Sunday, 23 December 2012

It's Show Time Again

The other week saw a trip up to the Motorcycle Live bike show at the NEC, it's taken me a while to sort out the photo's and get this posted but here we are...


A bit disapointing in some ways as there was not a huge amount of stuff of interest to me but the biggest problem being that as I am at risk of being out of work after April I was in no position to spend any money.

In fact the only reason I went is I was lucky enough to get a free ticket and car parking pass and my friend John was driving up anyway so gave me a lift.

A possible bike for a campaign in the twins class of the Big Bike Rally Challenge? The very pretty Metisse Desert Racer, a replica of the bike raced by Steve McQueen.


On the BMW stand they had the new watercooled R1200GS, can't say that it did much for me.



Next door was the (BMW owned) Husqvarna stand, which had something of interest to me, Simon Pavey's Dakar Bike (well actually his practice bike as the race bike is already on board a ship for South America).


We wandered over to the Honda stand but were disapointed not to find one of the CRF450X Dakar Racers. But we were pointed in the direction of another stand were we found one...


Very nicely put together and it will be interesting too see how they go, come the Dakar on 5th January. Honda say they are going with the intention of winning but given KTM's stranglehold on the race in recent years, that remains to be seen.


A wander over to the KTM stand was next and they had the bikes of all six world champions riding KTMs in 2012 from Motocross to Moto3 and of course Cyril Despres' Dakar winning 450RR.




In the end I did buy something... a book!

I met the author Graham Field at the Adventure Bike Shop the other month when he was also at Chris Scott's book launch. Graham's book was recommended to me then but I had already bought Chris' so didn't bother.

Graham was at the NEC on the Traveldri-plus stand so after a chat I decided to buy a copy, which he kindly signed for me. It tells the tale of his trip to Mongolia on an £800 bike bought off eBay and very much on a budget.


It indeed turned out to be an excellent read and I finished only three days later.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Marc Coma out of the Dakar

More bad news prior to this year's Dakar Rally, three times winner Marc Coma is forced to retire after the shoulder injury he sustained in the Rallye du Maroc has failed to heal

http://www.ktm.com/news-events/news/all/details/ktm-announces-coma-unable-to-ride-in-dakar-2013.html#.UNRSqKXQ-S1

It's the end of the world as we know it.... or maybe not!

Oh well looks like the Mayans were wrong and we are all still here!

Not quite the end of the world but I went down with shingles yesterday, not really my idea of a Christmas present and bugger does it hurt!!!

It's been rather busy lately with 4x4 Response matters, we had the national AGM last weekend and it was my turn to resign as a trustee of the Charity, only to get re-elected again... no chance of a bit of a rest then!

Now i'm sorting out the AGM for Hertfordshire 4x4 Response, which will be held in January.

On the Rally bike front nothing happening at all as unless I can get myself a job after March, I can't commit to the season, so the bike is just sitting in the garage, at least I did get round to giving it a good clean after the last rally and covering it in WD40 so it shouldn't be rusting away just yet! But it could do with a service and the rear wheel bearings still need replacing.



Christmas looks like it could be a bit of a non event, i'll just have to keep taking the pills and hope i'm feeling a bit better by Tuesday!

Friday, 7 December 2012

Bad news for Honda

In the run up to the Dakar Rally, Honda who are entering for the first time in 30 years and are determined to try and break KTM's stranglehold on the race have suffered a major set back.

Honda Factory riders Sam Sunderland and Filipe Zanol both suffered bad accidents in training for the rally in California.

The following is from Trail Bike Magazine:



Early reports from HRC’s Dakar test in the Mojavi desert suggest that both promising Brit Sam Sunderland and Brazilian regular Felipe Zanol could both miss the 2013 Dakar due to crashes sustained during the test.

With just 29 days left until the start in Lima, Peru it is being reported that Sam has crashed his CRF450 on the first day of testing and has sadly broken his wrist and his left arm.

Felipe Zanol took an even heavier hit and was airlifted out of the desert after his fall. He is said to be undergoing tests after initially being placed in an artificial coma due to a head injury.

