The Little Tracker That Could

The Little Tracker That Could
Ever felt the sudden overwhelming desire to ride 3,986kms for a cup of tea with mum? This guy did. 

Rory Mcloughlan cafe racer across Australia

“Don’t ride at night.” “Whatever you do, stay off the road from sunset till morning.” The words, backed by evidence and indisputably sensible flew figure eights through Rory’s head as he forged on through the thickening black. 824 kilometers into a very hard day of riding he knew he was running a dangerous gauntlet. Every year in Australia, animal related crashes are the most common cause of motor accident and Kangaroos are responsible for 75% of them. Bad enough if you are in a car but on a motorcycle, hurtling across an outback highway at 100kph, in the dark! It’s like playing British Bulldog with a suicide bomber.

He pressed on. It was either that or sleep rough next to one of the most isolated roads in the world, the Nullarbor Plain. Rory powered into the dim pool of headlight that beckoned him on, all the while scanning left and right. Left and right. It’s a synergy of reflexes, situational awareness, determination and vehicle control that slowly begins to suck every last drop of energy from your body.

By the time he finally rolled into Balladonia, 917 kilometres from Perth and 1,004 kilometres from Ceduna South Australia (where he started the day) he had been 10 hours straight in the saddle of his SR400. He was a rat-shit mess. His nerves were shot, his body ached and his mind wanted to quit. Two beers later and Rory was in Fuzzy-Wuzzy Land. “Pissed after two beers!” He said. “I couldn’t believe it”.

Such was the end of day 3 of Rory Loughrey's epic 4-day blat across Australia to visit his mum: Sydney to Perth on a Yamaha SR400 tracker. More on that later.

Like many certifiable nut-jobs, Rory was born in Ireland. He moved to Australia with his parents and his brother and sister in 1991. His father was heavily into Irish road racing prior to the move. You know those maniacs who love getting tricked up sub-1000cc racers airborne over standard roads in the drizzly Irish countryside. It explains a bit. Needless to say Rory and his brother were born into a love of two-wheel motoring.

In his day job, Rory is a Super Sailor, a merchant seaman (Integrated Rating). He has some hairy stories about his adventures at sea in cyclones but you’ll have to listen to the audio interview to hear more about them.

They say it takes all sorts to make the world go around and the same is true of this guy. He looks a bit rough and tumble, tattooed knuckles and neck, a rough 3 day growth, and permanently fixed dark sunglasses. Not so unusual in the circles I travel I guess. But too many others might just dismiss Rory as just another knock-about mariner, blowing time and money while he waits for the next ship. Not so dear reader. Not so.

In January 2016 he and his brother Eoin (another good Irish name that) rode from Sydney to Byron Bay on their SR400s (yes, Eoin has one as well). A mere 800 kilometers one-way. To those uninitiated to trimmed-down, 20mms-of-foam café racer seats, the previous sentence was treacherous sarcasm. The boys preferred style of bike is suited for short and fast urban runs, not long distance country jaunts. But the bikes and butts handled it well and so the inspiration fairy laid a cruel, stinky, butt-berry of an idea into Rory’s brain. “I’m going to ride to Perth to see Mum”, he told Eoin.

 Rory Mcloughlan cafe racer across Australia profile SR400

Two weeks later, on Saturday the 13th of February 2016 Rory threw a few spare pairs of jocks and some tools into a backpack and set off for Mum’s place. 3,980 kilometers West.

To put that into perspective I have assembled a few pertinent facts to zero the idea of this for you:

  • It’s roughly the same distance as Washington Dc to Los Angeles California.
  • It’s the equivalent of riding from Moscow to Madrid (seven countries)
  • Most long distance riders have 1000+cc touring motorcycles with plush cushioned seats, panniers, cruise control and a sensible seating position designed for… long distance riding.
  • Rory was riding a Yamaha SR400 (400cc) trimmed down tracker with no comforts and no pannier bags.

To justify my earlier suggestion that Rory was a certifiable nut-job, let me throw another log onto that fire: He made it to Perth in 4 days! No stopping to enjoy the sights for this guy!

Psychologically it was no ride around the block. Rory admits that a mere 750ks off his destination (the night after running the Nullabor gauntlet) he hit his low point. Not surprisingly considering he had ridden headlong into Perth’s longest heat wave on record. With temperatures in the mid 40s his body was tired, his mind was exhausted and he just wanted to curl up and disappear. He sat at the Norseman Roadhouse and just wanted to cry. Anyone who has ever wrestled in earnest with endurance knows that place. It’s a place to which few people are willing to pay the admittance price. But it’s a one-way door. Once you enter, you leave on the opposite side, stronger for the time you spent there. This was true for Rory. In spite of his devastation he punched on towards Kalgoorlie finding his second wind along the way.

Rory Mcloughlan cafe racer across Australia kick start SR400

I’m proud to say that, such is the Café Racer culture in Australia (and the bike culture in general), Perth Café Racers (PCR) had tracked Rory’s progress across the country. Despite a mid-afternoon arrival and the heatwave, PCR legend Troy “Goatass” Pick rode out to the Perth ranges to welcome him. Escorted to the Brown Fox in West Perth a posse of PCR loyalists greeted our stranger from the East with cold beer and back-slaps. “It was amazing!” beamed Rory. “It was such a good little welcome!”

facebook pic Rory Mcloughlan cafe racer across Australia in Perth

I spoke to Rory on Sunday the 21st of February, the day before he had planned to ride his bike back home to Sydney. He’d considered and dismissed the idea of putting the bike on a train and flying home. “You kind of have to don’t you… I have to do the whole eight thousand kilometers I rekon”, he said.

“Your arse must hate you” I said.

Story and Photos by Jarrod Stillman

Listen to the interview below