Saturday, January 28, 2012

Yamaha DT3 Adventure Bike Riding

This is a guest post from the inimitable Barry Drummond in Wellington. He apologised for not coming to the Blue Haze Boxing Day BBQ as he had something else to do and what a great excuse!   Nice one Barry and congratulations  to you and the rest of your team for completing the Traverse. Come on everyone drag out that old two stroke trail bike and start having some adventures!

Hi to all and Happy New Year,
This is a story of an adventure.
Real life, 1970’s adventure riding on Yamaha’s 1973 DT3 250cc adventure bike.
Read the following blurb. This ride sounds like something worthwhile.

“Situated in the remote Tongariro Forest Park the 42 Traverse Track follows 46km of old logging tracks beginning at Kapoors Rd on SH47 (18km north of National Park) and ending behind the village of Owhango on SH4. Touted as one of the premier rides in the North Island, you will encounter pristine native bush, sensational vistas of the Central Plateau mountains as well as your fair share of exhilarating down hills and grinding uphill sections. Predominantly downhill though with an overall descent of 570m you can expect this ride to take anything from 4-7hs depending on your level of fitness and basically whether or not you are in a hurry.”

The bike needs some pre-ride inspection & maintenance after the last ride. Back tire is flat and will not stay inflated. Diagnosis. A puncture. Repaired. Test ride. All good, until the throttle cable broke. Repaired. Oil tank filled. Tent. No need its fine, Weather report, good. Less gear less hassle. Sleeping bag. Same. Not needed. Room for a spare can of petrol. Good idea. It’s going to be a long way on an 8.5L petrol tank.

So come Boxing Day, not so long ago all was ready. I waited impatiently, at the bottom of Paekakariki hill Road. The Hutt valley boys turned up late. They had to stop and fix a puncture! So onward to Wanganui . After the magic of a hot summers day, at the wonderful Wanganui road races.
The boys headed north for Owhango to camp. It is between National Park & Tamuranui. The ride through the Parapara’s was great. The 50-55mph was quite adequate. Photo stop at the water falls, followed by burger tea at Rahetahi. The Chinese owners did a great job of feeding the hungry. The free coffee from the Caltex petrol station was even better. Maybe they thought I needed it.

Onward toward National park and the superb day suddenly began looking somewhat cloudy,
dark clouds. It was pitch black as we approached National park. I was in the middle of our 6 pack as I had doubts about the battery and my headlight. I switched the light on for National park. No problems. Owhango is about 15 miles past National Park. As you can imagine the lights went very dim to non-existent after 10 minutes use. I turned the lights off about Raurimu. At least I might have a stop light. So in amongst the pack I am riding and yes it started to rain. Light to start with. But then oh so heavy. I felt that cold wet feeling, as the rain runs into your boot from the leggings being tucked inside the boots. Pitch black trying to follow people, in front using there lights. Its Ok, until you drop behind a little. The others all have bigger & quicker bikes out of the corners. I was left behind by the leaders. Still we arrive at Owhango to camp. Down a long winding gravel road to the camp area. It was pitch black. No street lights here. I am a typical towny. I was expecting some form of street lights to put up the Tent!! No I didn’t bring a tent. Why would I? It had been a perfect day. Now it was near the perfect storm. Still I was prepared. (I had been a boy Scout. non-molested) I had a piece of rope to tow dead bikes with, and a camouflage tarpaulin to cover our gear in the bush the next day, whilst we were riding. I quickly set up under a tree with a pair of pliers and a screwdriver from the tool kit to stick one end of the tarpaulin into the ground. The other end I roped up into the tree so it hung on an angle. I had a foam roll, but no sleeping bag. The two big plastic sacks I had for my gear, became my sleeping bag after the head and arm holes were cut out of one. I was damn lucky 5 of the others had bought a torch or I would have been completely in the dark. My bike headlight was still not playing the game. No beers, no nothing so we all crashed out in our own tents, hammocks and Plastic sacks. The rain eased off and stopped leaving a cold night.

