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Offline alanB

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Solo Memorial Ride to Giyani and Back
« on: February 25, 2011, 10:44:34 pm »
Planning and Preparation

In June last year my sister announced that she had donated some money to a small creche in Giyani run by the Catholic church, affiliated to the Holy Rosary School in Edenvale, to sink a borehole as they had no water for the kids.  The borehole had been duly completed and she was going up to attach a small plaque to it in rememberance of our mom, from whom's small estate the money had come from.

I was surprised and embarrassed as I hadn't thought of doing anything similar.  We had discussed jointly donating to various other charitable projects, but I wasnt aware that she had gone ahead with anything.  I resolved to at least help as much as I could with the plaque, as it was too late to contribute financially to this particular project. 

It was exactly the sort of thing our mom would have been involved in, as she had been very active in the Church and was always giving to those less fortunate, even though she never was exactly well off her self.  So I'm sure she would have been very happy with the use of her money.

I also saw the opportunity for a long solo ride on my new bike  :biggrin:

After discussing the practicalities of attaching a small stainless steel plaque to something in the unknown environment of the creche with my brother in law (none of us had ever been there before), plans were duly made and it was arranged that I would meet them both at the side of the road on the way into Giyani on the selected day. 

They had planned to spend the weekend in the Kruger Park and thus we needed to do the deed on Friday morning so they would have time to get to the Punda Maria Gate in time to enter before the cut-off time for their camp, so the whole thing was going to be run on a tight schedule.

I decided that I would leave the day before, and camp in Louis Trichard instead of getting up at 3 am and driving through from Jo'burg as they planned to do.  I would then ride home via the Lowveld and Pilgrims Rest at my own pace over the weekend.

I set about getting some sort solo riding kit together, as I had never done anything like this before.  I packed a few different bags at night in the lounge to see what I could fit into them and tried to decide what I really needed versus what what was nice to have to spend three-four days camping.

I settled on a small tank bag and a 35L day pack on my back. 

I'm not the tallest and have to swing my leg really high just to get it over the back of the 610, leaving scuff marks on the back mudguard as my boot scrapes over the top of it.  There's no way I could get onto the bike if anything is strapped onto the back - which is probably just as well because the sub frame is aluminium and not really made for loading.  Plus I bought the bike because it was light (having got sick and tired of the weight of my old BMW Dakar), and loved its agility and handling - it made no sense to just strap a whole lot of kit onto it, turning the Italian princess into a waddling hippo!

I decided to get a cheap light weight tent from Makro and a sleeping bag that packed up smaller as well, as my existing hiking tent was a bit buggered and both took up too much space.  In the end I didnt like the look of the Makro biking tent and settled on one from Outdoor warehouse (R900), a lot more than what I was intending to spend, but worth the money at least.  Also bought a Packlite sleeping bag, very small and light at a reasonable price.   

This is the route I finally took

 
1225 km over 3 days.

Camped at Louis Trichard Municipal Caravan Park and Pilgrims Rest Caravan Park.

« Last Edit: February 26, 2011, 10:48:42 pm by alanB »
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Offline alanB

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Re: Solo Memorial Ride to Giyani and Back
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2011, 11:39:04 pm »
Day 1 Joburg to Louis Trichard

I got going at about 8am.

I just headed up the N1 through Polokwane, all on tar, because I had to meet my sister at a fixed time on the side of the road the next day and didn't want to do anything adventurous that might result in me being late or missing them.  

I could explore on the way home after that.

It was still nice to be cruising North on my own, leaving the stresses of work behind.  I had been quite worried about just taking time out, because I had commitments to shareholders etc (which would result in some nasty emails before the day was through).  But in the end I had decided that this trip was necessary, and there were more important things than work in life and this was one of them.  

The bike cruised along nicely, in fact on this trip it finally ran it self in and started to pull a lot more aggressively at higher rpm.  It was great!  The k's slid past smoothly and the weather was good.

