Sunday, 20 May 2012

Motorcycling to Gibraltar Falls

Every once in a blue moon I manage to organise enough time to be able to take the motorbike out on a ride purely for pleasure. Don't get me wrong, it's a pretty enjoyable way to get to work but it's a whole other level of enjoyment to ride through some scenic country. Possibly because there isn't a day of work waiting for you at the other end.

In any case, as a follow on to enjoying some of the country surrounding Canberra I decided a ride was in order. The decision was made easier after getting to know Nick, who has a 2003 Harley-Davidson Road Glide and a wife that loves being chauffeured around on it. Being the easy-going people they are they left it to me to pick the route and, since it had been a while, a ride out around Tidbinbilla seemed a good pick. After meeting up with Nick and his better half, then fueling up, we headed out to see the scenery as you only really can on a motorcycle.

Getting through the valleys I came across the road to Gibralter Falls. Being in lead I made the 'executive decision' to take a detour. After all, we were in no rush and I hadn't seen them before. Pulling up on the side road, I failed to get my bike's side stand down in time -- an unfortunate combination of thinking about something else and jeans' leg catching on the stand itself -- and so Nick and Co. pulled up just in time to see me land on my butt with the bike coming a close second. Getting the bike upright was not that much trouble. The hassle came when I tried to gently straighten the now bent clutch lever. For the record, cast aluminium only has a few bend corrections in it and I guess they'd already been used up -- the bike has definitely been dropped before, once by me, a low impact one, but at least one other, big drop.

So there I am, Saturday afternoon[1] and a number of kilometres from home, with an essentially unrideable motorcycle. Fortunately, not so far that the mobile phone didn't have some coverage. Calling my ever reliable brother-in-law netted phone numbers for two motorcycle shops. First one was closed and the second one answered, despite having supposedly closed an hour earlier. The proprietor was very helpful; identifying exactly the correct part, double checking the one he had was right, taking my credit card details ($15!) and leaving it in a convenient power meter box on the outside of his shop for me to collect.

Missing clutch levers don't do anyone any favours. Nick the Ferryman returns to help out.

So, Nick dropped his wife off at the falls themselves (only another 7km down the road) and gave me a lift back to town to collect the replacement lever. We dropped his Harley off and came back in his car, just to give ourselves a bit of back up if the new lever didn't pan out as planned. I have to say, the ride on the Harley was quite an experience. I've ridden a high performance, custom Harley around a parking lot in the US -- also an experience! -- but getting chauffeured around on the mobile lounge room that is a Road Glide was something else.

In the end, the clutch lever fit was about 30 seconds and I joined them up at the falls a few minutes later. By this time the sun was setting, making for a pleasant twilight experience at the free flowing falls. Not exactly what we had planned but I think it worked out well in the end. Kudos to Nick's wife for waiting patiently at the falls while we went back to town and double kudos to that ever reliable brother-in-law who also picked up Mara from ballet when it became apparent I would not make it back in time.

Despite the delay, the place and it's view were worth it.

[1] For those readers in the US who are unfamiliar with typical Australian customs, many shops, barring the biggest of retailers, usually close around lunchtime Saturday. I guess they value their lifestyle over the money I may want to give them.