Karpenisi and/or bust... Three complete amateurs take on the Hellas Rally without assistance.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by russatkinson, Jul 10, 2019.

  1. russatkinson

    russatkinson Crashing my way through rally stages since 2019

    Joined:
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    49.2144° N, 2.1312° W
    Whilst some of the time the rally routine we'd all fallen into made you question whether or not you might be going slightly insane, the thing that I found always grounded me was the people I met throughout the whole experience. That and the near-misses and thank **** that wasn't me moments - but I'll get onto a couple of those later.

    I've already mentioned the gentleman who might well've been older than time who smiled an almost toothless smile and waved with one hand as he propped himself up with his walking stick using the other as I rode through one of the end of day liaisons, but the place where the most heartwarming gestures were made always seemed to be at the Shell station closest to the bivouac. Joining the queue for their unsurprisingly popular bargain €1 jet wash was becoming a very familiar part of my daily routine, and one evening fairly early on in the race as I was chatting to a Czech rider who'd helped James find a replacement roadbook mount after his day-one-disaster, a car sped across the forecourt and stopped right next to us. As the windows rolled down in unison a cheery lady with a noticeable and very unexpected southern drawl - given we were as good as smack-bang in the middle of Greece - said hello and informed us that her daughters wanted to 'give y'all some chocolates to make a long day better!' before one of the girls offered each of us some sweets out of the window. As much as I was always taught not to accept sweets from strangers as a child, I don't think it applies when you reach adulthood and I'm also British so wouldn't want to come over impolite, so I gladly accepted. Bloody good chocolates they were, too.

    Over the next couple of visits I found out that the mystery purveyors of confectionery weren't complete randomers, but were actually the wife and children of the chap whose family owned the place. I don't think the husband spoke a word of English, but one evening when I'd cleaned the bike and paid for my fuel he ran out after me and thrust a cold bottle of water into my hands, smiling. It might not sound much when you read this, but these small but very generous gestures made a huge, huge difference when you're exhausted, borderline delirious and have just endured a day of vexation. They make everything worthwhile. You don't have time to fully absorb everything - it's just adrenaline, fatigue, and hour upon hour in the saddle and in your own head. This very human element is incredibly grounding.

    At the end of day five, as I was clearing the petrol station out of some kind of chewy biscuit, caramel and chocolate bar that I've since forgotten the name of, one of the little girls presented me with a big bar of chocolate while her mum and I were chatting which I refused because I'd already stocked up on every single one of the chewy caramel chocolate goodness they'd had on the shelf. The little girl and her mum were insistent that this chocolate bar was a gift, and that I had to accept it. So do you know what I did? I made a promise to the little girl that I'd pass on her good deed by sharing it with my new friends the next day so that her kindness would be multiplied. It sounds twee, but she was pretty happy about it and do you know what else? I bloody-well did share that bar of chocolate during the fuel stop in the liaison the next day, splitting it into three to give a slab each to Dave (aka. the absolute legend) and Lloyd. We all inhaled it, and it was bloody lovely. So thanks, little Greek-American girl, thanks from all three of us!

    That petrol station was full of different characters passing by, some asking about the rally, some asking about the bikes, some asking about us competitors - but all of them were asking one thing; 'what do you think of our country?". Every single Greek I met was unbelievably welcoming, open and positive - it was a breath of fresh air. Not to mention the organisation staff, who'd always have a smile on their faces when you set off in the morning and when you returned of an evening, keeping your spirits high.

    On the subject of high; the Pindus mountains delivered on that count too, with undeniably epic scenery to try and take in when you could manage to steal a glance, as well as their fair share of sheer drops that you'd try your best not to look at, at all costs. After all, you tend to end up riding where you're looking, right? Target fixation is a very real phenomenon - just ask all of the trees in Sussex that I got to know much more closely than I'd have liked to during my first ever day of very cold, quite snowy tuition in late 2017. During a stage where the 701 and I were completely in our element flowing up, down and round some twisty but fast fire roads snaking around the mountains I rounded one corner only to come back down off of my cloud with a (metaphorical) bump. A group of around fourteen riders had all stopped, blocking the track, and around thirty metres down to the right off the side of the mountain was a motorbike. With no rider anywhere near the bike, you instantly think the worst.