I hadnt been sure where to stay for the night and had spent some time the previous evening browsing campsites on the internet.  In the end I had called the Muncipal caravan park in Louis Trichard, and based on the fact that somebody answered the phone, was reasonably polite and clear, and the website photo looked OK I had decided to go there.  (Which turned out to be a bit of a joke).

I made good time and got there about 3pm.

The caravan park was right in the town.  When I arrived at the gate, the guard seemed surprised that I wanted to go in.  The lady in reception was equally surprised - the place was completely empty, but the grounds seemed to be well kept, everything neatly trimmed and green.  I wandered around trying to decide where to camp.  There seemed to be quite a few people employed in the park, who took great interest in me, all coming to say hi and ask where I was from.  I definitely got the feeling that they don't get many visitors, but they still all pitch for work every day and keep the place in a reasonably good  condition.  The ablutions were a bit run down inside but still clean - I was told I had to use the lady's side because apparently the men's side didn't have water.

I finally chose a spot and pitched my tent


I then went and found a pub and spent the rest of the afternoon watching rugby (cant remember the game and why it was on a Thursday afternoon) but do remember the interaction between a group of well dressed black guys at one table and another group of large Afrikaans guys at another table - quite amusing and surprisingly good natured comments were being thrown between them as the beers went down.

Had a great steak and a few beers.

I also spent some time answering a very terse email from work that I received on my phone.  Isn't technology wonderful?  Now we can stay in touch and keep our stress levels elevated where ever we go!

I rode back to the little tent all on its own in the middle of the caravan park in the dark.  It was only about 7pm.  I'm a late night person and don't usually sleep before 11pm.  So I made some coffee, sat on the concrete bench and chatted to a few mates on the phone.  Sent a few "wish you were here" sms'.

Looked at my watch.  It was 7:30!

I went and had a shower.

Tried to read a book I had brought with, but kept thinking about the bloody email  >:(  

This was one aspect of solo riding that I was finding disconcerting - what to do at night.  Out in the bush you could tune into the sounds of nature and look at the stars or something.  The middle of Louis Trichard wasn't quite like that!
  
In the end I got into the tent and tried to sleep.  



« Last Edit: February 27, 2011, 09:23:28 am by alanB »
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Re: Solo Memorial Ride to Giyani and Back
« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2011, 09:04:26 am »
 :thumleft:
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Offline alanB

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Re: Solo Memorial Ride to Giyani and Back
« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2011, 09:21:44 am »
Day 2:  Louis Trichard - Giyani - Hoedspruit - Pilgrims Rest

I slept quite well when I finally drifted off to sleep.  But did notice in the early morning that the Packlite sleeping bag was a tad chilly.  It was the middle of winter - but I was right up near the Zim border and hadn't expected it to be cold.

In any event it wasn't too cold, just slightly uncomfortable.

I packed up up everything and had a cup of coffee before heading out.


On the way out of town I somehow missed the road I was looking for.  I planned to go via Thohoyandou, but noted on my GPS that the southerly road which I did find would also get me there.

The road wound its way through hills and was in quite good condition, and relatively empty apart from the odd goat, so it turned out to be a nice ride in the early morning.

On the way into Giyani I found a nice road side stop and pulled over to wait for my sister. 


When I called them on my cell it seemed my road choice was fortuitous because they had gone via Thohoyandou and were stuck in heavy third world traffic.   I had an energy bar for breakfast and sat and enjoyed the sun.

We finally met at a near by school which was surprisingly large and with all the facilities like sports fields, netball courts etc  It was  run by some nuns and two guys who had volunteered from some South American country. My sister got into discussion with the nuns who knew we were coming and were arranging someone to take us all through to the creche which was a few k's further up the road. I chatted to the two guys who were in their late twenties or early thirties and were quite interested in my bike.  I am never completely comfortable around such selfless people because it makes me realise what a selfish life I live.  They had been in SA a few years and were very enthusiastic about the school when I asked about it.  They seemed to be doing a good job.  I didnt take any photo's of the school - wish I did.

