Before hard lockdown, the INFO MOTO crew managed to escape for a three-day trip through Victoria’s high country, aboard three BMW touring bikes including the new F 900 XR.
BMW F 900 XR 2021: The only ‘press test bike‘ of the bunch, the smaller XR had its work cut out for it with these bigger capacity beasties on the trip. In short, the bike acquitted itself as a long-distance sports touring option with real style. The 895cc vertical twin engine offers 73kW at 8500rpm and 88Nm at 6500rpm, and likes to be held in that power band. Those performance manners coupled with the bike’s light-footed handling characteristics saw the F 900 XR often at the front of the field when ‘pushing on’.
Its suite of clever electronics offered real world application in the twisty stuff, and Spencer was a real fan of the front end. Its a very planted, well-suspended motorcycle.
The seating position is eminently comfortable and the seat height of 825mm makes it a doddle for U-turns and service station maneuvering. It’s a light package in real world operations.
The TFT dash is a highlight. So easy to read and pretty intuitive, it’s a big step forward for BMW and once you’ve had one, it’s hard not to look at older cockpits as a bit behind the times.
At 219kg, and $19,835 ride away, we reckon it offers a great option for those not needing that extra weight, neddies and price tag of the bigger XR and you will not be left behind, trust us on that.
BMW S 1000 XR 2019: Snag’s own bike, and he’s a massive fan. It’s one generation behind the latest S 1000 XR, missing out on that fabbo TFT dash, but not a lot else. He loves it, claiming the ergonomic comfort the chassis and geometry allows as a standout attribute and the wondrous power that 999cc, S 1000 RR inspired engine makes as ‘other-worldly’.
It’s the bike he will be using to set off on a lap of Australia, mostly tarmac-based, and he reckons it might just about be the perfect thing for the job. We reckon he might be right there.
BMW R 1200 GSA 2018: Jimmy owns his GSA and he has hung just about every good bit you can off it, to make it the best-equipped GS on the west coast of Victoria and possibly even further afield. The GS was the surprise packet on the trip. The stats of 1170cc, 263kg, 890mm seat height along with the universal tyres Jimmy has fitted, should conspire against the biggie in the faster and tighter going. Perish the thought.
With the thing load up like a camel caravan in the Sahara, Jimmy set about showing why the GS has become the massive global success story it has.
You need to be able to boss it about in slow going and it takes a bit of commitment, but we are yet to come across a GS rider that is unsatisfied with the all-round fabulous road- and indeed, dirt-going performance of late model GSs. Jimmy smiled for the whole trip and even skited a bit.
Fast, comfortable and imposing, the GS is the thinking man’s motorcycle.
Yep. The GS shone.
We decided to dodge as much freeway running on this trip as possible (as you do), so set off on a bit of a circuitous journey through some sleepy and quaint towns between Melbourne and Bairnsdale in Victoria, then jumped on to the magnificent Great Alpine Road for the final glorious 120.6 kilometres into Omeo. After that we climbed into Strzlecki potato country towards Wilson’s Promontory and Fish Creek. Yes. We had time on our side and we were going to use it.
Meeting up at Maccas in Officer (doesn’t everyone congregate under the Hallowed Golden Arches, and yes, there was some shit-tucker consumed), we stuck to the freeway only as as far as the turnoff to Newborough and Yallourn (C103), past the imposing structures that are the cooling towers for the Yallourn W power station. This offers an introspective look at the coal days up close; it’s hard not to be pretty spellbound by the size of the damned things. We stopped and gawked. And thought about renewable energy and local livelihoods. You should too.
The C103 takes you through some nice pasture land, towns like Tyers, Glengarrry, Cowwarr, Heyfield and Maffra offer good poking around, as they go about the business of farming and ignoring the rest of the planet, in around equal measure. Nature is reclaiming some of these as we speak, others scratch out a living servicing the needs of the townsfolk and farming community.
