Wednesday, 30 April 2014

New: Race guide / getting started

Everything you need to know about starting out in UK enduro or rallies:

Results: Pikes Peak Baja Rally

The provisional results have been published by RallyMoto club today and I am over the moon! I won my class and was 7th overall out of over 100 riders, I am very, very happy.

This is a huge moment for me because it is my first ever class win in any type of event, and to do it at my "home race" is that much sweeter!

The full set of results can be found on the All Terrain Rally Challenge website.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Video: Pikes Peak Baja Rally special test

One of my sprint laps from yesterday's race on the Wales Air Ambulance EXC:

Race report: Pikes Peak Baja Rally

The morning of round two of the 2014 All Terrain Rally Challenge started with dense fog, some light rain and a chill in the air. I wandered over for 8am and quickly signed on before getting my bike scrutineered and having a transponder fitted. This meant our special test times would be timed automatically using radio signals accurate to thousandths of a second!

The rally was a sprint format, which meant the fastest lap you can muster on the day is the one that counts, but you need to finish all the allocated laps in order to be classified in the results. RallyMoto club (the organisers) had also introduced a fantastic roadbook section this year for the rally class. This was a huge amount of work for them, but all the feedback has been positive and I for one am very excited to see roadbook rallies taking off in the UK, so well done everyone involved.

Those of you "in the know" can skip this bit! A roadbook is effectively a list of navigation instructions which is printed onto a roll of paper. That roll of paper is then (usually) fed into an electronic roadbook reader, which is a motorised scroller. The rider will typically have switches mounted on the handlebars to control the movement of the roadbook as they are moving along. They also have odometers (often referred to as ICOs) which are used to calculate the distance travelled. This is important because the instructions in the roadbook relate to very specific distances. The beauty of a roadbook course is that there is no traditional course marking with arrows, you use your navigation and riding skills to get you to the finish, and there are normally "waypoints" along the way which must be collected, if not, the rider is penalised. Waypoints are generally used in large international rallies making use of GPS, but there can be manned hidden checkpoints to fill this role.

We set off slightly later than planned but all was fine with the schedule because the lap times were generous. I was due to start at 9:21am and complete 7 laps of the 25 mile course (60 minutes each), the first lap an untimed sighting lap, the others all timed. The course had a good variety of trails including steep climbs and descents, ruts and sticky mud as well as the usual fast fire roads, so there was something for everyone. The special test was fast, with two notable technical sections; a downhill grassy bank with sloppy, muddy ruts which was around half way through, then a rocky stream-bed-type climb at the end - great fun. There were two bits of the test where I had the bike absolutely flat out, which was brilliant fun, but at the back of my mind I was feeling sorry for my poor little bike. I tried as best I could to treat her gently on the rest of the course. Kev Price wasn't so lucky on his new-ish Beta, having to retire due to a leaking head gasket on the second lap, bad luck mate.

On the sighting lap, I could see the level of grip on the test would drop throughout the day as the surface got polished, so I rode at good pace to get comfortable ready for the first timed lap. I dropped the bike in the sloppy ruts but that was the only time I was separated from my bike! The weather improved as the day wore on, the test got predictably slippery in places, but I learnt where to keep the power on and which lines were fast, so all in all, I have no idea which lap was fastest!? I caught a few riders on the tests too, which might have cost a few seconds here an there, but that was unavoidable and the same for everyone. I had a good clear run as I stealthily and tactically snuck onto the test behind Craig Bounds, so that may well have been my best lap, we shall see.

The club made the sensible decision to cut the last lap due to the condition of the course. It had, after all, been used the week before for a car rally. We still had 6 laps though and that was great as far as I'm concerned, I felt good at the end of the day, despite being shaken around by the rough, rocky going and getting a stone in the mouth from a 525 rock thrower!

Another treat on the day was that S4C's Ralïo+ crew were filming and they seemed to like what I'm doing with the bike, so fingers crossed there will be a mention! Either way it was great to meet them, what a friendly bunch.

One more thing that we crammed into the busy day was to setup the Wales Air Ambulance fundraising stand I put together. Thanks to the RallyMoto guys for letting me set it up under their much bigger stand, out of the wind and rain. Most importantly though, thank you to everyone who donated, bought badges and gave their support in other ways throughout the day.

I saw a lot of familiar, friendly faces yesterday which was great and met some new ones too. Thanks very much to everyone who was involved in organising, running and marshalling the event, I had a lot of fun and so did everyone I spoke to!

Gary Jones the photographer was in attendance once again and got some brilliant photos, available here:

Friday, 25 April 2014

New stand setup

I spent this morning coming up with a collapsible stand that I can use at all the events, and I'll be taking it with me to Pikes Peak Baja Rally this weekend, round two of the All Terrain Rally Challenge 2014. I'll be mostly using it to sell the Wales Air Ambulance supporter's badges at £5 each.

Monday, 21 April 2014

A day at the Llyn y Waun enduro

I decided not to ride at the Llyn y Waun enduro on Sunday, but thought I'd make myself useful and offer to marshal or take some pictures. Builth Wells MCC had enough marshals so I dug out my camera and went to watch for the day.

It was great to watch everyone flying around the test, particularly the Championship and Expert classes, they're so fast and so smooth! Below is a picture I took of the eventual winner Carl Jones:

There were a couple of ditches on the special test, not that this bothered the top below as Lee Edmondson, Jack Edmondson and Carl Jones show us the best line:

The results are out and can be viewed here and all the photos I took have been uploaded to an album here.

