In spite of all that the “experts” have been telling us about a very dry Summer here in Australia, quite the opposite seems to be taking place. Indeed, finding a suitable day to go for a long ride when there ISN’T rain predicted, is becoming quite a task. It has rained every day this week including some very heavy falls earlier on in the week, so, when the forecast said that yesterday (Saturday) would only have a 25% chance, I grabbed it.
I wanted to do a Putty run, firstly because I haven’t done one for months, but, more importantly, to test out TWK’s suspension on some less-than ideal road surfaces. My local runs on roads like the Tourist Road have indicated that, despite its basic specifications, the suspension was well suited to both the surfaces and to my weight (which, I have to say, is slowly reducing due to conscientious efforts on the part of yours truly). With a solid database of what the roads are like for the VFR, I was anxious to compare and, hopefully, tick another of the “You have made the right choice” boxes.
But I didn’t want to just do an up and back. Clearly if the idea was to test out and enjoy as many roads as possible, just repeating the dose on the way home seemed pointless. And, yes, I am aware that some roads do present differently in one direction than they do in another, the Putty being one of these and the back road through the Oaks is another that springs to mind. Oh, and the ride would also serve as my first opportunity to test out my new Summer jacket, a Christmas present from my family. It seems excellent though the fastening of the collar with a strap and a press stud, while ideally designed, has the potential to strangle me, my 44″ neck is definitely a problem. I left it undone and was concerned about it flapping around but it didn’t. My wife is dab hand with a sewing machine so it won’t be at all difficult for her to extend the tab so that it can be fastened and be comfortable.
No, I was aiming for enjoyment as well as research so I played it a little differently. Firstly, it was an early start. Up at 0600 and on the road after a fill-up at my favourite servo overlooking the lake at 0630.
The plan was to follow the usual run north but with a couple of variations. Up Mount Keira, across to the Princes and straight ahead at Sublime Point and onto the Appin Road. Traffic was non-existent, a combination of the early hour and the Double Demerits period still being in force (never worries me). The Appin Pie Shop WAS open but it was too early to pause the journey yet so I cruised on by.
Aside from having my ears pinned back by a chap in an M3 BMW who clearly WASN’T concerned about the DD weekend, the passage was smooth and uninterrupted. Around the back of Campbelltown Hospital and onto Narellan Road, joining up the The Northern Road at the northern end of town.
Now I can remember TNR being a one lane in each direction road that went from Narellan to Penrith and provided precious little opportunity for overtaking. If you DID get caught behind a slowpoke it would always be a while before you found a way to get by. And, since this was the road that we used to get to both Oran Park and Amaroo Park, my memories of its limitations are very clear. However, thanks to millions of dollars being spent on a new, four-lane expressway, TNR is VERY different to those days back then. Yes, it is punctuated by dozens of traffic lights but the side roads are mostly to minor estates and the bus lane helps to keep the slow-moving traffic out of the flow. It’s about 50kms of fast-moving road now and it certainly helps if you are making time.
At Windsor I’d usually head out to Wilberforce but I decided to go right onto the Windsor Road and turn off at McGraths Hill and follow the road to Wisemans Ferry. This is a wonderful stretch, one of my favourites. It is filled with huge elevation changes and endless sweeping corners. The speed limit is mostly 80 because there are lots of farms and properties on each side but it’s never bothered me.
I haven’t stopped at Hawkins Lookout for many years now so I redressed that this time.
I made good time to the ferry and was anticipating a break and a walk around when I got there but, as luck would have it, the ferry was loading and I rolled straight on. I did get to walk around on the ferry but it’s not much of a break as the crossing is pretty quick these days.
The next item on my checklist was what sort of condition the Wisemans Ferry road would be in. There was only a 4WD and a lady on P plates on a Royal Enfield on the ferry so, even though I was in Lane 3, I made sure I was first off the ferry and getting going quickly. Now you have read my complaints about the dreadful condition of this country road lots of times I am sure but I was surprised to see that the local council has been spending copious amounts of money on patching and filling and, overall, it was considerably better than when I rode it last. It’s no boulevard, don’t get me wrong and it still needs to be ridden with caution but the combination of the roadworks and the near-new suspension on TWK made it far more pleasant than previous excursions. The council, however, must do something about the numerous bridges that cross the creeks that flow into the Hawkesbury, many of them provide unwanted airborne arrivals and departures.
