Joined: Feb 2008
Location: Oviedo, Espaņa
Back to the Rally School story:
I never had the right sized spanner with me to tighten any of the bolts on the loose racing tower, not that it would have been much help. The bracket was damaged. All I could do was tighten the one nut as much as possible with my fingers. I found I could ride for about a mile if the track wasnt too bad, otherwise around about 500m metres before I had to stop and manually tighten again. It took me quite a while to get back to the bivouac like this but at least I got back without everything falling apart.
The experts had a look at the damage and agreed the solution was to weld the whole thing on properly for the Sertões. I nodded meekly, hey what do I know anyway?
Then the temporary fix was a case of fairing off, bars off, forks off, and drop out the steering column. How Charlie got those nuts in was a mystery. We were able to somehow get a spanner into the steering column and tighten three out of four ok. We put some red locktite on the bolts, because that was all we could find in the trailer - Sorry Charlie! It seemed to hold well once everything was back together and I rode the fourth loop again with Mike & JB to check nothing worked loose again. It seemed ok.
Mike filling his KTM orange bike disguised as red one. If you see him around, ask him to tell you the joke about the South African, the two Canadians and the redneck at a gas station in Pahrump. Itīs hilarious.
That evening over steaks, we listened rapturously to Dirk Kesslerīs talking about his 2010 Dakar experience. He had a horrific knee injury on the 3rd Stage of the Dakar this year. I was amazed he was even walking around with us never mind riding. This was his first time back on the bike since the Dak, and it was hurting, you could tell. But these guys are made of steel. His description of the event, all the hype, dodging flying cars, carnage in the dune section and his crash was riveting. He said the sheer terror you get when the cars start catching up is really something, especially when you are down in the road somewhere in a gulley with nowhere to go, and a french accent on the helicopter loudspeaker is screaming "GOOO GO! Ze caz are comeeng, ze caz are cominnnng!!!!" He said that one tends to get an instantaneous energy boost and people do superhuman things to get the hell out of the way of the cars and the trucks.
There were many Dakar stories over the weekend, some of them really hilarious, others are freaking terrifying. Jonah Street among others was also there too and one thing that really struck me was how humble and unassuming these guys all are when you talk to them. The one really nice thing about rally is that the guys doing it are all really good guys with the same dry sense of humour. Theyre all totally mad of course (you need to be I think) but theyīd drop anything to help anyone in need and are very passionate about what they do. I thought I had travelled far to be here. Marcus came in from Singapore. Jonah drove 24 hours from Washington. The Czeckīs drove from Michigan for three days. These people are seriously driven and committed.
There are 1,001 reason why one should NOT do rally raid. Ive learnīt everything about this sport is difficult; from getting the FIM licence (yep that too) to getting the right bike, to practicing, to the logistics, the applications, the time, the cost, the risk, the blood & tears & pain, its all hard, thereīs never a break, never enough time to do everything. It seems if I am prepared to overcome all these things, then the reward, that feeling of accomplishment will be impossible to match. I know if I finish the Sertões I will be an emotional, teary-eyed nutcase for a little while. If Iīm not, everyone will respect me for trying at least and getting as far as I do, but I will most liekly remain dissatisfied, I will not be content. I will know whether I have either done the best I could or cheated myself and chickened out. I think I also understand why for some, they keep coming back for more.
Seth (Seth S), Phil (BicyclePhill88), Scott (Hogwild), & JB (JBthered)
Jonah Street, Dirk Kessler & Mike (skibum69)
Charlie (lastplace), Dave (GSNorCal), Marcus, & Seth
Charlie is the legend who put my bike together, and runs the company Rally Panam with Robb McElroy (I think?). Charlie has done the Dakar a three times (I think? - Hes definitely finished in 2005) when it was still in Africa. He did all the support for Jonah a couple of times now, and is super experienced with logistics and the inīs and outīs of rally racing. He knows what mistakes not to make so Iīm lucky to have his input and support.
We set off in a group for Dumont dunes on a 70 miles route on the roadbook. This turned out to be the most enjoyable route of the weekend for me because it had a bit of everything in it. I had no problems with the navigation except very early on, and I didnīt rush too much. The first real obstacle was a badly washed out track with big steps in it leading steeply down a hill. If you picked the wrong line you would end up in a deep slot. A couple of the guys had stopped there and were thinking about how best to do it. I just said "bugger that" and took the plunge like a fool. I think riding next to the track off-piste might have been a better idea because I hadnīt gone 20m when I lost the front wheel out from under me and I went down.