A guide was found to lead us to the creche and I followed my brother in law's car a few k's up the road. 

When we got there we received a royal reception.  It was a small building on a dusty plot with the new water tower at one end.  We were shown around like dignatories.  We explained what we had come for and apologised that we were in a bit of a rush so we couldn't spend too much time with them.  The teachers very helpfully took the children inside so we could get on with it.



So my brother in law and I got busy digging a hole next to water tower to plant our little plaque attached to a railway sleeper which we set into some concrete, he had brought everything we needed.  My sister decided that  the children needed some sweets and headed off into town to get some, I also noticed that one of their taps was buggered and asked her to get another one.

The plaque was duly planted, the broken tap replaced, sweets handed out, the childern sang for us, photos were taken and hands shaken.


A satisfying and humbling experience!




« Last Edit: February 27, 2011, 08:17:58 am by alanB »
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Offline alanB

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Re: Solo Memorial Ride to Giyani and Back
« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2011, 05:18:12 pm »
My sister and her husband departed for the Kruger Park and I turned south. 

I filled up in Giyani and had another energy bar and and a Powerade for lunch.

I had seen what looked like a gravel road that seemed to lead to Phalaborwa on my GPS.  So I headed south looking for that road.

I found a gravel road going in the right direction easily enough 20k's or so later and set off in glee.  At first it was a wide well maintained gravel road with farm land on either side.  About 5k's in it suddenly got a lot narrower.  And then ran dead into a farmers warehouse soon after!  I rode around the back and a single track headed off into the bush but I could see a fence cutting across the line in the distance.  Being on my own with a limited fuel range and none spare it didnt seem like a good idea to try go any further, even though the GPS seemed to show a track leading to Phalaborwa 70 k's away.

So reluctantly I turned around and back tracked, I must either be on the wrong track or the GPS map was out of date.  There was no obvious alternative so I continued down the R529 looking for another gravel road going in that direction.  But after riding slowly along for a while I just decided to get on with it and make some distance, as the day was starting to run out, so I just continued south on tar.

I turned onto  the R71 and just breezed along trying to decide where to spend the night, debating various options in my head.  I had to stop and top up on fuel because I wasn't sure whether I would make Hoedspruit.  They didn't have 95 so I only put in 3 litres.
 
In the end I decide to head for Pilgrims Rest, as I had always liked that little town and I knew they had a camping ground.  It was getting late and I needed to move to get there before dark, so I forgot about trying to find any interesting dust roads and just got going.

When I got to Hoedspruit I found a Steers and had a late afternoon cheese burger and coke overlooking the landing strip. A quick fill up, and off again.

I chose the wrong option on the route when leaving Hoedspruit - I should have gone down the R527, it would hav been very scenic and relaxing I'm sure, but decided to take what looked like the direct route to Sabie - through Bushbuck Ridge.  What an unpleasant road! 80k's of heavy chaotic traffic, goats, donkeys, people, trucks, buses, you name it.  It felt like a video game, as you were constantly dodging stuff coming at every angle!  One particular bastard of a taxi driver took great pleasure on seeing how close he could get to my back mudguard at speeds up to 80kmh, he must have been inches away at times.  He just laughed at me shouting obscenities at him.  Whenever there was a gap I would accelerate away to get clear of him but then the chaos would invariably lead to me being trapped behind a truck or bus with a constant stream of traffic coming the other way and he would start his nonsense again.  There were dongas and people on the side of the road so I couldn't cut through on the inside.  I thought of pulling over and having words, but wasn't sure whether he would just ride over me, he seemed inclined to do so.  In the end I got a big gap and blasted up a long hill and left him behind - hope he has severe transmission failure in a swarm of angry bees or something in the near future - asshole!

