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perth run BMW K1200LT

BMW K1200LT Perth to Melbourne run

(by Guy 'Guido' Allen, October-November 2023)

Also see our Nullarbor Plain crossing how-to feature at bikesales.


perth to melbourne - allmoto perth run

We need to head out for another decent run  maybe across the Nullarbor Plain. This time we decided to ship one of the fleet as far west as we could and ride it back again. Here's the road diary...

October 24 – Melbourne

bmw k1200lt on a truck

We've just booted the BMW K1200LT land yacht out of the shed and loaded it up for a trip. Nope, it hasn't been sold – perish the thought!

Instead we've paid the good folk at transport company Bikes Only to take it for a nice long drive, to Perth.

The theory is muggins flies over there in about a fortnight and the Bimmer will be delivered to our hotel. Then we ride it back to Melbourne.

Our plan is to return via Albany and Esperance, before ducking north for the trip across the Nullarbor to Adelaide.

All up, it's about 3800km (2360 miles), a little longer than our recent Darwin-Melbourne run on a cheap and cheerful R1150GS Boxer we bought up north. See the Darwin story here.

November 7 –  Perth

bmw
              k1200lt

Well, that's a promising start. A couple of weeks after the land yacht was picked up in Melbourne by transporters Bikes Only, it has been delivered to my hotel. It's in great shape.

We're in Perth for a couple more nights and then we're heading south.

November 7, Fremantle

What do you do when it's fabulous riding weather and you're at a loose end in Perth? Flit down to Fremantle for a seafood lunch, of course.

customs house freo

It's a mere half an hour down the road from Perth central and still bears the signs of the incredible wealth that flowed across the docks from the late nineteenth century. The palatial Customs House is as good an example as any.

freo bon scott

While Freo is all about the port, the late Bon Scott – founding and legendary lead singer for AC/DC – gets a prominent guernsey in the form of a dockside statue.

freo fishers

Fortunately the local fisher community is also recognised.

freo seafood

Just the right atmosphere for the exercise. We lobbed at Kailis Fishmarket Cafe...


freo
              food

And yes, it was well worth the ride.

November 9, Perth to Augusta

BMW K1200LT perth run 2023

In all the times and years we've traveled in Western Australia, the south-west corner has proved elusive. Not this trip!

As the sign above shows, it's an area filled with places we've had reason to hear about, with Busselton and Margaret River prominent among them.

John Waugh

Along the way we caught up with old mate John Waugh, a long-term staffer at Two Wheels and Street Bike magazines. His passion for motorcycles has outlived both titles, as a quick glimpse of his "MotoGP room" suggests.

Yep, that's him on the Kawasaki KR250 and first-gen Suzuki GSX-R750 in the pics. We all looked a bit younger back then...

Nowadays he has a very tasty Triumph Thruxton R in the shed.

BMW K1200LT perth run 2023

We had to stop and grab a snap of this wildlife sign. Ringtail possums score their own marked crossings in some towns.

What really got our attention, however, was the lack of bullet holes in the sign. Instead, one of the locals had stopped and taken the trouble to give the animals eyes!

busselton

Busselton seems to be doing its best to turn into a giant postcard...


busselton

Sculptures like this abound...

busselton

Including this one of Gaywal, a local 19th century leader.

margaret river

Margaret River wineries vary in scale from Cape Mentelle with this grand gumtree-lined entrance drive...


stella bella

To the somewhat more modest Stella Bella outfit a little way down the road.

witchclife

This shop-owner in Witchcliffe has decided to take the town's name literally.

pizza bus

Creative business premises are a bit of a theme down this way – we couldn't resist trying out the Augusta pizza bus. It was good!

augusta

Our target for the day was Augusta, an easy 300-ish kilometres (180 miles) by the most direct route.

caves road

However there are lots of interesting tourist roads along the way, that more closely follow the coast. We can recommend taking the time to follow them.

