Rain, mud, and ruts: Zac’s 2017 Fundy Adventure Rally

Photos: Zac Kurylyk
Title photo: Tammy Perry

The event sounded like a good idea at first – I’d planned to run it for months – but about 20 minutes into the Fundy Adventure Rally’s offroad ride this year, I began to question whether I should have stayed home.

Riding the dirt roads in a foggy downpour, I realized I’d grabbed a thermal jacket liner in my rush to get to the rally … and left the rain liner at home. I was soaked through all my clothes, and the day was just beginning.


Way back in January, one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to ride the Fundy Adventure Rally this year. I figured I’d probably take my DR650, tag along on someone else’s team, and mix up some A routes and B routes, maybe throwing in a C route for kicks.

But it’s been a tough year at CMG. As a result, the DR650 isn’t quite finished (almost there) and I barely had the chance to ride offroad this season. I didn’t want to hold a team back, so I opted to ride the solo Scavenger route (a little over 250 km, instead of 500 km). And, because the six-fiddy was still not completed, I had to take my 1990 Suzuki DR350. Which, of course, needed some maintenance. It wouldn’t be a CMG rally weekend if there wasn’t some last-minute wrenching.

Robert takes a photo at the Crooked Creek lookout. The Scavenger route is filled with gems like this spot, that you’d never find otherwise.

The 350 needed tires. With the rear tire off, I decided I might as well swap in my rebuilt shock while I was at it. And hey, look how loose that rear linkage is! Maybe I should install those bearings I bought months ago?

Against all odds, I was at the rally in time to chat with the GS Challenge competitors on Friday, set up a tent, then tear it down once I found a spot to stay in a cabin.


Four other bikes went out on the Scavenger route with me, rolling out shortly after 9 PM. There were two solo riders aboard BMWs, another guy riding two-up with his son on a Beemer, and another rider on a V-Strom. My 26-year-old 350 was the odd bike out, for sure.

At the start of the day, riding along on the verge of hypothermia, I wondered if I’d be able to complete the course, or if I’d have to turn back. Thankfully, I warmed up in Alma (perhaps due to the coffee, or perhaps because I got hot under the collar when it took a half hour’s wait to get service at the shop).

This was the fourth year for the Fundy Adventure Rally, and the first year under new Canada Moto Rallies owners Eric and Terri Russell.

This year saw a big jump in attendance, with 152 riders in total, including sweeps and Scavenger route riders. However, there was also a visible increase in non-riding family members and other hangers-on at the rally; the camping section was full of trailers and tents.

Part of the reason for the increase was BMW’s GS Challenge, which ran throughout the rally weekend.
In the Challenge, nine riders from across Canada (the winners of the regional competitions) pitted their riding and survival skills against one another for the chance to represent our country at the international GS Trophy event next year in Mongolia. The winners were Joel Goulet, Jamie Jones, and Bela Herman.

The top riders in the Rally itself were the Awesome Players team, who many readers will recognize from their YouTube channel. The Awesome Players were the only team to achieve Bitcoin-level status, finishing all C and B routes and including bigbore adventure bikes on their team while they did so.

From there, the day just got better.

Not that there weren’t challenges. The day’s second off-road diversion (we had to do pavement to connect the dirt routes) saw us headed down an extremely greasy clay road that almost put all of us into the ditch, no matter what tires we had. However, that misery turned into fun as soon as we hit a gravel road in the coastal marsh a few minutes later. Not only could you trust your tires to go where you pointed them, but you could even enjoy the view for a few minutes, despite the fog and rain.

While the A, B, and C routes offer an all-day challenge for riders that many can’t finish (the attrition rate on the main course this year saw plenty of riders earn DNFs), the Scavenger course is aimed at providing an easy ramble through the same area on much tamer dirt roads, with an emphasis on scenic locales. It’s a great option for someone in my position, who wants to ride off-pavement and see some interesting country without wrapping themselves around a tree.

There are plenty of little side roads in New Brunswick that take riders to lookoffs and other scenery that you’d never find without some help, and that’s where FAR organizer Eric Russell’s hard work comes in. While I was riding a dirt road through the Kent Hills Wind Farm, atop a foggy mountain with windmill blades whizzing just overhead, I realized this was a place I probably never would have visited unless I’d come to the rally. My soaked T-shirt and jacket were suddenly less of a problem.

After the wind farm, a network of gravel tracks and potholed pavement (typical for NB) took us to Petiticodiac, where it was lunchtime. With the rain and mud, it would have been tempting to take an extra-long break, but we didn’t linger. We shoveled down some Subway, and then the group split up.

Before leaving, we’d been cautioned about the slick clay sections after Petitcodiac, and warned to take an asphalt detour. Some riders wisely heeded that advice, but I decided I was game for it, and headed down the forbidden route. I was on a little 350—what’s the worst that could happen? One rider followed me on a GS1200, figuring I could help him extract the beast from the mud if worst came to worst.

Turns out we were both right. I had little difficulty on the DR, but Dan ended up soaked to the skin in muck, thanks to a low-speed off in a waterhole. But his crash bars took the hit, we pulled the bike out, and rejoined the rest of the team quickly.

About two hours later we were back at Adair’s Wilderness Lodge, with the only real hazards being a few rutted, slippery clay sections and our own fatigue. While the riding itself wasn’t technical, the rain sapped our energy, and everyone was glad to be back.

Sitting at the Lodge, seeing the teams who’d already failed the A, B, and C routes, I felt a mixture of regret and happiness. On one hand, I’d really wanted to run the main 500-km route this year, and was disappointed that it hadn’t worked out. On the other hand, I’d managed to complete my ride without a DNF, my ancient dirt bike had actually completed the course when newer, shinier bikes hadn’t even started, and I had a pretty good idea of what I’d have to do if I wanted to challenge the main course next year.

“Where next?” Actually, the GPS instructions were flawless, and the route’s mapbook was pretty easy too (unless you destroyed your speedo cable like I did).

But most importantly, I’d seen new country. That was one of my other New Year’s goals this year, and I thought I’d achieve it by traveling to the US or some other province. Little did I know that the most interesting scenery I’d see all summer would come right in my home province, in an area I’d circled many times on the street without taking the time to visit. Now, I’m just waiting for the cool fall weather to come, and the leaves to change, so I can return for more photos.


GALLERY

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