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The 1998 Mini-Pine Enduro
(or "The Spode Brothers Ride Again")
Submited By: Paul Barry

The Event

After a number of years riding the trails around the cottage in Quebec, my brother Brian and I decided to enter an organized riding event. We talked to Dave Wrack at Ottawa Cycle and decided on the Mini-Pine Enduro since it was specifically geared to first-time enduro riders.

Evening Reconnaissance

The day before the race we loaded up all the gear (and then some) and drove from Ottawa to Coburg. Since it wasn’t dark yet when we arrived, we thought we would drive out to the start area and see what it was like. After spending considerable time finding the correct turn off the highway, we finally turned and ended up at a lonely intersection. Each of the three choices (north, east, and south) was marked as snowmobile trails. Not sure which way to go, we went north along a single lane, sandy road.

Wrong Choice!

The lane led to a slippery, rocky hill and about halfway up the hill, the tires started spinning and it was soon clear that we weren’t going any further. The only way back was to back the car and trailer with the bikes down this narrow, slippery, rocky, hill in the pouring rain. After getting ourselves turned around at the bottom of the hill, we returned to the intersection. Yikes – we laughed at the fact that we were about to participate in an event where route finding was a key component and we couldn’t even find the Start area!

Luckily, at that point we spotted a local resident on a four-wheeler who told us to take the east track. We did and found the start area. Now we were all set for race day – we knew how to get to the start. We checked in at the hotel and went to have dinner. On the way we spotted a van with a trailer and two bikes.

Aha! - Here was some of the competition!

Oh-Oh! One bike was a brand new 1998 WR400F and the other was a fairly new XR250. Both were well-maintained and looked ready to go. Brian and I thought for a moment about his 1982 IT175 (which he has since replaced with a 94 RMX 250) and my 1985 IT250 and decided that this was going to be interesting indeed.

Race Day Prep

The next morning as we were getting dressed at the hotel I heard Brian exclaim "Gee, this isn’t my red T-shirt" as he pulled a little red pajama top with cute little teddy bears out of his suitcase. I quickly checked my bag to make sure I hadn’t brought my wife’s clothes also! Luckily we had both brought lots of (our own) clothes.

We arrived at the start area, unloaded the bikes and got everything ready. I also checked out the "facilities" several times. The start area was a large field filled with cars, trucks, vans, trailers, and of course, motorcycles. The bikes came in all sizes and models and the one common element was that everyone seemed prepared and eager to go.

Since we had pre-registered, it was a simple matter to go and pick up our route sheet, score card, and number sticker. Brian was 3B and I was 3A so we were both on line 3.

It was at this point that we saw our buddy, Dave, from Ottawa Cycle. He saw the route sheets in our hands and had only one comment: "Hi boys. Get cutting!"

We returned to the car, and started cutting up the route sheet. After completing the task and getting the sheet loaded into the holder, I was proud that it was in correctly and that it did in fact wind from start to finish and not backwards. As I started to get out of the car, however, I realized that I had installed the sheet with the knobs on the wrong side of the case! Now I would have to either mount it on the right side of the bike (no good because you have to release the throttle to make adjustments) or mount it on the left and hook my hand around like elastic-man to make adjustments. I briefly considered mounting it upside down but changed my mind. After all, I thought to myself - I would be referring to it often to check my progress. So I did it all over again - correctly this time.

Brian then came back to the car and said "Get your bike started - there’s a sound check." Now, even though my bike is all stock, it is pretty loud. So it was with some trepidation that we went over to the sound check staging area and waited with some other bikes to ride about 100 ft. ahead to the metering area. Brian went ahead, and I saw them check his bike and put a small sticker on the front of the bike. I went next. As I pulled up to the stop (in a higher gear than necessary to keep the revs & noise down) I heard someone at the check say "Gee, Dave, this one is REALLY loud."

My heart speeded up.

My "good buddy" Dave leaned down over the front of the engine and started shaking his head. The guy with the sound meter at the rear also started shaking his head.

My heart really speeded up.

Then the official said: "Bad News - The bike’s too loud - You’ll have to put it back on the trailer."

My heart stopped.

I had visions of sitting there all day watching and listening to all these folks having a great time. Then the official started to smile and said he was only kidding - the bike was OK.

My heart started up again and off I rode to where Brian was waiting. His face was red and he was laughing so hard he could barely speak as he asked me if everything had gone OK. I told him what happened and then he confessed that he had set me up. He had told the officials at the sound check that there was a guy behind him (me!) that was very concerned and that they should give him a hard time. They sure did and I bought it all.

