CMG first entered the Paris-to-Dacre trails rally in 2005, with a valiant effort from Founding Editor Rob Harris, Jim Vernon and Bryan Flannigan. It was exhausting – you can read about it here in Editor ‘Arris’s words – and they swore that if they ever did it again, they’d make sure it was easier.
In 2006, ‘Arris and Vernon were joined by Jonathan Lewis and Richard Seck. All of them rode KLR 650s except for Seck, who insisted on riding his new (to him) BMW R100GS. As Richard Seck recounts here, the bit about being easier this time around didn’t quite work out. – Ed.
PARIS- DACRE 2006
In 1979, Philippe Jambert competed in the first Paris-Dakar Rally on a BMW R65. His only modification to the bike was a windshield …
I’m not sure if Philippe made it or not – I hope he did, but the most important thing about this tidbit of information found on a GS web page is that it would spark my imagination. The inevitable question followed – could my freshly acquired 1991 Bumblebee R100GS BMW successfully complete the second annual Paris-Dacre (Ontario) event?
I thought so, but others needing convincing first.
“Are you feckin’ nuts?” was Editor ‘arris’s retort to my P-D brainwave.
‘Arris had put together a team for last year’s inaugural P-D and had run the course on a KTM 640 Adventure. Even though this bike could be considered one of the best tools for the job, he came away from the event feeling like he’d been tossed into a rather large and dirty tumble dryer for sixteen hours. The idea of taking a near-500 lb vintage BMW on this ride was, in his books, a recipe for disaster.
However, I expected such a response, and after explaining to him that, no matter what happened, this idea would result in CMG Gold, the light bulb went on and the project was approved, albeit with some soon-to-be-thought-of retributions for anyone that let the team down …
Team CMG 2006 would be made up of Editor ‘arris, Jim Vernon, Jonathan Lewis, and myself. ‘Arris managed to convince his girlfriend to let him use her KLR650 (C model), while both Mr. Vernon and Mr. Lewis had their own KLR650s to thrash.
Prepping for the P-D was unlike anything I had experienced at CMG before. Mr. Lewis was taking it all very seriously. He had been working on his KLR since the fall – and good god, he was exercising! This even got ‘arris started, and there were rumours that he could be frequently seen cycling up the mountain in Montreal on a (shock and horror) NEW mountain bike! Mr. Vernon opted to not do anything too physical but did make the big step of giving up smoking. Me? Well, err …
Lengthy prep lists were circulating in email boxes and Editor ‘arris decreed that whoever caused Team CMG to drop out of the event would be forced to buy the rest of the team dinner and consolation beverages.
This potential food and booze grab was, of course, directed squarely at me.
Okay, them’s fightin’ words – I better get my arse in gear!
WHY DOES IT ONLY COME TOGETHER AT THE LAST MINUTE?
How many times have I done this? On the eve of the event, I’m lying on my garage floor struggling to install all the bits that are required for the day ahead.* It wasn’t until 1:00 am that I had finally Loctited the last bolt, and I still had to get all my gear sorted and packed …
At least I wasn’t the only one doing the last minute scramble, as the rest of Team CMG still had to pick up parts and gear, while en route from Montreal to the event the next day. This, of course, did not deter them from having a lovely sushi lunch in Toronto, a delay that would see them arrive in Paris with barely enough time to get their bikes tech’d and make it to the compulsory riders’ meeting.
It was at this time that despite all prep and checklists, Editor ‘arris realized that he’d left his camel-pack bladder back in Montreal …
All very CMG.
* To get a full break down on what was done to ready the big GS for the P-D, click here.
DUST AND DEW
Even more CMG was the fact that although we had secured a night in a motel (most other participants camped at the starting location), by the time we’d sorted everything out it was already past 11:00 pm. In order to be there in time for the 4 am start, the alarms had to be set for 2:30 am.
I managed about 2 hours of sleep, tops.
The following morning (if you can call it that), after washing down a doughnut with some coffee, we all sat at the start line under the glare of halogen lights, staring at each other wondering WTF we’d got ourselves into?
Ready, or not, at 4:10 am we were given the signal and Editor ‘arris led us off into the darkness (no change there then).
This was supposed to be the easy part of the day, “a cruise north to get to the fun stuff of the afternoon.” But no sooner than we hit the first gravel section, the challenge began: we could hardly see in front of us. Complete darkness, combined with a mixture of early morning mist and dust churned up from us, and the bikes in the group ahead, created an opaque film on our visors. Trying to rub it off only made it worse.
At least we had better luck than the poor sap whose bike we had to help yank out of a deep ditch less than an hour into the ride. So much for the easy part of the day.