I always love the climb out of the river valley towards Mangrove Mountain. My run was somewhat stymied by a dead-head in a Tesla who was obviously out for a slow Saturday drive (maybe he was running out of charge?) but I soon disposed of him and, with the prospect of a late breakfast in mind, I got the hammer down in search of Jerry’s at Kulnura. Sadly, when I got there, I found the usual collection of motorcyclists and sign on the window saying that the shop would be closed until the end of January. Pleasingly, Jerry had seen fit to employ the services of a coffee van for the period so I still got a brew and a slice of banana bread.
Always park in the shade if you can.
I do love the road from Kulnura to Wollombi (it degenerates soon after that) and I had a great run up and down the mountain and into the valley on the other side. The pub was packed but I wasn’t stopping and the section after Wollombi, as always, needs to be negotiated with care. The road surface is very patchy (though it’s better than when I did it last) and unexpected encounters with vehicles coming the other way around blind corners is always a possibility (mine was a ZX14 Kawasaki whose rider had clearly misjudged his entry speed. As usual I was riding carefully and what could have been a drama wasn’t.)
After the river and the council jurisdiction changes from Cessnock to Singleton, the road improves dramatically and I made good time to Broke. The link road between Broke and Milbrodale is always tricky, the police patrol it viciously and you’d better not be doing more than the posted 80. The situation was exacerbated by roadworks for the complete length of the road. Long sections of new gravel and 60km/h speed limits meant slow progress, though it did provide an opportunity to admire the millions of dollars that are being put into all the wineries along the way.
It’s almost obligatory to stop at the Putty intersection and take a photo of the road sign, so I did.
Progress through the Ten Mile is slow and interrupted and it seems like the repairs needed to restore it to a good condition are never going to happen. Nevertheless, on the sections where “progress” is allowable, progress was made. By the time I reached Garland Valley I was starting to get pretty fangy so I pulled in at the Tin Man in the hopes of scoring a BER and a drink. Dave WAS cooking but I was disappointed (though not surprised) to find out that he doesn’t take EFTPOS. “Never mind,” he said as I turned away, “We can work something out.” Also waiting for their food was a nice, retired couple whose lunch looked pretty appetising. While Dave was inside getting some drinks we fell into conversation and, when Dave returned, the old gentleman said to him, “I will pay for this young man’s lunch.” I was surprised but grateful and we spent an hour or so, out under the trees, eating our lunch, admiring the huge goannas who live there and discovering that Matthew and his wife knew my dad many years ago.
The hour went by quickly and they hopped in their car, heading home to Brisbane and I got back on the road, heading south. The fellowship of the road.
The rest of the Putty went by as quickly as it can when you’re observing the speed limit. I didn’t stop at Grey Gums, just boogied on through stopping for a bottle of water at Colo Heights. As I pulled into the car park I was stunned to see that I would be sharing it with this, isn’t it amazing what you see and where you see it?
An EGLI Vincent no less.
I filled up at Cranebrook and, in the spirit of not traversing the same road twice in the one day, I cut right at Penrith and followed the bypass onto the Mulgoa Road. Again, there was method to my madness as the Oaks road is known to be pretty bad when heading south so it was a good opportunity to find out if it has improved. It has, though only marginally. What WAS clear was the TWK has vastly better suspension compliance than the tired old boingers on Rhonnda.
Picton, Picton Road, down the Mount Keira road, out onto the expressway at Figtree and head for home. Hardly any traffic while the northbound lanes were gridlock with people returning to Sydney after the Christmas break.
I arrived home at 1715, nearly 12 hours on the road (albeit with quite a lot of conversation using up some of them) and 606kms. The ride proved everything that I hoped that it would and provided endless enjoyment into the bargain. As always, my thanks to my wonderful wife for the Leave Pass and to you guys for reading my stuff for another year. Here’s how Relive saw it. Enjoy.