Note: The Dawn to Dusk Rally ran last Saturday, on Sept. 28. Normally, this rally is only for motorcycles with motors 250 cc or less, and covers 600 kms in 12 hours. There were a few changes this year, though … read on.
D2D 2013: The Zac Experience
I thought we had it all figured out. Scout a 600-km ride on a map, pre-run it, then lead a bunch of sub 250s on a season-ending 12 hour romp through some of the best roads in north-western Nova Scotia. Sounds easy, right?
But this year’s scouting was trickier than ever. Rob and I wanted to include a route around Cape George in Nova Scotia (known as the Mini Cape, for its resemblance to the Cabot Trail), but that pushed the route too long so we had to rethink our roads.
Then, during scouting, we were hit by daylong cloudbursts and miserable temperatures that weren’t in the forecast, along with a flat front tire that we had to change under an overpass in New Glasgow to keep out of the rain. Maybe pushing the rally to the end of September this year wasn’t such a good idea after all …
To top it all, gravel roads on our map turned out to be paved, paved roads turned out to be gravel, and then at the end of a miserable day I split through the middle of three deer that jumped in front of me while I strained to see the road ahead.
After some hard work, though, we finally got the route dialed in, and headed for our meet up time of 6 a.m. (6:30 – 7:00 start) on Sept. 28, at Toys for Big Boys in Moncton, NB.
Thankfully, Larry Northrup and crew were as reliable as ever and had coffee and donuts waiting to help melt the frozen assortment of dual sports, sportbikes and cruiser riders that rolled into the parking lot – one rider was shivering almost uncontrollably from the unexpected cold.
This year we’d decided to open the rally up to some larger bikes too to see how it worked out. This meant that a few 650s joined the mêlée and a V-Strom 1000 ridden by Terry from Big Land Adventure Films, who also volunteered to film the event for a promo video (coming soon).
As with previous D2Ds, Rob volunteered to take a ‘spirited’ group (he was given a CRF250 by TFBB so he could do it a tad faster rate of knots) whilst I took the more sedate group, since I once again found myself dumped onto the CMG Konker 200. That’s right, I was aboard the Konker again, a made-in-China Suzuki DR200 copy, with supermoto wheels and about 12 hp.
With a big bike contingent to deal with for the first time, rider Ron Kierstead offered to lead that group which we’d added an additional Advocate Harbour loop as we figured they could do the extra kms and would likely appreciate the super twisty road too.
The surprises continued as we hit the road. The forecast had been calling for clear skies and warm weather; what Environment Canada failed to mention was that the Fundy coast was about to be blanketed by thick, heavy fog.
Although it felt very novel to be riding in what appeared to be a scene from a Stephen King novel as we rode beside the marshlands of Memramcook and Tantramar, they were filled with a slow moving river of fog. The beauty of the scene soon turned to horror as the road plunged into the fog and the temperature and visibility dropped to close to zero.
We ended up having to stop several times between gas stations so riders could clean the water droplets from their glasses. I was able to flip my visor up for a bit of extra vision, but in some corners in low-lying areas, it was an additional challenge just to see which way the road went.
But thankfully the sun burned off the fog just as we reached the hilly outskirts of Parrsboro, NS and we were able to settle in as the temperatures climbed, enabling us to pick off cars one by one as we headed east on the roller-coaster of Hwy 4 to Truro.
Now that the road had opened up a bit, it was time to re-aquaint myself with the Konker’s powerband. I was rowing through the gearbox so furiously trying to keep her in the red (as per ‘arris’s instructions), I expected the Canadian Olympic sculling team to come recruit me.
