Far Cairn (Hell) Rally | Events
Relatively new for a Rally, the Far Cairn event is a real adventure, especially on a Ural
It is hard to imagine a more exhilarating feeling than wind billowing over your warmest jacket, your bike’s headlight piercing the gloom, while making a pre dawn escape west from Sydney. My son and I were headed for the green pastures of Tottenham race track in central NSW to enjoy that ancient and soon to be extinct tradition of talking to like-minded people at a motorbike rally.
I say ‘soon to be extinct’ because the generation that started the rally scene is still keeping the rally scene going and they’re getting on. In the late ‘60s the old guys were in their mid 20s. They’re now in their 60s and 70s! At 48, I am one of the “young guys”, but peppered through the crowd of people scoffing Lions club bacon and egg rolls, I noticed a few 20- and 30-year-old kids, who might just have the ticker to keep this worthy tradition alive.
As a young kid I was there for the wild drunken antics of a few thousand (mostly) blokes high on life, as the sun went down on a remote paddock somewhere. These days we sit around the fires and chat about how good we were, how much better the world was and how good it is we are still out here, living life in the wind. As it happens, there are still a few hoons about who are keen to throw a leg over a sidecar and show off to today’s kids. Me, for instance.
Why even start a new rally? The Far Cairn Rally is 11 years old and was created to continue funding M.A.R.I. (Motorcycle Accident Rehabilitation Initiative), which started when adventurers George and Charis Schwarz donated the $30,000 they received for their book ‘Highlights of the Road’ to St Vincent’s Hospital. It is full of wild stories from around the world, whist astride their 1965 BMW R50, which is now a part of the Powerhouse Museum (Sydney, NSW) collection.
The rally nearly had a boring name like the Centre Rally because it was to be in the centre of each state then some cheeky bugger suggested the “Far Cairn Hell Rally!” The BMW touring club is deep down still a bunch of (respectful) rebels so they dropped the Hell and the rest is history. The rally never made it to the other states. After the first rally in 2008 the locals were so grateful of the much-needed cash injection and morale boost in these tough drought times – the local Tottenham servo has its biggest day each year on the rally weekend – the organisers decided to stay put.
I had my 8-year-old son with me in the Ural sidecar and a bunch of other kids usually turn up too. One dad told me his son was whinging most of the way saying things like “Dad, this sucks!”
“Dad, was this meant to be a holiday? It doesn’t feel like a holiday.”
“Dad, I think the best part of the ride is getting off the bike.”
He was on a Harley-Davidson Fatboy with high comp pistons, agro cams and of course loud pipes, so um, who wouldn’t want to get off once in a while. After a day playing with the other kids, Tom said “Dad, I feel much better after not using my iPhone for a day. This holiday is good, now”. Success.
Fellow rally-goers, the Batson boys have been riding since the “good old days”, so I gave them a quick lesson on how scary sidecars can be – by, you know, putting them in the Ural’s chair and sent them flying. They were mostly unfazed, but casually trying to hide their white knuckles and clenched teeth. John and Todd jostled to be the first to put their kids through the same treatment, which left huge smiles on their faces well into the night and as tradition states each year, the story of the regular appearance of the Ural sidecar at the Far Cairn rally will get wilder and wilder.
MARI is a registered charity that assists riders injured in motorcycle accidents. Volunteers covering most of Australia give their time to help riders deal with the hassles of what to do when the unexpected happens. To donate or volunteer contact Ken Lovegrove 0449 186 761 www.drwings.org.au
- Age: Mid 50’s
- Calls home: Sydney
- Occupation: Lawyer
- Bike: 2018 Husqvarna 701
- Previous bike – 1980 R80GS
I was at the first Far Cairn Rally and this is my 9th. I might do three or four rallies a year – Alpine, Thrashers Terrifying Trek, Karuah River. This one I like to do every year if I can, it’s a great rally: great people, camping on nice grass, very civilized. I recently bought some tools at Adventure Moto in Dural and picked up the tank bag at the time, but decided to wait. Three days later, I won it here at the Rally! My first raffle win.
“I must say, I’m loving this Husky. The difference from 1970’s tech is amazing and it’s my first new bike.”
Why the 701?
