The Transmoto Enduro events are well known in off-road riding circles, but like me, there’s a bunch of punters who thought they were specifically designed for the modern enduro crowd. Well, that might be somewhat true. But surprisingly enough, the usual legends who regularly ride these things on late-model machines were super-stoked (and no doubt amused) to see a few vintage rigs roll through the gate at Conondale’s 2019 Transmoto 6-Hour…
HOW DID THIS COME ABOUT?
To be honest, the ride reports I’d heard were epic and everyone who’d done a Transmoto event was stoked on it. So not having a modern bike in the shed was quickly disappearing as an excuse not to ride one of these things. Plus the attraction of a team event meant that the pressure of finishing didn’t rest solely on any individual. Which is the type of responsibility dodging that I like to build into my riding events these days! Calls were made and mates were roped in, and with a loose Team (of 3) accounted for – Dan Walsh, Andy Yabsley and me – the calendar was checked and the nearest Transmoto was booked in.
Our local Transmoto was the 6-Hour at Conondale – perfect! We’ve done a little riding at Conondale’s Green Park before, at the Sunshine Coast Classic Weekend. We’ve always loved getting on two wheels there, and it’s definitely one of the best riding locations in Australia. Plus, we’ve all ridden for more than two hours before – so, if our math checked out, it should be a walk in the (green) park, right?
THE VINTAGE STEEDS
There’s definitely going to be some vintage bikes that are out of their depth at these events (especially for our skill level), but anything with reasonable suspension travel will be a peach for it. Our team raided the garages and ended up with a 1986 Kawasaki KDX200 (aka, the greatest trailbike ever built), a 1983 Yamaha IT175 (a surprising amount still running), and a 1982 Suzuki PE175 (who doesn’t like a “Poached Egg”?).
So it was an ’80s gang of sub-200cc air-cooled machines with one disc brake between them. Anything more would have just been cheating, I guess.
And I’ll tell you what: when you roll up to a late-model-dominated event with some old bikes, you can guarantee ALL of these things will happen:
- Some old bloke will tell you that he used to have one/all of your bikes – a great way to meet anyone over 45;
- People will think you’ve got a few screws loose, so at least you and your bike have something in common;
- There is really no pressure to perform well at all because you can just blame it on an old bike. You can just roll up and enjoy; and
- Now, this might be the best of them all. If you pass anyone on a modern on your clapped-out old horse (and I don’t care if they’re broken down, pulled over to wait for a mate or whatever), YOU WILL FEEL LIKE AN ABSOLUTE LORD. You don’t have to win anything; as long as you pass one modern bike during the event, you are a DAMN WINNER!
OKAY, LET’S GET TO THE RIDING
If you’ve been to a Transmoto event before, you’ll know that their check-ins are a breeze and they always roll out a ripper track layout. And if you haven’t, that’s what you can expect. They’ve been doing these events long enough now and it’s really a polished format, so we didn’t have any worries there.
Time to hit the track! Naturally, we lined up towards the back of the starting queue, just so our gun rider, Dan, could blast through the pack on the old IT175. Not quite the case, but we did dare to dream. Dan definitely held his own and showed off his enduro experience, wheeling the old Yammy back into our pit bay in a super-respectable time. Hot tip: always good to have one fast rider on your team!
I was next out on the KDX200 and with great intentions – but very average riding ability – I still managed to knock out a decent first lap with only a couple of little dirt naps to wake me up. Let’s be honest; I don’t really get going until after 9am, or so I told myself.
Just as I pulled back into the pit, Andy had the Poached Egg on the boil and blasted off to round out our team riders. Rumor has it that while trying to harness all 175cc of Suzuki’s finest, Andy ran a wide line and a baby twig blew the ancient plastic front guard into a million pieces. He also managed to break a clutch lever on some other adventure, but that’s all part of the fun, right? Regardless, he got the thing back somehow and ensured the team could crack on.
The conditions were prime at the start and the good thing about this race format is that, even as the track gets chewed out during the day, you can adapt pretty well given you’ve done a few laps and are somewhat getting the hang of things. With the first laps done, we got into a groove and started clicking them off.
Sure, it was definitely more challenging on an old bike. But in the tight stuff, the vintage rigs weren’t too bad. The track was a decent mix of open grasstrack, singletrail, snotty hills and tight sections. But with ‘long’ suspension, the only place we really found the bikes lacking (like really lacking, cos everywhere else was just kinda lacking) was while stretching the drum brake cables on some steep downhills. Which isn’t too bad when you consider our bikes were 30-plus years older than almost everything else at the event.
LEGENDS ALL ROUND
By far the most surprising thing about the whole event was that we didn’t get cleaned out every corner! I thought we would get filled in on every uphill or muscled offline on every singletrail section, but the bloody legends who enter these things were some of the best guys and girls I’ve had the pleasure of riding with. I mean, we definitely weren’t the fastest out there (although the KDX200 was close) and we did eat some roost, but all three of us on the old bikes were generally stoked with how welcoming all of the other riders were to having a few vintage muppets flopping around.
Once the first laps are out of the way and everyone spreads out, even if you’ve thrown the anchor out and are riding at a below-average pace (my preferred area of operation), the track is long enough that you don’t have a 450 sitting on your tailpipe out of every single corner. So you can just ride your own ‘race’ and let the cheater bike crowd past whenever they roll-up. Hell, we even got a few thumbs up. Cheers, you modern pinners!
The track was epic and the event ran like clockwork, but the real gauge of a rad event is the vibe of the riders. I’d still be climbing out of bushland at Conondale if they took all the opportunities to blow my doors off, but the legends that Transmoto attracts were generally happy to have us there (and pass some dropkick on an old squirter too), which was pretty cool.
Would we do it again? Definitely! These days, too many people think you need the latest bike/gear to do anything, so I guess this was a good example of still having the same fun (maybe more if you’ve ever ridden with wet drum brakes after a creek crossing!), but on some budget old bikes. There’d be a heap of shredders who could even complete one of these things on lesser machinery, but we weren’t out there to try and piss everyone off going 2km/h. So with our skill level, the mid-’80s machines were spot-on for still getting around at a reasonable pace.
If you’ve got a modern, definitely use that thing. But if you’ve got an old bike or you’re keen to give one of these team events a crack, then grab a vintage rig and get it done. Any riding is good riding and with such a rad crew getting around these events, you won’t be disappointed … even if you are riding a Suzuki.