My Centennial Rally Experience

A while ago I volunteered to help out with marshalling at the centennial rally which is up in and around the north this weekend. Saturday they were going into Kielder/Wark forest so this morning it was an early start. I met up with some fellow TRF members and together we made our way out to Gisland and up past Spadeadam. I volunteered to take the fuel for the group in the discovery into the forest. So far so good.

On the way in, I hit a deep pothole and stotted bike off the back window of the discovery. On the one hand it has marked the glass, on the other it didn’t smash it, how I don’t know. I made a mental note to take it easy even if at this point crazy forest worker come marhsals towing trailers with quads on appeared and were flying around and asking if I’d left the hand brake on.

So we found where we needed to be, I unloaded, kitted up and found the others. We were to be on course in the special test. Two roving posts at the start/end and a static in the middle. I took the first stint on the static and was there for a couple of hours, I had been promised some relief and it did come. I then roved around the end section a bit. There was a corner the bikes seemed to be having trouble with where many were going straight on into the grass and a nice deep ditch which I helped pull several out of.

The day had started off dry, turned into a drizzle and then by now was a near constant light rain. The rain eventually ran into the boots since I’d put the trousers into them, to try and avoid ripping them into any more shreds on the YZ kickstart. I gave up on the googles and just let my glasses get wet.

At one point I was offers a trip down a “hard” short cut, I suspect I made a bit of a fool of myself since I was going slowly, coming off and then was too worn out to continue. At this point someone else got the bike out of the rut I was stuck in, making it look easy. They did check it if was a 125 or a 250 to know how much throttle to give it 🙂 I’m sure I could have done that myself, had I been able to get enough oxygen into my blood stream to think clearly. Anyone who is honest about their first off road experiences on bikes will know the vicious circle of come off, tire getting things back on track, come off again because you’re tired and so on. Its been a while since I suffered quite like that. I couldn’t suppress a chuckle when the two I was following both came off themselves.

By this point, the YZ was making worrying engine noises, there is something wrong, the next suspect is the power value mechanism since it doesn’t seem to be coming into the raw power it should (not that is mattered on a day like this!). I also found I’d run out of back brake pads.

Being rather wet by this point, it was good when we figured out the course was closed and we helped demark it. It was then a case of loading the bike onto the discovery, finding some dry clothes and heading home. I went back out via Spadeadam so I could drop the fuel back to the others.

Driving on the forest fire roads on the way out, I wondered if something wasn’t quite right. I’ve had this feeling on previous occasions driving the discovery off road and this time told myself to ignore it, every little noise makes my jumpy. I could see the bike was fine in the mirrors and the car seemed level and all that. The stability control light did briefly light on one occasion accelerating which seemed odd.

As soon as I reached tarmac, I knew something was very wrong. Having stopped and walked around I noticed a not very happy looking tyre which was clearly written off. No problem, reverse into the layby to get off the road and I’ll have to change it for the spare.

Reversing into the layby totally destroyed anything that remained of the tyre. Ok, no use crying over spilt milk. I calmly flicked through the owners handbook to the section on changing a tyre. Firstly, I have to say that whoever wrote it should get a different job, preferably after being made to change a tyre in the pouring rain. Its full of things like explaining how to jack the car, then mentioning that before jacking you should loosen the wheel nuts. The main reason I was reading it was to figure out where the tools were, how to release the spare wheel and what to do with the self levelling air suspension.

Obviously the jack and tools were in a compartment in the rear of the car, with piles of wet bike gear filling the boot and the boot door inoperative due to the bike on the rack on the back. There was also 85L of petrol in the way amongst tools and all kinds of other junk. I also noted with dismay that to lower the spare wheel you need to access a winch under the rear two pop up seats, which have all this stuff on top of them. I would also note it is raining, it would be, right!

To cut a long story short, I did manage to move things around, I was able to jack the car up, put the spare on, stow the shredded wheel and continue home. The self leveling suspension did quite an amazing job of hiding the flat. I bought the discovery to use and have a bit of adventure with so I guess I’m getting that and these things happen. Nobody can accuse me of not using it as it was designed or call it a Chelsea Tractor! 🙂

I am now totally worn out, I think I’ll need to take it easy for a few weekends and I’ve some work in the garage to do now. I haven’t dared closely inspect the rim yet, if I’m lucky, it might be ok, we’ll see tomorrow. Marshalling tomorrow? I think not.

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