Skip to content

The Postie Bike – Honda CT110

February 21, 2010

I’ve splashed out and made a new purchase – an ex-Australia Post “Postie Bike”.

For years, Australia Post has been delivering our mail on this trusty workhorse, the Honda CT110. When the bikes hit just over 20,000kms, Aussie Post puts them up for auction. They’re very popular with students and people who want a cheap, reliable commuter. They’re also popular with an odd breed of adventure rider.

Read more…

Advertisements

Stockton Sand Dunes

September 1, 2009

Now that I’ve got this new toy, of course I want to play with it every weekend. Unfortunately, for the full week after I bought it (you can read about that here), it rained.

On Saturday it finally cleared up. That meant we were in this predicament of great weather, but mud everywhere. Not much fun for a novice dirt-biker like me!

Thankfully nearby we have the fabulous Stockton Sand Dunes. These are apparently the largest shifting sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere, and are open for 4WDs, quad bikes, dirt bikes, horses, etc. Damp sand is so much more fun than wet mud!

Click here for a map of the Stockton Sand Dunes.

So, some of the usual suspects (Scott, Burgo and I) headed off for a ride in the sand. I’d never done this before, so it was bound to be a learning experience.

Scott, doing his best to hide my DRZ400 from view!

Scott, doing his best to hide my DRZ400 from view!

One of the first things I learned was that it’s easy to fall off in the thick dry sand.  The next thing I learned was that the best way through is to stand up, give it plenty of revs, and plough through.  I also got pretty good at seeking out the darker, damp sand – it is much firmer, and therefore, much easier to ride on.

At the Northern end of the dunes, there are a bunch of squatters’ huts, called “Tin City”.  Apparently they were built before WWII, then commandeered by the army. After WWII, they were given back to the squatters. People live there, paying no rates or rent. The council has allowed them to stay, as long as there are no new ones built, and if for some reason one falls down, it can not be rebuilt. Not only that, but they are not allowed to be bought or sold.

You can see "Tin City" in the background here

You can see "Tin City" in the background here

From here, we headed on up to Anna Bay, where we had a quick lunch before the trek back home again.  On the way home, Burgo ploughed through some particularly soft sand, and came to an abrupt stop, stalling the bike.  After a while, it became clear that no matter how much he heaved on the starter (his is a kick-start model), it wasn’t going to fire up.  Scott doubled back to have a look.

Burgo, in the distance, stuck.

Burgo, in the distance, stuck.

It turns out that when he’d come off, the front wheel had swung around so that the bars hit the stops on the frame.  The only problem with that was that there was an electrical wire that had dropped down to sit neatly on the frame stop.  This made quite an effective kill-switch!

Maybe I should go and have a closer look...

Maybe I should go and have a closer look...

There's the problem! Got a soldering iron?

There's the problem! Got a soldering iron?

Nearly there. This should get you home.

Nearly there. This should get you home.

Once the wire had been located and joined back together, Burgo jumped on the starter again. After a couple of kicks, it fired into life, and we were on our way again.

As soon as I got home, I got the power washer out, and made sure that all the sand and salt was thoroughly hosed off.  The last thing I want to see is the new bike being plagued by rust.  In fact, once I’d cleaned it and dried it, I went over the bike with some WD40 and a rag, and wiped anything that looked like it might rust.  I even squirted some into the frame drain holes.  You can never be too fussy!

All up, it was a great ride. It’s certainly on my list of things to do again.  Next time, we’ll turn south from where we entered the beach – only a 100 metres or so down the beach is the “Sygna” shipreck – a 53,000 tonne Norwegian bulk freighter that ran aground in the 1970’s.

Here’s more on Tin City

Here’s more on the Sygna

Suzuki DRZ400E

August 26, 2009

I had booked in for a Dirt Bike Skills Day in the Watagan State Forest, southwest of Newcastle, on Good Friday, 2009. (You can read about that adventure here.)

One month later, after phoning around a number of dealers, I decided to buy a new Suzuki DRZ400E from Chris Watson Motorcycles in Cessnock. Not only did Chris offer a great price on the bike, but he also had his workshop set it up with a few extras. These included an alloy bash plate, hand guards, light and flexible tail lights and rear indicators, as well as the engine de-restriction modification.

When the day came to pick it up, three of my mates (Scott, Burgo and Jimmy) decided to ride their bikes up to Cessnock, so that they could help me “christen” the new bike.

Shiny New Bike, Squeaky Clean Gear

Shiny New Bike, Squeaky Clean Gear

As you can see, I was looking pretty happy with myself! We decided to roll out through Cessnock, then out to Congewai, up through the Watagan State Forest, then back over to Freeman’s Waterhole and back to Newcastle.

Suzuki DRZ600, DRZ600, and BRAND NEW DRZ400E

Suzuki DRZ600, DRZ600, and BRAND NEW DRZ400E

Burgo, Jimmy, and me.  All on Suzuki DRs.  Scott was also with us. Sorry Scott, there was only room in that photo for Suzukis! (He’s got a KTM 640 Adventure.)

