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Fundy Adventure Rally - 2014

It's the first year for the Fundy Adventure Rally. The fine folks at CMG Online were expecting 20 or so people but managed to convince about 60 people to tackle 500+ KM's of New Brunswick wilderness near Sussex with the Adair's Wilderness Lodge serving as the base camp. Riders came from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, and Maryland. Adair's is a great spot in the middle of the woods but accessible by road and THE perfect spot to serve as the launch point of the rally. It's a dirt riders nirvana. Food at the lodge was great too! - Bonus!

There's several cottages nestled amongst the trees. Rough camping sites were available in the treed section near the water at the top right which was a short walk from the main lodge.

The Fundy Adventure Rally was a two day event that started on Friday afternoon with participation by a major sponsor - BMW Motorrad Canada who had brought a tractor trailer of BMW F800 GS's for demo rides and a few other bikes for show. Big thanks go out to BMW for allowing me to borrow a BMW F800GS to participate in the Rally with. BIG thanks! I came in from Halifax, following the GPS on my phone in towards the lodge. Guess the Rally organizers weren't kidding when they said there was no cell coverage at the lodge. My cellular signal actually dropped about 15 minutes from the lodge - if you know the way that is. Luckily I met another rally participant on my way in and we navigated the rest of the way together. (As it turns out I'd end up riding the entire Rally in a group of four with him amongst them - by chance really.)

My motorcycle for the Rally. A brand new BMW F800 GS - lowered. It had less than a 1000km's on the odometer when I started the Rally. The Arai VX Pro4 was unboxed for the event and worked flawlessly and proved all day comfortable. Note the GPS secured with plenty of zip ties!

It was a pretty laid back first day with most people arriving later in the day, going on a BMW test ride, setting up their tents, getting into their cottages, supper, and a riders meeting to review the Rally route. There wasn't too much partying - most people seemed to want to head to bed early to get a good night's sleep for the long day ahead still there was a lot of like minded motorcyclists around and Rob made sure they brought in at least a few good varieties of beer at the lodge. I 'might' have sampled one or two. Rally start time was 7:00 AM on Saturday for some so there was a lot to do at an early hour to be get ready for the Rally.

The map and hashtag for the event. This was the guide book we reviewed at the riders meeting on Friday after supper was served in the main hall. 

I met up with a few guys who were also riding the "A" route of the event which was for teams with less experience or riders who were solo participants. Teams with off-road experience could take on a harder "B" route. Luckily for me two of the guys I partnered up with turned out to be fantastic navigators and led our group through the entire Rally because I never did get my borrowed GPS working properly. Note to self - buy a GPS and practice using it! It's a must for participating in this event. I wouldn't have gotten past the first couple of turns if it weren't for the guys I was following. Thanks to Moto Journalist Costa Mouzouris for trying to teach me how to figure out how to use my borrowed GPS!

The BMW tent which served as the start and end point of the Rally and the starting point for the demo rides on Friday.

Each team was equipped with a Spot device who were also a sponsor of the event. It added a extra level of safety for the participants knowing that if there was an emergency that help could be brought in. Luckily there weren't any serious injuries amongst the participants.

At 5:30 AM on the morning of the Rally I woke to the sound of coyotes howling (loudly!) followed shortly thereafter with the loud BRAP-Brap-Brap of a dirt bike starting and revving up. There's one in every crowd! An interesting way to start the day, that's for sure! Didn't even need my alarm I guess.

After the wake up call I was off to the lodge for a big buffet breakfast to fuel up for the day. I had a borrowed GPS and a mount that didn't really fit so I had to break out the zip ties to make sure it was secured to my borrowed BMW F800GS. I loaded up some Gatorade and snack food into a tail bag and strapped it onto the F8 with a motorcycle bungee cord. I didn't want to have any weight on my back and the the tail bag with the extra security of the bungee cords worked fantastic. Everything was secure, didn't bounce around at all - and best of all I didn't have to lug the extra weight on my back.

We hit the road at about 7:40 AM and the place was pretty foggy and overcast. We took a right turn out of the parking lot and after a short distance a bunch of riders were stopped at the very first turn. Apparently the GPS of a few riders knew a shorter way to navigate the route! Almost foiled at the first turn. In our haste to get going again two of my teammates ended up in another pack while myself and another teammate ended up riding together. We rejoined forces later at a break in the trail. Our team of four stuck together for the rest of the race.

Stopping to fuel up the machines, water, and whatever other non-healthy snacks could be scrounged up at the gas station.

