Thursday 4 July 2013

Blimey... has it really been that long?

Yes been a long time since I have updated my blog but that’s because there’s been rather a lot going on as all will become apparent (and most probably has already if you have read my revised biog on the right!)

But first some of the fun stuff.

In March I competed in my first Rally of the Year, the Brechfa in deepest Wales. Unlike last year when it was a two day event held in June (but not part of the Big Bike Rally Challenge) this year it was the season opener but only a one day event.


A very cold start (-2o) saw a cracking course with a fairly high level of accidents and mishaps, although I had a great run and with the exception of a very low speed tumble in some ruts on the first lap, I managed to stay on to gain my best ever position… 10th place!

OK there were a few familiar faces missing from the entry but equally I managed to finish ahead of some people I would normally expect to beat me. I had some amusing times too! On lap two I came across Dakar veteran and Touratech boss, Nick Plumb sitting beside the track having run out of petrol. Easy enough to sort as the on CCM it only needs two bolts removing to take the tank off. Easy then to pour some fuel straight in, not something you can do with modern fuel injected bikes. Got to be worth a discount at Touratech sometime

Then on the next lap, I came across my mate Phil from Guernsey sitting beside the track in almost the same place…. Yes you guessed it he had run out of petrol! This despite having an enormous 22 litre tank on his JVO Rally kitted Yamaha! He admitted that he never fills it up as it’s too heavy!

I was therefore in good spirits for the second round, a new event, the Pikes Peak Rally, Unfortunately I never made it as a universal joint on the front prop shaft of the Land Rover went AWOL only a couple of miles down the road. With no way of getting a replacement until the Tuesday as nobody had one in stock, I had to retire before I had even got out of Stevenage!

Then the real bad news arrived that weekend when Anne told me she wanted us to split up. And whilst there is a back story, I’m not going to bore you with it and to be honest that is our business, however we are keeping things amicable and trying to sort things out the best we can. We have after all agreed to joint custody of Gem

Gem guarding the CCM
So needless to say, keeping the blog up to date has been the last thing on my mind, whilst we sorted out selling the house and each buying a new place. Which of course has meant watching the pennies so weekends away have been curtailed somewhat.

At the end of May I did manage to get away for a couple of days to the Rallymoto Sprint Rally at the Sweet Lamb Rally Complex in Mid Wales. I had something to prove this year as last year’s race ended halfway through the fourth lap (of eight) when the bike broke down.

I have to say the sprint format doesn’t really suit my style of riding, comprising mostly of flat out gravel fire roads, I much prefer the more technical stuff. And sure enough the results reflected this as I finished in 19th place, just out of the points. After my encouraging start with a whole ten points from the Brechfa, my disappointment at the Sprint, combined with my failure to even arrive at the Pikes Peak meant I decided that chasing championship points was pointless (geddit?) and from now on I would concentrate on riding only those events I wanted to and enjoy my racing.

As a result I missed out on riding the K2 Keilder Rally as although I had a chance of a late entry, I decided against the very long drive up to Northumberland and back, not to mention the saving myself a lot of diesel!

On a slightly different tack I had a great trip to the Lake District in June, when a group organised through the Adventure Bike Rider (ABR) forum rode across the sands of Morecombe Bay to Piel Island at the invitation of the King of Piel, a title accorded to the Landlord of the pub on the island. Actually apart from a terrace of houses and a ruined castle there is nothing else on the Island that sits a couple of miles off Barrow in Furness and for most people is only accessible by the small passenger ferry. The island is private property with no rights of way leading to it, so it was quite an experience to gain permission to ride across.

Due to having to wait for low tide, the crossing was not scheduled until Saturday afternoon, so a few of us agreed to meet up for a trail ride in the Lakes on Saturday morning. It was decided that the Baysbrown Farm campsite in Great Langdale would be the ideal site but as like most campsites in the area, it has a “no groups” policy we agreed to turn up individually on Friday night. There were six of us down for the trail ride of which five of us were camping, plus a couple of people intending to go for a road ride on the Lakeland Passes, so we thought we could get away with it.

After swapping the wheels on the 990 for more suitable “off road” tyres and cutting my luggage down to a single small bag (as it would have to be carried on the trail ride), I set off up the M1 and M6 for what turned out to be a horrendous ride with stationary traffic for long stretches where although I could filter through the cars it meant my average speed was down to about 20mph at times!

I eventually arrived in Great Langdale and to my surprise discovered a dozen bikers sitting outside the Wainwrights Pub in Chapel Stile, so I made my way to the campsite where no less than thirteen “individual campers” had turned up on bikes!

No of course we don't know each other!
Saturday morning when well after Mike who was leading managed to get his bike started as it had a flat battery and we had waited for our sixth member to arrive, delayed because his sat nav decided to take him to Ambleside! We eventually got going and rode some great trails in the sunshine culminating in a byway that runs along the beach at Askam in Furness, this allowed us to play out our Dakar Rally fantasies to full effect!

After that we headed down to Snab Point on Walney Island to meet the Landlady of the pub who was going to lead us to the Island. With no less than thirty three bikes making the crossing, riding at 5mph behind her Nissan Terrano was a bit of an anti-climax after our antics at Askam!

Once on the Island, we set up our tents, decided it was too early to hit the pub so took a walk around the island, 20 minutes later we arrived back and thought “what the heck” and headed off to what was to be the first of a few pints that evening! A smashing dinner was had too and we eventually retired to our tents. The next morning saw a few heavy heads but we had all morning to rid ourselves of hangovers. A hearty fried breakfast in the pub certainly helped! It didn’t seem too long before we could leave and this time the Landlady had already headed off to the mainland so we were instructed to just “follow the tyre tracks” needless to say the journey back was a bit quicker!
The view looking back from Snab Point

A long ride home, this time by design took in the Trough of Bowland, Saddlegate Moor and the Peak District before hitting the M1 and heading south.

On the house hunting front I spent some time looking for my perfect choice, two bedrooms minimum, a garage (preferably attached and with power and light), not too far from work, preferably detached (not easy but I’ve got used to being able to make as much noise as I like) and best of all cheap enough to leave me mortgage free!

Well I managed most of them finding a new build, detached, two bed coach house in Kempston near Bedford, the only compromise was the distance from work but at 31 miles it’s not that bad and with several choices of route, some of them cracking biking roads, I can live with that. I might even be able to justify a third bike for commuting to avoid putting too many miles on the 990!
Not quite finished yet!

My next event is the Ryedale Rally this weekend in North Yorkshire, which had some pretty horrendous bits last year with horrible, sticky and very abrasive mud and deep, deep ruts. Reports at the moment are good though with the course apparently dry at the time of writing (two days before the rally) and sunshine forecast for the weekend!

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