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Bushfires ‘won’t halt’ Walcha Motorcycle Weekend

Protestors line up at Walcha Royal Cafe business on the Oxley Highway

Bushfires in eastern NSW will not stop the Walcha Motorcycle Weekend from going ahead from Friday (15 November 2019).

Walcha Tourism has issued the following statement in response to concerns from riders that the event would be cancelled because of the bushfires.

Please be assured WALCHA is still ON for this weekend. Please plan ahead for your trip using and

The weekend festival was hastily organised in recent days to replace the Freak Show Festival of Motorcycles and national Harley Owners Group (HOG) rally which were axed at the last minute.


NSW Premier has declared a State of Emergency with dangerous fire conditions tomorrow (Tuesday 12 November 2019).

A Total Fire Ban is in place for the whole of the state and motorists are advised to delay all “non-essential travel”.

The official advice is:

Many roads remain closed due to bush fires. Be prepared for conditions to change quickly and roads to close suddenly.

If you need to travel, also make sure you’ve got water, food, supplies and a full tank of fuel. Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged before you set out.

If you’re already travelling when a bush fire starts, follow the directions of emergency services personnel.

Image: NSW Rural Fire Service

Most bushfires in the region are to the east of Walcha, although the situation could change later this week with higher temperatures and strong winds predicted.

walcha bushfires
Image: NSW Rural Fire Service

While bushfires are not considered a direct threat to the replacement event at the moment, riders are urged to check their route for any dangers.

You can check online here for bushfires in Queensland.

In NSW, check the RFS website, SES website, Fire Update Site, or download the ‘Fires Near Me’ app.

Walcha Motorcycle Weekend highlights

Among the highlights at the Walcha Motorcycle Weekend’ will be the chance for riders to hear Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire electric motorcycle and even go for a “demo ride” on their Jumpstart Experience.

demo ride online walcha
Harley offers non-licensed people a demo ride with their JumpStart

Harley-Davidson Australia spokesman Keith Waddell says they have been “working closely with Walcha Council to support their plans to host riders with music and food options over the weekend”.

The company will set up at the Walcha Showground and will run demo rides over the weekend.

There is a host of other entertainment across the three days, including stunt shows, a rodeo, guided rides, Harley demo rides, a Steampunk motorcycle gallery, markets, music, food stalls, a billy cart derby show and shine and more.

Click here for a full schedule of events.

Of course, one of the main attractions is simply getting there by riding Thunderbolts Way and/or the magnificent Oxley Highway.

However, at the moment the Oxley is closed after bushfires and awaiting inspection by Roads and Maritime Services to see if it is safe.

 By the looks of this video, that might not be for several days.

All accommodation in town is fully booked so Council has organised for camping at the Oxley Sportsground.

Local not-for-profit groups will provide basic catering onsite and clean-up services.

Walcha Royal Cafe owner Toni Keable says they will continue with the entertainment they had previously planned before the events were axed.

Oxley highway hillclimb
Toni and Brad Keable of the Royal Cafe, Walcha

“We had one rider who cancelled because he was concerned about bushfires, but they are a long way from us,” she says.

“People can be assured that this weekend will definitely go ahead.

“Everyone is positive and we’re not going to let this opportunity to showcase the town slip through our fingers.”

Be alert

Bushfires can spread rapidly and even outrun a vulnerable rider, so stay alert.

Riders are also in danger from smoke inhalation and low visibility and eye irritation from smoke.Bushfires Harley Softail

But rural fire services also say fires can be sparked by motorcycles and cars, especially the ultra-hot catalytic convertor, so don’t park on dry grass!

They say about 40% of all bushfires are accidentally started by humans dropping cigarette butts, campfires, discarding bottles, sparks from machinery, vehicles and motorcycles.

Most riders who accidentally spark these blazes are off-road and adventure bikes riding in the bush and on forestry tracks.Bushfires BMW R 1200 GS

Tips to avoid dehydration in a heatwave:

