TÉNÉRÉ TRAGICS 2017 - TASMANIA, AUSTRALIA

Words and Photos by Greg Smith

Words and Photos by Greg Smith

Weekends away riding with your buddies are some of the most precious moments in your life (I did say “some”) and the memory creations will be looked back upon every time you catch up throughout your future. So imagine if you were a self-diagnosed social outcast within the motorcycle community because your fuel tank is twice the size of most or even better, three times the size of some! I guess that’s what most adventure riders feel until they are surrounded with like-minded, oversized fuel tank owners.  

In Australia there have been a group of riders catching up once a year for the last seven years. They all ride one brand and model of bike that sets them apart from most others. More to the point, seven years ago they were ahead of today’s adventure riding trend. They are called the Yamaha Ténéré Tragics and leave their membership open to anyone with a Yamaha Ténéré, no matter the age or condition. With most bikes in the group being relatively late models there are a few guys willing to pedal their ‘83 models around just to prove that the older versions are more than capable of doing the job. That job is to be ridden, ridden some more and then ridden again. Let’s face it, if you have enough fuel to get you from one side of the continent to the other there’s no need to stop halfway, unless you see another Ténéré, right?

This brings us to the 2017 Ténéré Tragics event that was recently held in Australia’s most southern state, Tasmania. “Tassie”, as it’s affectionately known, is separated from the Australian mainland by 240km of water at their closest points known as Bass Strait. The only way you’ll get there with your car or motorcycle is by the Spirit of Tasmania vehicle ferry, taking part in its 429km voyage. Every time I make the trip I’m staggered at the amount of people making the 11hr overnight journey each and every day. Once off the ferry it was a short run from Devonport, where the ferry docks, to Launceston, the location of the welcoming dinner and start point for the first day of the 5-day event. An elaborate setup of motorcycles and Yamaha banners greeted us upon our arrival to Launceston’s Country Club Casino and Resort. From there the group was welcomed and served dinner while Andrew Clubb aka Captain Tragic gave instructions about the week to come. Andrew’s wife Tanya was also there just to correct any mistakes and keep the crowd under control. 

The event uses daily navigation/route sheets complete with coffee stops/fuel stops and tourist attractions etc. I must mention now that it’s not a race, rather more like a self-guided tour taken at your own pace through towns and wilderness with everyone meeting at the same location later that day. The next morning after a great night at the casino, the riders headed off to tackle the event head on with some leaving before the sun rose and others sleeping until the very last moment before the cleaners came in to change the sheets on their beds. 

Day one would see the group of 65 Tragics plus sponsors, officials and crew making up a total of 75 riders head out early for the 388km run down to Swansea on the East Coast. Fresh air and dry skies providing an ideal setting to meander our way through the forestry roads of North Eastern Tasmania with the majority of roads consisting of a dust-filled “pea gravel” surface over a super slick hard pack base. While the surface was tricky to negotiate it was nothing compared to the vistas that would take your attention throughout the ride before making our way down the mountains towards the coastal town of Swansea where we’d spend the night. Notes to take from day one: don’t get too close in the dust and look out for road kill as there’s something eternally sleeping on the line you’ve chosen to either enter or exit the next turn. 

Day two would see us travel close to 366km heading back into the forestry region early on before trekking west then south west into the central highlands of the Island.  We visited a few of the mountain lake regions before heading down towards the coastline through numerous quaint historic towns while traveling south east towards the overnight rest stop at one of Australia’s first settlements, Port Arthur, and more specifically, the penal colony that’s now one of the region’s biggest tourist attractions. It recently made headlines for all the wrong reasons as a crazed gunman massacred people in the worst mass killing in Australia’s modern history.

Day three was another 350 plus km ride but this time we headed back towards the “big smoke” of Hobart, Tasmania’s capital city via Mt Wellington then onto Horizon Motorcycles for a quick pitstop and the chance for me to be in-front of the camera lens for once (making it into the leading newspaper)! The day’s run was mostly asphalt and set up to be relatively easy except for the picturesque run into the day’s final stop: Lake Pedder Wilderness Resort at Strathgordon Dam, which could easily be on another continent by its remote location and amazingly different landscape. We were pleasantly surprised by Yamaha Yamalube Factory Racing team Dakar Rally racer Rodney Faggotter who spoke in depth about his recent Dakar race experience. It was a great insight into what it takes and to have that sort of intimate moment in such an inspirational location really made the trip for a lot of the Tragics, not to mention that he was to join us for the remainder of the ride.

