April 28, 2024

Stroking Strath. An easy and popular day ride from Adelaide

The Adelaide Hills presents a multitude of of riding and driving opportunities. The Southern Route to Strathalbyn is, you'll quickly find, one of the most popular as rider, Rod 'Rowdy' Eime discovers.

I know, I know. You’ve heard me blather on and on about the myriad riding opportunities within cooee of Adelaide. So, let’s move on and take that to the next level and create some history. And you read it here first.

It may not be fair to label Adelaide as some distribution backwater, some neglected sem-rural market, but when this writer wanted to buy a new Livewire, he had to go to a dealer in Sydney. Even as I write there is just one H-D branded Livewire in the city - a dealer demo. 

This oversight is set to be corrected with the all-new Pan America and I know that - at time of writing at least - one example has been secreted into the city of churches to be cloistered in the lair of locally-domiciled MD, Nigel Keogh.

As local dealers gear-up for the big retail launch, sales interest in the all-new Pan America has reached a level of promise that bodes well for future sales. Now, I won’t wax on about this bike again, because you read all about it in the last issue. Didn’t you?

So, on a wintry and damp Adelaide morning, three of us set out for Strathalbyn, a well-known destination for weekend riders, especially those from The Motorcycle Society, an eclectic bunch of well-heeled Adelaide locals who bring their shiny machines out for a spirited airing on alternate Sundays.

The Society lads had already seen the LiveWire on an earlier outing when it stole the show, but this time the Pan America and Livewire would tour in tandem, both resplendent in proper factory orange livery.

Led, appropriately, by Nigel we took the well-ridden route through Kangarilla, Meadows and Paris Creek, a quality tarmac passage that carves a path through lush pastures and remnants of blue and redgum forests, and skirts the vast Mt Bold Reservoir and its adjacent bush reserve. 

Our first stop is the Clarendon Bakery in the cute little village of the same name. 

“These donuts are legendary,” says Nigel with all the confidence of a man who runs an iconic motorcycle brand, “they’ll probably do us for lunch as well.”

Nigel disappears into the little shopfront as Martin and I wait outside in anticipation. It isn’t long before we are each handed a brown paper bag that is alarmingly heavy for a single donut. Inside is a weighty pastry, ornately dusted with colourful sprinkles on a generous lashing of bright pink icing.

“This better not appear in Heavy Duty,” Nigel warns me as he and Martin tuck into their garish treats. 

The Paris Creek Road into Strathalbyn offers plenty of twists and turns, a few decent straightaways and some blind bends worthy of your utmost attention. It is this writer’s recommendation that riders unfamiliar with the roads are best to join a group who know the vagaries of the road unless you are prepared to toddle along at a sedate pace. Weekdays, for example, you may well encounter lumbering earthmoving equipment, school buses or cattle trucks. Weekends are the domain of picnickers, lollygaggers and rubbernecking tourists.

The Livewire relishes these roads, making short work of the on- and off-camber corners with its superior handling and ‘regen’ braking, while the Pan Am lopes along effortlessly as if to say “ride me you sissy!”

Strathalbyn makes perfect sense for riders, as the roads come in and out of town like spokes on a wheel. The catchphrase ‘all roads lead to Strathalbyn’ is no exaggeration. The B33 comes in via Macclesfield and Echunga, both cool stopovers on their own, while the Nth-Sth B37 joins Mount Barker at the M1 Freeway.

Strathalbyn has its own motorcycling heritage. It’s the birthplace of the late road racing legend, Kenny Blake, who tragically lost his life while competing in the 1981 Isle of Man TT. Three years ago, a magnificent memorial statue was unveiled in the mainstreet (opposite the Robin Hood Hotel), the work of local metal sculptor, James Stewart, from Goolwa. An annual event, The Kenny Blake Festival of Motorcycling usually takes place around October, COVID permitting.

Once at ‘Strath’ you are presented with numerous eating, drinking or touristy options. 

Several decent coffee cafes such as the Bean Machine, Hammer’n’Tongs and the Corner Bakery are on the south side of the Angus River, which neatly dissects the town centre. 

On the opposite side, in Main Street just down from the Kenny Blake statue, you’ll find more great coffee spots like Ruffino, Appleseed and Jack’s Bakery. The Robin Hood Hotel is easy to find. It'll have the Harleys parked out front.

The former workshops and showrooms of Gilbert’s Motors are now the town’s motor museum featuring the memorabilia of famous AGP flag-waver, Glen Dix, along with 20-something immaculate vehicles and bikes on show at any one time.  During its near 120-year trading history, Gilbert’s manufactured Treblig bicycles and motorcycles, sold home appliances, motor vehicles such as Buick and Holden as well as farm machinery.

The old used car yard in Rankine Street (next to the National Trust Museum) is now the home of Collectable Classic Cars & Bikes which is like a museum where everything is for sale. Say ‘hi’ to Ben or Brenton.

We have to call it a day after our manhole cover-sized donuts, but those with more time on their hands can easily head down to Goolwa, Port Elliot or Victor Harbor on the B37 for a seaside sojourn and still be back in time for dinner - especially during the glorious daylight saving days.

The Livewire lives on sealed roads of course, but we could have easily explored any number of dirty detours on the Pan America. That may yet happen. Stay tuned. 

Everything mentioned, and more can be found at www.strathalbyntourismassoc.org.au

Originally published in HEAVY DUTY Magazine 178 in "A Day in the Saddle"

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