Tuesday 27 December 2011

I'm Bored!!!!!

Currently sitting here slowly going crazy with boredom! So I thought I'd update my blog but was wondering what to write? Turns out I had more than I realised!

I'm keeping myself amused watching videos of the Dakar Rally for inspiration and wondering how long it's going to take me to get back on a bike. This is my favourite so far

The UK Rally season doesn't start until the new BBRC Sprint Rally at the Sweet Lamb Rally Centre near Llangurig in Wales on Sunday 22nd April, so I've got a bit of time yet!

I have reserved a place on a BBRC training course on the last weekend of March so that's currently my target. I suppose I'll know more after I've been back to the fracture clinic tomorrow!

I've been acquiring a few bits for the bike to get it ready for the new season, including a spare set of wheels (newer and in better condition that my existing ones), they also came with the correct sized 260mm off road front disc brake and the corresponding brake caliper mounting bracket required. Until now I have been running with a 320mm supermoto disc on my trail wheels which has made the brakes very grabby and to be honest over braked for racing,

I have also picked up a new silencer for the bike, the CCM runs best with the competition can fitted and it currently has the carburettor jetted for it but it's just too loud for race use (94db noise limit) so I have to run with the standard can in place. However when I last attempted to re-jet the carb for it, I managed to run the engine too lean and it overheated causing the piston to seize in the bore. This resulted in a second hand replacement engine! As a result when I rebuilt it I stuck with the bigger jets/needle settings so it doesn't run as cleanly as it should.

After a bit of research on the CCM Riders forum, I came up with the solution. Several owners are using the silencer from a 2001 Suzuki GSXR1000K1 with an adaptor to fit it to the CCM exhaust pipe. This is free flowing enough to allow the bike to run with the bigger jets and gain a useful power boost but being designed for a larger four cylinder and higher revving bike is sufficiently silenced. The other advantage is the silencer is made from Titanium so also represents a significant weight saving over the standard can.

The problem is that whilst you can pick these silencers up on eBay for not much money, the guy making the adaptors is no longer a member of the CCM forum.

One member of the forum was breaking his bike and selling off a GSXR silencer with adaptor, I contacted him only discover two other people had already expressed an interest but he mentioned his brother had sold his CCM so was sellng off various bits he had left, including a GSXR silencer.

So after contacting him, I discovered he also had the wheels for sale, including discs, sprocket, spacers, tyres and tubes so a deal was done for them and the GSXR can and he delivered last Friday evening.

Unfortunately I am in no position to even get out to the garage at the moment, so apart from a quick look when he turned up I can't even think about fitting them, so another job to go on the list for preparing the bike for the 2012 season.

Oh well back to my Dakar fantasies.... only five days to go to this years race!

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Sh*t Happens!

Well what a couple of weeks I've had!

Things started OK the week before, when I was officiating at a Mountain Bike Race at Thetford Forest. I rode up on the CCM and took a bit more time, plotting a route that stayed on minor roads all the way, with even a couple of green lanes thrown in on the way.

Once on site, I was able to do my course inspection on the bike and once again got asked to sweep the course at the end of the 4 hour race. All great training for rallying and keeping me "bike fit", the ride home on the back roads was fun if very cold!!! And I really must sort out better lights, the standard 35watt headlight really is woeful.

The following weekend I decided to go out green laning, despite the weather being very cold and icy. All went well with the lanes quiet and in good condition.

After an hour or so it was getting pretty cold and a coffee stop was the order of the day. I rode up what must be the strangest Byway I know in the Ashridge Forest, for a start it is tarmac and a dead end leading only to the National Trust Visitors Centre and (most importantly) Tea Shop. It is also the only byway I know with a night time Traffic Regulation Order (TRO). Now most TROs are permanent or seasonal i.e. Winter only but this one comes into force at dusk every day and is enforced by locking the gate, now most people would assume that to be a private drive rather than a public right of way but it is recorded as such on the Hertfordshire Definitive Map, as I said... strange!

Heading for home, I rode the excellent Nortonstreet Lane near Whitwell. After the loose stony climb from the village I rode the flat section at the top, breaking the ice on the puddles as I went. Exiting the lane I headed the short distance to what was to be my last lane of the day when disaster struck!

