Fat man goes Rallying

As I'm going close to the half century on this planet and my body is deteriorating further and further by the minute, I decided back in Summer 2013 that if my back would be better I would enter a Rally Raid for once, to be able to see behind the curtains of the sport that is my passion to watch and follow. Since I saw my first Dakar Truck during my apprentice ship at MAN Trucks in Germany in 1985 Rally Raid, like the Paris Dakar, or Dakar as it is named today are the highlights of my year. And since I had my first KTM Adventure in 2003 which unfortunately got nicked a year later the KTM Passion just added to the Rally Raid bug. In 2004 I could lay hand on a 1998 KTM Rally Replica.
Late in 2013 my Chiropractor did some witchcraft and the backpains I had for years started to fade away and movement came back into my .... erm.... Back.
So I entered the Hellas Rally in May 2014. Almost 9 Month time to prepare. Almost forever, so I thought. Turns out time flies and we are now two weeks away from the start line.
The weapon of choice would be my trusty old 2004 KTM EXC450


As I would race the whole day and probably being close to death when back in the Bivi I needed a Service Team. As my heart is still in the UK (and will be for ever) I went with Donna and Martin of of Torque Racing
As the bike is a quite old one and has a good 14000Km on the clock the engine might not be up for a whole week of rally pace. So I could either refurb this one or get a spare engine. I was lucky and could source a spare on Ebay in UK for just a few pounds.

As it looked quite battered and you never know I decided on refurbing this one and take it as spare

Also got the carbs send of to Holland toget them refurbed.
A job well done

Added a few bits and bobs to the bike to cope with the Rally conditions, like a Fan for the Radiators

And a Nav Gear mount from Highway Dirt Bikes in the US

Not to forget the rider, he needs probably more TLC than the bike ever would need. So over the Christmas Holidays I went to southern Spain to get time on the bike and practice navigating

Once back in Switzerland I hit the gym frequently and hard. Unfortunately too hard and my Knees started to hurt quite a bit. So to the doctors and they attested me with damaged ligaments. Due to a misshap in Spain where my knee braces saved me from a bad twist but due to this I started to shift more weight on the other knee and in the end both got strained.
So less hard training and loads of oinkments and creams and massages later I tried an afternoon in France with Ralf

The knees did hold up well but the pain the next day was back. So back to the doctors. And they said something along the line of this can take a year or more to heal completely. Take it easy. Don't compete as this would certainly force me over the limit and damage the knies even more.
So I had to make a decission. As everything was paid already, Ferry and accomodation booked I decided to change from Competition Class into Adventure Ride Classe and follow the Race on the bike but not in a timed competition. I will ride aprox. 2/3rd of the race track each day and if need be can cut it short or pause a day. I still be in the bivi and see the whole circus.

So the weekend before Easter I went to the UK have a last meet with Torque and collected a set of tires and mousses. Plan was to do a little Sunday ride in Wales and later on the way back on Saturday 19th a Roadbooktour in Holland with Fennek Tours.
Unfortunately in my attempt to be healthy I had a fresh fruit salad with one mouldy strawberry in it which tasted a bit funny. Later that evening it got really uncomfortable and I made my way to the loo in anticipation of some major throwing up. While sitting on the throne I could see the world go all fuzzy and cloudy...... next thing was that I was laying on the floor and my head hurt.
Got a nice little bruise

Later that night in which I couldn't sleep I had the anticipated throwing up episode. Next day was beautiful sunshine and I felt like shit. Slightly concussed I spend the day on the couch. So no riding in Wales then.
On Saturday I made my way to Holland after spending a day at my brother's in Germany and rode the Kempenland Roadbook Tour.

 

All went well, riding was good, Weather, as you can see, good and I did the whold 200Km in just over 5 hours. Had two or three little extra tours inbetween but all in all the whole routine went well.
To bad that on the Rally I don't need the Roadbook skills as the Adventure ride is GPS Route only.
So now I'm back and the last finishing touches and maintenance before the start are on the schedule.
As I will ride with cush drive rear wheels I nicked one wheel from my Rally 660, the other is my spare wheelset. Good thing that KTM wheels are all interchangeable. The rear wheels that is.

Did the old Oil change routine

Changed the rear brake pads and pin

Added a bit of bling ;-)

Hopfully my Landlord can help me putting the tires and mousses on the wheels as I never mounted mousses before ...... we will see.

So 30th April after worked I chucked everything in the Van

and set of on May 1st at 8:00AM to Ancona in Italy
I arrived there at 7:00PM and took a room in the Hotel Fortuna directly on the main street oposite the Station


The Ferry was scheduled for the 2nd at 14:00, so I made my way to the port at Noon and met Jenny Morgan and the Torqies at the terminal

Jenny is riding the new developed 450 engine derived out of a KTM690 Enduro. Rally Raid Products UK and Torque UK have developed a kit for all the guys out there looking to enter the Dakar on a low maintenance Bike based on the 690Rally Replicas out there not having seen any action due to the rule changes the ASO had introduced a few years back. Jenny is riding the bike down to Greece, well Ancona Italy then will race it in the Hellas and ride it back. Which in total will be the same as a half Dakar.
Next January she will be racing the Dakar on the bike, keep your eyes peeled.
So far only issue was the injector failing somewhere in France.

On time the Ferry set off for a 22hour crossing

On the 3rd at 3:00PM we arrived at Patras

a quick 30Km drive over the big Bridge, 14.-€ Toll

and we are at the Bivouac .

