Wild Dog Adventure Riding

Riding: Plan, Report and Racing => Racing Section => Topic started by: T9ER on March 12, 2014, 08:11:16 pm

Title: T9ER Amageza experience 2013
Post by: T9ER on March 12, 2014, 08:11:16 pm
This is an article of my Amageza experience that I wrote for Enduroworld magazine that was published in the January/February edition this year. I thought I would post it here as there might be some okes from overseas that could read it and get there juices flowing for some real African rally!

OK, here’s the deal. I’m a guy in my late thirties, married with kids and running my own business. Now I love racing but finding the time to race is always a challenge. Now making the time to race a 3 day event, in my company’s busiest season, in the Cape, when I live in Jo’burg, is near impossible! But a few months ago feeling the need for some adventure and to escape the daily grind I thought….”stuff it, let’s do it.” I paid my deposit and it was game on.
The Amageza Safari is a 3 day “Dakar Rally style" race that starts in Cape Town then winds its way off road 1884km up to just over the Namibian border then ends over in Kakamas near Upington. It is made up of 3 daily stages that consist of “liaisons” or connecting sections and then “specials” or racing sections that are timed to determine a winner. You also have penalties for navigational errors and speeding in controlled zones during the liaisons. You camp in a Bivouac each night and only have whatever tools, spares and clothes you can fit in a trommel plus two spare tyres. You do your own service work on your bike including tyre changes and only breakfast is supplied. If that sounds like fun then you’ve come to the right place.
First up the bike, now we all know if riding is your sport then working on bikes better be your hobby. Basically you need an enduro bike that is road worthy and has a range of 300km off-road as well as the navigation equipment. I had just bought a KTM450 six day and decided this would be my rally bike. It wasn’t too difficult to convert since the bike comes with a basic roadworthy kit. Then I also needed to get some navigation equipment such as a roadbook, ICO and GPS mount. I surfed the web checking out all sorts of rally kits and decided in the end to go with the rally lite kit from Rally Raid in the UK. Nothing too fancy and it seemed easy enough to install. I ordered it and it arrived within a couple of weeks. All good, I still had about 5 weeks to the race. I opened it up about a week later to start my build only to realize that I didn’t order the bar clamps the whole thing attaches to. So got on the web and ordered them with a big ASAP on it. They arrived about a week later and I started the build with 3 weeks to go. I changed the sprockets to a 14/48 for some top end and put on some new tyres and mousses. I neatened up the back with some smaller indicators higher up and mounted the number plate. Next the 19 litre long range tank from Raceworx KTM arrived I moved the fuel pump into it and got it all mounted up. I also put some foam grips on and then got started with the navigation stuff. I was down to about 2 weeks when I realized that I had to drop off my bike a week before in Pretoria to go down with Kevin and Vernon some buddies doing the transporting for me so I could just fly down in an effort to be away as short a time as possible. Things then got really hectic at work. This meant a lot of late nights in the garage getting everything on, Loctite on every screw, joining and extending wires and basically trying to get all that stuff on the handle bars. Eventually I finished the night before I had to drop it off. I hopped on and rode it around the neighbourhood for about 10 minutes to make sure it didn’t explode and then loaded it up with my trommel that I had packed and unpacked more times than I care to remember and my spare wheels.
Next thing I knew I was on a plane headed for Cape Town. I arrived on Saturday morning at Gordon’s Bay amidst gale force winds that was blowing away the tents so the organisers decided to change the start to a guest farm a few k’s inland. Here they held registration and scruteneering in a large warehouse where there was a long line of some very cool bikes. We all had to have a medical examination (nothing they made you cough for!) and had to show them our essential medical and survival equipment including two way radios, hand held flares, maps, a compass, water purification tablets and all sorts of stuff, it seemed a bit overboard at the time but these guys weren’t messing around and after seeing the remoteness in the days to come I could see why. After that I enlisted the help of Mark to explain how my ICO worked and got sponsored some batteries for it from Kevin who clearly was better prepared than me. Everyone was doing last minute things on their bikes and packing and repacking trommels. Then we all headed over to riders briefing for a lecture that well let’s be honest, it scared the crap out of us. My mind was filled with memories of mornings spent in bed when I should have been in the gym and of eating those large pizzas just because no self-respecting man orders a medium.  