Founded in 1903 and now one of the world’s oldest motorcycle manufacturers, Husqvarna Motorcycles continues to innovate and excel with an impressive range of models and technical leadership. Over a dozen high-tech, class-leading motorcycles are not only tackling the enduro, motocross, supermoto and dual-sport production segments head-on, but also re-imagining the street and travel segments.

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Founded in 1689 to produce muskets for the Swedish Army, motorcycle production began in 1903 which makes Husqvarna Motorcycles one of the world’s oldest manufacturers with uninterrupted production. 

 

Husqvarna Motorcycles continues to innovate and excel with an impressive range of models and technical leadership. Over a dozen high-tech, class-leading motorcycles are not only tackling the enduro, motocross, supermoto and dual-sport production segments head-on, but also re-imagining the street and travel segments.

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EIGHT DAYS ON THE RANGE | MASCHINE GREAT DIVIDING RANGE RIDE 2022

STORY AND PHOTOS BY DAMIEN ASHENHURST ||

Around 300 million years ago – I imagine it was a Thursday at about 11 am – Australia collided with what would become parts of South America and New Zealand.

Comprised of around 3500 segmented kilometres that reach from the Grampians in Victoria right up through to the Cape York Peninsula, it’s a mighty range that features in many of this country’s most important stories.

Some time ago it occurred to Nick Selleck that one common link to so many of his rides over the years was the Great Dividing Range (GDR).

Maschine Tours owner, Nick Selleck, on the tools early and always there to lend a hand


He devised a ride that would be split into three parts and held over a couple of years and cover the entire length of the GDR.

80 riders joined the Maschine crew for part one of the ride held back in May 2021 which took in the tracks from Halls Gap in Victoria to the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. Check out the epic video Jorden Bethune produced on the ride.

I was asked to join the second part as a photographer for the event and gave it very little thought before agreeing. What’s not to love? A Maschine event run by the incomparable Nick and Trudi Selleck…it doesn’t get much better than that.

Given Nick had recently become Ducati’s official brand ambassador/genius/stuntman in Australia, I was offered a Multistrada V4S to ride and given the length of the ride that seemed like a fine choice.

I packed my bags and left home for the hour-long ride to the Hunter Valley where I met up with the 100 strong rider contingent. Every single one of the riders was in good spirits and keen to discover what lay ahead over the next week.


GREAT DIVIDING RANGE RIDE DAY 1

Hunter Valley to Port Macquarie

Mountains of Motoz ready for the ride ahead

The GDR 2 ride got off to the ideal start with high spirits, blue skies and a few hot air balloons cruising by overhead. It was classic Hunter Valley, not far from the famous vineyards that bring visitors from all over the country to get thoroughly munted on wines while pretending to understand the vigneron’s story of how it was made.

Honestly, by the fourth wine just pour it and walk away – nobody at the table is focused on anything but blasting brain cells.

GREAT DIVIDING RANGE RIDE ORGANISER NICK SELLECK

The mix of bikes was eclectic with BMW, KTM and Husqvarna dominating the numbers while a sprinkling of Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Ducati sweetened the DNA of the ride.

The week would feature two main route options in Road and Adventure with several more technical Enduro breakout sections made available each day for those taking on the adventure course.

We followed supplied GPS tracks and were given a mud map with details on where to find fuel, food and suggestions on places to stop and take in the local surrounds. It also offers warnings on conditions and a heap of emergency contacts and procedures.

The ride is supported by medical staff on bikes as well as backup vehicles and excellent lead and sweep riders.

Riding out of Pokolbin and away from the hung-over golfers just hitting the links, we made our way through thick fog to Dungog, which some regard as the beating heart of the Hunter Valley dirtbike world and scene of the 2014 Australian Four Day Enduro which, from memory, was dustier than a trailer park tornado.


Our first optional enduro breakout came as we entered the Monkerai Forest which was to be our first foray into the slippery tracks that we’d come to know well later in the week.

And it’s tricky there because the tracks don’t necessarily look all that slippery but without warning your front wheel is looking to the left while your back wheel is interested in something off to the right.

