Dargo MK III�������������������������������� Saturday 2nd - Sunday 3rd April 2011

After riding an average of 500 kms per day for nine days straight in Tassie I was in the groove for more long rides. So when I saw Tim was doing a rerun of his very popular Dargo weekend, I immediately put my name down as an attendee.

One result from the Tassie trip was the realisation that my KTM 950SE was not the right bike for long distance MSR style riding. It was too tall which resulted in it toppling over a few times as I was coming to a stop. It also has a seat with less comfort than a lump of granite. The major issue, however, was that I had to flog the engine all the time to try and keep up. And without a fairing, I was always being buffeted around which was fatiguing and, by the end of the day, became tiring.

Once back in Melbourne I rang Peter Stevens to arrange a test ride on the much anticipated Triumph Tiger 800 which had only been released a week earlier. It was available in two formats, a dirt version with large spoke wheels and long travel suspension and a road version with alloy wheels and short travel suspension and a nice tall screen.

I was interested in the road going version which had received much praise from the motorcycle paparazzi during its world release. Available in yellow, black, or white I had already selected which colour I was going to buy prior to the test ride. Yellow it is, I thought, as I pulled out of Peter Stevens A�Beckett St showroom. However, I soon became concerned that the grunty bottom end power quickly petered out and the top end power was a little bit asthmatic. The reach to the bars was a real stretch and strong, firm steering inputs were needed for cornering manoeuvres. This bike isn't for me, I thought, as I disappointingly shuffled my way back to Stevo's Elizabeth St showroom to collect my new KTM clutch cover. It was the replacement cover for the one which Ben had taped up successfully in Tassie after I had put a hole in it during one of my many topple overs .

With clutch cover in hand, I was relating my disappointment to George, one of the salesmen who was trying to find out exactly what I was looking for in a new bike. He suggested looking at another newish model, the Kawasaki Z1000 Ninja. It is a recently released variant of the Kawasaki Z1000 naked bike but with a full fairing, adjustable windscreen and ABS. I sat on it and both feet touched the ground and the bars fell in my hands without having to stretch forward like on most sport bikes "On special for only $14,990� George said. I knew the power would be more than adequate but I needed to tee up a short test ride to ensure I would be happy with the ride position and comfort.

As a result of the Tassie trip, John Willis had also been searching for more horse power and had been out test riding a few different bikes. After comparing notes and both doing test rides on the Z1000 Ninja we decided it was the bike that best suited. We ended up doing a deal buying a pair!

Saturday morning I woke up to get ready for the 9am departure from Berwick to Dargo. New bike, new tyres and pouring rain. Not a very confidence inspiring start to the weekend. On with the wet weather gear. But by the time I reached the Monash Freeway, the rain had stopped, never to appear again for the rest of the weekend.

As I rolled on to the Monash I recognised Misho, Pina and Ben ahead. As I sped up to catch up to them, Misho slowed down as he didn't recognise my new green Kwacka with matching green helmet. I had them fooled all the way to Berwick.

Fifteen participants is a good turnout. Tim told us the route and stops for the day with the first stop Tyres for morning tea. Next stop Briagolong for refuel where Lyn Duncan met us on her Honda Transalp 650 as she was riding to work at Dargo. Ben had a play with my suspension and it did wonders because after that my bike never wallowed or bounced around in corners again. Thanks Ben.

John had taken to his new bike like a duck to water. At one stage it looked like his new tyres would be worn out by the end of the weekend.

From Briagalong to Bruthen for lunch is always an interesting route with Beverleys Road followed by a run through the Mitchell River flood plain, crossing the Nicholson River and the Tambo River at Tambo Upper.

At Bruthen for lunch, Cliff looked like he had seen a ghost; he was white all over and in pain after a jagged golf ball sized rock struck his hand. Paul attended to Cliff by bandaging up his fingers. That was the last time Cliff took his left glove off all day. He couldn�t use the clutch.

Next we rode to Doctors Flat on the Great Alpine Road 60 km towards Omeo. Then we rode the reverse route back to the Dargo road for our final 63 km run into Dargo. We were greeted by Dan and Maggie, the lovely and always friendly proprietors of the Dargo General Store. Lyn escorted us to our accommodation for the night which was walking distance to the Store and pub.

Meals at the pub were large and filling although after waiting nearly 45 minutes for my meal, I was told they had run out of scotch fillet and I had to reorder. After dinner, feeling tired and nearly ready for bed, John Rousseaux, John Willis and I walked back to our rustic cottage and lit an outdoor fire in the provided fireplace. We were soon joined by most of the others and had a very pleasant evening drinking cups of tea and reliving the day�s events.

Another great ride on the MSR calendar. I hope we do it again on a regular basis.

Thanks to Tim for leading and Ben, Dan, Maggie and Lyn for organising the logistics.


Rob Langer