This year, I actually had a GPS on the bike, and it was interesting to see my progress as measured by satellite. If I sat upright in the saddle on the straights and pinned the throttle in 5th, I could average around 95ish km/h, maybe 100 if the straight was long and flat. Throw in a bit of a grade, and that speed would slowly start to drop; 97, 96, 94, 91 …
It was particularly frustrating getting behind a slow car. Sure, I wanted to pass, but as soon as I pulled out, I would invariably hit a grade that sapped power, leaving the cager to wonder why I would pull alongside, stop and then slowly drift back and pull him behind them once again. My only hope in those situations was to lie flat on the tank and tuck my chin in behind the clocks – that torturous maneuver was good for a 5 kph gain, usually. Think of it as a poor man’s supercharger.
Of course, the upside was the downhills. Once I crested the top, I could easily clear triple digits on the GPS’s speedo, as long as the hill was long enough and the tuck extreme. Then it was just a matter of retaining that momentum as long as possible. But then this is the raison d’être of the D2D rally – covering a big distance on small machines requires skill but is more fun than most may think.
Unless maybe you’re on a Konker KSM 200. To retain speed on a bike that small, you’ve really got to be willing to drag pegs. However, when there’s gravel sprayed across your lane and you’re on a bike with cheap “Kingstone” tires and the suspension compliance of a 2×4 with wheels, your desire to push your traction limit sort of disappears.
Still, though, the Konker surprised me by running strong throughout the whole day, down the fast Scotsburn Rd., and along the tasty, twisty Rt. 4 that is free of traffic thanks to the TCH that it wiggles beside, until we eventually made the lunch stop at the Prissy Pig in Antigonish.
I let most of the riders carry on ahead when we left, thinking I’d be holding them back on the steep uphill bits to Cape George, but the little China bike took a lickin’ and kept on tickin’, and I actually caught up to a bunch of riders that had left before me.
Cape George was worth the trip; any rider going through Nova Scotia needs to give this pavement a try (it’s included in our DYR for the area), especially if you’re traveling east-west.
For this section we’d been joined by Robert MacDonald who lives in Antigonish and had befriended us on one of our scouts, offering to show us the lighthouse at the top of the Cape during the rally.
The view from the lighthouse is spectacular, but the roads themselves are an even better treat, especially the climb up to the northern peak of the cape. My only concern on this part of the leg was the Konker’s increasingly erratic exhaust note. That is, until I figured out I was riding behind an open-piped KLX250. No wonder it was sounding like an out-of-sorts twin …
Post-Cape, the rest of the route was mostly clear sailing down Rt. 6, along the Sunrise Trail … except we were headed down during sunset, and we had the sun in our eyes. There was still lots of the Northumberland Strait to see though, as well as small-town scenery in towns like Tatamagouche and Wallace.
The day is done
The day’s ride was plenty of fun, but rolling in to the rally-ending supper stop at Aulac, NB, with a mere 10 minutes to spare before the allotted 12 hours was up, I was waxing philosophical and asking myself: Why? Why do a long day like this on a small bike that’s better suited to around-town commuting, or backwoods romping? Why not take a bigger bike, or take a shorter route?
But looking around the parking lot, I think I saw the answer. People knew they’d just pulled off something that required a long haul in a limited time on bikes that needed to be thrashed the whole way, and succeeded. They’d challenged themselves, and shown they could handle it. If you’ve got a 250, maybe next year will be a good time for that east coast trip and your chance to prove the same thing.
D2D 2013: Rob’s view from the “spirited” group
Despite all the unpaid work that goes into mapping and setting up this rally, I must admit that I quite look forward to it every year. It’s way simpler than organizing the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally and I actually get to ride it to boot. Throw in the generosity of Larry at Toys For Big Boys who gave me a CRF250 for the day and you have the makings of a grand day out.
As usual, I volunteered to lead the more, ahem, spirited group, which basically translated to keeping the throttles pinned save for stop signs and urban areas. I must admit, I was a little put out to find that only five of the 17 or so riders actually wanted a ‘spirited’ ride, with many ‘spirited’ riders from previous rallies opting to go in snail class instead. Maybe you can be too fast on a 250 after all.