Top of the list is the Caves Road, which can be stitched together as a run from Busselton all the way south to Augusta. Well worth a try.

November 10, Augusta to Albany

bmw k1200lt

Having missed much of the Caves Road on yesterday's ride, today we decided to make amends and do a little backtracking.

Augusta to Albany (today's target) direct is just over 350km (220 miles), so that left plenty of time to go hunting backroads.

maps augusta

So we sat down with a cup of coffee and an old-fashioned road atlas to nut it out.

map

This is what we came up with, which in this part of the world means you encounter everything from spectacular forests, to beaches, to rolling farmland.

faces augusta

faces augusta

Spotted this intriguing project a little before leaving Augusta. The aim is to have 100 faces on display – famous and obscure.

hamelin bay

Hamelin Bay is one of the many highlights along the Caves Road...picture postcard stuff.

caves road forest

By way of contrast, you'll come across this: Truly monumental forests.

quokka sign

Road sign for the day: We've diverted east and have come across our first quokka sign. Surely this is an opportunity to wind up your international guests with tales of carnivorous drop-quokkas with big teeth...

blue poles

We'll confess to being baffled by the odd blue tree popping up on the scenery...a web search soon revealed they're part of a wider mental health campaign called, predictably, the Blue Tree Project.

northcliffe

Mural of the day award goes to the hamlet of Northcliffe – the far end reads, "Where the heck is Northcliffe?" Indeed.

denmark

Who knew Denmark was so close? We were expecting something with more of a viking theme...

albany museum

Albany makes a fuss of its ongoing maritime history, with good reason. We're told the old whaling station is also well worth a visit.

albany museum

Meanwhile we were a little baffled then amused by this display. The only security camera in sight was trained on the spider. We're guessing that means its predecessor went walkabout one night...

rainbow albany

On the run into Albany – it's good luck to be welcomed by a rainbow, isn't it?

November 11, Albany to Esperance

perth run bmw k1200lt

After a couple of days scooting through some monumental forests, rolling farmland and tracks to hidden bays, we've broken out into the big wide spaces. Here the road trains roam, amid mines and grain properties with their own horizon.

perth run bmw k1200lt

Now we're starting to see long stretches of road that get to be a little mesmerising.

perth run bmw k1200lt

The run today was to Esperance and, as is often the case on these trips, it was the little things that became intriguing...

perth run

Road sign of the day goes to this – devoted to black cockatoos...

perth run bmw k1200lt

Roadside mailbox of the day goes to this minion, presumably built by a Despicable Me fan...

perth run bmw k1200lt

There were a few challengers for road art of the day, including this flower arrangement with corrugated kangaroo...

perth run bmw k1200lt

Then this more substantial tribute to tractors...

perth run bmw k1200lt

In the end we had to go with this creative car-part-ensemble dedicated to WWI veterans.

perth run bmw k1200lt

This monument to soldier settlers struck a chord. We can only imagine how tough it was for these optimists to try to scratch a living out of what must have been scrubby and sometimes hostile land in the middle of nowhere.

perth run bmw k1200lt

Silo trails seem to have become a national industry. This example in Ravensthorpe is part of a network that extends to Albany, Northam and Merredin.

perth run bmw k1200lt

We eventually roll into Esperance, which has a stunning foreshore. It's one of those places you really are not in a hurry to leave...

perth run bmw k1200lt

November 12, Esperance to Balladonia

bmw k1200lt perth run

It's hard to think of two more contrasting places than our starting point of Esperance and our final stop at Balladonia. The former is in an idyllic bay setting, while the latter is  a roadhouse pitched in the middle of the scrub.

bmw k1200lt perth run

Like a lot of these places, it's not only the roadhouse, but the motel, bar, restaurant and museum.

skylab

Wander into the museum and you'll encounter this, said to be a chunk of the USA Skylab spacecraft that fell to earth in a spectacular fashion in 1979...

redex display

Plus a tribute to the Redex rallies of the early 1950s. In case you were wondering, that's a Vauxhall Six they've poked through the wall.


bmw k1200lt perth run

The tiny village of Grass Patch (what a name!) revels in by far the most impressive welcome sign of the trip. The place looks like it would struggle to have a population in double digits, until you spot the giant grain handling facility.

bmw k1200lt perth run

Yesterday we encountered a corrugated kangaroo and today we get a herd of corrugated camels. This wonderful sight greets you on the way into Norseman.

bmw k1200lt perth run

Oh good...we get to play wildlife spotto!

bmw k1200lt perth run

There's still a long way to go...

