In this week's show, Todd Heslin talks us through his recent Bucket Racing experience. Also,
I picked up the Beta RR 430 4T (our new long-term test bike) Wednesday last week, and as soon as I had picked it up, I got a message from Pesky, a Beta service agent based in Shannon, Saying "There's a round of the National Enduro Championship at Moonshine this Monday, you should enter"
This sounded like a stupid idea, so naturally, I was keen.
Before I could ride a proper Enduro, I needed a chance to get aquatinted with the bike. A chance to give it a good shake down and see what (if anything) fell off. I messaged Todd, and we headed out to Wellington's south coast. Meeting early Saturday morning at Owhiro Bay carpark, we set our sights on Red Rocks.
Having never ridden the Beta on anything but tar seal, I was nervous, but confident. Red Rocks is known for its deep sand sections and loose river rocks, that can and do catch riders out. I have had trouble on these sections a few times before on a DR650 and my own Tenere 700. One needs to weight the rear of the bike and keep the power on the push through. If you stop, you will struggle to get going again. Riding the Beta though, I was quickly surprised and how agile, light and lively the bike felt, and how easily it pushed through and even skipped across the top on the soft and tricky sections.
It's surprising how good the bike made me look. I generally hate using this term, but it inspired confidence. Usually, when Todd and I go riding, I'm the one setting the pace, because Todd is able to ride much quicker than I can. Usually, I'm the one to call it a day first, or find the terrain too difficult and pull the pin and turn back. But this time, I was able to not only follow the wheel tracks of other vehicles on the beach, but stray from the paths entirely, and plow through new terrain with ease. Because of the Beta 430, I was able to ride rings around Todd on the heavier DR650.
We went as far as we possibly could, around 16 kilometers, only being stopped by some massive rocks. This was the positive experience I needed heading into Monday's Enduro.
Monday rolled around and I headed out to the start point of the Enduro event, full of confidence. I had never ridden a dirt bike that handles like this. So well balenced, and nimble, with traction to spare.
I signed on and proceeded to get all my gear ready, I was number 34, meaning I was starting 34 minutes behind the leaders. The course was around 50 kilometers long, with 3 timed sections. The A-class riders would be doing 3 laps of the course. But I was entered in the novice class, meaning I would only be attempting 2 laps.
After the briefing, we all cued up to head through the start gate at our allotted time. Most numbers had 3 riders, 1, 1A, and 1B for example. I was #34. 34A was a young feller on a much smaller bike, and 34B was an older guy who had never done an enduro before either. He was used to trail riding.
The nerves were pumping a fair bit standing at the start gate waiting for my number to roll around. From the start gate, we made our way up a rocky fire break, across the top of the hill and down the other side. Unfortunately, this was where my reality check started. Coming down the first hill, through some pine trees, we came up on a very steep section. With all the rain the previous week, the ground was soaked, and I had very little grip. The front washed out and I was sent flying. I was a little shocked at what had just happened. I had such a good shake down a couple of days prior with no issues like this at all, why was I now laying on my back on the ground?
I picked up the bike, shaking a little, swung a leg over, fired her back up, patted her on the fuel tank to apoligise, and we carried on down the hill. The track flattened out a little, and I came around a right hander, stright into another steep downhill. The front washed out again. Damn it! I bounced back up, puffing hard, with a bit of arm pump starting to kick in. Picking the bike up, I walked it down to the next section of flat ground. I had only completed around 4km of the ride, and already dropped the bike twice. Not a good look.
Riding to the bottom of the hill, we had to cross the road and ride past the carpark to continue the trail. I contemplated bailing through the tape and back to the car to lick my wounds. But I didnt, I barreled through the river, to be met with the start of the first TT or timed section.
Arm pump really biting now, I was surprised how badly I had faired so far. I got stuck into the first TT. I got a bit of speed on, averaging around 30kph.
Completing TT1 with out much more drama, I came out into the road section where we needed to stick to 24kph so as not to get to the next timed section too quickly. I got into a groove and started to feel a little more at home on the Beta 430, but soon realized how important it is to pay attention to the arrows. I came down a hill where the road curved to the left and missed an arrow telling me to head off the road to the right. another 10 meters down the road there was an X, and I realized I had gone the wrong way. I turned around, wasting precious time, and headed back up the hill to find the track.
It was TT2 where the wheels completely came off. Through the start gate and down the trail, I was feeling good, the arm pump had subsuded, and the terrain had reasonable traction. I was winding through some thick pine forest when I came around a corner and found the track arrows pointing up a steep mound of dirt and into yet more thick pine. It was a steep wee section, but if I took the right hand line, I reckoned I could make it up, then I just needed a wee left right to get around a tree at the top. I gathered my thoughts and went for it. There's something to be said for the Maxxis tyres, providing an amazing amount of grip, and suddenly I was up to the hardest part.
From here we picked our way up through a bit of thick pine forrest, some trees and branches had been cut and removed to create a path. It was pretty rough going, as we were not only picking our way along a tight track through trees and felled branches, but over slippery roots also. The trail started getting steeper, but as it opened up, I got more speed on.
I came around a reasonably open right hander to be met with 3 ruts. Planting the bike in the middle one, and tried to keep the power on and keep forward momentum. I started slipping off the seat backwards a little, so i took the power off and reset for another go. Its never a good idea to stop on an uphill, but sometimes its unavoidable. I reset went for the throttle again, lighting up the rear wheel but making a little forward progress. Obviously, I was not making enough forward progress to keep air moving through the radiator as the kettle started sounding... the engine was letting the steam out.
Damn. Im stuck in the middle rut, half way up a hill, the bike is overheating and I can hear a 4stroke about the come up the hill at full tit. I can only hope the rider is in either the left or right ruts. Because if hes in the middle, I'm in the way.
NOPE! He's in the middle rut. He leans right and has a crack at riding past me, only to stall the bike, loose balance, and fall left, and right on my bike. More specifically, his backside landed right on the header pipe of the Beta.
Him: "OH SHIT! thats hot!"
Me: "Sure is, I've just overheated it"
Him: "F**K, sorry"
I helped him get his bike into the right-hand rut, and by this time the Beta had stopped steaming. He rode off, and I set about starting the Beta and getting it to the top of this bloody hill. It was only another 200M up the hill to the main road and I stopped for a breather, and to assess the situation.
Because the bike had overheated, it had boiled off a lot of its coolant. It is not equipped with a header tank or reservoir, so I had to let the bike cool down, open the radiator cap to check the level, and refill. I emptied what i had in my camel pack Checking the map, I found I was about a kilometer from Transmission Gulley and Battle Hill, and inconveniently, I was at the furtherest point from the carpark, but if I followed the main road, I reckoned I could make my way back to the carpark without killing the bike. I decided to wait for a bit and see if a sweep rider showed up with some water I could steal.
A sweep rider came along, but he had no water. He did however escort me via the main road to the marshalls at the end of TT2. They had water, So I filled up the radiator, and we decided to follow the trail the quickest way home from here.
So, TT2 was a wright off, but I did manage to complete TT3. I made my way back to the carpark, planted the bike on the trailer, got changed and headed home with my tail between my legs.
My failure to complete my first Enduro, should not however be a reflection on the Beta RR 430. It's a much more capable bike than I made it out to look. In the hands of someone like Brad Groombridge, it would be an absolute weapon. It just so happened, that I was unprepared and ill-equipped to tackle such a challenging trail. I'll know for next time. some more seat time, a bit more practice, and a lot of training, and I'll be back to have another go.
The Beta is now clean, and ready to go again. the overheating incident in the forest had not had any ill effects, so that's a positive. Stay tuned for the next exciting installment.