First timer thinking about Finke? Part 2 - Whats involved?

Author: Vaughan Cumming   Date Posted:21 January 2016 

First timer thinking about Finke? Part 2 - Whats involved? main image First timer thinking about Finke? Part 2 - Whats involved? image

First timer thinking about Finke? Part 2 - Whats involved?


It may seem like a long way to travel to the center of Australia from any corner of the country but it is not as bad as you think and it really is probably one of the best parts of the Finke experience!

Read on to see whats involved!


Alice is a long drive from the east coast but in many ways its what makes Finke what it is for me, the drive is the perfect way to forget work talk bikes with your mates, be a bunch of feral bushman for a couple of days and see this awesome chunk of dirt we call Australia!

There are many ways to get to Alice from Sydney but we are based 1 hour north of Sydney so we prefer to head through the Hunter Vally towards Dubbo then out to Broken Hill and down to Port Augusta in South Australia. Once you get to Port Augusta its a straight run up to Alice which is possible in a day.

Using google maps is a good way to plan your trip. There is really 3 ways to get to Alice from the NSW east coast (with a car and trailer!)

  1. Through Dubbo, Broken Hill and Port Augusta
  2. Down across the Hay Plains
  3. North up through Qld over to Tennet Creek - This is the best tourist drive but an extra day at least

I usually always have talked a mate or 3 into coming with me so we usually choose to camp the whole way on the side of the road in swags, its gives you the real desert experience and saves a heap of cash to spend on things like MSC steering dampers ! On the way up the center there are camp areas all the way as well as plenty of motels and tourist things to see to break up the drive.

There are 3 options for accommodation along the way.

#1 Camping in a swag - COST = FREE - This is what I do but I have tried all the options in past years.

This is the way I choose to travel when I'm with a group of mates, we start out heading off and driving towards Broken Hill, in 2014 we left the MSC Moto workshop at about 6.30pm on the Friday a week before the event. My mate Joe drove through the night and we had a quick nap near Cobar for a few hours before waking up in the rain and heading for Wilcania where we grabbed a coffee and watched our 6ft something tall rugby machine of a mate Joe ask the guy in the servo for a soy latte and get a response "A SOY F#@KIN WHAT??" haha! (TIP, don't camp at Wilcania it's a better place to see at 110kph)

On day 2 we drove to Port Augusta and stocked the eskys with food and drinks and bought the bits and pieces we forgot to take with us like a pillow or a sleeping bag! Then we drove out to the Stuart Highway and headed up towards Spuds road house to get fuel and then as it got dark started looking off the side of the road for a camp spot which we did in about 5 minutes. (TIP, You can also find designated rest areas along the way but can sometimes be chocked with caravans and no firewood)

Day 3 is the last bit where you decide to go straight to Alice, out to the track from Kulgera or find a place to stay near Stuarts Well so you can head out pre running from Maryvale. We chose the last option there. If you want to go out pre running there are many ways to find the track from the Stuart Highway the first being if you head for Finke from the Kulgera roadhouse and you will find the southern end of the track. The next spot is near a place called Stuarts Well, actually its just south you turn right (east) on to the Maryvale road and head for Deep Well which is down in the general mid part of the track. We set up a camp site at about the 100km bonnet.

*Please if you do this make sure you shut all gates, pick up your rubbish and respect the farmers as without these farmers our Finke addiction will get a big dose of cold turkey!*

The other way is to go straight to Alice Springs and book into your accommodation and then just head out for a bit of a look from the old start finish line. 

IT'S VERY IMPORTANT TO TRAVEL SOUTH BEFORE MIDDAY AND NORTH AFTER MIDDAY BUT GIVE YOURSELF A BUFFER AROUND THIS TIME FOR RIDERS THAT HAVE OVERLOOKED THIS IMPORTANT UNOFFICIAL RULE. The track is actually technically on public roads outside of race weekend so a registered bike is preferred by event organisers and the local coppers.

Road trip from NSW is great fun with your mates or family


#2 Camping in van parks - COST = approx $30 pp per night.

This is a more civilized way of camping as you will get yourself a shower and a pub feed and can be a bit more peace of mind if you have the family with you. There are so many great places to stay and the parks are safe and clean but will take a bit of extra research before you leave.

#3 Motel or pub accommodation - COST = Depends on your level of softness!

