Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Winter bike maintenance

Well the bike's back from ET James once again (thanks very much guys, great job as usual)! This time with some brand new standard radiators and braces. Hopefully that means I don't have to worry too much about that any more.

Nevertheless I've got a few more things to do before the bike's ready to race again, and I'll be looking to get a few of these done over the Christmas holidays:
  • Lower PDS shock bearing
  • Gearbox oil change
  • New spark plug
  • New air filter
  • New chain link
  • Re-grease the steering head bearings
  • New rear wheel bearings
  • Adjust & re-fit the sump guard so that it doesn't foul the exhaust
  • New tyres and a front mousse
  • Start fitting the roadbook navigation gear
Oh...and it needs its first ever MOT as well! Best get the spanners out.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Winter project: Rally navigation setup

I have finally got my hands on some navigation gear! I'll spend the winter fitting and fettling the roadbook setup which includes a Touratech electric roadbook holder. Then I'll practice as much as possible using the Rally Navigator online roadbook designer (which is absolutely brilliant by the way). I can't wait to get started!

This also means that I can confirm my entry into the 2015 RallyMoto Cup in the Rally Lites category, where I will aim to compete in all 3 rounds.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

New for 2015: The RallyMoto Cup

RallyMoto club have been hard at work yet again and have come up with a new series to run in parallel with the All Terrain Rally Challenge in 2015.

The new series "The RallyMoto Cup" will be in 3-parts and will be navigation only events. That means roadbook navigation! I'm very excited at this prospect, the regulations last year meant I coulnd't enter, but they have really opened up the entry requirements to make it accessible to all, including classes for beginners and bar mounted nav gear.

The classes for the RallyMoto Cup will be as follows:
  • Rally over 450cc – frame mounted fairing, 13+ litres fuel
  • Rally up to 450cc – frame mounted fairing, 13+ litres fuel
  • Rally Lite – any cc, no fuel restrictions, bar mounted nav gear & non frame mounted fairings
  • Adventure & Beginner Raid – easier course and non-competitive to allow riders to try roadbook navigation
The events are yet to be confirmed but are likely to be as follows:
  • 7th March 2015 – Pikes Peak Navigation Rally – one day, 140km roadbook rally with some challenging aspects – there will be a penalty for any bike that needs refueling on course so the bikes with 13 litre tanks will have an advantage in the overall results.
  • 29th, 30th, 31st August 2015 – RallyMotoGB – 3 days, starting with a prologue and a specific rally and adventure roadbook course. Will also be a round of the ATRC.
  • November 2015 – Moonraker Rally – one day that will start late and run into the night.
How exciting is that?!!! I for one can't wait, especially for the Moonraker and navigating at night, it'll be an amazing experience.

So far I am planning to enter the Rally Lite class on my KTM EXC 300, so I'll be looking into fettling all the nav gear over the winter, then I can't wait to get out there and test my skills on some roadbook navigation!

All the available information on the RallyMoto Cup has been and will continue to be published on the RallyMoto/ATRC website.

Register your interest using the form to let the club know that you're keen to take part - the more riders, the better the experience will be and the faster the scene will grow.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Race report: Colstey Hare & Hounds

It was a beautiful day to go racing yesterday, with absolutely stunning weather greeting all the riders at Colstey wood.

I arrived at around 10:30am and began by walking up the paddock to sign on. It was a fair old walk from the back! I'd turned up by myself this time, so I had to make several trips up and down - 5 in total! I wouldn't normally mention this but carrying the fuel up was a real slog, I need to get myself some wheels for that.

Anyway, after I'd signed on and got the bike scrutineered, I returned to the car to get kitted up. There was a chap opposite me doing some last minute maintenance, so I went to help out and lent some tools and an extra pair of hands.

The start time of 12:00pm soon came around and we were all sat on our bikes with hands on heads, ready for the organised chaos that is the mass start! I rode in the clubman class, so we were second away behind the experts.

I set off at a steady pace, trying not to get roped into the fast pace that the other riders set off at - I wanted to get a feel for the track on the first lap. About half way around the lap was a very steep downhill section through the trees, when I got there I could see spectators everywhere - that's when you know there's something tricky coming up! Finding the balance between letting the bike run and locking up the rear brake, I made it down there each time without any problems.

I told myself before the start that I'd put in 3 laps before I came into the pits, so that I could properly warm up and get into a rhythm. Those 3 laps went well and I felt OK when I came in, pretty tired, but I knew I was getting into my rhythm so I was fairly happy. The course was great, with a lot of technical riding through the trees and lots of tree roots etc. I fell foul of said tree roots once or twice, but they became more predictable once you knew where they were!

I was riding fairly well, and was on course to complete 9 or 10 laps, when on lap 5 I got tired and made a really simple mistake which ultimately ended up costing me a finish. I was in a deep rut and I caught an edge with the front wheel. I jumped off to the left and let the bike fall. Unfortunately, the rut was the perfect height so that the bike landed square on the left hand radiator. At the time I didn't notice anything and carried on, but a few hundred yards later I noticed the bike was steaming (it does sometimes but I know when to expect it), so I stopped to check it out. Then I noticed that the radiator shroud was bent in about 2 inches and I knew my race was over. I got off the bike and had a look around the radiator - it was leaking onto the exhaust.

So that was that! I waited for some marshals to come along and they escorted me back to the pits. It was a disappointing end to the race for me, but that's racing and sometimes these things happen.

These Hare & Hounds events aren't normally something I'd do, I was always planning to do them to keep my fitness up over winter, but it's incredible just how intense they are. Hopefully it will pay off next season!

That's the last race of 2014 for me, now it's time for some training, bike maintenance and modifications. The first of which is going to be replacing those oversized radiators with standard ones and fitting some braces!!!

Many thanks to Garry Barnes & co who were out there taking photos and videos.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Plans for 2015

Sponsorship! That has to be my main focus at the moment if I'm going to try to improve on what I achieved this year.

The way I see it, I need to ride as many events as possible, not only to help improve my riding, but to give me a better chance at competing for a top result in the series I enter.

There are plenty of things I can offer potential sponsors (mainly advertising), I just need to find a sponsor who takes an active interest and genuinely wants to help me as a rider as well as gaining the benefits of the sponsorship itself.

At this moment things are still very much undecided for next year, but a loose plan is to compete in as many rounds as possible of the 2015 All Terrain Rally Challenge and the clubman class of the 2015 ET James Welsh Enduro Championship.

I would love to ride in the Rally class in the ATRC - the rules have changed for the class system which opens up a lot of possibilities, but it's something I've wanted to do for a long time. There's scope for riding my 300 in the new <450 rally class which would require a 13L tank and frame mounted fairing but I would definitely want to do the roadbook sections too, so I'd need some basic nav gear. That setup is the best part of £500. Obviously the dream scenario is that I end up with a 450RR 4T that I can use just for the ATRC, but until that happens, I'm still looking at ways to ride in both enduro and rally disciplines.

