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Area: 7.692 million km²
Population: ~2.6 crores
Currency: Australian Dollar
Road Length: 8,70,000+ km
Road Details: Home to the world’s longest highway and the world’s longest straight, Australia’s road network spans more than 8,70,000 km. Around 4 lakh kilometres of that is made up of paved roads and more than 4 lakhs of unpaved roads make up the total road length. Traffic in Australia is generally light and explicitly scarce in many places except big cities. Road trains are a sight to behold but from afar as they can easily blow a rider off course.
Roadtrip: Multistrading Down Under
Route and Map:
Sydney > Batemans Bay > Eden > Lakes Entrance > Melbourne > via Great Ocean Road > Warrnambool > Yea > Albury > Canberra > Sydney
Ride on: Left side
Metric System: Speed is in km/h and temperature in Degrees Celsius. Fuel is measured in litres.
Machines: Ducati Multistrada 1200: 1,198cc | 150 bhp | 119 Nm
The Multistrada 1200 was a wonderful motorcycle. There was a reason why it was our go-to motorcycle for so many kilometres through so many roadtrips. Right from the engine to the geometry, it was a near flawless motorcycle and an experience which is almost impossible elsewhere.
The engine was lifted off the 1198 superbike. The valve overlap though, was revised. The motorcycle was tuned more for road because the 1198 was meant to slay racetracks… of course. Yet, 150 horsepower meant that the Multistrada 1200 was no slouch.
How the hell do you manage to keep your sanity when you ride with eight Ducatis on some of the best roads in the world? Find out as I almost lost mine down under…
This wasn’t my first brush with the Ducati Multistrada (MTS1200). This also wasn’t my first time down under- Australia. But add six more Ducatis to the mix along with the expertise and charm of an Edelweiss Tour guide and you have a magic concoction that would intoxicate any motorcyclist however seasoned he may be.
So you don’t know what or who Edelweiss is? It is not a German dictator or a super-wise elderly gentleman. It is in fact a flower that grows in the Alps in Europe and has white woolly leaves. This flower, when eaten by a man (or woman) with a penchant for motorcycling, transmogrifies his DNA to make him a superbiker. No, not those kinds who go out with their expensive motorcycles only on Sundays to a local Cafe and show off their machines, but actual riders who go cross country and lean them in the Alps like it was Rossi riding himself.
This is true, well at least the flower part definitely is.
Actually, Edelweiss in this context is the world’s foremost motorcycle touring company based out of the beautiful Alpine country of Austria but operates tours across the world. In fact, not long ago, there were almost one hundred motorcycles on Edelweiss tours on the road at the same time riding somewhere in the world. So that is how big they are. Savvy?
If you are into motorcycling and have been reading the xBhp magazines, then you will know what kind of bike the Multistrada is. Fast, agile, immensely capable and a true Ducati at heart. A bike where performance, style and techno-wizardry are amalgamated together with the sweet soundtrack that we all come to expect out of any two-wheeler from that company in Bologna.
My job was to shoot the seven Ducatis on the road, over 3,500 kms of Australian high country – but without disturbing the group dynamics. The group was comprised of people who had accomplished many a thing in life and had no time for planning a dream motorcycling tour themselves. That is where Edelweiss stepped in for them. The riders were all elder to me, in a few instances it was almost a whole generation gap, but the common love for riding evened all that out.
One day with me, they knew I was a crazy madman who wanted to shoot everything in sight with a black camera and white long lens (Read: Canon 5D Mark 2 with a 70-200mm f2.8 IS II lens). And the group leader, Marko from Germany, gave me a sweet and terse ultimatum that I would have to shoot the group candidly otherwise every day they will reach the hotel when it is almost bedtime. I understandingly obliged. It was another chance for me to try and shoot fast hot Italians who would almost never stop. After a few group photos taken at random intervals, I would shoot off ahead and click my own with the beautiful white Multistrada in the weirdest of places-often by taking it down a boat ramp or taking a shortcut off-road. It was challenging and fun!
At the end of each day though, I used to reach the hotel two hours or so later than the rest of the group because of my ventures off-road and off the beaten track for photos. More importantly, I really used to enjoy the Multistrada by taking it off-road, often with the traction control on in sports mode to feel and hear the electronics working overtime to stop my rear wheel from going off the line in the dirt. At other times I used to just switch off the DTC (Ducati Traction Control) and let the 150 horsepower make its way through from the crank to the rear wheel turning the bike into a manic with an even bigger one – me sitting on top of it, trying to mix awe and rationality into what the Italian company had built.
So much for the bike, no doubts about its fantastic capabilities, charm and power.
The route chosen by Edelweiss and fine-tuned by Marko Bauer, the main guide, along with Franz Pan, was an excellent one. Spanning over 3500 kms, it covered a varied range of landscapes and roads.