If you have the family and don't like camping for extended periods of time this is a great option and there are some excellent places to stay and see along the way like Broken Hill, Coober Peedy, Ayers Rock etc. The time it takes to set up camp you can spend doing a bit of rubber necking and spending money on Chinese made Australian outback souvenirs! But seriously its worth having a look at Coober Peedy underground opel  mines and accommodation. Do your research here and try to book before you go. TIP, Get yourself a pizza in Coober Peedy they are the biggest pizzas you have ever seen and stay in an underground hotel you will understand why yogi bear can sleep so much!

The complete trip to Alice Springs is just shorter than 3000km from the east coast depending on your route - ALLOW 3 DAYS TRAVEL TIME


ALICE SPRINGS - Book your accommodation early!!

Alice Springs has everything you need it's really an awesome place even if you don't have mates, Alice has plenty of them, you can find them anywhere in Alice!! Part of why I love this place so much. You don't have to be a pro you just got to love anything Finke and your in the popular group!

It's guys and girls like us punters that help make this event what it is and without new faces this race would lose some of its charm and the locals know this, that's why they all treat any new rider spectator or support crew like they only have you to worry about! 

Example being with my mates this year, we rocked into town and I told them the top notch race team that we support with our products of Branford Desert Racing were going to help them out with fuel stops and my mates Joe and Duncan both first time Finkers and racers thought I meant they would help by taking a drum of fuel down the track and dump it for them! NO thats not the Alice way! They were treated like they were going to win the event outright by the crew! They couldn't believe a team of this caliber was so approachable and so full of advice to a couple of guys just trying to finish! Thanks heaps to the BDR crew they really made my 2 mates the happiest fellas in the world!



Joe and Duncan 2014 Finke first timers

In Alice Springs there is every type of accommodation you can think of to suit your budget from the Casino or other resorts style to normal motels and great caravan parks and camp grounds.

I stay in the mid range and have motel accommodation its a bit comfier after 6 days of camping like a feral! When you book your accommodation don't be a tight ass and muck around the accommodation owners and try to get out of paying for the Sunday night when your at Finke. Trust me if you just keep it simple they are very accommodating when you need somewhere to work on your bike and take over their carpark getting ready for scrutineering! Once again I'm yet to meet a dud accommodation owner in Alice they really embrace this race and help as much as possible to make it easier for tourist.

Alice is amazing if you run into trouble there is quite a lot of industry and smart guys and girls in town so if you get into trouble and need help with trailers, broken bikes or cars, health issues etc this place will have an answer for you and help with a smile. Alice has an addictive charm and has everyone coming back at some point and usually to catch up with life long friends you have met through this race and town.

Last year we got caught out for trailer to get out to the prologue track mainly because we were to lazy to clean out our big trailer that became our carpark workshop and a new mate we just met through BDR Mark "Monsta" Phillips said go to A1 Mechanics shop and his old man will give us a trailer! We did and they couldn't be more helpful and then said to just drop it off when were ready no rush! Top blokes thanks heaps guys. (if you have car issues call these guys 08 8952 5228)

THE RACE WEEKEND - you can read more about that here also there is all the info you need on the Tatts Finke Desert Race website


It is pretty simple to work out the cost with some simple Maths.

You need 14 days for the trip so you need 14 days worth of food - I like food so I leave about $60 per day which includes my drinks to. You either end up with change or a really sore head on Tuesday morning! Total is approx $850

Travel distance is approx 7000kms from Sydney to Alice return with some driving up there - my car does 600km per tank of 70L so the fuel bill is $1200 BUT that gets divided up with what ever mates you can put together. 3 in a car is enough to split costs and not get to close that you accidentally fall asleep on a mates shoulder.

Accommodation is personal but we do the camping all the way up then also a couple of nights down the track pre running this is FREE as we camp where we land or reach 0.05. (Don't think you can drink and drive out here to, I have been pulled up at a booz bus twice in the desert!) Once we get to town on Wednesday we book into a motel and have a bit of a scrub up and find a decent feed which there is no shortage of in Alice. We stay in the motel till Tuesday morning when we leave town. If you are with mates get a family room it will end up about $60 a head. For the 6 nights I spend between $350 and $400.

This is only the cost of you the rider so you need to work out the cost for your family a bit different depending on how you go about this trip.

The bike COST

Your bike is depending on many things but this is a quick list of bits you NEED but there is many things you might also WANT!

