Proud stockists of Ural sidecars & spares

RALLYE RAID 2011 – Raiding Wartrail with Ural

For those in the know, the words Rallye Raid conjure up fantastic images. It is usually associated with pretty extreme bike riding, or the attempt thereof! So I suppose when Sidecar Africa’s Ryno Greeff emailed the organisers of 2011 Rallye Raid in the Wartrail area to ask if we would be able to join the Raid with our Ural adventure sidecars, they may have been a little surprised. It took them roughly 3 days to find words, but they did get back to Sidecar Africa and the answer was YES!! The Sidecar crowd jumped right out of their skins for sheer joy.

So skinless and full of joy we set off to Wartrail near Barkley East in the Eastern Cape on a cold and frosty Friday morning. The Sidecar contingency consisted of 5 Ural rigs from various parts of the country. Three Ural rigs would be riding with monkeys (sidecar speak for pillion – but next to as opposed to behind) and 2 without.

Try -5 degrees as a welcome and a reality check at the same time. That was the temperature on the first morning of the Raid as everybody emerged from their tents. Wide eyed and covered in icicles we all surveyed our world.  Nothing warms one up like an anticipated ride in spectacular country side on twisty little country roads. That was what awaited the Route 3 or Green Route riders. The other routes were for two wheelers. A lot of Route 2 was done on tracks and it sounds as though most of Route 1 was done beyond tracks in the land of extreme riding. To give you an idea of how extreme, of the roughly 138 riders who partook, only 7, seven as in days of the week, chose to ride Route 1.

So when we had to kick start our little Russian steeds on the first morning, in the cold – this was a special Ural challenge from our intrepid leader for the Ural riders only (normally we would use the happy button to start the engine), it was with huge excitement that we set out on the first day’s 197kms. We were heading for Barkley East, where we could fill up and from there we would ride out to Rhodes for lunch, ride Lundean’s Neck and back to Wartrail, our home base.

To say the surrounding environment is beautiful really does not begin to do it justice. It is many things combined into this beguiling landscape where the clarity of the air changes the light and hence your experience of colour and shape is lucid and it changes all day long. Although it is an overused word, it truly is magical. At the same time the harshness of this part of the world is ever present, which demands respect and veneration. 
Anyway, back to the ride! Now that we all know how breathtaking the countryside is, imagine my surprise when I round a bend to find a sidecar exhaust in the road. As this has happened occasionally before as Kathrina, Jacquie’s rig, keeps spitting her exhaust off, the last or sweep rider now knows to pick it up with gloves and give it a little time to cool off before trying to tie it onto the luggage rack.  What none of us knew was that this would be the first of a series of mechanical challenges that would become increasingly interesting (very long way of saying we had no idea of what we were in for!) Once we caught up with the front riders all was sunshine and grassland again. At Barkley East the offending exhaust pipe was reattached and new insight was gained as to why this was the third time Katrina had spat it off!  All fuelled and juiced up we found our way onto our next leg of the Raid. Finding the correct route out of Barkley East was important and we got it right. Now we were following the Green Route to Rhodes. Everybody was getting into the groove so to speak and we were all enjoying this leg of the route. A few members from the group on Route 1 passed us and just as we were thinking how sweet life on our sidecars is, Ryno stopped next to the side of the road. He had heard a funny sound and upon closer inspection found that the sub-frame had cracked off on the right just in front of the rear shock absorber.

Wow, what followed can only be termed as ‘n boer maak ‘n plan! Dennis and Marius had turned around and not too long after Kobus and Tes turned round and joined the merry band of plan makers. It was decided that a steel insert was needed to repair the offending broken pipe. Lucky for us, there was a homestead right below where we had stopped. Dennis was convinced that he would find a suitable steel insert from there. True as nuts, not long and he was back with a solid piece of steel round bar. A bit of fitting and discussion and Dennis was back at the homestead having it cut to the correct length. Once the round bar was inserted into the 2 broken ends of the pipe, Kobus produced some extra nifty space age special mining stainless steel cable ties to keep this all together. To say we were impressed would be an understatement.

This was road side engineering at its most incredible and after all the tools had been packed away, we set off on our way again. Little did we know that the following day our ‘Boer maak n plan’ inventiveness would really be tested to the limit. We rode into Rhodes hungry as lions and proceeded to polish our hamburgers at the Rhodes Hotel with great enthusiasm.

