A pretty dumb thing to do but we thought we'd give it a go. We'd heard about the Dusty Butt but had never managed to enter, this year was different, we were on the button when entries opened so got in there early. Always up for a challenge we thought we'd give it a go on our trusty GN125's, what could possibly go wrong?
IMPORTANT, THE RIDE RAN OVER SOME AREAS NOT USUALLY OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, GET PERMISSION FROM THE LANDOWNER, IF YOU'RE NOT SURE, ASK.
Day One was around 500km, leaving from Fairlie at 6.30am heading south east towards Waimate. A river crossing early on drowned a few bikes but we found ourselves on the other side still warm and dry so headed into the hills. After a very quick coffee at Waimate it was south before turning up into the Hunter Hills and Kaiwarua Station where we met our first snag. As I followed Trev down the track I started finding things, first a jacket, then a shoe, next a few tools, another shoe then around the corner I found Trev with a hammer sticking out of his rear sprocket - his panniers had given up the ghost shedding stuff along the way. Poor maintenance in my opinion.. It took a while to free the hammer and bungy the panniers back together before we could head north west again to eventually join the Hakataramea Pass Road at Cattle Creek, from there south to Kurow for fuel and lunch.
The next section was easy peasy, down SH83 towards Duntroon, through Danseys Pass then down the Ida Valley to Omakau. Then it got hard again. We headed through the hills towards Lindis Crossing, the going was steep but the wind! It blew a gale, and then some. The GN was stopped in it's tracks after coming around a bluff in2nd gear into a very strong head wind, simply not enough horses, gates were a challenge, just standing up was difficult. Mental note, go through there again on a nice day. But we made it and then had a very nice run down to Cromwell where it got hard again. A very steep and rocky climb up the Carricktown Walking Track then across the tops to briefly join the Nevis road before branching off again to enter Clyde from the rear (can I say that?). Next a quick run down to Alexandra just in time to order Thai takeawy before they closed at 9pm. A long day of 500+ km and both feeling pretty buggered.
Day Two started with a quick repair to one of the GN's rear sprocket which had developed a little play in the cushion rubbers. We cut old milk container into rectangles and used them as packing, job done. It was raining and we knew the track would be slippery so decided to eat a Big Breakfast in town (err, actually it was a nice healthy salad m'lod) before heading off. A wise choice as by 11am the rain had gone and the track was drying out nicely, off we went. Beaut climb up to the top of the Old Man Range and along the top taking in some pretty good rocky steps which the GN's ate for breakfast. A steep drop down into Waikaia Forest seemed to have caught a few out earlier due to the wet clay surface but by this had dried by the time we got there so it was an easy ride down. A lovely ride through the black beech forest and out onto the flats ready for a hare up SH6 to turn right into the Nevis Road. Wow, the Nevis was fantastic, a great riding surface and enough water in the crossings to make it interesting, very interesting at times. We shot through in record time feeling on top of the world. Then it got hard again, very hard. The route turned to the west scouting along the edge of the Kopuwai Conservation Area and what a pig of ride that was. Deep ruts combined with my lowered foot pegs and brake lever meant very tough going. The brake lever kept getting caught on rocks and ruts, bending the lever, jamming the brake on and throwing me off several times, I was sweating, cursing and not a happy unit. Someone laughed at me asking who had lowered the pegs several times... He nearly died that day. 3hrs and 30km later we finally staggered out the other end with only one wrong turn across a river. We arrived back in Alexandra at 8.30pm very happy after another great day and over 300km of (mostly) fantastic riding.
Day Three. The bike with the sprocket issue needed a chain replaced and brake/gear levers straightening so we didn't get off as early as intended. This meant we were forced to miss around 50km of the Sunday A section, instead we turned west from Roxburgh leaving the route and wiggling round Lake Onslow to rejoin it near the start of the Serpentine on the Old Dunstan Road. What a beautiful ride. The wind was cold (waterproofs on to keep us warm) but stunning scenery. Around Poolburn Reservoir and down into Moa Creek then north towards St Bathans we went, enjoying every minute. From Hills Creek the route went north along Hills Run Road before petering out into a 4x4 track as it entered the Hawkdun Range. Some great rivers crossings along the way, one or two really pushing the GN's to their limit. A steep, rocky and high climb up to the saddle (Omarama Saddle?) with a stunning vista overlooking Omarama township. By then it had warmed up so it was fuel for bikes and riders in Omarama ready for the final leg. And what a final leg it was. After crossing Benmore dam we climbed high through Black Forest Station heading north all the way, just beautiful. Shingle crossings and more streams/rivers gave us a bumpy ride at times (by now we were looking enviously at other riders on their dirt bikes) but they coped well. I will admit to having one tiny dismount in a river but did manage to keep the bike running so no drowning that day. After a relatively easy last leg we eventually got onto the Haldon Road which we belted up as fast as the little bikes would go (92.7km/hr at 9k rpm) before turning right into Mackenzie Pass Road and the finish in Fairlie. Another 550km of fun all the way.
The bikes were amazing. For a town commuter bike with road tyres they did exceptionally well. The suspension did leave a little to be desired (well quite a lot really) and a bit more power would have been welcome but for all that they completed the trip with minimum maintenance. I should probably point out that our pre trip preparation consisted on changing the oil and letting the tyres down to around 15psi, plus each hoping the other had a spare spark plug. No punctures along the way despite the abuse hurled at them - a credit to the $20 Chinese tyres. Engine wise they ran perfectly, no oil burnt, started every time, purred along like sewing machines. The only true breakdown was Trev's rear right indicator bulb which packed a sad on Day Three, not bad for two little bikes which were batting well out of their league. We were lucky with the weather, had it been wet the road tyres would have been our letdown. But yay, it wasn't wet so all went well!!!!!.
My only real problem is that the GPS unit is still wired into the GN and it's the TT2000 next weekend. I was going to ride the V-Strom but could I possibly even consider the unthinkable..... could I, should I, will I..?