I believe every MotoGP fan owes it to themselves to see a race live once in their life.
For my husband and I this was high on our to do list – even if it was about 800 kms from our home.
It was no surprise when we spoke of fulfilling this particular dream we were going to ride there – no matter the distance.
Lots of people do it although the vast expansiveness of our land down under does pose many potential obstacles for a cross country motorcycle adventure. Everyone always says it is worth it!!
Since it was our first time attending a MotoGP event and riding such a great distance we opted to look at the various packages available. I would highly recommend this to anyone going for the first time unless you are one of the lucky ones who lives in the city where the race is held.
Plenty of people ride over for the race so we began to look up travel sites, blogs, motorcycle forums basically anywhere we could read about the experience of people doing it.
Find out from people who have followed your chosen route what issues they encountered and how they resolved them. We found heaps of helpful tips – although sadly nothing that truly stops you getting a sore rear end!
At first we tried to work it out ourselves. I thought I’ve planned holidays for our family I know what I’m doing. And then I realised two things pretty quick.
The first: even more than a year out most of the accommodation is booked close to the location of the race. And by close I mean up to two hours away in the CBD (Melbourne Central Business District).
In Australia our race is held on Phillip Island, an area we are unfamiliar with.
Without a package I wasn’t getting accommodation I could be sure was convenient.
The second: as fun as Melbourne can be, getting around is not. I have no recollection of ever going to this city without getting hopelessly lost unless I’m with a relative who lives there – in other words unless you know someone who lives there get a GPS!
Trying to figure out how to get from any available accommodation to the race on our own was not easy and we were going to be on a bike so no map or communication.
The packages can rectify both issues. In the end we decided to do a bit of a combination – we hired a car (with GPS remember) and drove ourselves to the track each day.
However we had some pretty awesome accommodation right in the heart of Melbourne with amazing seating options for the race weekend from the package.
In a vehicle with a few adults you would simply drive straight to Melbourne on the main freeway. We decided this was not the best idea since we had never ridden that far.
Here again was another decision – did we take the more picturesque and world famous Great Ocean Road or hit the highway and get there as soon as possible!
Since the Race was our priority we opted for the quickest route even if less interesting. I will say right here that was an error on our part.
Why? Because the highway is pretty much a bore and the last thing you want is to be bored for hours on the back of a motorcycle.
You almost hoped for a truck to go past for the excitement of trying to hold on as the huge semi-trailers went in the opposite direction.
We had attempted to rectify this by fitting headsets to our helmets to talk to each other but even the best ones are useless over about 70 kms/ph.
So at last after a year of waiting the day came where all our plans were put into action – riding the 8oo Kms to Melbourne, Victoria.
At first it was ok, the first three hours that Thursday were fine. We had been practising going for extended rides to get used to it and for the morning it seemed it was going to make a difference.
However upon our arrival at Tailem bend (see map it’s not even halfway haha) it was clear this was going to be a long and painful day but I expected the race would be worth it.
Come the town of Keith another hour or so away I was starting to question if this was a good idea and wondering how some managed in one hit with only small stops along the way to stretch or fill up on fuel.. I will note here Keith is known for rain. It can be perfectly fine on either side – no in Keith it will be raining!
As the stops became more frequent another dilemma made itself known – what I call noodle arms. My arms simply didn’t want to stay in that position anymore but we still had 3 to 4 hours of riding before we made it to Horsham. It was hard to decide if we made more frequent stops or just put up with it and get to our overnight stop in Horsham.
We had decided to make our way over 2 days.
Bed was welcome just simply for the novelty of being in a different position and yet somehow we were still pretty excited to be actually making the trip finally.
On Friday came Ararat, Stawell, Beaufort and Ballarat and we took the time to enjoy the beautiful scenery these small towns have to offer.
So far apart from being incredibly sore and crampy we were in pretty good spirits and as you get closer you encounter more and more people making the journey to see the MotoGP.
By lunch I was over the noodle arms and telling myself it would all be worth it in the end!
Alas, Melbourne was about to put an end temporarily to the good spirits – entering Melbourne presents the visitor with multiple highways, freeways and bypasses and in the blink of an eye you can find yourself going back out of Melbourne without ever going in!!
So remember that car I mentioned with the GPS – we needed the gps to find it!
