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Riding the island- TASMANIA | Rides | Tested

What would you say if someone invited you on a tour of Tasmania including bikes, gourmet food and the chance to help out the disadvantaged? Ralph Leavsey-Moase said…

Yes! Swift and affirmative as you can get. The gig didn’t sound easy on paper, but there were some seriously tempting inclusions. There would be quality Tasmanian roads made for cornering par excellence with scenery to match. Coming along would be an entourage of celebrity chefs and their bike-loving crew, bound to be a good laugh. Some luxury accommodation and a few surprise culinary treats chucked in … and Triumph jumping on board with a selection of touring iron. If that wasn’t enough, there was also the feel-good prospect of helping with the AMCN jacket drive (in Hobart), and being involved in the behind-the-scenes filming of a TV show. Plus the clincher: I could take my other half and there’d be next to no outlay for the whole trip.

That yes was sliding off my Hellyers single-malted tongue faster than I could print out the tickets for the Sunday departure on the Spirit of Tasmania. The tall guy with the fun passes quipped: “You can borrow my heated vest and gloves because it is a forecasted roaring forties 6°.” That was just as we were leaving a beachside 27° – a fine state of affairs!

The convoy included cook-up-a-storm chefs Duncan and Gordie on Triumph Thunderbird LTs, director and cameraman Andy on a Triumph Sprint 1050, Duncan’s wife Julia and son Jesse in the back-up SUV (stuffed full of jackets for the cause), and me and my partner AJ on the Triumph Trophy SE. Under strict instructions, AJ kept the baggage to an appropriate limit for an eight-day sojourn (on a bike extremely capable of carrying a three-month European tour load), meaning I could leave the electronically controlled suspension settings on Sport with two people, and FM radio channel on 3RRR for a varied mix of classics. In the queue for the Spirit of Tasmania, greetings were swift and came with the usual exchanges of “what’s it like to ride?” We knew within five minutes we would be travelling with enthusiastic, caring, fun-loving and easy-going bike nuts who had a passion for food, people and corners. Tassie was going to be somewhere between epic and unusual, with a high likelihood of weight gain.

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The schedule was laden with a stack of tourist visits to places such as lavender farms (which AJ and I had the option of bypassing) and down the east coast to Bicheno after detours via the Bay of Fires and the brilliant St Marys Pass, full of corners and sunshine. This would take us to the catch-up point with Bertrand Cadart – who among many other claims to fame designed the bikes in the first Mad Max movie – at the Motorcycle Museum.

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Every location was a look-see into low-budget but high-quality TV filming as Andy directed the boys and grabbed footage from different angles. Meanwhile, I was getting to grips with the Trophy SE. By day two we were starting to gel with the super-sized tanker of a bike, raising the electronic screen to reduce the chilly air, then lowering it as the corner intensity increased. The 1200 triple pulls a gear higher than most other large deluxe tourers as there is a stupid amount torque under the acres of curvaceous plastic fairing. It’s the same engine I’ve enjoyed in the Explorer guise with the same smooth clutch, gears and driveline. Lowdown the engine feels remote and almost unaware of its own strength, until the taps are opened (rare in Tassie) and then it feels like a west coast hydro power station with a massive mid to upper rev-range power. Over 6000rpm it starts making that glorious triple note and then at higher speeds there is a sense of eating up the country with the 26-litre tank offering a 400km range.

We then endured a long, cold day of riding that bordered on dangerous as a gale-force Antarctic southerly blew its heart out. AJ and I detoured into Freycinet National Park and met up again with the group at Swansea after their filming obligations with Le Frog (Bertrand Cadart) and we rode into the force of the ocean storm along the coast. While the cruiser-mounted boys were copping it big time, the Trophy gave plenty of protection from the hail and bizarre cross-winds. And still the buffeting on the immense fairing had us fighting to stay on the road, let alone our lane. Nature cooled her temper by late afternoon as we snuck into Doo Town for more filming at was touted as the best fish and chips place in Tassie. I don’t know if it was the cold or the hunger – or the fact the feast was laid on gratis – but the freshly caught local fish and scallops went straight on my don’t miss list. Fed and feisty, we headed off for our five-star hotel in Hobart.