HRC were planning a huge attack on the Dakar in 2013 with a strong line-up and a new bike, but their challenge for the top positions and the title may have just taken a heavy hit.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

A few more pictures from the Dirty Weekend

I thought you might be interested in a few more photo's from my Dirty Weekend in Wales:

The view from the summit of the "Wayfarer" (sorry about the dirty lens)!


The memorial to "Wayfarer" the pen name of Walter MacGregor Robinson a jounalist who popularised the route in an article in Cycling magazine in 1919.


Walter MacGregor Robinson on a slightly more rudimentry vehicle than we used:


Another shot of the frosty start on Sunday morning


The return along the Wayfarer


The "hill of doom"




Mark getting it a bit sideways!



A very welcome stop for coffee

Shots of me on the sleeper section of the Wayfarer (courtesy of Nick)



And from the next lane we did...


Monday, 3 December 2012

A Dirty Weekend in Wales

Had a fun weekend with a bunch of guys from the KTM Forum over the weekend

A nice hotel in Oswestry and some fantastic lanes in Wales!

After driving up on Friday afternoon a good evening was had with a few beers and a curry in Oswestry (and then a few more beers)! The weather forecast for Saturday was for rain so it was a pleasant surprise when the day dawned bright and sunny. First off we all admired Mark's new acquisition, a Factory Replica KTM 690RR:


The drama then started when Michael left his ignition on without the engine running and flattened his battery! A few minutes with some jump leads and all was sorted!


We split into two groups (with five in our group) and each tackled the same route but in opposite directions.

We had fun on the first lane (not) and eventually retreated as it was clearly impassible on an Adventure.


After another lane, Jonny decided he wasn't feeling well and headed back, now we were four.

More lanes followed with a few issues on route-finding, not helped by misleading signs on legal rights of way claiming "no access for 4x4s and motorcycles".

We eventually got onto a smashing lane with deep puddles but eventually the inevitable happened and Derek dropped his bike in the water, completely drowning it. After pulling him out with a tow rope, kindly donated by some Vauxhall Frontera drivers, we eventually drained all the water out but the battery was now flat. We started to tow him out and met up with the others coming the other way.

After attempts to start it from another bike by putting them on their stands, with the back wheels pushed together failed, the tow continued until we reached a downhill lane leading to the road. Unfortunately that was too slippery for a bump start but when we reached tarmac there was a nice steep hill to ride down and that worked just fine.

Derek decided to head back to the hotel and we were down to three, so with Rob and John, I headed over the "Wayfarer" a lovely remote lane over the Berwyn Mountains. At one point the ground is so boggy a causeway of railway sleepers has been built but sitting in the middle was a Land Rover Discovery that had slipped one wheel off and was now resting on its chassis. The two guys in it were on their own with no recovery gear, not even a jack! There was nothing we could do so we left them to their fate, either a long walk for help or a cold night out.

We finished the Wayfarer and headed back to Oswestry on a cold and dark A5, I was very pleased I had fitted heated grips the week before.

Another grand night out was had in Oswestry, at a smashing restaurant The Walls



Followed by a number of watering holes. I ducked out shortly before midnight but some of the party carried on until four in the morning!!!

Sunday dawned bright and very cold with a layer of ice over all the bikes. Due to the effects of the night's session and the weather conditions a number of the group decided not to head out so we went as a single group of eight.


Starting on the road, conditions were treacherous, especially on some of the country lanes that were covered in sheet ice.

We headed back to the wayfarer, expecting to see the Discovery abandoned at the sleepers but it had already been recovered. I had a brief "moment" through one of the larger puddles but managed to keep the engine running and help was soon at hand.


A brief stop at the monument at the top of the lane and we checked out the visitors book, kept in a metal box beside the track but were unable to sign it as it's full and in need of replacement.


Continuing onward we turned left at the fork as we had done the day before and soon reached the end then looped round and returned via the other (right hand) fork. Another quick stop at the monument and then over the top and off to the next lane, this time everyone got through the puddles OK



The next lane was slippery but fairly straightforward followed by a short bit of road work to the last lane before a coffee stop, this had a truly horrible rocky, slippery descent and a few of us (me included) had difficulties here....


A welcome stop for coffee and to thaw out (I was still very grateful for the heated grips).