    Somehow though, he'd managed to bail out completely unscathed. In the confusion, there was somebody asking for a spare set of goggles, and a lot of talk about asking for time back and whether there was anything else that could be done. As more and more riders caught up, everyone was assuring each other than no matter how many people were thrown at the problem, the only thing that was going to get the bike up the loose shale and back onto the piste was a tractor. We set off en-masse and headed towards the time control point. After the stage had ended, there was a one hour liaison for the fuel stop where the big guns came out and the chocolate was divvied out, and despite having spent no more than four minutes having the bike fuelled by an attendant, having a wee in a bush and having approximately 35 grams of milk chocolate goodness (not in that order though, that'd be unhygienic - there was no time, or facilities, for hand washing) I nearly missed the next stage start. This is because I only rode like a complete t*** on the return leg having realised how long it'd taken to get to the petrol station. Note to self: tot up the liaison distances in the future and mark them on the first note so you know whether or not you can kick back slightly. That liaison also took out the guy with the incredible-looking Frankenstein-esque BMW airhead I mentioned at the beginning when he was hit by a car, but thankfully bike and rider made it back to the bivouac to fight another day. It sucks that it's happened to anyone, but you're always secretly relived that it didn't happen to you.

    As the finish line for the final stage of that day edged closer and closer, I was noticing my thoughts drifting as I zoned out more frequently, only to be snapped back into the reality that you are in fact riding a dirt bike at a decent pace in completely unfamiliar territory by all manner of things; a rock that you thought might've actually been a tortoise; washouts on the outer edge of the piste ready to ruin your day, week or possibly life; or the tip of a fallen pine tree that you're about to brush as you clip past it, just like you've done plenty of times already, only to realise that someone's actually taken a chainsaw to it and beneath what looks like the soft, springy tip of the tree is a four inch thick branch heading straight for your left wrist. I've never had so little time to be horrified in my life, but can still picture it clearly in my mind. Let's just say that I began taking a wider line around the fallen trees after that, partly because the handlebars on my bike take enough abuse as it is, but mostly because I didn't fancy a broken arm. You've got to have your wits about you at all times, because it isn't like a two day jaunt around your favourite trails with your mates at home. But what it definitely is, is so much more rewarding once you've had time to let it all settle in.

    With just one day of racing left to go, the remaining competitors were nearly home dry. Little did they know that there might be a river crossing or two still to come...
    #21
  2. Dessert Storm

    Dessert Storm Dances With Drunks

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    Awesome report - great writing! Thanks for posting. :clap
    #22
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  3. Shaggie

    Shaggie Unseen University Supporter

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    Epic stuff Russ :clap
    #23
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  4. yokesman

    yokesman Long timer

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    your writing brings out the intensity of the situations and the beauty of the surroundings, thank you for this report.
    #24
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  5. russatkinson

    russatkinson Crashing my way through rally stages since 2019

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2019
    Oddometer:
    30
    Location:
    49.2144° N, 2.1312° W
    With the last day of racing upon us I was feeling quietly optimistic about the whole affair, knowing that the chances of actually finishing were quite high, with the chances of finishing within the top 100 also a distant, but achievable possibility (I think I was sitting in 99th position at the time). The most important thing though, was crossing that finish line and celebrating with the others after how far we'd come to get this close to pulling this off. I could almost taste the Hellas Pils served straight out of that refrigerated can already, even though it wasn't even 8am yet and I don't have an alcohol dependency. Granted, things were a little more intense for Matthew and James - given their much, much higher positions in the overall classification - but all I had to do was walk it home. Well, ride it home. Drive it home in the van. You know what I mean...

    I felt an odd mix of sadness and excited anticipation as I rolled up to the bivouac entrance and waited to be called forward to receive my final time card, and distinctly remember how reassuring and smiley the girl who handed it to me was, which genuinely made my day, especially as I'd already had a bit of a shock marking up the roadbook for the final stage an hour or so earlier. You see, we'd all been expecting the final stage to be similar to the prologue; like a short-ish sixty or so kilometre exhibition stage where we'd all rip through the Greek countryside one last time before crossing under a slightly faded inflatable arch advertising a well known bovine-related energy drink, maybe say something entirely unmemorable into a microphone, be given a medal and then sink a few beers with our mates, new and old. No, no - that wasn't what we came for, so I was mentally preparing myself for a moderately technical 103km of competitive stage distance with a bit of hard-enduro thrown in for good measure. Which is exactly what you want after seven days of racing. But then that was exactly what we came for, and there was no way I was getting defeated now.