  • A serviced and well maintained bike
  • MSC MOTO Steering Damper $497.00
  • Desert spec gearing - contact the local shops they will help happily but on a 450 mx bike its about 15/45 but check this out $120
  • New o'ring chain $150
  • New back desert type tyre $130
  • Heavy duty tubes - The best you can get! $80
  • Oversize tank for mx bikes like IMS Acerbis or Clarke - you need a range of 80 odd kms $350
  • Numbers - you get your number allocation when you enter $90 - these are much nicer than duct tape!
  • 70L of petrol, the fuel in Alice is good but don't use opel fuel. $120
  • Steg Pegz - These are a brilliant idea, get them and you will thank me!! (Order some extra rubber grip pads to) $160
  • 2 spare air filters (more if you are pre running) $50
  • 2 spare oil filters and 4L of high quality oil. $80
  • 3 x 20L petrol drums marked with you name and number.

You can go to town after you have these basics and have spare cash. The top bikes all spend many hours on suspension and engine mods as well as spare wheels, new exhaust and many other parts but this is all depending on budget and your level of riding.

If you work on a budget of $1500 to get a bike ready, it can cost more for your first finke if you have none of these parts and a clapped out bike but its not a waste of money because remember the Tatts Finke Desert Race is an addiction so guaranteed you will use it more than once!

Other than the bits you shell out for you should spend many hours getting to know your bike and work out its weak points if any and address that part or area of the bike. Doing most of this work yourself is a good idea as you will learn so much more and that can be a big help down the track or at the overnight stop.

 All up I reckon its between $3000 and $5000 depending on how you go about things but it is worth every last cent and at the end of it you still have a trick bike and some spare parts to use for the rest of the year and in the 2016 Finke.

Another thing to call bullshit on is that your bike will be a wreck when you finsh but this is simply untrue.... If your bike is a wreck when you get home it probably was already a wreck or ends up a wreck whenever you ride! Yes crashes happen and this race can catch you out but I honestly rode the same Suzuki RMZ450 in 2013 and 2014. It was my best bike ever and I also did 2 days a week riding in sand from Christmas to about a month out from Finke due to my road race commitments but this trusty RMZ 450 got me there and back both years without a problem in 54th outright in the 2014 when it had the most hours on it. The race can be hard on the bike but its a dirtbike and anytime you ride your bike can end up with a few bumps and bruises!


When you first start this adventure you will probably have an idea of where you think you will finish and this is good and sometimes accurate but please be careful here because there are guys at this race that are like sleepers! In 2014 I prologued ok and I was having a bit of a crack when a stock looking CRF450X came past me and had me thinking what the hell thats not meant to be that fast?? I'm on a trick MX bike and to make it worse I seen the number was 792 that means the dude is old!!! BUT...... I did eventually work out A) this fella knows this track and I need a good schooling here and I will go quicker B) It's F#@Ken Rick Hall he has won this race twice and is a Alice and Finke legend!!! I then went from ohhh shit I suck getting schooled by a old dude to bloody hell I just kept on the back of and got to ride with Rick hall for about an hour! He still wouldn't even probably know I was there but he was my carrot and I was chasing him the best I can and then finished day 1 49th outright which is about 60 places better than I ever have! Cheers Rick!

My point there was don't under or over estimate people because there bike is weapon or stock, there are guys and girls up there that are deceivingly fast and getting bummed by a bike passing you should not let it get you down just use it as a new target! The Finke track will sort us all out evenly and basically let the best prepared and best rider through first! Track knowledge makes more difference than a trick bike and a fit body is only as good as the strength of the head its attached to.

Honestly riding Finke is like golf no matter where you finish you think wait till next time I will do better!

  • A good state level motocross guy that likes high speed and is tough you can run near the top 20 outright which this is a BIG deal in Finke circles! Top enduro guys will run here to.
  • Good clubman level enduro and B grade motocross riders will be between the top 40 to 100 places - this is where I usually run.
  • Experienced trail riders and recreational mx rider will run at the 100 to 250 position
  • Most guys outside the top 250 are usually riding to finish and have the biggest smiles out of everyone!
  • Then there is the farm boys and locals....... These guys are surprise packages they can run almost everywhere! some have clapped out bikes and cruise along in the top 30!!! Don't get annoyed if a stock CRFX goes past your pimped out MX bike!!!

The field is usually about 400 to 500 riders and the level changes every year because there are new faces every year and then the guy that showed up for a look last year then puts in some effort at home and comes back much faster! Set yourself a realistic goal and also don't get disappointed with your result just come back and do better next year!


You can read stage 1 of this blog here if you didn't catch it before.

Hope this is some help!

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