We don’t just sit back at CMG and watch the mayhem – we get stuck right in. That’s why our Costa was assigned to ride last month’s Fundy Adventure Rally in New Brunswick and find out what all the fuss was about.
How did they get on at Fundy? Here’s the story… – Ed.
While riding over rocks and zigzagging around rainfall washouts at a quick, comfortable pace, I noticed a concrete culvert sticking several inches above the ground, running straight across the trail. I hit the brakes of the 2016 Honda XR650L, slowed down and hopped over it. If someone wasn’t paying attention and hit it at speed, I thought to myself, it would send them sailing into the air.
Then I glanced into my left mirror and saw one of my team mates with the rear wheel of his bike high in the air. And while he was still grasping the handlebar, his feet and ass were no longer in contact with any part of his machine. He landed his near-endo without further incident, and as I turned back to see if all was well, he composed himself quickly as if nothing had happened. He’d probably forgotten we were on bikes with all of their street gear, including the mirrors.
We were taking part in the third annual Fundy Adventure Rally, headquartered at Adair’s Wilderness Lodge in Sussex, New Brunswick. It’s actually my second run at the rally, having missed last year’s rain-drenched event. The rider behind me was Jacob Black of autoTRADER.ca, and also part of Team Media were Glenn Roberts, editor of Motorcycle Mojo magazine, and friend Jim Vernon. Aside from Vernon, who rode his son’s CRF250L, the rest of us were on bikes provided by Honda Canada. I rode the 650L, while Black and Roberts rode 250Ls.
This year’s rally included more than 500 kilometres of paved and unpaved roads and trails, divided into three routes — A, B, and C — of increasing difficulty, which were navigated by GPS. Since I’m the guy who brought the GPS, I led our team, while Roberts carried the Spot transmitter, a mandatory safety device that shows rally organizers where each team is along the route, while also allowing teams to send a distress signal if necessary.
Our initial team strategy was to ride the intermediate B routes, since Black had little off-road experience. While he did take a rider training course with off-road instructor extraordinaire, Clinton Smout, on Friday before the rally’s start, we thought it safer to at least start easy and work the entire team up to speed.
After the first leg that brought us to Alma proved quite easy for all of us, we decided to take the harder C route for the second leg of the rally from Alma to Riverside-Albert. This route had some rocky sections, and although it proved relatively manageable we chose another B route for the section between Riverside-Albert and Salisbury. We were told during the morning briefing that it would be the most difficult section of the rally, with steep, rocky climbs.
Stories during our mandatory 30-minute rest break in Salisbury of riders crashing on one particularly steep, rocky section reaffirmed that we had made the right decision — when riding as a team you want to make sure everyone survives the ride, and almost as important, you want to make sure everyone has fun. If a novice off-roader is forced into double-diamond trails, it’s not really fun.
After an intense team meeting during the midday break, we decided we’d stick to the most difficult C routes for the remainder of the ride. Black was looking comfortable on his CRF, admitting the time he’d spent with Smout the day before proved valuable. Then he hit a mud hole the wrong way on the next leg and ended up in a tree.
Okay, I wrote that for dramatic effect, because while it did actually happen, it was at a very low speed and neither he nor the bike suffered any damage. The climax of the fourth leg was the dreaded beaver-dam crossing, which the year before was flooded due to heavy rain and nearly claimed a few motorcycles. This year, it proved easily navigable with the water no higher than the wheel axles.
Leg five contained some mud holes, which weren’t as deep as anticipated due to the lack of recent rain. Regardless, we managed some wheel-spin action going through them, mostly to sully up the bikes and make it look like we had a tough go at the rally.
The final leg proved the easiest of the day for us, which is actually a good way to wrap up a ride — at a relaxed and easy pace rather than negotiating impassable terrain while exhausted from a long day in the saddle.
My XR650L was an ideal riding companion, proving that even though it hasn’t seen an update in more than two decades, it’s still easy to ride and very capable over even the roughest terrain. Perhaps more impressive, however, is that little CRF250L, which went everywhere the big bike went, easily and without a single glitch. I didn’t ride it, but it proved to me you don’t have to spend a lot of money or need big displacement to have fun when the pavement ends.
Teams were allotted points depending on the difficulty of the routes chosen, and bronze, silver and gold levels of achievement. This general scoring method, rather than choosing an outright winning team, reduces the level of competition between teams, which ultimately results in a safer rally.
We got a solid silver for our participation, and were told that had we ridden just one more C route, we’d have scored a gold. You can bet we’ll be trying for that gold next year.