    After a short liaison, everybody awaiting their turn to line up in front of the timing beam for the last time seemed to be on the same page from where I waited far, far behind all of those still jostling for positions up at the top of the classification. Sure, we all wanted the best finish possible, but sharing a few quick words shouted almost inaudibly through helmets and over thumping engines with my co-competitors just getting to the end and enjoying it seemed to the the order of the day. Excited and in high spirits, I edged forward and handed over my time card, now fully focussed on the red digits counting by on the official timer. The time had come and the wheels were rolling on the last stage of the last day of my first proper rally.

    The piste was open so I'd made the subconscious decision to make some decent progress before the trickier sections I'd spotted in the roadbook reared their heads, until coming around one corner at a decent lick I recall hearing a very distinctive brap - brap caused by , before realising that I'd just slid over the tail of the bike, hands outstretched, bike still tracking straight ahead as I floated backwards. B*******. I'd just glanced down at the roadbook as well, and was all of 1.4km into the stage. One-point-four-kilometres. What a t***, I thought to myself as I skidded down the track, tilting my head backwards to see the headlight of my bike now closing in on my face quicker than I'd have liked. Your priorities at times like these are funny, aren't they? The first thought that entered my head was 'please don't let the bike be too broken', followed closely by 'I'd better pick it up and get it facing the right way again before the next rider catches up because that was an embarrassingly rookie move', rather than 'am I injured?'. It must've been a few ruts (my arch-nemesis) at the edge as I opened the throttle exiting the corner combined with a lack of talent, but no matter the cause, the surprisingly good news was that other than the OEM brake pedal I'd re-fitted after I snapped the billet one on day two being well and truly concertina'd into the small gap between the (now very bent, not that I noticed at the time) foot peg and the engine casing and a handguard to yank back into place I was good to go. I was getting less dependant on my rear brake, anyway. Onwards!

    Soon after I was very aware that there wasn't as much sensation in my hands as usual but, reassured by the fact that it wouldn't be long until the only thing I needed them for was to raise a celebratory can of beer to my mouth, I just cracked on. Before long I found myself with the British chaps on the 701 and 690 again, as well as a super-amiable German guy on what at first appeared to be an EXC-350 but was actually a 500 - dwarfed by his stature - that I'd spent a lot of day five leapfrogging our way through the stage with, and as we all pressed on and took a fairly steep uphill turn off of the principal piste that worryingly familiar sight of bikes blocking the track came into view again. Thankfully though it wasn't due to injury, but complexity. The climb that lay ahead was steep and completely cut-up by the front runners, leaving six to eight inches of cut up hoggin interspersed with not inconsiderably-sized rocks. The riders already on the scene were scoping out an alternative route through the trees around it, and in the end that's what all bar one of us went for - with one guy ending up riding a fair few stricken bikes up there. That's the spirit of rally-raid right there - everyone's in this together and you do what you can to help the other competitors, because there'll probably be times when it's you who's in need.

    With camaraderie levels between riders high and sensation levels between my fingers low, everyone pressed on around and over the higher terrain we'd first ridden a few days earlier and bar one hilariously low-speed tumble things were going well and the kilometres were steadily counting down. With only around 20km to go, Dave and Lloyd blasted past leaving a trail of roost - having the time of their lives staring through the red mist filling their goggles in their own race-within-a-race - before promptly taking a right turn instead of a left, which we all laughed about afterwards, but that was just what I needed to pick up the pace and race towards the person who'd scribble the last digits onto the little time card in the pocket on my handlebars. With just one kilometre to go, I was passed by a couple of guys in the Rally Lite class that I'd ended up chatting to at a petrol station under grey skies earlier in the rally and the way they made their machines flow through the last few twists was truly artful, something that'll stay with me forever. One of them later claimed that it was 'all the bike' rather than taking any skill on his part, but that statement was 100% self-deprecating. In contrast to their speed and finesse, I was concentrating on making the final downhill stretch to the control point without falling off for no particular reason (anything is possible) and as much as I shouted 'thank **** that's over' crossing the line I was actually a little upset. What had seemed like a never-ending stint in purgatory just hours before was now finite. I'd bloody-well done it. A quick photo and a few Haribo with the others later and that was it, time to head back to the bivouac. With a mix of emotions and barely a cloud in the sky, the final liaison brought contentment, and as I rolled back through the gates of the bivouac those ever-smiling organisation staff were on hand to exchange a timecard for a medal and a certificate. It was official. Sort of.

