Monday 1 October 2012

Team Hangover Rides Again (Day 2)

Day two dawned nice and bright although what affect the rain had on the course remained to be seen!

Chris headed off home in the van but I had converted my trailer back to a two bike configuration the previous evening so I could give Mike a lift back home to Reading after the Rally (he had travelled up with Chris on Friday) .

Whilst Mike and Mike F rode to the start, I drove up there and promptly slid the Land Rover into a ditch trying to find a parking spot, luckily there were plenty of willing hands to unhitch the trailer and get that clear but all my attempts to drive back out were in vain. Luckily Mark from Cumbria was parked in front of me in his Land Rover so was able to tow me out, it turned out I had got the front axle hooked up on a concrete pipe running under the track.

That small drama over, we set off on the same course as Saturday but ridden in the reverse direction, the going wasn't too bad although the muddy sections did seem a bit more slippery. I was riding with Mike even though he was not going to get a result due to his DNF the day before. Arriving at the start of the first special (the end of the second test the day before), I found that my silencer had come loose again despite having replaced the bolt last night. And then I discovered I had left my multi tool (with the all-important Allen keys) out of the tool kit!

Luckily Mike came to the rescue with an Allen key and I was able to carry on. The first muddy section was quite different but using the same line in reverse that I had spotted on Saturday got me through easily. It went OK but the muddy rutted climb at the start was now a horribly rutted descent to the finish, quite taxing!

We carried on, with the scary rocky ascents from the day before now becoming scary descents and vice versa. Arriving at the second test, I set off for my sighting ride and was surprised as I descended through the forest by a deer nonchalantly strolling across the track! The muddy climb that had been taken out of the course on Saturday had been reinstated as a descent; this was horribly slippery and almost impossible to retain control as you slid to the bottom. The next long section under the trees climbing up the valley was also almost impossible to ride, with several riders falling along here, myself included  although it did no harm as we slipped and slithered at little more than walking pace. Once the going became firmer as we broke from under the trees, the pace could be picked up again all the way to the finish.

A short section of fire road ascent followed by another muddy climb, took us to the rocky road, with even bigger puddles after the overnight rain then a climb up the track over the rock steps where Chris had come to grief and back to the arena.

After a quick refuel and grabbing something to eat we set off again for our second lap. Almost straight away my exhaust decided to dislodge itself from the cylinder head again. This resulted in a lot of noise, a loss of power and a serious reduction in engine braking on the descents. Unfortunately it kept happening on the very rocky descents where there was no way of stopping to fix it so I just had to hold on tight and crash my way to the bottom, relying only on the back brake to try and slow down.

At the first special, I once again stopped to tighten the silencer and headed off, sadly my repair didn’t last and the pipe came adrift from the cylinder head again. Not wishing to stop and loose time, I pushed on and scared myself again on the long muddy descent roaring in over the line to some amused looks from the time keepers. These become even more amused as I stopped, selected a rock and proceeded to beat the exhaust back into place again.

This happened a couple more times and it was clear the silencer was moving down and forward on its mount despite the bolts being tight and this caused the header pipe to swing forward a little at a time until it reached the point where it bounced out again.

Starting the second special it seemed fine until a small rocky drop off on the track caused the pipes to dislodge yet again. As I was heading for the slippery descent I decided stopping to fix the problem would most probably lose me less time than if I was unable to stop on the descent, so a suitable rock was found and I hammered the pipes back in again. The descent and following slippery track was even worse than last lap but I struggled through and after getting on to the faster track up to the head of the valley, the pipes came out yet again! I decided to carry on this time and pushed the bike hard down the other side of the valley and up the final climb.

On finishing the special stage, I looked around for a suitable rock but the slate available was too soft and kept fracturing as I tried to knock the pipes back into place. I eventually got my tool kit out and managed to manipulate the pipes back into place with a couple of tyre levers and a few well aimed kicks!

Mike F had joined us and we rode together up the fire road and via the muddy climb, rocky road and the rocky climb to finish. The frequent exhaust repairs had eaten into my time and an even quicker refuel followed, then a few kicks to seat the exhaust and a quick tightening of the bolts and we were on our way again.

To try and prevent the exhaust problem, I resolved that every time we stopped whether for a quick breather or one of our numerous “lying down episodes” I took the time to kick the exhaust pipes back into the header. Arriving at the first test I stopped to do this and noticed one of my seat bolts had fallen out: Checking the other side I found that one missing too! I’m not sure how long I had been riding with nothing actually holding my seat on.

A quick bodged repair with cable ties and a kick of the exhaust saw me on my way, this was a really good ride and I caught up with Mike on the long descent but was unable to pass him before the finish that came soon afterwards. A brief stop and a quick kick of the exhaust I was on my way. This then became the pattern and it seemed to work, with the exhaust staying in place.

Arriving at the second test (we did three full laps on day 2), Mike started and I was due to go on 30 seconds but had to stop and do my little party trick with the exhaust much to the amusement of the time keepers, this meant I missed the next slot so started one minute down on Mike. I set off fast, confident I had sorted the exhaust and was very pleasantly surprised to catch Mike at the bottom of the steep descent, I passed him on the long slippery section which was even worse but the low down torque of the CCM really came into its own and I could just chug along at walking pace. Mike told me later than on the far more revvy KTM 690, he was having to slip the clutch and was frustrated that he couldn’t stay with me.

A bit further up the track I came across a KTM 990 Adventure sitting on its side with my other friend Michael sitting underneath it! Now the unwritten rule is that you always stop and help when on the liaison stages but during the special stage it’s every man (or woman) for themselves. But realising he was trapped by being in a position where he simply couldn’t get his foot from under the bike and couldn’t get the leverage in a sitting position to lift it, I decided I had not choice but to stop.

I slid to a halt and leant my bike against a handy tree and helped lift the bike off him, before jumping back on and sliding my way up the track. Getting to the firmer going I fired it up the valley in an attempt to make up time, flung it round the turn at the valley head and down the fire road on the other side, getting completely out of shape and running into the undergrowth at the side at one point. I managed to wrestle it back on the track and carried on to the bottom of the last climb, heading up the relatively straightforward track at full throttle I was doing OK until my somewhat second hand tyres got the better of me and the back wheel tried to go in front again in a repeat of yesterday’s climb on the other side of the valley. This time I wasn’t as lucky and hit the deck. Getting up quickly and unhurt, I picked up the bike and started it up and was just about to get moving when another bike passed me. He disappeared up the slope as I got back up to speed and another rider came up behind me. The track now became narrow and twisty and it was clear the following rider was being held up so I swung wide on one turn and allowed him through on the inside. I then took the opportunity to use his speed as it’s always easier to follow than to lead.

Sitting on his back wheel we soon caught the other rider who had passed but unfortunately  he wasn’t going as fast. However there was nowhere to pass and we both trailed him into the finish.

A short wait for Michael and Mike to turn up and then a quick final kick of the exhaust, the three of us rode to the finish.

We packed up, shoehorning all of Mike’s gear into the Land Rover and set off through Wales and down the M4 to drop him off at Reading before getting home about 10pm and going through the usual tiresome business of sorting out all the wet and muddy gear.

Apart from the seat bolts going missing, I also discovered the silencer bolt had fallen out (again)! and it had gathered a sizeable dent where it had hit the back wheel, one of the subframe bolts had gone missing as well as the lock nut off the sidestand and the only reason the bolt hadn’t fallen out was that it had got bent, clearly some serious maintenance was needed!

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