The last leg for day one saw us riding towards Tiffindell. We had been advised not to take the steep route up to Tiffindell as the descent was very steep and the road conditions extremely poor and could prove problematic to the sidecars. Far from home and edging toward the cautious, we rode on to Lundean’s Nek which was fabulous. The shadows were getting longer and the light was really beautiful. As yours truly had been riding in the rear, which also means in the dust most of the day, Lola decided it was time she got a bit of attention. She needed her air filter cleaned. Under Jacquie’s careful supervision I managed just fine and we were soon riding up the pass with no further incident.

Riding back into camp to have a warm shower and a well deserved drink, Jacquie noticed that she had been riding on an ever deflating back tyre for the latter part of the day. Her rig, Katherina, also needed her exhaust sorted out once and for all. After getting everyone involved in her mission we finally got to shower and have that drink.

After supper we all shared ideas about staying warm in our tents that night – all were in agreement that we would be dressing for the Arctic and the OBS would not be far away. This was a good idea as the temp dropped even more and the next morning we greeted a frosted world at a bone chilling minus 6.5 degrees C.

The nerves from the previous day had settled and our riding on the second morning can only be described as pure bliss. We were now more familiar with the road conditions and our Urals performance in the cool mountain air. Today we had 223kms to finish. Ryno had decided that the fix of the previous day was strong enough to continue the ride on his trusty Ural rig.  We had also acquired a spare monkey for the day. Deon, a friend of Marius, had some bad luck the previous day on his KTM and his 2 wheeler was no longer fit to ride. As Ryno and I were both riding monkeyless, we were just too happy to offer Deon a seat in one of our sidecars. This proved to be a mutually beneficial arrangement in hindsight.  After riding the Barkly Pass down into Elliot, we fuelled up and Kobus did some tinkering with a carburettor that seemed to have a little dirt stuck in it. There is nothing much to say about Elliot other than we could not get out of there fast enough. Back on our Route 3 track we turned off to the left and the Otto du Plessis Pass just north of Elliot. We had been riding for probably 20kms when Ryno and his monkey crossed a cattle grid only to have the handlebars part company with the rest of the rig. The aftermarket handle bar raisers had not lived up to expectations...

Thank goodness they had slowed down to negotiate the gate and the road was straight as this could have proved to be disastrous. Deon says his face did change when he looked up to see his rider holding a set of handlebars no longer attached to anything. What followed can only be termed unbelievable. Bungee straps and tie downs have not previously been used to hold handlebars to a rig, so this precarious plan was put into motion. I may add that it was decided that it would be better for Deon to come and ride with me, leaving Ry alone to face the road with his bungeed handlebars. Not too far down the road, Ry stopped and said this wasn’t working, there was too much movement between the handlebars and the rig. Luckily this is good solid sheep farming world, so it was thought the farmer wouldn’t miss a strand of ‘bloudraad’ and this was used to fashion a sturdier connection. Had I mentioned that Kobus’ extra special most incredible stainless steel tie downs were put to good use again. No tool kit should be without these.

I’m sure this will become the stuff of biking legend – the day that guy rode his sidecar rig up Otto du Plessis pass with his handlebars held to the bike with bloudraad, bungees and tie downs! Anyway, all I can say is I was there and it really did happen.

Approximately three quarters up the pass we stopped to have a look at the view and celebrate the fact that Lola and I and our new monkey had ridden up the pass. Just as we were kitting up to tackle the last bit of the pass, Lola’s back tyre literally popped and hissed and all the air was gone! Luckily Jacquie had firsthand experience just having changed her back tyre the night before. So with her eagle eye my monkey turned out to be worth his weight in gold. This turned out to be no ordinary monkey – an old biker and the youngest tractor restorer ever to have scored 85% for a tractor he restored. How lucky can a girl get, and there I was worried about a stranger touching Lola’s rear tire. I did buy him a beer that night at camp and I owned up about my reservations. How was I to know that he’s a good friend of Jan Staal as well? Any friend of Batman’s is a friend of mine and Lola.

The last part of our day was riding to get home. It was still beautiful and blissful and the countryside sported some of the biggest cattle I’ve seen in my life. Maybe it was just a trick of the afternoon sun? We finally caught up with our front riders who had been going on steadily and in the late afternoon sunlight it was actually with a little lump in my throat that I watched the four Ural rigs in front of me ride down the road approaching camp. Five Ural rigs had set out and five Ural rigs returned! It was with a sense of huge relief and achievement that we rode into camp. We got a number of cheers and waves as we rode in, a little late, but all there.

We may not have been the coolest riders on the Raid, but we left a group of five and returned a team! I felt a sense of immense pride and happiness. No matter what the issue, we stuck together, fixed it and learnt a whole bunch of things we didn’t know we didn’t know.