Wednesday 26 September 2012

Team Hangover rides again (Day 1)

After the rather brutal time that was had at the Rydale, the bike needed a bit of TLC.

Both the front and rear brake pads were shot, so that was two sets of rear and one set of fronts in one weekend! Both front and rear sprockets were definitely second hand, the chain however seemed OK and it did validate my decision to fit an expensive chain (a DID X-Ring) at the end of last year.

Both tyres were also well past their best so the plan was to change them before the next Rally, the Welsh Trail Riders Association, Beacons Rally. Well the problem with plans is they can be broken, which explains why I headed off to Wales in August with a new front sprocket, a second hand rear sprocket (liberated from my supermoto rear wheel) and two distinctly second hand tyres and hoping that the course wouldn't be too muddy.... some hope!

The Beacons had gained a bit of a reputation last year for being hard, possibly the hardest of the Rallies, so I wasn't sure what I had let myself in for?

Arriving at Llandovery Rugby Club, the camping field seemed full of Rally Riders and the atmosphere was pretty relaxed, even the sun was shining. After setting up camp and having a chat with fellow competitors, a walk to the pub was in order. We even had a relatively early night.

Waking on Saturday we sorted ourselves out and headed off out of town, the start (in typical WTRA fashion) being nowhere near Llandovery but about ten miles out of town.

We got through sign on and scrutineering OK although they weren't impressed with my broken clutch lever, only the last few millimetres were missing but this meant no ball on the end, I was told I could construct one from gaffa tape so promptly did! The scrutineer wasn't happy about my throttle as it returns slowly (it always has) but we determined that it was partly caused by the grip rubbing on the hand guard, so a quick bit of work with a stanley knife and that was cured too. Finally he decided my rear wheel bearings were worn (they're not) but decided to pass it. I later found out he had accused everyone of having loose wheel bearings, so I'm not sure what that was all about? Actually I discovered that I hadn't done the rear wheel spindle nut up tight enough, so perhaps he was justified in thinking it was a wheel bearing after all.

Team Hangover from the Keilder (all sensibly sober this time) was back together and I started on the same minute as Chris and Mike H. This time Mike F was riding his BMW 1150GS so had marked himself down in the ability classes (on account of a 200kg+ of bike) and consequently started a bit later.

We also had a bit of fun trying to get Chris' bike to work as the chain was seized up, a result we discovered of his lack of bike preparation. Although he had fitted new tyres since the Keilder, that was it! lots of WD40 and chain lube eventually got it working.

The three of us started well with Chris leading, well it went OK for the first couple of miles. Descending a rocky track I was following Chris when without warning he went down after losing the front end on a rocky step down. I quickly parked up and went to help, only to see coolant pouring out of his bike. Apart from that he and the bike seemed OK but we couldn't determine if it was just the coolant header tank overflowing or the result of some damage to the system. Chris restarted the bike and we got underway but almost immediately the coolant light came on and the engine started to overheat.

We realised there was nothing we could do so Chris told me and Mike to carry on and he would push to the next marshal and see if he could get some help. We reached the bottom of the descent and turned left onto an Unclassified County Road that I immediately recognised from a green laning trip I did about four years ago, only that time I was in a Land Rover.

The lane runs over bedrock with only occasional muddy sections but is characterised by some major puddles that are held by the rock so rarely drain. This meant we weren't going to stay dry today.

The week before the Rally was the annual CCM Riders trip to Wales, camping at Rhayader, although I had been unable to get the time off work to go, the guys came down to see the Rally and give their support to me and friend Rob, riding in the trail bike class on his CCM 404DS. Thanks to Mark for these pictures of me on the lane :

After this we turned right off the road and slithered down a muddy descent and then on fire roads to loop round the head of the Glyn Saer valley. A climb on fire roads up the Northern side of the valley took us to the start of the first special test. This set off down a sinuous and fun bit of single track, that slowly started to descend, then round a tight turn left to drop sharply through the forest to the bottom of the valley and a climb back up on fire roads to pass where we had ridden earlier at the valley head.

