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Leaving Sydney

  • Kilometers: 6
  • Ziptie Repairs: 0
  • Breakdowns: 1
  • Beers: 4
  • Rides Hitched: 1
Look. I have a strategy. Why expect anything? If you don’t expect anything, you don’t get disappointed.”
— Patricia McCormick, Cut

 When you spend the better part of a year planning, preparing, sacrificing to make something happen; when you finally make it to that point and it doesn't go in your favour - well it was tough. 

The week leading up to my departure was spent in a mad rush to try and get ready. I was averaging about 3 hours sleep a night.  I was still bartending at my bar to bring in a few extra dollars before I left. An average day involved getting up at 6am to work on the bike (the gear box was still not working). Then during the hottest hours I would run errands around town, gathering last minute supplies, packing up my room in the house before having a shower to open the bar at around 4pm. The bar would usually close around 11ish so I would head home and continue to pack the room and check my gear. Rolling into bed at 3am I repeated this process 6 days in a row.

On my last shift at the bar I farewelled the great team that I worked with, grabbed a beer and headed home for some sleep. It was 48 hours until I was to be on the road and I felt that if even if I had a few extra months until jump I would have been underprepared. I was fried, mentally physically.

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The night before I left, the Landsdowner pub at Broadway allowed me to roll the fully kitted bike into the pub for a fundraiser/farewell drinks. Having not eaten since the day before and as everyone was more than generous with buying me beers, before long the drink had crept up on me and I was slurring my words and stumbling around. Having the bike in the pub attracted attention and the beyondblue donation tin managed to attract over $200 in donations. All in all, it was a win for charity and a chance for me to relax before leaving. A smarter person would have had an early night, a cup of tea and enjoyed the last night in their own bed for a long time. I did none of these things. I went to bed late and woke up many times throughout the few hours of sleep I tried to get.

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I wish I could describe how I felt when I woke up in the morning but it was such a blur that even now, just a few days later I struggle to recall all of the details.  Guessing, I would say - hungover, pensive, nervous, excited. I still had a pretty major oil leak in my gearbox which meant on the morning of my ride out I needed to reseal my gearbox and then meet the 50 plus riders who had assembled at the local bike cafe to see me off. I loaded up the bike and headed to the cafe. 

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The bike was running fine on my way there. Pulling up the cafe a little late I was taken aback by how many people had come out to see me. The Sydney Cafe Racer crew, the Sydney Desert Sleds group, the Enfield club and a few non-riding friends - all these people wanted to support and help. I was really, really taken back. I got talking with a number of people and waited until the Stories of Bike founder came out to take some footage. It was time. I kicked the bike over and swung my leg over the top.

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I pulled out from the cafe and the 50 or so riders pulled in behind me. My bike died. The gearbox covering had separated out and oil was spilling out onto Parramatta road. I wasn’t going anywhere. Then just as you would expect, a storm rolled over and it poured down.

I thanked the riders that came out to see me and waved them off as they rushed home to avoid the worst of the storm.

One of the SCR guys had access to a truck; we loaded the bike up and I dropped it back at my share house, that I had left behind that morning.

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I ordered some parts, spent a couple nights between friends’ couches and a friend’s bed and left unceremoniously 3 days later. Limping out of a back lane in Chippendale, I was finally on my way to London. 

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Sydney to Broke

 

  • Kilometers to date : 196
  • Ziptie Repairs: 2
  • Breakdowns: 2
  • Beers: 6
  • Rides Hitched: 0
All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure
— Mark Twain

I shot across the harbour bridge. The sun was shining; I was full of excitement. My first stop was to be a bike shop in the Northern suburbs that had come on early as a supporter. Stories of Bike filmed me as I blasted along the highway - the bike was running sweet. It needed a few adjustments here and there but as far as 45 year old bikes go I was so happy to have solved my gearbox issue. Dealing with the Sydney traffic I realised I had some clutch slippage. I pulled into the bike shop and got talking with the owners. Local shops such as Scooter Central where you can still go in and talk with the owners, share their passion and get cracking advice from experts and not just an online checkout store make me so very happy.

 I needed to address my clutch slippage and they very kindly offered to let me work out of the sun at the back of the shop. An hour later I was heading north on the old Pac Highway.

 I grabbed a late supper from the famous pie in the sky as the sun was setting. I knew I should have found somewhere close to stay but I was that excited I just jumped back on the bike and hit it.

