Photos by Tammy perry and a mix of F.A.R. riders
The Fundy Adventure Rally left me sore. I think every muscle in my body was used to ride the routes, even ones I didn’t know I had. The sorest muscles though, were in my face from laughing so hard.
Having never attended a Rally like this, I wasn’t sure what to expect, wasn’t sure if my skill level was sufficient, and hadn’t a clue how it all worked. I was invited to attend the rally by Rob Harris, Rally Master and editor of this magazine. My role was to take photographs of the happenings and to also write up a first person report of what I experienced, something Rob could not do as he would be stuck at Rally HQ while everyone else was having fun.
A bonus of this arrangement was that a motorcycle would be provided by BMW Motorrad, and I would ride the route as part of a media team. We weren’t expected to complete the whole Rally, just short-cut the routes to photograph and video the riders in the more challenging spots like bogs, mud-holes and steep rocky hillclimbs, but I was also planning on completing some of the legs to get a feel for it.
Seemingly unique to the Fundy Adventure Rally is the ability to select from various routes, making it accessible to all levels of adventure riders — from beginners on their first big off-road experience, to seasoned veterans ready to push their skills to the next level. It’s also GPS-guided, the tracks for each route being provided just before the rally and offering the rider several choices to get from one gas stop to the next, with each leg around 100 km in length.
The base options, designated “A” skill level, offer easy dirt roads, pavement and some great scenery — something ‘Arris said he’d be happy taking his family Kia Rondo down. You can take these all the way around in a big 400+ km loop, beginning and ending at the rally’s base of Adair’s Wilderness Lodge near Sussex, New Brunswick, but quite far from civilization.
However, if you want a bit of a challenge, you can mix up the “A”s with some “B” routes that add some challenging trails that you wouldn’t want to drive your car down. For the more extreme adventurists, there are new-for-2015 “C” routes that an off-road truck wouldn’t even consider, though an ATV might. However, it would all be for naught if you didn’t get back to HQ within 12 hours of departure – the maximum time allowed to complete the rally.
HENRI, THE UNWELCOME GUEST
After a fitful sleep in a rustic wilderness cabin I arose early to a beautiful Thursday morning in the hills just north of the iconic Bay of Fundy. I’d arrived to the rally early to attend Clinton Smout’s four-hour off-road training—a new addition to the rally and one that both BMW and ‘Arris were keen to see into fruition.
Clinton runs a very successful BMW riding school called Horseshoe Riding Adventures, just north of Toronto in Ontario, and had brought a sample of his course for rallyists to warm up to. Little did I know how much this training would influence my Rally experience.
Thursday’s warm sun was erased by Friday’s Tropical Storm Henri; torrential rains, dark skies and all kinds of indoor activities awaited arriving Rally riders. Mopping the front lobby became a full-time job as soggy riders squished their way to the registration desk to receive their number sticker, SPOT device (if they didn’t have their own), schedule, safety information and a cool FAR T-shirt complete with a black silhouetted adventure rider in full throttle emblazoned across the front.
Friday’s agenda included presentations by Honda Canada’s former head of motorcycles, Warren Milner with an enlightening look at the decisions that are made when big companies like Honda design their motorcycles. BMW Motorrad offered demo rides through some of the easier trails along the Fundy coastal region and I enjoyed giving a presentation about my ride from St. John’s to Guatemala and hope I inspired some folks to set a date for their next adventure.
With over 100 riders in the house on Friday evening, Rob’s presentation was received with good humour as the routes formerly known as “A” were now looking more like “B”s thanks to all the rain. This was rounded off with a lecture on how to use the SPOT device in an emergency (there’s a button to call-in the helicopters) and a volunteer was on hand to help riders get the GPSs working if anyone was having issues.
A TO B TO C, WITH ADDED MUD
Saturday morning was damp, but Tropical Storm Henri had moved on as the first wave of teams of riders braaaapppped into the woods starting at 5:45 AM. I left with my riding partner Eric Russell from Twisted Throttle Canada after the last of the teams passed, in order to photograph some of the harder sections with riders in full form.
Eric had traveled from Ontario to not only present his array of motorcycle accessories, but also to participate in the Rally. I don’t think he expected to be the navigator for our team, but thankfully he took on the role — riding CMG’s kitted out BMW long-term loaner R1200GS.
