Still not epic … but heading that way.
I like riding with my pals. It’s good to be able to stop and socialise and go to the pub for Sunday lunch - and do all those things that make motorcycling the social activity it is.
I also really like riding on my own and being a bit selfish, setting, or changing the agenda, plan, destination or route, stopping for photos or to mess around with cameras on a whim.
Particularly on a test bike.
The more time I spend with the Road King, the more I’m inclined to just pick a general direction and make it up as I go.
So far, the bike has handled everything I’ve thrown at it with aplomb. Planned or otherwise.
It did it again today, through numerous changes of plan made ‘on the fly’.
Mid-Saturday morning I set off from base with a ride through the Gold Coast Hinterland sort-of in mind … again.
The Tyalgum loop from Murwillumbah has some of my favourite photo locations, but for the second time in succession the volume of traffic on the M1 heading south scuppered the plan.
It was doable, but when it’s a ride for its own sake, and it’s just me and Pat Malone … change of plan, thanks.
So I took the Yatala exit and started heading for Plan B, which also happens to be one of my favourite stretches of road in this part of the world, the ‘highway’ over Mount Lindesay.
But first I had to traverse some of my un-favourite stretches of road to get there.
I’ve said more than once if I never have to ride the roads to Beaudesert again it wouldn’t bother me. But to get to a lot of good riding spots, there’s no option but to go through the western hub.
From Yatala via Tambourine the road is unremarkable, apart from how uncomfortably rough it is. My reluctance is probably due to riding it too many times on older Softails and the big spinal hits they could generate, but today actually wasn’t too bad.
That’s partly due to the Road King’s suspension. The road is so rough in spots it still bordered on uncomfortable, but never quite got there.
The other contributing factor is that unlike many other times I’ve taken routes 90 and 92, this time I didn’t get stuck behind a long line of traffic following a horse float or similar, at 55kph in a 90 zone, with the double yellows that go most of the way.
Today I had a clear run, pretty much all the way across the plains to Rathdowney and on to the Mt Lindesay ascent.
It was a case of dial in cruise control and roll it away in good comfort.
Apart from a heap of roadworks just beyond Beaudesert, it’s mostly flat, open and fast.
I put ‘highway’ in quotation marks because even at the best of times it’s a rough old track on the Queensland side.
But its succession of tight hairpins and side to sides as it climbs make it really good fun. And a little challenging.
As does the fact that it’s one of the few twisty roads in the region that isn’t governed by a blanket 60kph speed limit. You can hook in a bit. The scenery is quite nice too.
Today it needed a bit more than the usual circumspection at times, because like a lot of SEQ roads, the recent rains and flooding haven’t been kind to the integrity of the road surface. Most of the washouts have been adequately repaired by now, but there are still occasional ... irregularities.
To that end I wasn’t pushing the Road King hard, nor was I nursing it either, but what did surprise me yet again, was the cornering clearance.
I *could* have scraped the footboards in some of the 35kph signposted corners if I tried, but it was plenty rewarding not to.
Also impressive was the way it handled and steered around potholes and loose stuff that occasionally collected on the best motorcycle line. I really did appreciate how manoeuvrable and solid on the road it is for a big bagger.
I also really like the way you can spool up the 114cube and leave it in 3rd or 4th gear in the twisties.
There’s no need to row it up and down the gearbox. On the middle cogs it makes the best of its torque curve, pulls out of corners beautifully, powers on to the next bend with long-enough legs, then has excellent engine braking as you set up for the next one.
Once on the NSW side of the Mountain the road improves somewhat, partly because it’s on the plateau, and there are a number of really nice sets of corners through which the bike was joyous. I’m tall enough to be able to climb over the front wheel a bit – even with the mini apes, and I had a ball.
Another hazard was that in the shadows of the gullies on the Southern slopes the road was wet. In winter it never really dries out. I didn’t feel the ABS kick in at all, but I did notice the traction control in operation (slightly) on one exit.
I’ve read posts from some old-schoolers that think that these advanced technologies in some way compromise the ride or required skill sets, but I’m all for ‘em. They operate in a realm beyond human capability or reaction times.
At the top of the Mountain I turned on to Summerland Way, thinking I’d head to Kyogle, Uki and wheel north towards home from Murwillumbah.
It’s a really nice, relaxed descent though some lovely countryside to the valley floor at Grevillia and on to Rukenvale.
Around 20ks out from Kyogle I passed Gradys Creek Road.
Another kilometre up the road I had a light globe moment. Lions Road!! And chucked a change of plan U-turn to double back.
The last time I rode the Lions Road I was on a Dual Sport bike.
‘What better way to test the Road King?’ I thought to myself. A narrow, twisty, rough in parts, snake of a road that climbs the Border ranges, then sweeps though the Running Creek valley on to the plains before Innisplain - and back out to the Mt Lindesay Highway.
This tarmac was rain damaged in parts too, occasionally strewn and I had an absolute gas.
The first part of the route crosses Gradys Creek half a dozen times and twists and winds under numerous rail bridges to the start of the ascent.
It’s another road where some caution is in order. It’s narrow, tight and the chances of meeting some goober taking up most of the road in a 4x4 ute are reasonably good, but I didn’t exactly pussy along either.
The bike was great. Again, nothing touched down, bottomed out or behaved in any other way than completely predictably. The brakes were rock solid, as was the overall handling, even on some quite dodgy tarmac in parts. The bike nailed it (again) surprisingly well.
The temps were in the high teens by the time I got back on the main road and the return leg to Beaudesert.
Having been lucky on the Yatala-Beaudesert Road once, the odds against twice were too high, so I took the rather boring ‘up the guts’ route back to Brizzy on the northern part of Mt Lindesay Highway, to the M2, then the M1 Freeways home.
The bike rolled away the super slab exactly as it’s been designed to do. Smoothly, effortlessly and with great comfort.
What I’ve gleaned from the last few rides is that the Road King Special is a bagger that is quite at home on a twisty mountain way or valley road as well.
It won’t be the fastest bike on the run, but it’s proving surprisingly capable and very comfortable with everything I’ve put it through so far.
One thing I really do like is the bike’s fuel range. I filled up not far from home and set the trip meter. In the garage now it’s reading 320km travelled and the range to empty is showing as 152km – the gauge in the dummy cap is still a notch short of the red.
I’ll run it down a bit more before refilling, but I suspect the economy figure will be reasonably good.
Another advantage is carrying capacity of the big, stretched bags.
When I got back close to home, I stopped at the Florist by the side the Road and bought the Co-pilot some flowers. They fitted nicely in the LH pannier.
“Lovely! What are they for?” she asked when I got home.
“For putting up with me being selfish.”
Next run I better go with my pals. Could be epic!