 Then we finished with an easy lane and back to the hotel car park to pack up for the long trip home.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

IT'S SHOW TIME!

Last weekend saw a trip to the International Dirt Bike Show at Stoneleigh Park near Coventry. I met up with Michael at Junction 12 of the M1 and we rode up together, it was a rather chilly ride but went without incident.

When we arrived we were able to park the bikes right outside the entrance which was handy but I then discovered Michael had been promised a ticket by a friend, John and after a phone call discovered he was still twenty minutes away. I decided to buy my ticket and head inside as I had already stripped off all my bike gear and was starting to feel the cold. I went in and got us both a tea and bacon roll, which I then had to hand over the barrier to Michael. I then deposited my gear at the cloakroom. Being a fairly regular visitor to Stoneleigh, I knew that they charge £1 per item at the cloakroom, so had brought along a large roll bag, into which went boots, trousers, jacket, gloves etc. turning everything into “one item” for only a pound J

On wandering outside again we met up with Mark and Vanessa (you may recall I rode with Mark and Michael at the Hafren Rally, when Michael tried to take his eye out)! Shortly afterwards John turned up and we all went inside.

Well to be honest it was rather disappointing being even more dominated by motocross than last year, with several of the adventure/rally biased exhibitors being noticeable by their absence. First stop was the KTM stand which had nothing bigger than a 525EXC on the basis that 690s etc. are “Road Bikes”. They did have Cyril Despres’ Dakar Bike a 450RR which was the only thing of interest to us. Mark especially as he has bought a 690RR which the 450 shares most of its components with and he took over a hundred photos of various aspects of the bike!

 
We had a quick look round before it was time for the presentations for the Big Bike Rally Challenge and UK Rally Challenge (for the little bikes). With Burt and Moly away in Morocco this fell to Stewie to arrange and it went without a hitch. Mark picked up his trophy for third place in the twins class, a prize that would have almost certainly gone to Michael if he hadn’t DNF’ed at the Cambrian Rally. Several winners were unfortunately absent, so we all pitched in and Michael accepted Lyndon’s first place Trophy in the sub 575cc class and as he was wearing his Lyndon Poskitt Racing jacket, got introduced as “one of his sponsors”. I went up to accept a trophy for someone in the UK Rally Challenge who I don’t even know but it all made it look like it was pre planned.

 

We spent the rest of the day looking round; Michael bought himself a pair of new (and very orange) Sidi crossfire boots with £100 off the normal price of £350, as well as picking up a pair for his mate Warwick. On the basis of having just bought £500 worth of boots he negotiated a price of £280 for a Shoei Hornet DS helmet. Not bad as although you can get good deals on these, they are usually about £300. The retail price for these is £370 for a multi coloured one and the plain colours go for £320 (seems a lot extra to pay for a couple of coloured stripes)!

Michael got one in Black with orange stripes (which match his new boots rather well) and on the basis of this I asked if they would do another at the same price, which they would, so I got myself a white one with black stripes that matches the bike. I hadn’t intended to buy a new helmet but my old Shoei Synchrotech helmet was certainly due for replacement so it was too good a deal to miss.

A few other friends were bumped into and there were some other interesting sights, like a couple of old CCM’s with the 1985 version looking strangely similar to my 2002 example despite the much earlier 500cc Rotax engine.

 

Eventually all that was left was the cold ride home again!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Badlands

After all the fun and games getting dirty in recent weeks, I spent the day last Saturday strictly on tarmac….

And still ended up getting cold and wet!

The plan was to get an early start and head on over to the Adventure Bike Shop near Sudbury in Suffolk, where Author Chris Scott was launching the sixth edition of his Adventure Motorcycling Handbook. Especially as there were free bacon rolls on offer!



As with most well laid plans, things went awry from the start and I woke up to find snow on the ground!!!

OK not too much but it was suitably cold and uninviting not to want to jump on a bike. However by mid morning things had improved and the sun was shining out of a clear blue sky, so I wrapped up well and headed off eastwards.

Well the sunshine and clear blue skies lasted almost as far as Haverhill, at which point the heavens opened and rain of biblical proportions descended upon me. Never mind, I was well waterproofed up so carried on regardless. Although was starting to wish I had invested in some heated grips.