I finally got off that awful road and  took the R533.  Things immediately changed for the better - long sweeping turns, forests, dams, and a relatively empty road.  The sun was close to setting so I couldn't stop and smell the flowers unfortunately.  But I relaxed again and enjoyed it all sweeping past.

As the road climbed steadily, the temperature dropped, until I was freezing.  It was the middle of winter after all, but stupidly I assumed the Lowveld would be warm - clearly in the mountains that wasn't true - at all.

As I left Sabie two guys on big KTM's where riding into the town on the other side of the road, the one guy stood up as he rode past and waved at me with both hands (very impressive - friendly guy - I always wandered who he was) - I waved back, but only vaguely with one hand, I was bloody freezing and was thinking about how to solve that.   I stopped and dug out a thin fleece and put that on under my Lookwell Jacket, which normally is too warm on its own.

The road into Pilgrims rest was spectacular, and was real fun to ride even though I was tired and cold and it was getting dark.  I took it very carefully, having ended up in ICU after losing it on  a similar winding road in the Drakensberg a few years ago.  So I'm sure the video wouldn't have impressed anyone, but I enjoyed it immensley!

When I got into the town it was deserted.  I rode up and down looking for a restaurant or a bar.  The Royal Hotel was open but empty, and for some reason I didn't feel like going in.  I rode further and right at almost the exit to the town, were a few cars parked around one of the buildings.  I followed the muted sounds and found a really nice little pub tucked round the back of a restaurant.  It had a nice warm fire going and seemed to only have locals inside it.  It was the sort of place that you greeted everyone as you went in, which I did.  The conversation briefly paused as everyone glanced at me and nodded.  I pulled up a stool next to the fire and savoured one of the finest Zamaleks I have ever tasted!  I was shattered, that road through Bushbuck  Ridge had required 110% concentration.  And so I just sat quietly listening to all the local arguments and banter between the other patrons.  It seemed they all ran shops etc in town and all were disappointed that  it was so dead.  Eventually the friendly bar lady asked me where I was from and where I was staying that night.  When I said I was going to sleep at the camp ground, there was shocked silence.  "What in a tent?" somebody asked.  And when I said yes someone else said "faark you're going freeze your balls off!".  They urged me to go back to the hotel, but I had decided this was a camping trip, so stupidly I headed off to the camp ground after a couple of beers and a great warm meal.

It was bloody cold!  After booking in it was clear that nobody else was stupid enough to camp in a tent.  There was one caravan with some people in it but it looked like it was a permanent feature. 

After pitching the tent, I had a lekker warm shower and a cup of coffee and then dived into my sleeping bag rated at +5 degrees.  I fell asleep immediately.

Around midnight I woke.  It was very very cold.  My whole body was cold and I was shivering.   I dug out my spare tee shirt and wrapped that around my head, and after some thought spread my jacket over my sleeping bag and pulled the sleeping bag hood tight around my cheeks.  After a while I started to warm up again and soon fell asleep.  Slept right through!

In the morning there was a thin layer of ice on the tent (inside and out) and all over my bike, so we had definitely gone below +5C!  The sleeping bag actually did quite well considering!

« Last Edit: February 27, 2011, 09:21:25 am by alanB »
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Re: Solo Memorial Ride to Giyani and Back
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2011, 05:52:31 pm »
Nice story Alan, riding solo is always a great experience and a true adventure ride. Enjoying your RR, can't wait for the rest! :thumleft:
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Offline alanB

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Re: Solo Memorial Ride to Giyani and Back
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2011, 09:07:59 am »
Day 3:  Pilgrims Rest - Dullstroom - Home

The ice on my tent soon melted and then the whole thing was wet.  So I put my bike and tent in the sun and waited for them both to de-ice and dry out.

I had another warm shower and slow cup of coffee and just chilled enjoying the camp ground scenery.



When the tent had finally dried out enough to pack I got going again.