I think JB might have it on camera. Must have looked hilarious. I really battled to get the bike started after that, the battery was poked on the 1st day so I had been kickstarting it all weekend. Eventually I managed to bumped it on the bad bit, and we continued a long a rocky section which broke onto a fast dirt road. The route took us on a long winding route through the mountains, it was spectacular stuff. It finally ended in a canyon of sorts which was really technical and very whooped out. It was exhausting and very, very hot work in the blazing sun. JB managed to break a hole in his engine on a rock near the end so he sat back in the shade of a rock and had a nice nap while he waited to be picked up, the rest of us thrashed ourselves to the point of death by exhaustion in this MX-style river bed that never wanted to end.
After about 8-10 miles of this kind of riding we broke out and finished up at the dunes where the camp had been moved to.
Scott Scott (Hogwild) Whitney, setting off with yet another sucker in tow. The chain broke high in the dunes, and he had a bit of an epic getting it off and replacing it in the midday sun. Respect!
We hit the dunes shortly after everyone arrived and it was quite fun I must say. The guys were tired out from the earlier ride, so I think we all need to learn how to improve on our endurance going forward. It was so hot. Jonah took us out and did some theory on navigating through the dunes with us while we all baked nicely, wishing we could just ride. The riding wasnt too hard, as the sand was actually very firm compared to what Im used to here in Peru. I laughed at Jonahīs answers to n00b questions. People would keep asking things like "how fast should we ride?" Jonah pauses and says "I donīt know, as fast or as slow as youre comfortable with without falling off a dune and getting badly hurt."
"How should we ride up a dune?"
"Ride straight up if you feel like it or zig zag at an angle, anyway you like. You decide."
His answers were always simple, what he was really saying is if you are going to ride any desert rally you need to practice riding and navigating in dunes. Dont go in green. And be sensible about choosing your line. For those of you who want to know the secret bits, youīll have to attend the rally school yourself to find out.
I did a bit of a video of us riding in the little Dumont dunes. I think only two of us had done sand before, so it took a bit of getting used to for most.
Mods: I dont get it, this is a pasted embed code from youtube. The last time I tried to fix this I ended up crashing/freezing my thread! What the heck am I doing wrong?? If you cant see the vid, please go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmHSlw9acUU
In the video its hard to see the crests, its the same when youre out there, this is what makes dune riding hazardous.
Some of the guys went back to refill their camelbacks, so it was basically Mike & myself who went out to the big dunes. I was very tired. I need to get fitter. When we finally got there, we started playing in them, I have some video of this I still need to edit and put up for you guys. There is this one really big triangular dune, perhaps 100 or 150m high, with lots of holes and smaller dunes on it and steep sides all around. The idea was to get to the top. I wasnt keen because of my fatigue and heat so I chickened out initally and took a rest after only going about 2/3rds of the way up. Mike eventually came back also after cruising around for a bit and we chatted for a bit longer before giving it another bash. Mike lost it about 15m from the top and went over. I managed to get over the top but dropped the bike not expecting an equally steep drop on the other side. As I pulled the bike straight I managed to grab the hot exhaust with my hand. There was a hole in my glove so I screamed "You DUMB %&_()'" but it was too late. A nice 2nd/3rd degree burn. What a stupid way to end off the rally school.
At least I finished everything. I was very pleased about that. I didnt crash too badly. The bike ran so well and I have confidence to do this rally thing now. For the first time I can say now that I really believe I can finish a rally. It was tiring and mentally taxing but I know I can do this. i want to do more. I enjoy that feeling when you are so tired but you have to keep going. When I did caving/spelunking, I got the same thing. No one can get you out of the situation but yourself. This trip made life sweeter for me. It was worth every cent I paid in plane tickets, bikes car hire, etc.
The people I met were all fantastic. My co-n00bs are a great bunch of guys and most of us are going to be doing a rally somewhere this year. The experienced guys were really nice, so patient, and as group everything was general easy and relxed. Thanks to all of you who were there, it really was great to make so many new friends in such a short time and it was pleasure to ride with you.
Cheers for now.
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Dreaming of Dakar
Everyone has a max speed, 90% of that max speed is much safer and easier, and if that 90% speed isn't fast enough at Dakar, you enter the snowball. - neduro
Bluebull2007 screwed with this post 05-31-2010 at 01:46 AM