The start was from Sydney on the east coast and heading down to Lakes Entrance via Batemans Bay and Eden. From Lakes Entrance, the group went to Melbourne where it halted for a couple of days for the Moto GP at Phillip Island. This was the GP before the one in Sepang where Marco Simoncelli succumbed to a horrible crash involving Rossi and Colin Edwards.
From Melbourne, we covered the whole of Great Ocean Road till the town of Warrnambool and started our journey back to Sydney via the towns of Yea, Albury and the capital of Canberra.
After flying in from various parts of the world, we all were supposed to gather at the Citigate Central Hotel in Sydney to start the trip. Literally, it couldn’t get more central than this as we were placed right in the heart of one of the greatest cosmopolitan cities in the developed world. And it was expensive, but apt for the Edelweiss clientele who came from established backgrounds and phases of their lives. The hotel afforded fantastic views of nearby buildings shod with large tinted glass windows sprouting from the ground way below with people and motor vehicles looking like scale models. Sydney is charming alright, save for its horrible traffic, which is only getting worse by the day and a topic that would be on top of our lists for a while at dinner tables.
But ride a little distance out and you start to see some amazing countryside. Even though this trip was relatively short compared to my other rides, still riding the green countryside under a perfect blue sky with alpine scents and air constantly invigorating me made it one of my most memorable ones.
It made for a pretty sight – five white Multistradas and two red Monster 796s. My favourite co-rider from the trip was Alessandro, from Italy. He was riding a red Monster 796 and often rode as if there was no tomorrow, a far cry from the rest of the group that pretty much followed all the rules of the game. I liked his spirit and it was pretty much evident why the Italian marques exude such charm and panache along with the intense focus on performance. Damn, I love that place!
Then there was a gentleman from Michigan, USA – Mark Deiter who had ten motorcycles in his garage. He was a pro motocross racer at one time and therefore his eyes used to light up on a chance of getting the Multistrada off the tarmac. He was one guy who was happy to go off-roading for my photos!
The MultiStrada felt great throughout the trip, although sometimes I felt the need for a track-oriented bike like the 1198 when I thought about it, the benefits of the MTS outweighed the singular advantage of taking corners with more precision on a dedicated superbike. For starters, I could carry a hell lot of luggage on the MTS. Then I could take it on different kinds of roads, I could do insane distances with the wind threatening to rip my head off and putting any pressure on my wrists or body. And not to forget – the 150 bhp at my command was not kid’s play by any stretch of the imagination. I almost invariably used to get in the red zone in the blink of an eye with my twitchy right hand on that fly by wire throttle.
And was I talking about the cornering ability of the MultiStrada? Here is something for the people who think it is not fun in the corners– it won the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb for two consecutive years (2010-2011) while setting a new record for the motorcycle category.
Pikes Peak is a mountain in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, 16 km west of Colorado Springs, Colorado, in El Paso County in the United States of America.
There are several ways to ascend the mountain. The Manitou and Pike’s Peak Railway is a cog railroad operating from Manitou Springs to the summit year-round, conditions permitting. Automobiles can be driven to the summit via the Pikes Peak Highway, a 19 mile (31 km) road that starts a few miles up Ute Pass at Cascade. This road, which was unpaved after the halfway point, was made famous worldwide by the short film Climb Dance featuring Ari Vatanen racing his Peugeot automobile up the steep, twisty slopes as part of the annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb race. The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC), also known as The Race to the Clouds, is an annual automobile and motorcycle hill climb to the summit of Pikes Peak in Colorado, a distance of 20 km over 156 turns, climbing 4,721 ft from the start at Mile 7 on Pikes Peak Highway at 9,390 ft on grades averaging 7% over historically both gravel and paved sections. However, as of August 2011, the highway is fully paved and as a result, all subsequent runnings will be on tarmac from start to finish.
The highlight of this ride for me was definitely Charlotte Pass, beyond Perisher Valley and Jindabyne in New South Wales. This was an accidental discovery – thanks to a suggestion from a gentleman on a CBR 954 who was wearing a Ducati jacket (!) at a gas station. I still remember him telling me that if I like to take photos and ride hard in the corners, then I must go here. This is 40 kms of high-quality tarmac on a one-way road, which means less traffic and even lesser chance of running into a cop who’s out earning money.
It is here that I found snow. I was least expecting snow at this time of the year in Australia. But here it was. I also got a glimpse of Australia’s highest mountain – Mt. Kosciuszko, which stands at 7310 ft, again a mere bump compared to our own Himalayas here, but nevertheless very beautiful. This was one of the detours that the whole group did not take because of pre-structured guidelines. One of the few disadvantages of being a part of an organized tour I guess!
Overall this tour was an eye-opener for me, and can now be called one of my all-time favourites. Good weather, good people and an excellent motorcycle – this is what dreams are made of!