Dark Dog Moto-tour 3 The end of an era. NO It's back!

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by fredgilb, Oct 30, 2014.

  1. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    Since I had participated twice before, I was unsure if I would ride again this year. When it was announced that this was to be the final running, well, that was all the excuse I needed.
    The legendary french bureaucracy had finally crushed it. That tower of paper explains it. It's the paperwork for the permissions etc.

    Well now that that's out of the way, let's get on with the show, shall we?

    This being my third round the guilt factor started to creep into the equation. I had saved all the navigation and mods for the rally from last year so, preparation time wasn't a factor this year. Why not try and save a little of the elusive spinach and ship by ocean?

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    Elizabeth, New Jersey Shipping warehouse. <IMG SRC="/images/spacer.gif" HEIGHT="1" WIDTH="600"> Wow! a sixties Bultaco TSS!
    This shipper specializes in transporting vehicles around the world so their warehouse is filled with some pretty eyepopping stuff.

    [​IMG] Actual ship it's on. Yeah, you don't have your bike for 30-40 days so you have time to look for the boat. It ends up being half the price of flying even with the exorbitant port charges in Le Havre. Shipper in USA was very cagey if not disingenuous as to what those charges would be.
    Picking the bike up in Le Havre entailed a pleasant two hour train ride from Paris and almost $100 in taxi's since there's three locations you need to visit in Le Havre and none of them are near each other.

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    Meanwhile in Paris there's roadbook preparation to do. Careful reading will reveal distances between fuel stops. Make a note on the sheets to spare yourself "empty tank" anxiety.

    Time to finally hit the road for Saverne. A boring 4.5 hour ride. Not the Hypermotards comfort zone! Without any wind protection, anything over 120mph your head feels like it's being slowly separated from your body.
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    Saverne, the town & paddock. BTW that building is city hall!
    #1
  2. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    I feel jittery just looking at this.
    Here's what's on the menu for this edition. Seven days, approximately 3200 km of tiny back roads. The second day (monday) is a 816 km. marathon! Wow, and I thought last year's 760km. was epic. If you haven't seen the previous reports, there's three ways of entering the event. The first is with your own support crew to follow you around the country and be there for your gas and food, etc. Then there's the way your humble reporter entered which is the "Solo formula". This, as the name implies means you are on your own but they supply a place to sleep, toilets, (sometimes) hot showers, food (of sorts), cart your belongings and provide a team of apprentice motorcycle mechanics from a trade school in Montpellier to help with any mechanicals that might (will) arise. Michelin (a sponsor) is also on hand with a tractor-trailer full of tires. Oh, and all the Dark Dog (French Red Bull) you can drink! The third way is to ride the last three days from Alès to Toulon. This year they had an incentive that encouraged women to enter.
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    If you signed up your significant other could ride for free. [​IMG][​IMG] Yeah but she's driving![​IMG]Jean-Phillipe checking out Charlène "cha-cha" Maquin's bike [​IMG]He's on an MT-09 that was all the rage this year.[​IMG]
    I had toyed with the idea of renting one for the event. I tried a stock one and was impressed with the engine but I gotta say it really made me appreciate the Hypermotard all over again. That said, the level of skill the majority of the riders had made me realize they could ride the wheels off anything they wanted. Which is probably why there was such a wild range of different types of bikes.
    [​IMG] Sweet vintage to the latest killer KTM[​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]The totally prepped Yam MT-09 of French Rally champion (left) Julien Toniutti. He took fourth overall this year, next to him is Sébastien Lagut who took third on a Triumph Daytona.
    #2
  3. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

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    Fantastique! Looking forward to your third report from the Dark Dog crazy rally!! The first two were awesome!

    Thanks for the detailed report and pics :thumb
    #3
  4. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    If your going to be in Saverne for two days, why not set up camp!
    [​IMG] [​IMG]Private teams planning the routes and assistance rendevouz points
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    [​IMG]"Hmm, yeah you're right, that feels spongy"
    [​IMG]Tech inspection, Fabrice's (or is that his twin brother) helmet is under review or he's about to pull a rabbit out of it?
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    Nice tank cover. Guy on the right is way fast. I know, I spent half a day learning how to keep up with him.
    [​IMG]Mega lighting. You're gonna need those at 3 in the morning in the Vosges mountains! More about that later.
    [​IMG]Checking me in...

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    Gee, ya think they're related?

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    A great thing about the DDMT is the friends you make. Laurent Cochet on left made some videos about the tour that are what got me hooked into coming. Marc Sanchez is the "Professor" in charge of the team of apprentice mechanics that competed for 8 spots on the support group. I apologised to him for not supplying his students with any mechanical challenges this year. He saved me the past two. Alot.
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    Careful now!
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    Jean-Philippe and Karine Sliz both are major DDMT recidivists. Karine runs "Moto's and Motards" magazine.
    #4
  5. juno

    juno Long timer

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    Sucked me in!!! Looks fantastic!
    #5
  6. MrPopples

    MrPopples Been here awhile

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    #6
  7. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    Hello, They have run the Tunisian already. Everyone I spoke to loved it. DarkDog / Option Sports is taking over the French Rallye Championship series too. But I'd have to move to France for that (don't think I haven't thought about it!)
    #7
  8. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    This is what you're handed at the start of the day. You know how far it is to the next check point and how much time you have to get there. The CP along the bottom are surprise checkpoints that make sure you haven't taken a short cut.
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    Something new this year...Rider Introductions. A sweet Paul Smart Ducati from Switzerland.
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    Here we Goooo!
    #8
  9. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    For those of you who have followed my past adventures you know I managed to survive being roughed up on a number of occasions. I'm happy to report that I got thru this year without a scratch! So, what made the difference? Certainly experience counts, having figured out why I had no feel in the front end last year was a huge improvement too (both fork legs defective). Confidence is exponential ..... without it things/risks are hard to manage. With it you can build skills quickly and still conserve energy.
    This year I was determined to not go wild in the first special stage and give myself time to get into the rhythm of riding in France.
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    This year's route was quite similar to last year, which was a good thing...the further south the better the weather (and food!). The first special stage on Sunday took us to a beautiful forest. It was run twice. Total mileage a paltry 149km.
    Monday, was a different story. 816km. Seven plus hours to the first checkpoint. First riders left Saverne around 2:40 in the morning. And it was DARK.
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    Be cool, still 7 days to go!