    Riding back to our little area to find James and Matt relaxing (and probably wondering where the hell I was) I gave it a celebratory fist full of throttle, forced a sweaty group-hug upon them and declared 'let's get f*****-up', before the realist in me grabbed hold of my senses and I changed that to 'actually I think I'm just going to go and wash my bike quickly first, yeah?'.

    The final classification wouldn't be out for a few more hours, but on their first outing, Full-Spectrum Racing had not only managed to actually make it to Greece in the face of transport-related adversity in the first place, but they'd also managed to raise nearly a grand for charity and go on to finish 105th (me), 76th (James) and 32nd (Matthew) overall, and most definitely earned themselves a beer. Or fifteen.

    -

    The last instalment is on its way, I promise!

    A mid-stage break with some likeminded competitors. Forget in it to win it, elapsed time goes out of the window when there are views like this to savour and a packet of sweets making its way around:
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    The final visit to Karpenisi's jet-wash of choice:
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    Never-not-queuing - one for the road:
    [​IMG]
    #25
    Joris van O, Dirtleg, -Z- and 2 others like this.
  6. russatkinson

    russatkinson Crashing my way through rally stages since 2019

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2019
    Oddometer:
    30
    Location:
    49.2144° N, 2.1312° W
    After the customary long wait for a handful of SSV teams to empty around €10 each into the €1-for-enough-time-to-clean-at-least-two-if-not-three-bikes slot of the jet wash facility under cloudier skies that reflected the swing of my mood from jubilant to pensive - given the available time to do nothing other than let it all sink in, once two of the SSV mechanics had stopped trying to climb one vehicle over the other, that is, which did provide some amusement as we all waited in line - I popped a little celebratory wheelie out of the petrol station and headed back to the bivouac for the very last time. Stopping off at a mate's camp to see how he and his friends had fared on the way back, the beers were already flowing and it'd have been rude not to join in really, even though ditching the absolutely stinking kit I'd been wearing all week was high on my to-do list. They were also in the process of wrangling an SSV, two bikes and four people's kit into a luton van whose diminutive appearance belied its ability to swallow the aforementioned items with relative ease, once they'd shuffled some blocks of wood over the inner wheelarches to drive the SSV up over and onto. I can't lie, I was impressed. A couple of cans later they were done, and I figured that it might be a good idea to give a bit of packing and organising a go myself to compensate for the inevitable inability that being hungover in the morning after the closing ceremony would be.

    The next day would be shorter than anticipated still, because Matthew had managed to score an absolute result by changing our ferry booking for the umpteenth time and wangling us onto a ship departing Patras that evening rather than back from Igoumenitsa the following morning; meaning less time spent driving and more time spent sailing. Boats and I have never seen eye-to-eye, but the thought of 36 hours of kicking back, sleeping in an actual bed rather than in a tent, reading, listening to music and nattering with nothing but waiting until the next mealtime on the agenda was absolute bliss. The flip-side of this was that Matt and I would be up early to actually pack everything away, but if you thought James was getting off lightly you'd be wrong, because he'd have to set off back to Athens in the hire car at 5am to make his midday flight back home, via London. Not ideal after about three hours of sleep and a seven day rally-raid event and it'd be a tough call to choose between his fate and Matt and I's. He'd be home quicker, but those precious four extra hours of sleep were priceless at this stage!

    Never before in the previous week or so had the marquee that'd served as the catering and briefing area been so filled with smiling, laughing faces, with all of the competitors finally in one place at one time with just one thing left to do: celebrate. Catching up sharing stories and toasting successes with everyone - including the staff that we'd all gotten to know a little through daily interaction - was just the ticket to revive even the weariest of riders and I'd tell you more but the truth is I just don't really remember the details. Blame the relentless flow of Hellas Pils and wine with just a souvlaki or two consumed to balance things out. Prizes were presented, shop was talked, I'm pretty sure a band played, and as musings about who'd be back next year surfaced I assured everyone that what I'd proclaimed a few days prior still stood: I'd be investing in a set of supermoto rims when I got home, I'd achieved what I set out to do and was a happy man. Knackered, but happy. The hours flew past and I suspect there were a lot of people sleeping very, very soundly that night.