I could go on about all sorts of plans like International Rallies, Extreme Enduros, Sprints, Hare & Hounds and so on - they are at the back of my mind in case I'm able to get the support I need to go and do them, so I'm keeping all my options open for the next few months. Watch this space!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Camera angles and winter rally practice

I took the opportunity today to try out some new camera angles while I was out training. I've got to admit it was a hard slog today! The ground was saturated and the grass and mud were like ice. Great practice but hard on the body, it's so intense and difficult to keep up the pace.

My favourite camera angle was when I mounted it on the swing-arm. I'd say I probably need a dry day to get the best out of it, but I like the perspective.

I'd still like to try some alternative camera angles but I haven't yet figured out a reliable way of mounting the camera to either mudguard without drilling holes in them!

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy a few clips of the 300 being put through its paces on a wet winter's day in Wales. Nothing beats a power slide!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Final standings: 2014 All Terrain Rally Challenge

What a season it's been! I've had a brilliant time racing in the All Terrain Rally Challenge in 2014, from the Brechfa rally in March to the Cambrian rally just gone.

I'm very pleased with what I've achieved on what was a new bike to me at the start of the year. In fact, the Brechfa was the first time I rode the 300 EXC "in anger"!

I fought hard and I felt like I rode well and consistently over the 5 Welsh rounds I completed. We had some fantastic competition going in the Rally Lite 2T >249cc class, having to go to the Cambrian with everything hanging in the balance in the ATRC series was a real buzz for all of us!

Unfortunately, I wasn't quite able to clinch the win in the class over the series, I did get maximum points at the Cambrian but it wasn't quite enough! Happily however, it did mean that I managed to climb to 2nd. What an incredibly close finish it was, not only in the event itself, where there were mere seconds separating us at the end of two days of competition and 8 special tests, but in the series overall.

Out of the top 3 in our class, the eventual winner (98 points) had completed 7 rounds and therefore had the benefit of dropping their lowest score. The format of the series is that your best 6 rounds out of a maximum of 8 count towards your final score, so I was at a disadvantage having only completed 5 (96 points), but that makes the 2nd place even sweeter!

Congratulations to my fellow competitors, it's been a lot of fun racing with you this year and I am already looking forward to the ATRC in 2015.

The "winners" for 2014 have been published on the All Terrain Rally Challenge website and the full standings for all classes can be viewed here.

2014 All Terrain Rally Challenge Rally Lite 2T >249cc class:
2nd Ioan Whittick

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

RallyMoto raise £200 for Wales Air Ambulance at the Tarenig Rally

I'd like to say a big thanks to the RallyMoto club for helping me raise a fantastic £200 for Wales Air Ambulance by including an optional donation on the entry system for the recent Tarenig Rally.

Most importantly, I'd like to thank everybody who donated, it's great to see how well supported Wales Air Ambulance are in the off-road community and people have been very generous.

Here I am at the Cambrian Rally accepting the cheque from Robert 'Burt' Hughes from RallyMoto. Many thanks to Alex from TBM for the picture!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Video: Ceri Hare & Hounds

A lap of the course from Sunday's Ceri Hare & Hounds forming round 1 of the MWTRA Winter XC Forest Challenge. Filmed on board the Wales Air Ambulance EXC:

Fundraising total - Wales Air Ambulance EXC

The project has now finished and I've raised: £682.

Thank you once again to everybody who was donated and supported this project throughout the year, I really appreciate it.

The goal of this project was mainly to raise awareness and I think in that respect it has been a great success! On the fundraising side, the total raised didn't reach the goal of the approximate cost of 1 Wales Air Ambulance mission, but is a great amount nonetheless.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Race report: MWTRA Winter XC Forest Challenge round 1

I was quite excited and looking forward to this one, I'd never done a Hare & Hounds event before, so I had no idea what to expect!

This event was the first of a 3-part series which the MWTRA club run over the winter. I'd entered the Sportsman and plan on completing all 3 rounds to keep my fitness up, ready for the new season in 2015.

I spent most of Saturday getting the bike ready after the Cambrian rally the week before. I changed the air filter and chain link, then tightened the chain, checked my bolts and spokes, re-fitted the dust seal from the left hand fork which had popped out and adjusted my controls on the bars. The weather was pretty wet on Saturday so I knew it would be a bit of a slog on Sunday, but I was just keen to go and have some fun.

Sunday arrived and for once I didn't need to be up early! With the clocks going back overnight and a late start of 12pm, I didn't need to get to Ceri until 10am for scrutineering. Unfortunately, although I'd had plenty of sleep, I woke up with an ear infection and felt pretty rough! Oh well, an extra little challenge for me throughout the day then, as long as it didn't affect my balance too badly.

The sidecars and quads had already been round when we got there and our race set off at 12 for 3 hours. It was a strange experience for me having to do a mass start with everybody having to place both hands on their helmets before the flag dropped!

The course was great, very challenging with a lot of technical riding and a fairly rough track in general when it wasn't weaving through the trees and snotty bits. I was trying to pace myself so I didn't tire too early and it seemed to work well. I felt good and came in to refuel on laps 3 and 6, stopping quickly in between for some new goggles. When I got to the bottom of the last uphill climb, I realised I would arrive almost exactly on the cut-off for another lap. I decided that I'd had a good day and didn't want to ruin it by pushing my luck, so I took a breather with some other like-minded riders and set off a couple of minutes later to ride straight into the finish.

I really enjoyed the course, it included exactly the kind of tricky stuff in the trees I enjoy and some varied trails. I wasn't sure how I'd fare fitness-wise against the regulars, but I did reasonably well and was pleased with how I rode.

The results were being displayed live thanks to the transponders being used as usual by MWTRA, which means I already know that I finished 7th in the Sportsman after completing 8 laps. The eventual winner had completed 9 laps so I think that was a pretty good day at the office! Looking forward to the next round now at the end of November in Colstey, thanks everybody involved for their efforts.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Thank you - Wales Air Ambulance EXC project

I wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who donated to Wales Air Ambulance and supported me throughout this year with my Wales Air Ambulance EXC fundraising and awareness-raising project.

A big thanks is due to RallyMoto club for their continued support throughout the season and in particular for adding the optional donation to the Tarenig Rally entry system which was a great success (more on this later).

Thanks also to everyone at ET James motorcycles for keeping my bike going strong! Whenever it needed anything it was turned around in time for me to race, great stuff.

I hope to see everyone at the All Terrain Rally Challenge rounds and various enduros in 2015, I’ve really enjoyed riding with you all this year.

