Sunday 8 December 2013

Carlisle and beyond

It's catch up part two.......

The Centennial Rally in Carlisle was the one we had all been waiting for. Organised to celebrate the centennial of the International Six Days Trial or ISDT (now called the International Six Days Enduro or ISDE). It first started in Carlisle in 1913. The Rally promised three days of racing with one day of over 200 miles and a City Centre paddock, it looked set to be a good event. 

But of course nothing seems to happen to me  without a struggle these days and my hotel booking was changed with a few days to go due to “plumbing problems” at the Swallow Hotel on the edge of town, to a City Centre hotel with no parking and situated right on the main street of Carlisle. This was not good news as Carlisle has a reputation as a “lively” place at the weekend and on-line reviews of the hotel all spoke of not being able to sleep on Friday and Saturday nights due to the noise…. great! 

However I persevered, especially after discovering a fellow racer had cancelled his booking at the Swallow (thanks Mike)! and eventually got the news that my room was confirmed, half an hour after I left home for Carlisle! 

As to getting to Carlisle, Trev, a friend of mine offered to lend me his Vauxhall Vivaro van for the weekend, in exchange for trying out my Defender, so all was arranged. Fitting the CCM in the night before departure was fun as the back of the van is racked out and still had most of Trev’s tools etc in the back. In addition I was carrying spare wheels, tools, spares, three fuel cans, riding kit for three days and every eventuality/weather/conditions even down to a spare crash helmet and spare boots. 


I had agreed to pop in and see my friend Ann in Towcester on the way, as she was missing the Rally having only just had a major operation to fix her shoulder back together, following her accident the previous month. She had also offered to lend me her Klim Powercross Jacket so a brief stop in Towcester and a cuppa was the order of the day. 

The rest of the journey was relatively straightforward despite heavy rain most of the way and was certainly more comfy (and more economical) than had I trailered the bike behind the Land Rover. Arriving at the Swallow Hotel, I checked in and headed into the City Centre to the paddock. I signed on and caught up with friends. 

That evening a bunch of us headed out for an excellent curry in town, then an (early-ish) night before racing commenced on the Friday morning. 

The day dawned a bit overcast but dry and I headed back to the paddock for scrutineering that went without a hitch and to get ready for the start. This was very different to the usual start in the middle of a remote forest, seen off by one man and his dog. Instead we were flagged off by the Mayor of Carlisle, under an impressive start arch and there was even a sizeable number of spectators to watch us leave. 
Rob Loupart at the start

Riding out of Carlisle alongside organiser Burt who was heading out onto the course on a borrowed BMW R1200GS, I remarked to him at some traffic lights that It looked like I had finally sorted the backfire. Of course as I slowed down for the next set of lights the damn thing let out an enormous BANG! Famous last words and all that! Burt was killing himself laughing!  Curiously the bike didn’t backfire again (well not until Sunday but that’s another story).

After crossing the M6 heading towards the days stage in the Kershope Forest, we followed some pleasant back roads until reaching a T Junction. I turned right and accelerated away up a hill to another junction, as I rolled off the throttle…. Absolutely nothing happened! The bike was stuck at full throttle and heading for the give way line whilst still accelerating!!! A brief “oh shit” moment occurred until I had the presence of mind to hit the kill switch and coasted round the junction and a short distance down the road to a halt. 

The throttle was jammed solid, on investigation it was clear that one strand of the cable had become undone and jammed inside the outer cable housing, so although several people stopped to help, I sent them on their way as there was no quick fix and no reason for them to lose time on my behalf. Burt then caught up again and we investigated using the choke cable as an alternative but it was not long enough. Burt had to go and promised to send the van that had taken petrol cans out to the refuelling point to pick me up, although it was likely to be several hours. 
The culprit!

The cable failure was annoying as there had been no way of spotting it as the strand had unwound inside the cable outer and was not evident until we pulled the two apart (and that took a lot of brute strength) and despite the fact I had carefully examined all the cables during the rebuild. 

Sitting at the side of the road, I suddenly realised I was on a road and I do of course have “roadside recovery” with the RAC, so I called them out. I don’t usually carry a phone with me on Rallies but did this time due to the large distances involved, a fact I was now very grateful for. I had to walk back to the junction to get a signal. I knew the RAC would ask for a post code and as there were some holiday cottages on the corner and the sign had a website address, I tried looking them up to get the exact location but couldn’t get a 3G signal. On calling the RAC, I told them I was “at a road junction in the middle of nowhere” but could tell them what the three nearest villages were (from the finger post on the junction) and the name of the holiday cottages and their website address and eventually they decided where I was and dispatched a van. 

Shortly afterwards, a woman emerged from one of the cottages and asked if I’d like to wheel the bike up and put it in the courtyard in front, which I did. Whilst we were talking my phone rang and it was the RAC Patrol, he too asked if I knew the post code and the woman was able to tell me, it turned out to be completely different to the one he had been given by RAC control! The good news was that he was only minutes away and was soon on the scene. 

A biker himself he soon had an idea and rather than call for a recovery truck, he proceeded to construct a temporary cable from some electrical wire, making “nipples” out of solder on each end. We ran it through the centre of the handlebar clamp so it didn’t alter the throttle setting if the bars were turned (well not too much) and then when decided to test it, discovered the battery had gone flat after my earlier attempts to start it with my unsuccessful choke cable bodge. A quick push down the hill and we bumped it into life and I set off the twelve miles back to Carlisle at a steady 25mph, with the RAC guy following me to make sure I got back OK.  

