With summer approaching and the days getting longer, it's the perfect time of the year to get on your bike and escape the urban sprawl to spend a night or two under the stars.
You don't need an adventure bike or go far for a weekend away on a motorcycle, chances are there's a camp spot or caravan park not too far away from your favourite set of twisties.
With the right camping essentials, you can keep your bike light, pack small and still get a good night sleep.
Vango Blade 200 Two-person Tent
The simple reason I choose a two-person over a one is it allows you the extra space to store your gear without compromising too much on packed size.
Which is why I bought the Vango Blade 200 it has only one pole for fast pitching, and it's lightweight, has plenty of headroom for getting changed and folds away to a tiny 48cmx12cm.
You'll have it set-up and a cold beer in your hand in no time at all.
Roman Palm Lite Ultra Sleeping Bag
Just like its name suggests, this sleeping bag fits in the palm of your hand. There's also a lifetime warranty on the tough SBS zippers which feature an anti-snag system, ideal for when you're trying to climb into bed with a belly full of booze. It's made for the summer months and like it's compact size it also has a relatively small price.
Sea to Summit Ultra-Light sleeping mat
If slumber is your primary concern after a big day in the saddle look no further than the Sea to Summit Ultra-Light sleeping mat, not only is it comfortable, It rolls down to a minuscule 7.5cmx17cm and takes less than a minute to blow up. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better sleeping mat.
Thermarest Compact Pillow
Had enough of using your rolled up motorcycle jacket as a pillow? You could try a small compressible pillow. They're light, cheap and add that little bit of extra comfort for a good night sleep.
All of the above will fit comfortably into a dry bag like a medium sized Ortlieb Rack-Pack that will strap onto the back of even the smallest of motorcycles. And there will still be space left for spare clothes, shoes and that all-important whiskey blanket.
You can get most of the above online from places like Wildearth, and be out camping by next weekend.
"No wine can be regarded as unimportant, my friend, since the marriage at Cana" - Graham Greene.
I had to google 'the marriage at Cana', turns out it was when that bearded bloke turned water into wine - you learn something new every day.
I'm not sure what the wine tasted like when Jesus was around, but I agree with old mate Graham, no wine be it in a glass or a cask (or pouch) should be regarded as unimportant.
Tote Wines have given the humble 'goon sack' a refresh and have released a trio of premium Australian wines, Shiraz, Rosé and a Sauvignon Blanc. All marketed towards those with an active, outdoors lifestyle where the traditional glass bottle just isn't practical.
That sounds like me, I thought, not so much the active part but I do like to get outdoors, and motorcycle camping is my thing. I often take a small bottle of whisky with me, especially in winter time, a good gulp or three at bedtime helps distance the cold.
The problem with alcohol in a bottle is, you need to find a way to dispose of it.
Travelling on a motorcycle means you have limited space, so the last thing you want to do is carry excess rubbish around. And unfortunately no matter how big the flames, the campfire is never going to be hot enough to melt glass.
So with that in mind, the Tote Wines marketing speel started to make sense. A click or two later and my 'premium' pouches of wine were on their way.
Now, if you're a wine snob, no offence, you're not going to read about how the intensity of the dark berries and fragrant, affluent undertones of charred tennis balls and dense like characters of the plush, fertile soil add to the excitement and acuteness of the odor...
Instead, I judge my wine on the crudeness of the hangover and red wine, be it a $10 bottle or a $100 bottle, to date has been responsible for the most savage of all headaches.
Here I had 1.5L of Tote Wines prime pouch, a 2014 Barossa Valley Shiraz. It was 34c outside, and I possessed a quenchless thirst from my commute home on the bug, dress for the slide, not the ride they say. Riding in leather makes a man thirsty.
Perforating open the air-tight tap, glass at the ready, you appreciate the well thought out pouch, with holes for thumb and fingers, it helps steady the pour. You can also hang it on the handlebar of your motorcycle and pour from there - life hack.
I let the wine air, I learnt that from watching Somm on Netflix. Gave it a swirl, a sniff, raised the glass and cheers 'up your bum and no baby' then sipped my first drop.
It tasted great (articulate I know), with a very welcoming after-taste, so much so that by bedtime I'd absorbed about five glasses.