Mixed in with all this was an announcement from Mr. Vernon that his rear brake wasn’t working, and could we keep the pace down.
Sunrise could not have been sweeter that day, as we sat roadside, with Editor ‘arris and Mr. Vernon scrambling to get the KLR rear brake working – which amazingly they did!
Things were looking altogether brighter after this. The morning mist was gone, we could see where we were going and the Mennonite farm scenery was gorgeous, bathed in the first light of the day.
The Bumblebee was humming along nicely as well. These gravel roads and mild trails were well within its grasp.
This was going to be fun after all!
AND THEN THERE WERE THREE
At about hour three, just when we were getting into an uninterrupted groove, we hit a seemingly benign stretch of grassy trail. As I got closer though, I could just make out what lurked below. It became clear that during a very wet spring, a four-wheel-drive vehicle must have cut the two deep grooves that meandered the length of the trail. The baking summer sun had since set these grooves into concrete!
The trick was to slow down, pick a ridge and hope for some good luck. Luck, however, was not to be with Mr. Lewis on this fine morning. Up ahead, caught in a bad spot on the trail, he tried change course and cross through the ruts. His KLR would have none of it, and twisted itself up and slammed heavily into the rock-hard clay – tossing Mr. Lewis unceremoniously into the weeds!
It would have been funny except for the fact that he wasn’t getting up …
“Jon, are you okay?”
(Slight pause), “Yes, I just need to lie here for a while”
Mr. Vernon and I picked up his bike, ready to fix any broken bit with the mounds of spares that had been accumulated for just such an event, but alas, the P-D had claimed its first victim. What was originally thought to be a broken shift lever turned out to be a broken shifter shaft. That was that for that for Mr. Lewis.
Thankfully, Jon began to move around and seemed okay, but the P-D attempt that he had meticulously prepared for, was done three hours in. To add insult to injury, the CMG vultures swooped in and picked him clean of any useful items that could be utilized on the trails ahead.
While Mr. Lewis regained his senses and Team CMG pondered how to get Jon back without losing another team member, the teams behind us started to catch-up. It was almost farcical; as soon as one rider had dumped it and remounted, along came another to do exactly the same thing. We spent the next 20 minutes picking up the bodies, before the sweeps arrived and thankfully gave us permission to send Mr. Lewis back alone, since we were accessible by chase truck and he was unhurt … kind of.
Dejected, we sent him, locked in 3rd gear, to meet the CMG/P-D chase truck. Editor ‘arris tried to sooth him by explaining that even though his ride was over, he could feel good about the fact that the team leader now had a camel pack to replace the one he forgot back in Montreal.
Yes, Mr. Lewis had been the recipient of the CMG curse and so had taken one for the team. As we continued on without him, we all hoped that this would allow for smooth sailing for the rest of us …
INTO THE “FUN” STUFF
The rest of the morning went uncharacteristically smoothly, but even though we had made up some lost time, a short cut around some particularly nasty stuff before lunch was required in order to make it to Kinmount with any hope of completing the afternoon circuit.
At Kinmount we were fed and watered by the good folks at Tekrider, before we hit the trail again. The route from Kinmount to Dacre is highly entertaining, offering some of the best trails in Ontario. The only problem was that by the time we left Kinmount, we had been riding for ten-plus hours, with two-minus hours of sleep the previous night …
We were determined to make it to the end though, and we tackled some highly technical stretches with aplomb, and made excellent progress. Intense focus was required throughout, as we ventured along one of the longest rock trails I’ve even experienced.
The big GS impressed, and I was able to keep up with Editor ‘arris who was maintaining a good pace (for CMG standards) through this obstacle course. The Bumblebee took everything in its stride. Respect for its weight was required, but minimal body movement was all it took to pick the good line. This was no doubt helped by the superb grip of the Metzeler Karoos.
We were now finding our groove, the mud holes and water crossings were handled with (almost) grace, and the only obstacles we had to stop for were fallen trees. It was all going to plan … until we hit the same section that ended Team CMGs efforts the year before.
Back then Mr. Vernon had been on his old KLR 600 and had managed to dump it on a slab of Canadian Shield, breaking his radiator in the process and signaling the end of the 2005 Team CMG effort. Not wanting to see a repeat of history, Jim stopped and told us to be extra careful, as this was where it could get messy.
Editor ‘arris and I led the way and got through the nastiest bits without incident and we stopped to wait for Jim.
“Hmmh, he seems to be taking quite a while to get here.”
Sure enough, Jim had managed to jinx himself with his warning to us, and crashed in the rocks for the second year in a row! Fortunately, he didn’t break himself or the bike this year and after a short extraction process we were back on the trail and back up to a good pace.