From here a long gentle descent took us back down the southern side, that was quite narrow and became progressively muddier under the heavy tree cover and was like trying to ride on ball bearings. And it wasn't just my knackered tyres, everyone was starting to struggle. we then turned sharp left to climb straight up the valley side and into total carnage. There were bikes everywhere stuck on the slope with two marshals valiantly trying to drag them to the top. I fired the bike up the left hand side and managed to get to within 30 feet of the top before the front wheel bounced sideways and I ground to a halt and toppled over.

I got back up with the help of one of the marshals but despite several tries with him pushing, including rolling back and trying to get onto the (slightly) grippier grass on the right hand side, I was getting knowhere fast. The marshal offered to ride my bike to the top and to be honest, I was so knackered I readily said yes, however he couldn't do it either and I eventually the other marshall produced a rope and looped it round my front forks and the two of them, with me pushing alongside managed to haul my bike to the top.

Parking it up, I went back and helped the two marshal's drag Mike H up on the end of a rope. I then went back to help Mike F who was stuck on his BMW having caught up with us earlier. despite the help of another marshal he was going knowhere, The marshals at the top decided to cut the climb out of the test and direct bikes round by a longer route, Mike F was helped to reverse back down then Mike H and I climbed back up the hill to our bikes.

The special stage ended soon after with a stony climb and a short section of fire road, we were just grateful that this was the sighting lap and not timed as we were now right on the limit of the 30 minute "buffer" on our time schedule. The lap continued after a short stretch on tarmac through the Crychan Forest with a real mixed route. fast but very bumpy fire roads (no chance to rest), tricky single track through the trees, steep rocky ascents, steep rocky descents, it had it all!

The second special test started with a steep muddy and very rutted climb, then a rocky section and a mixture of tracks with a few tricky sections and finally another very rutted deep mud section. A long section of mainly fire road with a few more rocky ascents and descents followed and at each checkpoint we were waved through as we were still struggling to stay within time.

A fast refuel back at the pits where we caught up with an understandably disgruntled Chris, after a long push out, via the flooded track he was eventually towed in by a marshal. It transpired he had knocked the end cap off his radiator so had no chance of continuing. We were also a bit concerned that there was no sign of Mike F but guessed he might be struggling on the technical sections on the big beemer.

Getting under way again with Mike, the lap went fairly well, although riding the "diversion" section of the first special blind as we had not had sight of it on the first lap, I had a major moment on this when the back wheel tried to overtake the front on a full throttle ascent and despite getting broadside on to the track, somehow managed to wrestle it back under control. Mike had caught up with me and thought I was off, I think he was as amazed as I was that I got away with it. The lap continued and I think we were both suffering with the very taxing terrain, including one part where a large tree had fallen on the route? We were able to squeeze past but only just. However riding one bumpy downhill caused my exhaust to come out of the headers, just like at the Keilder Rally, cue lots of noise! Knowing exactly what to do, I found a suitable rock and hammered it back into place!

A the second test I had a short break and discovered the silencer mount was loose so was able to tighten it up before starting. All was going well until a fairly easy rutted climb, where I managed to get the wheels into two different ruts and before I knew I was off. Trying to get back on the bike to minimise lost time, I struggled to get moving as the ruts were really slippery but managed it eventually. I was really fired up but managed to overshoot a bend on a fire road and that gave Mike the opportunity to pass me. I set off in pursuit but as I closed on him on a downhill section I rode into his dust which meant I failed to see the route turning right as the fire road swept left. I hauled on the brakes and thought I had got away with it when the front wheel dropped into the ditch at the side of the track and went flying over the handlebars!

I lay there for a while unable to get up having face planted and hit my shoulder hard, the peak was hanging off my helmet and my foot was still stuck under the bike. Luckily a marshal turned up and helped me up. I set off again desperate to make up some lost time and caught up with the marshal which was useful as he had discovered a really good line through the final boggy section on the left, much better than the obvious line on the right that I had used last lap.

