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NZ VMX Day in the Dirt and AGM - in planning for July 2019 in the Manawatu

NZVMX Grand National - Seddon, 24-25 August 2019

Note special discounts have been arranged for Cook Straight Sailings for the Grand National

Mid winter crazyness

With a mad rush of blood to the head I decided to enter round 4 of the national enduro series on 9 June in Martinborough. I rode on what I am currently dubbing the Yamaha IT 98 (AKA the AG 100). OK I know it was a bit of a stretch to be riding a vinduro bike in a full scale modern championship enduro but my concession was that I would ride the trail class and not the experts loops! 

So over the last few months I have been stripping the bike back to its bare essentials, changed the oil, made a seat cover, fitted some straight bars, replaced the front guard, got the lights working, didn’t get the speed working and so on.   I thought that would have been enough but as it turned out I should have done a bit more. 

So this is how things rolled.  

The week before the race there was quite a bit of rain – well lots really, but the good news was that on the day the sun was out and the hills across Martinborough looked wonderfully green. It was also very pleasing to see so many riders turning up – enduro in NZ is in good heart.

Sign-in went smoothly and of note, the trail riders for this event were relieved of any MNZ licencing requirements which reduced the entry costs for us mere mortals. Upon the sign in, I was required to declare to the points scoring team of what bike I was on – I explained it was an IT 98.  The response was – nah - Yamaha didn’t make the IT in 1998. I said no that is not what I meant – I am riding a twin-shock Yamaha IT 98 – that is 98cc!! You know the sort things the crazy Europeans used to ride in the ISDT back in the late 70s! Mine is a factory special I claimed. There was laughter all round mainly at my expense. 

Also at my expense I was then issued number 40 - which meant that some 100 plus riders would precede me on the circuit!  Not a good move given the likely conditions - but I was ok with that, nothing like a challenge. 

A quick check of the route sheet for the trail class revealed there would be 12 sections to be ridden a whopping course of some 130km in distance. Heck one section alone was 44 km long with a scorching average speed of 31kph! OMG this was going to be some ride and at least twice the distance of a vinduro.

Waiting for my minute to come up was a bit of a hoot. Most of the competitors, while towering over me on their monster truck suspended dirt bikes, were very supportive of by my intent but somewhat bemused and confused. The common question was why? Well more on that later…………..   

The first section was just a short effort mainly used to warm up the bikes before entering the massive 44km cross country farm section. Heading into the second section, it became clear how wet and slippery the ground was – yesiree this was going to be a challenging day for the IT 98.  It was also at that point I had the realisation that it would have been prudent to fit a new rear tyre; while the IT 98 doesn’t  make a lot of power the back end was slipping all over the place. That aside I was making good momentum keeping up some resemblance of speed keeping in touch with my fellow riders at least for the first quarter of an hour so. Then we hit the first terrain test.   

Not long after the start of the TT we required riders to traverse a very greasy clay track to the top of hill. In normal conditions this would have been a breeze but the wet conditions made this tough going as bikes and riders  struggled to gain any form of traction. I would like to tell you that the IT 98 simply idled its way to the top but that was not true, it was still tough going requiring quite a bit of pushing and shoving. Actually I found it best on this occasion just to leave the bike in low gear and simply walk alongside it – this way it seemed to maintain traction.  But in the end we got there. 

This TT went for ever and it wasn’t until some 40 minute later I reached the end. What a ripper – admittedly, probably 15 minutes of that time was spent on that first hill going nowhere fast but hey that’s life!  The TT crew were stoked to see me rolling in and shouted all sorts of encouragement. Then it was case of cracking on to finish the section.   Within ten minutes I hit the next major obstacle, a queue going downhill! I asked my fellow riders at the top what the problem was – by all accounts there was a stream at the bottom which was then followed by a rocky hill climb with few ledges poked in for good measure.

In my experience these type of challenges require a good dose of speed. So off I went down the hill, through the stream and up the climb. I almost made it half way up but the rider in front of me stalled and fell off and my last minute wheelie over him didn’t quite work out so I turned around went to the bottom and rode it again. This time success the little IT clawed its way to the top gaining traction where others were struggling. I was stoked and somewhat relieved.  

Section two eventually came to an end and I rolled into the check point some 40 minutes late. Time for a quick refuel then it was into the next of a mere 12 kms but which was no less challenging than the previous. The ground seemed even wetter and greasier and pretty steep in places requiring me to find alternative ways to the top of hills. Likewise even going down some of the hills could give you a surprise and on one occasion I found myself suddenly being dumped on the ground in a shady corner wondering what the heck had happened.

Ultimately my downfall came in section 4 in the second terrain test which was quite open but there were a few places bikes running along narrow sheep ruts and between rocks. At one point I rushed one of these areas just a little too quickly forgetting that my ground clearance was a tad low. Net result, brake lever bent back right around to the footpeg and the tip if the gear lever lost. I spent a bit of time doing running repairs than I punched on and finished the TT as best I could - then rode the next two short sections back to base.  

By this stage I had completed 6 sections but had houred out. To be frank my energy levels were pretty sapped by then and going on with no rear brake or gear lever was not overly realistic. But I was not alone. Of the 57 B Class riders, only 11 completed the entire course, and all lost time, and only 26 of us completed the first loop. As for the remaining 31 riders I am guessing yhey are still somewhere out in the hills somewhere!  

As for the A Class riders all but one completed but all lost chunks of time. And of the 22 AA Class riders all finished but only 6 riders managed not to lose any time!  

Now you could be thinking that given the results the event was terrible. It wasn’t - it was brilliant, a real hoot. Another few days of dry weather would have made the track even more fun. I was happy with the results.  And to answer the question why? Yes it would certainly be easier riding a modern bike with an electric leg and mega plush suspension but riding a very small bore bike with limited suspension and technology is well – keeping it real and sort of more fun.

So now I wait for 29 June which is Round 5 of the National Enduro series at Masterton. And yes I will be on the IT 98 once again.

Andrew