    Come the morning, with a few hydration tablets chucked into my hydration pack to start the day after the night before right, James and the mighty Fiat Panda hire car that'd taken an admirable amount of abuse were long gone, along with half of the bivouac's former denizens and all of the sunshine. It was p****** it down. Great! With little else to do and time steadily ticking away, Matthew and I set to work carefully playing van-Tetris to pack everything back into the Transit. Friends new and old passed by to say goodbye and while we all wished each other well the rear wheelarches of the van steadily made their way closer to the soggy ground until we gingerly pushed the doors until they latched shut and both took a step back in shock. There was a lot more spare room in there compared to the trip down, although this was in part due to the single mattress (as in from an actual bed, not a piece of camping equipment) that Matt had insisted on bringing, much to James and I's amusement. There was absolutely no way that the bin lorry doing the rounds was going to take a full-sized mattress, a drum of oil and a load of empty glass bottles, surely? Wrong - none of these items seemed to present any problem to the local bin men! Their decision making process might've been biased by the few unopened bottles of beer, mind, which despite our complete inability to communicate verbally seemed to go down pretty well! Cheers, Greece - you've been a beaut.

    The sun reappeared just in time for us to enjoy one last lunch in Karpenisi before starting the long journey home. The road to Patras was absolutely stunning, with sheer drops and windy, narrow mountain passes and things to investigate quickly as we passed, from viewpoints to a war memorial with a fulll-sized Dassault Mirage on a pole. As night began to fall, we (I) did take a wrong turn into a brothel with a decent sized car park - or should the be lorry park - full of artics, but, well, you know, we had a boat to catch and all that. And diesel to buy before we hit Italy to relieve a bit of the financial pain of the whole experience!

    Inside the ferry terminal, things were going smoothly at the check in desk until the girl asked us for the registration document for the van. Shit. Did we have that now? James said he'd bring it in his hand luggage as it hadn't crossed his mind in the rush to get the van over to us in France the week before, but I had no idea where it was. Patiently waiting for Matt to return, he'd managed to find it - what a champ! We were soon to be away, once the formalities of customs had been checked off the list. The look on the guy's face as he opened the back door and one of the spare rims from Matt's CRF slid down the almost impossibly-stacked van and nearly took him out. He didn't fancy investigating further after that and waved us on our way.

    Thirty-six hours of sailing lay ahead of us and it took me all of about two hours before I realised I was looking at second-hand EXC 350s for sale on eBay. I felt so conflicted! The last seven days had been a feat of mental and physical endurance that just seemed unnecessary at times, interspersed with adrenaline and joy that I'd definitely enjoyed the challenge of and felt proud of the achievement despite being the motorbike equivalent of someone who takes on a marathon without enough training and ends up taking so much time to finish that you wonder why they bother, but suddenly it all made sense. B*******, I'd been bitten by the rally bug and it had bitten me hard. What a difference 24 hours makes, hey?!

    It was another rainy start when we came alongside in Venice, but we were keen to press on. Not only because Italian drivers seem even crazier than the self-confessed crazy Greek ones, but also because we had one last mission to accomplish; Matt had received the call a few days before to confirm that his van was working again and ready to collect, so he'd arranged to collect it on the 30th. We had 27 hours to cover the 1,480km between Venice and Pleugeuneuc in Brittany and quite fancied using as many of those hours as possible to keep working at catching up on our sleep. Uneventful save for the tolls, tolls, fuel stops, tolls, more fuel stops, a bit of lunch, multiple coffees and a couple of driver changes the two of us passed the time with ease, eventually rocking up at the very same F1 hotel in Chartres we'd stopped at on the way down for a familiar place to call it a night before the final push the next day.