Ride safely in the meantime!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Results: Cambrian Rally

As long as my provisional calculations are correct, I couldn't be happier with the results from the WTRA Cambrian Rally, I'm over the moon to take another class win even if it was only by a few seconds! The competition was fierce at the Cambrian and everyone was on top form! Well done everybody.

Day one results | Day two results

The ATRC series points will be calculated shortly and then the final overall standings will be confirmed!

Here are my personal stats for the Cambrian:
  • Rally Lite 2T >249cc: 1st / 15
  • Overall: 7th / 128

Monday, 20 October 2014

Video: Cambrian Rally

This video's a little different to the usual, unfortunately my camera couldn't cope with the regular water baths, but hopefully it makes for some good viewing all the same. Luckily the Wales Air Ambulance EXC was more resistant to the conditions!

Race report: Cambrian rally

The final round of the 2014 All Terrain Rally Challenge was the WTRA Cambrian Rally this weekend. It was promising bad weather and that's what we got! Strata Florida commands respect on any occasion, but with all the rain in the area in the couple of weeks leading up to the event and on the weekend itself, the whole course was pretty wet. Strata wasn't too bad although it certainly caught a few people out and gave them a free bath and bike wash.

The really interesting thing for me was the second special test. I think I could best describe it as an enduro test really! There were some very deep puddles and quite technical riding but it was masses of fun. I enjoyed the whole course, although the opening section could've done with a few more trails in my opinion. It was well organised as usual and the atmosphere was great, with everyone on top form and plenty of laughs all round.

Now, onto the race itself...I have to admit I was nervous going into this weekend, I'd picked up my bike from ET James on Friday (thanks again for getting it ready so quickly!) and spent the day fettling, fitting a new air filter, tightening the chain and just checking the bike over. I'd worked out beforehand what the possibilities were within the ATRC final standings, and I knew I had to win, and even then it would go down to the wire between the 3 of us. Knowing all this, I'd put a lot of pressure on myself and subsequently failed to get any sleep on Friday night!

Anyway, up I got on Saturday morning at 5:30am and we set off for the race. I signed on, got my times and stuck my numbers on, before getting my bike scrutineered and then catching up with friends in the paddock. I can't tell you enough how nice it is to see so many friendly faces at the rallies, everyone's in good spirits and keen to help each other out.

There were 3 laps to do each day, with a sighting lap to begin each day and the course running in reverse on the second day.

Day one started and I set off on the sighting lap at 10:31am, being one of the early ones as I'd ended up with the #4 plate for the weekend. We picked our way carefully through Strata Florida, choosing shallow lines and taking no chances. Then we got to the tests and rode them at a steady pace to pick some good lines. Almost all of us got to the end and told each other stories of huge waves of water jumping in through our helmets as we ploughed into the water splashes! There were some deep holes on the tests and they were filling all the time with the rain that was lashing down. I remember feeling a bit worried for the new riders and the big bikes after riding that second special test - just hoping that they wouldn't be put off by it! The tests were both technical, but not especially high speed, so consistency would decide the results.

The second lap arrived and I packed some spare goggles and gloves for the test thinking "yes this is a smart move, this will give me an advantage etc etc"...I had GoggleGate incidents on both timed tests on that lap, having to remove them half way through the test, costing me time. Worse than that was that I had shot out on that first timed test, overshooting most corners, and when my goggles got completely covered and I couldn't see anything, I crashed and landed hard on my knee. I only lost about 10 seconds but it ruined my test and I wasn't happy at all at the end of that first lap!

The last lap was much better, I'd regrouped and talked myself into riding smoother and hitting my lines. It worked and I felt like I rode much better, putting in two decent tests to end the day.

It was a bit of a nightmare getting all my kit ready overnight because everything was soaking wet, my boots had to be emptied of water and we did our best to dry all my kit! Day two promised more of the same weather-wise, so the waterproofs were going back on in the morning. I did some quick work on the bike, swapping the air filter (which was soaking wet), greasing the chain and just generally checking over the bike. It seemed fine other than a log wedged in my chain guard! I did wonder if something was dragging on the way back to the pits...

Up again at 5:30am, we set off and I was feeling much more relaxed, I'd convinced myself that although I had a bit of a bad day on Saturday, that I could still have a good ride and stay in contention. That being said, I was determined to ride fast and smooth rather than wild!

When I got there, I unloaded the bike and went to get my times. When I was on my way back down the paddock I noticed my bike was leaking a lot of fuel! I stopped by a friend's van (thanks Pindie & Bryn) and we set about persuading the float valve in the carburettor to un-stick itself. Luckily it was sorted within a few minutes and off I went to get ready.

We started at 9:31am and straight towards both tests before completing the loop via Strata Florida. I have to say I much preferred the tests in reverse, I found they suited me a lot better. With the sighting lap done, I was getting worked up on my way to the first timed test of the day. I tried to relax before attacking the test and this was a pattern for me throughout the day to stop myself making stupid mistakes that I'd be annoyed with later on. It seemed to work, I had 4 good tests on Sunday and stayed on the bike all day! Other than having to tighten the chain after the sighting lap, the bike behaved well and I was happy.

Every now and then throughout the day, I got a shout of encouragement from fellow riders and a spectator or two, which was really great! It really made a difference and was much appreciated, so thanks everybody!

Overall, I'd say I had an average to fairly good ride over the weekend. I could've done better had I sorted out my goggle problems but that's something to look into for next season. Hopefully I wasn't the only one to have issues throughout the weekend and I'm hopeful of a half-decent result.

In the Rally Lite 2 stroke >249cc class of the ATRC, we are all biting our fingernails until those results come out!

Well done to everybody, it's been a fantastic year of racing in the ATRC and I've really enjoyed myself. Also, many thanks to WTRA and all involved in putting on the event this weekend, it was great fun as usual!

Final standings: ET James 2014 Welsh enduro championship

The championship is finished for this year! Unfortunately the Fowlers enduro had to be cancelled, which meant that the Jacko Memorial enduro was in fact the last round for the Sportsman class. I'm really happy to have finished 5th bearing in mind I've missed a few rounds and really looking forward to next year's racing!

The full Sportsman class results can be viewed here.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Cambrian rally final prep

The weekend's almost here and my bike is having some emergency servicing done on the rear shock, which had sprung a leak! It must have had a pretty hard life before it came to be the Wales Air Ambulance EXC, poor thing.

Anyway, once that's been sorted at ET James, I'll get fettling and make sure every nut and bolt is secure and do all my usual checks. I might even replace the air filter - it's going to be a wet weekend with not just rain but Strata Florida to contend with. I'll want to swap filters overnight on Saturday anyway to look after the engine, so it'll be good to have a spare one.

Other than that, I'll make sure the work I did last weekend fixing the headlight wiring is holding up, I didn't like the look of the connectors!

