Are `new tech’ bikes better tourers?

New Tech
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Now, the Triumph Trophy SE comes with all the bells and whistles, and my 2013 model also had a few of the option boxes ticked. But does the average touring rider really need half that gear, particularly as the more you have, the more can break down, right?

May is a month of transition from sometimes damn hot to very wet and cool in Victoria. My wife and I had two weeks’ leave where we spent the first week in central Queensland with our oldest daughter and her family (read ‘hot’), and flew back on Saturday to lead a ride for my local Branch of Ulysses Club on the Sunday. Our favourite kind of riding is to pick a direction and just go. So, we packed our bikes that night and on Monday morning, headed for Mildura about 420kms NW of our home in Bendigo via Lake Boga. This lake was a catamaran base in WW2 and we have seen it totally dry during drought. We pulled up on its watery banks and got out the thermos and soft cooler bag I carry in the top box. As with other trips, one of the main reasons why I bought the Trophy is that it has room for more than I need whether I am going for the weekend or several weeks, in secure storage.

After cuppas, refreshments, and chats with locals interested in the bikes, we continued towards Mildura, stopping at Boundary Bend on the Murray River, getting off the road to set up lunch close to the river. This involved riding through sandy dirt that the Trophy did without a whimper. I find that although I know it is not an adventure bike, the set-back bars allow me to stand on the pegs comfortably while maintaining control, aided by the balance of the bike. Notably Sue’s 650 Burgman also handled the loose surface without fuss, as it has on previous times in its over 100,000 touring kilometres.

 

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We then continued to Robinvale where we crossed to New South Wales and its 110kmh speed limits on country roads. We headed towards Mildura with the cruise control set over 110kmh and some locals were still passing us. This is a long, undulating stretch of road so a bit of iPod entertainment was also welcome via the Trophy’s speaker system. I also flicked through the info data and found it all useful on a trip like this. By the time we tucked our chariots in to the car-park at Mildura’s Inlander Resort, we had been in the saddle on a couple of legs over two hours without complaint from the bum department as the gel seat and its shape was more than adequate. The Burgman’s extra padding also starred for Sue.

We returned from visiting Ulyssian friends who had recently moved to Mildura and looked at where we were going from there. The initial plan was to ride to Broken Hill about 300kms north, as we wanted to spend time there, but we felt that this journey would be compromised as a mate at the southern end of Victoria wanted me to test a bike he was interested in buying with him at the end of the week. Furthermore some heavy rain was on its way, compliments of the Antarctic. An aspect of distance touring, which we love, is to freewheel and so it was no drama to change our direction from north to west, to South Australia’s Riverland region in the north-east of that State.

Tuesday’s ride was a breeze as our stay for the next two nights was a cabin right on the Murray river at Renmark, only about 130kms away that was rapidly digested as South Australia’s main country roads are placarded at 110kmh and in good condition. Traffic was light to the point it was a pleasure when we came across grey nomads to cruise past.

 

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New Tech tourers 2-w670-h600

As we had over 1,200kms to ride to get to my mate’s place on the Mornington Peninsula, and winter was predicted to roll in, we set off early Thursday directly south along the State border with Victoria to Naracoorte, with lunch at Bordertown.

With the chance to visit this corner of Australia at next year’s AGM, GRAB IT! If you like sitting with delicious food and refreshing beverages on a beautiful, broad reach of the Murray, chatting with interesting people, bumping in to local pioneering history all around you, and lovely sweeping roads with little other traffic surrounded by constantly changing scenery, you have just imagined what time in this Aussie interpretation of a Riverina was like for us and can be for you.

As we had over 1,200kms to ride to get to my mate’s place on the Mornington Peninsula, and winter was predicted to roll in, we set off early Thursday directly south along the State border with Victoria to Naracoorte, with lunch at Bordertown. We appropriately dressed for cold and although we both had heated grips, Sue felt the cold a lot more than I did. We both had great Dri Rider gear on so the difference wasn’t gear. I also had a heated seat that helped keep my core temperature comfortable. But I also felt the fairing and screen of the Trophy did a brilliant job at ‘keeping me out of the wind’ while the fairing and screen on Sue’s Burgman helped but failed to stop her legs being progressively cooled, ultimately affecting her core temperature.

We turned east at Naracoorte and crossed the border back to Victoria shortly afterwards , and back to heavily policed, heavily fined 100kmh placarded roads. The surprise for us was how hilly this corner of Victoria was and we enjoyed a lot of great riding. Night was fast approaching and we like to leave the roads for the kangaroos, wallabies and emus to enjoy. We therefore were directed to a B’n’B called ‘Ironbark’ in Mortlake just as the sun headed off to brighten the other half of the world. I think the B’n’B was converted shearer’s quarters but was inexpensive, very comfortable, and warm! We walked to the local pub where locals who had also turned up for dinner readily chatted with us about bikes and adventure. We had ridden over half the way that day.

There was no rain when we packed the bikes on Friday morning, and after breakfast we headed down the Hamilton Highway towards Geelong in cool but dry conditions. We were riding through heavy traffic in Geelong a couple of hours later, and then headed for the ferry across the Heads of Port Phillip Bay from Queenscliff to Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula.

 

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The ship-hands advised us to stay with our bikes so we chatted with a couple of fellow riders on BMWs from the Barossa Valley Wine Region, also on their way to friends living on the Peninsula. Rain didn’t catch us until we stopped for lunch at Rye and we were comfortably ensconced at our friends’ home shortly afterwards.

I took my mate as pillion to the motorcycle end of Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, the next day to pick up the bike he was interested in and later had a ride of the test bike myself. I enjoyed riding it but when my wife asked me later if I wanted to replace the Trophy, I said I didn’t without hesitation.

That brings me back to the opening question. Technology can’t turn a dog of a bike into a riding masterpiece. The handling and clearance of the Trophy, and power and delivery of its triple motor, make the Trophy a great bike to ride on any road. The technology aids this. Over the week I changed traction modes and suspension loading several times and the differences were discernible. Fatigue is the number one enemy of distance riding and the technology of heated grips and gel seats with cruise control constantly worked in my favour. Safety features of ABS and traction control gave extra confidence. On a previous trip to Robinvale, the tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) warned me of a puncture before I lost handling, meaning I could see to it while at a service station rather than who knows where down the road.

I personally think heated grips and current generation cruise control should be standard on any bike that professes to be for touring. It gets a little murky after that. I like TPMS but is it a ‘must have’? Ride by wire with traction control and riding modes as well as suspension loading is good to have but not essential. Heated seats and sound system help but likewise aren’t critical. So, my conclusion is I enjoy them while I have them and then weigh any costs associated with keeping them.

This trip indicated the extras do benefit this distance rider. Now let’s see how they go when we head to Cairns later this year!

Bruce Jones #50478

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