Monday, 30 June 2014

2015 Husqvarna revealed

For 2015 I will be riding a Husqvarna FE450 with the support of Midwest Racing here in the UK.

Midwest Racing have a great racing heritage previously running the Husaberg and now Husqvarna UK race team. I'm very happy to have their support for 2015.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Welsh 2 Day Enduro

Love this famous 2 day event in Wales. Tough but so much fun. Great atmosphere, always meet new friends, and the riding is awesome.

Did the event on my Husaberg 450 which was still in rally trim with the extra fuel tank, and navigation gear. Not the ideal bike for the event but it did the job and I thouroghly enjoyed it. The bike certainly gained some attention with the spectators, marshals, and other riders.

1st day was dry and only lost a couple of minutes helping out a team mate with a sprocket/chain issue. The rain came in that night and totally changed the riding for the next day. Everything was slippery and greasy with mud a plenty. Lost count of the offs in the mud but great fun. Lost a lot of time though in the morning changing/checking the oil filters. Not something you'd usually do in this event, but a mechanical problem in the previous rally meant the bike needed some mechanical sympathy this time round.

Definitely be back next year. Big thanks to the organisers, marshals, and spectators. Just a great event.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

John O' Groats To Lands End Map & Itinerary

I'm cycling from John O' Groats to Lands End in August as part of my training for the 2015 Dakar. Here is the itinerary and route map. 

03/08/14. John O' Groats - Tongue
04/08/14. Tongue - Dingwall
05/08/14. Dingwall - Fort William
06/08/14. Fort William - Inveraray
07/08/14. Inveraray - Kilmarnock
08/08/14. Kilmarnock - Annan
09/08/14. Annan - Kendal
10/08/14. Kendal - Warrington
11/08/14. Warrington - Shrewsbury
12/08/14. Shrewsbury - Hereford
13/08/14. Hereford - Clevedon
14/08/14. Clevedon -Cullompton
15/08/14. Cullompton - Liskeard
16/08/14. Liskeard - Lands End

Click on "View Larger Map" below to view the John O'Groats To Lands End Route.

View Larger Map

Friday, 13 June 2014

A Bit Gutted

Now back in the UK and feeling pretty low. Although I've been in training for two and a half year, the last 6 months was a program aimed at taking part in an FIM world championship rally and getting a good result. Being the final race in a series of four, and riding the perfect bike I could really push.

The Hellas before was perfect training with similar navigation (just ICO and road book), tough terrain, more days riding, and on a heavier bike. With three weeks to get ready I was really looking forward to the Sardegna Rally. Another finish was needed to help raise money for the local hospice via sponsorship. Getting a DNF is going to make life a little harder.

Well done to Bruno, Xavier, Alex, and Steph on completing the event. Commiserations to Clayton who went out on day 4 with a problem with his hand, and to Robert who at the age of 60 showed us what true determination, stamina, and sheer bloody mindlessness is all about. He sadly had a mechanical problem 50k into the liaison on the last day.

Straight back into the training this morning with a 10k run. Hopefully I can fix a bike and get out over the weekend. I have some energy to expel! Thanks for everyone's kind worlds and help over the last 6 months. It's much appreciated.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Time To Reflect