Then we were given our road books and we were officially rally racers. There was really something cool about getting that first road book it was like a scroll promising of danger and adventure. I couldn’t help smiling as I pictured the places it would take me. I loaded the visual waypoints into my GPS and marked up the road book as I had seen on the internet, loaded in to my roadbook holder after spying on others to see how it was done, then headed off to bed.
The next morning was an early start, up at about 4am, I’m sure most guys, like me, didn’t sleep much. It was a start in the dark just before sunrise, you could just feel the air buzzing with anticipation. Most of these guys had spent months building their bikes and finally the day had come to let them race. We were set off in twos a few minutes apart and started our 451km liaison to the start of the special (racing section). Now don’t be mistaken this is not some road trip to the start. You were given a certain time to get to the start of the special so you couldn’t take your time and it was pretty much all off road, winding through forests, up and down mountain passes and through farmland. I really struggled sticking to the speed limits in places and had to constantly check my GPS speed to ensure I didn’t get any penalties, in other places it was a challenge to get anywhere near the speed limit. There was a ferry crossing that was a first for me and added to the adventure. I was feeling pretty good and my bike was running well despite not getting an opportunity to give it a proper shakedown. I was trying to stand as much as I could knowing full well from past experience what multiple day races can do to your butt, something I don’t care to dwell on. Eventually I arrived at the start of the special, it’s not often you ride 451km off-road and THEN start a race. The special started in proper enduro style with the first part thru a sandy and rocky riverbed full of ponds with varying depths. There was one I went thru that was way deeper than I expected and I came very close to not getting out the other side. Others would not be so lucky. After a couple of attempts I managed to find the point where I was supposed to exit the river. After this it was very rocky and I was worrying how my navigation was going to hang in there as my 10 minutes around my neighbourhood had not been much of a test for it. This was soon answered when I realised my GPS was hanging on by the lanyard. I put the lanyard on as a backup in case something went wrong and I was really glad I did or I would have been involved in an impromptu game of hide and seek at this point. As it turned out the inserts in the rubber grommets had been put in backwards from the factory so I had to strip the whole thing down and reassemble it. This probably took about 10 minutes and it made me pretty frustrated. Once I sorted it out I headed off at pace in an attempt to make up for lost time. A couple of k’s later I missed a turn just by a couple of meters, I stopped and did a pivot turn but managed to fall over and put my hand out as I landed right onto some short hard plant stalks. One of them went into my wrist and opened up a fair size hole. I could see the artery quite clearly and thought if that had been a millimetre or so deeper I would be in some serious trouble. You are so alone in this race, to give you an idea I only saw 2 riders during the whole special that lasted a few hours one right at the beginning and another just before the end. I thought to myself stop being an idiot this is a marathon and your about to throw it away on the first day. I decided to forget about the time and I took out my medical kit washed it out and bandaged it up properly. Feeling like a real chop for being stupid I got back on my bike and rode smooth and smart to the end of the special.