I woke up the next morning without a hint of a hangover, headache or parchment. Tote Wines is no ordinary 'goon'. To me, a premium wine consumed in moderation shouldn't leave you feeling dusty the next day, and this is the first and only red wine I've had that's lived up to my 'premium' expectation.
Well done to the winemaker and Tote Wine for producing a well-made product - premium wine on tap, not in a bottle.
There's plenty of other benefits the Tote Wine brand offers, from shelf life, vegan & vegetarian approved to those who care about their carbon footprint - you can find that information on their website.
And for us motorcyclists, there's the added benefit of a well-designed blow-up pillow.
Now to indulge in the Eden Valley Sauvignon Blanc.
I'm sure many of you have seen this pic floating around the internet, to me its one of the quintessential images of motorcycle camping.
And it made me think about what you need to get out and enjoy an overnight camp, or what you don't need. A simple tarp for shelter as the bare basics.
With summer approaching I'm looking at experimenting to see what's the least amount of gear I can take with me without being too uncomfortable and having a miserable time.
So I've started playing around with using a simple tarp over the bike, a sleeping bag or bivy to keep out the creepy crawlies and add to that some cooking gear. Short of passing out drunk next to my bike I rekon that's about as minimal as I'd go.
I'm using a lightweight 3x2.9m tarp and a few pegs and some rope to tie it down. If you fold it over a bit it you get makeshift groundsheet as well. And there's plenty of room inside to keep you covered.
Once the weather warms up a bit I'll be sure to test it out and do a full review on the pro's, con's and whether or not the bike fell over on me.
It had been long past due for another boy's weekender away, well over three months. After much planning and to-and-throwing, several dates changes later we finally had a weekend locked in.
After a winter hibernation by a couple of the crew, some of the bikes needed new tyres, another a new battery. I was planning to take the green bug but was given the opportunity to test out the updated Aprilia Dorsoduro 900, a bike which over the next thousand km's I developed a love-hate relationship with.
We mapped out a trip to do the Great Alpine Road - 308kms of undulating, tight, twisting, double apex-ing turns, winding through valleys, mountains and forests, along rivers and past vineyards.
The blokes who forged the Great Alpine Road must have been motorcyclists.
We departed a little after 9am and slabbed it through Melbourne and then along the M1 for a couple of hundred kilometres. This is where the hate part of the relationship with the Dorsoduro began, about 50 kms into the trip, I didn't take into consideration how uncomfortable the seat would be on what is mostly a supermotard. Stopping every 100kms to rest my rear and replenish the 12L tank.
Arriving at Bairnsdale, we popped into the local cafe and grabbed a feed (the homemade sausage rolls are enormous!) hydrated and prepared ourselves for the onslaught of corners.
The GAR starts off with some easy-to-settle-into sweepers, allowing us to get into the grove and for me the time to get used to the Dorsoduro's upright riding position, a far cry from my ZX9 that I'm used to.
And this is where I fell deeply, over heels in love with the Dorsoduro.
It wasn't long before the road tightened, the sweepers flowed into hairpins, and we found ourselves slingshotting from one corner to the next - it was motorcycling nirvana.
No matter how tight a corner was, the road surface was so grippy our tyres stuck it like we were on rails. All we had to to do was crank our bikes over and get ready for the next one.
We had 300+kms of this to look forward too over the weekend.
A bit of country traffic to deal with
Our diggs for the night were at a little pub about 45mins from Omeo called The Little River Inn. We booked it early in the week and it cost us $30 each for a bed. We pulled up out the front, eagerly awaiting our first frothy for the day and to get out of our gear.
Sue, one of the owners, greeted us as we entered and showed us where to park our bikes, sorted out rooms out and by the time we took our boots off the cold beer was ready and waiting.
Sue and her partner Graeme would have to be the most friendly publicans we have ever had the pleasure to meet. Nothing was too hard, they called you by your first name (yes, they took the time to remember it), and your next drink was ready just as you'd finished your last. The type of service you just don't get any more.
And the food matched the level of service, it was far beyond your typical 'pub grub' you'd expect from a country pub. The publican, Sue is also the cook and boy can she cook. We all agreed we haven't had a meal that good in a long time and the ones we did were at 5-star establishments.
