Madcat (Tas)mania 2022 – Ride Report

The Madcat Tasmania Trip was initiated by our President and Founder – Ian Ribchester. Originally booked for March, the scheduling of the 2022 Targa Rally meant we decided to pull it forward by a month. In late 2021, up to nine members had indicated their interest in attending. Due to personal reasons, and the ongoing spectre of COVID-19 closures the final attending numbers settled at six.
Riders and bikes
Ian Ribchester – 2019 BMW F850GS
Ed Van Der Wissel 2011 BMW R1200GS
Masoud 2017 Kawasaki Versys 300
Ben Hercus 2017 Suzuki 650 V-Strom
Tim Stolz 2018 KTM 790 Adventure R
Andrew Robertson 2021 BMW F850GS

Day One: Tuesday, 15 February 2022
Origin: Various locations in Victoria, Australia
Destination: Spirit of Tasmania Terminal, Devonport, Tasmania
Distance covered: ~ 40 – 60km depending on Origin, 232 Nautical Miles at sea.

I will admit I was so excited I arrived almost an hour before anyone else at the Melbourne rendezvous. Hanging around on a clear and sunny Melbourne day only added to the sense of anticipation. Ian arrived eventually, and we made our way into the Generations Bar and Grill on the waterfront. We were joined soon enough by Ed, Mas and Ben, and we all had a feed and beer. The sun started to sink, and night-time took over as we pushed out the impending need to saddle up and sit in a queue. Eventually, the crew grew weary of my excitement, and I managed to convince them it was time to put our gear back on and get on the boat. I hadn’t realised that in reality you suit up, push on to the huge expanse of a pier, and then spend the next two hours turning your engine on and off as you laboriously make your way to the boarding ramp.
In Mas’ case he decided that the queue was the perfect place to re-pack his luggage, much to the annoyance of the car behind us who had to wait for him every 30 metres as he searched for the ultimate secure place for his camp stool. I will say that camp stool followed us around Tasmania – it even came off a couple of times – but he never used it once! Personally, I hate heights, and hadn’t realised until the last minute that potentially I was gonna be perched high above the water on the loading ramp, and sure enough just as I thought I was through the queuing and about to find the bike’s stowage point, we got way-laid at the top of the ramp. I stopped with the rest of the crew, and held my breath until we finally were able to ride in.
The lights of the city were impressive as we sailed out, an hour or so behind schedule, we got stuck into a few more beers but we were all in bed by midnight. The first night was Mas’s first chance to check out who in the crew were the worst snorers, and he was adamant by morning that he wouldn’t be sleeping with Ed for the remainder of the trip. Little did he know that if thoughthe was going to have some fortune finding a quiet bed-time buddy he was shit-out-of-luck. We were rocked to sleep by 1.5 metre swells upon reaching the heads of Port Phillip Bay, and most of us managed to gain a little sleep.

Day Two: Wednesday, 16 February 2022
Origin: Spirit of Tasmania Terminal, Devonport, Tasmania
Destination: Smithton, Tasmania
Distance covered: ~250km

We were up to greet Devonport as the Spirit of Tasmania sailed into the harbour at a gentlemanly hour of 9.00am. We had just enough time for a photo on the deck, before being called to our vehicle deck to organise our disembarking. It was a fairly easy piece of work; drop the ratchet straps holding the front of the bike, remove the rubber band locking your brake lever and follow the crowds. A quick stop outside the terminal to check fuel levels – “I’ve got 217 kilometres” yells back Ben – turn on navigation devices, action cameras and Bluetooth headsets, and Ian was leading us out via the coast road. It turns out it wasn’t quite 217 kilometres in fuel range for the poor V-Strom, but 21.7 clicks! A quick detour off the intended route allowed us to stop in the rain so Ben could correct his fuel shortage and Andrew could deal with dickie air pressure and we were back on the road. Two kilometres down the road, Andrew discovered his iPhone dangling over the side of his bike, holding on for dear life via the lightening connector, one hundred more metres and it was… gone… bouncing down the road as Andrew brought the bike to a halt, disembarked and wandered back to collect what he was sure would be the smashed remains of his phone link to home. Despite the rains, the gods were smiling on him this day, and the phone was in perfect order. For the remainder of the trip, it was always packed away tightly before take-off. As we entered forest roads and prepared for the sorts of riding we’d come for – the rain increased in intensity. Not for the first time on this amazing journey, we stopped to put on wet weather gear – gathering what shelter we could in the lee of pine trees not much taller than Ed, we pulled on gear and then got going again. We entered Dial Range Regional Reserve, and Dial Road quickly gave way to a beaut 4WD track, steep in parts, and a good challenge – but fundamentally do-able despite the wet conditions. Or so we thought! Four of us quickly reached the end of the track, and stopped to congratulate each other on our amazing skill, and Ian on the great choice of route. As moments gave way to minutes and then ten, we realised that young Ben and his V-Strom were not joining us anytime soon. Ian hopped on his bike, while Ed and Andrew decided to walk the track back down rather than risk being caught on what was quickly becoming more than just a damp surface and finding themselves unable to turn around. A ten-minute walk back down and we found Ian’s bike parked up, and around the next corner a disappointed but ultimately optimistic Ben beside his ‘strom. ‘It just won’t grab in gear” he declared. Out came the tools, and we disassembled various elements of the left hand-side of his bike, tried to loosen, then tighten, then loosen again his clutch cable in an effort to get purchase and drive back in the bike. After almost an hour of tinkering, we decided we’d better pull the bike up to the road and consider calling RACV. Mas’ descended in what was now torrential rain with the rescue strap and we hauled the bike across the mud and up to the road. Ben’s optimism was disappearing in the quickly forming mud, but was revived a little when we decided to call a local motorcycle dealer. The helpful chap gave us road-side advice over the phone, and Ian was able to get the bike moving. Ben clambered on and we headed back towards Ulverstone; a locale we’d not long skirted as we left Devonport. We were more than five hours into our first day of riding and we were only twenty kilometres from our original destination – things were looking ominous. Amid this misfortune, Ian coined the mantra for the entire Tasmanian Tour – “every day’s an adventure!” It was certainly apt. Google reckoned the journey from Ironcliffe Road back to Ulverstone should take no more than 22 minutes. That stretched to more than ninety, as it became obvious that Ben’s V-Strom was unable to entertain the mildest of hill climbs. Out came the rescue strap again, and Mas and Ed took turns towing Ben, as a – at turns bemused, at turns annoyed – queue of Tasmanian commuters watched on. Finally, back at Ulverstone, and with the rain starting to clear we grabbed a coffee and some food while Ben negotiated with the mechanical staff on the best course of action. Eventually a likely plan emerged, and it was decided that Ben would wait here in the North for parts to show up, and then make his way south in a few days to meet us at the most convenient stop. Wishing him good luck, the four remaining riders decided that, as it was now after 4pm, we would high-tail it on the tar to our first overnight stop – Smithton, in the far Northwest of the Isle. That ride, while wet, was fast and without any more drama. While we were disappointed to spend so long on black-top we were happy to arrive and find very tidy, amenable lodgings at which we could dry out gear. The appearance of a bottle-o on site was a welcome relief to Andrew, and before de-robing he grabbed a six-pack and we got stuck into it! Mas decided he would try his “luck” with a different room-mate for the second night – with no success. Andrew’s night-time sinus endeavours resembled a Tasmanian logging crew at work, and Mas woke feeling no better the next day.