  1. Don’t drink too much alcohol the night before a ride. It has a diuretic effect which means it causes you to urinate more water than you take in which means you are losing fluid. And you can’t counteract that by drinking lots of water because most of it will go out in your urine. Obviously, don’t drink alcohol while you are riding!
  2. Start drinking water as soon as you wake and keep sipping water right up until you get on your bike. It takes about half an hour for water to reach your muscles. Guzzling water just before a ride is not good as it can make your stomach to cramp. The Royal Flying Doctor Service which has attended dehydrated riders in the Outback, recommends carrying 10 litres of water per day! Read their Outback riding tips here.
  3. Wear ventilated motorcycle clothing. Leathers may protect you better in a crash, but they create a “microclimate” which impairs your ability to lose heat. As a result you will produce more sweat to decrease your core temp. Instead, wear a flow-through jacket. There are heaps of options on the market. Make sure they have vents in the back so the air flows through. Also, loosen the sleeves so you get plenty of air on your wrists which have a lot of blood vessels close to the skin to effectively cool you down. However, be aware that a flow-through jacket cools you down because it is drying the sweat off your skin which can lead to dehydration. A set of Ventz up your sleeve will also keep you cool as air flows up your arms.However, don’t be fooled by your level of coolness as ventilation can also cause you to loose more water through evaporation. So you still need to keep drinking plenty of water.
    Ventz motorcycle jacket vents - pain heatwave dust storm
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  4. Don’t be tempted to remove your jacket in the heat! Exposed skin may feel cooler, but that’s because the sweat is evaporating quicker, but that is just making you more dehydrated. And while your skin feels cool, you’ll be tricked into staying in the sun longer which leads to sunburn. That also leads to dehydration because your body needs water to repair and renew damaged skin.
  5. Get a Camelbak or other brand of water-dispensing unit so you can continue to take small sips of water while you are riding. I’ve seen riders on GoldWings and other big tourers with cup holders so they can take slurps from a water bottle. That’s obviously not as safe as the hands-free Camelback option, but anything is better than nothing. Some people don’t like Camelbaks because the water gets hot, but the temperature of the water doesn’t affect dehydration.Camelbak reduces dehydration heatwave dust storm
  6. Stop more often than usual and hang out in the shade or in an air-conditioned cafe. Since you are drinking lots of fluids, you will probably need to stop anyway!
  7. While you’re stopped, have a coffee, but take it easy. No need to swear off your favourite caramel latte, but avoid excess coffee. That also goes for caffeinated drinks such as Red Bull. High levels of caffeine have a diuretic effect just like alcohol.
  8. While having a coffee break, avoid having too many sweet cakes, donuts and muffins. Sugar can dehydrate you if it gets to very high levels in your blood. This can happen if you are a diabetic, take certain medications or have an infection or some organ diseases. Sugar causes your kidneys to produce more urine to eliminate the sugar, leading to dehydration. Likewise, don’t drink too many sugary drinks. Best to stick to plain water, real fruit juices with no added sugar or drinks such as Gatorade that replace salts and minerals lost in sweat.
  9. We’ve talked a lot about urine and it’s important that you monitor the colour. It should be a straw colour. If it’s too dark, you are dehydrated.
  10. Sweat also depletes your body of sodium and if it becomes too low, it can cause many of the same symptoms as dehydration. The average diet probably has enough sodium, but it’s good to have a little bit of salt on your meals or drink sports drinks that have a sodium supplement. However, beware of sports drinks with caffeine and sugar.
  1. As of Tuesday afternoon, here’s the most up-to-date list I could find of road closures caused by bushfires in all directions leading to Walcha. Some may re-open and others will close. As Mark says, check the NSW Rural Fire Service and State Emergency Service websites for latest info. Ride safe.
    • Walcha to Wauchope: The Oxley Highway is closed between Brackendale Road and The Paddock Road
    • Whittingham: The New England Highway is closed between Range Road and the Golden Highway
    • Cranebrook: The Northern Road near Cranebrook Road is closed
    • Failford: Failford Road is closed between the Pacific Highway and The Lakes Way.
    • Bulahdelah to Taree: The Pacific Highway is closed between The Lakes Way and Old Bar Road
    • Nowendoc to Knorrit Flat: Nowendoc Road is closed
    • Moonbi to Bendemeer: The New England Highway is closed in both directions
    • Colo to Putty: Putty Road is closed between Upper Colo Road/Colo River and Long Weeney Creek Trail
    • Bald Nob to Eatonsville: Gwydir Highway is closed between Bald Nob Road and Tindal Road
    • Tingha to Guyra: Guyra Road is closed
    • Comboyne to Cedar Party: Comboyne Road is closed between Sunrise Lane and Colling Road
    • Walcha to Bago: The Oxley Highway is closed between Brackendale Road and Comboyne Road
    • Elands to Marlee: Bulga Road is closed between Middlebrook Road and Colling Road
    • Burrell Creek to Purfleet: The Bucketts Way is closed between Gloucester Road and Manning River Drive
    • East of Nimbin: Tuntable Falls Road and Tuntable Creek Road are closed
    • Rainbow Flat: The Lakes Way is closed between Pacific Highway and Failford Road
    • Wallabi Point: Saltwater Road is closed between Old Bar Road and Wallabi Point
    • Lower Creek to Yarravel: Kempsey Road/Armidale Road is closed between Raspberry Road and Link Road
    • Harrington to Crowdy Head: Crowdy Head Road is closed
    • Coutts Crossing to Clouds Creek: Armidale Road is closed
    • Buccarumbi to Bald Nob: Old Glen Innes Road and Old Grafton Road are closed between Buccarumbi Bridge and Gwydir Highway
    • Upper Fine Flower: Clarence Way closed between Carnham Road and Baryulgil
    • Telegraph Point: Red Hill Road is closed from Rollands Plains Road and Cooperabung Range Road

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