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Author Topic: Riding on the Margin - Part II. McGregor enduro  (Read 365 times)

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Offline PLUTO

Riding on the Margin - Part II. McGregor enduro
« on: August 28, 2018, 02:41:07 pm »
Last month at the Riversdal enduro, I  experimented with the “Power of One”, where, in essence, you look for 1% (marginal) improvement in all aspects of biking, and the collective margins amount to a significant improvement.  At Riversdal, the marginal improvements were all about weight savings – to this end I rode a KTM Freeride, light trial bike clothing, etc, etc.

At McGregor, it was back on a full size, 110kg KTM enduro bike, heavy duty MX boots, chest protectors and the like.  On this ride, the only concession to weight saving was short fuelling  – an 18 km loop didn’t need a full tank of sous. 

So where were the marginal improvements going to come from this time?

There are always lots of corners, and if you can ride  a corner 1% faster, or 1 second faster around the loop, you can maybe save 60 seconds?  And those time savings over a number of laps add up to a meaningful time advantage.

Well, that’s the theory.  In practice it assumes you can apply yourself around corners, and you will complete a number of laps.  I mean, a loop of 18km, how difficult  and how long can that take?   


In the pits there was talk of a downhill and a riverbed … pretty much standard enduro bike pre-race banter.  Added to the fun was an extremely strong north west wind.   Thanks to the drought conditions over the past year, it was also Capital D for Dusty. 

It was with a sense of relief with helmets and goggles on, the in-your-face, dust laden wind became a non-issue.  But oh so soon after the start, a new in-your-face apparition materialized; that being the track in front of you.   

Imagine for a moment that rocks, varying in size from tennis  to soccer balls, were as valuable as gold.  And some ogre with superhero strength stole the world’s supply of rocks, and got chased by armed policemen to get the valuables back.  This ogre, with a massive sack of rocks over his shoulder, bolted up and down the McGregor mountains, with cops in hot pursuit, shooting away.

The bullets could not kill the ogre, but made holes in his sack, and as he bounded along the narrow paths, the rocks started falling out of his sack, thisa way, and thata way.   Some rocks landed on the path, some to the sides, and others on top of each other, some in the way, others in a random and haphazard fashion, all along hill and dale. 

The policemen cursed and shouted as they scrambled over the rocks, and kept on shooting at the ogre, and the rocks kept falling out of holes in his sack.  Round and round the McGregor mountains the ogre did run, and the police did chase, until one day, many, many years later, a huge wind sprang up, and blew the world’s supply of dust into the air.  The dust did blind the ogre and he ran over a cliff, and fell to his death.  Similarly, the policemen, also blinded by the dust, followed suit and also fell to their deaths.  (This happened before goggles were invented.)

BTW armed policemen firing away in the dust is where the term “ shooting blindly ” comes from. 

To this day, when the ogre’s father thinks of his fallen son, a great, strong and unyielding wind materializes over the area where his son lies.   

So you get the idea;  rocks, wind, and dust, more than you could ever believe.

Thanks to the rocks and dust, my strategy of whizzing around the corners  to make up time, was not going to happen.  If anything, I was slowing down in corners. 

I had some other challenges coming my way.   Not 5 minutes after the start was a short river bed section with log lying in the way.  Here, I managed to loop the bike over the log, and into the bossies. 

“ What the hell? “ I thought to myself.  Then 50 meters after the silver/gold split, the path took an alarming downward plunge.  ( Was this where the ogre and policemen fell?) .  On hectic downhills I feel more comfortable with engine off, and walking the bike down the steepest parts.  The moment it levels out a bit, you jump on, hit the happy button, and carry on gingerly downhill.  I couldn’t find neutral for the life of me, and the happy button, she was not working.  When that happy button doesn’t work, you get dark thoughts about those doff German speaking engineers who under-designed that stupid, feeble starter motor. 

Why can’t they be like the Japanese who scoff at the idea of a kick starter as backup to a faulty happy button , and design bullet-proof, robust and reliable starter motors on their bikes? 

For some reason, on idle the engine just cut out.  There was also that  problem with the clutch; no matter how carefully you let it out,  the bike would lurch forward, out of control.

I’d washed my boots in the week, and had inadvertently loosened all the buckles.  They were randomly popping open.  So there I was, precariously balanced on a steep downhill sections, bending over waggling the gear lever to find neutral, tightening my boot buckles, no happy button, kick starting, clutch out lurching forward, clutch in bike stalling, falling, picking bike up, repeating


Eventually I made it down to the vlakte, and instead of stopping to adjust the airscrew on the carb and attending to my boots/clutch, I blundered on.  Big mistake.  More tight off camber, more big downhill, more stalling, more kick starting, more falling, more lurching forward more boot buckles popping open.

