Sapio Vestra Hostis (Know your enemy):
The Gibb River Road was established to link the deep port facilities of Derby and Wyndham with the vast pastoral leases of the west, central and east Kimberley. The road is graded annually by the Shire of Derby West Kimberley (SDWK) and the Shire Wyndham East Kimberley (SWEK) and subject to seasonal considerations, is suitable for a diverse range of motor vehicle travel.
The Gibb River Road is a 700 kilometre, mostly unsealed secondary road linking the west and east Kimberley. Along its route are countless points of interest, remarkable vistas and extraordinary camping locations. It’s widely lauded as a ‘must do’ outback adventure for four-wheel driving enthusiasts and ‘round Australia terrorists..............err, tourists.
The Gibb River Road is not the untamed rudimentary track it once was, but it still needs to be respected and travellers would be well advised to make suitable and thorough preparations. The road surface is often heavily corrugated and the annual grading program relies upon the existing indigenous substrate. Graders will often kick up sizeable rocks that can smash at the under body of vehicles or expose sharp rock edges primed to tear at the sidewalls of your tyres. Then there are 'Jump Ups', off camber corners, the omnipresent dust and deep river crossings to consider................It remains a modern day motoring adventure.
Four Wheel Drive Vs. Soft Wheel Drive:
Mate, I’ve seen community mob drive a busted up sedan across the Pentecost River to chase barra at Home Valley Station. I’ve seen European backpackers careering their Britz Camper vans at reckless speeds and I’ve seen blissfully naïve grey nomads with luxurious caravans in tow, bouncing along this iconic cattle track.
During The Dry, just about anything goes. But it’s The Wet, or the road conditions just after The Wet that draws a savage rebuke from the Kimberley. Modern high clearance four-wheel drives will manage the trip with opulent comfort and safety. What’s more, they’ll do it time and time again without so much as a creaking complaint. Drive to the conditions having regard to the visibility, the terrain, your vehicle’s capability and your ability (that's real ability, NOT your imagined ability) and you’re there.
Soft wheel drives will perform admirably with genuine (soft) road credibility. Let’s remember where we are, this is the Gibb River Road during the Dry Season with more driving company than we’d actually prefer. It’s a rough, unsealed road with tons of dust, some nasty corrugations and some pretty intimidating river crossings. With some care and preparation (and occasional assistance from real 4WDs), even the river crossings can be overcome. I wouldn’t want to do the trip again for fear of shaking the car apart and I reckon the electrics are suspect, but there’s no reason it can’t be done………… it’s just I wouldn’t do it..............at least not in any car I owned.
Every Trailer is Epic:
Our very first Gibb trailer was gold. Modified by guests of Her Majesty at the Broome Regional Prison, it was a garden-variety 6x4 trailer - probably just like the one at your place. The guys attached a hinged plywood lid to the top of the trailer to create some usable, though not entirely dust free, storage for our camping gear underneath and on top, they welded and formed some C channel to create four bike racks that secured the wheels of the bikes to prevent damage to the frames. For additional stability it relied on some luggage straps attached to the handlebars and proved very effective. I reckon anyone handy with a welder and a spare weekend could knock one up.
There have been some refinements since that initial prototype by other teams. Ones with bikes stored in a chevron pattern (Lion Racing), additional storage boxes, gas assisted struts and dust / debris shields. Our box trailer has long been retired and we have a camper trailer with an ISI bike rack attached to the drawbar. Trailers certainly remain the most effective means of carrying your bikes without damaging the frames, with the additional benefit of massive storage for your team’s camping equipment...............and beer.
Uber Camper Trailer:
The best investment we ever made during our time in the Kimberley was to buy our camper trailer. It’s not the top of the wozzer, but it’s absolutely spot on the money for lumping our gear throughout the state, including ten tours of the Gibb River Road. We chose a hard top because setting camp is as easy as pulling back the lid and hey presto – the freakin’ Durack Suite. The hard top is also the perfect base to mount a couple of Thule bike racks and the bikes are good to go.
Everything else though is stored in the camper; bed linen, mattresses, beers in the fridge, spare clothes, bike parts and a functional kitchen……..did I mention the beers in the fridge?
Racks – don’t you love your bike……?
It was once my shameful prejudice; I didn’t like racks. In fact, I hated ‘em. I hated the way they hung off the back of your 4 x 4, reducing your departure angle. I hated the way they got in the way, preventing access to the back of your car. I hated that more times than not, ALL the other bikes had to come off as well. And I really hated that the clamp chomped the top tube of your precious bike and mercilessly shakes it about like The Hulk giving Loki a pummelling, bashing and crashing frames together. Rodney Rude and me, we f#@*ing hated that.
Well, that all changed when I discovered ISI's (not a declared terrorist group) revolutionary product. Intake Systems International have designed and manufactured the best off-road bike carriers on the market. They're superior to anything else I've seen and worth every bloody cent..........let's face it, we've all spent more money on our bikes than we're EVER going to tell our wives about, so you might as well carry them to your next fat tyre adventure in the best possible way.
Check out their website http://www.isi-carriers.com