    This is probably the part where you're drifting off a bit, where all of the drama is long over and the story ends, isn't it? Never a dull moment for the lads united by a love of motorbikes who met on that fateful night in a pub a few months before though, because when we got on our way the following day the traffic was mental. We were going to arrive late, which meant the customary two-hour lunch would be in fill effect and we'd be really, really pushing it to get to the ferry back to Jersey on time. Why on earth would there be so much traffic on a Tuesday? The service station we stopped at to stock up on coffee and croissants to-go in lieu of a sit-down breakfast was absolute carnage. This was going to be close.

    In complete contrast to the service station, the now familiar Peugeot garage in Pleugueneuc, along with the village itself, was a ghost town. That's right - it was a bank holiday in France on the day that we'd arranged to collect the now slightly-less-stricken van that was still stricken behind a tall metal fence. I had to laugh, you really couldn't make this s*** up! Having spent a considerable time on the phone to the ferry company's staff in Jersey, the UK and France in order to wangle the extra van onto our booking the day before (it eventually turned out that there was enough space on the vehicle deck but no spare seats for passengers, but as we weren't trying to get any additional passengers onto the sailing and just an additional vehicle, after a little bit of explaining Matt managed to get things sorted) he wasn't amused. Reasoning that it was a 24/7 recovery centre, I suggested he called his insurance to have them cover the cost of an emergency callout Monsieur Depannage to come in to unlock the gates as they'd agreed to the collection date he's asked for after all, and fortunately they agreed to it without a fuss. Twenty minutes later we were heading north once more, in two identical vans and with time for a late lunch in St Malo's intra-muros too. What a result!

    Checking in two vehicles with only one reference number was less confusing than expected for everyone involved, and the final customs experience could've turned very tense. There were about fifty riders on pedal-and-pop bikes on the crossing too, most of them stacked into a van with a trailer, and while the gendarmes didn't seem too concerned, the customs agents did, splitting into groups to compare both Matthew and I's stories to see if they checked out. I'll give it to them, it probably isn't every day that two near-identical vans roll up in convoy - one as good as empty and the other loaded to the gunwales - with both drivers openly stating that they've just been to Greece, the most popular entry point to Europe for refugees displaced from Syria. Thankfully, I do speak a bit of French and it turned out that one of the customs guys was into bikes and was very excited to hear that I had un Yamaha double-vee-arr quatre-cent-cinquante onboard. Not that he could see much more than the blue front mudguard poking out of the jumble of spares, tools, camping equipment and riding gear jammed into every nook and cranny. Our stories checked out (largely because they were true) and I was very, very relived not to be in a situation involving unloading and reloading the van again, just hours before unloading and reloading it all again back at home.

    With the trusty-Tranny and its ever-louder transmission noises (I reckon a fluid change and a new release bearing wouldn't go amiss) less of a worry now we were within an hour of our home turf, the only thing remaining was to give James' van a cursory scrub down, extract all of my stuff back into the garage at home, separate Matt's stuff into his van leaving just James' stuff in his van and return the whole lot to him. Fortunately, we all live within less than a mile of each other, making it a relatively painless exercise. We'd done it, we were all home with no bad injuries and the bikes mostly intact and we had more than our fair share of stories to tell. What a trip!

    I'm pretty sure that isn't where the story ends for Full-Spectrum Racing, but only time will tell what the next chapter will entail. My advice for anybody who's on the fence about throwing themselves in at the deep end and entering their first rally raid event is to just do it. Don't worry about the details, just go for it - you won't regret it. You can never be well-rehearsed enough for anything in life so if you have the opportunity and the means to try it, don't hesitate. It'll take a lot of resolve, but you'll savour every second of it when you look back at the rollercoaster of an experience. I've nothing to compare it to, but can definitely attest to the Hellas Rally being accessible for all riders from complete novices like me, to those with a bit of racing experience like my teammates all the way up to those fighting at the top for points in the FIM championship. Don't sit on the fence, get in the saddle and roll up to the start line.

    -

    Hopefully you've all enjoyed reading my ramblings - I've enjoyed reliving it all writing about it, but if anyone's got any questions don't hesitate to ask and I'll do my best answer them from my own experiences!

