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.....

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