Soon afterwards the fuel light came on but as the sat nav said I only had about 20 miles to go, I decided there was plenty of time to find a petrol station…. Except I never did, as I crossed and re-crossed the Essex/Suffolk border into increasingly rural surroundings, petrol stations were notable by their absence.

I arrived at the Adventure Bike Shop and joined the throng of bikers sheltering inside from the rain and tucked into bacon rolls and coffee that were in plentiful supply. I had a good chat with a few people including one chap who had also ridden from Stevenage and shortly after arriving the rain stopped and the vast majority of people took the opportunity to leave. I got the impression that most of them had been there quite a while not wanting to leave in the rain. OK it was pretty heavy but come on guys… call yourselves Adventure Bikers!

I had a long chat with Chris himself and bought a copy of his new book that he dutifully signed for me. I had a good look round at lots of nice kit but resisted the temptation to buy anything. Every time I decided to leave the rain seemed to start again until it eventually stopped around three o’clock, so I set off to search for fuel.

I decided to head via Sudbury as there was bound to be fuel there, except after a ride round the town I couldn’t find any! I then spotted a sign to Halstead 6 miles, now I know from experience there are a couple of petrol stations in Halstead and the instruments were showing I had done 35 miles from the fuel light coming on. As I have previously managed 42 miles from the light before filling up, I thought that 41 miles would be no problem and set off to Halstead at a nice steady pace.

Except at 38 miles, the bike coughed once and then cut out. I was next to a sign saying Halstead 3 miles, so it looked like a long push was in order. I set off along the road that was mercifully flat and then slightly downhill, so I was able to coast along. Then the road started to climb, so I decided to try the starter and the engine fired up again. I got up the slope and then as road went downhill the engine cut out again but at least I was able coast a bit further.

As the Adventure has twin tanks, linked by a pipe at the front I guessed that the fuel pump must be at the back of one tank. Going downhill allowed fuel from the other tank to flow across the link pipe but only to sit at the front of the tank. Then when I went back uphill and it flowed back to the fuel pump.

I was able to continue this way until the outskirts of Halstead when the road flattened out and nothing would get the bike to run. I pushed on into town and thankfully the road started to go downhill again, this time much more steeply. Sitting on the bike I was able to freewheel the whole length of the High Street and to the other end where the road turned back uphill. Luckily the fuel station came into sight only 300 yards ahead and after a short push I was able to start the bike again and coughed and spluttered my way to the pumps. I then managed to get 20.11 litres into my 20 litre tank!

After this the heavens opened again and it continued to rain all the way home… the joys of year round motorcycling (but I really must get myself some heated grips)

Monday, 29 October 2012

Tougher than the rest

The Rally season is now officially over! There was supposed to be a Night Rally in November albeit not part of the series but it has had to be cancelled due to insufficient entries.

So in a change to the normal dirty weekends, I entered the Witley 100 Long Distance Trial (LDT). So what’s a LDT? Actually one of the earliest forms of motorcycle sport and originally known as “reliability trials” when they started over 100 years ago. As you can imagine a 100 mile ride in the days when very few roads were tarmac and motorcycles were still in their infancy was a real test of man and machine.

These days it is basically a 100 mile long green lane ride, using minor roads, byways and unsurfaced roads. At certain points along the way there are “Observed trial sections” that provide a test of skill and at the end a timed special stage around a field as a final decider.

The Trials sections are scored on the traditional system, with the aim to ride through them with both feet up and without stopping. Penalty points are awarded with the aim to get through with a zero score. Points are awarded in the following way: one foot down, known as a “dab” is one penalty point, two dabs is two points and three or more dabs is three points. In other words once you have dabbed three times you can do it as many times as you like and still get three points. Stopping, rolling backwards or falling off scores the maximum five penalty points and if you think a section is too difficult you can elect to take a “five” and carry on.

I decided that rather than take the CCM which was looking a bit worse for wear after the Cambrian and would require trailering to the start, I would attempt my first competition on the 990 and could then ride the 70miles, nearly all on motorway to the start.