As for myself, I was more than thrilled to be riding a new, flat green, BMW F800GS in the Rally. What a ride! The BMW was in a completely different realm than the KLR I normally ride. Hands down the best motorcycle I have ever ridden. Have you ever compared a really good, well-balanced hammer to a standard one? This bike rode like a finely balanced tool, making it easy to navigate mud, rocks, and gravel.
We skipped ahead to the first water crossing to see what carnage Henri had done. Not surprisingly, the 8”, easy water crossing had turned into a chest-deep torrent. How do I know it was chest deep? I watched some crazy riders cross the river!
The first group crossed with engines running, causing hydro-lock on their BMW F800GS adventure bike. From what I understand, the piston usually pushes air, but when you get water in from the air intakes, the pistons are trying to push water and stop solid. Parts were removed and the bike motor turned over using the rear wheel until all the water was extracted with the bike running again in an impressive 30 minutes.
The next bike to come across was a KLR, this time with the engine off. Two guys guided the bike across the river, but the current was strong enough to actually push them further down, to a much deeper part. The bike was almost completely submerged, and anxious words of frustration followed by encouragement were exchanged between the father and son team as they pushed for all they were worth to get the bike to shore. After much draining, it finally started — spitting water from the exhaust!
After these antics, most riders on the far shore wisely decided to bypass the crossing, forgoing three points but gaining time and working motorcycles in the process. We too decided it was time to carry on and ended up taking a “B” route through thick, rutted mud.
By now I was bonding well with the GS and things sped up once we got out of the mud leading me to overshoot a corner and launch into the swampy ditch. I could hear Clinton’s voice instructing me to use the front brake, and ride the clutch to keep control, saving me from falling over while navigating through the ditch, only to stall out exiting the ditch as my rear tire hitched up on a rock, resulting in a gentle get-off.
About half way around, the rally entered civilization in the form of the Irving Big Stop at Salisbury where the route crossed the Trans Canada Highway. There was an enforced 30-minute stop here to allow riders to rest and recuperate before heading back out of civilization and into the trails again. Minor ailments on the bikes were repaired, snacks were had and one rider pulled out due to a number of swelling hornet stings to his face that were causing him some concern.
It’s not far before the “B/C” options hit Synton Road, otherwise known as the MUD BOG. It seems that large amounts of rain turned muddy pools into black holes of oozing murk that did their best to make any smaller bike disappear.
After snapping some photos, and video, we were joined by Terry, the rally videographer, and we hooked back onto the “A” route, snipping out a section to make it to the last “C” leg — a rather tricky rocky hill climb out of the coastal town of Alma.
Taking the leg backwards, we found ourselves at the top of a steep hill that looked down a gully full of large rocks that would have made an excellent drainage ditch for a small river. It was rough coming down, but once again Clinton’s words came to mind — front brake, ride the clutch, control your speed with the engine.
Several riders powered up the hill, some making it in one pull, others getting stuck halfway, spinning tires on loose rocks trying to get forward motion once more. With some teamwork, everyone made it to the top, and we scooted back to HQ on a bail route.
Everywhere I could hear riders exclaiming how much fun they had. Laughter filled the main hall as stories were exchanged, voices still loud and full of adrenaline from the exhaustive ride as dirty, dripping, riding gear was hung around the grounds.
As the sun set, the last stragglers came in, with only one team failing to finish within the allotted 12 hour window. They used the Spot tracker to send a request for the breakdown truck, after they ran out of tubes after several punctures.
That night, Adair’s built a bonfire of epic proportions, and fun was had by all, although, some of us happily retired our weary muscles early to a comfy bed at a reasonable hour.
Each leg is awarded a set amount of points, the “A” option getting the least and the “C” the most. These points are then tallied and teams are awarded Bronze, Silver or Gold certificates, depending on their tally.
Only one team managed to reach Gold status, a few got Silvers and a slew amassed Bronze. Everyone who finished got a “Participant” certificate, and a few who didn’t actually complete enough routes, were given a “Valiant Effort” one for our efforts!
The Fundy Adventure Rally left me sore, tired and in the state of euphoria you feel only after enduring something you love, with others of the same passion. Facebook friends have been added, memories captured on memory cards and plans for next year made!
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.