Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Tuareg Rallye 2015

Apologies to anyone who had been hoping to follow my progress at the Tuareg Rallye via this blog. The lack of time and infrequent WiFi meant I was restricted to posting on my own timeline on Facebook. However I will be posting up some more comprehensive, retrospective reports over the next few days.

It was not without it's epic moments, from loosing the keys to the hire car, a loose bolt on day one causing a massive oil leak (luckily spotted before any harm was done), getting stuck for an hour in possibly the only mud in Morocco, two days in the dunes of the Erg Chebi with no electric start, looping the bike off the top of a dune (yet walking away unscathed), my GPS packing up due to the heat just before a dune section where the road book said "follow GPS", A fork seal blowing and losing my side stand on day five to name a few!

Here's a few photos from the rally where I was very happy not only to finish but also to gain third place overall in the Moto Amateur over 50s Category.

Bike loaded and ready to leave the UK on 03.03.15

The route of the Rally
Day 1: Ouarzazate to Zagora
Day 2: Zagora to Merzouga
Day 3: The "King Stage" Merzouga (Erg Chebi)
Day 4: The "Dune Race" Merzouga (Erg Chebi)
Day 5: Merzouga to Zagora
Day 6: Zagora - Erg Chigaga
Day 7: Zagora to Ouarzazate

The Hotel in Ouarzazate

The queue for registration

 It's a hard life being Team Manager!

The Pro Class at the start of the Prologue


Checkpoint 1 Zagora to Merzouga Day 2


Run out of fuel on the road to Merzouga, luckily I was rescued by another competitor

Sunrise over Erg Chebi

 Doing a bit of Laundry

Start of the Dune Race

End of Lap one, timed out by only three minutes

 The result of a little cartwheel off the top of a dune

With Gary Pitchford at the final checkpoint, Day 4

Checkpoint 4, Day 6

All the kit for a day laid out


Lunch stop on the way back to Marrakech Airport, on the Tizi n'Tichca Pass

We got a space on the sticker wall!

From Desert to snow capped mountains all in one day

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Busy, busy, busy....

I've been a bit busy with bike preparation so haven't had the chance to update lately!
As previously reported the Rally Experience Weekend never happened due to the weather, which is a shame but I guess the risk of breaking something (either me or the bike) this close to the Tuareg was a good enough reason not to go schlepping round Wales in the ice and snow.
And as mentioned I took the opportunity to start the preparatory maintenance, which is still on-going but I have to date:
  • Replaced wheel bearings in both front wheels.
  • Replaced the wheel bearings in my spare rear wheel
  • Fitted a disc and speedo magnet to the spare front wheel
  • Replaced the steering head bearings
  • Had the swing arm bearings and lower shock mount replaced (I couldn't get them to move in the end so entrusted the job to Torque Racing).
  • Changed oil and filters
  • Fitted new front brake pads
  • Cleaned the current air filter
  • Replaced and re-routed the front brake hose
  • Fitted new handlebars (Renthall RC High Fat Bars)
  • Re-wired the light switches
  • Stripped off the graphics ready for re-stickering
  • Fitted a Scotts Steering Damper (a second hand bargain)
  • Fitted new foam rally grips
  • Fitted extended foot pegs
  • Fitted a new gear lever (old one strapped to the frame as a spare 
Still to do is:
  • Fit rear brake pads
  • Replace brake fluid in rear brake and bleed
  • Refill front brake fluid and bleed
  • Fit new chain and sprockets
  • Check and adjust the valve clearances
  • Oil the seven spare air filters, roll them and seal in zip lock bags (one for every day of the rally plus one spare to tuck in the space behind the air box)
  • Replace a threaded insert that stripped in the frame tube under the engine that holds the bash plate on
  • Fit new tyres and mousses to the original wheels.
  • Finish rebuilding the whole thing (not forgetting to put thread lock on every bolt)!
And one other non essential job that I'll do if I get the time is:
  • Build a new mounting for the tail light and replace tail light and a new LED "dust light" as previously mentioned (the current lights work OK so I won't lose sleep if I don't get round to it).
And I'm sure I'll find a dozen other things to do.... It never ends!!!

 Looking a bit sparse at this stage

 Shiny things! New Handlebars and steering damper

 Slowly going back together!
Yesterday I popped into the KTM Centre to collected my sponsored goodies, they are still sitting in a very large cardboard box, so tonight I'll drag them out and give them a try.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Sponsors? Blimey it's getting serious!

Well we got some snow the other night, about 2-3cm in Bedfordshire so nothing to write home about!

Needless to say the Land Rover barely even noticed it on my journey to work!

One of the disappointing results of the weather is that the Rally Experience weekend was cancelled. The course was snow bound in places but more crucially very low temperatures were experienced, which resulted in dangerously icy mountain roads.

However I also got some great news in that I have a sponsor!

This resulted from a recent trip to the KTM Centre in Hemel Hempstead with Team Manager/Grease Monkey John, we were looking at riding gear and John asked if I had considered getting a neck brace. As noted before I had considered this and although there is still some debate over their effectiveness, the reasoning is fairly convincing and since they have been almost universally adopted in Down Hill Mountain Biking, I must admit I don't recall anyone suffering any cervical spine injuries. Lots of other stuff obviously but neck injuries do seem to have been absent from the people I've helped haul off mountain sides in the last few years.

