Sunday, 18 January 2009

Desert Storm 2009

The Epic Events Desert Storm trail ride is a classic 2 day trail ride featuring some 160km of trails around the foothills of Mount Ruapehu in the central North Island of New Zealand. The 2009 ride was held on the 17th and 18th of January. A ten minute clip of Day One of the ride is avaailable from

I'd hoped that this ride would be a good workout for the new Husky after the muddy PowerAdventures Maramarua trail ride a few weeks ago. It isn't as if I mind riding when it gets wet and sloppy, though to be honest as I get older I am more of a fair weather rider. I just wanted something moderately challenging to get to grips with the new bike. I wasn't disappointed.

After it's initial workout I took the bike into Matt at Bikesport.  Matt  checked it over and changed the jetting to see if that would overcome some of the starting issues I was having. The Euro bikes should start on the first or second kick. The Husky also has a short awkward kick starter that takes a bit of getting used.

We arrived at the motel at Ohakune early Friday evening to find a  hearty group already starting their weekend's entertainment. Apart from a beer with dinner I remained virtuously sober. 

On day one of of the ride there were two tracks open, three if you count the novice track that we didn't go near. The Middle track, roughly 35km and the East track which went up to the bottom of the mountain, roughly 55 km.

YouTube promo 

We headed off on the Middle track to warm up. This was a great we track filled with lots of sweeping loamy tracks that were just simply a lot of fun to flick the Husky through. 

One of the great things about this bike is how responsive it is and how it pulls effortlessly away in 4th gear and even top if you're going fast enough. The bike has no problem lifting the front wheel in the higher gears to whip over the bigger sharp bumps. All I have to do is hang on-like trying to hang onto a runaway train. More than once I found myself going a little faster than I had intended -and had to break heavily as the sharper corners came up really fast. My cornering skills are improving as a result. Pulling away out of these corners in 3rd and 4th was effortless and Mr Castle didn't enjoy the roost!

The only real problem was that given the extremely hot and dry weather in the week leading up to the ride was the dust once we got out into the open areas and gravel road sections.

The dust was more of an issue on the more open sections of the main track but once we were under the trees the tracks were in mint condition-still just moist enough to keep the dust down and provide awesome traction. 

The main track had a bit more open stuff in it and it was pretty dusty in places, while some of the faster riders are quite happy to blast through the dust I tend to button off when I can't see where I am going. 

I did manage to give Mr Castle's WR450 a good run for its money down some of the road sections when we rode side by side. I had initially felt that the bike felt a little under geared but this didn't seem to be the case once I wound the wick up to about 120km.

We had a great day on these tracks-once again superbly marked out by the Epic Events crew. In fact the organisation at these rides is generally superb.

Unfortunately for the people that organise these rides they can't control the weather gods. Run the ride in the summer and dust might be a problem. Run them in the winter and you run the risk of sleet, snow, and tracks that get cut up by hundreds of riders so that they can become almost impassable to a number of riders.

Some time over Saturday night it started to absolutely hose down. I didn't hear anything on Saturday night, the rain or  the other riders in the motel reliving the days' riding over a  few beers until some ungodly hour I am told. I was dead to the world. Waking up to steady rain was enough to dampen the spirits of most of the riders at the motel. I am sure all those camping at the site had a terrible night as it was apparently pretty windy through the night as well.

While I wasn't all that keen to ride in the wet we had come a long way just for one days' riding. Besides the last time we had ridden the Dessert Storm it was almost the middle of winter and it was wet then. Once we had cleared the first part of the track it was ok riding.

Still there was a fair bit of negative sentiment around the place and I didn't really want to go out and ride in those conditions by myself. So although I really wanted to ride I joined the Exodus of people heading away who had made the same decision. I should have made the effort to do at least one loop as I am sure although I would have been wet and cold it would have been a blast.

Thanks to the team at Epic Events for another great ride.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Husky WR 250 Ride 2

Day One of the Power Adventures Possum Trapper Maramarua trail ride (Jan 3 2009)

Day one of the Possum Trapper trail ride quickly brought home to me just how different the old GasGas and the new WR are. The GasGas, no doubt belying it's trials bike origins would happily negotiate with some aplomb anything that got in it's way. Point it in the general direction of attack and with a gentle tweak of the throttle it would gently wend it's way up the most gnarly,snotty hill without too much effort. I always had the feeling that there was always a little more power if required for that last sharp steep stretch before chugging over the top.

The WR requires a lot more attention to detail, feathering the clutch on the big snotty up hills to stop the front wheel coming back past the vertical and throwing the rider off when it hooked it. And hook up it did.

The mostly clay based trails in the Maramarua forest should be dry and dusty at this time of the year - it is almost the middle of summer after all. To be honest the tracks were not too bad on our first circuit. They quickly got harder to negotiate once it started to rain. Harder but not impassible, certainly a little daunting for those unused to the conditions or without decent tyres. One of the biggest problems for those with a little confidence like myself was people in the way stuck halfway up hills that had to be negotiated on the blast to the top.

The WR is not content with the more or .less smooth and gentle approach. The pilot needs to suck in a big one and attack. The approach seems to work well. I can't confess to have got up all the nastier hills first time but they all succumbed on on the second go. I just need to get fitter so I can hang onto the bike.

I didn't manage to get any video of the ride, it was just to wet to bother. Mind you the helmet cam would have worked ok on the head or bike of one of the faster riders circulating on the day. The kind of rider that ends the day with a more or less clean bike-nothing like mud encrusted steed that mine was at days end.

The Power Adventures rides are generally pretty rider friendly but with clearly marked more challenging expert sections. I don't know for sure but I assume that Greg sets these rides so that those with lesser ability don't get overwhelmed. Today the weather gods conspired against him to some extent.

I know some people would have found the ride a bit too demanding and would question whether some of the tracks should have been closed or more diversions put in place around the sections that became harder as the day went. But for a large number of riders, those fit enough and with the confidence and technique to blast up wet snotty clay cliffs it was all good clean fun.

Like the good old days.

Not that I am soft or anything-we didn't get to day 2.