The work horse that needs oil

Host: Noreena Downs Station
Written by Kate Paull – Owner, Noreena Downs Station.

In the video below I explain and view a bit of our mustering equipment, and it is all run on oil and petrol.

As much as I appreciate horses and horses working with cattle, I also understand they would do it hard here doing most of our musters, as we cover lot of ground on a bike or in a buggy, it isn’t uncommon to click up anywhere from 30 to 90km in a day on a muster (that is including doing the wing work – which means going up and down the side of the mob), we ride and drive our bikes and buggys out in the early morning so we can get straight onto the coacher (main) mob or help the helicopter bring them in.

Then there is the terrain, the Pilbara is rocky country and shoeing the horse would have to be constant to keep it from getting foot sore when it blows a shoe, I would probably need two to three horses a day to cover a good amount of the mustering we do.

Please no one think I am bagging the horse out cause I would like to use horses as well as I have done a small amount of mustering on horse but Noreena is what the place is and you have to do what suits the country and budget.

So we use bikes and buggys, in our fleet we have:

4 X buggies – Three Suzukis and one Toyota

8 X CRF 230’s

2 X Can Am 400 and 500

1 X CRF 150

1 X Yamaha TTR 250

1 ½ XR 250

Some might be wondering why so many bikes, well if one breaks down we got a spare to get the mob of cattle home until we can fix it.

Each year every station hand are given a bike that matches them, they will look after that bike till they leave, we have 3 x CRF 230’s who are in their 10th year of mustering this year and one 2003 model – it goes to show how god damn tough these CRF 230’s are, these bikes have been accidentally dropped off creek banks, drowned, flicked up in spinifex, dropped on to rough rocky boulder ground, had their riders stack them at least 15- 30 times a year and they still go.

Also a stack is where the handle bar touches the ground so the bike is lying on it’s side – we play a stacks tally game at Noreena and the rules go like this; if you stack it – bike or handle bar touches the ground or you fall off it’s one stack then once you hit 10 stacks you pay up a carton of beer for yourself and the stock camp to drink after work.

So what makes these bikes stay going – MAINTENANCE and TREATING THE BIKE LIKE A WORK TOOL AND NOT A TOY, every 30 hours or four mustering days the air filter gets cleaned and re-oiled and put back in, a filthy filter reduces performance and can allow the bike to get hot.

We do an oil change every 70 hours, whichever service the bike comes in for the rider checks it over for any issues or something that needs fixing.

Each morning before they get used we idle them for five minutes then turn it off stand it upright for another five minutes then check the oil, once that’s done the bike will also get some chain lube put on the chain if it is dry, at the end of each ride the rider will get rid of the seed, spinifex, and grass away from the engine and give it a check over.

We don’t allow our staff to do silly stuff on the bikes such as donuts, wheel stands etc. as it is wear and tear on the bikes and most important we have to keep our staff safe and very alive.

The most liveliest the bike and rider get is when the bike really has to work such as climbing up and down creek banks, floating up the sand, flying through scrub etc., jumping buck spinifex, and crashing over rocks to catch up with cattle to get the job done.

If you flog a bike it will end up flogged out (dead).

Also on hand we have an assortment of parts for the bikes, clutch levers, brake levers, fenders, screws, kick stand spring, and the list keeps going, each of our CRF 230’s are sporting bark busters which helps the bikes levers when it has a tumble so they don’t snap, also it protects our riders hands.

Recently a few of the bikes had a very simple rebuild: new piston rings, hone out, lapping, gaskets, and a few other bits, it cost less than $200 per bike – first rebuilds.

The CRF 230’s have been a very good mustering bike for us : they are easy to ride as they are not a big bike but can still cart a 90-100 kg bloke/lady around and easy to work, if you have the real big bikes and have some light riders and you are having to do a fair but of tight work your blokes get more tired and run out of energy which then can result in accidents, the 230 is the right weight to cart people around but still light enough to easily manoeuvre, they stay reasonably cool throughout the day with their oil cooled system and are easy to fix, they are an excellent all-rounder.