Friday 23 September 2011

Big Bike Rally Challenge

Welcome to my blog in which I will be charting my progress in my racing campaign for the "Big Bike Rally Challenge" or BBRC

So what is the BBRC?

Well it is a race series based on the sport of Motorcycle Rally Racing, these are cross country races on road legal "enduro" bikes designed for more road biased machines, known as Trail Bikes and were traditionally known as "Trail Bike Enduros" to differentiate them from those for purpose built and more off road oriented Enduro Bikes.

Over the years these have adopted the name of Motorbike Rallies as the format is very similar to Car Rallies:

In a typical event competitors compete on a large lap of 40-50 miles up to three times over the course of the day, this will be gravel or dirt roads with more technical sections over boggy ground or through tight forest sections and occasionally stretches of tarmac road, so all bikes must be road legal. This is largely comprised of what are known as liaison stages and has to be ridden at a minimum speed of 18mph. This may not sound much but as an average speed, competitors will often have to ride much faster to finish within their time limit. And of course they always run the risk of loosing time through crashes, breakdown or punctures. Finish a liaison more than 30 minutes late and time penalties are awarded.

Two or three times a lap riders have to complete a special stage, typically four or five miles long on faster terrain, competitors start at 20 second intervals and have to race as fast as they can against the clock. The times of these “specials” is what determines the overall result. And some Rallies are held over two days, so on Sunday morning competitors wake up and go and do it all again!

So what is the BBRC? Well another development in recent years is that of the "Adventure Bike" or "Big Trail Bike" Most probably started by BMW in the 1980's with the introduction of their R80GS, an 800cc twin cylinder trail bike. It was originally marketed as a Tourer for rough roads and could be fitted with hard panniers to carry luggage, it soon gained popularity amongst the more adventurous bikers and "Round the World" types.

Soon other manufacturers were offering similar machines and their popularity grew but were still a bit of a niche market in the UK. However in Europe they were very popular especially as events like the Dakar Rally in which competition machines based on these bikes raced increased the popularity of the type as they were perfect for this high speed racing in inhospitable terrain where competitors had to carry large loads of fuel at speed for many hours, day after day.

In the UK the TV Series "Long Way Round" in which Actors Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman rode round the world on BMW R1150GS bikes brought the big trail bike, now known usually as Adventure Bikes, to the public's attention.

As a result an upsurge in sales models like the BMW R1200GS, the KTM 990 Adventure and others occurred and of course it wasn't long before people wanted to race them on the domestic scene. Rallies were the obvious arena and more and more "big bikes" were appearing against the more traditional smaller trail bikes and enduro bikes.

As a result the Big Bike Rally Challenge was born, piggy backing on the six main rallies in the UK

The Tarrenig Rally (Mid Wales)
The Rydale Rally (Yorkshire)
The K2 Desert Rose Rally (Northumberland)
The Beacons Rally (South Wales)
The Hafren Rally (Mid Wales)
The Cambrian (Mid Wales)

Open to road biased trail bikes over 575cc the BBRC has grown in popularity in recent years and offers an exciting racing experience to those who might not have traditionally gone out and bought a competition bike to race on. Indeed many competitors use bikes that are their everyday transport and even ride to the events (and hopefully back again)!

This is where I come in! At the age of 50 I decided I needed a new challenge and although I had been riding motorbikes off tarmac for 25 years, this had been in the pastime of green laning, the relatively slow speed riding of unsurfaced roads as a form of enjoyment so I have no experience at all of actually racing.

Having discovered the BBRC website, my imagination was fired up and I entered the Hafren Rally on 2nd October 2011 as a beginner on my trusty green lane machine, a British Built CCM 604E. The beginners class start at the back and only do two laps of 45 miles as opposed to the full rally which is three laps.

Determined to learn more I spotted that the BBRC were organising a two day big bike rally training weekend at the Sweet Lamb Rally Complex in Mid Wales and the venue for the Hafren', so I quickly signed up.

The weekend was a great success and both my ability and skills received a massive leap forward, as a result I was encouraged to move my entry for the Hafren' from the beginners class to the full Rally and this was duly accepted.

I was also inspired to enter the last event of the year, the Cambrian Rally also held in Mid Wales only two weeks after the Hafren'. Although run on the same basic format, the Cambrian is a two day Rally, taking place on the 15th and 16th October.

So this blog will chronicle my preparations and provide reports on my success or otherwise in Rally Racing.

Learning to ride rocky gullies on the Big Bike Rally Training weekend

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