But my biggest reason for not going down this route is the cost, with a Leatt neck brace being nearly £300 but of course it doesn't stop there, as it wouldn't fit with my current body armour, as it's too high on the shoulders and back, so a matching set of armour from Leatt is another £180, then there's the jacket, as to work best you need one with a collar designed to go with a neck brace, that's another £150-£200.

So imagine my surprise when John suggested his company First Response might sponsor me to the tune of a neck brace, new body armour and a rally jacket!

The good news is that John's fellow directors have now agreed to this and we have a deal!

Mark at the KTM Centre was also kind enough to work out a discounted price for the items, so I guess that's a bit more "sponsorship" in a way, blimey I'm starting to feel like a professional racer.... OK not really.

So I guess this means I'm going to have to get some stickers made up for the bike to advertise my supporters!

The cancellation of the event last weekend did give me the chance to carry out some maintenance on the bike that I had planned to do anyway afterwards. An oil and filter change was first on the cards and I had meant to check the valve clearances, which of course requires a cold engine but forgot to do this before I had warmed the engine up for the oil change. I also discovered I have an 18mm spark plug spanner but the KTM uses a 16mm plug, something else to buy. And yes you can do the valve clearances without taking the spark plug out but it makes it a heck of a lot easier.

I also stripped off all the bodywork to give the bike a thorough clean and cleaned the air filter whilst I was at it. Then I started to tidy up the wiring that I had just thrown together for the Bakery Off Road run in December.

Final job was to replace the swinging arm bearings, this is proving a bit more difficult as so far all attempts to draw out the old bearings has failed. The swinging arm is now sitting with the bearings soaking in oil to try and get them to move!

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Out and about on Salisbury Plain

In preparation for my trip out between Christmas and New Year on the Bakery Off Road ride from Andover, I had to finish off the wiring for the lights etc. I ended up just plugging it all together and shoving it into the nav tower late on Christmas Eve; not very pretty but it all worked fine.

On the morning of the ride on December 29th, I was up at 06.00 and not feeling great as I'd had a head cold all over Christmas and woke that morning with a sore throat and a nasty cough. Before I left for Andover I had to scrape ice off the Land Rover and then headed off hoping it was going to warm up.

After the seventy mile drive, I rolled up at the pub where we can leave vans and trailers but after unloading the bike, the effects of being parked out in the cold all night and the rapidly failing battery meant the electric start was a no go and it wouldn't kick start either! My mate Mike solved the problem with a quick tow around the field. I left the bike warming up while I struggled into far more layers than is normally considered necessary for a trail ride and then headed off to the Bakery for the start, believing this was at 10.00.

Unbeknown to me, the start time had changed to 09.30 which after fuelling up was about the time I turned up outside the bakery. Only to find that Mike, whose group I was joining, was preparing to leave!

A quick dash inside to pay my entry and grab a bacon roll (most of which i had to shove in my pocket for later) and I was on my way.

We had a good day and covered 160km (I'm learning to think in kilometres ready for the Rally)! I was encouraged that by the end of the day I was still feeling quite fresh after seven hours on the bike with minimal stops (including a very quick lunch stop). Whilst many of my companions had descended into "sit down and waggle your legs around" mode through the technical stuff by the end of the day, I was able to remain stood up on the foot pegs for the duration and maintained much better control and felt less fatigued as a result.

A quick breather at Stonehenge

One of my aims was to check the fuel range of the bike too and as mentioned I managed 160km with a fair bit of petrol left in the tank. A subsequent ride saw me get to 200km before I had to switch to reserve, so total range is likely to be around 220km and that's without using the rear tank (an extra 4.5 litres). Although I only need a fuel range of 180km for the Tuareg, I think I'll leave the rear tank in place as a safety measure for the longer stages in Morocco and decide each day on whether I need to use it or not.

Following my day out, I went down with a nasty chest infection so all things bike and Tuareg related were put on hold for a week.

Since then further updates to the bike have included a new battery, new rear wheel bearings and I refitted a mousse in the back tyre. This was made easier by the purchase of a Rabaconda tyre changer, some descent curved tyre levers and a can of "Bib-up"; an aerosol tyre changing lube (sure beats some soapy water and a paint brush). All from Enduro Tyres who gave a great service (thanks Alan)!

As you can see, they advertise the Rabaconda as the "three minute mousse changer", well I'm not that quick yet but it was remarkably easy although I did still manage to take a chunk out of my knuckle!!!

This weekend sees me off to Wales for a "Rally Experience Weekend" with Rallymoto, where we will go through the motions of a rally stage from Saturday afternoon preparing our roodbooks and going through the briefing. Also Patsy Quick and Chris Barwick from Desert Rose Racing will be taking us through the ins and outs of a navigational rally. On Sunday we complete a 140km road book stage.
The big worry at the moment is what the weather is going to do... looks like we might get some snow on Sunday!