I met up again with Mike at the end of the stage and we got moving again, still desperate to stay within time. A long rocky climb led to a fast fire road section I was riding OK until a sharp turn gave me the chance to look behind and there was no sign of Mike?

I pulled over to wait and used the time to "repair" my helmet peak with some cable ties as it kept flapping down across my face! Soon after my friendly marshal who had picked me up on the special came by and stopped to see if I was OK, I asked if he had seen a rider on a KTM 690 stopped somewhere? He said that he had and he had suffered a puncture some way back but was "fixing it" which was strange as I knew Mike didn't have anything with him to repair it, although I did. However the marshal said it was too far for me to walk and of course I couldn't ride against the flow of the race.

After he had left, I very carefully rode up the side of the track to see if I could get back and help, stopping at every bend and listening for approaching bikes before proceeding. I heard nothing and not one single bike came past. I eventually reached the top of the rocky climb, that was far too narrow to try and even walk down so I reluctantly turned around and continued to the finish of the lap.

Now definitely behind time, I pushed on as fast as I could and decided I could miss out on refuelling as the last lap was a lot shorter, ending after the first special test. I carried on and the test went fairly well, at the end where we had previously turned right onto the road, we turned left which was a bit scary as a lot of the early finishers were now driving back to town and not expecting to find me haring round the bends in the opposite direction!

Another short fire road section finished the lap and I caught up with both Mikes. It turned out Mike H had punctured and had attempted to repair the tube with self adhesive patches but these had failed to work. He was forced to ride all the way back on a flat tyre and as he was unable to complete the last lap would go down as a DNF (Did Not Finish),

Mike F had also suffered a mishap, after his bike became covered in oil on lap two, coasting down to the road he removed his race numbers and called out the AA. Claiming to have been "just out trail riding" they duly obliged and sent out a patrol. They quickly diagnosed that one of the oil pipes had become detached from the oil cooler, a quick fix and after a top up of the oil he was back on his way. Sadly he too was unable to complete the day so also received a DNF. Both Mikes were determined to ride the next day even if they couldn't get a result but sadly Chris was having to go home.

Not a great result from Team Hangover so far! However after getting back to the campsite a bit of bike maintenance (I had finished to find I had lost the bolt that holds the silencer on) and a hot shower, we retreated to the Rugby Clubhouse for a "buffet", which turned out to be an excellent spread, the prize giving for last years "WTRA Rally Series", several beers (well we have a reputation to uphold) and the quiz.

And Team Hangover duly won the quiz! Our prize being several bags of M&Ms and a bottle of wine, which of course we just had to drink then and there!

We retreated back to out tents (or back of the Land Rover in my case) and fell asleep listening to the sound of heavy rain!

To be continued

Monday 24 September 2012

A trip to North Yorkshire - Day 2

Sunday dawned dry but a bit cloudier and we had the advantage of starting directly from the campsite as the day’s lap was in the Cropton Forest. Refuelling of bikes was not allowed on the camp site but on the end of the field where the Parc Ferme was located. Luckily for me this was about 20 yards away from where I was parked.

The lap started and Dave and I headed off up the road, then through the forest on tracks and fire roads before reaching the first checkpoint of the day. We then has a short ride up the road through one of the fords we had passed through the day before (this one almost dry) albeit in the opposite direction and then back into the forest. Again it was pretty uneventful with a mixture of terrain until we reached the special stage. Starting once again with a sighting lap, it started well with a long descent on a fire road to a sharp hairpin bend that took you back up hill, all very fast and pretty straight forward…. And then we hit the first forest section!

This was brutal with twin parallel ruts along a narrow track through the trees, it was just a question of pushing, shoving and manhandling your bike through the mud. A short respite from the ruts didn’t last long and you were into another section of muddier and deeper ruts where it was a case of everyone pitching to help each other get their bikes through. A twisty single track descent through the forest followed where the mud was so slippery it was more a case of going where you went, rather than where you wanted to go. On this stage I actually managed to run into and fell a small tree!