After dinner, we settled down on the lounges and the drink-fest begun as we mingled with the locals, hit up the jukebox and drunk long into the night, some of us, till the crack of dawn.
We were a bit dusty the next morning but the blue skies and roads to be travelled got us out of bed earlier than expected.
After some food and few instant coffee's, we said our goodbyes, saddled up for another big day of riding.
It wasn't until about 7.30pm until I got home, my arse sore from the last 200kms of freeway, but every bit of pain was worth it for the amount of adrenalin-fuelled fun we had weaving through the hills, valleys, mountains and forests of the Great Alpine Road.
Big thanks to all the boys for a wicked weekend and let's not leave the next one so long between trips.
The thing with motorcycle camping is if you're like me you want to keep your items to a minimum and take only the essentials with you on your travels, so I'd often leave out a hammer. Instead, I'd hunt around for a rock or use my boots which more often than not resulted in a bent peg.
No more bent pegs!
Then one day while doing my shopping I come across a aluminium meat tenderiser. Hammer worries are gone! It's light, small and only cost me $3. But wait, there's more! The handle has the perfect tool for pulling out your pegs.
Another weekend another two-wheeled camping adventure, this time out towards Eildon to a place called Snobs Creek.
With our bikes all packed and full of fuel we headed up through Kangaroo Ground with our first stop at Healsville for a much-deserved coffee. The weather has been kind to us this time around with blue sky as far as you can see.
From Healesville it's motorcycle heaven up through the hills towards Narbethong. If you haven't done this road before, I'd suggest you get onto it, if not for the roads then for the scenery. It would have to be one of Victoria's top 10 roads to ride. Just watch out for the plod, they tend to frequent there regularly for breathos and licence checks and catch out those who get a little too ham-fisted on the throttle.
After Narbethong it's a cruisy but scenic country ride, with the occasional road kill to keep you on your toes along the way to Snobs Creek.
We got to our destination by about 4 pm and set about looking for a place to camp. The area is very hilly so finding a flat spot was proving difficult. Before long we settled for the smoothest patch, we could get and set-up camp.
It wasn't long before some of the locals decided to mosey on by for a feed and join us for a drink. I was slightly worried they'd look at my green Kawasaki and think it was some sort of feed.
The views at this place are nothing short of amazing, the undulating hills roll on for as far as the eye can see and everything is so green. It made for some great bush TV as we sat down and took in the views as it turned to night and the sky opened up with billions of stars, something you don't see a lot of living in the city.
Dinner was a can of chunky soup washed down with Jack Daniel's before heading to bed.
The following morning we were rewarded with views across the hills from our sleeping bags and perfect blue sky. After our morning coffee, we packed up and couldn't wait to get out on the bikes for some spirited riding.
We stopped at Yea for breakfast, for the half hour we were there we were remunerated with our very own motorcycle parade. It seems the great weather had every motorcyclist in Melbourne head for the hills.
After more twists and turns than I can count, we finally made it home. If you're looking for a place to stay, Snobs Creek is on Airbnb and if you don't want to camp there's accommodation on the property for couple or groups.
Weekends are what you make of them, mine, up until last weekend was usually full of alcohol, late nights and hangovers. With Sundays wasted in bed and Monday mornings spent thinking to myself, where did my weekend go?
So last Sunday I decided to make something of my weekends, from now until the end of Summer I was going to spend as much time on two-wheels with mates out doing road trips or camping. To start off I planned the next three weekends going away camping with my partner in crime. First stop, Rawson.
I chose Rawson for a couple of reasons, it was less than 200kms from home. There's a bar on site and a half decent road to ride on once you got off the freeway.
We took the boring freeway route
I checked the weather report on Saturday morning and it was forecast for 1mm of rain but the sky in Melbourne was blue so we decided to grab breakfast and have a late start. By 11.30 we had the bikes packed and we were set to head off.
The first part of the trip was along the Monash for 130kms or so of boring freeway. Half an hour into our trip the blue sky turned to grey, then the drizzle started which eventually turned into rain and lots of it, well over the 1 mm forecast.
After about an hour we pulled into a servo and put on some wet weather gear (better late than never I guess), filled up the bikes and grabbed a coffee to warm up a little.