    -

    There's an SSV and two bikes shoehorned in there - I promise you!
    [​IMG]

    These are the tan lines when you spend a week in Greece with nothing but your wrists exposed:
    [​IMG]

    Half way through the precipitation-heavy packing experience:
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    One last lunch in Karpenisi, and not a bad spot for it either:
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    We're both low-key aviation geeks, and couldn't pass on spending fifteen minutes to admire this tribute:
    [​IMG]
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    Stormy skies again, but thankfully always in the distance for the entire sailing:
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    Nah, not tonight:
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    Home sweet home for 36 hours:
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    Possibly the most expensive G&T I've ever bought, but the sweet taste of success overpowered any bitterness:
    [​IMG]

    Winding our way toward the Mont Blanc tunnel:
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    Breton biker boys:
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    Home at last, nearly three weeks after we set off:
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    Safely back in the garage, ready to be shown a bit of love before the next adventure:
    [​IMG]
    #26
  7. Worceracs

    Worceracs Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2018
    Oddometer:
    54
    Location:
    USA
    Congrats on finishing the rally!!! Thank you for spending the time to write about your experiences, it was a truly enjoyable read! Just curious if you were looking at 350s to replace the mighty 701 or to just add another bike to the stable for more rally action? Again, great job on the riding and writing!!!
    #27
    russatkinson likes this.
  8. russatkinson

    russatkinson Crashing my way through rally stages since 2019

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2019
    Oddometer:
    30
    Location:
    49.2144° N, 2.1312° W
    Thanks @Worceracs! I'm glad you enjoyed reading about it all!

    At the time, I couldn't help but think that as capable as the 701 is in the right hands (like the guy who completely smashed the prologue and qualified respectably high up the standings at this year's Erzberg Rodeo - before riding it home again too, what a legend!), my hands don't fall into the capable category. Don't get me wrong, it's light for its size, as I'm guessing you'll know from looking at your avatar, but there were a few times during the Hellas Rally that I knew that a lighter bike would've made things a whole lot easier. I'm 5'9" and have fitted a lowering link to give me a bit more confidence on the more technical stuff, but lightness is priceless. I also definitely didn't need all of the power!

    I'd love to have a 350, 450 or even 500 (but was erring toward the 350 to put me in a class that's slightly less hotly-contested as I had time to reflect on the ferry) as well as the 701 but realistically that isn't going to happen. I already have another motorbike that I haven't ridden in a couple of years taking up space in the garage because where I live is so small cycling's the easiest way to get around. The other thing with a 350 or 450, for me, is that it wouldn't be as practical to ride it over to the UK or France (there are no trails over here in Jersey) and I'd rather not depend on others too much or have to invest in a van.

    So I've decided that the 701 is here to stay.

    It's just such a great all-rounder; comfortable over long distances, more capable off-road than I'll ever be, well-behaved, not too heavy when you do have to pick it up and absolutely brutal on the street - and who doesn't like to be able to sit at 80mph on the motorway two-up or even with luggage and spare tyres strapped to the back and still have plenty left for overtaking, right?! Plus I already own it, which helps.

    All that's left now is to put in the hours practising before the next rally...
    #28
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  9. Worceracs

    Worceracs Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2018
    Oddometer:
    54
    Location:
    USA
    Thanks for the reply! The same conclusions have kept my 701 in the garage... but every time I’m off-road I’m dreaming of trading down, probably for a 501.

    The riding conditions here in New Jersey are kinda like yours in the original Jersey in that you have to travel to ride off road - only difference is I don’t have to take a boat ride to get places! I’m assuming the state I live in is named for the island you live on - weird coincidence.

    You’re right about that guy at Erzberg, and I didn’t know he rode it home - AWESOME!!! I should stop thinking about which bike and just go ride!
    #29
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  10. sages

    sages Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2008
    Oddometer:
    327
    Location:
    Perth, West Australia
    Or you both live somewhere named after a cow...
    #30
  11. Piggdekk

    Piggdekk love speed, hate rush

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2015
    Oddometer:
    629
    Location:
    Barcelona
    I've got a 2019 690 SMC-R and I think those are killers bikes in the right hands, but even with 10+ years of motocross experience it isn't the easiest bikes to deal with. The power band of the engine is crazy and to fully enjoy/use it you need to go really fast. For a slow/technical rally I'd consider picking up a smaller bike, but then again I'm completely addicted to the 690 and I would use it also to get to the bathroom if my wife wouldn't mind the black marks on the floor.
    Well done on the rally, when I figure out how to escape home/work for 3 weeks I'll plan one too.
    luca
    #31
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  12. russatkinson

    russatkinson Crashing my way through rally stages since 2019

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2019
    Oddometer:
    30
    Location:
    49.2144° N, 2.1312° W
    I think that the British snatched New Jersey from whoever had colonised it and named it after here @Worceracs - they were big on that kind of thing back then! The cows are from here too @sages, no cows have been brought into the island since the 1700s. There's a good bit of useless pub trivia for you!