All that's left to do then is to look forward to it, turn up and then ride a good race in what is the final round of the 2014 All Terrain Rally Challenge, the WTRA Cambrian Rally.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Rally roadbook taster

Thanks to Burt from the RallyMoto club, I had my first taste of riding following a roadbook on Sunday. It's something I've wanted to do for a long, long time but I've never had the opportunity. I was really excited to have a go and see how I got on, I've ridden following maps on the tank before, but this is a different ball game.

For those of you who may not be familiar with a rally roadbook, it's a set of navigation instructions printed on a roll of paper. The instructions in their most basic form will typically have a distance marker, a "tulip" which is a pictorial representation of the navigational instruction in the form of an arrow, and any warnings or notes. The idea is that you calibrate your odometer or "trip" on your bike to match the distances and thereby match up the instructions with the distance markers. Occasionally corrections will need to be made to your trip, and these can be adjusted as you move along using a switch connected to your odometer.

The paper roll of instructions is what's known as the roadbook, which fits in a roadbook holder. This is then mounted on the handlebars or fairing and encloses the roll so that it's kept out of the elements. The roadbook holder also allows the rider to scroll through the roll. With the most basic "manual" roadbook holder, there are two knobs which allow you to scroll the roadbook forwards and backwards. That is what I was using, so it was important to time the scrolling carefully in order to avoid any dangerous situations!

I have to say I absolutely loved it, it's right up my street (as they say)! I really enjoyed the extra challenge it provides and it was hugely rewarding to be able to follow the roadbook. Admittedly I got lost a few times, but that didn't put me off. I knew almost straight away when I'd gone wrong (the instructions start making no sense), it was a case of going back to the last known correct navigation instruction and having another go, but I actually enjoyed that too, it's even satisfying to correct a mistake!

I can't wait to have another go, it's definitely something I want to do more of and when I can scrape enough pennies together I'll get my own basic kit over winter and practice as much as possible.

If anyone is interested in finding out more about roadbooks, training or upcoming UK roadbook events, have a look at the All Terrain Rally Challenge website.

Friday, 10 October 2014

ATRC Standings: Round 7

The ATRC points have been updated after the penultimate round of the series at the Tarenig Rally and it's still anyone's game going into the final round at the Cambrian Rally next weekend!

In my class, the Rally Lite 2T >249cc, the top 3 are still undecided, where I'm currently lying in 3rd. Mathematically, it's still possible for any of us to take the win, which makes the Cambrian a huge fight to the finish! It'll be a question of who can keep a cool head under pressure and be consistent throughout the weekend without making silly mistakes. I know my chances of winning the class in the ATRC series are pretty slim, but there is hope!

There's plenty of action in the other classes too, you can see the full standings on the All Terrain Rally Challenge website.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Results: Tarenig Rally

The results are out for the RallyMoto Tarenig Rally and I'm over the moon! I won my class and if my very quick calculations are correct, I was 3rd overall. I can't tell you how happy I am with that, I'm absolutely beaming! The full set of results can be found here.

I was very fired up for this one with it being another "home round", so I'm glad I was able to hold it all together and keep a cool head for the result I desperately wanted!

Hopefully that means I have done enough to secure 3rd place in the 2014 All Terrain Rally Challenge Rally Lite 2T > 249cc class. I'll be pushing hard for another good result at the WTRA Cambrian Rally, to see if I can get my hands on some more valuable points and possibly chase down the 2nd place spot! Unfortunately, it's unlikely I can challenge for the top spot because I've missed too many rounds this year, but I'm very happy with what I've achieved so far on the Wales Air Ambulance EXC!

Rally on!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Video: Tarenig Rally

Footage from the special test at the RallyMoto Tarenig Rally, on board the Wales Air Ambulance EXC, enjoy!

Race report: Tarenig Rally

Well you wouldn't have believed it was late September from the weather we had today! It started off cloudy and miserable but it soon changed to a warm, beautiful sunny day, ready for the penultimate round of the 2014 All Terrain Rally Challenge.

I was up bright and early and it was still dark when I set off at 6:30am. I signed on, dropped off the Wales Air Ambulance badges at the RallyMoto tent (thank you to everyone who very kindly donated) and then got my bike scrutineered.

My start time was 10:04 and there were 4 laps to complete, with the first lap being a sighting lap. There were some great optional enduro loops out on the course, the test was long and fast and there was a good mix of trails and technical bits throughout. When I got back after the sighting lap I tightened my chain and replaced my goggle film ready for the first timed lap.

On my second lap, I had a bit of a lapse in concentration (ok 3 of them) and came off in some very silly places on the going! The first two were successful dismounts, the third one hurt though, the front wheel tucked underneath me on a bermed section and it wrenched my left arm. I attacked the test for the first timed lap and then took some painkillers when I got back to the pits. Unfortunately I caught about 5 riders on the test and it probably cost me some time, hopefully I didn't put them off when I overtook! Somewhere along the way I managed to crack the welds on the radiator again and lost the guard as well. Frustrating!

The 3rd and 4th laps were better, I kept a good pace on the going without tiring myself out and then rode as fast as I dared on the tests. I was pushing the bike to its limits for grip in some places but I felt like I rode pretty well and I really enjoyed it.

A big thanks once again to the RallyMoto club and all the officials and marshalls today, and well done on another fantastic event!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Final prep for the Tarenig Rally

Saturday morning was a busy one for me! I was up early and took advantage of that to get some work done on the bike so that I could have a play on Sunday.

The first thing I replaced was those front wheel bearings. There wasn't much play in them, just a tiny bit, but I like my bike to be spot on. Once I'd done that, I fitted a new front sprocket, then popped down to ET James to grab some new rear sprocket bolts, the missing fork guard bolt, some thread lock and a new Renthal O-ring chain. As soon as I got back I fitted a new Supersprox rear sprocket with those fresh bolts and thread lock, got the new chain on and adjusted and sorted out the fork guard. While I was working I had another cable tie on the front brake for good measure, then I did my usual checks and topped it up with fuel.

Sunday morning was great fun! What a stunning day it was and I could hardly wait to get out on the field and muck about doing wheelies, jumps and practicing little techniques. After I'd quenched my thirst for play riding, I set about putting in a few laps on the enduro test loop. I really feel like I'm gelling with the bike now and starting to get the best out of it. Since I first set up the track almost a year ago, which is tight, technical and demanding, I have been able to knock 40 seconds off my best lap time (around 3:30 to begin with), so I'm pleased to be heading in the right direction and I know where I can make more time up.

It's absolutely true what they say, there's nothing like time on the bike and gaining experience! The Tarenig Rally this Sunday will be my 10th event of the year and my 4th ATRC rally. I'm really fired up for this one and I can't wait to get going and hopefully fight for another class win!