Dropping out onto a fire road gave another short respite before more but thankfully easier ruts then a another descent through a less dense area of woodland, again where steering was more luck than judgement and into the final stage round the perimeter of two large fields of waist high grass, through which a wet, slippery and very rutted track had developed to finally finish the stage.

The course continued with some tricky sections but was largely uneventful apart from the occasional tumble on some of the slippery sections and the problems caused by my right hand footrest getting bent in the ruts which made it difficult to stand up on the pegs but I survived until the campsite was reached. A quick refill of petrol and a run back to the truck to retrieve a 4lb hammer and the footrest was “persuaded” back into shape!

A bite to eat and a drink and we were ready to go again for lap two, this was relatively straightforward until the special.

I fired the bike off down the fire road and went into the hairpin far too fast but somehow managed to slide my way round, hitting the bad ruts was a nightmare and I got stuck behind another rider, he got going again but I was stuck! Luckily another rider whose race was over due to a snapped chain came to my aid and got me out of the rut. I slipped, scraped and dragged my way through the ruts and then had a big crash on the slippery descent and then again at the bottom landing up in the ditch at the edge of the fire road. Luckily it was nowhere near as deep or as wet as the one I found on the Keilder. I managed to complete the special stage only to crash big time at the finish as the ruts across the field were becoming unridable, luckily I crashed after the timing lights.

Dave finished soon after and we carried on to find one particularly bad rocky descent had been bypassed for big bikes, something we were both grateful for.

A repeat of the process at the end of the lap, refuel, hit the footrest with the hammer (bent again), eat, drink and off to the start again.

By now Dave was missing his number plate and I had managed to snap the end off my clutch lever but otherwise we were doing alright.

The last lap was a repeat of the second and the special was no easier, this time the organisers were diverting the big bikes up the side of the rutted track, i.e. one line of trees (in the parallel planted forest) to the left that they had cleared of fallen branches etc, this was great but didn’t last long. Back into the ruts the rider in front of me decided it was a good idea to get into the parallel route again even though this section was a bit overgrown, he was doing OK and myself and several other bikes followed until he hit a root and stalled. Unfortunately he was on a Honda XR…. So no electric start! And anyone who has tried to kick start a big single when it’s hot will know it’s no easy task. After a wait that seemed to take forever but was most probably no more than 30 seconds, he gallantly laid his bike over to one side and we were able to ride over his tyres to continue.

Soon back in the ruts I was doing OK until I came across a rider trying to get out of the ruts as he had got hung up on a root but had got stuck at right angles. I stopped and stepped off my bike, which remained sitting upright in the rut. I helped him get his bike off the track and round a large tree and returned to my bike, started it up and got hung up on the same root!

Luckily the rider I had just helped had reached the end of the ruts, parked up and came back to help me. Once we were both free I tackled the slippery descent. Dave had passed me stuck in the rut and I had then passed him on the slippery descent, I didn’t see him again to the end of the stage that I managed to slide round without falling off or getting stuck again and then waited about five minutes for him to appear at the finish line. I was able to get some photos of him as he rode in across the rutted field;

All that remained was the straightforward ride out and back to the campsite, the bikes got packed away and we all headed for home, for me that was a five hour trek down the A1 to home, not bad for a Sunday night.

Next instalment we are back to Wales for the first time since my DNF at the RallyMoto Sprint and a rather long wait for the results of the Rydale.

Sunday 23 September 2012

A trip to North Yorkshire - Day 1

The next up on the rally calendar in July was the Rydale Rally in North Yorkshire. This has got a bit of a reputation for being tough so I approached with some trepidation. The word on the RallyMoto Forum was that the mud was particularly abrasive and to make sure you had some spare brake pads.

