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 and visit her JustGiving page

"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 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 (
    • 5,237
  • Top 5 most popular pages on
    • 1. About
    • 2. Fundraising
    • 3. Photos
    • 4. Results
    • 5. Race guide / getting started
  • New visitors vs returning visitors on
    • 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.