ARE WE THERE YET?
In order to complete the entire course, we needed to get to the upcoming “Bail 1” checkpoint no later than 6:10 pm. If not, we’d have to complete our journey on pavement, this to ensure that nobody was left doing the trails well into dark.
No problem we thought, it was still early afternoon. We decided not to slack off though and rode for what seemed like endless hours, always expecting to see the checkpoint around the next corner. It never happened.
By now the sun was sinking, and the shadows were elongating across the trails. More and more of the nasty sections (that could easily be averted when we were fresh and could see better) were now just plowed through, with the hope that blind luck would see us through. I was thankful for the skid plates on the GS, as the rocks clanged loudly off them.
Then, just as we were starting to get really sloppy, the trail opened up and we could see the checkpoint ahead. Had we made it in time?
Well, no, and yes, as it turns out. Technically, we were ten minutes late, but they were willing to let us carry on if we wanted to. Excellent, time for a quick rest then. As luck would have it though, Ed and John (the organizers and sweep riders) showed up and cut the party short – our day on the trails was done.
It was somewhat ironic that our ending was to be had because of a10 minute break. Editor ‘arris tried his best to look upset at this decision, but truth be told, the next section would have likely ended in someone’s demise, due to exhaustion and decreasing visibility.
So at 6:30 pm, we took the road to Dacre arriving at 8:10 pm – sixteen hours to the minute since we hit the trails earlier that morning!
I was happy though, the Bumblebee and I had made the entire tour without a hiccup, and I felt the bike could have easily done the entire route had time and rider stamina allowed. I loved the GS before going into the event, but now we had bonded even further.
I also felt a certain affinity with Mr. Philippe Jambert who had inspired tackling this challenge, and to top it off, Team CMG had bettered its performance from 2005!
All good really, except for the bad bits…
Worth noting however, is that out of the forty-nine riders who showed up for the P-D, only three members of one team, The Baad Boyz, actually completed the entire route!
2006 PARIS-DACRE STATS
60 riders registered.
49 showed up.
2 DNFs – the first one was sadly, Mr. Lewis.
Bail 1 – About half the teams made it past this checkpoint. One team bailed even before this point. As mentioned in the story, Team CMG almost made it into the subsequent section.
Bail 2 – Only nine riders made it past this second checkpoint.
Successful Completion of the Entire Route:
Only three of the nine riders who tried for the finish made it!
They were part of The Baad Boyz + 2 team. Considering their feat, their names need to mentioned:
Barry Armstrong (KTM LC4E)
Daryl Irwin (Honda XR650R)
Rome Haloftis (KTM 450EXC)
Also worthy of mention are the final six riders who came very close to completing what was, most definitely, “The Longest Day”:
Al Buck, (Husqvarna TE450) and Ken Gardner (KTM 450EXC) cut short the last bit of trail by only 10km, as Al had met a “bush truck” that filled the trail and he decided to run into the trees rather than a radiator grill … A broken ankle plus other miscellaneous injuries was the result.
Eric Russel (XR400) – a broken shift lever at the last water crossing ended his attempt.
Ernie Taylor (EXC450) – accompanied Eric out of the trail.
Brock Usborne (EXC 400) – a watered out the engine in the same last water crossing was his undoing.
Adam Woronowicz (XR650R) – accompanied Brock out of the trail.
After completing an event like the Paris-Dacre, there is no better feeling than lying down on a comfortable bed at the end of the day. Jocko’s Beach Resort in Calabogie provided us with exactly that. We slept the sleep of the dead, and after a superb brunch in Calabogie the following morning, I said goodbye to my teammates and started off towards Toronto on what was supposed to be a gentle ride back home.
To make a long story short, I got lost and ended up on some of the trails that we missed the night before, only now I was loaded with full (and easily breakable) saddlebags, and no team members to help out if things got messy.
Feck it. I’m fresh, let’s giver’! We did exactly that and, as the day before, the big GS never missed a beat!
I think this is the beginning of an incredible relationship. Like many riders who eventually acquire an adventure touring motorcycle (and particularly the storied GS), the world (and not just the paved bits) is your oyster!
Stay tuned for many more flights of the Bumblebee…
MANY THANKS TO:
BMW Canada for supplying all the bits to help make this adventure a reality.
Fastway for the grippy foot pegs.
Kahuna Cycle in Woodbridge, Ontario for the K&N oil filter.
Safety Seal for the tire repair kit.
Jocko’s Beach Resort in Calabogie for providing a very happy ending to an exhausting day.