Wednesday 8 July 2015

A quiet Summer so far

It’s been a quiet period on the Rally racing front as although I had attempted to get the bike prepped after the Tuareg Rallye to race at the Baja GB event on the 2nd/3rd May, however my plans were foiled by a “mechanical”.

Whilst carrying out an oil and filter change, I was unscrewing the bolt that holds the camshaft oil feed screen in place, when the thread came out too! I turned out that the thread had previously been repaired with a helicoil  and that had come loose. 

It has however occurred to me that losing the keys to the hire car in Morocco and not being able to do an oil change half way through the rally was a blessing in disguise. The helicoil would have almost certainly come out then, in which case my rally would have been well and truly over.

With no way of fixing it myself I called Martin Wittering at Torque Racing only to discover he was just about to leave for Greece and the Hellas Rally, so wouldn't be able to repair until the middle of May at the earliest. Due to other commitments of my own I eventually managed to get it over to him towards the end of May. So the Borders Rally on the 23rd/24th May was out of the question.

Upon delivering the bike at Torque I also asked Martin to replace the non-working road book switch and he agreed to see if he could repair the old one as a spare. I also collected one of my front wheels that had received a major dent in the rim in Morocco, that Martin had repaired for me, he had done such a good job I couldn't even work out where the dent had been, in fact neither could Martin!

Following this I had a few weekends of working on mountain bike races in my role as an International Commissaire with the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) although my first to Denmark was cancelled after arriving at Stansted Airport due to a cock up over tickets by Ryan Air), After that I did manage to get to Llangollen in North Wales for the British Downhill Series and Fort William for the MTB World Cup Downhill and 4X Protour. 

As a result I had no time to prepare the race bike as the next possible chance to race would have been the Kielder Rally on 20th/21st June but in the event the bike still wasn’t finished so that was a no-go too.

Never mind I thought, I already had an entry for the Ryedale Rally in July…. Well you can guess the rest, various expenses were looming with insurance, tax and servicing on assorted vehicles so the 500 mile round trip to North Yorkshire was looking less and less affordable and the bike still wasn’t ready and then the battery in my 990 decided to die too. 

OK the 450 not being ready was my fault as I had forgotten about the Ryedale and told Martin I wasn’t racing until August so no need to rush… whoops! Coupled with that was the fact that I had bought another bike, A Honda CB500X to commute to my new job (Oh yes that was another distraction from the real life essentials like Racing) 

The Honda is marketed as an "adventure bike" but with 17" wheels, road tyres and short travel suspension it's not really anything other than a tall road bike but that hasn't stopped me exploring the local lanes on it:

And it's principal advantage over the 990 that had been commuting on was its superior fuel consumption, which has certainly impressed me, yes that's 80.6 mpg!

That's not to say the 990 hasn't been neglected and has had a few forays out on the Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire lanes.

Come July I was able to sell my entry to the Ryedale so that was sorted and then there was the little matter of my “race transport” to sort out!

Since I started racing in 2011 I have used my Land Rover Defender 90 to tow my bike to races and also to sleep in the back of. As a short wheelbase vehicle it was certainly cosy with all my kit inside, even more so when I was sleeping in it and as a Land Rover not very economical (26 mpg) so what I saved on accommodation costs I tended to lose on fuel costs. And when I did stay at B&Bs or hotels, there is always the problem of finding somewhere to park a Land Rover and trailer, the worry about security and the pain of being restricted to 60 mph on the motorways. So for some time I have thought of replacing it with a van.

A friend has for a long time asked to have first refusal on the Defender if I ever sold it and then a few months ago asked if I was still after a van as he was willing to do a trade for his Mercedes Vito Dualiner. A deal was struck and I took delivery of the van on Sunday along with some cash which will help with some of the plans I have for it.

Now to be honest my weapon of choice would have been a VW Transporter Kombi 4Motion, able to carry five in comfort, or a bike and provide accommodation whilst being able to get in and out of muddy paddocks with ease (due to its four wheel drive). The problem being that Transporters hold their value exceptionally well so were out of my price range and the 4Motion versions are rarer than hen’s teeth (and even more expensive).

So the Vito is a compromise, yes it can carry six if required, there is plenty of space for the bike, it’s a lot more economical and comfortable than the Defender and there’s plenty of space to sleep in too. But as a rear wheel drive, long wheelbase with 18” alloys and low profile tyres, those muddy paddocks could be an issue! Also it's not tall enough to fit the rally bike straight in but that's true of all standard height vans but anything taller wouldn't fit under the archway that leads to my house. 

And yesterday I learnt the 450 is finished, so it looks like my next race outing will be the RallyMoto GB navigation event in August, can’t wait to get back in the groove!