte in the sun outside the Wild Thyme Café. All that remained was the slow trip home through the afternoon traffic but I think coffee and a table with friends is a better ending to this story.

Mike Wallis
mike@centauro-owners.com

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