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Braidwood on Royal Enfields

Home > Sydney > Adventure | Escape the City | Outdoor | Weekend Escapes
Published November 28th 2019

"The only Zen you find on tops of mountains is the Zen you bring there."

Robert M. Pirsig

After going around the stalls at the Sydney Motorcycle Show, I noticed retro bikes seemed to be drawing large crowds. Kawasaki Z900RS and W800, YamahaSR400, Triumph Bonneville all had crowds milling around admiring the sleek lines, chrome and classic looks. The ones that really struck me for some unknown reason were the Royal Enfield Classic and Continental.

There was something about the raw style of them that captures the imagination. DKW, Arial, BMW, BSA, these are the sort of bikes my Dad used to ride in Poland after the war. These bikes were built to look like a piece of art, made you feel you are part of the machine and not just a passenger being taken on a joy ride. They were built mechanically simple but enjoyable to ride on both country and city roads. I can understand why my Dad was so fond of them and gets excited when he sees an old bike.

So, the Gods were smiling when they guided me to the Eagleriders Rental stand with the Classics, Bullets, GT Continental and Himalayan on display and the fact you can rent them out for a day, weekend or months was well, a Godsend.

Eagle rider had been around since 2013 and were predominately Harley –Davidson focused but had the forethought to look into learner legal bikes and the Royal Enfield stood out due to their looks and reliability. Sydney is the only franchise that rents Royal Enfield however other states also rent SWM, CFMOTO, Suzuki, Triumph and BMW. They also run organised tours.

The seeds were sown for the idea of a weekend riding one of these bikes. All that was needed was a destination and set date. Simple enough.

The lads jumped at the chance when the idea of a weekend trip on Royal Enfields was put forward. They had never been on a long trip; some had spent most of their time on scooters in Asia, some just on city roads. Most had never been through this part of the country.

A call to Eaglerider Rentals at Burwood was made and the staff were very easy to deal with. With so much distrust in businesses in general these days, it was refreshing to find the staff so honest and delivered what they promised. Great bikes, well maintained, in great condition and ready for us to pick up on the day without any hitches. We organised up two Classics, a Bullet and a Continental. They also gave us the ground rules of the bikes due to insurance regulations – No dirt roads, no wheelies and no shooting firearms from the bikes (according to insurance companies, all bike riders are gun mad). Yeah, I thought that too.

A weekend in May was chosen for the mild weather conditions and in total, we had four Enfields, one Honda that soon became an honorary Enfield and car as road crew.

I have come to the conclusion that motorcycle riders are the best travel companions. You can be part way through a conversation at traffic lights then dart off when the lights turn green, ride for an hour or two and pull over for fuel and continue the conversation where you left off. Unlike travelling in a car, it also lets you immerse yourself in your thoughts without being interrupted because your passenger doesn't like the sound of silence in the car. It also allows you to play spotto without your passenger giving you weird looks.

After a warming breakfast of BBQ bacon and eggs and coffee, we rumbled our way through Picton, along the old Hume Highway to Mittagong. Looking over my shoulder every so often to ensure the pack was together, the scenic route is taken along Range Road and Tourist Road to the top of Macquarie Pass. It's not the Himalaya, but hey, the Royal Enfields were in their element along this road, cruising along the tarmac past green fields, stone fences and gliding around the bends. Australia really does have a unique landscape. The Robertson Pie shop was a welcome stopping point. It was also the start of Jarod's quest for the perfect cheese and bacon pie. Many were consumed over the weekend.

The red, gold and brown leaves sweep to the side of the road as the Royal Enfields rumble along the lanes and it feels like we're riding through a Robert Fisher painting. The warm smell of smoke from fireplaces tells us we're entering the towns of Moss Vale, Exeter and Bundanoon. It's a little part of Brittan down here.

Stopping at Marulan to refuel and stretch the legs, the bike only needed 13 and half Indian rupees to fill and to the sound of a sitar, we headed through Bungonia, towards Tarago and the final destination – the Royal Hotel at Braidwood.