On the Keilder Rally I had managed to wear my rear brake pads down to the back plates so ordered up two sets each of front and rear pads. A check of the front pads (EBC HH) showed plenty of pad material so I left them well alone, the rears were replaced and the bike generally sorted. I made sure the exhaust was bolted up nice and tight to prevent the problems I had experienced at the Keilder.

Arriving on Friday evening a few miles outside Pickering I slithered into the very rutted muddy field, evidence of the heavy rain the area had suffered recently, although the weather was now dry and the forecast for the weekend good. I set up camp next to Dave and we agreed to ride together as our start times were only one minute apart.


Saturday dawned bright and warm and I packed off my fuel can to be taken to the refuelling point and with scrutineering and sign on sorted, left my bike in the “Parc Ferme” ready for the start. Actually this meant leaving them at the other end of the field near the start line, so not quite to the same standard as an international race!


We got on our way and headed of on a long liaison section that we had been told was 15 miles long to where we were racing that day. Starting on back roads and a few gravel forest trails through the Cropton Forest and even a short muddy section we then went back on the road and out over the North York Moors via a number of fords, one in particular quite deep and fast flowing!

As we turned back up the side of one valley the sight of a constant stream of rally bikes across the desolate moorland was quite impressive. Eventually we turned onto the A169 and past RAF Fylingdales, actually a US base and most famous for its “Golf Balls”, part of the USAs early warning radar system from the Cold War.

Sadly these iconic structures are long gone and all that remains is a strange truncated pyramid.

On through the Hole of Horcum and then a turn left onto a gravel track that took us to checkpoint one, actually 24 miles from the start. This was also the refuelling point and with plenty of time in hand I did think about topping up the tank but decided I had plenty of fuel on board.

We started on some fire roads and all seemed quite gentle until we turned into the forest, a long straight but rutted, muddy trail through the trees followed, this quite frankly was a long , hard and sweaty slog! At the end you emerged onto a fire road to turn right, then almost straight away right again to re-enter the trees for another identical long straight, muddy and rutted track parallel to the first. At the end of this we turned left for a while onto a wet, rutted track only to turn left again into the forest and guess what? Yes another long straight, muddy and rutted track parallel to the last two! And of course you’ve guessed it; two right turns took us back into a fourth long straight, muddy and rutted track parallel to the previous three, eventually turning out onto the wet track only a short distance from where we originally entered the trees!!!

The liaison continued with a lengthy section of tarmac road through the Dalby Forest a very pleasant alternative to slogging through the mud.
Arriving eventually at the special stage it started well on fire road then turned sharp left onto a rutted and flooded track. Some of the puddles were impressively deep! A left turn under a fallen tree gave you the choice of a narrow rut on the left or a deep puddle on the right. I tried the latter and discovered it to be quite easy as the water although deep hard a solid base beneath it.

Another rutted muddy section then turned right, the wide track ahead was flooded and the course tape directed you through the trees to the right. This unfortunately was a complete mud fest and I managed to stop just before getting stuck. Dave wasn’t so lucky and got his Tenere well and truly stuffed into the deep mud. Two marshals were already trying to get some other bikes through this section and eventually with Dave and I managed to manhandled the Tenere out of the mud, and then with there assistance dropped the bikes over the small bank and back into the flooded track. The marshals by now were directing people through the wet track and we suggested they move the tape to direct everyone that way. We got going again and Dave joked “I bet there’s a fire road just round the corner” and of course there was!

It didn’t last long and a turn onto another rutted mud fest through the trees led to a right turn into a more open, wider track but this was an utter rut fest too. Eventually we reached the end of the stage thankful that it was the sighting lap and not timed!

Another nasty muddy section of liaison followed soon after and then some welcome fire road to the checkpoint and refuelling point. After our fun and games on the special Dave and I were running a bit late so ran straight through the checkpoint and started our second lap. Again I thought about refuelling but decided I had enough petrol for another lap. Dave had no such problems with his 23 litre tank, compared to my 13 litres.