The next day our community-minded crew visited various suppliers to assemble enough produce to feed a small army. This turned out to be a large group of disadvantaged people connected through Mission Australia. We also handed over plenty of jackets, which made sense given the longer and colder winter compared to the mainland.

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All these good deeds balanced out the greed and indulgence of the riding to come. If you haven’t heard by now, Tasmania serves up the finest motorcycling roads and corners. There is no one best road or series of roads, although I do have some favourites. Some are challenging, tight and never-ending like the run into Strahan. After a long day traversing the island, the last hour into the little village had me calling enough. It’s not every day a seriously corner-addicted rider calls for no more please, but the momentary lapse of sanity only lasted for a nano-second … well maybe until after a rest day. Then the adventures continued…

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We then endured a long, cold day of riding that bordered on dangerous as a gale-force Antarctic southerly blew its heart out. AJ and I detoured into Freycinet National Park and met up again with the group at Swansea after their filming obligations with Le Frog (Bertrand Cadart) and we rode into the force of the ocean storm along the coast. While the cruiser-mounted boys were copping it big time, the Trophy gave plenty of protection from the hail and bizarre cross-winds. And still the buffeting on the immense fairing had us fighting to stay on the road, let alone our lane. Nature cooled her temper by late afternoon as we snuck into Doo Town for more filming at was touted as the best fish and chips place in Tassie. I don’t know if it was the cold or the hunger – or the fact the feast was laid on gratis – but the freshly caught local fish and scallops went straight on my don’t miss list. Fed and feisty, we headed off for our five-star hotel in Hobart.

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The next day our community-minded crew visited various suppliers to assemble enough produce to feed a small army. This turned out to be a large group of disadvantaged people connected through Mission Australia. We also handed over plenty of jackets, which made sense given the longer and colder winter compared to the mainland.

All these good deeds balanced out the greed and indulgence of the riding to come. If you haven’t heard by now, Tasmania serves up the finest motorcycling roads and corners. There is no one best road or series of roads, although I do have some favourites. Some are challenging, tight and never-ending like the run into Strahan. After a long day traversing the island, the last hour into the little village had me calling enough. It’s not every day a seriously corner-addicted rider calls for no more please, but the momentary lapse of sanity only lasted for a nano-second … well maybe until after a rest day. Then the adventures continued…

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Big Bruny

Even after seven previous motorcycle riding visits to Tassie, the ferry from Kettering to Bruny Island had eluded me. The 20-minute $5 return trip is incredible value for a day of riding around a breath-taking scenic masterpiece of two islands linked by a thin strip of land. The island is a step back in time surrounded by natural beauty and a surplus of local food and interesting activities. The wild boat ride around the eastern side attracts 45,000 punters a year, however, our highlights were shucking and gobbling down fresh oysters from the farm’s boat and a ride to the southern lighthouse. There is much to see and lots to do. Don’t pass by Bruny.

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Cooking on a cruiser

Duncan says: “For me the Triumph Thunderbird LT brought on some bad boy moments. The banging hot noise from the 1700cc engine got me excited with every twist of the throttle. The blue metallic paint with the white strips took me back to my childhood, when I dreamed of being a star on CHiPs. The bike performed and felt very confident on all surfaces, including gravel and dirt. The windscreen protected me perfectly from hail and wind and the side of the road lighting from the triple headlights was incredible. I want one, badly.”

Triumph Thunderbird LT from $23,490

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Food for thought

Our chefs took time out of their busy schedules to organise more jackets to be donated to cause and cook up a storm for the disadvantaged. No mean feat with all the work they had to do for their up-coming TV show, Food For Thought. Both were emotional when we downloaded the footage of our eight-day adventure and catergorised it into best riding, best scenery and best experience. Duncan and Gordie were both moved by helping a young man out with a jacket and took an interest in his troubled life – he had lost his mother to drugs a few weeks before.