I'd like to say a big thank you to the RallyMoto club for arranging a Wales Air Ambulance donation option on the entry form for the Tarenig Rally, and especially to all the generous riders who have donated, what a great community.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Next up: Tarenig and Cambrian rallies

I got my entry in nice and early for the WTRA Cambrian Rally, which will be the last round of the 2014 All Terrain Rally Challenge but the other day I realised that it's a week later than last year! I'm gutted because that means I'll miss the last round of the Welsh enduro championship, the Fowlers enduro. Last year's event was really good - don't get me wrong, I'm pretty sure it was the hardest enduro I've ever done, but I was looking forward to having another go at it this year!

The Jacko Memorial enduro turned out ok and the Wales Air Ambulance EXC definitely appreciated the new air filter and spark plug., she's been treated like royalty recently! I'll have to check the front wheel bearings before the Tarenig Rally and I'll be fitting a new chain and sprockets. Other than that I lost one fork guard bolt at the Jacko and I've already replaced the rusty footpeg split pins.

The Tarenig Rally is full to the brim! With a capacity entry of 175 riders it's going to be a great event and there will be plenty of competition in all classes. I'm not sure what I can realistically achieve in the ATRC, we'll have to wait and see how the Tarenig goes first, but at the very least I'd like to hold onto 3rd. Bring on another "home round" on the 28th!

Monday, 15 September 2014

Results: Jacko Memorial enduro

The results are out for the 2014 CWAC Jacko Memorial enduro, you can download them here. I'm pleased to have finished 6th out of 42 starters. I would have liked to have been in the top 5 but there were some extremely fast times in the Sportsman class this year!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Video: Jacko Memorial enduro

On board action from the Wales Air Ambulance EXC, enjoy!

Race report: Jacko Memorial enduro

It was good fun at the CWAC Knighton Jacko Memorial enduro today, good weather and a decent turnout for the Sportsman class. It was the penultimate round of the ET James Welsh Enduro Championship for the Sportsman class, so all to play for at the sharp end!

Well I have to say my day was fairly uneventful this time! The first lap was a sighting lap and there were 3 laps for the beginners class and 4 laps for all other classes. The fuel/test check was loose and stayed the same with regards to time allowance. The other check got tighter by 1 minute (for the Sportsman class) each lap. I stayed clean on time easily as the checks were loose, and didn't have any bike problems. I had a couple of spectacular brake slides on the tests but other than that things were pretty smooth.

Thanks as usual to Keith Bowen from MX247 for the photos.

There was traffic to contend with on all 3 of my timed tests, but I'm hoping it was the same for everyone as I lost a few seconds in places. All that's left to do is to wait for the results!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Update: ET James 2014 Welsh Enduro Championship

A great result for me at the Nant y Moch enduro has given me some more championship points and I'm now up in 5th place! With my entry in for the Jacko Memorial enduro this weekend and plans to enter the Fowlers enduro in October, points and positions are up for grabs!

The full standings are available on the Welsh Enduro Championship Facebook group.

CWAC Jacko Memorial enduro this weekend

I thought I'd see how the Nant y Moch enduro went before I decided to enter this one, mostly to give me a chance to assess the damage (me and the bike)! The entries closed last night but I was lucky enough to get mine in just in time.

I had a quick look around the bike after Nant y Moch and I need some new front wheel bearings but that should be it. I'll get that done on Saturday and then off I go to the Jacko on Sunday morning.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Results: Nant y Moch enduro

The results are out for the 2014 ADMCC Nant y Moch enduro, and I'm happy to have finished 2nd in the Sportsman class! I thought I'd ruined my result by dropping a minute on the last check of the day but it made no difference so I'm pleased with that, I worked pretty hard for it and felt like I rode well.

Video: Nant y Moch enduro

On board action from the Wales Air Ambulance EXC, enjoy!

Race report: Nant y Moch enduro

We couldn't have asked for better weather for the weekend, as I drove up to walk the test on Saturday morning, the Nant y Moch reservoir was still as could be and gave a magnificent reflection of the stunning scenery around it. The ADMCC club were hard at work when I got there, making final preparations for Sunday. It was an excellent, challenging and long cross-country special test, with a lot of technical sections, a "proper" enduro test if you will!

Sunday morning arrived and up I got at 6am. The weather was already looking stunning so it was going to be a good day out on the bike. I arrived with plenty of time, had a chat with a few riders and club members and then signed on, got my times and numbers and then had my bike scrutineered. Unfortunately (not only for the club), there was a low number of entries for the event, but that makes me all the more grateful to ADMCC for putting the event on regardless, it was great fun.

With a start time of 10:05am, I had 3 laps to do with each one set to take 80 minutes, 75 minutes and 70 minutes respectively. The special test was at the start of the lap and the first lap was un-timed. Let me tell you though, I was glad I made the effort to walk it! The course was great, there was a good mix including a lot of technical forestry going with tree roots and deep mud to negotiate.

I had two good timed tests, staying on the bike and going fairly steady and I stayed on time until the last check of the day. There was a deep muddy rutted section in the woods out on the second check, and I tried (and failed) to switch lines earlier in the rut, so I went for the tree roots on the outside and wedged the bike in a deep rut. The pegs were caught and not even a lifting it onto the back wheel could move it, the bike was just digging a hole - it was so soft! I was sinking into the mud as I tried to lift it out, back wheel first, then front wheel, then I had to lay it down to drag it across. What I hadn't realised though was that the rut on the other side was so deep. I had to stand in it to push the bike up but it was half way up my legs and I was pushing away from me! I had to ask a passing rider for help - I think it was Paul Jones, so thanks very much. He helped me lift it up and then he carried on. Back on two wheels I tried the next line over but ended up digging another hole, it was ridiculously soft in there. I had no choice but to drag the bike out into the deeper lower rut I was stood in but the bike had been sucked in and was hard to shift with my being lower than the bike itself. Luckily, top man Dafydd Morgan stopped to help me drag it out and down into the lower rut (diolch yn fawr, ti'n seren)! All in all that physically exhausting mistake took me 7 minutes to rectify.

I carried on and dropped out onto the fire road feeling cramp setting into my thighs and abs! This was the last section of the day - a few miles of it back to the finish. After a mile or so I checked the clock and my time due in at the check. I knew the clock was fast by 2 minutes and I was due in at 13:50. As I looked down, I saw the watch tick onto 13:48 and all the alarm bells went off! Down came the red mist and I rode flat out to the end of the check, I know at one point I had the bike flat out in top gear so I was really moving. I slid around the last corner and shouted "TIME?!" as I got there and heard "51" as the reply. I was gutted! I moved past the flag and handed my timecard in, but that was really hard to take after I'd ridden so well all day long!

So a bit of a disappointing end to what was a brilliant but hard event, now it's a case of waiting for the results and hoping for the best!

