Project 2012: Day 115
I picked up the new Ducati on Tuesday 20 March, and took her out for the first long ride on Saturday 24th. There’s nothing that can substitute for experience, and Lucia is a different enough ride, with far more complexity, not to mention power, than the GS. So I’m determined to put as many miles on her as possible.
Whilst it’s never too bad a day to have a good ride, and of course I commute to work daily, this Saturday morning was spectacular. After a summer of rain, Sydney has decided to put on the good weather for Autumn.
As much as possible, I try to arrange a friend to come along. Riding alone is fun, but it’s always much more fun to share the experience with friends. Alas, this time, no-one could make it, so I was on my own.
I usually try to get away early, for one thing you get to miss the traffic in the built up areas on the week-end. You also get home early enough to enjoy the day with the family.
As we get closer to winter though, this plan can backfire. Cold, you can deal with, but you have to be careful on your direction, because there’s nothing worse than a blinding rising sun in your eyes.
I decided to short-cut the first section to Windsor, and blasted up the M2 to Old Windsor Road, then the direct route to this riverside town. I was through Windsor, and passing the Air Force Base at Richmond by 8am. A short while later, and we were parked at the BP in Kurmond that marks the beginning of the Bells Line of Road.
I had half a plan to meet up with a friend in Kurmond, but that didn’t eventuate, so around 8:45 it was back on the road, heading up the twisties towards Bell.
Bell’s Line of Road
This is a great road for bikes, which you can tell by the signage. Y’know, those warning signs with bikes skidding on corners that declare “slippery when wet.” I am very conservative when it comes to cornering, especially in the wet. But there was no wet this morning, just a little chill in the air.
As I climbed higher through the mountains, the chill became a definite bite, to the point of working out how to switch on the handlegrip heaters. Even on low though, I had to switch these off and on intermittently because they get darned hot. I guess they’re designed to work through thick gloves worn in Alpine winters, rather than thin gloves worn in Sydney autumns.
The ambient temperature gauge was reading 4oC once we got to altitude. So close to what I call arctic, and I was bloody pleased I’d decided to wear long johns under my new leather pants.
Unfortunately, I’d not left early enough. To really enjoy this road, you have to be on it well before 8am. As it was I was stuck behind traffic a lot of the way.
Previously when I’ve done this ride, you take a left at Bell onto the Darling Causeway, but this time I decided to push on to Lithgow first. This is a quick ride. The speed limit is 100km/h and very few of the cars stick to the limit on the top of the mountain here. I wasn’t much over, still getting used to the bike and the road. At this stage, I’m often slower than the locals in the countryside.
Lithgow was a little sleepy as the Multi growled through the Main Street. Then it was onto the Great Western Highway, heading back up the mountain.
Full Throttle Diner
Halfway up the mountain, just East of Little Hartley is a well known Bike Stop called the Full Throttle Cafe, and it was here I stopped for breakfast. The last time I came through here, in January, the place was closed, so I was pleased to see signs of life this time round.
I ordered the Full Throttle Breakfast (what else) which for an incredible reasonable $12, offered a stupendous amount of bacon, eggs, toast, sausage, tomatoes, hash browns, beans and tea. Glad I was hungry really.
After the Full Throttle, where I took some more photos of my new beauty, it was up the mountains, and left onto the Darling Causeway before Katoomba, Blackheath, and acres of british backpacker tourists.
The causeway is another gem of a road. It essentially traces the ridgeline at the top of the Blue Mountains back to Bell’s Line of Road.
Again I had local’s on my tail, probably frustrated that someone on as fast and capable a bike as mine was travelling quite so sedately (if not entirely legally). I actually let a couple of cars overtake me. Rather have a clear road, without people putting pressure on my rear.
Descending the Bellbird Hill
Once back onto Bell’s Line of Road, you get all of the twisties again, this time in reverse and descending rather than climbing. This is pretty tricky riding in my book, and I was happy to tail a group of 3 cars.
I put the bike into Sport Mode for about a 4km section. Just to experience the hardened suspension, and more aggressive engine mapping through some of these corners. It wasn’t long before we were back in Urban mode. Not so much for the power, which was great, but controllable. But more the suspension.
Sport mode, I’ve decided, is designed for the track, or smooth European Roads. Not the lumpy, pot-holy, poor cambered, grit encrusted roads we have to contend with. Of course, on the bike, all three other modes handle rough stuff asleep with one arm tied behind their back. But not Sport Mode. That’s for the track. Leave it there.
Richmond, Windsor, and Home
Before I knew it, I was passed Kurmond, and rolling through Richmond again, then Windsor, and the direct (if not short) route back home, as I had a lunch in the City for 1pm.
I made a note to tone down the aggression at the lights on Windsor Road, because a couple of the side streets have “Left Turn at any Time with Care” signs, and more than one Saturday morning driver was “hunting the Orange.” In other words coming through the left hand turns into the flow of traffic after the light had turned green for me.
Pulling away assertively (er, hem) from the lights scares the bejeesus out of both you, and the "Mark Webber” wannabe testing the limits of his suspension as he tries to beat the traffic. Best to ignore the light change, and check the roads well before pulling away.
The route was about 320 kms all up, and including two stops took some 4hr30.
To say I’m delighted with the bike is an understatement. Wide comfortable, gel seat as standard, together with electronic suspension, made for the most comfortable ride I’ve had on a bike ever. The 3hr30 ride time in the morning, coupled with another hour or so heading into and out of Sydney, and my bum didn’t even notice.
Everything else I was still getting used to. From switching through the dashboard for different information, to trying out different mode settings. The brakes are amazing. Think at the same speed as the BMW, with just 7kg’s more weight (some 3%), means the bike has roughly the same inertia. Yet the Duc has double the braking power.
This is a great ride, even though I almost froze my goolies off.
Come and join me sometime…