Author Archives: bc61

Day 2 part 1

Day 2 …part 1

Sleeping the first night started off pretty good as I had ear plugs in and took half a Flexoril, a mild muscle relaxer. Was woken by the sound of my engine starting at 1:52 am, yes I looked at my watch. It ran briefly, shut off, started again ran for another 30 seconds or so before turning off. Guessed Tim was doing the oil change and rolled over back to sleep. Later in the evening I rolled over again bending my legs and was woken by my left hamstring trying to cramp up. Crazy pain but I kept it straight and stretched so it never really got to ball up. This was really strange as I have only ever experienced a muscle cramp one other time. After a few minutes of stretching and realizing it was not going to cramp again I pulled out my electro stimulization massager, hooked the electrodes up, set it for the strongest setting I could take and proceeded to fall asleep. A great recovery aid, I knew it would come in handy but didn´t expect to need it like this.

Was woken up by Robb at 5:00am, guessed I was sleeping pretty well by now as the two alarm clocks set for 4:45 and 4:50 never fazed me. I had organized all my gear the night before so it would be quick and easy to break my portion of camp. Really all I had to do was deflate the air mattress, stuff the sleeping bag, put on riding gear and zip up my large duffel bag. I was ready to go. Made my way to the truck and Tim looked like he did when I went to sleep. Obviously he was up all night, Niles too. There was a list of things to do to the bike Tim and I discussed even prioritizing them, from fuel routing, fork adjustment, roadbook switch fix to the general maintenance of air filter and oil. My main concern was fuel and lowering the forks to add a little stability. Tim greets me with a smile and says it´s ready to go. Everything was complete. Jumped on the bike and headed to the food tent. Ate as much as I could knowing it would be a long time before another solid meal.

My start time came up and off I went, thankfully the decision to fuel up the night before paid off as the rally station was packed. I rode right on by. Same story as the night before with the crowds, people everywhere. Now the streets were barricaded so getting mobbed was happening less. I noticed a ton of large touring motorcycles packed with gear; I guess we were starting to see the folks who had intended to follow the rally. I kept an eye out for ADV stickers and foreign plates.

The liaison I think was close to 350k don´t really remember but it was uneventful. One gas stop along the way and the crowds everywhere. I could have easily made it the entire liaison without looking at the road book, just needed to follow the lined street. Every intersection had people gathered. Even the most remote stretches had a few people hanging out waiting for us to go by.

Around 300k the pavement stopped and the remainder of the liaison was dirt roads varying from hard pack to some pretty rutted out soft stuff. I was thankful for this as it was a little warm up prior to the special. Even though there was a speed limit of 120k I could get a feel how the bike was going to handle with the changes we made. When I was running through the loose stuff dealing with a twitchy bike I now had a better understanding of why so many teams raked the bikes out and stretched the swingarms. I was used to a twitchy bike at speed but the extra fuel load up high added another dimension and a not so easy feeling. After a bout 10k of the loose stuff I was comfortable and not concerned anymore.

At the end of the liaison there was a fuelling and water station. While waiting in the long line for fuel I caught up with James Embro. We chatted about today’s stage and how to make it to the end of the rally. I loaded up on water, had a protein meal replacement shake and took a wiz. I was ready to go. Around the fuelling area there were two helicopters off to the side, people and bikes everywhere. Only ground cover was small sage brush type plants. With no privacy near there were guys copping a squat in the fields unloading pre-race jitters. I wondered if those images are ever captured for the highlights reel.

My start time was near so time to make my way forward to the start area. The organization at this point has been pretty spot on, workers everywhere pointing out who was next and where we needed to be. Watching the previous starts I could see the ground surface was very rocky and crazy dusty. My game plan was to go on a fun trail ride, don´t get caught up racing anyone, just ride the trail but again I didn´t want to be pelted by the guy next to me and get caught in his dust so I was thinking hole shot then settle into my ride. To my surprise when it was my time they had no one lined up next to me so off I went straight into my game plan. Within seconds of leaving the bike was wide open tapped out, I love this kind of stuff. It didn´t take long before I caught up to the first few riders. The dust was bad but the road was wide at this point and it made for fairly safe and easy passing.