I'd like to say thanks again to the ADMCC club for putting the event on and all the effort that's gone into it, all the marshalls and officials and to Paul and Dafydd who were kind enough to help me, I hope I can return the favour at some point lads. Thanks also to Keith Bowen from MX247 and Sion Edwards for taking photos during the event.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Coming up: Nant y Moch enduro

This weekend will play host to the ADMCC Nant y Moch enduro, celebrating 50 years of the Aberystwyth club, it's all set to be a classic multi-lap enduro, with a good variety of going and will be a round of the ET James Welsh solo enduro championship.

I think the Wales Air Ambulance EXC is good to go, I just need to do my usual checks for loose bolts, clean the air filter, check the spokes, tighten the chain and check the link etc etc! Hopefully I'll get a chance to walk the special test on Saturday. I could probably do with some fuel too :)

If I have time I might seal the switchgear with sealant - they seem to be prone to getting mud/water in there and it plays havoc with the kill switch/horn!

I can't wait to get out on the bike again, I've only ridden once since the Beacons Rally and that was just a quick blast around the field to bed in my new tyres, bring on the weekend, it'll be demanding and technical I'm sure, but that should make it all the more enjoyable.

As usual, photos, videos and a race report will follow!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Tracey Wheeler's motorcycle ride for charity

On the 31st of August 2014, Tracey Wheeler will be setting off on a solo motorcycle ride from Wales to Romania and back. In doing so, she will be raising funds for the Royal British Legion and Wales Air Ambulance.

Along the way, Tracey will be visiting a Bulgarian orphanage to deliver donated colouring books.

She will visit Auschwitz in Poland, ride the Black Forest Road in Germany and the Transalpina and Transfagarasan in Romania. The trip will take Tracey through 17 different countries in total!

For further details, photos, updates and information on ways to donate, please follow Tracey's trip on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Motobikechallenge and visit her JustGiving page https://www.justgiving.com/teams/TraceysRomanianRoadtrip.

"This trip will done by myself totally alone, no other riders, just me and my motorcycle. Wish me luck and please if you can spare even 10p give a donation to these wonderful charities :-)".

Good luck!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Man vs mousse

If you're using mousses, changing your tyres can be one of those tasks that fills you with dread. I think most of us have been there: "I can do this, how hard can it be?!" and then several hours later, knackered and with no skin left on your knuckles..."what the hell is wrong with this tyre, it won't go on!".

I've heard a few mousse-fitting stories, some likened to wrestling a greased eel and others are a tale of a whole days' fighting with a tyre and snapped beads.

In the past, I've struggled to fit them, getting to the last 10 inches or so and then failing to get the rest on. This time, armed with a couple of subtle tips, I was a man on a mission, I went out and bought some new Michelin Enduro Comp III and IV tyres from ET James first thing Saturday morning, then battle commenced!

I have to say the rear went on OK, not easily but relatively trouble free. Lots of tyre lube helped, but it was mostly down to getting the bead into the well of the rim.

The front was a bit different. I struggled to get the old tyre off! It was on so tight I couldn't even get any levers in. After half an hour or so I finally got 4 levers in and got the tyre off. I cleaned the rim and the mousse and then had a look at it. The rear mousse was perfect, the front one had a hole in the side but it's a fairly small/clean one. My heart was in my mouth as I fitted the last part of the tyre, I'm sure I wasn't far off the breaking point of that bead! With a little extra help standing on the opposite side of the tyre it went on and I was done.

I count that as a small personal triumph, but I need some practice. I've seen championship riders swap both tyres and re-assemble the bike in 10 minutes, this took me about 2.5 hours...

Once I'd finished re-fitting the wheels, I tightened the chain and checked the sprockets (I could do with a new set of chain and sprockets soon), then I noticed the front brake had quite a bit of air in it. This seems to be a common problem with the EXC's from what I hear. I tied a cable tie onto the brake lever for half an hour while I worked on something else and then it was good to go. While that cable tie was working it's magic, I investigated a problem I was having with the kill switch not working. I took the switch apart, cleaned it out and applied a generous coating of WD-40, then it was good to go!

The bike's now pretty much ready for the next round of the ET James Welsh solo enduro championship at the ADMCC Nant y Moch enduro on the 7th of September, it's promising to be a fantastic event, celebrating 50 years of the ADMCC club, so I can't wait!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Update: Io Racing statistics

Everybody loves a stat...don't they? Regardless, here are some statistics for you, from the www.ioracing.co.uk website and the YouTube account and Twitter account @IoanWhittick I use to keep the world informed of my escapades.

I like to keep an eye on visitor numbers etc so that I can work out what's popular, all of which helps me to improve the profile of the website and hopefully by extension increase everyone's awareness of Wales Air Ambulance and encourage donations.

These stats are from the launch of the website in November 2013 to August 2014, and the video stats are from 2014.
  • Io Racing blog views (ioracing.co.uk):
    • 5,237
  • Top 5 most popular pages on ioracing.co.uk:
    • 1. About
    • 2. Fundraising
    • 3. Photos
    • 4. Results
    • 5. Race guide / getting started
  • New visitors vs returning visitors on ioracing.co.uk:
    • 47% new
    • 53% returning
  • Twitter:
    • 1,000 tweets
  • YouTube:
    • 19 subscribers
    • 24,000+ minutes watched
    • 50 likes, 1 dislike
I'd like to thank everyone who takes an interest in what I'm doing and shows their support in any way. Hopefully I can keep everyone interested and increase these numbers!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Update: ET James 2014 Welsh Enduro Championship

Here are the current standings in the Sportsman class, the full standings are available on the Welsh Enduro Championship Facebook page. I am happy to be mid-table having only done a couple of rounds!

ATRC Standings: Round 6

After a decent 2nd place result in the Beacons Rally, I'm still 3rd in the Rally Lite 2 stroke over 249cc class, having completed 3 out of the 6 rounds so far this year. I have to try to win the last 2 rounds but there is some very stiff competition in this class now! There have been 5 different winners in the last 6 rounds, so there will be a good battle at round 7, the Tarenig Rally on the 28th of September.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Update: This year's results so far

A quick update to summarise my results so far this season on the Wales Air Ambulance EXC. Things are going in the right direction but there's room for improvement as they say!
  • 2nd - Brechfa Rally
  • 4th - Drovers enduro
  • 1st - Pikes Peak Baja Rally
  • 4th - Caio enduro
  • 31st - Welsh 2 day enduro
  • 1st - Powys enduro
  • 2nd - Beacons rally
With only 2 ATRC rounds to go, I need points desperately if I'm going to catch up after missing out 3 rounds. Realistically all I can do is secure 3rd, but my personal target will be to win the final 2 rounds.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Results: Beacons Rally

The results are out for the WTRA Beacons 2 day rally on the club website: day one, day two. I'm really pleased to have finished well, especially as this one of the toughest rallies of the year and a lot of talented riders attend. My results were as follows (I've worked some of these out myself, so these are provisional)! My All Terrain Rally Challenge class is >249cc 2 Stroke:

Day 1:
2nd/14 ATRC class
13th/152 overall

Day 2:
3rd/16 ATRC class
11th/162 overall

2nd/16 ATRC class
12th/162 overall

Video: Beacons rally

On board action from day one of the Beacons Rally on the Wales Air Ambulance EXC, enjoy! Unfortunately the weather got the better of the camera on day two, so it's day one footage only.

