A lap of Tassie... almost!
It was early in the planning for 2016 that I realised that the planets were lining up over Tasmania.
Historic Road Racing Championships were scheduled for Symmons Plains, and the ever-popular Ross Rally (actually an outdoor display at Ross Showground, mid-way between Launceston and Hobart) were on consecutive weekends in November. The wheels began turning. Conveniently, both dates fell well away from our omnipresent and always frantic publication deadlines, so there actually existed an opportunity for a few days sightseeing between the events, and what better way to see Tassie but on a motorcycle. One phone call to BMW in Melbourne produced a favourable response; we could pick up an S 1000 XR from Southbank BMW in Melbourne, catch the ferry across to Devonport, take in the Historic titles and then embark on a round-Tassie trip culminating in the Ross Rally. “Far out”, as Mrs Editor is fond of saying. The XR is becoming a fond friend, as I had tested one in issue 56 and had the use of another while in Los Angles in June 2016. Mind you, there is no greater contrast than the interminable traffic and myriad freeways of LA, and the comparatively uninhabited wilds of our island state, so it would be an ideal chance to sample the XR’s versatility. At Symmons Plains, we had been intending to cheer on Bob Rosenthal who now owns and races the Matchless G50 I built a few years ago, but an unfortunate accident two weeks prior at Broadford ruled him out of the meeting. However, he was fit enough to straddle his own BMW R 1200 GS, and wife Lynne was dead keen to ride her GS 650, so our group became a trio of BMWs – a four, a twin and a single. Alighting at Devonport at 6.30am on Sunday 20th November, we hit the road for Symmons Plains where we caught up with Bob and Lynne, and immediately began making plans for the Tassie Tour over the next week. We had decided upon an anti- ‚
clockwise lap, or as much of a lap as we could squeeze into the available time, so bright and early on Monday we lit out north west of Launceston, stopping by to say hello to former Australian GP winner Peter Jones and his wife Lynne, who now live near Exeter in the upper Tamar Valley. It was part of the plan to use as many back roads as possible, and even though some of these routes are fairly remote, the roads are generally in excellent condition, especially compared to the pot-holed goat tracks that pass for roads in New South Wales. Some glorious windy stuff brought us back to Devonport, from where it was highway stuff as we headed to our accommodation in Stanley, one of the northernmost points of the island, and an incredibly beautiful historic settlement, dating back to 1826. Overlooking the town is The Nut, a great clump of volcanic rock that rises to 143 metres and offers a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside. We used Stanley as a base to explore further west, embarking on a day ride that took up to the westernmost point, aptly named West Point, followed by a loop that went south over the Arthur River before turning north again back to Stanley via Roger River and Irishtown. This is where the real riding started; fabulous flowing roads winding through conservation areas and across small bridges. In my experience of visiting Tasmania, the countryside has never looked better following a very wet winter which filled dams to capacity and hills carpeted in thick, vivid green grass with fat cattle everywhere. Towards the end of this loop things began to get decidedly overcast, and about 45 minutes from Stanley we copped a major downpour that hit before we could stop and put on our wet weather gear. Still, this was to be the only such deluge we were to encounter on the whole trip. The longest leg, a day where we put around 650 km under the wheels, took us back towards Wynyard on Bass Straight before turning off and heading south to Yolla where we joined the Murchison Highway, which, although designated as a major road, is still a great piece of riding tarmac. We made the port of Strahan in time for a late lunch, then it was an easterly run through the hills of the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park to Derwent Bridge. Here exists a fascinating gallery called The Wall, containing the work of Greg Duncan, who has created 100 hand-sculpted timber panels, each one metre wide and three metres high, depicting episodes of pioneering life in the region. Back in the saddle, we made Hobart by nightfall, and our digs for the next four days.
Although the official population of Hobart is just over 200,000, it
seemed all of the inhabitants were on the road into the city as we arrived – a traffic jam after the tranquillity of the previous four days. From our base in Sandy Bay, where we had rented a house, there was plenty of exploring to be done, including the mandatory visit to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) and the bustling Salamanca Markets. Having covered the northern and western extremes of the island we felt it compulsory to include the southern extreme of Southport, which is as far as the sealed roads reach, and the site of Australia’s southernmost pub. A divided motorway takes you from Hobart to Kingston, but from there the roads get narrower and twistier until they cease altogether and become gravel until Cockle Creek. We didn’t attempt this last stretch as we had an early start on our final day to take in the annual Ross Motorcycle Show in the beautiful historic township midway between Hobart and Launceston. And that was about it, as Bob and Lynne headed for Devonport to catch the ferry back to Melbourne, while we delivered the S 1000 XR to BMW in Hobart and flew back to Sydney. It wasn’t quite a complete lap as we ran out of time to get to the eastern coast and north east region, but we covered a fair amount of ground in just over a week and came away with a new appreciation of the Apple Isle – a motorcycling paradise, to be sure.
About the bike
I have no idea what the all-up weight of our vehicle amounted to, with two panniers, a rear carry bag and a tanktop bag all chock-a-block with gear, plus rider and passenger, but it made not a whit of difference to the S 1000 XR. What an engine. I guess this is what happens when cutting edge engine management telemetry meets outstanding engineering, but I am continually amazed at how such flexibility happily cohabitates with performance that is so mind blowing. Fully laden, this bike will pull – lustily – up any decent hill, from 2,500 rpm in top gear and accelerate all the way to the red line, should you choose to do so. In reverse, this also means that should you find yourself entering a corner a little too briskly, there’s no need to frantically scrabble through the gearbox; you simply apply progressive tension to the awesome brakes and leave it in top gear until there’s time to sort it all out. I believe we had this model in its absolute element; winding, well surfaced roads where constant changes of direction are achieved without upsetting the balance of the ship or jostling the passenger. The only thing I could wish for is a slightly larger capacity fuel tank to give a better range between stops, and this is something you need to keep an eye on while traversing the paths less trodden. BMW categorises this model as ‘Adventure/Sport’; a more apt description would be difficult to imagine.
Lynne, Bob and The Editor on display at Devonport.
ABOVE The Nut, the distinctive landmark at Stanley. BELOW LEFT Departing the Spirit of Tasmania in Devonport. BELOW Heaven on a stick. More, please.
The Viaduct, all that’s left of the Longford public roads race track which hosted motorcycle racing from 1953 to 1966.
MAIN Part of the motorcycle collection within the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania at Cimitiere Street, Launceston. INSET BELOW The historic Woolmers Estate near Longford, south of Launceston is home to the National Rose Garden.
TOP LEFT A man and his chisel. Sculptor Greg Duncan has with his work at The Wall at Derwent Bridge. TOP RIGHT Sleepy Strahan, on Macquarie Harbour, mid East Coast. LEFT Everything is fighting for survival as roads meet forests. ABOVE Stanley’s main street; a time warp.