Despite a ridiculously cold start (I was shivering and I had a heated vest!) and reduced visibility, by the time we hit the really good stuff post Parrsboro, the sky had turned cloudless and the temperature was hitting the pleasant zone.
This year we’d added Cape George to the mix and the tight climb up to it and high speed descent were a highlight, but I also think 90 per cent of the roads to and from it not only cut the mustard but were an impressive pair of dogs bollocks to boot, if I do say so myself.
I don’t know what it is about holding a bike at full throttle, carrying as much momentum as you can and carefully planning every single pass that makes riding a 250 for a full day in a limited time so much fun, but it does. Kudos to the rest of the ‘spirited’ class for keeping up and apologies for the two or three missed turns, I just got into that zone …
We got to the finale at Aulac a mere 10 or so minutes ahead of the so-called snail group, with Zac impressively thrashing the CMG Konker as per his orders. And unlike last year, I actually stopped at all the gas stations (positioned at under 100 km apart for the small tanks) thereby avoiding embarrassing out of fuel stops along the way.
Thanks to Murray and Doug for coming all the way out once more from London, Ontario and for supplying a sweep truck to boot. And to all the others who braved the cold, the distance and the dark ride home to make the D2D the fun that it is.
We’re hoping to bring this event to central Canada (Ontario) in 2014, sponsorship pending. Cheers!
D2D 2013: Ron takes a 650
When I rode the D2D last year on my nephew’s 2007 Honda CRF230L, I remember having some misgivings about the adventure. I’d be leaving Prince Edward Island on a cold fall morning to ride 141 kilometres on a bike that I’d no idea of the tank range, just to get to the rally’s start.
Further, I’d wired my heated vest across the battery posts, and might end up bump starting it when I got to Moncton, IF I got as far as Moncton. When was I going to hit reserve? Was I going to be a rolling obstacle on the highway looking like some large bear on a mini bike running away from the circus? Could I keep up to that cement truck and draft behind him to add another 10kph to the bikes top end on the highway? Adventure!
Fast forward to this year, when I couldn’t justify registering and insuring a bike for a single day’s ride, so consequently I was very happy to learn that CMG had opened the event to bikes bigger than 250cc, and I promptly started loading my topcase, programming my GPS, and laying out the gear that I would need, and that I wanted for comfort, secure in the knowledge that it would all fit in the top case, a dry bag strapped to the back seat and in the tank bag. The difference was like taking a weeks vacation in a smart car versus a pickup truck. I could even bring the kitchen sink if I’d somehow managed to empty it of the dirty dishes!
Dan (another rider who attended on a bike bigger than 250 cc) and I had opted to ride the alternate route for big bikes, that would send us into Advocate Harbour, NS, to enjoy the fall colours, beautiful scenic coastlines, tight turns and elevation changes that had our pulse racing. We knew we had to keep the pace spirited and our breaks short if we wanted to outpace the little bikes and arrive at our lunch stop as a group, in spite of attempting over 100 km more than they would be doing that day. I’d heartily recommend the Advocate Harbour loop as being on par with portions of the Cabot trail and Gaspe Peninsula, and I would add it to the itinerary of any East Coast tour headed in this direction. Kudos to the scribe who tacked this loop on!
Those tight corners and elevation changes would have been different on a smaller bike, taking as much speed as you considered safe into the corner, for you knew that the uphill would force you to drop two gears before you made it to the top, and if you weren’t careful, that gap between you and the rider ahead would grow even wider. Trust the rubber, pin the throttle and take as much speed as you dared into the corner.
It was SO much easier on the big bike, for I found myself focusing on not exceeding the speed limit on my Versys 650, whereas at times on the little Honda, the speed limit was the carrot on the stick.
Post-rally I found myself wishing my nephew hadn’t swapped out his sprockets in favour off road gearing for his CRF230L, so I could tuck in agaim and prove that the circus bear could pass that ink slinger on the next uphill climb. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for next year!
Check out all the pics that go with this story! Click on the main sized pic to transition to the next or just press play to show in a slideshow.