I continued to run the bike hard but I was comfortable and not taking any risks. The road narrowed, dust got worse and I kept coming upon more and more riders. I knew I could not settle in and ride their pace. I´d be trapped in the dust and it would make for a long day. I used every trick and reference I could to make my way safely through the dust and down the trail. I carefully monitored the road book for dangers so there wouldn´t be any surprises. I moved all about the road left and right any time it seemed the dust eased up I went there to get a better glimpse of what was ahead. I used the high stepped road edges without getting to close in case there was something there. I watched the heads of the riders I was approaching to see if there was any unexpected bumps in the road. Any visual clue I could think of to help navigate safely through the dust I used. I have no idea how many people I passed at this point but they just seemed to keep coming. This probably went on for about 30k.

I kept on rolling and was having a blast. I was thinking to myself this is what I came to ride, not the liaisons. I was now happy again and looking forward to the rest of the rally. I made a mental note to apologize to Ned for being a downer the night before.

The trail continued to be fast with a mix of winding sections and a few pace changes cutting back and forth across and through a few river washes. It got a little tricky in that the roadbook will mark a danger for a river wash, dip, bump, ditch etc. but not the 2nd gear 120 degree left hander at the end of a flat out straight. The terrain started to climb and I could see dust trails way off in the distance. This helped with getting the general idea of where the course was headed and aided in predicting the surprise tight turns after all the high speed flowing stuff.

I continued on my way and was enjoying every minute of it. My pace was comfortable and flat out when appropriate without taking any risks. I was doing what I had set out to do, have a fun safe enjoyable ride. Again I was having a blast and really looking forward to what the rest of the rally had to offer.

My comfortable pace seemed a little faster than others in front as I continued to pass one or two people every kilometer. I came upon a rider with considerable closing speed as we approached a double caution crossing a short wash. I passed cleanly under braking well before the wash and the next thing I see the guy is trying to show me a wheel. I couldn´t believe now he wants to race and fight me for position. I told myself I wasn´t going to get caught up racing anyone, just do my thing. On exit of the wash I picked up the gas quickly and was gone. I still was surprised after being run down someone would put up a fight.

On one stretch of road I come over a gentle rise and about half a mile in front of me I see a black blob in the right side of the road. As I get closer I can see the helicopter sitting in the field, I start to slow down. There is a cow laying on its side, legs straight out, a rider five feet past the cow and a charred bike still smouldering away just ten feet past him. The helicopter crew were attending and I kept on going. I thought that had to be a big hit, with everything laid out only few yards apart there wasn´t much dissipation of energy before the sudden stop.

There were many long flat out stretches, the kind that make you feel no amount of horse power is enough, you always want more. The bike was running strong pulling in the mid to high 130´s, not bad for a bone stock motor on an overweight bike. But I wanted more. After a while the bike started to feel flat, it no longer wanted to pull 6th gear and worked better in 5th hovering around the 125-130k/h range. Time for the mind games, do I hear something funny, is the motor tightening up, did I gear it to aggressively, maybe it´s just the road surface.

After about another 15k the bike seemed to pull strong again. Motor sounded better and it now liked top gear again. Maybe it was the road surface. Passed a few more riders and before I knew it I approaching CP1. My thoughts were; this is going well, I´m having a blast, thank Tim for the fuel routing fix, it was working great, ride smart and I´ll get in early leaving plenty of time to catch up on sleep.

 

 

 

 

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Race Day

The Race – Day 1

Early start to day one, we wake at approximately 4:30 am, there are still New Year´s Eve revellers lighting off fireworks and going crazy in the streets. Chris Vestal gives me, Ned and Jonah a ride to parc ferme´. Our official wrist bands get us down the closed roads and right to the gate. It was logistically best for the team for us all to arrive together but that meant a wait for Ned and even longer wait for myself before we could get to our bikes. I managed to get into parc ferme´ a little earlier than the 30 minute window allotted. The extra time was handy as I needed to make adjustments to the ICO, load the road book and just get settled.