A short while down the road the bike spluttered, died and took my lighting with it. Thrown into the pitch black I jammed on both the brakes and was grateful for the full moon which gave me just enough light to find the side of the road. Then I quickly lost my footing and slipped over taking the bike with me.

Losing the lighting instantly when the engine had died was frightening and something that I needed to address. My concern about the lack of lighting was quickly replaced with anger at myself when I reached down and flicked on the fuel tap. To almost bin it on the first day so close to home for such a stupid mistake make me so very angry. Note to self: check fuel tap, don’t ride at night.

I rode for far too long on that first night. There is something about old empty highways on summer nights - no one around, warm air and just the wombats to watch out for. I had nowhere to be but further up the road so I just kept puttering along. When it was close to 11pm I decided it was time to try and find a place to make camp. Pulling over to the side of the road I hit a bump and knocked the front wheel out of drum brake seating and lost my front brake. The bike toppled over - my first bike drop of the trip. I took that as a bad sign and decided to try and find somewhere else to stay. In the next town of Broke just West of Cessnock I found a free public camp/rest area full of caravans. As it was close to 1am I rolled the bike in to not wake anyone up. Finding a place to throw my swag I started unloading.

I love free camp sites. You don’t have to be worried about being disturbed through the night by some grumpy farmer, some punk kids in utes or as happened before - finding out you actually camped in a live fire military training area.

Just as I pulled off my last bag and was getting ready to sleep and despite the bike being on the centre stand - it fell over. For the 3rd time that day I picked up the bike to notice that I had wreaked the clutch lever assembly. On the first day I had dived into the primary, binned it 3 times broke my clutch lever and no longer had any front brake. Despite all of that, I was on the road. The trip was happening and whatever challenges I faced would just have to be dealt with. Putting my broken clutch parts into my carry bag, I crawled into my swag, happier and more relaxed than I had been in months.


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The route..

Love knows no boundaries. I wish I would have known that before I hired a cartographer to map out my romantic territory.
— Jarod Kintz, The Titanic would never have sunk if it were made out of a sink.

I need a rough plan for timing and budget for the trip... This is my current plan for the route. 

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Photos of the bike.

In my view you cannot claim to have seen something until you have photographed it.”
— Émile Zola

Some very good friends took some time out of their day to take some photos of the bike. The photos came out better than I had hoped. Keep clicking through the photos to cycle. 

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What I need for the trip.

I have a list of things that I am yet to get for my trip. I will keep this list updated. 

Money spent on good-quality gear is always money well spent.
— Tahir Shah, In Search of King Solomon's Mines

The trip is fast approaching and I can't help but feel I am woefully underprepared. 

  • Carnet de Passage
  • A suitable tire pump
  • Back up batteries for my electronic. gear 
  • A decent sleeping bag (I currently have a summer bag which will need to be updated before the Himalayas)
  • A working smart phone

 

If anyone would happen to have any gear that they might consider leading me I would be most grateful.  

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The bike has arrived.


I fell in love with her the moment she was late, though neither one of us knew it at the time because she hadn’t arrived yet.
— Jarod Kintz, This Book Has No Title

 

I kick it over and click the bike into gear. Being old and english the process is all wrong. The gears are on the wrong the side and upside-down and the rear break is on the wrong side. I have to think about every action I take just to get it down the road. Nudging it into second and opening the throttle. It splutters, kicks and soon I am blasting down a hill in the back streets of Chippendale. Smiling as I realise that I am coming up way too hot into a four way intersection. I ease off the throttle grab the front brake and jab away the rear break... Nothing. Nothing at all the bike is speeding downhill in neutral and picking up speed. The front drum breaks where old fashioned 45 years ago when they were first installed - now they are nothing but an aspirational idea. In my panic I realise I have put the bike into neutral by using the wrong foot to shift down when what I really wanted to do was to put the breaks on. I realise this as I fly through the empty intersection without giving way and with no chance of stopping. 

 

Pulling to the side of the road the low revs kill the engine. It's going to be a long way to London.  

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A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

I don’t think there was any one real catalyst. No lightning bolt moment where the idea struck. As is often the way, the idea came from a combination of external forces and factors. Regardless, the end result lead to a conclusion – I  was going to ride the same motorcycle my grandfather had at my age (in 1956) from Sydney to London in 2014.

Now... There is just the issue of finding the bike, money and time. 

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