Monday 28 July 2014

Hot and dusty!


Sunday saw the start of my training regime for the Tuareg; part of my problem to date has been that I only ride the rally bike “in anger” at most once a month when I enter a Rally and of course not at all after the end of the season in October until the following March.

Whilst the bike will get used for trail riding in between, this simply doesn’t replicate the style of riding that you do in competition as lanes are short, so long periods are spent on tarmac, speeds by necessity have to be kept down and you’re constantly on the lookout for walkers, dogs, horses etc. Also many of the lanes local to me are so well surfaced that there’s no real comparison with even the liaison stages in a Rally.

So it was with interest that I learnt that Enduroland were running one of their practice days on Sunday at Northaw in Hertfordshire. Very useful as I grew up only a couple of miles from there so knew where to go! These are basically cross country Enduro courses (no public roads involved) where you pay your money and go and ride at your leisure for as long as you want/can.

So on Sunday morning I rolled up at Northaw Equestrian Centre and booked in. After a coffee from the burger van, Fellow Herts TRF members Eden and Daniel rolled up and bikes were prepped and gear was donned ready for the start of practice. Unlike Racing there’s no pressure to start at any particular time so everything was very relaxed.

We eventually set off on our first lap to discover a course laid out mostly on bumpy, rolling fields with the occasional foray through field edge ditches and small wooded copses, with even an couple of (very small) horse jumps thrown in (although alternative routes were provided…. Guess what I used)!

The laps were not technical but fast with constant changes of direction; it was also hot and very dusty. After two laps I had a brief pit stop when I noticed the fuel cap off my rear tank had gone missing. Look closely.....

Although I wasn’t using the tank, I didn’t want it filling up with dust so taped over the filler with some duct tape. I then went out and pushed myself for four laps without a break as whilst I could have taken an easy approach I wanted to get as much on bike training out of this as possible. As I came round for my fifth lap, I saw Eden and Daniel sitting at the exit to the track so pulled over. At this point someone told me they had seen my fuel cap come off and had picked it up for me…result! I rode over to their van to collect it, refitted it and then rode back to the others. Eden and I decided to do a couple more laps and then break for lunch, so we went out and had a good laugh chasing each other round. Eden was on his newly acquired “spare” Kawasaki KLX450R so unencumbered by rally kit, so it was definitely quicker through the tight stuff but the extra 60cc of my meant I could make up ground where space allowed, although the tight, twisty nature of the course didn't leave many spaces where I could use my speed

As you can see I've playing around with some simple graphics and stickers, it certainly helps break up the mass of white.

We pulled in after two laps for the obligatory burger, whilst Daniel stayed out for another couple of laps. As he is younger and fitter and only riding a 250EXC I guess that was only right and proper! After a slab of cow between bread and a cold drink, we kitted up again and went back out again and I did another three laps before deciding to call it a day, as I was starting to make a few small errors as fatigue started to set in.

During this time I also had my only “off” of the day, not at any speed, in fact I was going backwards! One section through a steep sided dry stream bed had an alternative route that I had been using as it crossed the stream bed a few yards further down where the sides were less steep but one lap I decided to give it a go. Going down was no problem and neither was going back up until just as my front wheel reached the top…. I stalled! Rolling backwards into the stream bed I tried to put my feet down but couldn’t reach anything resembling solid ground and the bike fell over! With nothing injured but my pride, I crawled out from under the bike picked it up (it is certainly lighter than the old CCM) and was able to ride it out without drama. In fact the next lap I tried it again and rode through with no problem at all!

So after eleven hot, fast and dusty laps I called it a day and packed up. The best bit being that the bike only had a tiny bit of mud on it and was cleaned, lubed and put away in no time at all.

Sadly it didn’t escape entirely damage free. If you look closely at the photo below you will see the speedo cable/brake hose clamp on the front fork connector has come undone allowing the cable and hose to bow inwards and catch on the brake disc. The brake hose looks OK with some minor surface damage (although I'll replace it to be on the safe side) but the speedo cable (actually two wires as it’s electronic) had got caught in the brake calliper and snapped. Not a huge job to sort as it’ll just take a bit of soldering but annoying all the same.

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