As Day four started it was amazing to think that we hadn’t experienced “any” bad weather across the week. Mild temperatures and blue skies greeted us every day. Today’s ride was through the picturesque landscape surrounding Lake Pedder stopping at Waddamana, the site of a historic power station exhibition in as original condition as if the workers had recently walked out leaving everything, even their tools, behind! The riding surfaces changed throughout the day from the slippery gravel surface to a sandy surface that caught out a couple of riders back to a beautiful white gravel in the mountainous regions then onto asphalt for the final run into the old gold mining settlement of Queenstown for the night. 

As we woke for Day five it looked like the weather had set in with a thick layer of fog blanketing the township. The fog quickly dissipated as we headed closer towards the tourist mecca of Straughn, quickly stopping there for fuel. It was then off to the top left corner of Tassie to our final destination of Smithton along the endless dirt roads and forestry areas covering approximately 300km on the way. One thing you appreciate when riding in Tasmania is the crystal clean, fresh air that comes out of the forestry areas. Given the amount of animals and thickly wooded areas that are so green and lush, you’d think it was a rain forest! Ironically we are slowly destroying them to make money; yes it keeps towns alive but the end result won’t be pretty. Rolling into Smithton was a bittersweet moment for me pulling into the final destination of Tall Timbers Resort, as it was the end of another EPIC Tragics event, my second in total, plus I had to give back the Yamaha XTZ1200Z powerslide machine (it was actually sold while I was riding it). After dinner and an incredibly funny awards ceremony it was time to rest and figure out what to do with 34 inches worth of monkey butt. I’m sure it’ll be right by the 2018 edition of the Tragics!  Check out the Ténéré Tragics Facebook page for future events.

The final word from Andrew Clubb aka Captain Tragic: The combination of fabulous riding on both tar and gravel roads, eye-popping scenery, superb hospitality and Tasmania’s enthusiasm for the tourism industry made this Tragics Run a ride to remember. “I stated at the welcome dinner that this year’s Tragics Run would be hard to top, and that’s just the way it played out,” enthused event organizer Andrew ‘Captain Tragic’ Clubb. “Conditions were perfect, there were no major incidents – just one bruised wrist and some none too serious panel damage, while every Tragic that started the Run, finished the Run.”

Some of the awards and Interesting facts:  Oldest Tragic Award: At 65 years young, Victoria’s David ‘Beak’ Murray represents the timeless Ténéré Spirit. A former Australian Safari, off-road and road-race competitor, Beak rides a 1983 XT600ZL Ténéré and travels light, rolling out his swag at each overnight stop and reveling in the camaraderie of his Ténéré brothers. Beak is a former Truly Tragic Award recipient More Ténéré spirit: 

Yamaha Dealers: Four Yamaha dealers rode in this year’s Run: Dave Wilson from Lithgow Bike Stop, NSW; Dave Readford from Readford’s Motorcycles in Dubbo, NSW; Mark Counsell from Toowoomba Yamaha, Queensland; and Phil Halpin and sons Matt and Josh from Halpin’s Motors Yamaha in St George, Queensland. These Yamaha dealers have all now ridden the Tragics Run multiple times. 

Seven Tragics rode the Run aboard Yamaha’s legendary first model XT600ZL Ténéré: Neil Asplin, David Murray, Matt Parker-Charlton, Peter Hickey, Jose De Olivera, Graeme Baker and Captain Tragic. 

Four Tragics rode the Run aboard Yamaha’s legendary first generation XTZ750 Super Ténéré: Chris Kirk, Dave Harrison, Jerry Young and Craig Danson. 

Breaking News: The Ténéré Tragics made headlines in Tasmania. The Run was covered by WIN TV News and The Mercury newspaper in Hobart when the Tragics pack made a stop at local Yamaha dealer, Horizon Motorcycles. 

Dealer Support: Tasmanian Yamaha dealers Launceston Yamaha and Horizon Motorcycles offered fabulous support to the Tragics. Launceston Yamaha threw open their workshop to assist Tragics on the eve of the Run and supported Stephen Gall’s ADV Skills Session on Sunday morning, while Horizon Motorcycles opened their doors and provided a coffee stop on the Wednesday morning of the Run. 

Sponsors of the 2017 Ténéré Tragics Tasmanian Devil Run included: Yamaha Motor Australia, bLU cRU, Yamaha Motor Finance, Yamaha Motor Insurance, Yamaha Genuine Spares, Yamalube, GYTR, Adventure Moto, Motorrad Garage, Touratech Australia, Barkbusters and CTi.

Details of the 2018 Ténéré Tragics Run will be announced soon: for latest updates be sure to follow the Ténéré Tragics Facebook and Instagram accounts.

A total of 75 Yamaha Ténéré riders took part in the recent Tasmanian Devil Run, which covered a lap of the apple isle on dirt roads and byways. Around 1830km was covered.

Chris Glaspell

Upshift, 23986 Aliso Creek Road Suite 450, Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

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