Tailem Bend here I come!
Easter Monday saw me saddle up the new 2018 Honda Gold Wing for an adventure a little further than what I had enjoyed during my first taste of the machine last week which you can read via the below link.
This time the direction was West, the trek a 650km sojourn from Eildon across Central and Western Victoria before crossing into South Australia en route to Tailem Bend for the ASBK Test session at the new The Bend Motorsports Park complex, an hour south-east of Adelaide.
Easter Monday means ridiculous holiday traffic meandering their way back towards Melbourne. I clocked out of Eildon around lunchtime after getting some new content on MCNews.com.au and filled up with 95 at Yea 45-minutes or so later.
This run was a great opportunity to try out ‘Economy’ mode on the bike, which is one of four modes on offer, the others being ‘Sport’, ‘Tour’ and ‘Rain’. The electronic suspension, traction control, braking effort and ABS maps change along with the mapping of the DCT system, and it is the changes in the operation of the transmission that is most readily apparent from the cockpit once underway.
Battling very slow traffic, down to a crawl at times, saw me revel in just letting the dual-clutch transmission do its thing with no intervention from me. No clutch to modulate and no gear shifter to prod, I just rolled with what the DCT dished up and was entirely satisfied to do so. It actually made putting up with the shitful traffic a lot more bearable.
After Seymour I was out of the Melbourne bound traffic and heading West past Puckapunyal (but unfortunately no longer 19), then through Heathcote and Axedale before hitting the relative big smoke of Bendigo and the first and only sets of traffic lights for the day. I negotiated my way through the confusing mess of roads one needs to take to actually get through the other side of Bendigo to get back on the highway. Thankfully the Apple CarPlay navigation dsiplayed on the 7″ TFT screen made it much less of a headache than normal.
Traffic lights also revealed just how different the DCT behaves in ‘Economy’ mode compared to ‘Tour’ or ‘Sport’. The Wing would quickly shuffle through four gears, and sometimes five cogs, before I had even reached the other side of the lights! And without revving past 2000rpm! The only thing I can compare it to is when you are onboard a modern up-spec coach or bus, where the thing just pours through gears without hardly raising from idle. The Wing just surfed a wave of bottom end torque while the DCT just kept feeding it gears remarkably smoothly. In fact, I would say that it was in this urban environment where the DCT really shone and performed its most impressive work.
Honda has not provide us a torque curve for the new Wing, and only state that the maximum torque of 170Nm is available at 4500rpm. I would hazard a guess that a large percentage of that grunt is available not far off idle. Throughout the day’s entire 650km run I don’t think the Wing broke 2500rpm, even when overtaking…
Once through Bendigo the roo carcass road kill became thick along the verges, and they were much larger skippys out this way than generally seen in the more Eastern parts of the state.
I continued through Marong and onto the Wimmera Highway through Logan and on to St Arnaud. From here the roads got a bit less travelled, on Banyena Road it was down to a single lane with wide dirt verges either side. This continued right to Minyip before I merged on to the Western Highway just outside of Dimboola.
It was here at Dimboola that I made my first stop since Yea, a 360km non-stop stint in the saddle. I was not sore nor uncomfortabe, I just needed to replenish the 21-litre fuel tank with 18.7 litres of unleaded as the range indicator was flashing a warning at me, and I was unsure just how far the next town of Nhill actually was, and could not be bothered taking the time to look it up. Doing the maths that ended up making for an average of 5.2 litres per 100km on this leg of the trip, not bad at all and gives the new Gold Wing a range of around 400km if you want to run the gauntlet. Not as much range as the previous Gold Wing with its larger 25-litre tank, even considering the slightly better fuel economy of the new bike. Acceptable enough though as the largest distance between fuel stops on any major route in Australia is less than 300km.
I had an interesting chat with a fella outside the service station that pulled me up for a chinwag before I left the bowser. He was eagerly asking me all about the new Wing and remarking on how much smaller and more modern it looked than the previous model. He was wearing a Ducati shirt and told me he rode a Multistrada, and while not quite ready for a Gold Wing just yet, he saw a Wing, or something very similar, in his future. Remarking that his Multistrada was the middle step between his previous more sporty bikes, and the end sum game of luxury that something like the Gold Wing represents.