The Royal Hotel was a welcome sight to see when we got into town. The beer is cold, the food is hot and its atmosphere is welcoming. The rooms were basic but that is what we were looking for, except Craig, he needed to stay in a motel with pool and palm trees and spa and cocktails that he is accustomed to when overseas. He didn't want to stay with the riff raff he rode down with, so every time he bought a beer, we made sure he had an umbrella in it.

Braidwood is a captivating looking town. Steeped in history of bushrangers and gold, the town is heritage listed because of its original streetscape Georgian architecture and wide streets, standing in the centre of the road, you can envision bullock drivers swearing and cursing as they clomp and roll through town. It is a major stopping point between Canberra and Batemans Bay and harbours some great cafes, galleries, not to mention, bakeries with bacon and cheese pies. Well worth a visit.

The following morning, after breaking the ice from the bike seats, a quick photo shoot of the bikes beside the park brought some on lookers that stopped to have a chat about the bikes. They were astonished to learn these bikes were neither restorations, nor imitations but were exactly as they come from the factory in India. Pretty much hand made as they have been since the 1950's.

Rod planned the return trip via Bungendore, Lerida Estate Winery – very nice reds, into Goulburn – can't miss the Big Marino, through Berrima and back to Sydney. A very well thought out route with varying riding conditions, from country lanes to open road and expressway conditions.

I was rather impressed with the Classic I hired for the trip. Knowing it is built pretty much the way they have been since 1954, it was expected to have a bit of vibration and not as fast as a modern bike, it still has drum brakes on the rear wheel, only a speedo and nothing else, it was still a very enjoyable and reasonably comfortable bike to ride. It rides comfortably at around 90km/h and suites the country roads perfectly. It also didn't have a problem on the expressway at 110km/h. Others may differ but I thought it was great.

Rod did have an issue with vibration on the Bullet he was riding and the vibration stayed with him for a little while. We noticed this when he bought a round of beers when we got to the bar. By the time he brought the schooners from the bar to the table, they were only half full because his hands were still shaking from the ride.

Jarrod had grown up on sports bikes and the Continental suited him to a tee. It still had vibration but nothing to complain about. He is now looking at buying a sport bike for himself and will be continuing his quest for the perfect cheese and bacon pie.
Craig aka Duckman had no complaints about his Classic except for the fact it did not have a cup holder for his martini – obviously shaken, not stirred.

The drivers requested to remain anonymous.

I was most impressed with Jim aka Wingman on his Honda CB125, he got it all the way down to Braidwood. It was a bit of a struggle for a smaller bike and did take a toll on fatigue levels but he pushed himself and got it back home with plans of doing another trip – on a large bike.

We handed the bikes back and no – we didn't go on any dirt roads – the council had gone and paved all of the ones we looked for. We tried doing wheelies numerous times but couldn't get the wheel up and didn't get to shoot from the bike, the Uzi jammed and the shells to the twelve were old and wouldn't fire.

These rides are more than just being on the open road on a bike, they are also about mateship and looking after each other, ensuring everyone is ok. If someone was fatigued, we'd pull over or slow down to ride to the slowest rider. If someone was lacking riding gear, you would spot them a jacket or face mask so they could come along and not freeze. They are also about destressing and taking the Micky out of each other, making sure no one slips into a depressive state from life's pressures. Over breakfast one of the lads was complaining about having a sore wrist, he chased his mate down the street when told that he should have found a loose woman that would have stopped that from happening.

Dire Straits sung about the Industrial Disease in the 80s and these trips were a perfect cure for the symptoms of the Industrial Disease, clearing the mind of the stresses of work, exams, deadlines or anything else that was getting you down. 30 years down the track, we still have the same pressures, may be more so with mortgages, kids, bills etc.

Instead of seeing Dr Parkinson who declares 'Doctor Parkinson declared 'I'm not surprised to see you here.

You've got smokers cough from smoking, brewer's droop from drinking beer.

I don't know how you came to get the Betty Davis knees.

But worst of all young man you've got Industrial Disease'

Dire Straits - Industrial Disease

Maybe you would be better off getting you friends together and doing a road trip instead of seeing a psychologist. Thanks to Rod, Craig, Jim, Jarrod, Phil and David.
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