Saturday, 29 March 2014

Russell George AM shows his support

In other news, I was very pleased to receive a card from the National Assembly Member for Montgomeryshire, Russell George, thank you Russell for the kind gesture and your support.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Gearing up for ATRC round two

I had hoped to ride the WTRA Drovers enduro again this year. Sadly though, the bank balance doesn't want to play ball, so I'll be using my time to train instead. That means I'll have had a 7 week break between events, which was not part of the plan. Bike fitness takes a very long time to acquire and only a short time to dissipate, so I need to make sure I stay fit in any way I can to improve my chances of a good result at the next event, which will be the second round of the 2014 All Terrain Rally Challenge: Pikes Peak Baja Rally.

The event will be run by the RallyMoto club, with an optional (upon entry) roadbook loop. This is a fantastic idea and something Burt, Moly and others at the club have been working very hard on. I don't have any rally navigation equipment at the moment, so I'll be on the shorter loop.

One thing I'm slightly apprehensive about leading up to this round is that it's likely to be the highest speed test layout of the year. Not that I have a problem with speed (I love it!), I'm just hoping there won't be any long flat-out sections where speeds of 80mph+ could be reached, because that means the poor bike will be at its limit with the current gearing setup. I like the way it is and I'd prefer to keep it that way, but more importantly I can't afford a new sprocket and potentially a new chain to go with it to change the gearing just for one event. So, I'll just have to take it as it comes and back off if necessary! I don't fancy seizing the engine at that speed, I had that happen to me once on my Gas Gas at around 70mph...

I've been ill for the last couple of weeks and I haven't re-started my training since the Brechfa Rally, so I really need to get better as soon as possible and get back on it!

Speaking of training, it's been a little hard to accomplish on the mountain bike of late, it's been in need of some TLC for a while and it got to the point a couple of weeks ago where it actually became a bit dangerous. Commuting in traffic on a bike that throws its chain and skips teeth at every opportunity is asking for trouble, not to mention the headset which is now completely beyond repair and needs replacing (manifesting itself as a wobbly front end)! Anyway, I've finally got round to sorting it out and did most of it myself: new chain (which was 6 links too long when it arrived...), new cassette, new outer chain ring and a new headset. There will be more to come but at least I can ride it with confidence again.

I'm hoping to get two solid weekends of enduro/motocross training in before the Pikes Peak, I definitely need it!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Glyn Davies MP shows his support

In other news, I was very pleased to receive a card from the MP for Montgomeryshire, Glyn Davies, thank you Glyn for the kind gesture and your support.

ATRC Standings: Round One

I'm obviously very happy with how the points table reads at the moment. I'll be doing all that I can to try to retain that ranking or improve on it at the Pikes Peak Baja Rally next month, so back to the training routine for now! The ATRC standings will be updated throughout the year here:

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Results: Brechfa Rally

The provisional results are out and I have a big smile on my face! My best ATRC result ever and a perfect way to start my season, especially on an unfamiliar bike. I have made my own calculations on the stats so they may change, but on first glance they look like this:
  • Overall (not including sidecars): 8th / 151
  • Rally Lite 2T > 249cc: 2nd / 13
Full results can be viewed in a spreadsheet format here (compiled by me) or on the Dyfed Dirt Bike Club website.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Brechfa Rally Special Test video

On board action from my first timed special test, enjoy!

Race report: Brechfa Rally

Round one of the 2014 All Terrain Rally Challenge and what a way to start the season! Glorious sunshine and a well organised event, so firstly, many thanks to Dyfed Dirt Bike Club. There was a really healthy entry for the Brechfa Rally this year including sidecars, which came to a total of around 180 riders!

I was up by 5am on Sunday morning, got as much breakfast down as I could manage (always one of the worst things, I find) and then off we went to Brechfa Forest in Carmarthenshire. We parked up, got some coffee and I went to sign on with the friendly Dyfed bunch. While I was there I got my times and filled out my timecard.

Everyone's different, but I like to get things done early, so that if I have a problem in scrutineering or notice anything wrong with the bike, I will at least have some time to work on it before the race starts. I went straight back to the car, unloaded the bike and took it into scrutineering. I was quickly given the sticker of approval and off I went to relax and mingle with the regulars and the RallyMoto crew. It was good to see everyone as usual!

The first riders were away at 10am in groups of three, with the fastest graded starting first. There were 4 laps for riders graded 1-7 and 3 laps for those graded 8-10. I was number 30 for the day and set off at 10:09am, very excited to put the new bike through its paces.