November 13, Balladonia to Eucla

perth run allmoto bmw k1200lt

We were wondering when the flying doctor airstrips would start turning up, and today we scored several. They're not too much of a challenge to install: Clear the verges and paint in some piano keys about 1200m apart.

90 mile straight

Of course on a road like this, finding a suitable site should be easy.

perth run allmoto bmw k1200lt

"Caiguna – hub of the universe" is the proud boast. We love it...

perth run allmoto bmw k1200lt

Maybe a little less when you realise this is what the hub of the universe actually looks like. Nevertheless, BP is probably pleased...

perth run allmoto bmw k1200lt

We've seen a lot of 'no spare water' signs today. Balladonia (last night's stop) was getting it trucked in from Norseman, and Caiguna clearly had an issue as well. Must admit we're intrigued by the side note, pointing out that customers are expected to wear shoes and clothes!

Miundrabilla clocks

A little way down the road in Mundrabilla, they march to their own version of time. Note the one for the bar always reads 5 o'clock...very sensible.

eucla

Eucla is another roadhouse-turned-motel-village and one of the better ones we've come across...

nullabor nymph

The sign for the local restaurant – we like the idea of a Nullarbor Nymph...

eucla view

The promised ocean view from the motel exceeded our admittedly cynical expectations...

eucla perth run allmoto bmw k1200lt

And of course it wouldn't be a proper roadhouse without some giant cheesy installation...

perth run allmoto bmw k1200lt

Plus their own view of world geography. We'd like to know who Dave and Andy are, in the second row.

perth run allmoto bmw k1200lt

November 14, Eucla to Ceduna

SA border

Finally! After days of riding we've slipped across the border into South Australia. We were a bit sorry to leave places like Eucla, Esperance and Augusta behind, but it did feel like some sort of achievement to crack into a new state after days of riding.

Something we couldn't help noticing is the economy along this highway would probably collapse if it weren't for European backpackers who staff all the roadhouses. The Northern Territory's Stuart Highway is in much the same situation. Aside from keeping things running, they make a cheering addition to the people you meet along the way.

roo sa border

On the topic of roadhouses, the one on the border easily wins today's cheesy monument award with this somewhat weathered 'roo holding a jar of Vegemite. Surely they could have worked in a Hills hoist as well?

nullabor whale

The Nullarbor Roadhouse is our runner-up with the whale in the forecourt...

nullabor roadhouse

Speaking of which, it was one of several roadhouses on the Nullarbor Links Golf Trail, which extends for 1365km (850 miles). Golf, for those of you not in the know, is one of those games you play with a stick and a ball. We're told it's quite popular.

animal spotto

Our animal spotto for the day swapped out cattle in favour of camels, wombats and kangaroos. We reckon they should sling in the odd drop-bear to keep people on their toes.

penong windmills

Blundering into Penong soon revealed the love the locals hold for windmills, which score their own museum. Apparently the really big one is called Bruce.

About now there are signs you're finally leaving the outback behind in favour of massive grain-growing enterprises.

oyster bar ceduna

We don't usually feel any great gravitational pull when near roadside diners, but this one on the outskirts of Ceduna came highly recommended...

ceduna oysters

And they were right – perfect fresh oysters with a rooftop view over the ocean...

ceduna shore

Ceduna's foreshore does a decent picture postcard impersonation...


ocean view bmw k1200lt

Let's see what tomorrow brings.