Time to go. Leaving parc ferme´ I´m given my time card and take note how much time I have to make the 145 kilometer liaison. Riding down the road leaving town it was impressive how many people came out to watch the show leave town. The roads were packed even when we were in the middle of nowhere people were camped out under the lone shade tree excited to see us ride by. They waved, cheered and snapped pictures like crazy. Any time we came to a stop people would come running up to get a photo. The excitement and enthusiasm of the locals was incredible, and I really didn´t feel I deserved it. They made the effort for us and I felt compelled to wave and acknowledge them back.

Made it to the start of the special, bikes were lined up and the front runners were long gone. Only about a fifteen minute wait and it was my time. I could see the first kilometer of the route from the dust trail wind along the coastal shore line. From the dust being kicked up from the previous riders I knew I did not want to get caught in the trail of the rider starting next to me, the hole shot was important. I planned to get safely through the first stage, not get caught up ´´racing´´ anyone, but getting stuck in some ones dust sucks. I could tell the moment we left the line the rider next to me had no intentions of racing. Easy enough, it was time to enjoy the ride, get through safely with giving up as little time as possible. Things started well as the trail was a rough hard pack mix of sand and stone with a few danger sections to watch out for. This turned into a sand trail that was very soft and wooped out from the previous 180 riders. Not very fun as the bike just did not want to go straight and I didn´t feel comfortable attacking the woops with speed yet. The full tanks made the bike feel like the front wanted to fold in the bottom of each, not comforting and it was giving me arm pump in my throttle arm. This rarely happens and if it does I can usually shake it off fairly quickly. Unfortunately with the deep soft sand woops I couldn’t really get the hand off the bar. This went on for probably ten plus kilomteres, not fun. Eventually we made our way onto the beach where I could find somewhat hard packed surface that wasn´t too rutted. Leaving the beach brought us to a dune section that was very narrow in where we had to navigate. With so many riders before me the route was easy to follow but the sand was now extremely chewed up and loose. The first few climbs went well. Then I approached the first of what would be the two largest dunes of the day, not very big but again chewed up and loose. I began to come across more riders as they struggled in the sand. I made it up no problem but I could tell the motor was working hard. Eventually I approached what was the largest dune climb of the day, there was a considerable drop approaching it but a steep transition climbing so caring big speed approaching really wasn´t possible. I noticed some harder packed sand to the right and a few tire trails that went that direction and then traversed diagonally back to the left and over. Looked good to me until I was already committed, the face of the dune was much steeper than it appeared from the distance, a quick reminder of depth perception can be tricky in the dunes. As I made way diagonally across and up with good momentum the front just started to slide more and more eventually pointing down the face. It was time to ride down the dune, across the bowl and go up from the other side. Should have been easy enough but the more the front turned down the more it dug in to eventually burying itself quickly before I could shift my weight and the bike fell to the downhill side. Not the clean start I wanted and a quick mental note not to go for creative lines in the dunes. Embarrassed there was a huge crowd watching but thankful as many came rushing and had the bike lifted before I could give any kind of direction. The front was still buried deep, it took some time to get it moving again. I made my way down the face of the dune up the steep drop leading to the dune and kind of made my way around to the back side of the dune but needed to make my way back to the top for the way point. This little mishap probably cost me five minutes. Time wasn’t too much of a concern for me on this stage but I wanted to ride clean. The back side of the dune led us to hard pack rocky roads, time to open the Husky up. The road felt like running down corduroy with the bike weaving nonstop, something I was used too and comfortable with which allowed me to gain ground on many competitors. These roads ran for probably 8k and finished the stage. Road past a crowd of people and a stopped bike up right on its kickstand. I learned that evening a French rider died there.

