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!