A weekend ride on 5 iconic NSW roads: the Old Pacific Highway, Oxley Highway, Thunderbolts Way, Bucketts Way and Putty Rd
Our Oxley ride was planned for last year. It was postponed a couple of times, then we had the bushfires, then the road was closed due to damage, then COVID-19. So when it finally happened I was very excited.
Originally planned as a 3 day ride we had to shorten it to two days: on the 1st day a ride to Port Macquarie and on the 2nd day the Oxley Hwy and ride back to Sydney.
Old Pacific Highway
Packing was easy. I used my Kriega US-20 (which I reviewed here) and attached a US-10 for extra storage. The MT-07 has built-in hooks for attaching a tailbag, so mounting to the bike was easy.
Time to leave. I decided to prepare myself for today’s twisties by doing a warm up lap through Bobbin Head. It’s been a while since I had Bobbin Head Rd all for myself. Noice!
In no time at all we were on the Pacific Highway, the first iconic road of this trip. The MT-07 and I have done the Old Pac together many times but we’re always happy to ride it again. We usually ride the Old Pac on Sundays, when the road is busy, so it was refreshing to ride it with no lycra, no HWP and very few cars.
The bike was happy. I could feel it. It was going through the bends of the Old Pac with even more ease than the usual. Somehow the bike knew this trip was different and it was doing the Old Pac with enthusiasm.
Our first pit stop was at Jerry’s Cafe in Kulnura. A quick stretch, a quick coffee, and away we go. The beautiful road to the Central Coast through Yarramalong got us straight back into it.
Soon it was time for the highway. I have driven the road from Sydney to the mid-north coast many many times in the last 30 years and have seen the Pacific Highway changing as it was being upgraded. I know this road well. But for my MT-07 the highway from the Central Coast to the Mid-North Coast was new territory.
Although this is a beautiful part of the world, the highway is not the interesting bit. So I was not excited about being on the highway. But the bike didn’t mind it. The MT-07 happily cruised at 110-115 km/h while I was trying hard not to exceed the speed limit (which the bike would have if only I allowed it to…)
The only other highlight for the remainder of the 1st day was a visit to the National Motorcycle Museum in Nabiac. This deserves a special mention.
The National Motorcycle Museum, Nabiac
The National Motorcycle Museum is located in the small town of Nabiac, which is on the Pacific Highway, approx 28km south of Taree. A visit to the museum is a must for anyone who loves motorcycles.
The museum has the largest collection of vintage and classic motorcycles in Australia. There are about 1000 of them on display, as well as a huge collection of memorabilia and motorcycle related items.
The sight is spectacular. Classic motorcycles everywhere: in the huge display halls, on racks, on shelves and hanging from the roof. All the motorcycles on display are models which travelled on Australia’s roads and every imaginable brand is represented. The walls are covered with posters, pictures, trophies, signs and more. Brian and Margaret Kelleher, who own and run the museum, have done a phenomenal job capturing Australia’s motorcycle history.
When we left the museum and continued our way to Port Macquarie I felt the bike was not as enthusiastic as it was earlier. I think the bike was annoyed about not going into the museum. But we continued all the same and an hour later we were in Port Macquarie, where we stayed the night.
We had a long day ahead so the plan was to leave Port Mac early and hit the Oxley early. It was a cold morning, with the temperatures dropping as we started our climb up the hills.
Shortly after leaving Wauchope (a motorcycle friendly town!) the landscape started changing, the road started twisting and the bike got interested. By the time we reached Long Flat the MT-07 was hooked. The landscape was still mainly farmland but already had plenty of bends. The air was getting colder but the bike couldn’t care less. It didn’t mind the few km of fog either.
Soon we were at the famous sign (“45km of twisties ahead”), where we stopped for the compulsory photo shoot. Both the bike and I were eager to continue and indeed that’s where the real fun began. The road climbed suddenly and we started an endless series of twists and curves through a landscape that changed from farmland to forest.