Heading into a junction near Easthall, I noticed the puddles at the side of the road were still frozen so backed off the throttle accordingly....... too late!

The back wheel snapped round to the left on what I later discovered to be black ice, my off road racing experience kicked in automatically (much to my surprise) and I stood up on the footpegs, applied opposite lock and cracked open the throttle much as I would on loose surfaces when the back wheel loses traction. Amazingly this worked for a millisecond and the back wheel came back into line but still being on ice, it just continued sliding to the right.

By now I was across to the right hand side of the road and the back tyre hit the grass verge. Of course this meant the back tyre now had grip whereas the front was still on the ice covered tarmac and the bike immediately decided to try and spin round and the front tyre let go. At this point I hit the deck on my right, I know this as I was covered in mud all down my right hand side and had the wind knocked out of me, even though I don't really remember this bit.

The bike wasn't finished yet and now flipped to the left and in trying to catch it, I put my left leg out. Big mistake, the bike immediately rotated round my knee and then dumped me on the road, with the bike landing on the inside of my knee. Although by now I was only travelling at walking pace it still hurt a lot!

You can see in the picture where the the back wheel tried to get grip on the grass verge and the scrapes on the road from the left handlebar and clutch lever. After picking the bike up (and swearing a lot) I was amazed to see the only damage to the bike was a scraped left hand guard and a broken clutch lever. Neither was there any sign of significant damage to my riding gear, just  a few minor scuffs and lots of mud! My left knee on the other hand was very sore.

I'm not sure the clutch lever should point that way!

Afterwards there followed a rather painful ride home with a very sore knee and having to make clutchless gear changes, crossing Stevenage through the Saturday afternoon traffic was fun!

Once home I did all the right things, elevated the leg, applied ice and rested it but by monday morning it was clear that something wasn't right and a trip to A&E was in order.

Well the initial verdict was a non displaced fracture of the left tibial plateau. Now the non displaced bit was the one bit of good news in all this. The A&E Consultant told me that had the bone displaced, it would require an immediate operation to screw it back in place but this would almost certainly guarantee arthritis in the knee. The alternative as he put it was "my knee never working properly again". He was a cheery sort... not! I was duly slapped into a "back slab" temporary cast and an appointment for fracture clinic arranged for the Wednesday.

A bit of research on-line discovered that this type of fracture usually results in a plaster cast for a minimum of six weeks and no weight bearing on the joint for at least twelve weeks.... deep joy!

On the Wednesday I returned to hospital and saw an Orthopaedic Registrar who was not convinced that the bone was broken, although the level of pain and it's location wasn't consistent with the alternative diagnosis of ligament damage and indeed was more like what he would expect from a break. After more x-rays, he still wasn't sure and decided he needed to look at it again after the (considerable) swelling has gone down. As a result I have to go back on the 28th and in the meanwhile rather than the back slab cast, I've been put into a full length leg brace.

So that's me for Christmas, at least I don't have to worry about who's driving over the holiday!

Tuesday 6 December 2011

It's for cherridee mate!

Following as I am the exploits of Dakar Team GB, I went along last week to their launch event and charity fundraiser in West London.

As you can see the charities in question are:

Shelter Box
The Nelson Mandela Childrens Fund
The Royal Marsden Cancer Research
ARK (Absolute Return for Kids)

Deciding that I would save a few quid and some time over going by train, the weather looked OK so I decided to ride the bike down. Choosing the Triumph Tiger over the CCM due to the desire to ride a bike with weather protection, a comfy seat and luggage to throw my gear in when I got there!

All seemed OK after I had fueled up and swung on to the A1(M) to head into town, when.....

The heavens opened!

Well riding a bike in the wet down a motorway is not too bad but it started to get worse. Just after Hatfield the traffic (now only two lanes) ground to a halt and I was forced to filter between the stationary cars for six miles to the M25, not much fun when you have (wide) panniers and 125 bhp on tap!!!