    People say that the right bike is the one you already own, and I guess there's some sense in that. If a 450 or 500 did everything I wanted it to as well as the 701 does I'd definitely have one instead but I feel the same way as @Piggdekk does; it's a great bike but not the easiest to race. If I can manage it though, I reckon anyone can! If you can get out of work and home life for long enough to take part (even if it's 'just' ten days and you're able to have your bike and kit shipped, or if it's one closer to home) you'll have a great time though so go for it.
    #32
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  13. GezwindeSpoed

    GezwindeSpoed Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    1,012
    Location:
    The land of the Dutchmen
    What a great read!!!

    For those who fancy a rally: you decrease the amount of adventures by going with an experienced team. Bad for us as reader :rofl but a good way to make to increase the chance of a good finish.
    #33
  14. russatkinson

    russatkinson Crashing my way through rally stages since 2019

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2019
    Oddometer:
    30
    Location:
    49.2144° N, 2.1312° W
    Too true @GezwindeSpoed - looking back I don't think there'd have been much in it cost-wise either, for transport at least, and it'd save a lot of time! But yeah, you'd possibly end up with a shorter tale to tell... And a lot more time to focus on racing, although I think not having time to fully contemplate what was going on most of the time probably helped me not panic!
    #34
    Lost Cartographer likes this.
  15. russatkinson

    russatkinson Crashing my way through rally stages since 2019

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2019
    Oddometer:
    30
    Location:
    49.2144° N, 2.1312° W
    Happy new year! Many, many, many months later here's that video I mentioned earlier in the thread that I'd been planning to put together using some of the video footage that I managed to shoot while we were there. Sadly, one of the other lads' GoPro footage was a bit shaky as it was mounted straight onto his roadbook setup (him being bloody fast compared to me probably contributed to the effect too) so there wasn't as lot that could be done with it.

    If you're expecting to see someone ripping through Greece with the throttle pinned in top, you'll be disappointed. But if you're on for watching some of the more behind the scenes side of the unassisted amateur rally story then this will be more up your street. Or track.

    Click here for the video!
    #35
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  16. WRC51

    WRC51 Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,520
    Location:
    Santa Rosa, Calif.
    Awesome report seemed as though I was there you guys. You have to "Finish It to Win It" which you and your mates did, and winning it is what you guys did. Congratulations on Finishing.
    #36
  17. oldbeer

    oldbeer Grandadventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2017
    Oddometer:
    990
    Location:
    Tamaki Makarau, Aotearoa
    Nice report and video - good to read something a bit different. Looked like fun......from my chair :)
    #37
  18. russatkinson

    russatkinson Crashing my way through rally stages since 2019

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2019
    Oddometer:
    30
    Location:
    49.2144° N, 2.1312° W
    Thanks @WRC51 and @oldbeer - glad you both enjoyed riding along with us from behind your screens! My intention was always just to finish, so to end up not only finishing but within the top 50% of starters was an unexpected result, not to mention the incredible efforts of the other two guys, one of whom nearly cracked the top 30! Looking back on the event while going through the footage to put the video together reminded me of how much fun we all had, even if it mightn't have always felt like it at the time - but that's what it's all about, right?! The others are heading down to Spain to compete in the Hispania Rally this March, but I've already got a trip away booked for the tail end of that week so can't join them. I wouldn't rule out another Hellas later in the year though... Watch this space.
    #38
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  19. eaglescan

    eaglescan Borrego rocks Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2009
    Oddometer:
    584
    Location:
    Langley,B C
    That was a really good read, and thanks for the vid. work.
    #39
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  20. husqvarna

    husqvarna Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 29, 2007
    Oddometer:
    257
    Location:
    Darkest Efrika
    Thank you for the detailed and entertaining report enabling me to ride the rally, albeit vicariously because I suspect your experiences would have been mine, if I had been at the very top of my game. Much appreciated.
    #40