DOING A LAP

Must do

This visit was my eighth time on the Apple Isle on a motorcycle and the one constant is they have all been memorable, unforgettable trips – and all have been unique. My biggest tip is to only plan a rough, yet flexible itinerary to take into account the changeable weather and the desire to spend more time in an unexpected delight. You can easily do two trips and never use the same roads twice.

Each region of the island is distinct: wilderness to almost English farmland to rugged alpine landscapes, all condensed into a relatively small area. We knocked over 2000km in a week.

Do the do

Doo Town is a quaint little village not far from Eaglehawk Neck A9-C338 on the way to Port Arthur. It has a lot more to offer than the signs outside all the cottages such as “Dr Doolittle” and “Do Me” (though they’re good too). Down Blowhole Rd is the best fish and chips on the south side of the Tasman. The scallops are even better.

History on two wheels

Must see

The motorcycle museum halfway down the east coast is worth the visit for two arm-twisting reasons. First, you have to ride to Bicheno (use St Marys Pass and visit the Pancake Café on the way down) one of the most well-positioned small towns in Tassie, bathed in sunlight and surrounded by jewel blue sea and white sand. The museum has a brilliant well-presented collection which is filled with exhibits that will have you saying “Wish I hadn’t sold that model!” and “I remember riding one of those…”

Worth the detour

Any sign which points to waterfalls. Tasmanian waterworks are beautiful and are often surrounded by ferns and rainforest. Try Russell, Liffy, Montezuma and Nelson Falls.

Side trips

A substantial day’s ride is the epic round trip from New Norfolk to Strathgordon on the B61. On a sunny day the views and the ride itself are well worth the commitment of using one road in and returning on the same tarmac in the opposite direction. This is one of the best clean-your-mind and top-up-your soul rides I know.

Culture shot

I recommend a day at MONA (Museum of Old and New Art), 10 minutes out of Hobart. We checked it out for a future visit thinking it would suit my two under 10-year-olds. No. Way too many adult themes, and after all those Tassie oysters it did things to the adults. It’s $20

to cruise the Macquarie Harbour (Strahan) and go out the Hell’s Gate entrance to the largest harbour in Australia with a mini-adventure into the pristine Huon Pine wilderness of the Gordon River. This is not to be missed and will give you a sensational day off. We enjoyed the upmarket Lady Jane Franklin 11 with the comfort and food beyond my budget (we tagged along with the film crew). The adventure starts from $120.

If not this time then next

Corrina Lodge – just do it. It’s worth the ride, worth the stay and well worth the relaxing step back in history on the Pieman River. It’s nestled in the cool temperate Tarkine forest of the inhospitable west coast and gets a massive thumbs up despite the $15 ferry ride.

Devonport-Launceston A1-Scottsdale (via Lebrina B81)-St Helens (side trip to Binalong Bay)-St Marys A3-Bicheno-Freycinet C302-Swansea-Sorell A9-Eaglehawk Neck-Hobart-Kettering B68-Bruny Island B56-Hobart-Strahan A10-Zeehan B27-Corrina C249-Waratah B23 and A10-Cradle Mountain C132-Cethana C136-C138 and B12 to Moles Creek and then back to Devonport via Sheffield

Two chefs

Gordie Brown said: “Riding the Triumph Thunderbird Storm makes me remember getting a tattoo for the first time. Jumping from a light sportsbike to a big, heavy, cumbersome cruiser had me thinking “what am I doing here?”

Different riding position, no fairing, a torquey 1700cc rumbling motor and no electronic gizmos to play with along the way, just a raw riding experience. But as you ride the beast for longer the negative comparisons disappear and it leaves you with a totally unique sensation. It takes away the sports go-fast feeling and makes you enjoy everything that the growling engine, recliner chair riding position and the never-ending horizon has to offer – especially on the twisty roads of Tasmanian.

My Storm time was addictive, just like getting ink done for the first time, and it leaves you craving more. Thank you, Triumph, for the new addiction. Till we meet again, hopefully soon.

Triumph Thunderbird Storm from $20,990 MLR

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STORY RALPH LEAVSEY-MOASE PHOTOGRAPHY AJ & RALPH LEAVSEY-MOASE