Race report: Beacons rally

I was looking forward to this year's edition of what was last year's most difficult and enjoyable rally for me, the WTRA 2 day Beacons rally.

Things started for me on Friday because I still hadn't fully prepared the bike after the Powys enduro last weekend. I started off by wiping everything down properly, then greasing everything. I tightened a few spokes, checked almost every bolt on the bike (one exhaust mount was loose) and adjusted the rear brake pedal. Then I re-mounted my handguards because they'd been coming loose at the Powys. Lastly, I fitted a new air filter and had a test ride up and down the field. Good to go!

Saturday morning we set off at 7:30am. It was sunny and bright which was promising, so off I went to sign on, then I fitted my race numbers (36) and wrote down my times before getting my bike scrutineered. With a start time of 11:12am there was a bit of hanging around, so I caught up with several familiar faces, then got changed and did some stretching. I was a little apprehensive about competing in the Experts class for the first time, but excited to prove myself.

Off we went up the very dusty forest tracks, I could already see that visibility might be a bit of a problem during the day, but as long as I rode what I could see it was fine. Not long into the first check and we arrived at the splashes, the best way to describe this section is it's like a mini Strata Florida! Equally capable of drowning bikes though, and a few riders fell foul of the water throughout the weekend. What made it worse for the guys having problems first thing, was that Bob from enduro news was snapping away as we were coming through! Thanks Bob for the great photos. Thanks also to all the other photographers including Keith Bowen, who's photos can be viewed on the MX247 website.

The first lap being a sighting lap, I was keen to familiarise myself with the tests and pick good lines, but still keep a good pace so that I had a feeling for the grip and the lines. On the first test though, I hit an unseen ditch on the brow of a small hill (and on a corner) and the bike and I veered off into the shrubbery. As if in slow-motion, I had time to process the thought "there's a tree there, do I go for the brake or bail out". I went for the brake in the end, which was just as well! I avoided the tree and so did the bike, thanks to a big bramble bush which slowed me down. I picked up some foliage along the way so I pulled off the track, ripped it all out and carried on. I was laughing to myself inside my helmet and reminded myself to remember that one on the next lap!

Both tests looked good from the sighting lap, although there was very little grip to be found anywhere, particularly on the fire roads. Partly down to my badly worn tyres, but mostly down to the very dry conditions. They were tricky in places, with long, deep ruts to negotiate as well as rock ledges, climbs, descents, water, slippery grass and high speed fire road, there was a bit of everything.

Onto the second lap and when we arrived at the first special test it had been "cancelled" for that lap. Unfortunately a rider had crashed on the test and injured themselves, and the ambulance was tending to them and therefore unavailable. I wish whoever it was a speedy recovery and hope it wasn't serious.

The rest of the day was good for me, occasionally I was held up on the tests, but apart from a mistake on one special test where I spun off the forest track into a ditch, it went OK.

Back home we went and as soon as we arrived I unpacked my gear and hung it all out to dry, cleaned my goggles and all the usual preparation. I unloaded the bike so that I could check it over, the air filter was a little dusty but not bad so I left it in, then I greased everything and checked the chain tension which was still OK. I mixed my fuel ready for the next day and topped up the bike, then loaded it back up again. Time for a beer and a sit down!

Sunday morning and I was up at 5am. The weather had turned overnight as the remnants of a large storm was going to spend the day in our company. The rain on the way to the start area was epic, I've rarely seen anything like it, and it continued for a while after I arrived, while I was unloading the bike. Oh well, at least I had my wet weather gear with me!

My start time was 09:12 and off we went for the sighting lap. The course was a little easier in reverse but still had some challenging climbs and descents, not to mention the now deeper water splashes! Speaking of which, on the first deep puddle of the day, someone came rushing through to overtake me, then crashed in the middle of the puddle and took me out as well! I wasn't impressed but I checked he was alright and then 'showed him my back wheel'. The tests were surprisingly grippy compared to the day before despite being a bit rough on the common line, so we were all set for our timed laps.

Goggles were proving to be a problem early on, the rain was so heavy and with branches over-hanging the course everywhere, it was almost impossible to keep them clean. By the time I got to the first test on the second lap, I'd run out of roll-off film already! I decided to clean them as best I could because some goggles are better than no goggles.

That was my biggest mistake of the day, I got through the first section of ruts and I couldn't see a thing! I had to take a chance and remove my goggles, not ideal as you're riding along. I reversed them as I always do and hooked the strap onto the front of my helmet underneath the peak, but it wouldn't stay there, I'd already lost about 20 seconds by this point so with one eye covered by the strap I just twisted the throttle and attacked the fire road section, using my left hand whenever I could to try to move the strap away. I eventually got it out of the way, but it continued to drop over both my eyes throughout the test, it was a nightmare. I was totally frustrated by it by the time I got to the end and ripped them off and chucked them in my bag. What a waste, I must've lost a good 30 seconds on that test. I rode the rest of the lap including the second test without them (again, not ideal), but I had a fairly good test so I was reasonably pleased.

On the next lap I was very careful on the going to keep my head as dry as possible and avoid every single branch I could, it was time to play a game of goggle/glove management! This time when I got to the tests I had dry-ish gloves and clean goggles with half a roll of film left and that gave me confidence. I had two really good tests on the last lap, pushing the bike as much as I dared, wheelies, jumps and power slides aplenty. I hope that was enough to make up for my mistakes earlier in the event!

All in all I think the event went well for me, I hope I wasn't the only one to have a bad test amongst the 7 we did, so my fingers are crossed for a good result, and I hope I managed to stay with the rest of the experts, there were some very talented riders in attendance. The bike was great as usual, apart from not wanting to start occasionally, but I suspect that has something to do with the water crossings. The only damage to report is that my kill switch seems to have stopped working, they're not great anyway so I may end up wiring in a different style one before the next event, unless I can fix this one.

I'd like to thank everyone who very kindly visited my Wales Air Ambulance stand throughout the weekend and donated and/or bought badges. There is always a fantastic atmosphere at the rallies and everybody is a new friend waiting to be made. A big thanks too to the WTRA club for putting on the event, it was great fun and a fantastic course.