After that there was still another 82km liaison to the bivouac at Sutherland. A couple of kays in there was a Cobra in the track standing up with a full hood, I nearly didn’t see it. I stopped and watched it go off into the brush. As I continued the heavens opened and I could feel the rain stinging my face I thought how a proper adventure helmet would be good about now. I then noticed my back wheel was feeling funny so I stopped and checked to find my mousse had collapsed. It was brand new! I nursed the bike for the remaining kays to the finish.  Eventually I reached the end of the first day. It was raining and I sat wrapped up in my bike cover watching the staff trying to put up the tents in the rain and mud. It was going to be a long night but there was nowhere else I would rather be. This was what I had come for and I was getting my money’s worth. I had asked for adventure and it was being served up by the bucket load. I changed my air filter lubed my chain and swopped my back wheel with my only spare and hoped this one would last me the next 2 days. In true Amageza fashion they had a plan B and organised riders briefing at a small local restaurant/bar place. Here we found out at nearly 10pm there were still some riders in the special. The stories started to come in from riders of punctures, drowned bikes, smashed engine casings, navigation towers breaking off and one guy even cut his neck on some wire strung across the path. I soon realized I had had a good day compared to most of the guys. I’m not sure of the exact numbers but about 43 guys started and about 15 were out after the first day. We were then given our road books and I marked mine a lot different now that I knew a bit more about how they worked and somewhat quicker based on my need for sleep. Some guys slept in the outdoor covered area right there. Others slept in the ablutions at the bivouac at the Sutherland school, I opted for my tent that I pitched on the concrete and had no problem falling asleep.
Day 2
Day 2 was another early start up at 4am and I put on my wet kit packed away my tent and ate a good breakfast supplied by the Sutherland school staff then off to the start. At the start I had a couple of minutes and I stopped at the ambulance to get my wrist bandaged again then I was off. The day started cold and wet but little did I know this was going to be one of the best riding days of my life!
It started with more river crossings than I could count and they were all flooded with some farmer’s 4x4s stuck along the way. I stopped behind some guy on a big rally bike just before a big muddy river at that exact moment he grabbed a fist full of throttle and blasted his way through the mud leaving me completely covered in about 10kgs of the Northern Cape. I felt like a cartoon when you can only see their eyes after an explosion. I was taking mud off the top of my helmet by the handful. After this we went through some amazing passes, one in particular was very steep and wet with small pockets of snow in places. I went and dropped my bike on the slate type surface and gave myself a good telling off again and got my act together. Today was 731km in total so I didn’t need any problems. It was 394km to the start of the special. It went smooth apart from wishing I had made the effort to get some more foam on my seat or the knife edge as a liked to call it.
As I came up to the start of the special I could see the sea. I’m sure the Cape Town guys thought nothing of it but I was like an excited little kid, this was so cool. I got to the start and things had warmed up and the sun was shining so I took off my jacket and packed it into my back pack. The special started and it took us right down onto the beach I gave a huge woohooo in my helmet even though there was no one for miles around. For the next 100km I rode up the west coast all alone, what an experience. At one point I had to stop and take some photos it was just so incredible. There was a point where I went down a wrong turn and got stuck on a small beach with only steep thick sandy paths out. I went back into the wet sand for some run up and managed to get up although I added a good few hours on my motor in the process. At the end of the special there was about a 50km dirt road where I managed to get up to 160kph and was quite proud of myself until I heard of guys going over 190kph. A screen could have come in handy on those sections my neck was worn out. After the special it was another 189km to the end of the stage at Springbok. While on the track coming through some mountains I came across Adrian on his KTM 690, his suspension link had broken clean off and his race was clearly over. He had tried to make a plan but it was just too serious, he had sent guys ahead with his GPS location and had plenty water, etc. so he sent me on my way. I felt real bad for the guy he had been riding so well and his bike was clearly well prepped.  Shortly after that I came across Thomas who had a flat front and was trying to nurse it in. I gave him all my big cable ties to help keep the tyre on the rim and was off again. At the end I went into Springbok to fill up with petrol and used the tap at the garage and a rag to give my bike a wash down in an attempt to get rid of most of the mud from that morning. Then I grabbed a Burger and went back to the bivouac. It was after dark and riders briefing was about to start. There were going to be two specials on the last day and we were given strict instructions that not to crash in the first 80km special as it was really remote and would be near impossible to get any assistance to you. I was starting to get used to going to bed like a scared little girl each night. After riders briefing I did an oil change and all the other prep stuff and ended up going to bed well after midnight.