Good spirits gave way to exhaustion. We simply wanted to sleep however we had the dilemma of missing the car hire due to getting lost. The hotel staff were amazing as was the car hire and come Saturday morning we had our car with the Gps and we were off to navigate our way south to the beautiful Phillip Island. After a while it becomes real easy to ditch the GPS and follow everyone else making the same journey.
The drive to the island was exciting because I could speak to my husband for the first time in days for longer than a few minutes at fuel stops.
Soon enough we were surrounded by bikes everywhere, the electricity in the air builds with every passing kilometre as you enter San Remo and line up for unbelievable amounts of time to get across the bridge and onto the tiny island that is home to one of the best races on the calendar.
It’s a real sight to see all the families on the island partying in their front yards all weekend long welcoming the world to their tiny town (and I mean tiny – no house would escape the sound of the engines on the track).
Early on in the organisation knowing we would take our time riding over we had come to terms with missing the Friday action. So Saturday morning was our first taste of being trackside.
We had filled the drive down to the island planning our day – studying the circuit info finding our seating area, deciding what we wanted to buy, the things we absolutely wanted to see in person and of course watching qualifying.
If you are after merchandise like anything it pays to get in quick and be prepared to pay. So souvenirs for children and warmer jackets sorted it was time to find food and our seats.
One thing I can say honestly is being right there beside the track is pretty much the best feeling ever! Add to it we were going to see a couple of Australian riders debut to say we were excited was pretty much an understatement.
Sunday at the track was just amazing, it’s hard to describe the excitement of the fans; the energy of all the people merging on this little community. We had selected Start/Finish line seats for the Sunday and they didn’t disappoint!
The only thing I found lacking over the weekend was the bathrooms. These are the regular portable facilities brought in for such event and I can say for the females they were greatly lacking in numbers.
Oddly they also began the shutdown process about 20 minutes before the end of the main race on Sunday – meaning if you are a female you couldn’t find a working toilet after that. We don’t have the convenience of our male counterparts to resolve this issue and so there were lots of complaining women come 5pm returning to the car parks.
And then the exodus begins. Bikes have the right of way on the island. This was apparently indicated by a blue lane marking on the road – you learn something new every day. So as we were in a car our journey was much, much slower to say the least.
There was really no quick way off, there is no after race party or anything so there is no way to ‘beat the crowd’ as such, everyone is leaving at the same time. Everyone!
Including the teams.
As you are being funnelled off the island the trucks have already arrived and are crammed into the tiny streets waiting to get into the track area.
The roads on the island become one way at this point and I couldn’t help but wonder if you were a resident trying to get home right now you have a heck of a wait in San Remo until it clears.
In any other case it would be frustrating sitting in traffic at a standstill mostly. In this case it was far from it and watching the thousands of bikes making their way over the bridge made us wish out loud many times we had ridden out to the track after all.
Once off the island there was an exodus of women to the first truck stop – or there were those of us that were simply lucky enough to get in before the shutdown became evident simply stopped for food haha!
We finally decided to enjoy our hotel a bit – what with the excitement of the race we hadn’t really paid much attention to the 5 star hotel in the heart of St Kilda. So a quick look around and a quiet dinner and it was morning before we knew it.
We were looking forward to riding home and not at the same time. This time we knew exactly what we were in for. Since we were heading home we decided to ship all unnecessary items ahead of us and lighten our load our little.
At least on the way back we had something to distract us from the sore backside or aching arms – it was the weather. Melbourne is notorious for having four seasons everyday and for our return journey the weather provided us with rain and wind and freezing temperatures for the first day.
However come Tuesday morning in Horsham and crossing the border into our home state we discover it is experiencing a heat wave and the next 5 hours were spent sweating profusely in full leathers.
The freeway was scorching, the heat amplified on the open road so as soon as was practical we altered our route and came back through the cooler hilly roads, its slower but less boring than a straight highway and I knew I could do with that after being on a straight road for so long.
I think the absolute longest part was the last kilometre down the road before we turned into our street.
We constantly talked about doing it again and made mental notes as the weekend went by what we had learnt, what we do the same and what we would do differently.
Even when we collapsed on our bed declaring we would need a break before riding again (haha – I think we actually went somewhere the next day) we knew we would do it again in a heartbeat.