I filled up in town at their  olde worlde filling station


I then headed up Robbers Pass, another great road to ride.  I was on a mission to finally ride some dirt.  A whole bunch of friends from varsity used to come quite frequently to a place called Themeda Hill at the top of Robbers pass in the forests and I wanted go and see if it was still there and ride the forest roads again which we used to ride on mountain bikes.  (I still have the scars from a spectacular crash on one of the steep downhills).

Themeda was still there, very little had changed, apart from a fancy time share resort half way up the track. 

The forest roads were wonderful! 



I had a great time riding all the old routes, right up to the top of Black Hill, which got quite gnarly.  Even got slightly lost and started riding the same loop in circles and needed to zoom right in on the GPS to find out how to get out of the loop (there was a slightly hidden turnoff I kept missing).

After a couple of hours of riding all sorts of great terrain, I reluctantly decided I should head for home as there still was a long way to go.

Next objective was Dullstroom.  I got there reasonably quickly and had a great chicken and cashew pancake and had a brief chat with someone outside who was very interested in the bike and the Heidenau tyres, apparently he had just bought a GS800.

Then a long boring ride home on the highway, relatively uneventful apart from two other tailgating assholes. 

One old guy in one of those coal mine bakkies with the heavy duty roll bars,  he just seemed to want to drive about half a meter away from the vehicle in front of him - seemed brain dead - no expression on his face when you indicated that perhaps he should back off a bit, he did it to me and every other vehicle he drove behind (on a long journey one tends to stay with the same vehicles for long periods), it wasn't as if he was in a hurry and wanted to get past, his preferred following distance just seemed to be about a meter.

Going through Benoni, on a single lane with concrete barriers either side so zero run-off or place to stop or overtake, in slow moving traffic some young twatwaffle in a Citi golf started pulling the same stunt as the taxi driver in Bush Buck ridge, just getting closer and closer just to piss me off - what is it with these small dick idiots, that want to abuse their new found power, don't they realise that one slip and I'm dead? 

I suppose once I start indicating they should back off they think its funny to do the reverse - but hell its dangerous!

But apart from that it was plain sailing all the way home.

In the end I was very satisfied with the trip.  Setting up the plaque was a small symbolic thing that probably meant nothing to anybody apart from my sister, her husband  and I, but it felt important and right and I'm glad we all made the effort.

The bike was great!  Easily cruising quite long distances with a reasonable range, always a pleasure to ride, and simply superb on dirt!
« Last Edit: February 27, 2011, 09:15:30 am by alanB »
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Offline alanB

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Re: Solo Memorial Ride to Giyani and Back
« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2011, 07:18:28 am »
Nice story Alan, riding solo is always a great experience and a true adventure ride. Enjoying your RR, can't wait for the rest! :thumleft:

Thanks!  Glad you are enjoying it.

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Re: Solo Memorial Ride to Giyani and Back
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2011, 09:41:51 am »
Nice read AlanB, thanks for the effort.

And may I add, the Husky  looks awesome!!
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Re: Solo Memorial Ride to Giyani and Back
« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2011, 03:38:26 pm »
Alan, how is that caravan park in Louis Trichardt nowadays? I have to go there this year for my 20 year reunion. Nice trip by the way, how did the Husky behave? You do not have a spare Dakar windscreen lying around? It looks damn cool on the Husky!
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Re: Solo Memorial Ride to Giyani and Back
« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2011, 03:46:35 pm »
Nice RR Alan! :drif:
 

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Re: Solo Memorial Ride to Giyani and Back
« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2011, 04:32:56 pm »
Thanks for the kind words guys!

Alan, how is that caravan park in Louis Trichardt nowadays? I have to go there this year for my 20 year reunion. Nice trip by the way, how did the Husky behave? You do not have a spare Dakar windscreen lying around? It looks damn cool on the Husky!

As I said I thought the caravan park was quite well kept, ablutions weren't great needed some paint and some of the taps etc needed replacing but they were clean, there was hot water and the toilets flushed etc, you see much much worse in some other places. Just the employees seemed to find it surprising that visitors wanted to stay there which I found amusing!

