Tuesday 21 October 2014

Further ramblings

yes, yes I know it's been bloody ages but I've had a few distractions... well one mainly but you'll most probably work that out in a bit! But despite that I've been getting plenty of quality bike time in....

After the failure of my speedo I fitted a new sensor and cable (they come as one spare part and surprisingly inexpensive for a KTM part) and I had a working speedo again!

I managed to bodge my side stand for the time being, so....

Went out for a trail ride the next Saturday with my mate John. I didn't manage to keep the EXC for long as John suggested I have a go on his KTM 690 that has the full Rally Raid Products Kit (Adventure style fairing, extra front tanks, pannier/luggage rack). This is not his bike but the same spec....

I had to include the picture above as this was the only one I got of John that day and it doesn't really show the bike at it's best!!!

I didn't want to give it back! At first I treated like I would the 990 (i.e. with a lot of caution) but within ten minutes I was riding it more like the EXC. It's a 2014 model with ABS but John has fitted the optional "off Road ABS dongle" which allows the rear wheel to spin, so was able to use the power to get the back end to drift, very nice and controllable especially when compared to the 990 (But I guess that's the difference between 67 bhp and 116 bhp).

On the road it did everything the 990 can do, decent enough wind protection from the fairing, decent cruising speed, not too vibey (although definitely more than the LC8 motor) but best of all John reckoned it gets over 300 miles from it's 22litre fuel capacity, whereas the 990 is lucky to get 150 miles from 19.5 litres.

Luckily John was enjoying the 450 so we kept each others bikes for the rest of the ride. Certainly gave me food for thought, the 690 in that spec (essentially a 690 Adventure) looks like it'd be the perfect bike for me!

Anyway back to the Tuareg, the Rally bike ended the day with very wobbly wheels as both front and rear wheel bearings were now way past their best. I had new ones on order but best of all I didn't have to fit them! John decided that if he is going to be my support crew. he had better get to know my bike a bit better. So the next weekend he came round and fitted the wheel bearings for me!

On the subject of support crew/team manager/pit bitch, that afternoon John signed up for the rally too, so one step nearer!

Since then the heavens opened and it had been pouring with rain ever since. A friend posted on Facebook that it wasn't very good weather for desert training...... he wasn't kidding! 

In between I helped run a light hearted event for the Hertfordshire Trail Riders Fellowship (TRF)... the London Dakar. This was a navigational scatter event based out of Benington Lordship near Stevenage thanks to Richard Bott the owner. The event itself used the trails of Hertfordshire (with a bit of Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire thrown in) and although we only had sixteen entries, the event went really well and everyone seemed to have fun. Hopefully this is the first of many and we can build on it next year.

AJP also brought along some demo bikes and we were able to have a play in the quarry on Richard's land.

The Rally bike had been confined to the garage as the MOT had run out but this was not a problem for the next race of the season as that was all off road...

This was the Tarenig Rally in Wales, my girlfriend Grainne decided she wanted to come along and see what this Rally malarkey was all about (I did mention a certain "distraction" recently didn't I)? So instead of the usual roughing it in the back of a Land Rover we booked a B&B in Llangurig and very nice it was too!

The next morning arrived rather grey and we made our way up the A44 to the start. By the time registration, scrutineering and getting kitted up was finished, the sun was coming out on what turned out to be a glorious day!

Lap one went well, with a couple of very steep descents proving tricky and stalling at the bottom of the second one had me toppling over. Luckily no real damage done other than a bent clutch lever (I knew I should have replaced the cheap hand guards that had got bent just a few times too many at the Beacons Rally)!

Lap two was the first timed lap and I got through the long (7.3 miles) special test reasonably well. Having the much longer special was great as it meant you had to think about it a lot more, survival being as important as flat out speed!

Lap three also went without mishap and I was really enjoying the special and feeling much faster than the previous laps until I came up behind a marshal bimbling along in the middle of the track.... what a numpty! It appears I wasn't the only person he held up either. At the time I didn't think I had lost more than a few seconds in getting past him but my time was actually 45 seconds down on the previous lap..... not good!

By lap four I was feeling very tired, whilst hugely enjoyable, the course was hard work and it was starting to tell. Mind you from what others were saying, I wasn't the only one to discover this. Determined to ride the last special at a smooth steady pace so as not to make any mistakes, all was going well until I felt something hitting me in the small of the back! I glanced behind to see my tool pack about to part company with the bike!!! I had no choice but to stop and strap it back on and despite then forgetting my survivalist policy by trying to ride as fast as I could, I lost about three minutes compared to my fastest time!

When the final results came out I had placed 7th in class, which although respectable enough, had I managed to match my lap 2 time for the following laps, I would have placed fifth! Oh well at least it was enough to move me from 11th in class in the series to 8th place and after a bit of calculation, fifth place in the rally would have done exactly the same anyway. So nothing really lost and after all.... that's racing!

A very long drive home followed and since then the rally bike sat in the garage, covered in mud until this finally got rectified last Saturday when I cleaned it up and got it MOT'ed

Sunday was a bit of fun as I led a ride out for my local BMW dealer SBW Motorrad in Welwyn Garden City. Organised by the Herts TRF it was an event for owners of the big GS models to see just what their bikes were designed for!

Although it was intended to use easy, novice friendly lanes, the guys were all up for it, so a few more "challenging" lanes were thrown in!

And now I'm building the EXC up into full rally spec complete with road book and tripmaster for the ATRC road book training event this weekend.