A bit of preparation was in order, as previously posted I had fitted new tyres, a Continental TKC80 Twinduro on the front (a part worn example donated by my friend Michael) and a brand new Mitas E10 on the back. I changed them myself, the front was fine but the big 150 section rear was a real sod to get off and to seat the new tyre. I’m not sure if I could do that at the trail side!!!

I had fitted some handlebar risers for a more comfortable riding position off road and both these and the tyres had got a brief test at the Dawn til Dusk the other week. The only other modification was to remove the stock mirrors and fit a single “double take” folding and allegedly unbreakable mirror on the offside.

So 08.00 on the Sunday morning saw me at a cold, damp and foggy field just outside Odiham in Hampshire for the start. I nearly managed to drop the bike just riding in to the field…. Not a good start. So task one was to lower the tyre pressures to 22 psi on the front and 25 psi on the back for a bit better grip. I then signed on and got my road book and got the bike scrutineered. I then had to put it into the “parc ferme” ready for the start.

Michael was also riding on his Adventure R and we had consecutive numbers so were starting together. He turned up and joined the queue for signing on, whilst I got the obligatory bacon roll and a cuppa!

We started at 09.57, nearly an hour after the first bikes and slid our way out of the field. The road book was good but printing it on A4 sheets was a pain as it wouldn't fit in my road book holder, even if I had been inclined to stick the pages together in a damp, foggy field at 08.00 on a Sunday morning. Also it was too big to fit in my map holder (designed to fit an OS Map) without folding it, which made it awkward to read.

I eventually give up on having the map case round my neck as apart from trying to throttle me at times it was a pain to read and I ended up gaffer taping it to the top of the tank. A road book holder is clearly a great advantage but only if the road book fits.

It was interesting to see the number of people who were at the start with homemade road book holders with the road book all prepared and loaded. Now either they had been very creative sitting in their vans that morning or as I suspect were Witley club members who had prior access to the road book!

The first lane was soon arrived at and was slippery to say the least, the tyres were not great and I had to ride quite slowly to stay in control. Luckily they improved becoming a bit less muddy and my ability improved as I started to get to grips with the weight and power of the 990.

Before long the lanes started to become great fun, especially on the stonier ones where grip was good. Some of the observed sections were doable and Michael even cleaned a couple, on the basis he has a lot more experience of riding the 990 off road and better tyres. I tended to just paddle my way through for a “three!”

A couple of sections were clearly impossible on a 990 and we took the option of a "five" and bypassed them, no point in wrecking the bike or yourself trying to ride something that just wasn't going to happen. A couple of tests were done with a dead engine, the first was OK as you just pushed off down a short downhill section of byway and freewheeled through some ruts. The weight of the 990 actually worked here as we both got through OK (me with only a couple of dabs) but a guy behind us managed to fall off on a lightweight Yamaha Serrow, nearly taking out the observer in the process.

The second dead engine test was a non-event as it was a long rutted descent, round a bend then through a large puddle and a slight climb out the other side. As the 990s wanted to hurtle down the initial slope we both had to brake hard in the early stages, so when we hit the puddle we didn't have enough momentum and both ground to a halt.

The next test involved climbing a very steep bank and then descending the same to stop and turn in a distance that looked considerably shorter than a 990, so we both took a five and rode straight through. We then took a wrong turning and got to do an unplanned byway that was a bit on the steep side (going downhill); the sign at the top saying "unfit for motors" wasn't kidding!!! Luckily we managed to squeeze past the gate at the bottom as there is no way we could have got back up it. A quick circuit on the road got us back on course!

After a few more lanes that were getting increasingly slippery as the chalk became more predominant, we eventually reached our nemesis.... Butser Hill!

It didn't help that we took the wrong byway as there are two up the hill that join near the top, the first starts flat then climbs very steeply, the second is a more gradual climb up the line of the ridge. I turned up the first one in error because rather than follow the road book, I was running on (30 year old) local knowledge as this is the area I first started green laning around and turned up the first byway we came too.

The lane started badly with almost no grip from my front tyre and lots of spinning from the back... and this was on the flat bit!

It got worse as the lane narrowed into a steep climb up a v shaped groove on bare chalk, I managed to get to within 150 of the top of the steep bit but it became clear that as it was even steeper ahead we weren't going to make it and then I just ground to a halt! Michael was struggling too despite having a Mitas C02 on the back; the chalk was like riding on teflon coated ball bearings.... on ice!