The road surface was very good in most parts. Sections of the Oxley Highway sustained some serious damage during the bushfires earlier this year but have been repaired quite well. There are whole sections with new, motorcycle-friendly, protective rails.
As we started climbing I noticed the bike felt different and I realised how excited it was. It was going through the twists like never before, taking corners seamlessly, leaning beautifully, accelerating and slowing with perfect timing.
At first I thought the bike was showing off its brand new boots (Pirelli Diablo Rosso III), but then I realised it was something else altogether. By the time we arrived at the Gingers Creek Cafe I realised what it was: the bike was in love with the Oxley! The wide corners, the tight corners, the hairpins, the blind corners, the flowing corners, the climbs and the descents. It was stoked!
And so we continued in the forest from Gingers Creek towards Walcha, with the bike in its element and me in awe. Another twist, another bend, another curve and they just kept coming endlessly. Pure pleasure!
About half an hour later, somewhere around Yarrowitch, we were suddenly out of the forest and onto the mountain plains again. The road was fast and the scenery was magnificent. A short time later we arrived at the beautiful Apsley Falls for a quick break with a stunning view. From Apsley Falls it was a short ride to Walcha.
All in all the Oxley Highway offers over 300 twists, bends, turns, corners and curves. Both the MT-07 and I absolutely loved every minute of it.
We arrived in Walcha in very high spirits, absolutely amazed with what we’ve just been through. We stopped for a quick stretch and a refuel, then back on the road.
In Walcha we turned south and took Thunderbolts way to Gloucester, some 150km away. It was our 2nd iconic road for the day, our 3rd of the trip. On Thunderbolts Way the MT-07 was like a lightning bolt, still showing off and trying to impress. The road was open and good, the scenery was simply stunning. About 50km south of Walcha, around the Nowendoc area, we found ourselves in the forest again with more twisties. (You can never have too many twisties, can you?). So we spent the next hour or so on more twisties of the Great Dividing Range, which was just as enjoyable as the Oxley. The bike certainly thought so. It got back into it in no time at all, in full swing and peak performance.
It was not just the twisties of Thunderbolts Way which were enjoyable. The scenery was beautiful all around. The panoramic view from the Carson’s Pioneer Lookout is nothing short of breathtaking.
We took another quick break in Gloucester and we were on our way again. The next leg took us south on the Bucketts Way, through Dungog to Singleton. The Bucketts Way was our 3rd iconic road for the day, but was not as exciting. The road surface was poor and bumpy. I was kind of ok with it but could see the bike was getting annoyed. It still had the Oxley in its mind. Despite this it was still a very nice ride in this beautiful region, through valleys and over hills which offered more… yes… more twisties… lots of them…
We arrived in Singleton late afternoon to find (once again) that not much is happening in this quiet town on Sunday afternoons. A nice place to visit though and a gateway to our last iconic road for the day: Putty Road.
The Putty Road is yet another favourite which the MT-07 and I have done a number of times together. The Yengo and the Wollemi national parks, which the road winds through, suffered devastating damage during last summer’s bushfires. However, riding the Putty a number of times this year we did see the forest recovering, with new growth starting only a few weeks after the fires. The road has been repaired as well and is generally in good condition.
The bike was happy to be back on the Putty but here, too, it felt different. It was going through the bends of the northern part from Milbrodale to the Howes Valley like never before. Once again it was showing off.
It was late in the afternoon when we arrived at the Grey Gum Cafe, which was already closed. Kim and the team were busy cleaning and wrapping up for the day. Always good to take a break there though.
When we left the Grey Gum Cafe to Windsor the sun was setting. So we travelled the last leg of our trip in twilight and in the dark. It was a very long day and I was feeling tired. The bike, however, was still as enthusiastic as it had been all day. It showed no signs of fatigue or desire to stop. My MT-07 always liked the Putty Rd.
It was dark when I arrived home. The 700km we travelled today was a bit too long for one day, however, I was on a high. It was an amazing trip and an unforgettable experience. What I need to do now is find another suitable weekend so we can go back to the Oxley.
As for the MT-07: yes, it’s still in love…