Luckily the traffic cleared when I passed South Mimms Services and I had another clear run until Apex Corner where I joined the A41, from here on in it was typical London traffic. I was following the sat nav down to Notting Hill and was surprised to find I knew most of the roads, as I went very close to where a friend used to live and have travelled both to his house in Brondesbury and had on many occasions driven westwards out of London from there, along the same route I was now following.

I arrived in time, having taken just over the hour and still dry thanks to my waterproofs, which were working fine.

After meeting up with few friendly faces, Paul who I met on the London Dakar Convoy and Michael who I race with in the Big Bike Rally Challenge, we settled down for some freebie eats and a glass of coke (well I was riding my bike)!

The evening was being hosted by comedian Ross Noble, now I gather that he was to introduce the guests, do some interviews and a Q and A session but first we got treated to an impromto stand up show. Coming on to do the introductions he picked on a couple of audience members to gain a few laughs, however one chap clearly had never learnt the first rule of going to watch stand up... when the comedian picks on you keep your mouth shut.

He started arguing with Ross, to whom this was a gift horse he definitely wasn't going to look in the mouth! Well it had to be said, he was an incongruous looking character in leather jeans, a shirt and cravat (as Ross pointed out... what sort of biker wears a f***ing cravat)! as well as sun glasses (remember it was December, after dark and inside a theatre) and a baseball cap, a strange ensemble indeed.

This went on for about half an hour, with the rest of the audience reduced quite literally to tears of laughter. He was delivering Ross with just what he wanted, the guy just didn't know when to sit down and shut up. We learnt he was American, called Andre and did ride a bike but refused to say what it was, so of course we all assumed he was embarrased to admit what it was. On our table we guessed at it being a scooter.

Eventually the show got underway and we had interviews with the three riders entered in the Dakar in January and forming Dakar Team GB. Toby Younger and Jago Pickering for whom 2012 will be their first Dakar and Stan Watt, who finished in 38th place in the 2009 Dakar.

Later there was a Session with Patsy Quick of Desert Rose Racing who has competed in the Dakar four times herself and was the first British Woman to complete the Rally and Chris Evans (no not the ginger haired DJ) the UK agent for the Dakar and Team Manager for Cyril Despres, the KTM Factory Rider who won the Dakar in 2010, 2007 and 2005 and has obtained one third place and five second places since 2003, including coming second behind KTM team mate but great rival Marc Coma in this year's (2011) Rally.

The question and answer session later was fantastic with a whole host of UK Dakar veterans joining Ross, Toby and Jago on stage. Obviously Stan as 2012 will be his second rally (he had an entry in 2008 but that was the year the Rally was cancelled due to a terrorist threat) as well as Patsy, Clive (Zippy) Town, Nick Plumb, Craig Bounds and Tamsin Jones as well as Chris Evans who although has never raced has probably attended more Dakar Rallies than any of the others.

A fascinating session followed about the true face of the Dakar, far removed from the glamorous images we see of the elite riders, a tale of dirt, extreme fatigue, loneliness and hard work. Amusingly a (light hearted) argument almost broke out between the two sides of the stage, one side representing the old school African Dakar competitors and the other the new breed of South American racers over which was the harder event. Interestingly nobody present had done both.

It was agreed that the remoteness of Africa made the Dakar more of an endurance event where finishing was the only goal for most riders, whereas the more varied terrain and regular proximity of civilisation and the accompanying thousands of spectators made racing for a position more crucial in South America. The comfort zone, even if only perceived, of South America forcing riders to ride that much harder.

I did manage to get a photo of the proceedings but apologies for the quality!

Interestingly Craig and Tamsin were just back from Tibet where they had attempted to beat the world altitude record for motorbikes on Everest. Riding hired Chinese bikes of dubious quality they managed to get beyond base camp but unfortunately not high enough for the record. Tamsin did set a new "Everest record" for women reaching 5359 metres beating previous holder Annie Seel by 54 metres.

The evening ended with a raffle (no luck there) and a charity auction, which was way beyond my pocket! I then had to ride home, it was still raining and now considerably colder but at least there was little traffic on the roads compared to earlier and I eventually arived home at 01.00 having to dive into a hot shower to warm up before I could even contemplate going to bed. Needless to say Annie was sound asleep and remained that way!