A few short hours later we all knew each other a bit better and the Bivi was set up

First bike that needed attention was a Husqvarna :-) Chris 'Corkey' Cork had some Injector troubles left over from the Tuareg but gort it fixed in no time

On Sunday 4th Memo Tours did unload their gear. Some very nice Bikes in their line up too


And the Kini's came and set up court


as did the other teams as for example the Intercontinental Rally guys


In the evening almost all of the Torque Riders had arrived

Monday 5th May. Scruteneering, Tracker Install and the Convoy to the Start Celebrations.
It was a quite busy day. As my bike was well prepared and the ADV class got mobile trackers handed every morning no installation or Scruteneering for us. So I gave Martin, Donna and Andy a helping hand
Donna in the kitchen, water for tea always on the go ;-)
busy bivi
Andrews 450RR
Lyndon Poskitt, a UK guy doing the Races to Places travel. World travel and a few Rallies thrown in ....

Lukas M from Vienna, doing sort of the same as Lyndon, they popped in and got a bit mechanical support
late afternoon all done, ready for beer.

Lyndon is putting on the knobblies for the Rally
and Chris is relaxing


As I hadn't ridden the EXC with the new brakes and the mousses before I took her out for a quick spin up the hill to the castle Nafpaktos

before we then at 8:45pm went in a convoy to the starting ramp in the towns square at the harbour. Waiting to go on the ramp.
Andy has made some pictures of the riders on the ramp. I will add them later

Tuesday 6th May
The guys got their Roadbooks in the morning. Today would be a short day of only 180Km

Marking and prepping
and in the roadbookholder

Then see the riders off

We got our GPS Route quite late and set of for a 160Km tour, the 1st stage of the Hellas Rally 2013 as far as I've been told

yours truly with his new Sunglasses from Australia. Well good. They did a brilliant job during the week. They are prescription glasses with a special draft excluder kit set in. Go to www.Goggleman.com.au
 

The landscape is just mind blowing. Millions of tracks in all varieties of difficulty. Not sure the Greek deserve this beautiful countryside.
Back in the Bivi the Racers came back in all dirty ;-)
Scott decided to change the design of his EXC a bit. He was shaken but not hurt


Wednesday 7th May
We got our GPS route quite late again. Today a 250km roundtrip with almost 80% Tarmac :-(
The racers had an early day. First bike off at 4:30AM and a total of 450Km
One part we shared with the Racers Liaison, but actually the other way round, what caused some dangerous situations and confused riders.

John Mitchinson is the Rally Raid Products UK Owner. He is riding the ADV Class and does the mechanical support for Jenny
Martin sorts out John's Husaberg with Injector troubles
Dinner in the Bivi, Smalltalk and Beers
Kev from Malta chillaxing

Thursday 8th May
The racers had an normal start time at 8:00 for the first bike and 235Km
The ADV class had a start at 10:00am and only 170Km, following the route of Day 1 of the racers with a few nasty bits taken out.
Gravel highways
amazing vistas
and punctures for the Italians ... I can only recommend mousses. Once you got used to them they are great
 

Bike gets serviced and washed when you're back in the Bivi. You have time to relax, change and get beer

Here in the Hotel Nafpaktos are the Briefings in the evenings

Friday 9th May
Racers will do 290Km and ADV Class 240Km.
First Racer starts at 8:30AM, ADV Class at 10:00AM

the first 50 bikes start in 1 minute gaps and 50-100 two every minute
Chris waiting for his go

 

OUr tour started directly in Nafpaktos and only 1Km into the route the first gnarly rocky climb took out some of the riders.
The GS1200 had really trouble and the oldest rider with 65 decided to find a way around. The route was what the racers did the day before, so we had heard the stries of the rocky climbs, which on the pictures look easy.
HiHi
Tree on the road
amazing countryside
and a late night for the mechanics. Here Martin attending to Thomas's bike.

Saturday 10th May
A long day for the Racers, they go over to the Peloponese and race 500Km
ADV Class 260Km and up to 1500m from the Bivi at the Beach of the Med.

typical morning shifting ans shuffeling
the dutch chief mechanic of momo Tours topping up the radiators

The ADV ride started with an easy Mud puddle after a 20Km liaison

Again the picture takes away the steepness. When I arrive at the puddle one italian EXC rider was stuck in there
John M had shed a bit of weight. He crashed while trying to jump the puddle but hit the vertical step and redesigned his handlebars a bit.
later we had perfect rally stages
and dust


Just amazing

Classic Range Rover in the Car Class
Carl Hagenblad's Zebraberg

And Martin fixing what we break during the day

Sunday 11th May
Last day of the Rally. The racers had a short day of 150Km
The GPS rout was a part of the racers track of Saturday and had a whooping 280Km which made for some really late arrivals in the Bivi

Tortoise or Lepanto ;-)
River Crossings
The bridge from the Peleponese side
Gravel
Kite Surfers on the Beach
Beach at the Bivi
Some happy faces
loading of the bikes
John F's Husaberg
Corkey and John M
Squeeze
And Kini on his gizmo
Jenny got the 1st in the Ladies Class on the Lc4-50
Monsieur Fretigne
and his 1200 Tenere with slightly redesigned Nav Tower
My Medal


Monday 12th May

Chilling at the Nafpaktos Harbour and waiting to go to Patras to catch the Ferries

The Torquies are on the Superfast Ferry which is a bit slower than the Minoan I'm on ;-)

I'll be back next year .... pretty sure.