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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by fredgilb, Oct 30, 2016.
Yup, here we go again!
Yep, that's right.......I did it again. An Epic 3600km over seven days. Two massive marathon stages. Really? I voluntarily signed up for this?
So let's recap a bit of history. 2014 was supposed to be the last running. There had been just too many logistical, political and increasingly environmental complications to making the event happen. So I sold all my rally gear and bought a radar detector instead. Just another of life's passing phase's. Never to be duplicated...........or so I thought! I kept my ear to the ground and (jealously) followed the French Rally championship series that takes place over weekends. Then, by popular demand I found out they had found a way to run it again using a somewhat simplified and slimmed down format. This year instead of group housing in collapsible barracks, we were to stay in hotels! We also would be staying two nights in each village instead of a new one every night. That saved them having to cart around said barracks, portapotties, showers and less staff to handle it all. We were also all going to eat together in huge catered dining tents. For the longest time I was on the fence as to whether I would do it or even could do it again. Where was I gonna get all the rally stuff and find the time to make all the brackets and miriade changes that are needed. I got in touch with the guy I sold everything to.....no, he was not interested in selling it back to me. Hmm, strike one. Where was I gonna get the money..(sell the car & get a junker instead?)....strike two. Wife making predictions of severe marital stress, strike three....you're out! Then out of the blue rally equipment guy expresses interest in selling my gear back to me.....hmm, let's just call it hedging my bets.....yes, I'll take it.
I still had to find a way to pay for it. Look, let's be honest, it's an obsession so there's got to be a way, right? So I signed up, I could always cancel out if I had to.
Gettin' close to crunch time.....what... to....do.....
I'm on my way home one evening and right near my house a delivery van runs a stop sign and BAM I'm 50 feet down the road on my back. Took me a moment to gage which way was up and I slithered over to the bike to flip the kill switch. Hey, I'm OK! The bike is pretty busted up but still sort of rideable. I just needed to get to the end of the street to be home. Once home I cheerfully informed the wife I had just had a real big off. Cheerfully because I seemed to be none the worse for it and I was pretty sure I had just found the answer to the elusive spinach problem. Nothing like keeping a stock of Ebay replacement parts on hand and having insurance pay retail. The next day I felt like I'd fallen down a very steep flight of stairs and I did in fact have a broken big toe. Thank you Sidi hard toe boots or it could have been gruesome. The left footpeg punctured the vans rear tire and I think my foot must have got caught in the wheel well.
Rally prep. Really big hammer optional. Umm, yeah those are KTM mirrors.
All back together and off to the shipper
This guy will sew your entry patch on and give you a haircut too!
Road book prep.
Jet lag sunrise
Shipping this time was even more complicated than usual. You see, in order to get "strike three" (marital stress) reversed I offered to have my wife join me in Nice where we would continue on to Italy. The rally was starting in Toulon and finishing in Nice so I attempted to find a way to ship to and from the south of France instead of Le Havre in the north. Then I thought hey, maybe I could skip the hassle and cost of shipping and buy a used Hypermotard SP and install all my custom rally parts over there? Then I could sell it on consignment at the end. I was also still trying to piece together plan "A". How would I get the bike back to New York if I brought my own. Turned out I would need to crate it if it shipped from the south. Where would I get a crate? I got absolutely nowhere over the phone or with email. The shipper referred me to a place that could do it for the same cost as the shipping! At this point I was at my wits end. I asked Rally direction if there was someone in Nice that might help and they referred me to a really nice fellow who is also an entrant and owns a shop that specialize's in TMAX scooters. Really trick ones.
Here he is in action...........can U believe it?
He tried some dealers but couldn't find a crate that would fit the Hypermotard or else they could not be bothered to try. The negotiations on the used bike I found broke down when they (without saying so directly) made me understand they weren't interested in taking it on consignment at the end. Oh, and they still have it!
It was at this point that I started to get a sense of how rigid business mentality had become in France. If it wasn't business as usual it was not gonna happen.
So I ended up shipping to Le Havre again, riding it down to Paris, hanging out to get over the jetlag and putting the bike on the "autotrain" which lucky for me went right to Toulon. The next day I got on the TGV to Toulon and picked it up. Those trains do not mess about. Pretty amazing cruising along at a steady 150MPH.
Schumacher ships cars and bikes all over the world uncrated. But they don't do the return.
Customs clearance in Le Havre. Hey, I remember that guy from two years ago.
Le Havre, Ouf, finally. Had to wait a hour for them to bring it out.
You're at it again!! No more dark dog sponsorship? (I was in france this summer and looked all over for that dark dog can and never found it..) You're aware of Air Canada's very reasonable air freight of motorcycles to Europe? The only catch is you have to fly Air Canada to get that low rate for the bike.