In desperation I stopped on a narrow level-ish section, got tools out and started fiddling.  A guardian angel in the form of race-sweep Graham stopped to render assistance to the carb settings.  I didn’t make any friends by having my bike blocking the path.  Other riders coming past used my scoot as a device to find more traction.  This motivated me to hurry up and get going again.  I made it down to some more vlakte in the form of a sandy type beach.  This was to be the start of the river bed that was spoken about in the pits.   

Here the ogre must have spilt plenty, because this river bed was festooned with millions upon millions of soccer ball size rocks.  Intimidating at first, but as you ploughed on, you realized traction was good and lines easy to pick.  Around half way down the river bed I gave blessings to those intelligent German speaking engineers who designed a faultless and superb suspension system.  Jeez that KTM suspension just soaked up the hits – what a comfortable ride!

During one of the ins and outs of the riverbed, I got lost and found myself on yet another precarious track on the side of the mountain.  Recent tyre tracks showed I wasn’t the only person to get lost.   I beat a retreat down the mountain, through the bossies and back into the riverbed, where I picked up the orange sticker route markers.  Relief on the one hand on being unlost, and fatigue on the other; sjoe that river bed was long, and there was no “sorry” –  it just kept coming.

Then suddenly out the river bed, along some sandy whoops, and joined up back on the silver loop.  Yay! 

Up a rocky climb, down a bit past the electricity pylons, down a rocky outcrop, along a fence and hooray – back at the pits!

It had taken me the better part of 2hrs 15 min to ride one lap of 18 kays.  I was feeling a bit knackered, and didn’t relish fighting bike mechanical issues, so parked my scoot short of the finish line and waited for the 3 hour time bar to pass. 

Afterwards i figured out my bike issues.

Two days prior to the race I changed gear oil to a vastly different multigrade viscosity – and think this is why the clutch had so much “bite” ?
New piston and ring also two days prior to the race – could the carb setting have been accidently altered during the top end job? 
Starter motor – a known Achilles Heel on all KTM’s prior to 2014.  Solution; sell the 2009 bike.
Loose boot straps – note to self – walk around, tighten and retighten in pits prior to race start.
Marginal improvements.  Can only be achieved if you have no mechanical issues on the day.

While McGregor is a long way to travel only to ride 18 kays, the experience gain was invaluable, and the exciting news is there’s another one coming up. 

Roll on La Mont enduro  in October! 


Offline Buff

Re: Riding on the Margin - Part II. McGregor enduro
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2018, 04:06:18 pm »
 :imaposer: You had me laughing out loud Murray, very well written  :thumleft: You have my deepest sympathy even though your pain & suffering is all self inflicted  ;D Those rocks are my nemesis, especially those that lie on top of each other  ;) Well done on the 1 lap... you still lapping all of those on the couch  :thumleft:
Present bikes: BETA 300RR, KTM 690, Yamaha WR250F

If you're dumb you gotta be tough !!!

Offline PLUTO

Re: Riding on the Margin - Part II. McGregor enduro
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2018, 09:47:18 am »
Ha ha ha Mr Buff, thanks for the feedback.  Yip, as Belau in the cartoon movie The Jungle Book said; " but there's more, much more ".  Seems like if one sniffs around a bit, there's a ride like McGregor every weekend.
BTW on 15 Sept is the Philadelphia Fun Ride and there is a plan afoot to leave from CIPLA in Parklands, out and back to the fun ride.  Will send fuel ahead in a bakkie.  Ends up being a lekker round trip of about 150 kays.  Shout if keen, or perhaps i should post details closer to the time on Crossed Up's thread? 

Offline Buff

Re: Riding on the Margin - Part II. McGregor enduro
« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2018, 09:51:17 am »
That sounds like a lekka plan, keep us posted  :thumleft:
Present bikes: BETA 300RR, KTM 690, Yamaha WR250F

If you're dumb you gotta be tough !!!

Offline BlueBull2007

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Re: Riding on the Margin - Part II. McGregor enduro
« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2018, 08:13:42 am »
That was a lekker read. Looking forward to the next one. :thumleft:
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Living the Rally Dream - Ride Report
Current bike: KTM 350 EXC   Previous bikes:  2010 WR450F, 2006 KTM450EXC,KTM 450RR, BMW800GS, KTM450EXC, BMW650 GS, BMW650 Dakar, and Honda XR250