4 rallies in 4 months with the last event being an FIM world championship event - sounds simple enough right! The reality is far from easy as I was to find out.
Trying to juggle normal life with rallying is at best challenging and always frustrating. On a budget you have to ride what you have, do your own bike builds, maintenance, and basically beg, borrow, and steal to get to the next event. It's a time when you find out who you're real friends are as they give you their time knowing you can not return the favour. Every evening is spent in the garage working on the bike or on the computer trying to organise flights, transfers, race insurance, fill in registration forms, source parts/spares, etc, etc.
After a rally you're bike and gear arrives quite sometime after you've arrived home and it leaves again well before you fly out leaving little time to do what's needed. You're riding gear needs washing, you're rally box needs replenishing (everything in there will be covered in sand), the bike washed (1 day wasted there), air filters cleaned/re-oiled, tyres/mousses changed, bike maintenance done, camping gear aired, and then the bike altered/modified to suit the needs of the next event. This includes fuel capacity alterations, changes in navigation equipment, wiring, full fairing or rally lite kit, alterations to personal safety/medical kit, etc, etc, etc.
Also during this time you need to physically recover and then get back into you're training regime as soon as possible. You have another race to attend after all! This is when the training done during the winter months comes into play. I'm not naturally athletic and have to put in the hours but it's a must. During a rally you hurt (that goes without saying) but after it's how quickly you can recover. For some riders it takes a long time, for the likes of Coma and co they only get 1 week off after the Dakar! I've also had to sort my FIM licence (nightmare organising the medical tests/total pleasure dealing with the ACU), write/print/send my Dakar presentation, build a web site, design race gear/merchandise, find sponsorship, constantly update the social media sites, etc, etc. All this means that time is not on you're side and it unfortunately becomes the norm to still be doing work on the bike 10 minutes before your start time. This then leeds to the inevitable mechanical failures during an event. People have said I've had a bad run of luck but realistically it's a failure on my part to find time. It's easy to say I could of done better if this and that didn't happen but it's rallying and very few riders have a problem free event. It's all part of the experience! In the Tuareg the clutch plates wore out, and there was a fuelling problem. In the Libya bad fuel caused injector failure, tank leaked, and the clutch lever did nothing. During the Hellas the motor was woefully lacking power, exhaust fell off, and the steering head bearing shot. Finally no working clutch again, and the motor died on me in the Sardegna Rally after only 2 specials and a prologue! I now have 4 months until my next rally so plenty of time......  or is there?
As for the Dakar - my registration is in and now I must wait. I genuinely don't know if I'll get in. There are deals with sponsors and a brand new bike waiting for me. I will be using tried and trusted rally parts making the bike light and strong but its all in limbo until I receive the reply from ASO. I'm happy with my riding, and have more days planned with James West in Dubai to improve my dune/sand riding. I need to be smoother and quicker. My biggest issue is the heat. In all 3 of the last rallies I have constantly found myself needing more water! Lastly, I have no problems with a week in the saddle but the 2nd needs work. I have now 6 months to correct this.

Sardegna Rally

A beautiful rally run by people with a true passion for the sport. Obviously this year was not meant to be for me. I went out on only the 1st day with a major mechanical failure. Luck hasn't been on my side this year, but trying to do a rally a month on a budget is complicated, time consuming, and I guess asking for trouble. Drilling holes in your bike 10 minutes before a prologue is never going to be good!

My rally started from the back of the pack as always. I like trying to work my way through the field - I just enjoy it! The clutch lever once again was ineffective after 10 kilometres in the 1st special and I had an off. It was only in the 2nd that I gained the confidence to ride smoothly without the clutch and consequently gained 9 places.

The riding was great with a mixture of fast fire tracks and technical rocky sections. The day included a wonderful tight section in the forest which included a great climb.

The road book was accurate but nether less you had to concentrate with the navigation. Temperatures were uncomfortably hot. Drinking often was a must and I was constantly running out of water. 45k into the last liaison the bike decided it had enough and stopped without any warning.

Many locals tried to help but eventually we had to throw in the towel and I was collected by the organisation (via a bar, some wonderful Italians, and some interesting methods of pushing a motorcycle with a car).

I spent the rest of the rally with the service team and although I enjoyed helping my team mates it was sometimes hard to hide my disappointment.
The service from Nomade Racing was fantastic and as always I made new friends and was reacquainted with old ones. A big thank you to Team Rally-Raid Products and especially Phill Gunn for getting my bike and gear to Sardinia and back.

It will once again be a rush to get the bike back to the UK and fix it for its next event. I now have 3 months to build my new bike (a 2015 Husky - but more about that later) and get ready for my last rally of 2014 which is the Merzouga. During this 4 month rest from rallying I will take part in the Welsh 2 Day, 24hr Dawn To Dusk, and cycle 1,000 miles from John O'Groats to Lands End. More importantly we are expecting our 2nd child in October so very exciting times ahead.

Click here for more Sardegna Rally pictures