November 15, Ceduna to Port Augusta

signs bmw k1200lt

It's about this stage of the trip you start to wonder how in hell people who decide to journey around the world by motorcycle manage it. Just 2800-ish kilometres (1740 miles) into our little scamper from Perth to Melbourne, Muggins is torn between wanting to catch a taxi home, and turning this sort of travel into a lifestyle. Both options are tempting.

We suspect the issue is there are two conflicting states of mind at work:

1. I have targets to meet or places to be and by the way my arse is sore;

2. Ooh, that's an interesting-looking town/park/tree/mailbox/animal, let's stop and have a look.

Since we mentioned animals, at some stage around 10.30am the local blue tongue lizards agreed then was a good time to cross the highway. Weirdly there were a few in quick succession, some of which we stopped for and gave a gentle hurry-up to so they wouldn't get flattened by the following traffic.

call it a draw

One ungrateful little reptile turned and decided it wanted to fight me instead. There's one in every crowd... (Thanks to Python for the pic.)

wirrula

Something that's intrigued us is the self-image expressed by a town's welcome sign and how that gels with reality. Wirrulla's is a contemporary design, family- and farming-oriented with the perhaps comforting signals of industry around it, such as the giant silos in the background and the ever-present road trains passing by.

wirrulla general story

Wander into town (it's off the main road) and you're greeted by a somewhat different view: The homey and welcoming general store cum post office, looking a little tired but dignified. Places like this are often a good reason just to slow down and wander into town for a bit of a look.

galah kimba

On a lighter note, we always felt at least a couple of our friends were hot contenders for the title of the world's biggest galah. However it seems we have a heavyweight with prior claim to the title, namely this effort at a souvenir shop in sunny Kimba.

bmw k1200lt perth to melbourne

We have a couple of days in Adelaide coming up, during which we'll fit the Bimmer K1200LT land yacht with a fresh set of tyres. More soon...

November 16, Port Augusta to Adelaide

k1200lt

We had an easy run today – a little over 300km (180 miles) – and so we could start off by lounging around while some nice cafe owner made us coffee and eggs. (Cafe Archer, as it happens...worth a try.)


Port Augusta is one of those places where it's all too easy to skate across the surface and miss pretty much all its appeal. The run through town from the west or north and down to Adelaide gives you a view of the industrial side of the place and not much else. It's ugly.

port augusta

Pull up for a few minutes and wander into the hub of the place and it's quite a different story.

port augusta

Fortunately a fair bit of 19th to early 20th century architecture survives.

bmw k1200lt

The extra time up our proverbial sleeve meant we could also deal with a dead low-beam headlight bulb.

As luck would have it, pulling into the local auto parts store attracted the attention of another bike rider, a local mechanic having a day off. He stopped for a chat and to offer a couple of useful tips on how to tackle the job, then wisely scuttled off before he could be dragooned into doing it.

Looking at the bike, you dread what's coming and wonder if it's going to require a team of tame engineers.

In the end the access was surprisingly easy, though it meant lying on the ground and working with one of those situations where you could either see the parts, or work on them, but not both at the same time. We got it all going again, with minimal cursing.

headlamp auto 1 bmw k1200lt

The shopfront showing cheery car owners and happy mechanics had me wondering. How about including one from real life, such as Muggins have a screaming hissy fit in the shed after skinning his knuckles?

red hill horse

It wouldn't be a day on the road without our nomination for roadside monument for the day. This time the winner is the sunny hamlet of Red Hill and this tribute to farmers of times gone by.

dublin bmw k1200lt

And continuing with the somewhat surreal navigation theme...we managed to swing by Dublin on the way to Adelaide.

denmark australia

Not bad since we also rode through Denmark a few days ago...note the disappointing lack of viking themes.

We're in Adelaide for a couple of days and tomorrow will be slinging some fresh rubber on the bike.

With a bit of a luck, we'll also get a chance to wander up to the Birdwood Mill motor museum. More to come...