Every good ride has a hill. A hill that births stories to be told for days, if not months or years. Stories of triumph and tragedy, of foolhardiness and sensible decisions. We found such a hill on this enduro breakout.


Starting from a base of mud that had been churned into a soup and leading to a choice of two rutted options, this hill wasn’t hiding its intention to make every rider work hard for a successful accession.

Bikes were stuck on various angles right the way up. Beyond our eyeline, we could hear those in a fight against gravity to find forward momentum. Because momentum is the key, it’s a friend who stands hand in hand with traction as the duo that will see you conquer this hill. The problem is when a hill approaches momentum and traction disappear quicker than a fart in a fan factory.

I made my crucial early line choice and opted to cross the mud soup and drop the Ducati into a rut. This was a display of cunning and audacity that looked mighty impressive for almost 25 full metres, at which point traction was lost and momentum left with it.

The Ducati has a weapon of an engine that pumps out 170Hp, but can be unbelievably manageable at low revs thanks to its V4 configuration.


There was no doubt I was on a section of trail that had no business accommodating a Multistrada, and yet while many a lighter and more offroad capable bike found trouble, I found grip and sweet torquey drive that took me to the top of the first section of that damned hill.

There I encountered an 890 Adventure R which had picked the wrong rut. With no room to pass, I waited till the rider was able to continue and then I chugged up the final section till I almost…almost at the top. One more brief pause to gather strength and pay homage to the traction gods and the Ducati tractored to the top.

Many were not so lucky. But on every ride there is a hero and today that man was Chris Redondo, who walked down over and over and over again to ride bikes up for weary men, beaten by the slop and the slope.


By the time we exited the enduro stage, it was somewhat sobering to realise we had only finished about a third of the day’s 332-kilometre route.

So we rode through Gloucester and while the adventure route bent east we headed north again on the second and much longer enduro track which jumped from the Manning River to the Nowendoc River then the Rowley’s River as we headed into the Tappin Tops National Park.

After tackling a pretty rough trail we arrived at the impressive Ellenborough Falls which gave us the first real breather for the day. Ellenborough is the largest single drop waterfall in NSW and is nestled amongst some lush forestry that you can take in from the viewing platform quite close to the falls themselves.


The trails from Comboyne to our final destination of Port Macquarie were wide and exciting with some decent grip interspersed with mud sections and plenty of drainage humps.

A twisty road section brought us down from altitude as we joined the late arvo commuters entering Port Mac, which is always a nasty snap back to reality after a day in the bush.

But it is a brilliant place to visit and we availed ourselves of many ales and schnitzels by the Hastings River as tales of the day were told and Nick took us through the route for the following day.


GDR DAY 2

PORT MACQUARIE TO GRAFTON

Another misty morning and we headed off from Port Macquarie keen to get back into the bush and away from traffic.

It was a day of flowing open trails as we followed the Macleay River for a time until we reached Willawarrin, which has a general store offering fuel and food and dildos. Yes, you read that correctly.

From there was a run-up to Taylor’s Arm and for many a stop at the famous Pub With No Beer.



But I was keen to get to Bellingen and start climbing up to Dorrigo which has some of the best riding in the whole state. I stopped briefly to check out Dangar Falls which had dropped a little from the torrent that rolled through there just a short time before.

The Ducati had begun to show signs of its unsuitability to the roughest trails with a 5 cent sized piece of bracing breaking away which relaxed the integrity of the plastics forward of the bars. The intricate bodywork which looks so damn good is a bit too complicated for its own good.

I kept to the adventure route the whole day, but given I was the event photographer I knew I couldn’t avoid the most exciting trails for the rest of the week.


GDR DAY 3

GRAFTON TO TENTERFIELD

While the moto gods had bequeathed us ideal weather for the first couple of days, there was a storm brewing further north and word of flash flooding, closed roads and animals being herded into an ark two-by-two started to swell.

It would come, but not yet.

