Friday, November 6, 2015

Hampton Downs 2015

Labour weekend, and eight of us lined up on Saturday morning for the annual pilgrimage to the Barry Sheene Trans-Tasman Classic racing at Hampton Downs.
There were 3 Hondas; Dion’s NS400R, Bruce’s ’86 VFR750, and my ‘classic’ 2000 anniversary VFR800. 2 Yamahas; Kim’s TZR 3XV and Mike’s FZR1000EXUP, and 2 Suzuki; Ian’s GS450S and Dave’s GSX1100. Rich went up in his Ute again and this time with a bike trailer attached to collect Kim & Dion’s latest RG acquisition.

We had a great ride up and although we crossed a few damp roads we managed to avoid the rain. We traveled via the Parapara Road which is a bit rough in patches with quite a few parts of the road now down in the river. We stopped at Angel Louise Café in Raetihi for a coffee, then on to National Park and through to Taumaranui for petrol. We lunched at Te Kuiti, then turned left at Otorohanga and onto the back road to Ngaruawahia. These are all great biking roads when dry. I particularly like the Taumaranui to Te Kuiti stretch and the last leg to Ngaruawahia which is open and fast and could seriously endanger ones licence if discipline was not maintained. Needless to say we didn’t exceed the posted speed limit (Your Honour).
We stayed at Arrow Lodge Ngaruawahia (as we have the past two years), and the new owners made us very welcome and the units were spotlessly clean. We enjoyed a generous evening meals over the road at the RSA, along with a few pints. Again we were made to feel most welcome.

Sunday morning was an early start to watch the All Blacks battle the Boks. The right result meant a happy crew with the exception of one for whom the reluctant early start proved a trial.
The bike park at Hampton Downs is a great place to wander around. A real menagerie of bikes from rumbling cruisers to Italian exotics, big trailies to hand built café racers and outfits.

Red Baron had a Honda NS400R parked outside their tent, not only in Rothmans colours but also having JL spannies – “quite common” I heard someone say!

This year there was a ‘rolling road’ set up adjacent to the bike park. Anyone interested could pay $25, sign the liability waiver and get a Dyno printout for their bike. Two that were of interest were a Yamaha TZR 3MA (reverse cylinder) and a Yamaha TZ750 race bike – ‘70s reed valve 2-stroke inline four – showing 125 BHP at the rear wheel.

The pit garages were interesting as always. There are immaculately kitted out teams for whom money appears to be no object and whose bikes are state-of-the-art and far faster than the Factory team bikes would have been back in the day. There are also bikes faithful to the original, and even some original race bikes like Alan De Latour’s Suzuki XR14 and Damian Mackie’s TZ750. The racing is good to watch but the results seem academic given the diversity of the bikes.

Across the road to the RSA for a Sunday evening meal and a few beers. Kim, Dion, & Rich picked up the Suzuki RG400; a mostly complete and unmolested bike to join the project queue.

Next morning we cooked up bacon & eggs for brekkie and packed up the bikes. We followed the same route in reverse on the way home and again enjoyed a dry ride. We stopped for lunch at the railway station café at National Park, which served good food and coffee. Then it was back down the Parapara and home.

We covered just over 900 km with only a couple of minor problems with the bikes. A great ride, lots of laughs, good food and good company. That’s as good as it gets.

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