The first lap was a sighting lap, the idea being that you use it to familiarise yourself with the special test. Last year I started off riding the sighting laps quite slowly and trying to remember every section, but it's just not possible. My approach has 'evolved' if you like, over the last year to riding the sighting lap at a fast pace to get warmed up and properly focused and to get a good feeling for the level of grip. With regards to remembering the layout, what I now tend to do is try to remember the difficult or dangerous sections. The test was fast, with a lot of twisting fire road which was incredibly slippery and polished in places and really rough in others. There was a nice technical section linking the fire roads which had some long ruts and sticky mud.

A lot of the UK rallies have optional enduro loops to offer a more challenging ride, there were several included in the course yesterday, which were really good fun! I rode all the enduro loops on the first lap, then I tried all the "normal" loops on the second lap. From then onwards I carried on riding all the enduro loops to keep me on my toes and put a smile on my face.

Now then, onto the timed special tests. My first timed lap felt good, even though I mis-timed my braking on a fast fire road section which dropped into the downhill trail and shot off line into the bank. I knew it was there to use if I was coming in too fast, but it wasn't where I wanted to be! There were a couple of riders who had gone off the edge of the fire road in places, but I could see they both had plenty of assistance so I kept moving to avoid blocking the track. The second test was going well until I got cramp in my left fore-arm dropping onto the fire road after the downhill technical section and stalled the bike! Luckily I now have an electric start and I only lost about 10 seconds. I also slowed down a little further on to check if riders were OK after becoming separated from their bikes, but not enough to make any real difference to my time. The third test went well but my arms were starting to feel very tired and my lack of bike fitness was starting to show. I took it steady and made sure I stayed on and put in a good time so that I didn't ruin a good day by crashing out.

All in all I feel like I rode well bearing in mind this was my first proper ride on the Wales Air Ambulance EXC, certainly the first time I'd ridden it aggressively. I have to say it performed well, I was really pleased with how it handled, particularly in the corners. The only thing I might look into is the gearing, it's geared for enduro at the moment (a larger rear sprocket meaning higher torque and lower top speed), so although it was fine yesterday, I might be pushing the engine too hard on some of the faster events like the up-coming second round at the Pikes Peak Baja Rally.

I'd like to thank everyone who donated to Wales Air Ambulance throughout the day, the bucket definitely has some more weight in it! Hopefully as more people get to know my bike and know more about what I'm doing, they will be encouraged to do the same.

Thanks also to Gary Jones the photographer who was out on the trail taking photos - especially for timing my photo so that you can't really tell it was a very poorly executed jump! :)

I'm excited to see the results now and I'm hopeful of a good result. Needless to say I will be back next year for some more rallying at Brechfa.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Final preparation for this weekend

The Brechfa Rally is on Sunday and I've finished my pre-race physical training having ridden around 100 miles on my mountain bike in the last week. I feel good and I'll be resting this week so that I'll be fully recovered by the weekend for what is round 1 of the 2014 All Terrain Rally Challenge.

The weather looked promising early on Saturday morning so I decided on Friday night to set the alarm for 5am. WHY?! I hear you ask...Well, recently I've been riding to the top of Caerphilly mountain and into Rudry and the surrounding area quite a bit and have stumbled across a few stunning views, one of which offers a panoramic view of Cardiff. So, what I thought I'd do is get up early, ride up and watch the sunrise.

It's tough to get out of bed at that time in the morning, but once I got going it was just like any other ride (other than the fact that it was very cold - icy in fact). Let me be clear though, the trip to the top was well worth it, here was my reward at about 7am:

Luckily, one thing I do well is motivate myself as far as training is concerned. It isn't easy when you have no-one with you to test your limits, but I always push myself and I try to reinforce the "enduro rider's mentality" as I like to call it. That is, never give up. When you haven't got an ounce of energy left in your body, keep going, when you have a problem, fix it and keep going, when things aren't going your way, keep going. I'm well aware that there's no substitute for time on the bike, but I have to do the best I can in the situation I'm in.

Anyway, that's enough of the clich├ęd rambling, and back to the matter at hand. The only preparation I have left to do as far as the bike is concerned is: check the air filter, check the chain tension and get my race fuel.

While I'm waiting for the weekend to arrive, I'll spend some of my free time during the week watching my videos from last year's race and some DirtWise training DVDs from Aussie legend Shane Watts. You can buy them in the UK from Trial Enduro Direct:

Wattsy's a great character and the videos are useful, sometimes very funny too! "Unless you like wearing your bum-hole for an eye patch" - shame I can't remember what came before that...

Keep your eyes peeled next week, I'll have videos, photos and a ride report from the 2014 Brechfa Rally.