After getting back to the paddock, I completed the paperwork for the RAC, got some lunch from the excellent Lakeland Burger Company stall and then went looking for bike shops. Whilst I knew there no chance of getting a proper CCM cable, the second shop I visited came up trumps with a “universal” cable repair kit for only £5. 

Back at the paddock, I set to and soon had the bike stripped down again but needed a new outer cable too as the lining was wrecked. When my friend Dave returned from the day, he provided an old cable from his Yamaha 660 Tenere that had a broken (plastic) fitting on one end. The outer cable was almost exactly the same length as the original throttle cable, so we cut the inner cable and removed it, changed the Yamaha fittings for the CCM ones and threaded through the new repair cable. This had a selection of “solderless nipples” to screw onto one end, so I chose the smallest one as this matched the original most closely. After fitting everything it was clear it wasn’t small enough and was jamming inside the throttle housing…. Shut this time! So a bit of “engineering” with a flat file got it small enough to run through the throttle housing and I was in business. A brief test ride showed that the cable had a bit too much slack in it despite the adjusters being wound all the way out but as I had filed the nipple down destroying the screw head, I couldn’t move it along the cable so although not ideal it would work!  

With my DNF from the day, I wasn’t going to get a result but still had the prospect of two days riding in great terrain and with no pressure to compete, so I could just get out there and enjoy myself!
Day two was a marathon day billed at 250 miles, across to the Kielder Forest on back roads then some big laps of the forest. As my times on the special stages were immaterial, all I had to worry about was not getting in anyone's way. So had a long, wet, windy, knackering but thoroughly enjoyable day.
Phil Page in Kielder
Whoops! Someone had a bad day

I needed new brake pads by the end of the day!
Dave Shield had a tricky moment when his fairing bracket broke, he finished the day (and rode the next) like this, whilst his fairing came back in the refuelling truck.
Sunday dawned a bit brighter although the paddock was still a bit damp!
Sunday was a repeat of Friday back to Kershope Forest, so for me was completely new. As everyone had already ridden the special stage, there was no sighting lap. But of course I hadn't, so my first lap was a bit scary having to learn my way round whilst trying to maintain race speeds to try and avoid holding anyone up. Of course I had no need to ride fast but the last thing I wanted was to get in someone's way.
The CCM was up to it's old tricks, the sealant having blown out of the exhausts, so the backfire was back with a vengeance!
We eventually finished back at Carlisle and all agreed the Rally had been a great success.

Rob's "Rally Alp" looking a bit battered on Sunday morning
As my house move was coming up I had decided not to race again this year and the CCM was in dire need of TLC, which is becoming a bit of a chore as I never get to ride it on the trails anymore as I seem to spend all the time between Rallies fixing it. Something needed to be done for next year! It got cleaned up, the chain lubed and it got stored away in my Sister's garage whilst I sorted out moving house.
Then a change of plan occurred and Ann offered to lend me her KTM 400EXC for the one-day Hafren Rally at Sweet Lamb in Mid Wales. The deal also included a night in the spare room at Ann's so we could leave at stupid o'clock on Sunday morning.
A decent drive to Wales was had, the bike scrutineered and numbers affixed I set off while Ann headed out onto the course to take photos. The first lap was a revelation for me, the EXC was a completely different beast to the CCM, light, easy to handle and surprisingly torquey for a "little" engine. It was also viciously quick steering, that caught me out several times each lap, although I had the height and strength to manhandle the bike back into line each time but explains how Ann had her  accident on a seemingly innocuous green lane.
Towards the end of Lap One (Picture © Ann Ross-Tuson)
All went well for the second and most of the third (last) lap until the final special stage. Turning up a fast rocky ascent, the front wheel caught a big rock and the front of the bike reared up and the handlebars hit me full in the chest! I then was flung over the bars and crashed down on my hip (a few naughty words were said at this stage)!
After getting my breath back I discovered I had ripped the threads out of the handlebar mount, leaving the bars flapping loose, unable to repair them, had to ride back very slowly. Stopping to use some plastic course marking tape to tie the bars in place, so they didn't let go altogether.
I eventually finished the lap and by now the adrenaline had worn off and I was in serious pain from my hip and chest. My other friend Michael helped Ann get my kit sorted and loaded the bike. My hip was now seriously swollen and sticking out several inches compared to the other so Ann took over the driving duties and took me straight to A&E at Shrewsbury Hospital.
An evening of Hip, Pelvis and Chest X-rays and an ECG ensued and eventually I was pronounced bruised but otherwise OK and allowed to go. 
Ann drove me home in the Land Rover and even gave up her bed for me as it was more comfy than the spare room, where she retreated to!  A real mate indeed!

The bruising was extensive and very painful and whilst the amazing technicolor display has long gone, eleven weeks later the swelling still hasn't fully gone away and my hip is still sore and movement limited. The bruise eventually spread from my chest to my ankle and right across my body front and back.... not good!

So definitely the end of my racing career for 2013.

A week later I moved into my new house, carrying furniture around was not enjoyable to say the least. Since then it has been loads of domestic stuff like buying furniture, fitting blinds and stuff but I have eventually got round to sorting out a bike to race next year.... watch this space as they say!



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