Once the stage was over it there where tons of riders stopped and chatting but I knew it was time to keep moving as we had another 600k´s to the bivouac.

Once again there were people along the route, even in the remotest of areas. They waved and cheered like we were rock stars. The appreciation they showed when waved back too was moving. I saw many of riders ride on by but when someone acknowledged them they went nuts. They made an effort for us I needed to do the same. This started to take a toll and conserving energy way key, even on the liaisons. I kept waving but it some became a modified forearm resting on the bar hand in the air kind of wave. This went on for hundreds of kilometres.

I was approaching Bahia Blanca and the bike started missing. Looked at the middle tank and could see it was running low. This shouldn´t be the case as I knew I another hundred kilometres plus of fuel left. I stopped a local on a dirt bike and he directed me toward a gas station, fortunately it was on the main route. Not an official gas stop I stopped any way as I need to fill the other tanks and see what was wrong. I got mobbed at the gas station people came from everywhere, snapping pictures, asking questions I couldn´t understand and wanting to touch me. The culture is different here for sure. They are very touchy feely and want to be close or hanging on to you. Many pictures where taken as I filled up and then it was time to leave.

Going into Bahia Blanca the roads were close down for the Dakar machinery parade, wasn´t expecting this. In the middle of town there was a check point and a water/food stop. Perfect timing, I was hot, hungry, thirsty and needed to get off the bike without getting mobbed. Made a quick stop then off again. Leaving the center of town the crowds were even bigger. People would run into the street as riders slowed hoping we would stop for pictures and autographs. Extremely friendly but now starting to get more aggressive as we would stop at traffic lights, running up and grabbing or throwing an arm around me as someone took our picture. A few times I felt like I was going to be pulled over. A strategy of slowing before the lights and hopefully never having to full stop usually kept the crowds opening up a lane as I made my way forward. It kind of looked like what you see in the Tour de France.

Continuing on with the liaison I still had several hundred kilometres to go. Only 100k from the last gas stop the bike is running low again. I pull over to check what´s up. Now the neither the front nor rear tanks are flowing to the middle tank with the fuel pump. A simple temporary fix of opening the gas tanks released the vacuum and fuel began to flow again. Not sure if the front tank would be a problem again I stopped short of the official gas stop to top off. This proved later to be a good call. I continued on but played with the gas caps as I was riding down the road trying to release any vacuum build up so the fuel would flow properly. When I made it to the rally station it was packed with competitors and support vehicles. It would probably take 45 minutes to get fuelled there. I knew I had enough gas to make the last 75k and even if it did not syphon properly to the middle tank I could remove the front tank and dump it into the rear tank quicker than dealing with the crowd at the gas station. I continued on only to start sputtering about fifteen k later. No big deal, I pulled over and began removing the front tank. Many locals as well as other support vehicles stopped to offer assistance. I let them know I was ok and resumed moving forward shortly.

Up until this point I was impressed that the liaison, though long it really wasn´t that bad. That quickly turned. For the last hour I was ready to get off the bike. Riding down the road I was working out in my head the possible causes of the fueling problems and various solutions. The heat was getting worse and 450 miles on dirt bike droning down the highway isn´t the most exciting riding one can do. As I approached Santa Rosa, bivouac location for the night, I started to wonder the proper procedure for fuel for the next day. Do I need to come in full or is there a gas stop first thing in the road book. Not sure I decide to stop at the official rally gas station at the beginning of town. Not many competitors there but security was lax compared to the other official stations and was quickly swarmed by people pulling and tugging before I even came to a stop. Everyone from little kids to grandparents wanted photos, autographs and hugs. Women and girls were grabbing my head kissing my helmet. It took much longer than expected to get out of there with the large crowd and I was ready to get off the bike. Made my way through Santa Rosa, huge crowds same as everywhere before. I was hot, hungry tired and honestly kind of over the crowds by now as I ready to get off the bike but I still felt like I needed to show the respect they gave us so the forearm resting on the handle bar salute continued for several miles.