We left Grafton under blue skies which lasted about an hour. The 374-kilometre adventurer route grew dark as the clouds moved in and a constant drizzle materialised.



We took the well-trodden path on the Old Glenn Innes / Grafton Road past the ghost town of Dalmorton (never seen a ghost here), and through the convict tunnel which may or may not (probably not), have been built by convicts.

It’s a great road that follows the Boyd River, but it was looking pretty weathered after a year of constant rains and storms.

As we made our way to Deepwater the rains levelled up from drizzle to downpour and the temperatures dropped dramatically. I had packed for warm weather. At the Deepwater general store I searched frantically for a raincoat of some sort but all they could offer was a wizard’s cloak from their fancy dress section.



I like the idea of riding into Tenterfield like Gandalf, but it would not solve the problem at hand.
The upside of the wet weather was that the crushed granite tracks leading into Tenterfield are in their prime with moisture onboard.

The landscape is amazing and while I don’t think I’ve ever been to Tenterfield in the dry, the low clouds, alpine-like rock formations and ever-present petrichor make you feel like you’re somewhere special.

In one of life’s truly joyous moments, we were to find there was a laundry with driers in our motel. No need to ride off in the morning looking like a drowned beagle.


GDR DAY 4

Tenterfield to Toowoomba

We greeted the fourth morning of GDR 2 with clean gear, and this excited me almost as much as the pie and lamington I then had for breakfast.

As photographers, both Jorden Bethune (video master) and I don’t always have time to stop to eat during the day. Adding to this my hydration bladder sprung a mysterious leak the day before (soaking my camera bag from the inside) and I had to bin it, so a good breakfast of pastry, meat, sponge and chocolate is essential for a healthy mind and body.

The rains that dominated the day before had dispersed on the morning of day four and the temperature was spot on for 389 kilometres of riding.



Entering Queensland early in the day we continued through the town of Stanthorpe and the Granite Belt area which features some amazing wide-open lands and damn near perfect dirt roads.

After passing through Killarney, we started climbing again I stopped at the Daggs Falls lookout for a meditative moment amongst nature.

The roads and trails throughout the day were the best of the week so far and it was all reinforced by a constant, stunning background of mountains, rivers and low-level clouds.



The Ducati was far more at home on the more flowing, less aggressive route and showed its prowess with a little more room to move and a lot less pounding from the terrain.

I purposely avoided the enduro breakouts to give the bike a pause from heavy riding.
Kilometre after kilometre, the day was just damn near perfect from start to finish and dropping down the mountain into Toowoomba, I kinda felt like going back and doing a few of those sections again.

Toowoomba greeted us with an outstanding schnitzel for dinner and the introduction of a new lead rider in Dave Armstrong which capped off the most amazing day. Dave is a motocross legend and also the first guy to win the Finke Desert Race on his first attempt. He did that on the same bike he rode at Manjimup the week before, without doing proper pre-running and with almost no support.



He was also Australia’s first dual international, having competed in the Motocross des Nations three times as well as the International Six Day Enduro.

I would spend the rest of the week asking Dave a total of 7269 questions about 80s and 90s motocross.


GDR DAY 5

TOOWOOMBA TO NOOSA

The run to Noosa was a shorter 322-kilometre day and on the TV that morning the weatherman was warning about biblical downpours and horrendous weather posing an imminent threat to all living creatures.

500mm of rain concentrated right where we were heading sounded like we were riding into some considerable trouble. But, if nobody comes back from the future to stop you from doing it, how bad can it be?

I woke up feeling like shit and immediately took a RAT test, such is the world today. A strong negative and another pie and lamington breakfast relieved the anxiety.



Me and the Multistrada ventured into the Conondale enduro breakout and were treated to some outstanding trails and views from on high.

The early going was slippery and wet with some tight trails interspersed with double tracks and open dirt roads. I was cursing the clay that brought the speed down on sight lest the big Duke get unruly.

On the final day of this ride I would reminisce fondly on those sporadic mud holes, but let’s not jump ahead.



