King of the Road – Sydney to Gold Coast on a Road King
Road Trip in pictures – Sydney to Gold Coast on a 2011 Harley Davidson Road King
2011 Harley Davidson Road King – Sydney to Gold Coast road trip.
Update: Our test ride review on the Road King is HERE
Recently, Harley Davidson lent us a 2011 Road King, and Motoaus’ Rebecca decided the best way to get it from Sydney up to the Gold Coast was to ride it. The long way. Shunning the freeway, Bec made her way north through some of our best countryside:
4:30am start – yawn.
Caught an early flight from the Gold Coast to Sydney. No welcome at the airport from Jetstar with an $80 ripoff on baggage from a smug faced and uncaring check-in drone. My advice – don’t fly Jetstar unless you really have to. Horrible experience.
Picked up the 103 cubic inch 2011 Road King from the friendly and helpful staff at Trivett Harley Davidson in Alexandria after a short and silent taxi ride from the airport. It appears I don’t speak the local language. Brought too much stuff, so spent a ridiculous amount of time packing and repacking the panniers. What a headache.
Finally on the road!
Quick stop under Sydney Harbour bridge after getting hopelessly lost on backstreets with one way signs. Parked on paved area down near the Rocks, where the tourists seemed more interested in the small woman riding the Road King, than the iconic landmarks nearby. Utilising a German tourist, I was able to get a few pics to prove I was actually in Sydney. Unfortunately he included the opera house in the background of this great shot of an observation tower.
With no breakfast, no lunch and one bottle of water since 7am, I was in a hurry to leave the Sydney traffic. The heat, lack of food and the frustration of navigating in a big, choked up city was taking it’s toll. I wanted to get out of the mayhem before I had a melt down. Sydney is best experienced with no deadlines. I also wanted to be a lot further North and with my map reading skills, I decided to consult Google maps again on the Ipad. Google suggested the best route to get to Windsor and the Putty Road.
Windsor and the beginning of the iconic Putty Road – listed in the “must do” of riding roads around Australia. After a raspberry lemonade, I decided to push on to Muswellbrook before I ran out of daylight. Luckily NSW have daylight savings, so I estimated that I would be there around 6pm. I was looking forward to a decent meal and a soft bed.
Putty Road was well worth the ride. Tight, winding roads through picturesque bushland with the sweet scent of flowering natives made for a memorable first time on both the road and the Road King!
Muswellbrook service station. I pull up beside an old custom Springer and it’s owner. He admires the Road King and suggests Tamworth is 2 or 3 hours away and that the road is all easy highway. My main concern is wildlife at night, but he adds that the constant trucks sort out any foreign object on the road. Hopefully Harleys arent considered “foreign”. I decide to dine in style at the local Maccas, email a few pictures and organise accommodation at Tamworth.
Tamworth at last. I stay at a small comfortable motel where returning stragglers from the MotoGP at Phillip Island have chosen to kip for the night.
After breakfast and a look around Tamworth, I visit the giant golden guitar in homage to a childhood favorite, Slim Dusty. The guitar is a giant 12 metre high replica of the awards presented at the Tamworth County Music Festival every year. The late Slim originally opened the attraction in 1988 and won more of the golden guitar awards than anyone else. A carload of young Japanese tourists sit beneath the attraction strumming their own, smaller, guitar.
I’m ready to leave and it’s hot and humid. Checking the BOM forecast on the iPad confirms approaching bad weather. I take the New England highway to Armidale in anticipation of a lunch stop. I have now become accustomed to the riding style of the Road King and am comfortable with the weight, power and handling. The King of the Road is starting to grow on me.
By the time I get to Armidale, the storm clouds over the hills look ominous. Instead of lunch, I decide to outrun the rain. Ten minutes up the road, and I’m sheltering under an old bridge pulling on wet weather gear whilst the sky opens up.
The screen on the Road King shields out most of the driving rain as I head back along the highway. The temperature has plummeted and it’s freezing cold. I curse my vented gloves. One brave soul passes me on an older Harley with ape hangers. He is not dressed for the conditions and looks drenched and frozen to his seat. I decide that vented gloves are nothing to complain about. The Road King rumbles onwards without missing a beat.
I take the Hermani-Nymboida Road to Grafton which snakes it’s way through scrubby bush, and eventually steep rainforest gullies. I stop at the general store and refuel. An old bloke sits out front having a beer whilst his dog languishes on the back seat of his car. The old fellow admires the Road King and tells me I look like the barmaid at Nymboida Pub. Perhaps she owns a Road King or maybe the old timer is wearing beer goggles.
