Bikes Down Under

Motorcycle culture is alive and well in Australia. On a recent trip to Southern Australia to cover the American Le Mans Series Race of a Thousand Years in Adelaide, I was happy to witness a strong sportbike scene. In a country that has produced its fair share of World Champion motorcyclists like Wayne Gardner, Mick Doohan, and Troy Corser, you would expect a healthy number of sporbike enthusiasts. Australia is also well represented by World Superbike pilots like Troy Bayliss and Anthony Gobert.

There are a fair number of bikers who prefer the cruiser mode of motorcycling, but not in the same numbers as the US. Of those, many are on Milwaukee Iron. By far and away the majority of enthusiasts were riding race replicas, with the street fighter stripped down standards coming in behind the sportbike segment in numbers

The major departure from the sportbike scene in America is the ratio of European machines to Japanese bikes. Ducati, Aprillia, Triumph and BMW aare all strong sellers in Australia. Whereas in America, it seems that Japanese motorcycles outsell European bikes by about 2 to 1, in Australia it is not the exception to the rule to see almost as many European sportbikes as those from Asia. Aprilia in particular is a very well represented brand. With no environmental restrictions on the sale of two strokes, as in the US, this is another Aprilia model that is represented Down under that we don't get to see in the States.

There is no shortage of great scenery and exciting roads to experience in south Australia, especially along the coast through Victoria along The Great Ocean Road. With the exception of when we were there, Christmas through New Year's Holiday, there is plenty of road per vehicle ratio. The country is slightly smaller than the US with a total population the same as New York City. Cities like Adelaide and Melbourne have certain similarities with the great motorcycling centers in Europe and Britain where Café Racing was born. Both cities have their Restaurant rows with one after another Italian eating establishments. Motorcycle culture on Lygon Street in Melbourne might as well be Bologna with the bark of V Twins adding to the ambience of the Al Fresco dining.

Police in Australia don't take too kindly to speeding, so judicious jaunts of robust riding are necessary. Speed limits of 80 - 110 kph are adhered to fairly strictly by the four-wheeled set and speed traps in Metropolitan areas are common. Drinking and riding in Australia is like playing Russian roulette. Besides the fact that it is always wiser to partake of a fine coffee beverage while cruising from café to café, the country has strict drunk driving laws with low minimum alcohol levels enforced. We were arbitrarily pulled to the side of the road for a random on the spot Breathalyzer test. Take heed!

The aforementioned Great Ocean Road runs along the Victoria Coastline for a good four- hour blast of switch backs and sweepers reminiscent of the Pacific Coast Highway from San Luis Obispo to Carmel California. The Great Ocean Road features excellent scenic views, room to pass, slow vehicle turnouts and speed limits ranging from 25 kph in the hairpins to 100 kph on the straightaways. Remember; ride left mate!

One very cool motorcycle dealer that we came across is Docteur Desmo, an Aprilia and Ducati Dealer located just north of Adelaide. Loaded with new and vintage Italian machinery it was a joyous happenstance to stumble across. One particularly pleasant occurrence was when one of the technicians broke the showroom silence by idling into the room on a pristine Ducati 750 F1A. With just 6,600 K on the clock, it looked to be worth every penny of the $11,500 Australian asking price. If you head down under, they might be a good place to inquire about motorcycle rentals, tours and purchases. Docteur Desmo is located at: 394 Main North Road Blair Athol, South Australia 5084 Phone 61 08 8262 4555 Fax 61 08 8349 7544.

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Copyright 2001-2013 Greg Sarni, USA