Day 3
Day 3 started with the now usual 4am alarm. Today’s goal was simple… finish. It was pretty cold and I was glad my kit was all dry for a change. I didn’t manage to enter all the way points into my GPS the night before so I pulled over just after the start and took about 10 minutes to put them all in. I figured rather safe than sorry, my focus needed to be on finishing not on the times. We filled up with fuel shortly in to the stage and then the first special start came up. I could still hear Alex’s voice in my head from the riders briefing the night before about the dangers and was determined not to throw it all away like I nearly did on day one. It started off nice and flowing but before long got very rocky with lots of square edges, steep up and downs and really quite technical. I could not believe the vastness and of this area. It was so  barren, just rocks, sand and mountains and we rode for about 80km without seeing anyone or anything even close to civilisation. It was like being on another planet. The whole special went really smooth and my suspension worked great over the rocks, my hands and arms still felt good and I couldn’t wait for the final special.
At the end of the special we had to crossover into Namibia to fill up with fuel so there was time to grab a bite to eat and take the outer sleeves off my rally jacket. Then back into SA and soon onto the final special. These 200 odd kilometres were basically all desert, lots of sand and some rocky sections but it flowed great and you could just twist the throttle on hold on. Pure riding bliss. I caught up with Peter and we rode together for ages swopping back and forth, it was like being with my buds on a Saturday morning, the riding felt great for k after k for more than 150 k’s but then in a split second I caught a ditch with my bars slightly turned, tucked the front and exited over the bars. It was a really rocky area and one of those crashes when the bike seems to whip you into the ground. I wasn’t going too fast but it totally winded me and I was proper sore. Peter came up behind me within a couple of seconds and said something to the effect of “damn, are you ok?” being winded I barely managed to get the words out “can you pick up my bike?” He appreciated the true racer attitude and we laughed about it later. I got back on and rode out the rest of the special although a little tentative at first. The special ended near the bustling metropolis of Pofadder, it had been a long day already but there were still about 200 more k’s before it counted as a finish. I grabbed a bite to eat with Andrew and Willem a couple of really good guys and then we hit the tracks for the last 200km. I had one final scare while daydreaming I managed to miss a turnoff by a good couple of k’s. The big problem is once you go off the roadbook it is near impossible to find your way right again as your ICO meter is then out and it all gets messed up really quick. Luckily I didn’t panic, I just pulled over called on my standard 6 maths (lower grade) and headed back the right amount of k’s, and found the turn. Then it was all the way home to Kakamas. With only 17 finishers it had been a tough 3 days and this finish had not come easy which made it all the more sweet.
One final night in my tent with my bike parked right next to it enjoying a beautiful sunset reflected in the water. Good to finish but also gutted it was all over. I really feel like I have found my home in rally racing. There are the many different terrains you get to ride and truly amazing places you see, then the camping and sense of roughing it, the endless possibilities of challenges you could face and above all there is always that racing edge that lets you know this is no tour. Now that we have a rally in SA, it is within reach if you are up for the challenge.
If you are considering a rally in your future, check out Amageza 2014 and say “stuff it…let’s do it.” You won’t be disappointed.
Title: Re: T9ER Amageza experience 2013
Post by: Crossed-up on March 12, 2014, 08:30:43 pm
Really great write up, and a tremendous ride too!
Title: Re: T9ER Amageza experience 2013
Post by: N[]vA on March 12, 2014, 10:01:42 pm
Brilliant write up Joey!