The Hermani-Nymboida Road wends it’s way through idyllic farmland. More than once I come across mobs of cattle crossing between properties driven by horseback riders. I cross an old bridge and come to the Nymboida Coaching Station Inn. Past Cloghers Creek I narrowly avoid a turtle struggling across the road. I decide to help him along before he ends up mashed into the bitumen.
Popularised in the Cold Chisel classic song for it’s flame trees, Grafton is resplendent today in purple blossom, the Jacaranda lined streets radiating a welcome fit for a queen. The local Jacaranda Festival is in it’s 76th year, which includes the crowning of the Jacaranda queen, a big deal in Grafton for young ladies. I don’t have the pedigree to be in the running so I head to one of the local watering holes and time to book a room for the night. It is a relief to peel off my wet weather gear and boots. Far off thunder heralds an approaching thunderstorm.
After a welcome shower and a rest, I head downstairs to a packed bistro. The pub is full of muscular young men whom display better shaved legs than mine. They are here for the Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic, a 220km pushbike race which will start at the front of the hotel in the morning. Among the riders competing is World Superbike legend, Troy Bayliss.
Enjoying the Road King and wanting a little more adventure on the journey back home, I follow the Clarence River via the Grafton-Lawrence Road. My map reading skills suck and I fail to notice the dead end and lack of bridge to cross over to the coast side. 35km north of Grafton, I am relieved to see a car ferry and the free crossing takes all of about 5 minutes. I ride further north along the waters edge to the river community of Maclean. Judging by the amount of bikes on the road, I am not the only one to have discovered such a scenic route.
I’d seen the Big Guitar, and skipped the Big Banana, so I decide to call in at the Big Prawn at Ballina. Sadly, the faded crustacean is on the nose, with the visitor centre closed and boarded up after nearly 20 years as a Ballina icon. There has been quite a stink over its closure and the prawn has been slated for demolition despite nearly 6000 signatures on a facebook petition. For the moment, the prawn is still swimming in uncertainty.
I am only a couple of hours away from home, but I don’t want my adventure to end so I turn inland at Tweed Valley Way and head towards the canefield surrounded town of Murwillumbah. The encircling mountains and the meandering Tweed River paint a picture perfect and are best viewed from the comfort of a Harley Road King. Past the cane fields and towards the sub tropical rainforest valley of Chillingham, rough and narrow in areas, the road snakes its way up the mountainside to the NSW/QLD border. This road is favoured by riders on all makes and models, and today with the sunny conditions, riders are out in force.
The QLD side of the border drops down into beautiful Numinbah Valley, part of the Gold Coast hinterland, and one of the most spectacular areas that I have ever ridden. The area boasts numerous natural wonders and is often forgotten in conversations regarding the attractions of the Gold Coast, most people only remembering the manmade wonders such as the theme parks and beaches. To riders, however, the hinterland is full of winding roads, rustic pubs and cafes and stunning scenery.
With this in mind I ride to Tamborine Mountain, the final destination before the road to home. The St Bernard Hotel is a great place to soak up the view with a nice glass of red wine and lunch. This time, however, instead of a greeting from the resident St Bernard dog, I was escorted into the parking area, by a female Guinea Fowl who instantly fell in love with the Road King.
And like all adventures, mine came to an end 30 minutes further down the mountain as I rode into the GC suburbs. In the 3 days I had ridden the road king, it had now come to feel familiar and predictable. The comfort and styling of the bike makes riding less of an effort and more emphasis on enjoying the journey.
Although the Road King is huge and heavy for a pint size such as me, Harley have designed the bike with consideration for us smaller humans, weight distributed low and the forward controls still accessible. Country roads were effortless on such a big bike, the huge torque of the 103 cubic inch motor rumbling its way out of every switchback corner and over the top of every steep mountain climb.
Although I have ridden every manner of big cc Japanese cruisers, I cannot help but feel that the Harley is just that little more special and is much more than just a collection of steel and chrome.
I pull into the driveway at home. I feel tired, but good. It has been a great way to experience the country roads and towns between Sydney and the Gold Coast. The relaxed style of the bike allowed more time to take in the surroundings in comfort. Photos only portray a sliver of the freedom riding alone on a long journey brings.
It is with a little sadness that I shut off the bike for the last time. So ends an adventure that most people can only dream about on one of the world’s most iconic motorcycles.
Big thanks to Harley-Davidson Australia, Mitchell Hunt from Haystac, Trivett Harley Davidson in Sydney and Camzilla Camera mounts.