Monday, 19 October 2009

Punishment

I did my first proper Enduro yesterday. I was punished.

Run by the Royal Air Force (Club: ARDUA) just a few miles from where I live in Bagshot. I entered the Sportsman class (8 laps), but I was put in the Clubman (9 laps). A couple of other experienced competitors thought it may be because I was on a 450... so I must be good... right?
;-) Yeah... right.

So... I get there in good time to find out how it all works. Not too complicated. Just do laps in a certain amount of time. The alloted time for each sucessive lap is reduced... so between the first few laps you have time for a wee break and to refuel. But the last few laps are flat-out... when you're knackered of course. Some 'special stages' too. Interesting format.

I make the beginner's error of not warming my bike up before getting it to parc ferme. I get to the start with 3 other competitors with the engine stone cold. There is a girl to my right who says "Don't worry guys... you go ahead... I'll still be here trying to start my bike.". Guy on my left chirps... "Yeah right.. and then you'll pass us and be gone." And that's exactly what happened!

The lap was almost 7 miles, up and down through forest. Tight, twisty and lots of roots, a few logs and some big climbs and descents thrown in. Not my favourite terrain... but the weather was dry and I'm thankful it wasn't going to be the muddy hell I went through at my last Hare-scramble (nearly 18 months ago in similar terrain just 2 miles away). I struggled up one of the climbs (thanks for the helps lads!) but got through the first lap ok with only 3 crashes and a few minutes to spare to grab some water. 40 miniutes. Second and third gear everywhere - no problemo.

Lap 2: Ok. Only 2 crashes. Lap 3: 1 crash. Getting the knack of it... but only I just make it in the alloted time after a rushed splash 'n dash for fuel. Lap 4... 2.5 hours in and I'm getting tired. I go down a few times, but nothing serious. I'm 4 minutes late to the start of lap 5. I pull away after getting my timecard done and the gear-shift feels funny. Less than a minute later and it doesn't work at all - I'm stuck in third gear. Bugger!

I have a rekluse clutch fitted. It's basically an automatic clutch... great for beginner numpties like me... you can't stall the bike. Well, that's the theory. I somehow stall the bike and then discover my battery is dead. So I gotta kick that big-bore bastird to life. Gawd! I'm already knackered! It all goes downhill from there.

But I dig in and keep plugging away. The more tired I get, the more I crash... the more I've got to pick that 120kg beast up and sometimes kick-start start it (the rekluse worked a treat most times!)... of course that knackers me even more.

The big climbs I would normally do in second. But stuck in third, I have to give it horns all the way up to keep the revs up so that the clutch doesn't engage or the bike stalls. I'm rocketing up most of them... my speed far exceeding my level of skill. A mile form the end of lap seven on one of the biggest climbs, I hit a rut wrong and lose control. Not to be beaten by the hill, I keep it pinned. But a huge tree gets in my way. "Thwack"!

When you hit a big tree... you stop. That's all... you just stop.

I cought the tree with the left bar of the bike, my shoulder and head. I stopped. The bike careened off into the heather about 25 feet above me, revving it's nuts off. Bejeesus! I'm seeing stars! Fookin'ell! I'm a bit dazed... and my shoulder hurts! But... more than anything, I was exhausted. I gather myself and haul the bike up... I'm right near the top of the climb, but just cannot hold the bike on the hill... let alone kick-start it. No more strength. So I free-wheel to the bottom of the steep climb. I rest a few minutes and eventually get the bike started up. I line up at the foot of the hill and fire the big four-fiddy up that steep son-of-a-bitch!

On the last mile of lap 7 I know I had pushed my luck far enough. Besides, the clutch was starting to slip because of the punishment it had taken on the last 3 laps. If it gave up, I couldn't get neutral (stuck in third) and the rekluse clutch drags when the engine is off - there was no way I would have been able to push the bike out of the forest in the physical state I was in.

I finish the lap. 7 out of 8 (or 9) laps in 4.5 hours... in an Enduro that counts for nothing... it's still a D.N.F. I get home exhausted, beat.

(pics to follow when I find some)

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