For the 40year technology leap! I looked at the GS800 and Africa Twin. I chose light weight. Slim and tall, smooth with counterbalanced engine, 130kph plus no problem. Lots of accessories available. I also commute every day and it’s great in traffic too. For what I do on dirt, it’s plenty of bike for me.
What’s on it?
Dalby Moto racks, B&B rack, Toys to Go crash bars from South Africa, Andy Strapz bags, Barkbusters, Wings Titanium muffler, Airhawk seat for my office bum. Next purchase is a Laminar Lip screen to make the long stretches a bit easier. I have really enjoyed putting it all together.
What’s your range?
Up to 24kms/l this weekend and I have nearly 19lt with the Rade 5.9L auxiliary tank, which replaces the airbox.
- Age: 30
- Calls home: Gladesville
- Occupation: Occupational Rehab Consultant
- Bike: 2014 BMW F800R
Why do a rally?
I needed to get out of Sydney and do some camping to recharge, but I wanted the challenge of a big ride and the centre of NSW is a long way from home with my experience – I have never ridden more than 200k’s on a motorbike before.
Now that I am here, the challenge of getting home should be just as interesting, haha.
I joined the BMW touring club thinking I would do heaps of great adventures on my 650GS but never did and sold it. I bought the 800R to ride around the city and now I am thinking I should have kept the 650 longer! The 800R is quite comfortable as long as I stop every 150 – 200kms.
Who did you ride with?
Ah, no one. I just opened Google maps, clicked a few points, filled up a massive waterproof bag, tied it down and off I went. All my gear is second hand too, lots from “scumtree”. I’ve got some ideas to improve things, experience does that.
Tell us a story about your ride here.
Well, I ran out of fuel. Rookie error. When I left Mudgee, I didn’t plan my route properly, so I just thought I’d see where it took me, expecting a petrol station to appear on the horizon. When the light came on I knew I couldn’t make it. Cresting into Dubbo, cough cough, out of fuel. I did a cab run, bought a 10L jerry can of fuel. Worried about Kangaroos I didn’t even fill up in town I just strapped on the jerry can and headed for Tottenham 160ks away to set up camp just on dark.
Your favourite bit of the trip here?
Being the only person out on these red, cut up dirt roads is nice. A Postie in Sydney I spoke to about doing this trip had told me to look out for a pub with a big Rabbit trap on the roof. And he was right! I was so happy to see it because (I knew) the rally site must be close.
Will you be back?
Yeah absolutely. I’m definitely one of the youngest people here, but this is great, it’s nice to just sit back and read a book.
- Age: 40
- Calls home: Galston
- Occupation: Builder
- Bike: 1988 Honda VFR750
That’s an old bike your riding…
Haha yeah but it’s a great bike, too. It was my brother’s then my Dad’s. I bought it from him after watching it gather six years of dust. I had to import a new set of carbies for two grand, that hurt a bit after buying it for three and a half.
Is it still a super cool bike like back in the day?
Yeah – it gets some attention. It’s not a dead set sports bike, it’s a sports tourer, it’s pretty comfy to ride and goes well enough.
Will you restore it?
Well, I washed it. I don’t plan on doing anything else. It still runs fine, 52000kms isn’t much.
Why go on the Far Cairn Rally?
It’s the first trip out here for any of us. I’m here with my Dad, brother, his son and my two boys. We had heard so much about this rally and thought why not just do it and it’s something different to how we normally travel.
How was the ride here?
We had a cruisy run. The boys hadn’t been on bikes before. Flynn, my 8-year-old, was panicking he would fall asleep and slide off the seat. It was a good way to get him into bed early the night before! Both boys couldn’t figure out how we would fit our stuff on the bike, we normally go away in a truck. I wouldn’t want to travel that much further with kids to be honest, not in one day anyway.
When was your last rally?
The last rally I did was the Alpine Rally, maybe 18 years ago, I did quite a few of them. I’ll probably go to the 50th Alpine in June, if I can get some warmer riding gear.
What did you think about riding in the sidecar?
It was a bit of fun. I don’t think I’d race out and buy one, I like my left hand corners too much, but it was good fun. I saw it there and thought it was a World War Two Harley. I was keen to have a look, but never thought I would ride it. It was easy enough to ride, apart from going left, that was always scary. The kids on the other hand, riding in the side of it, they thought it was the best thing ever, couldn’t get them out.
BYLINE//WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY JOSH EVANS