The bike got well and truly christened! There was plenty of mud at the base of the Watagans. I think from memory, the bike got acquainted with terra firma on more than one occasion. When we got home, there was no hint of that “new bike shine” any more.

Levi, sniffing out the new toy

Levi, sniffing out the new toy

One thing I found when I got home was that I’d collected a vine around the back wheel somehow. It wrapped itself tightly and got stuck between the rear disk and the wheel.

Look carefully, there's a vine wrapped around the rear disk brake

Look carefully, there's a vine wrapped around the rear disk brake

It took a little bit of effort to remove it, but a bit of deft work with a chisel did the job. It doesn’t appear to have done any damage, but I’d think that the disk would have gotten fairly warm for a while there!

You can see the vine wrapped around the disk here

You can see the vine wrapped around the disk here

All up, a very successful “christening”.

First impressions

Tough

I fell off at least twice. The bike bounces off the dirt better than I do.

Heavy

It’s a hell of a lot lighter than my mates’ 600 / 640 bikes, and a ton lighter than the big BMW adventure bikes. Having said that, it is still hefty, particularly when you have to pick it up whilst on a steep incline.

Powerful

It has a lot of grunt! Sure, less than the larger bikes, but I wasn’t being held back by a lack of power.

Tall

I think I may have to get it lowered just a tad.  I feel like I’m struggling to keep it upright at times, wrestling with it when I’m on tip-toes.  This may just be because I need more dirt-bike experience.

Fun

I’m kicking myself that I didn’t buy one years ago!

2009 DRZ400E Specifications (NB: Australian Model)

  • Engine: 398cc, single cylinder, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC
  • Carb: KEIHIN FCR39SS flat-side carburettor
  • Lubrication: Dry-sump oiling system
  • Starter: Electric
  • Transmission: 5-speed constant mesh
  • Front Suspension: Multi-adjustable Telescopic, coil spring, oil damped, 49mm-stanchion-tube front forks with protective rubber boots
  • Rear Suspension: Multi-adjustable Link type, coil spring, oil damped
  • Front Brakes: 250mm Disc
  • Rear Brakes: 220mm Disc
  • Wheelbase: 1,475mm
  • Length: 2,310mm
  • Width: 825mm
  • Height: 1,235mm
  • Curb Mass: 138kg
  • Fuel Capacity: 10 litres including reserve
  • Instruments: Digital instrument includes speedometer, odometer, dual tripmeters with both addition and subtraction functions, clock and stopwatch with subtraction capability
  • Colours: Champion Yellow or Black
  • Warranty: 12 months unlimited kilometres
  • Note: The Australian model Suzuki DRZ400E comes with instruments, indicators, lights and a horn, and is road-registrable.

    Dirt Bike Skills Day

    August 23, 2009

    Way back in 1983, I sold my Yamaha XT500 dirtbike. It was the first motorbike I’d owned, and I’d had it for two years. I loved that bike, and regretted selling it, but I had my heart set on a roadbike, and my budget only had room for one bike.

    Fast forward to 2009. I’d been thinking for some time that it would be good to get another trail bike – something with a bit of grunt, but not as heavy as those “Long Way Around/Down/Across/Whatever” adventure bikes. My mate, Scott, convinced me that I should do a dirt bike skills day, which included hire of the bike and all the safety gear. So, on Good Friday (10 April), I booked myself in.

    The Skills Day was held in the Watagan State Forest, which is southwest of Newcastle. I booked in with Trailworx Dirt Bike Tours who hire out Suzuki DRZ400s. Adrian Hargreaves runs the company when he’s not out installing roofs.

    A little paperwork first, then we're on our way!

    A little paperwork first, then we're on our way!

    We spent the morning doing some basic skills, such as learning how to put your weight over the front wheel for better cornering, why it’s better to stand up when on the dirt, and how to climb up (and down) gullys.

    I think this was my second attempt

    I think this was my second attempt

    Scott had brought his KTM along as a “tag along” rider. As a “tag along” rider, you get the same skills training, plus lunch, and fuel refills if needed.

    Scott on his KTM 640 Adventure

    Scott on his KTM 640 Adventure

    After about four hours of riding in the morning, we pulled in for lunch. Adrian’s wife had arrived at the campsite before us, and had a BBQ in full swing. After a couple of burgers, we headed out for a trail ride – a nice loop from the Watagan Park, down to the valley and back.

    The view over the valley was fabulous!

    The view over the valley was fabulous!

    I learned a lot on this ride, and would fully recommend it to anyone who’s looking to get back into dirtbike riding after a long break, or anyone who’s never done this before. It’s also worthwhile for those who just want to freshen up their skills.

    The End of the Day

    The End of the Day

    The other thing that I liked about this was the fact that I could not only hire the bike and the gear, but was able to have a real good chat with Adrian about the Suzuki DRZ400 trail bikes. I pretty much decided at the end of the day that this bike was a good, reliable, fun choice.