Next morning was cloudy and drizzly. One of the guys on a new Honda XL250 bailed out as he had attempted the mighty 42nd traverse last disastrous time. He was completely psyched out about it after the rain. So he went home, leaving 5 of us. We packed up the gear. Hid it in the bush and headed back to National park to gas up. Past the Chateau to the gravel road leading to the 42nd traverse.
The drizzly had stopped as we contemplated the 30 miles of mainly downhill we were about to adventure into. Four rivers later, doing general trail riding, & with only two crash’s amongst the team. One in a heavy bog and another out of the big river. Both Suzuki's I add. Then the terrible formidable rock face we had to go down, loomed ahead. Carefully we picked our way down. This had been the turning back point of those with us from their last failed adventure ride. The challenge was on. To scale the rock formation to prove that it was a proper conquering of the 42nd traverse. After about 5 seconds thinking, the DT3 was wound up and not so gracefully scaled the rock formation from bottom to top and then back again. I felt like the All Blacks must have, when they won the world cup.
After passing a few hikers and a disapproving looking dude on a push bike. Passing a spectacular waterfall going under a rickety old bridge and dodging some clown in a Ute. We safely arrived back at the camp ground. We had seen some great scenery and wildlife.

"Out of Big River"

Our gear was packed up again onto the bikes. The two DR350 riders changed their front sprockets again for road riding and we headed for Ohakune for lunch. A lot of interest was shown in the old DT3 there. After a relaxing lunch we headed down the road beside the river to Fordell. This was a really pleasant ride for 40 of the 50 miles. The other 10 miles were gravel on top of hard pack dirt. Like marbles. A few road bikes from the Wanganui races were going over it, gravel and all. A lot of swing bridges onto farmers land over the river. A few more photo stops.

Then on to Fordell and back to Bulls for another gas stop and Mc.D.’s Ice cream. Two said good bye and headed off to the Wirarapa. The last three of us headed back to the Hutt Valley safe in the knowledge that the adventure bike kings had conquered the mighty 42 Traverse in wettish conditions. So who really needs upside down forks? Rising rate rear suspension. A selection of front sprockets. 4 stroke economy & reliability. 5 gallon petrol tank. Tent and sleeping bag. From the times when sex was safe and trail riding was man’s stuff. The same old trials tires. The same old 24 HP 250cc bike. It still rolls out the fun and adventure. What more can I say. After 38 years. Not one chain adjustment, no fettling the points at all. A completed 550 mile ride. About 85 Liters of petrol & 2 liters of Castrol std 2 stroke oil. That’s about 30 mpg.

My trusty 1973 Yamaha DT3 250cc Adventure bike is still doing it. It goes to show just how far the bikes of today may not have come. The old DT Yamaha certainly impressed the 2 x DR350’s. DR650, XL250, XL500S & some Kawasaki 650 adventure thing.
Are they pussies today, with their 650 adventure bikes!! [Roger, David!!] Are the trail’s easier today because of OSH regulations and DOC intervention? The Mountain bikers. What about the 4 wheel drive clubs widening the tracks maybe. Do you really need that KTM, BMW whatever?

Riders. Ken 1982 XL500S, Peter 1996 DR350, Bruce1997 DR350, 2006 XL250S, Richard 2008 KLR 650, Alan 2000 DR 650, ME 1973 DT3.

Harden up chaps. Get an old 2 stroke. And life will be fun again.

See you all at the rally. Safe riding.

Regards Barry Drummond.

“Modern bikes can still run out of 5 gallons of petrol too”


  1. Good story Barry. I thought it was fantastic you did it on your DT while I enjoyed the plush ride on my DR350. Lesson learnt...I'll fit trials tyres to the RD for the next bash.

  2. I've just bought a DT3 to resto and feel much better after reading that :-)
    excellent stuff

  3. Excellent post! This all reminds me of the good old days! Does anyone know the latest media stuff regarding Phil Read?