From Dimboola it was westwards through Nhill and Bordertown before rolling through Keith and the memorial to off-road rally great Andy Caldecott. Andy won the Australian Safari four times on the trot before then taking on the challenge of Dakar with a best result of sixth in 2005. Through these years I would actually talk to Andy via a satellite phone after each stage of the Dakar, pulling those comments and quotes for KTM Australia, along with those of his long time friend and fellow competitor David Schwarz.
Tragically, the following year, 2006, Andy lost his life at Dakar after sustaining fatal neck injuries.
With that sad memory behind me it was not much further before I arrived at my pub digs at Coonalpyn and settled in for a beer and reflection on the day’s proceedings.
Over the last few hours I had encountered some fairly strong headwinds which saw the economy suffer a little, by the time I had reached my digs for the night at Coonalpyn the overall average for the 650km day had blown out at around 5.5 litres per 100km.
Along with the great navigation that integrates from your phone through to the large colour screen via Apple CarPlay, there is also the facility to scroll through and select your music, or stream directly via Spotify of Apple Music. I did listen to some music streaming and chose ‘Charting Now’ on Apple Music to see if anything new pleased my auditory nerve, but alas it was all crap… So I spent most of the time listening to an Audiobook via the Audible App, which was also easily controlled from the left hand switchblock. I also used the Podcast facility to listen to the latest news updates from ABC Radio National. Sounds like I’m getting old…
The audio through the GoldWing speakers is clearly audible at 100km/h with ear plugs in, visor up and windscreen in the fully upright position. Without ear plugs it can still be used a little over 110. But with earplugs in and visor down the best way to enjoy tunes is via a bluetooth headset and on this trip I am using the new Shoei Neotec 2 with integrated Sena SRL headset. This has also allowed me to make telephone calls while on the road. Technology huh….
I chose Coonalpyn for my lodgings for this week’s ASBK Testing as it is pretty much the closest town on the eastern approach to Tailem Bend. It is 60km away from the circuit but in a 110km/h zone that takes no time to travel and works out reasonably convenient.
At $55 a room it doesn’t get much cheaper than the Coonalpyn Hotel. Publicans Winnie and Jonesy seemed easy to deal with when I had booked over the phone. When I had asked for a desk or table to work at they said they would come up with something, and they did. The couple took over the lease on the hotel 18 months ago after looking around for a country pub to take over. Jonesy was a linesman before taking over the pub while Winnie trained as a chef in NZ. So with no shit attitudes, cold beer, reasonable tucker and a bed, it all equated to a Happy Trev!
This area was hit hard by the millenium drought and then the GFC which saw many local businesses walk away from the struggling town. The Coorong District Council employed artist Guido van Helten to come and paint a mural on the 30-metre high grain silos to help brighten the spirit of the locals and make a reason for passing highway traffic to stop and take a look.
Guido spent a week in the town getting ideas for the mural before deciding to feature the local school children. The mural took six-weeks with Guido perched up a 38-metre boom lift and 200 cans of spray paint plus paint applied with brushes and an air-brush. It was completed around 12 months ago and makes for a striking break amongst the somewhat barren landscape.
It also differs from much of the silo artwork seen elsewhere with the children seen in grayscale from different angles that adds some depth and a little dynamicism to the mural.
After the final day of ASBK testing wraps up late on Wednesday afternoon I am considering making a late evening dash to Kingston SE on Lacepede Bay, but as I did not get back to Coonalpn tonight until 2030, the 140km longer stretch in the dark to Kingston SE is probably too much of a gamble with the wildlife. A pity, as The Crown Hotel there is also a nice place to overnight on a budget and the run down the Coorong coast is quite pretty, but not in the dark… I think the smarter option might be to not risk the roo gamble and just come back for another night at Coonalpyn, will see what happens…