We noticed some bikes up on the ridge to the right and realised that we should have been on the other byway.

There was no choice but to back the bikes down the lane, dead engine and in gear and using the clutch to control the rate of descent. I managed to squeeze past Michael’s bike that he had left leaning against the bank.  When the track widened we backed my bike into the fence at the side and physically dragged the front wheel round (not too hard on the chalk), then I was able to ride back down (leaving a chunk of my number plate in the fence) to a flat spot and park.



I then climbed back up the hill and we repeated the manoeuvre with Michael’s bike. Another slip and slide down the lane and then a further half mile up the road to where we should have turned left. This lane was barely rideable but at least you could just about maintain forward motion. Again the chalk had zero grip and it was a very fine balance between having enough speed to steer but not so fast that you lost the front end, which happened quite a lot with the occasional “lying down moment”. The road book showed the lane as being 1.45 miles yet it took over an hour to reach the top and regain tarmac. As you can see it wasn't without incident...


By this time we both had enough and decided to bow out. Although on later examining the road book which had the closing times of the sections, we were already way outside our allotted time so would most probably been excluded at the next stage.

Luckily my local knowledge now came in to its own and we headed down the other side of Butser Hill to the cafĂ© at Queen Elizabeth Country Park. After a decent lunch and attempting to drink most of the contents of their drinks cooler (we were a bit dehydrated after our struggle up the hill). 



After lunch we phoned in to the finished to declare our DNF (as we couldn’t  be bothered to ride back there on the roads) and hit the A3 northbound to head home. I had to pull off at Petersfield for fuel and then spent a couple of hours in the pouring rain on the heavily congested A3 and M25 to get back home.

Monday, 22 October 2012

The River

After the Hafren Rally one weekend and the Dusk til Dawn the next, bike preparation had not had a lot of time. So on the Thursday night before the last Rally of the season the Cambrian Rally, saw me checking the bike over and sorting out my kit.

Now you may recall I have a bit of an issue with breaking clutch levers, not least because I've done two, not in crashes but when the bike simply falling off the stand. And to make matters worse replacements cost a whopping £35 each.

However a bit of research led me to the belief that the lever from an Aprilia Pegaso 650 would fit. Unlike the CCM lever that is a fancy adjustable number (hence the price), this is a simple unadjustable lever and I had found a pattern copy on eBay for only £5.00. So I decided at that price I could afford to take the chance it might not fit and ordered one anyway. It only turned up on the Thursday... talk about leaving it to the last minute.

So I fitted the lever and the good news was it fitted and worked perfectly, the bad news that I discovered the clutch cable was almost gone with only a couple of strands left intact. Of course it was now about 8.00pm on the Thursday night. To make matters worse you can't exactly walk into your local bike dealer and order specific CCM parts. In fact there are only really two places to get them, CCM themselves or Haines and Co in Gloucestershire.

Now to get to Llandovery for the Cambrian Rally I drive through Gloucestershire, so a quick check on-line and I discover that Haines are actually in Cinderford, only about two miles off my usual route… result!

I also noticed that the rear brake pads were trashed, no worries I thought I’ve got a spare pair, only upon checking I discovered I had two spare pairs of….. front pads!

Friday morning I was on the phone to Haines and got a clutch cable and a pair of rear pads put aside for me to collect that afternoon.

The journey went without hitch and I collected my parts on the way. Arriving at the campsite at Llandovery Rugby Club about 6.30, I sorted out my pitch and caught up with a few of the others who were already there, Dave, Mark etc. I decided to change my clutch cable whilst it was still light. I had disengaged the old cable from the handlebar and was trying to disengage the lower end of the cable from inside the engine (a tricky task at the best of times), when the others decided they were heading to the pub for dinner and persuaded me that I would have plenty of time in the morning, so I headed off to the Kings Head with them.

The next day and we were up early for the 40 minute “procession” up the valley to the start, I left early to get a good parking spot as the WTRA’s idea of a “paddock” is the side of a fire road in the middle of nowhere. Once parked up, I signed on and set to sorting the bike. After fitting the clutch cable and brake pads I went to take the bike to scrutineering only to find I had no clutch at all! Releasing the lever did absolutely nothing, it was if the clutch was permanently engaged. After lots of fiddling around with the cable adjusters I managed to get the clutch to just about bite so headed to scrutineering.