really really enjoyed reading that mate
Title: Re: T9ER Amageza experience 2013
Post by: BlueBull2007 on March 12, 2014, 11:56:38 pm
That is a brilliant piece of writing.

"I stopped behind some guy on a big rally bike just before a big muddy river at that exact moment he grabbed a fist full of throttle and blasted his way through the mud leaving me completely covered in about 10kgs of the Northern Cape. I felt like a cartoon when you can only see their eyes after an explosion."


Very well done, this is a must read for anyone new to rally. Sounds like you were really well prepared (despite the man sized pizza's), and rode it sensibly. Well done on your finish! 160km/hr on a stock 450 is pretty damn fast!! :ricky:

I bet you find yourself at work sometimes just sitting there thinking about that Amageza?

What was the worst moment for you and the best moment for you (if there were any)?

What mousses were you running?

PS: I added this thread to the index.
Title: Re: T9ER Amageza experience 2013
Post by: MaxThePanda on March 12, 2014, 11:59:01 pm
Just one of these a month from each of the finishers from last year and we'll be ready for November! Thanks!  ::)
Title: Re: T9ER Amageza experience 2013
Post by: Camelman on March 13, 2014, 05:20:04 am
Very nice read bud! Thanks a million for submitting it to the magazine!  :thumleft:
Title: Re: T9ER Amageza experience 2013
Post by: clutch on March 13, 2014, 01:32:21 pm
Title: Re: T9ER Amageza experience 2013
Post by: T9ER on March 13, 2014, 03:43:12 pm

(I bet you find yourself at work sometimes just sitting there thinking about that Amageza? )
No, I think about WORK sometimes. ;)

(What was the worst moment for you and the best moment for you (if there were any)? )
Best was riding on the beach all on my own for so many km's something I've never done before, it was really one of WOW moments that one day when I'm in an old age home with drool and food on my shirt I will think about it and just start giggling like a little kid. The nurses will tut and shake their heads but in my mind I'll be racing.
Worst was when I fell and the stalk went into my wrist, it was a big wake up call as I realized how quick you can throw it all away. It would also have been cool to have my wife and kids at the finish to share that moment with them.

(What mousses were you running? )
I'm not sure, KTM put them in for me and i never asked.

Thanks for reading this guys, Alex really has a great race he is building here, if you can don't put it off. I haven't done tons of stuff in my life but the coolest stuff I've done was never convenient or easy at the time. Sometimes you just have to jump into the darkness.... Kind of like a 42 year old geologist doing the Dakar.  ;D
Title: Re: T9ER Amageza experience 2013
Post by: bonova on March 13, 2014, 07:03:22 pm
Awesome Joey! Thanks for the write up.
I remember that section next to the power lines on SS 2 of day 3 and we were neck and neck along that wide open gravely section of road. I had my throttle on the stops. Love to know what speed we were doing there.... I know my back wheel was loosing traction tho.....
Can't wait for this year.... All excited again!!!!! :thumleft:
Title: Re: T9ER Amageza experience 2013
Post by: T9ER on March 13, 2017, 12:01:32 pm
Howzit okes. I thought I would bump this up the page for you guys heading to the Amageza Baja to get your juices flowing. Have a blast guys!
Title: Re: T9ER Amageza experience 2013
Post by: Bill the Bong on March 13, 2017, 01:26:19 pm
What? Not racing? Maybe had an overdose in January  :biggrin:
Title: Re: T9ER Amageza experience 2013
Post by: Kobus Myburgh on March 13, 2017, 01:46:48 pm
Well you certainly got the juices flowing alright!  Now probably more nervous than ever.   :lol8:
Title: Re: T9ER Amageza experience 2013
Post by: BlueBull2007 on March 16, 2017, 05:29:16 am

Great to see you here Joey! :deal:  How are things going with you? Done any riding lately?
Title: Re: T9ER Amageza experience 2013
Post by: T9ER on March 16, 2017, 07:28:33 pm
Going camping with the family this weekend instead. I would love to be riding the Baja but my knee isn't right yet and I need to balance the scales a bit with some family time. I hope the full Amageza happens later in the year, I'm planning on being there for that one👍🏻
Title: Re: T9ER Amageza experience 2013
Post by: N[]vA on March 16, 2017, 07:47:24 pm
Going camping with the family this weekend instead. I would love to be riding the Baja but my knee isn't right yet and I need to balance the scales a bit with some family time. I hope the full Amageza happens later in the year, I'm planning on being there for that one👍🏻
Family time is important :)
Title: Re: T9ER Amageza experience 2013
Post by: BlueBull2007 on March 16, 2017, 09:33:54 pm
Hey N[]vA :wave:

Good to see ya here.