Joined: Nov 2003
Location: San Francisco
First time back in front of a computer for a few weeks. This rally was a blast! Do it if you can! I was laughing all the way. The results didn't show it, but I think I rode quite well. Things didn't go my way for a top finish, but I didn't fall down and always had fun. So, I got what I came for.
The Tuareg was challenging, with some decent terrain variety and medium-long days. You certainly get your money's worth in riding, but not the sadistic challenge of the Dakar.
I love the big XR, but maybe it was not the right bike for me in this rally. Around Douz there are some very soft sand dunes. My chassis setup was flat wrong for soft sand, so I had to muscle the bike through that shit.
The first stage started fine, for the first 3km! After the LeMans start, I was very near the front as we approached the first secret check a few km in. I saw the check and decided to cut a corner directly to it and make a few more passes. That's when I first buried the bike in the sand. Too much revving and clutching to try to free it got the bike pretty hot. Soon thereafter, I heard a big "pop" as my bike spewed steam from under the tank. I looked for the burst hose but could not find it. I added water and carried on. Through the first day, I stopped many times to add water and also got stuck plenty. That Honda got very very HOT! Essentially dry of coolant going slow in soft sand dunes all day! Rattles and pings, but it still ran strong. I managed to finish, but no longer anywhere near the front of the pack.
That night, I found that the small cross-over tube that equalizes pressure between the 2 radiators had burst. I replaced it and thought that I was good to go.
The next day Beaney crashed. I was a few minutes ahead of him and also working my way through slower riders in the dust. Easy to see how he could have crashed on such a fast track.
After the end of the Special, we had a "navigation" stage with no timing, but with checkpoints and a max time limit. Early on, the track through a silt bed was obliterated by the many riders in front of me. I think that the roadbook was also a bit ambiguous, but I suspected a secret check at that point. I searched for it for over an hour, going back to a known good point and trying over many times. But, I never found that check.
Next challenge was the "Thomas Garden", a downhill boulder pile in an canyon pass. When I arrived, there were 30 riders strewn throughout the canyon in different circumstances. Lots of smokey tire spinning and teams of riders carrying bikes over obstacles. Since I couldn't pass, I got off and tried to help others through, to clear my way. I spent about 3 hours in there mucking about. When I finally got going, I bopped through without a problem, needing no help, but plenty of paddling and pushing. Near the end, that dumb little hose popped and I was once again without coolant. I took the tank off and cobbled a fix, but the bike was still dry. All the wasted time meant that I timed out at the next check, missing the rest of the day's checkpoints and ruining my chances for a decent finish. That night I figured out that the hose was partly pinched by the tank. Re-routing the hose solved the problem for good.
The next day's stage was cancelled, which suited me fine since my rear brake caliper hanger had broken somewhere along the way. I found someone willing to weld it back together and stole Dirk's used brake pads and ground them into the right shape to fit the XR. Good to go.
The stage around Nefta was fun, especially since the bike ran without a hitch. I made all the checks and completed my 3 laps pretty quickly. Imagine my surprise when I discovered, at the next day's start, that I was seeded 70th. I was resigned to eating dust all day when Rainer, the boss, showed up at the starting line. I asked what had happened, so he booted up his laptop and looked at my timecard. Oops, they had mistakenly given me a 10 hour penalty. I should be starting in the 4th 4-rider row, not the 18th. I ran to my bike and managed to catch the 5th row off. Finally, it was fun to ride with some of the faster guys and not constantly worry about making clean passes through the dust. I'd make some passes and then make some dumb minor navigation mistakes and let other riders back past, only to pass them again pretty quickly. I think I started to develop a reputation for "going fast the wrong way." What a hoot!
The next technical challenge was the uphill "Silles Pass." Rocks and steps, but not as tricky as the Thomas Garden. I got off and walked the line before trying to ride it. As I was getting back on, about 8 guys piled into the rock garden and promptly got themselves stuck in the worst bottleneck possible. I rode up without incident, but halfway through my radiator spat some steam from a pinhole created by my new radiator guards. D'oh, dry again with lots of tough stage to go!
Despite running for more than 2 stages without coolant, that bike continued to run strong. It would rattle like a can of spray paint in the sand, but never failed to pull hard.
Second-to-last day we started out in some soft dunes. My bike handled better with some suspension tweaking, but the throttle stuck wide open a few times. Disconcerting. I couldn't close the throttle with the pull cable, so I took it apart to find the slide jammed in the carb. Most likely from sand in the carb, and disassembly in a sandstorm probably didn't make it any better. I freed the slide with some channel locks and continued. The bike was getting harder to start, probably from tight valves. 20 minutes of kicking every time the throttle stuck in the dunes wasn't much fun. The third time the throttle stuck, I decided that my day was over. Got to ride in the unstoppable 8-wheel drive sweeper truck.
The XR was done. I didn't want to ride with a stuck throttle any more. (Not a blown motor as previously suggested.) A bunch of beers into my expected "night off," Patsy Quick asked if I'd like to ride her personal 690 Enduro on the last day's stages. Absolutely!. I pulled my nav gear off the XR and clamped it to the 690 in about 10 minutes. That 690 rips! Patsy has it perfectly set up for the soft sand and it pulls quite a bit harder than the XR. The starter button, however, sometimes doesn't work. I guess I am destined to pull my tools out on every stage, so I had to take the 690 switch apart to get the bike started.
Great rally. Fun bunch of people. Thanks to IYSK Wine, Renazco Racing and the other sponsors.