November 18, Adelaide to Birdwood Mill

Birdwood Mill

Today's run was through the Adelaide hills to the National Motor Museum at Birdwood Mill – a mere hour and a bit up the road from the centre of town.

Aside from heading there to ogle the displays, it was a good opportunity to scrub in the fresh rubber on the land yacht.

bugattis

The museum has an eclectic mix of machinery, such as the pair of Bugattis built around 80 years apart, through to an 1898 Benz, which claims to be the first commercially-available motor car.

holden heroes

The feature exhibit is Holden Heroes, showing iconic locally-made cars and something of the people behind them. That was to run throughout 2023 and is expected to finish next month. Aside from that, there is plenty to see on two and four wheels.

favourite motorcycle

One of the feature pieces is this tribute to Australian motorcycles, including the Favourite shown. They were built in Peterborough, South Australia, at the Smith Brothers garage from 1914 to 1921. Some 50 are thought to have been made and there are four known survivors. Another is at the Peterborough bike museum  – see our feature, here.

honda

There are a couple of halls featuring bikes – the smaller includes this pair of Hondas...

suzukis

Another starts with a trio of hero Suzukis...

classic motorcycles

While the main motorcycle show is spectacular....

classic motorcycles

The quantity, quality and variety makes it worth exploring.

bmw k1200lt

Since we're now over 3000km (1800 miles) into the trip, it seems worth summing up what we think of the mighty land yacht, aka a 1999 BMW K1200LT..

It's now 24 years old and last year cost me about Au$13,000 (US$8500, GB£6800) with around 50,000km (31,000 miles) on it. That included spending Au$8500 on the bike itself and another $4500 on getting the rear main seal, clutch and several other items done. At low teens, with such a low mileage, it was substantially cheaper than the equivalent first series Gold Wing 1800.

Just as an aside, the rear main seals decay through age rather than mileage – at about 20-25 years.

Power is about about 98 horses (73kW), which is enough to give it ample urge for overtaking or holding some pretty high speeds.

telelever

It has some advantages over the first-gen 1800 'Wing – most notably the handling. It's a surprisingly good thing to swing through turns thanks in part to the well-sorted Telever front end...

paralever

And Paralever rear.

bmw k1200lt

Braking is by Brembo at both ends, with ABS II on board. It's not the latest and greatest set-up, but it still does a good job.


bmw k1200lt

There are all sorts of gizmos on board, though the sound system on mine is on the blink. I'll sort it one day, but it's a low priority as I prefer as close as I can get to silence.

bmw k1200lt

Speaking of which, the giant American aftermarket screen I fitted has made a huge difference. It bolts straight into the existing power-operated mounts and can be adjusted to create a bubble of low-pressure air, keeping the rider well out of the slipstream.

bmw k1200lt

Accommodation is well sorted and generous, with heated seats and grips. It also has my favourite thing on a touring bike: Cruise control. As a package, it's as comfortable as any motorcycle on the road, and far more so than most.

bmw k1200lt

Fuel consumption is good. At worst I'm getting 17km/lt and very often it's more like 20. (The latter number is 56 miles per Imperial gallon, or 47 miles per US gallon.) Now with over 60,000km (37,000 miles) on the odometer, its oil use is negligible.

So a good decision? This is my second biggish trip on it. The previous effort was Melbourne to Brisbane and back, about 3600km (2200 miles). For me it's doing everything I value as well as a new high-end touring bike, for about a third of the cost. That will do, won't it?

See our K1200LT profile;

Plus the story on the mechanical freshen-up.

Tomorrow we're on the road again, heading for beautiful downtown Horsham.

November 19, Adelaide to Horsham

bmw K1200LT

A mere 400km today and that, weirdly enough, was probably enough. While it was tempting to crack on to Melbourne, finding the motivation for spending the extra time in the saddle was never going to happen. It would have taken a pretty convincing bribe...

talem bend rhino

Talem Bend comfortably wins the bizarre sight for the day, with this life-size fibreglass rhinoceros that was apparently installed as a tourist attraction back in 2015. Why? We're pretty sure they're not native to the area, so you're on your own with that one...