Now it was time to get all suited up. We dressed in our gear, loaded our tools and went up to the sign-in area to set our watches. On the way we ran into the other rider "on our minute." He was 3C. We said hello and asked if he did enduros often. He said he did and we noticed that he was even equipped with an enduro computer. A strategy was beginning to take shape - Follow rider 3C! We asked about the course and he said "take your time and take it easy - the hardest part is going slow enough to not burn the checks" (get there early).

Brian and I wondered then whether this was going to be challenging at all. I even brought my camera thinking that perhaps there’d be some time to take a couple of pictures. One of the other riders was kind enough to give me some water for my Camelbak (since I had forgotten to bring some). And we rode to the start line.

Now our pulses quickened - it was time to go!

The Start

The starter turned the #3 card over and off we went and were soon cruising down some beautiful trails. Although it had rained a lot the day before, there wasn’t too much water around. Following our strategy we stayed close to our experienced riding partner as he slowed down and speeded up at various locations to keep on time. He was even keeping an eye on us to see if we were doing OK. This was fun!

All of a sudden we were at the 1st check. The scorer wrote a 3 (our minute number) on my scoresheet - we were on time! We took off out of the check for some more great riding over hills, through forests, and across open fields.

When we arrived at the 2nd check were still on time and got another 3. This time when we left the check, we were into tighter trails through he trees and our speed declined. Much of the track was narrow, and the turns were more frequent and tighter. I started to wonder how I was going to keep up with rolling the route sheet holder ahead as I always seemed to be too busy not crashing to wind it forward.

At the 3rd check we had lost 4 minutes and received a 7. We carried that pace into the 4th check and got another 7. Not too bad so far. We had gone through 4 checks and only lost 4 minutes.

Now, however, the trails were getting more difficult. The turns were coming fast and sharp and many were off-camber on the sides of hills. I briefly thought about my camera and laughed to myself at the folly of bringing it with me. I didn’t have time to open my pocket let alone get out the camera and take any pictures.

Things seemed OK until we came to a 120-degree off-camber turn in the tight woods and Brian rocketed ahead. Somehow, I struggled through the turn, but just past the turn, as I was still trying to regain my balance, and get the front wheel back down on the ground, I ran the right side of my handlebars into a tree. I was left with the throttle tube in my hand! A quick review of the bike showed a little piece of the throttle housing dangling from the end of the throttle cable.

Uh-Oh. Now I was in the middle of the woods on a loose sand hill with no throttle. I grabbed the little, tiny piece of housing that still held the throttle cable end, started the bike and walked it the 10 feet to the top of the hill. Then I hopped on and away I went. I thought it had been tricky enough riding through all the tight turns and closely spaced trees with a normal throttle and full front brake. That now seemed like a piece of cake compared to doing the same with the little throttle end and no easy way to operate the front brake (and maintain some semblance of throttle control). Luckily, there was all of about 1" to spare between the trees and the handlebars in many sections.

Eventually, however, I reached the next check and I was on minute 19 - I had lost 12 more minutes. Oh, and I forgot to mention that every so often I would hear a sound like snarling dogs. When I turned around there would be another experienced rider on a powerful 4-stroke bike waiting to get around me. As soon as I pulled over these guys would rocket ahead and seem to fly through the trees without hitting anything - it was truly amazing to see.

Anxious to get back to the rest stop (and the tools and supplies in my car for the necessary throttle repairs) I kept up a good pace to the next check. Too fast a pace as it turns out as I burned the next check by arriving 4 minutes early! It had never occurred to me that I would get there early.

This check was at the start area and I returned to the car to make the necessary repairs for the last 27-km loop. As I reached the car, there was Brian. He was just completing the rest period.

It seems that when Brian had reached this rest stop, he had mistakenly believed that he had only 3 minutes to gas up, eat, drink and do whatever else was necessary. While his goggles fogged up (he didn’t think he had enough time to remove them) he crammed two Sun-Ups & half a dozen cookies in his mouth. While he was choking on that, he started to gas up his bike and wonder when he’d have time to have a drink and wash down the dry cookies. It was at that point, after noticing the fellow parked next to us with his helmet off and leisurely having something to eat and drink, that Brian found out it was a 15 minute rest stop! He slowed down, had something to drink, and then I showed up.

Brian elected to miss his proper start time and help me fix the throttle and ride with me for the second loop. Using a great quantity of duct tape, we secured the small piece of remaining throttle housing to the front brake perch and got the throttle working. WOW - what a treat! It worked great.

We left for the second round on minute 20. The riding for the next section was not as technical as the last part of the first loop. There was a lot of snowmobile trails, and it was terrific. At the next check we were at minute 21 - we had lost only 1 minute.

Finally, after riding through some more beautiful forest (although I was too busy to really notice anything), we arrived back at the finish at minute 29. We had finished our first enduro and it was great. All in all it was a fantastic day, and we hope to get out to another event soon.

I’m off now to order a replacement throttle assembly … and some barkbusters.

Paul

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