Interested meandering is entirely in our itinerary (we have no set rules this time) and we poke our noses into nooks that probably haven’t seen a lot of noses in recent times. Some people are glad to see us (particularly cafe operators and service station owners), others (just about everyone else) seem to eagerly await our departure. We don’t dwell.
Using the C103 takes out the need to go anywhere near the bigger towns of Morwell, Traralgon and Sale, coming out neatly at Stratford. You cross the Avon River, which used to be narrow and deep here (rivers work better like that, but is now wide and virtually not there. Not great for anything that setup, but hey, good old modern humans huh). Also, a note here. I have been nailed twice there by a humourless, speed camera toting walloper. I’d be stonefaced too, if I had to sit on a bridge all day, basically gaining weight and annoying people. The bridge is 60kmh signposted and it’s easy to get done. You have been warned and I don’t reckon Plod has gained any sense of irony in the meantime.
A fill of juice from the BP and a pie and sauce at the local bakery nourish the trio of Beemers and the gutses of us. It’s a good food stop. Just over the railway line at Stratford we take a right turn to the C495/C106 through Bengworden. The main game here is to eliminate the stultifyingly boring A1 stretch from Stratty to Bairnsdale, which is about as interesting as watching your clothes go out of fashion. We recommend it.
At Bairnsdale we head through town to the Reason For Coming Road – The Great Alpine Road. It advertises itself well, this is indeed a flippin’ great road. The first bit is ok, but it’s after Bruthen that the GAR opens its heart. On the way up, there had been a light sprinkling of rain, it was heading towards dusk and the road had a rainbow-hued smear of diesel from the many gargantuan log trucks that ply their hefty way along the road. Yes. Circumspection is the go, but we get to have a bit of a fang and roll quietly into Omeo, and a night of revelry and merriment at the Golden Age Hotel, which is a lovely art deco building at the far end of town, for Spannerman’s birthday drinks. Time to book a room and see which one of us can tell the biggest lies…
Up bright and late the next morning, with ibuprofen sandwiches, silence and strong coffee for brekky, the triumvirate of INFO MOTO team members fill up the BMW Brigade. Today, we get to ride the GAR in lovely sunshine, with no traffic and on a completely dry road.
Needless to say, the run down to Bairnsdale was ‘spirited’, with the younger brace of Jimmy and Spencer well in the lead. In short, it was one of those rides and we are gaspingly effusive in our praise of the Road Gods at the Bruthen bench-racing session. I won that, at least. Grouse.
Through Bairnsdale we pick up the C106 again to Myrtlebank, which may not be the most boring place on Earth, but I reckon you could see it from there, then the C491 for the short run to the A1. A pretty lengthy stint of freeway all the way to Morwell, then on to the C460/C455 to Meeniyan, which is a really cool little bohemian place that has become the music capital of the area. Hippies, goths, punks, rappers united. Neat.
Stupidly I sent us one road too far west, missing the wonderful Grand Ridge Road (C484). Ignore the route we took (B460) and take in the GRR. You will not be disappointed. Just keep an eye out for Old Clara and her Band of Merry Ladies as she meanders in for her twice daily teat-pumping. And, of course, the smudge of yesterday’s lucerne that she happily blurts all over your knee-down line. It’s as slippery as … well … cow shit.
Through there, to the C444 for the run into Fish Creek. We stayed at the Fish Creek pub (formerly pompously known as the Promontory Gate Hotel). This again, is an art deco masterpiece, incongruently sitting in the middle of a wonderfully rich-soiled corner of the forgotten good bits of Victoria. We ate a lot of the area’s wonderful dead cow parts, played pool so badly a local nearly laughed himself to death and then hit the fart-sack. You know that sleep… Well satisfied after a great ride.
The following morning saw black, threatening skies, and given we were only around 180km from Melbourne, we battened down the hatches and took the easy route using the South Gippsland Highway (M420) to get home to a hot shower and a warm kiss from our loved ones. Unload the bike, give it a pat of acknowledgement and start the reminiscing.
In all, a magnificent three days of around 800km.