The lap went without incident until the special, I started and as I entered the wet track, was passed at speed by Robert “Burt” Hughes, organiser of the BBRC on his Husqvarna 630. He hit the first deep puddle and came to a virtual stop, I on the other hand travelling a bit slower just ploughed onwards. He passed me again soon after until we hit the next deep puddle in a virtual repeat of the first; Burt stopped dead and I passed him, slow but steady!

He passed me again before the turn under the fallen tree and like an idiot I forgot about taking the puddle on the right and instead followed Burt through the rut on the left, where he promptly got stuck!!! After a period of sitting waiting whilst he pelted me with mud from his spinning back wheel, he got going again and powered off, I managed the rut with no drama.

The flooded track was straightforward and I was soon on the fire road, turning left into the rutted track through the trees I was doing well until the bike coughed and ran out of petrol. I switched to reserve but the bike just refused to restart for what seemed like ages… so much for a fast time!

Once underway again I turned onto the wide rutted track and promptly wedged the bike into one of the larger ruts. This entailed getting off and physically manhandling first the back wheel and then the front out of the four foot deep rut and during this time I spotted Dave passing me (I should remind you that we have had a personal competition since I narrowly beat Dave at our first Rally, the Hafren in 2011). I eventually finished the stage and rode out to the checkpoint. This time I stopped to refuel for obvious reasons!

Lap three went much better and even the special test was dispatched without too much drama. At the end we came across Lyndon Poskitt with his KTM 450RR Factory replica that he is racing in next year’s Dakar Rally. It wouldn’t start despite having fuel and a spark and water ingress into the air filter was suspected. It is after all designed for racing across deserts rather than the mud of Yorkshire. Dave was able to tow start him and we sent him on his way, thinking that we just had the short muddy section and then some fire road to finish the lap, if only that were true!

Just after entering the section which by now had huge ruts, I suddenly lost all drive, stopping in a particularly deep rut, I looked down to see my chain had come off. Dave was close behind me and was able to get past and park up at the side of the track, using a bash plate that someone had obviously lost off their bike to stop his stand sinking into the muck.

We struggled for ages to get the chain back on the sprocket but to no avail and in the end had to remove the rear wheel to do it. This was an epic task, with everything covered in mud, the bike steadfastly refusing to go into neutral (so the chain wouldn’t turn) and various tools and bike parts disappearing into the mud, although thankfully we were able to find them all and get everything back together including hammering the rear wheel spindle back in with a large log and get moving again having spent at least 45 minutes in the mud.

I was so covered I couldn’t even hold the throttle open as it and my glove were too slippery, so had to wrap some cable ties round the twist grip to give myself some purchase.

Arriving at the checkpoint with worries that we might be eliminated for being out of time we were pleased to find they were not to bothered as it was the end of the day. The marshals spotted that Dave still had pillion footpegs on his bike so ask him to take a rider back whose bike had broken down and was to be recovered later in the “fuel van”. Dave agreed and we asked if it would be quicker to go back on the A169 via Pickering, we were told there was no difference in the routes so followed the sign posted route back across the moors and through the forest for 24 miles. If course when we eventually got back we checked the map to find if we had turned left instead of right on the A169, we could have got back via Pickering with a ride of only 10 miles!!!

That evening was devoted to maintenance as I replaced my brand new rear pads, now completely knackered and checked the front pads that were still OK. This goes to prove the £20 EBC pads in the front are most probably better value in the long run compared to the £6 “Rhino Pads” I had purchased on eBay in the back.

Once sufficiently large quantities of mud were removed from our bikes, pads replaced and components re-greased we were able to partake of the hog roast on offer and after a couple of well earned beers turned in for the night for some much needed sleep, ready to do it all again tomorrow, at least we were starting straight from the camping field in the morning with no long liaison first

To be continued.....

Tuesday 18 September 2012

My Dad

Alan John Ferrary

27th August 1933 - 28th August 2012

Not much else to be said really although you might guess why I've not been active on here for a while