The Silver Lady and I hit it off from the outset. I rode her for a few hours around the suburbs of Perth on Friday night, mainly because I had no GPS set up, and got lost looking for a motel. I had not intended to go far at all, just to a nearby motel, and was going to leave the getting acquainted until the next day. The first two motels I found closed their offices at 8pm. Not, in my opinion, the way to run a business based on providing accommodation. I could have gone to stay with the family, but by the time I realised that was the most sensible thing to have done, it was very late and I was concerned I might disturb them. Finally I found the motel I stayed at last time I attended a workshop up that way, and bedded down.
The first thing I did in the morning was wire up the GPS. No more getting lost. Then a trip to find a gift for my little great-nephew who celebrated his birthday on Friday, a visit to the bike shop for a new helmet, and off to see the family in Forrestfield.
We all agreed the bike is a beauty. Of course Steve will never admit that anything could be nicer than his Vulcan, and I don’t blame him.
While at the motel, I had chatted with my neighbour who asked me where I was headed on the bike. I told him I had planned to ride to Dalwallinu, but the person I intended to visit was now otherwise engaged. He suggested that if I wanted a really good ride, I should follow the Indian Ocean Drive to Dongara. The road is pleasant and scenic, and Dongara, he said, is the nicest town in Western Australia.
So that is where I headed. With a diversion into Nambung National Park for a ride around the Pinnacles.
The Silver lady is heavy -310kg – and likes sand even less than the White Lady does. The soft patches were a real test of my riding skills. I did not let her drop. I did two circuits of the park, the first to capture a movie of the ride, and the second to take photographs. I had only the one camera along. As I had hitched a ride to Perth with a colleague and her family, I had been limited in what I could carry with me. Though it did mean I was travelling light, it also proved to be somewhat problematic, as I had no charger along to replenish the camera battery when it was exhausted. This meant that I could take no photos the next day.
Dongara is a lovely place. Whether it’s the nicest in WA is debatable. I think Esperance is really lovely too. NZers will know what I mean when I say that Esperance reminds me of Orewa, while Dongara is perhaps more like Waihi Beach. Both excellent places to be.
Sunday morning at breakfast in a Cafe on the beach, a couple celebrating mother’s day with a champagne breakfast asked me where I was headed. I told them I had no idea but I was fairly sure I’d know when I had arrived. I toyed with the idea of going further north, perhaps to Coral Bay, but I did not have a mask and snorkel or bathers with me, and in any case I was already quite a way from home considering I had only a three day weekend. I thought I should at least head in the right general direction. Since I was now north of my original intended destination, I set the GPS to take me home via Dalwallinu, Wongan Hills, Northam, Brookton and Wagin. I did not know how far I would get, but decided to ride until fatigue set in, then if necessary find a pub to sleep in.
I passed Damboring lakes, which I thought were actually quite interesting.
At Wongan Hills I stopped for lunch. As I was about to mount up I met Debbie, the former colleague from NZ, whom I had intended to visit in Dalwallinu. She had completed her business the day before, and was out for a ride with her friends. We admired each others bikes and chatted for a while before I continued south and they north.
The roads were all good and I found some of the back roads were nice and curvy. in a couple of places the carriageway was very narrow. The roads could have been Irish country lanes if they had not been so obviously surrounded by vast amounts of Western Australia.
I may have mentioned in passing before how incredibly BIG Australia is. Speaking of big, I encountered some wide loads coming in to the mines. They were buckets for a digger and larger than a house. They took up the whole road, and all traffic had to pull off onto the shoulder or verge in order to let them pass. Amazing.
By the time I got to York, the day was wearing on, and by Brookton the light was beginning to fade. I was soon riding in darkness. The driving lights gave me a well-lit road, and once again I encountered no ‘roos in kangaroo alley. At one roadside rest in the middle of nowhere I stopped for a leg stretch and a drink of water and electrolyte. I turned off the lights and stood for a while under the stars. It was a clear night, and I was at least 80km from the nearest town. No loom to affect visibility. An Awesome sight. Proper use for the word Awesome.
One of the pleasant things about riding a bike is the closer connection with the world around one. In particular the smells of the countryside. Regions have their own smells. Down south the air is filled with a medicinal/herbal/eucalypt smell and around Katanning there is a more earthy odour. At the moment though, the entire Great Southern and Wheatbelt is scented by the smoky smell of burning wheat and Canola stubble as the farmers prepare the fields for the next crop. It is a most pleasant odour. A mixture of burning autumn leaves, spicy baking cookies and fragrant pipe tobacco. I passed a few fields still burning and rode through the smoke. It made me think of the old fellow smoking his pipe and blowing smoke rings.
In the dark I came upon a hillside still on fire and the ruddy glow tinged the smoke drifting down to the road. It was a pretty sight, and I regretted that the battery in my camera was dead.
The night grew cooler as I came south and I stopped at Popanyinning to add some warm layers under the jacket. at least I had come prepared in the clothing department.
As I rode almost due south on the last leg from Narrogin, the horizon ahead of me was lit periodically with flashes of lightning. Another pretty sight. I made it home before the rain arrived though. I had just ridden 700 K with barely a half dozen breaks to stretch, drink, eat or refuel. No numb bumb, no stiff knees or pains anywhere. Outstanding.
Silver Lady pros:
- The seat – without doubt the most comfortable I have experienced. No need for an Airhawk on this bike! I did not need to stop nearly as frequently to stretch my legs. In fact I had to remind myself to do so anyway. Just to take a break.
- The windshield takes the wind pressure off so that there is less strain.
- The above combined with the raised handle bars means one is riding in a comfortable posture that is not tiring at all, Makes this bike a beauty to ride.
- 1300cc means she cruises at 100 very comfortably with plenty left if needed.
- Fuel injection means she is as economical as the 650 in fuel consumption.
- Double front and single rear disc brakes. She stops. I did a few test emergency stops on quiet stretches of road. I will need to do some practising on gravel.
- Alloy wheels means tubeless tyres. I can carry a tubeless repair kit and fix punctures without removing the wheel.
- The windshield height is such that turbulent air makes the ride quite noisy, which is a shame because the water cooled engine and single exhaust make the 1300 much quieter running than the air cooled twin exhaust 650. If I lower my head just a few inches, the wind noise stops. I am not sure what, if anything, I can do about it. I cannot ride crouched. that would defeat the purpose of the other comfort features. The windshield does not appear to be adjustable. Earplugs or noise-cancelling stereophonic earphones maybe.
- The extra weight means I need to take more care on gravel and sand.
- That’s about it. The only glitch I found was that if I leaned on the fuel tank, a dent suddenly appeared which suggested negative pressure in the tank. Sure enough, when I opened the fuel cap, there was a sucking in of air and the dent popped out again. I was sure that was not supposed to happen. I soon found the deformed rubber ring that was blocking the breather hole. Problem solved.
Conclusion: She’s a keeper.