Here at Garage Night we’re between episodes at the moment. We nearly filmed one on bleeding Etienne’s DRZ brakes, but we started the night by helping BMW Noel with fitting a rear shock. He’s off riding Africa from top to bottom so the job had to be done.
The shockie job ran late, so we put the camera aside in the interests of getting both bikes finished and out the garage door.
We will get round to a brake bleeding episode. In the meantime, we’ve competed in Exercise Autumn Wander 2009 run by army blokes in the Salisbury Plain area. Here’s a video giving a decent overview by one of the other teams.
It was an excellent offroad orienteering event, in the vein of Horizons Unlimited Mountain Madness but on a smaller scale. After bunking overnight at the Tidworth army base we were handed our maps and checkpoint list, briefed by course mastermind Major Steve Cannon and his team, then unleashed on the course.
Pete took the lead and did a great job navigating us round the wilds of Wiltshire. Many of the tracks were heavily and deeply rutted, but mercifully bone-dry. In fact one big challenge was that the grass had grown up so high you couldn’t see the ruts beneath you at all or in what direction they were taking you. A bit unnerving having the bike pulled around like you’re on rails, but without being able to see which way the rails are going.
We were all pleased with how our bikes went over the two days. I got a character-building puncture and Garage Night associate Big Nick blew a fork seal on his KTM 950 Super Enduro. Nick’s is the same as Trent’s bike but Nick is undoubtedly one of the few people in the world to have RAISED his Super Enduro’s suspension because it was too short for him.
This ride also sounded the death knell for my much-abused chain and sprockets, as well as the swingarm guide, so the Elefant is up on blocks again.
Following the lead of my Elefant buddy Antarctic Andy, I’m planning to make a new, long-wearing guide out of ultra-high molecular weight polyurethane (UHMWPE, as if that’s any easier to say – in the plastics industry they probably call it ‘umpwee’). Might end up doing that one on Garage Night, if I can ever track down some of this exotic plastic.
Sadly, Trent and Rich couldn’t make it along to Autumn Wander due to what I’ll refer to as digital problems: Trent broke a finger riding mini-bikes and Rich was under the thumb at home. Next time guys.
For me these events are what adventure biking is all about: proving what these dual-purpose machines can do. I first got into big adventure bikes by way of a Honda XLV 750. I loved the idea of a large capacity, multi-cylinder bike that could take me to great places regardless of the roads being paved or dirt. I have never looked back, and even though the Elefant is 15 years old in round figures its capabilities still surprise me. I have never been one for just bouncing around bush trails willy-nilly on a dedicated dirt squirter with no real purpose. There needs to be some sort of goal: a great camping spot, a secret scenic place hidden up a rough dirt track, or a rendezvous with other bikers at the top of epic twisty mountain roads. These are the places a big-bore adventure bike can get you.
Living and working in a big city combined with family life don’t leave me huge amounts of time for actually getting out and doing long rides. So these dedicated events like the Autumn Wander and the HUMM are becoming increasingly important to me for satisfying the inner biker.