Finally arriving at the bivouac I was ready to be done. It took a few minutes to locate the crew and I was spent. The commute that started easy got old toward the end. I rolled in at 7pm. Jonah and Ned, arriving considerably earlier than me due our start times, looked relaxed and fresh by now. Ned with his big grin asked me how cool was it to be racing in the Dakar and wasn´t this fun. I told him fun left about an hour and a half ago.

Tim was busy working on Ned´s bike and I did not want to interrupt him so after cooling off a bit I gathered my stuff, hit the shower grabbed some dinner. After eating I headed back to our camp and began working on my road book. Finished with the road book I was ready for bed but Tim was wrapping up Ned´s bike and I did not want to interrupt. I knew I need to explain to Tim how the fuel system worked, what was going wrong. Tim needed to take the front tank off to look at the system routing for us to sort out possible solutions. It was 11:30 before I made it to bed.

Bikes lined up at the special.

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4:30am

Alarms went off, time to go. People are still out enjoying their New Years eve.


Updates

Not sure when I will have wifi next but I will do my best to update when possible. I have a satellite phone so I hope to periodically call in my progress. Julie, Mike and Jason will try to pull together whatever info they can come up with to keep all informed. Till then, Rally On!


Stage 1 begins early

4:30 wake up so we all make our start time. Spent the evening, resting, preparing the road book and a good dinner. Now time for bed.

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Misc. Stuff

Spending the day chilling and leisurely organizing the spares.

My tires

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Everyone’s tires

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All those wheels and tires will be loaded on top of the Rally Pan Am support truck.

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Spot anything?

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A few shots of the guys finishing up their bikes.

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Stock in zip ties? Each bike had a pile under it.

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Stage 1 Preview

The first stage is the longest total distance, 820k, but shortest special, 57k. Starts with a liaison of ~140k, then the special, followed by a long haul to finish the day.

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A look at the terrain

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Scrutineering complete

After spending the day going through wiring and a few changes recommended by Jonah the bike was ready to go. Jumped on the bike and headed out. Felt great to be riding, always a peaceful feeling. Stopped at the gas station to top off tanks and the peaceful feeling quickly turned. Filling the the second tank, which is slightly higher than the stock tank, gas started pouring on the ground. The thought of my bike going up in flames before even taking the start crossed my mind. First thought was a fuel line came loose. Stock gas cap wasn’t seated properly, easy fix but messy until the tanks equalized. Pretty embarrassing as people pulled up to take pictures when I rolled into the station.

Drama over, I made my way to admin checks. Traffic was heavy and came to a standstill the closer i got. Thank goodness for the slack traffic rules. No stop signs, lane splitting, passing on the right, left and in the on coming lane, whatever it took I wasn’t going to be late. One thing I noticed is no right on red, very few lights but no one did it… but me. Kind of funny considering there are very few traffic rules anyone follows. As I said I wasn’t going to be late.

Admin checks took a while but actual bike tech was quick and easy.

Bike parked as I go to admin check.

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They had a large tent set up with a lounge and booths for each check.

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Made through, got my golden ticket (wristband). Without this I can’t get in anywhere. Even has a micro chip to keep people honest.

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Now the bikes turn. A few simple checks, mostly them asking if complied then putting numbers and compulsory stickers on.

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They put snaps on my riding jacket and attached the number bib.

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Then cross a stage with a few thousand spectators watching on my way to park ferme. Bike is now parked until the ceremonial start on the 31st, then returned until the official start on the 1st.

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Electronics

Picked up the irritrac, sentinel and gps this afternoon. Walked through the assistance park, it’s starting to get busy though not all the teams have arrived yet. Didn’t have my camera with me, will get some shots tomorrow.

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Enjoying our sleep

Tim and Niles sleeping late, probably the most rest they’ll get all rally.

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Going through the bike with my mechanic Tim Morton.

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No pink sheets for me, I get the Beebs room.

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