Arrived just a little bit wet
Once off the Monash there's about 30 kms or so of twisties starting from the town of Moe which we did our best to enjoy despite the rain. Ten mins out from Rawson the rain finally cleared and there were glimmers of sunshine poking out from the clouds which was a welcome relief.
We pulled into Rawson Caravan Park early arvo and grabbed our key for the site. Each one has its own en suite that has a toilet and shower it's also handy for storing your wet gear for the night. There's also a fire pit, not that we used it as everything was soaked.
Camp set up, no where's the pub?
We had planned to explore some of the roads up around Walhalla and Lake Thomson Dam but after a chat with the owner he suggested we give it a miss in the wet. So we opted for the Stockyard Pub instead, a short 20 meter walk from our camp.
Rawson Stockyard Bar & Bistro is like a big barn fitted out with lots of old farming memorabilia a pool table and plenty of places to sit and catch up on the days events. The service was friendly and relaxed, the bourbons cold and the chicken parmi was easily one of the best I've had. You won't leave there feeling hungry that's for sure.
After dinner we headed back to camp for a bit of Netflix and chill, lucky there's good mobile reception out there.
Next morning we woke to the sound of kookaburras and sunshine, made ourselves a coffee before packing up and heading home. By this time the road had pretty much dried up and we got to open the throttle up and enjoy the road back before the freeway.
This was a much better end to the weekend than waking up with a hangover with nothing to show but an empty wallet. Can't wait until next weekends camping trip, hopefully it will be a lot dryer.
Every three months I try to organise an overnighter with mates to a country pub where we can stay the night and put a few $$ into the bar and enjoys ourselves.
The Triple 8 Ride was one of my favorites as it had everything a good ride should have
Your best mates
A bed at the end of it
The destination was Logan where there's a pub that sits in the middle of nowhere with little mobile reception and I was told a horse which frequents the bar. That was something I wanted to see for myself, so Logan it was, the pub in the scrub.
Logan isn't that far out of Melbourne if you take thefreeway, given I was on my CBR954 at the time with a fresh set of rubbers that just wasn't going to happen.
The scenic route
The road up through Diamond Creek, Kinglake and up Strathcreek onto Broadford was fantastic, with little traffic to hold us up we had a ball and stopped at the Moto Bean Cafe in Malmsbury with our licence's in tact.
After a decent lunch and even better coffee, we headed off up through Irish Creek and before long we arrived at Logan where we were greeted by the publican who showed us where to park our bike and gave us the keys to our diggs for the night. 8 hours riding check.
The Logan Pub
We booked out the accommodation block which is kinda like up-market Shearer's sheds. There's also the option to camp there too if you want to roll out the swag after a belly full of booze.
After a day of riding the boys were thirsty so a quick change of clothes then made a b-line to the bar, where we found 5 ice cold beers lined up waiting for us. Good old country hospitality!
The Logan pub is a typical Aussie pub, lots of weird country memorabilia and as always plenty of people willing to have a friendly chat.
Japanese work boots
After settling in and meeting some of the locals the conversation of the horse came up, and it turns out it's true. Each afternoon the horse comes in for a visit to the bar...
Old mate seems to like the attention and it's one of the things I like about exploring country pubs, you never know what's going to happen through out the night.
As customary on these trips, we all put in $100 each and give it to the barman to put in a jar and let us know when it runs out and we'll top it up. The drinks never stoped flowing.
The food is your typical pub fare, I got the parmy and as usual and it did the job. I always judge a pub by its parmy and the Logan is up there as one of the better ones I've had.
By nights end the shots were flowing and it was close to closing time, Keith the publican was kind enough to supply with a bottle of some sort of clear liquor to take with us, to this day we're not sure what it was but we all slept like a log afterward. 8 hours drinking check.
The next morning we were all feeling rather dusty (8 hours sleeping...check). Keith put on a decent breakfast and the amazing thing was it was included in the price of accommodation, $35. The breakfast alone would have cost us over $20 back in Melbourne.
Another reason I love the country.
Hangover's residing we decided to take the quick way home and slab it down the freeway back to Melbourne.
If you're ever looking for an old fashioned Aussie pub to visit I can't recommend Logan highly enough. The publican's top notch, food's good and the beers cold. What more could you ask for from a pub?
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