Thanks for taking us along again..
Hello again! Yes Air Canada, but the deal expired at the end of summer, plus I'd have to get myself up there with all the luggage. I used Air Transat the first time. Similar deal.
did you photoshop that being funny? or does he want folks to think thats real?
Gare de Lyon in Paris, next stop Toulon. You ship the bike the day before and the next day you hop on this baby to meet up with it, cool.
The Paddock In Toulon
Hey, it's the latest thing...tablet roadbook. Massive nuisance elimination. This looks like the way to go...if it withstands a crash. I dare you to ask me how I felt about putting together a roadbook for the next day after 20 hours of riding
The tire sponsor this year. Aside from a front tire that had developed a heavy vibration that went away once it heated up I was pretty pleased.
The problem with ocean shipping is you don't get to ride for a 40 days. Then you get to France and man is it different. First special stage was the infamous (scary dangerous) Mont Faron. In the past this has been the last special stage. This year it was the very first thing we did. Woah, I'm not ready for this. We were going to have two passes at it with a another special stage in between. The special stages are on closed roads against the clock. Riders leave every 30 seconds.
Here's a little video of the speed difference between me and the rider that took the fifth fastest time. Hey, I'm just getting warmed up here!
What goes up.......the way back down.
Interesting. Pictures are not showing for me.
Looking forward to this one again!
I made a few setup improvements this time. The first was a touring windscreen which I was so happy to have in the freezing cold. I would have brought my electric jacket if I had known. Another was to get a battery eliminator and cast aluminum housing for the Gopro. The first eliminated the constant hassle of turning off the camera to save the battery and the difficulty of turning it back on when you want it the most. The housing totally eliminated the flex in the Gopro mount that seems to magnify shake and vibration.
The other was to finally get the lighting right. Expensive. Very expensive, but worth it.
Can't talk about the "MARATHON" without the lighting.
At this point I'll take a moment to ruminate about what is the Moto-Tour, really.
It's easy to think of it a jolly touristic blast across France. But you'd be disappointed if that's how you approached it. Sure there are times when it's breathtakingly beautiful and straightaways become a novelty. But there are many times when all of your mental & physical forces will be summoned. It is designed to be challenging.
Did I mention the"MARATHON"? In 2014 we had one that was pretty massive. Before dawn to dusk.
This year I reasoned would be easier since there were no special stages. Boy, was I wrong! I looked at the route, yeah it was long.....almost 900 km long. The average speed was 40 to 50 kph. Why, hey I should be able to up that easily.......... wrong. I should have smelled a rat at the briefing. Firstly it was straight thru, just hidden passage checks, no time checks. You could start anytime after 8:00PM. I should have known how hard it would be when they hinted that it might not be wise to leave after 9:30.....what? I was thinking have a good rest and leave at around 2 in the morning. After all, I started at 3:30 last time.
Jean-Phillipe getting ready for the marathon. ChaCha rode two years ago. This year she has bigger fish to fry!
In the end I left at 9:30 P.M. and rode ALL NIGHT to 6:30 the next evening! Now that's a MARATHON. Some of the crafty riders had support to meet them along the way so they could have a nap, eat, fuel up etc. Some were napping in bus shelters! I even heard reports of sleeping on the side of the road on blankets, well you get the picture. My roommate fell asleep and crashed. Never found his roadbook in the night woods. I found the best thing was to ride as fast as I dared to stay alert. Oh, and it was C.O.L.D. The physical fatigue was one thing but I found it made navigation much harder. I took the easy way out and followed a duo who seemed to have it under control. Every time I'd take off thinking we're going to slow they'd catch me at my next navigation fumble. The closer we got to Boulazac the trickier the navigation became.
You may have noticed the bike in front of me had a passenger. Yup, something new this year. Can you imagine doing the marathon on the back and managing to stay awake?
Early morning fog to Sainte-Victoire Mountain | Aix en Provence. Cezanne painted it many times.
Would a forged rim have withstood this? I like to think so.
I think Stefane relies alot on that back brake
So how'd you do? I call it the wailing wall.
Food..........Big improvement this year. Price included meals for all. That helped offset the isolation of the hotels.
And that's just the appetizer. I'm told carrots are good for night vision. Yer gonna need em'.
Checking helmet straps before special stage. The stare says it all. Pinlock shields are great. These two took 9th overall. Wow!
A little eye candy + Speciale Le Buis...I'm slow this year..took me 40 sec more than best. Not too frisky. Maybe I'm still hung over from the marathon?
Nice, nice road.
OK, no more foolin' around .....get ready
I'm not exaggerating when I say that this year was the hardest one yet.
She caught my eye, as being the model for the Kiraz drawings!
Start of the "Base Chrono" special stage. A timekeeping & navigation test over an unknown distance.