After riding through rainforest sections with just an ever-present drizzle keeping us company, we dropped back down out of the mountains, stopping to take a magnificent view of the Glasshouse Mountains which are remarkable reminders of a long-ago past when volcanic activity was commonplace on the continent.

It really was something getting to ride this part of the world for a day. I’ve visited many times but never on a bike and can thoroughly recommend the time spent on two wheels in the hinterlands.

A lot of the crew made a stop at Rob Turton’s workshop called ‘Overlanders‘ to get new tyres fitted and address any mechanical issues that might be niggling away. It’s always good to have fresh rubber for the end run and for some, the ride home again.

Coming into the beachside resort town of Noosa after spending all day in mud and muck, we stood out like smelly, dirty beasts amongst the beautiful people enjoying their idyllic surrounds.


GDR DAY 6

NOOSA TO BUNDABERG

With another big day of 389 kilometres ahead, we left Noosa early and headed towards Gympie with just a hint of the sun trying to make a comeback.

A small issue with the Ducati’s mounting system for the front plastics (literally just two clips), had been exasperated by the enduro route the day before, but the engine continued to blow me away with its ability to be both a ferocious animal and a quiet friend when asked.

We hit dirt pretty quickly and started eating away the miles with some decent road sections thrown in for good measure that offered a bit of a break for the rider.



The trail conditions were good, but the moisture level was increasing as the skies remained dark and those rains threatened to let loose. The plus side was there was no dust at all, but the constant slipperiness kept you on your toes.

I decided to take the final enduro breakout in an effort to get some good photos and Jorden and I both headed in together. I made it four metres into the first mud hole before coming to a halt.

To my right was a big puddle I chose to avoid – an odd choice for me given I love riding in water. I had three ruts to choose from on the left and chose the only one capable of stopping the Ducati.



It was just too deep for the limited ground clearance and my back wheel dropped into a hole left by a previous rider who clearly spent some time here previously. The bike grounded out and thus ensued a 20-minute effort to free the big unit from its incarceration.

We couldn’t move it forward nor back, so we pushed it onto its side and dragged it out of the rut, tragically cracking a rear-view mirror in the process.

I hadn’t dropped the bike at all on the ride to this point but there it was lying on its side, covered in the stickiest mud ever conceived in nature. It fired up straight away.



As unsuited as the Multistrada is to this type of riding, it impressed me with how it just kept on fighting through whatever was thrown at it.

The rest of that track was damn rough with some decent ruts, as well as long sandy and rocky sections that suited the smaller capacity bikes better but was rewarding all the same.



The first thing we did when we pulled into Bundaberg was head to the carwash to show the bikes some love. The guy running the place was a rider and handled the bike after filthy bike pulling in like a champ. He probably could’ve closed early after we’d all finished.

Did I go to the Bundy Rum distillery? Hell no. That stuff tastes like toilet water to me.


GDR DAY 7

BUNDABERG TO ROCKHAMPTON

At 403 kilometres for the adventure route and 510 including the enduro breakouts, day seven was the longest of the ride.

As it turned out, the enduro route was cancelled due to excessive slipperiness and it was clear the weather was soon to turn against us proper.

The day started by riding through the Booldoonda tunnel which is home to hundreds of bent wing bats. I stopped to take photos, but I don’t know about you, getting close to bats feels a lot different than it did three years ago.



Nevertheless, I covered my mouth and nose and suffered for the art.

Open dirt roads dominated the day, but with them came clay. Prolonged periods of sub-optimal traction became the norm as ascended and descended time and again on what would have been an amazing route in the dry and on a clear day.

A few riders hit the deck battling the clay, which was predominantly that shiny shit that offers no rear-wheel traction and looks kind of harmless until it sweeps your front wheel out from under you in an instant.


Some guys ride that stuff really well, but I am an absolute squid. It is not in my tiny bag of bike skills and I’m sure I gave many of the guys a good laugh. I didn’t drop the bike though – that’s a badge I’ll wear proudly.

We spent a lot of the time in fog and clouds which gave sections an alpine feel, something out of sorts with our geographical location.