I'm already looking forward to the RallyMoto Tarenig Rally at the end of September, rally on!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Final prep for the Beacons rally

With only a couple more days to go to the WTRA 2 day Beacons rally and still recovering from the Powys enduro on Sunday, I've got a few bits and bobs to do on the bike. Here's what will get done before the race:
  • New chain link & check the chain tension
  • Check spoke tension
  • Replace air filter
  • Check brake pads
  • Check coolant level
  • Top up rear brake fluid
  • Re-align the forks
  • Re-mount the handguard anchor bolts
Obviously I'll do all the usual checks and greasing, along with the kit preparation like cleaning and re-filling my goggles, I suppose I'll be doing that all again on Saturday night too. Looking forward to the race now, it looks like the weather will be awful, with heavy rain and wind forecast, but I won't let that affect anything if I can help it!

Monday, 4 August 2014

Results: Powys enduro

The full results are now out on the MWTRA website. I've been waiting a long time for this, but finally I can look at a results table for my class, and I'm at the top! Amazing feeling to take my first ever enduro win at the Powys enduro this year.

Thanks to Keith Bowen from MX247 was also at the event taking photos.

Video: Powys enduro special tests

On board action from my first ever win on the Wales Air Ambulance EXC, enjoy!

Race report: Powys enduro

This year marked the 40th anniversary of the Powys enduro, run by the MWTRA club and to me, my fifth attempt at the 120+ mile "monster loop". I'm always fired up for the Powys, it's the one event in the year when everybody turns up and we have a great time racing mates around stunning countryside. This year, I'd persuaded myself that it was about time I won the Sportsman class, and that would be the goal for Sunday...

Let's start with Saturday morning then! I stuck my race numbers on (208), loaded the bike into the trailer and headed off to the start area in Carno by 12pm for signing on and scrutineering. All of that went smoothly, I had my transponder fitted, then I loaded the bike back into the trailer and sent it home on the back of my parents' car.

With all that done, all that was left for me to do was to walk the special test (in both directions). It would be run in reverse in the afternoon. I waited for a friend to finish scrutineering, then we went to have a look at the test. We took our time and picked out what we thought were the best lines, and in places I chose a couple of lines and opted to "decide when I get there".

We had a bit of rain throughout the day on Friday, then some on Saturday, so we knew that the test would be slippery first thing in the morning, and would likely dry out a bit by the afternoon.

I got back at around 6pm and loaded up the car with all my kit, then stocked up on carbs as usual at dinner time!

Sunday morning arrived (at 5am) and I got ready. All the way to the start area in the car, I was going through the test in my head, trying to remember my lines! Before I knew it, there I was on the start line, waiting for my 08:11 start time to tick over on the clock...

The day didn't start particularly well, in fact I had a bit of a nightmare on the first 2 checks! On the first off-road section of the day through some felled trees I lost the front wheel twice, the second time twisting the forks around in the yokes, so when I got back out onto the forest track the other side, my handlebars were pointing left when I was riding straight! I rode like that for a couple of miles until I'd figured out what to do to fix it, then I pulled over, wedged the front wheel between my boots and pulled the bars back with my hands. It wasn't perfect but it'd do, I thought.

A little further into the check, I rode down another felled section which was made up of a carpet of tree branches. I rode up the hill the other side and then out onto the forest track where I accelerated full throttle through the gears. Something didn't feel right, I could feel the bike holding back, so I coasted over to the side of the track and noticed in doing so that I stopped too quickly. I suspected the back wheel straight away so I went and had a look, the rear brake caliper was stuck solid and the disc was smoking and red hot! My first thought was that the piston had seized, so I tried to push it out with no luck, then I bled some fluid out of it so that it could be moved. When I went to pump the brake back up, I saw a big stick was wedged in between my rear brake lever and the frame! A sigh of relief and a chuckle later, with a bit of help from Ant who was on my minute and stopped to help (thanks mate), we got the stick out of there and I got going again.

We eventually came back to the start area in Carno to refuel and then make our way to the first special test. For the most part, I had a good test, apart from losing the back end in the first bog at the top of the test and having to get off the bike and push through. I stalled the bike in one of the stream crossings too, but with electric start at my disposal I didn't lose much time. I'd worked out that I'd wasted around 15 seconds, so I thought I might be close to the top 3.

We went on to the Trannon hills check, which is notorious for its open moorland. It's difficult to navigate and it's even more difficult to pick good lines through the bogs! I was going quite well until I got to an open section and took a wide line to avoid a larger bog, only to find another one. My bike sank straight in, and no amount of moving or pushing would make it go anywhere. It was up to the axles at least, and it was a struggle to move around because I kept sinking into the bog myself! I managed to get the front wheel out, then eventually the rear, wasting a lot of energy and ruining my gloves with peaty bog mud and water. Then I gave it a handful of throttle in 2nd gear and ran alongside it to get out. Phew! I was glad to get to the next check, I'm not a huge fan of bogs, they have the potential to ruin your event quite easily.

So far so good(ish). I was still clean on time and the bike was still in one piece, so I regrouped and kept the pace up until we got the the next refuelling point. I gratefully replaced my gloves and goggles, drank a lot of water, filled up my backpack with water and grabbed a bite to eat.

Onwards to the Dyfi check, which was much more my type of riding, very technical, with a lot of hill climbs, large rocky sections, deep water crossings (I didn't like those bits), open hill tops and so on, it had a bit of everything! It was a long check at 100 minutes, but I made good progress, catching and overtaking all the solo riders in front of me and therefore getting a clear run at all the difficult sections - that made a huge difference! I arrived at the check 20 minutes early, feeling really good about how I'd ridden.

We came down the hill to our final refuelling point, where I found out that I was leading after the first special test. I was totally surprised! I wasn't sure whether or not I preferred to know, because it put some extra pressure on me, and it gave my mates an advantage to chase me for the win, but I tried to stay concentrated and not think about it until I crossed that timing beam at the end.

We went and rode the final check which was very fast, then dropped down the hill onto the test. Show time! I knew I had to be fast to maintain the lead I had (18 seconds), but I couldn't afford to take any risks, so I chose good lines and slowed down where I needed to, to make sure I hit all my lines. In the end I had a good test, and when I crossed the line I knew the others would have to put in a really fast time to haul back the gap.

I was ecstatic at the end, I'd done what I wanted to do on the test and I'd cleaned the day! I went back to the start area, where we checked the live times again and there I was at the top of the list, I won!!! Obviously the results are provisional until confirmed by the club, but because I stayed clean they shouldn't change.

I'm absolutely over the moon to take my first ever enduro class win, and to do it at the Powys enduro makes it all the more special to me - it's the first event I ever did and now it's the first event I ever won. Can't wait for next year!

The full (provisional) results are available on the MX247 website.