Anyway, for some reason it's since been associated with a local travel show on the Seven network, called South Aussie with Cosi.

silos coonalpyn

It seems this country's dream to leave no silo undecorated is getting closer to reality. We're in the hamlet of Coonalpyn to observe what is listed as part of a local arts trail...

silo cafe coonalpyn

The cafe across the road has clearly taken to the theme with relish.

fire keith

Let's go for mural of the day, easily won by the rural fire service in Keith, for this depiction of putting out its own building.

Monash RFS

We picked up on a similar theme in sunny downtown Monash (also in South Australia) during our Darwin Run earlier in the year.

caldecott keith

And we musn't forget Keith's tribute to its most famous motorcyclist: Andy Caldecott. He also scores a tribute in the town centre.

horsham

There was a time when sunny Horsham had a prominent tribute to its most famous rider: Kevin Magee aka the Horsham Hurricane. Haven't yet seen it...

Our first visit here was back in the mid-1980s, which was to ride a home-built motorcycle for a story in Australian Motor Cycle News – as a staffer.


subaru bike

Incredibly, on seeing mention of this device, reader Peter Davidson dug out a couple of pics of it at Bathurst, some time in the 1980s. Thanks!

subaru bike

This thing had a home-made chassis with a boxer four Subaru engine stuffed into it. An admittedly imperfect memory says it had no transmission, a foot clutch and the owner started it with a rope wound around a pulley. It was fast, but the handing could have done with a lot more development...nevertheless it did just fine.

Yet another situation that begs the question of how we all lived this long!
 
As for tomorrow, it should be an easy run back home to Melbourne...

November 20, Horsham to Melbourne

bmw k1200lt

Are we there yet? Well, coat us in swarf and throw us to the engineers, it appears we are!

It's not as though we've dragged a wheelbarrow full of concrete across the Andes, but for some reason landing at home after a quick morning run has resulted in some sort of mild exhaustion setting in. Is it just that we finally properly relax when we know we've made it home?

Whatever, today's run highlighted one thing, which is that even on this last stretch there are one or two places we really should revisit and spend a bit of time.

seppelt

Great Western in Victoria is a good example – have passed through it loads of times over the years, but never stayed. That has to be addressed, as there's an inviting-looking pub and the idea of a tour through the Seppelt cellars sounds pretty good.

A couple of thoughts on the trip, before we wrap up. The whole idea of shipping the motorcycle across, then flying over and having it delivered to the hotel, worked brilliantly. Bikes Only did the job (Melbourne to Perth, door-to-door) for around $950 and we'd do it again.

phones

The next worthwhile thing we did was recommissioning an old second phone. Our normal service is via Optus and, while it sometimes does better than Telstra in places, we had our doubts about this trip. So we got a Telstra prepaid with lots of data.

phones

In fact we had something approaching an 1100km drop-out from Optus, stretching from the east of Norseman through to the west of Ceduna! Telstra was generally only available in townships and major stop-overs such as the Balladonia roadhouse, which was a whole lot better.

In addition to the wider coverage, it meant we had a back-up handset.

bmw k1200lt

As for the choice of bike, that worked out just great. Give it an oil change and it will be ready to go again.

So, next trip? Well, Cairns in Winter is pretty nice, though we might just stay there...

***

Also see our Nullarbor Plain crossing how-to feature at bikesales.

You can read a bit more about the land yacht and its recent revival, right here.

We also have a model profile on the K1200LT, which you can find here.

***

darwin run bmw r1150gs

You might also like our Darwin Run, where we bought a cheap and cheerful BMW R1150GS in the Northern Territory and rode it home to Melbourne. See the story, here.

***

More features here

See the bikes in our shed

-------------------------------------------------

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