Ja that screen works well on the Husky.  Complete accident, because I just took it off my old Dakar one night and started wandering how it would look on the Husky, and then one thing lead to another....

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Re: Solo Memorial Ride to Giyani and Back
« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2011, 10:18:01 pm »
Nice RR
 

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Re: Solo Memorial Ride to Giyani and Back
« Reply #13 on: March 03, 2011, 12:22:02 pm »
Excellent read! Thanks A!
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Offline plonker

Re: Solo Memorial Ride to Giyani and Back
« Reply #14 on: March 04, 2011, 02:34:03 pm »
Alan does that seat not become uncomfortable especially compared to the Dakkie.If you can't fit panniers it won't make a good long disatance DS bike.
 

Offline alanB

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Re: Solo Memorial Ride to Giyani and Back
« Reply #15 on: March 05, 2011, 09:57:38 am »
Alan does that seat not become uncomfortable especially compared to the Dakkie.If you can't fit panniers it won't make a good long disatance DS bike.

I would call 1225k's a reasonably long distance, wouldn't you?  Thats what I covered in the three days on this trip.

I suppose it all depends on what you want.

I never wanted panniers on my previous Dakar and I certainly don't want them on the 610!    Personally, I don't subscribe to the whole "loaded to the gills" approach to DS riding.  I ride the bike for pleasure and waddling around on an overloaded bike that just wants to fall over all the time, simply isn't pleasurable, to me at least.  You may differ.  If I need to take that much stuff I would rather go by car and put the bike on a trailer if necessary.

The 610's seat was initially very uncomfortable, but I modified mine and now its acceptable.  Its not as plush as the Dakar's seat, for sure, but you can ride the whole day, so thats all that really matters.  Again I suppose it depends on what you want out of the experience. I don't expect my bike to be the same as my lounge, some people do, thats why people buy different bikes like Goldwings for instance.

One of THE most important things in a bike, for me is weight, a light bike is a pleasure to ride, especially off-road, but even on road - I can flick the 610 around on tar in ways I could not have done with the Dakar, its far more agile which is great.  I'll accept a few compromises for that - you may not.

In any event you CAN ride long distances on the bike, and really enjoy the experience - thats exactly what I did on this trip! 

But if you really wanted to, you can add panniers to it, just like any other bike!  But it would be a bit like mixing coke or sprite with a 1984 Meerlust Rubicon IMO  :biggrin:  A lot of guys in the states use those Giant Loop bags on their 610's - their bikes look like pack horses in some of the photo's, so it can and is done, - I just think its sacrilege thats all!

Plus being a short ass, there is no way I could get onto the bike if there were bags strapped on the back.

Check out the image below from AdvRider as an example


« Last Edit: March 05, 2011, 10:12:37 am by alanB »
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Re: Solo Memorial Ride to Giyani and Back
« Reply #16 on: March 09, 2011, 10:05:25 pm »

Some yanks I tell you!
Have a look at that GPS! R50 says he's got a TV set in one of those bags too.  :eek7:

That thing must be horrible to ride!
 

Offline BlueBull2007

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Re: Solo Memorial Ride to Giyani and Back
« Reply #17 on: March 10, 2011, 01:40:27 am »
Hahaha, that bike is seriously overloaded.

Nice one Alan! I enjoyed your report big time. Thanks for the write up and photees.

Im sure the shareholders are no worse off for it either.

Pity about Pilgrims rest, its also one of my fav places, with odd but nice people battling in a town that has just about been forgotten.
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Online LouisXander

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Re: Solo Memorial Ride to Giyani and Back
« Reply #18 on: March 10, 2011, 07:46:08 am »
Nah, cleverly loaded!

Some weight in the front as well to compensate. Did the rear load on my XR some time ago and the front end just wanted to go airborne.
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