As we got closer to Rockhampton the sun made an appearance and it look as though the worst-case scenario presented by the weathermen all week had been overblown.

The problem was the tracks up ahead of us had already been drenched. Day eight was to be a doozy.


GDR DAY 8

ROCKHAMPTON TO MACKAY

The final day on an eight-day ride over 3000 kilometres feels a bit weird. It’s sad to end it there but at the same time, you’ve got your fill of riding and the ‘real’ world beckons your return.

The weather wasn’t presenting anything ambiguous anymore. The rain fell constantly on the road section out to St Lawrence where some of us grabbed a slash of fuel and a quick breakfast – no pies and lamingtons here sadly. I’m sure I could hear a banjo being played though…

From there the conditions got colder and the tracks got progressively wetter as a constant rain fell.
After a fun stretch through a thick fog that offered visibility of about two bike lengths ahead, we started to hit more and more clay.



Then the variations came into play with grey clay, red clay, black clay and an ominous puce clay all presenting the same challenge. Clay sections that go for metres offer sphincter puckering moments we’ve all experienced. Clay sections that go for hundreds of metres can be a serious challenge.

We had entered a clay section that offered little respite for a full 60 kilometres.
Sometimes you could find more stability on the shoulder of the road, but sometimes the trick was to just ride out the two-wheel slide with both feet down.

And I’m talking about me of course. There were plenty of guys on smaller bikes giving it the berries and looking like legends, while I slipped and slid about like a sealion.



The going was slow. As I’d got onto the track early to get photos, I waited for long periods to bag some shots but saw almost nobody.

Some had opted to take the road route, but many were indeed on the track, just progressing slowly in that constant battle to keep the bike facing in the desired direction and on two wheels.

It felt like it would never end when I finally came upon a sealed road section. My excitement was short-lived as it came to an end after about a kilometre and returned us to the natural slop.



Clay doesn’t allow water to drain and the minerals in the clay are hydrophilic which means they attract and hold water molecules that accumulate and act as a lubricant. It also develops plasticity which makes it hard to disperse the water from the clay.

That’s the dodgy scientific explanation as to why it’s the ultimate traction killer. You can have 100 bikes ride through it and it will stay wet and slippery. And that’s what we slid around in for 60 kilometres on day eight.

When the true road section finally appeared, I was ready to drop do the Pope kissing the tarmac routine.
I stopped in at Sarina for a brilliant and well-earned lunch before riding the short distance into Mackay and coming to grips that the GDR 2 was all over.

What an adventure it was.

We had somehow made it to the end before the serious rains made it to us. The following day I saw just up from us that some people had been swept away by floodwaters and it seemed like we had squeaked this ride in by the skin of our well-worn knobbies.

The upcoming Tenere Tragics event sadly had to be cancelled as roads all around were being closed and conditions started to get dangerous.

The last day was a challenge, but we were lucky we even had the opportunity to bring it home.


THE WASHUP

This was a momentous ride and a huge logistical challenge for Maschine. There were accidents as you’d expect and not everyone made it to the last day. While the weather put up a fight, the route we were offered was amazing and absolutely never boring.

It feels good to have completed the GDR 2 without technically dropping the bike once (dragging it doesn’t count!). But it feels even better to have met a whole heap of absolutely brilliant people and made new friends who I hope to see again sometime on the trails.



There is almost no bravado and no pain in the arse show-offs. Everyone was there for the ride and supported each other day after day. Sure, there was quality shit-talking, it wouldn’t be a ride without it.
But the goal was to make eight days and to enjoy every kilometre of the ride and for the overwhelming majority that’s exactly how it played out.

Maschine will run part three from Mackay to Cape York in winter 2023, but if you want to get onto a re-run of part one in November 2022, you can book here.

If it’s something that even vaguely feels like an experience you’d love to have, I recommend you get onto it right now. You won’t regret it.

MASCHINE GREAT DIVIDING RANGE RIDE PART 2 | PHOTO GALLERY


Vale Trevor Fitzpatrick

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