The scrutineer wasn't happy about my rear wheel bearings and I have to say I agreed, this was bit annoying when I have a perfectly serviceable spare wheel at home but this is what happens when you leave bike prep to the last minute! He advised me that he was not happy but allowed me to ride, so I returned to my parking spot to get ready.

After getting into my bike gear, my start time approached and my clutch refused to work again! After frantic efforts it was clear I was not going to make it and started to strip the bike down to get at the cause. It turned out that the clutch mechanism inside the engine cases had somehow jammed in the engaged position. After winding the adjuster fully out and the judicious use of a large hammer, I was able to free off the offending item and after reassembling everything it was fine.


Trouble was that I had now missed my sighting lap but I was allowed to start on lap two even though I had to run the special stages blind. I went off with  my friend Michael as we were on adjacent numbers and of course it chose this moment to start pouring with rain!

Stage one was a bit scary, a fast fire road only test, Stage two was easier as we had ridden it four times in the same direction on last years rally. But the big issue on the Cambrian is the fact you ride a large section of the Strata Florida track, which involves numerous crossings of the River Twyi. Reports from thse who had ridden the first lap were that the second part of the route was particularly deep!

We got through the first section and I have to say it was the deepest I have ever seen this track! Fellow Rally Racer Rob wasn't racing but as he only lives an hour away, had driven his pick up down the "Strata" and was waiting at the first major crossing offering an impromptu rescue service. And of course taking photos



No marks for style but I didn't drop it!

At the half way point, the marshals were offering a diversion to avoid the deep section, Michael having already tried it, decided to take the cut out, so I decided to follow him.

Stage two came later and as mentioned went well, there followed a short section of fire road and then we finished for the day.

After packing up we returned to the Rugby Club where a bit of maintenance took place. Dave had dropped his bike in the River and although he hadn't suffered any serious damage, the design of the engine breather meant his oil had been contaiminated. A an oil change removed what looked more like chocolate milk than engine oil!

A hot shower and a change and we headed off to town for a BBRC meeting to hear some of the plans for next year, which look good. Then it was back to the Kings Head for dinner.

Sunday morning dawned very cold with ice on the windscreen and we drove through thick mist to arrive back at the start for some spectacular views.






Day two was three laps and we started in the opposite direction for the sighting lap and were soon into stage one (yesterday's stage two) which went well and then we headed off towards the Strata. At the split in the route, the diversion was taped off and a marshal was present to guide us towards the river.

The first major river crossing was particurly tricky as it involves dropping off a large rock step into the river, Michael went first and headed off, then it was my turn and I got across without drama.

I arrived at the second to see Michael almost drop his bike at the far side of the river. I got across OK but not without a few problems... it was deep!

I parked up and went back to help Michael who was still stalled in the water with his bike refusing to start. We pushed it out of the river but despite our efforts we couldn't get it to start and it seemed the battery had died. Michael eventually admitted defeat and told me to carry on.

I went on and got through the rest of the lap OK, Lap two went without incident but this time the diversion was back in play and I was able to avoid the first part of the Strata this lap. I got back to the start and there was no sign of Michael so I guessed he was still out there. After a refuel and some food I went out for my last lap and after stage one it started to rain and stayed that way to the end.

I was feeling pretty good so when I had the choice I decided to ride the full Strata Florida track this time. As I headed off a couple of other riders who had been riding with me took the diversion.

I suddenly realised that this late in the day, riding the river might not be such a good idea as there was no one else around. Luckily another rider caught up with me and we stuck together through the river crossings, which all went without incident. There was no sign of Michael so I guessed he had got back OK.

After a long wet lap I finally finished and discovered Michael had got back OK, the problem? He had managed to fill his exhaust with water and that stopped the bike starting. Once he had got it drained everything worked fine.

All that remained was the long drive home.

And those rear wheel bearings? completely knackered by the end of the race but they did last.

And if you really want to know how wet the route was here's a couple of videos from Mark who rode the event on his KTM 950 Adventure.