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    [​IMG] OK, early dinner and try to sleep
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    The "Solo's" tents
    #9
  10. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

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    Tu as des grandes couilles mon ami! :lol3

    :lurk
    #10
  11. MrPopples

    MrPopples Been here awhile

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    Dammit,
    I gotta get out of my cave more often :D

    I'll try to catch up on this tunisian tour :)

    GB: you might want to use 'grosses' instead of 'grandes' :)
    grand translates to tall.
    #11
  12. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    So the real adventure begins, the Marathon. Truly surreal getting up at 2:30 to go motorcycle riding thru the night and into all day. So DARK!

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    Breakfast at night..... Fabrice's twin brother looks at me and with alarm, tells me my eyes are all RED! The brothers are hard core KTM fanatics. Stéphane even has a tattoo to that effect. Everyone is kind of quiet. We are all trying to imagine what awaits in the night mountains. I'm obsessing about what to wear.... will it be freezing, raining, foggy, or all of them, in what combination.... oh, forget it, rub your eyes and lets go.

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    Bonne route...

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    And we're away...
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    The first 3.5 hours (200km) took us through the Vosges mountains in the dead of night. I love these mountains because unlike really huge mountains they have more variety of turns, not endless switchbacks.
    I thought I had my lighting pretty well worked out. But because I was riding much faster than last year it was soon evident that I was out-riding my lights.
    And it was DARK! After a while I started to get the sense that something was starting to catch up to me. Soon there where two riders trying to find a way around me that had HUGE LIGHTS. WOW like a blast of SUN .... I thought, well maybe with them lighting the way I can pick up the pace..... but I realized I was holding still holding them up.... OK, they pass me and I figure, well if I can stay close enough I'll still have their lights... Damn, who are these guys....they're riding faster at night than I could in daylight! Just fookin' flying thru the (damp) mountains in pitch black night. Then I finally come to my senses, if I go off the road now, no one will even see it for 4 hours it's so dark. I've learned the hard way, part of experience is knowing your limitations. See ya later boys. On a side note Stéphane goes down and breaks a shoulder blade. We all have to wear back protectors so, it must have been big. It's his first Dark Dog and I feel terrible for him. I was so lucky to (narrowly) have escaped that fate last year.
    [​IMG] Before...
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    You see what I mean? What the......how'd they end up up there? And it was DARK......
    #12
  13. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    OK, I know it's long..... but come on, how do you edit seven days and nights of video down to ten minutes? So go get a beer, make that two or heck three. Or come back later for the rest!

    #13
  14. MeinMotorrad

    MeinMotorrad Long timer

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    Nice!

    What a shame this is the last one. Bureaucracy kills.
    #14
  15. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    It gives me great pleasure to share part II & III of Lolo Cochet's video of this years edition. Lolo is the character that made the original videos that started my obsession. Lots of French but you'll definitely get the feel of the event.



    Parts II & III

    #15
  16. juno

    juno Long timer

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    Wow! put the hack up there and got just a broken collarbone?

    Glad he is ok but he is lucky!!

    Only in Europe could you pull this ride off!!!
    #16
  17. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    I knew from "experience" that (at least for me) it wasn't the marathon that was dangerous, it was the next day hangover. Tuesday, was no walk in the park either, 540+ km. with a couple of special stages. Here's the route. It's a curious thing to always be reality checking your concentration.....oh, time for another 2X caffeine gel! Or this could be you!

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    Droussard to Langeac 550km

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    #17
  18. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    Hmm, home office has got him under surveillance? Like the layered tape notes.

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    Fabrice! We rode most of tuesday along with Katy
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    Katy! Had a BIG off the day after the marathon. But she came back strong the next day. Look her up if you're in the St. Tropez area. She run's a nice B&B catering the bikers.

    [​IMG] [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]The number of patches marks how many edition you've ridden. He's got some on his back too!
    The wait at the start of the speciale's can be long at times. A good time to get to know your fellow riders and hear the accents from all the different parts of French speaking Europe. Some of which for me are unintelligible !

    Here's good example of the lengths that "Assistance" will go to to keep you in the game. Guy went off the road and tore a gaping hole in the the pipe. They refer to it as "Jardinage" (landscaping).
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    Enough chit-chat. Lets get rolling........again.
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    Wednesday Oct 1. 343km. Langeac to Brive-la-Gaillarde. It's as far west as we went. Spéciale de Villeneuve & Spéciale de Saint Hilaire which we did twice. The first one (Villeneuve) was first thing in the morning. I was barely awake so I thought it best to take it at a leisurely pace.
    Saint Hilaire, now that was one of my favorites!
    #18
  19. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

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    That's an iron butt rally that requires a lot skill! too bad it's the last one.. maybe the organizers will modify it and move it to another EU country with less bureaucracy, if there is such a place.. From the sidelines and as an occasional visitor, I'd say Austria would be such a place and the riding there is awesome.
    #19
  20. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    Gettin' into the groove...., Gazzzzz!

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    #20