K2 Rally – Marshalling Day 1

The K2 rally is this weekend in Kielder forest. It was fairly eventful so I’ll split these day by day.

Marking out a 65 mile course in the forest takes quite some time so I’d offered help to the organiser with that as well as marshalling in the rally itself.

As things worked out on the Friday, the course was pretty much done but it did need sighting, a check that all the signs were present in the right places, hazards marked etc. for the perspective of someone coming around the course.

Having arrived and secured a flat piece of ground for the tent, I therefore set off with someone who I won’t name on a DRZ400 on semi tyres, not off road ones. He assured me he would go steady but he’d finished X rallies, considers himself a retired enduro rider etc. He did have a good medical reason for not wanting to fall off too and wanted someone with him.

So we set off and it was soon clear that when he said we’d go ‘steady’, he didn’t half mean it. I was on the YZ with its road gearing on, not the enduro gearing since this was a rally. It’s engine is a handful at the best of times and it didn’t run well at this (lack of) speed :(.

Back in the karting days, I prided myself on an ability to limp broken two stroke engines back to the pits so somehow, I managed to keep the YZ running and not oil the plug.

When we found the special test, I ended up having to go past for one section since the YZ requires commitment and the 10mph simply wasn’t going to work. I was wishing I was on the CRM which would have been much happier at this pace.

We did put up a few arrows in places to make things clearer and there was only one confusing section where some tape wasn’t out. At this point it became clear that whilst we had a map, I’d have to read it. I also had the GPS and some idea of what the forest looks like by now, thankfully.

Somehow we made it to the top of the course and after a biscuit break, we dropped down onto the road by the reservoir and then turned back into the forest. He commented that his speedo had stopped working.

At this point I noticed his front wheel was unwell. At first it looked like he’d lost a spoke which had snagged the speedo cable and wrapped it around the wheel a couple of times. The bike was basically unsafe to ride.

So, first up, what tools did we have? He seemed very unkeen to try and get them from the sealed package on his bike so we tried mine. Unfortunately I’d picked up my favourite multitool, not remembering it was broken so we were without decent pliers. The speedo cable was at quite some tension and therefore not easy to undo. We could undo various mounting clips to try and slacken it off and then using the broken pliers, very slowly inched the top end of the cable undone.

When it did come undone it did so with quite some force and could have done nasty things to my fingers but I had anticipated this. We found it wasn’t a spoke that was wrapped around the wheel but 12″ of fencing wire. We pulled that off and then rather than disconnecting the speedo from the other end, managed to simply sever the cable. Great, we could continue.

The course is supposed to be a 2-2.5 hour lap. I think we were 4 hours in at this point, maybe more and not even half way. We looped around the next section of forest and then suddenly, my bike started sounding odd, the kind of odd that means the fuel is running out. I sounded my horn, waved arms and he took not notice of me and continued off into the distance as I coasted to a stop.

Not entirely able to believe it I checked the tank and yes, it was extremely low and now on reserve. Eventually he noticed I was missing and came back to look for me. Basically, my lack of fuel was extremely frustrating for him and his advice was we split up and I make my own way back on the road, I could always hitch a lift and then pick the bike up. That way I was no longer a problem for him. Against my better judgement, I decided that yes, I’d have to sort myself out. I knew where there was an automated fuel station, perhaps within range of my reserve however I had neither two stroke oil to mix new fuel, or a credit card with me (not many places take them deep in the forest).

We also had a little disagreement about the cause of my lack of fuel. He was keen to point out that as any idiot knows, running slower doesn’t use more fuel. I suggested that rule may apply to a point but that the YZ actually runs more efficiently at more than 10mph however he wasn’t having it. Regardless, it wasn’t going to change anything.

I therefore left, in full fuel economy mode and headed for Bellingham. Making it was never going to happen and I coasted to a stop completely out just past Falston. On the plus side I knew exactly where I was. On the downside it was a fair distance to where I needed to be (9 miles as it turned out).

I stashed the bike down a side road in some bushes, I also stashed the bike helmet, the arrows, stapler, body armour and anything else I wasn’t going to need under a handy plastic sheet over some firewood. I should mention at this point that there is no mobile phone signal apart from occasionally a network I wasn’t on, nor was I expecting any signal any time soon. Any houses around there are holiday lets or second homes and nobody was around.

So still wearing the knee braces and bike boots, I started the walk to Bellingham. At least this way I knew I’d get sorted out eventually. I was passed by lots of cars and I’d imagine someone wearing MX clothing and big bike boots looked a little out of place walking along a verge. One oncoming car did stop and ask if I was ok and did offer me a lift in the wrong direction but I politely declined. I wasn’t taking too well to walking in the heat with that gear on, “dripping”, doesn’t quite cover it.

After 3 miles a car going the right way did stop and gave me a lift into Bellingham for which I was extremely grateful. I tried to find the organiser to tell him I was ok but he wasn’t around. I figured my friend was still riding around the forest so far so nobody probably knew I was stranded yet. I therefore jumped into the discovery and went to collect the bike and stashed gear. That went without incident and when I got back to the site, the organiser also arrived back having been looking for me. My friend had got a message from his phone to his wife. Anyhow, I+bike were back and all was well.

It was now late afternoon and I opted for a tea break. Thinking I was just popping out for three hours, I hadn’t taken food with me although I’d had a drink. The organiser was apologetic for my trip out and said if I wanted, I could go and check the other half of the course with him if I was up for it. So we set off and all I can say is that this trip was opposite extremes to the first one. I mostly kept up and we got the other half of the course done on half a tank of fuel (including riding out to it). So perhaps it does use more fuel at 10mph, who’d have thought it! I did get to see the second special test although I much preferred the first.

Unfortunately, just as we were coming to the end of the course, I relaxed a little too much, ran wide on the exit of a corner, ran onto the edge of and then into a gravel drainage ditch and spent a short while sliding along said ditch under the bike.

Once I was sure we’d actually stopped, I have a distinct memory of the self test of various pieces of me, concluding that all appeared to still be attached with one area of pain on my thigh which wasn’t structural. I therefore extracted myself and inspection showed a hole through the clothing on my thigh and some rather red raw looking skin, 3×2″ in size. I wasn’t leaking and inspection tallied with the previous conclusion, not structural so I turned my attention to the bike. It appeared not to be too bad and so while the adrenaline was still kicking in, I hauled it out the ditch through shear will power. The organiser therefore found me sitting in the middle of the track looking a little worse for wear. I was thankful the bike started without too much faff for a change and we went the two corners out the forest and the few miles of road back to camp.

Once back, someone helpfully pointed out the headlight was smashed. That was the least of my concerns, I dug out the first aid kit from my backpack which I’ve been carrying around for literally years, some water and paper towels and went about seeing how bad the damage was to me. I still can’t make up my mind if its a burn or a graze, I suspect its a burn from the exhaust. The first aid kit had the right things in it thankfully and although the first attempt at a bandage didn’t work too well, it did after supplementation with gaffer tape. It was clear at this point there was ‘some’ bruising too. I suspect that I hit my knee hard but the brace deflected the damage into my thigh muscle which is a good thing and working as designed. I’ve a link here to a picture of said injury, don’t follow it if you don’t like gruesome graphic detail.

What followed was a pleasant evening on the campsite, cooking dinner and then talking to various people as they arrived, I eventually had to call it a night as sitting in the cold was causing my leg to seize up.

But hang on, what became of my friend you might ask? Well, he did complete lap one but proceeded to follow the arrows and start a second, not realising where he was. He did think some of the corners looked familiar! At some point he ran out of fuel. The only remaining detail to complete to story is that that he was rescued by a passing postman!

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