Easter practice

It's been great to have some nice weather and I've been practicing on flat grass as well as a few technical skills. Here's a taster of some trials practice using a rock:

Unfortunately things don't always go so well...I used a new "bog section" on the grass track and thought it was good fun on Friday. It filled up overnight and what can I say, we've all been there, on the approach you think "oh I'll just wheelie through that, no bother" only to get sucked in and sink like a stone! As soon as I made contact the front wheel dropped, planted itself in and I kept going, bashing my knees on the bars as I made my way over them. Pretty funny though:

Monday, 14 April 2014

Results: Drovers enduro

The provisional results are out and I'm pleased! A continuation of the good start to my season, and a promising result in my first enduro on the Wales Air Ambulance EXC:
  • Sportsman: 4th / 10
Full results can be viewed on the WTRA website along with some photos.

Drovers enduro special test video

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

Race report: Drovers enduro

I was very lucky with the weather again yesterday for the 2014 WTRA Drovers enduro, the sun was shining all day long. I was up at 6am and had left by 7am to get there in good time and have a chat with the regulars.

I got the bike through scrutineeering straight away, then signed on, sorted out my timecard and brought the fuel up to the refuelling point next to the start/finish check. There were 3 laps for the sportsman class, with the experts doing 5 and everyone else doing 4, the special test was untimed on the first lap.

Onto the start line at 10:38am, I started at a good pace, reminding myself that I was late to the first check last year. The first check was hard! Very technical riding through the trees which involved ruts, mud and never ending tree roots, which got dug-out more and more on each lap. The course was great fun, with all kinds of other riding including hill climbs, steep descents, muddy ruts and deep water crossings. The test had a great mix of these too, but with no "stoppers".

The first lap felt like hard going, with the course obviously being unknown to us, it took time and effort to pick out the good lines (and a few offs)! I think I must have dropped the bike about 10 times throughout the day, which used up some valuable energy, but that's the problem when you get tired, it's very hard to maintain the same level of technical ability when you're exhausted, and that's when you make mistakes, which ultimately results in even more energy loss. Being bike fit is important, and I'm reminded of that every time I race. I should point out (before someone else does...) that I was "that guy" that crashed right in front of the photographer on a steep, rutted downhill section, straight into some trees. Well, you've got to give the people what you want haven't you...

The second lap surprisingly went a little easier, I chose good lines and still had the energy to throw the bike around in the trees, and I had a good test, even though I took it steady.

I found the third and final lap hard work, particularly the first check, I had to dig deep to keep pushing myself, taunting myself with thoughts of dropping time at this stage of the race. I crashed a couple of times, one of which pushed my front brake caliper all the way out(!) and the other pulled a wire loose on the electric start. I pumped the brake and all seemed well, and the e-start responded well to some calculated wire wiggling.

The final special test was OK, I wasted a few seconds after dropping the bike in a rut, but my times were fairly consistent so I was pretty happy.

I managed to stay clean on time throughout the day which is always the bare minimum I want to achieve. In fact I was 5-7 minutes early to each check which was good news for me because I got to rest! By the time I'd finished I didn't feel like I had another lap left in me, so I was pleased it was only 3 laps for the Sportsman class!

All in all it was a good day and I really enjoyed it, by 6pm I had everything put away, cleaned and greased and good to go for next time. Great work from WTRA, thanks to all that were involved and see you next year.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Wales Air Ambulance supporter badges

I am very happy to be able to sell Wales Air Ambulance supporter badges now. I should be taking delivery of them this week so that they can be sold at the races I attend. They look great!

The badges will be sold at £5 each and are roughly 7cm in diameter and could be sewn or ironed onto riding gear e.g. jackets, trousers, tops, backpacks, bum bags, kit bags and so on.

A number of RallyMoto club members have expressed their interest and in fact some have even pre-ordered their badges by including the word "BADGE" when making a donation through my JustGiving website

Thank you very much to everyone who has bought one so far, hopefully we can sell out of them and order some more!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Drovers enduro back in my schedule

Good news! I've been able to get my entry in for the WTRA Drovers enduro on the 13th April. I'd always planned to ride it again this year after being beaten by the icy conditions in 2013. It should be great preparation for the Pikes Peak Baja Rally two weeks later, so I'll be looking to get round in a respectable time and get my fitness up.

I finally got round to replacing the handlebar clamp bolts (the ones that secure the clamps to the upper triple clamp). One of them was pretty badly bent, not an essential fix but I like to know my bike's spot on.

I did some training on the weekend but it wasn't what I was hoping for! It was only about 2 hours in total and I worked on pushing myself out of my comfort zone to build on certain skills, namely flat grass motocross-type enduro special tests. It was insanely slippery and I sprained my right knee taking a dab on one of the corners, so I'm a bit miffed about that.

After that I practiced some trials skills, but when experimenting on a new section where I planned to jump off a ledge and land on the track, I forgot about a ditch a few feet before the lip [insert numerous excuses here] and ended up nose diving off the ledge and crashed hard. Luckily the bike was fine and so was I (just a bruised ego), so I carried on for a bit before washing the bike down and preparing it for the Drovers. It should be a great event and a proper workout, fingers crossed it won't be icy again though!