The drive through Fundy Park was pretty amazing. We had the roads (albeit paved) to ourselves and while we couldn't see any of the amazing sites the solitude of having the place to yourself and 'being very careful' to stick to the speed limits made it an entertaining section of road. The stretch of twisty pavement uncovered that something was wrong with the bike though - I didn't know exactly what. The bike was riding very squirrelly and it wobbled markedly when I got on the brakes. I thought the front wheel felt a little soft but it didn't seem too bad in the dirt so I downplayed that possibility in my mind and thought it might just be a really bent rim. The pavement made the wobble pronounced and it was so bad I mentioned to my partner. Well, when we stopped a while later and checked the tire pressure we discovered I'd been riding on 13 PSI on the front. It was set to 20 the day before for the off-road demo but somehow lost quite a bit of pressure overnight. My team mates figured the dent in my rim might have caused a flat but somebody brought an electric pump and we hooked it up the GS1200 battery and pumped it up to 35. The bike rode great after that and held air all day! The reason for the pressure drop remained a mystery.

My mind was going through the worst possible scenarios... I was going to have to wait for the sweep truck to come pick me up maybe and quit! Arrgh... There was no way I wanted to end my adventure that soon. I was just getting warmed up! Saved by the preparedness of my teammates once again!

A nasty little dent that I may have been responsible for after a close encounter with a big rock! The tire continued to hold air for the entire Rally though. Yipee!

For somebody with off-road experience the off road A route might not have been too challenging but I have pretty limited off road experience so bombing down a gravel road at up to100 km/hr standing on the pegs was pretty exciting for me. There was plenty of slower stuff, rocky uphills/downhills, loamy sand, hard pack, mud, water, blind crests, tightening radius turns, pea gravel corners, bridges, even a covered bridge, wildlife (for some), culverts, plenty of rocks, and DUST, DUST and more DUST! It was quite challenging at times seeing through my goggles. I'd try wiping them with my glove and they'd be good for a while or absolute crap and I'd feverishly try to get a little bit of space to see through. I had to stop and wipe them a few times with a cloth I had in my pocket and then ride with a little extra pace to catch my navigator.

Don't think this gear will ever come totally clean. The gore-tex boots worked fantastically well. I would've had wet feet for sure in anything that wasn't totally waterproof.

I had one close encounter with two REALLY big rocks on the center line of the trail. I was in the #3 spot in my group and trailing the guy in front of me by a good margin because of the dust. We were riding at a pretty good clip on a fairly easy dirt road mixed with some buried rock. The road was used by logging trucks and had a slightly raised center line - that seemed like the safe line. Well, I found out otherwise. I was going a bit too fast over a slight blind crest and two bigs rocks were right on my line. They were too big and wide to go around at the speed I was going - so I could only brace for it and steer for the middle to try ride between them. I grazed the right rock pretty hard. This was after I already had that big dent in the front rim! The rock kicked me off to the left but I stayed upright. Yikes! That was a pucker moment for sure. I was more careful with the blind crests and making sure I was driving within my vision after that. Lesson learned. That rim continued to hold up though!

There were eight sections of varying length during the Rally and each of them ended at a gas station. That worked really well because you could gas up, have a bathroom break, take some time to rehydrate, and get a bite to eat if you wanted. There wasn't a ton of time for leisure if you wanted to ensure you made it back on time. At each stage there was a option that if you hadn't reached the end of the section by a certain time you were supposed to take a bypass/option route that took you on a paved route to the next stop so you could make up some time. My assembled team managed to not take any of the shortcut options and did the entire A route as intended. We may have been just slightly past the cutoff time at a point or two but some of that might have come down to that sit down dinner we had at the Big Stop in Salisbury! Who can pass up a hot turkey sandwich in the middle of a 500 Km off road Rally! It was a pretty quick stop but it still killed a lot of time. In hindsight - maybe not the best choice. I had enough energy bars and snacks to last the day but the team wanted to stop so I followed suit.

Once I got that front tire sorted out the BMW proved to be very capable for the mix of off road and pavement. I had a few troubles turning off the traction control and ABS but that was my fault. I should have practiced it and got a better lesson the day BEFORE the Rally. I can tell you from personal experience that you absolutely do not want to leave the traction control on when riding off-road on the F8! It takes the smooth predictable power output and seems to zap the throttle output in pulses. It makes getting up a rutted gravel road a terrible experience, especially if you're standing on the pegs! Once it's off though it's a different experience altogether. The F8 powers its way up loose thick gravel effortlessly. I found it best to gear up a bit to dull the throttle and smooth out power delivery. With so much power on tap it's easy to just start tearing up the road and showering the guy behind you with a pile of rocks. Gearing down on the descents and making use of engine braking worked great as well. Messing around with the ABS was interesting too. ABS is great for the road but crap off road. The ABS goes a little wild when it's turned on off-road. If I had to have either ABS or traction control on while off road- the lessor of those two evils was definitely ABS. It was really tough to feel in control of the bike off-road with the traction control on. Uphill gravel conditions made it a MUST to have turned off.

I was on the factory lowered F8 - not by my choice - it's just what BMW provided. It turned out to be a pretty good fit because I was able to very comfortably flat foot with both feet. I did miss the little bit of suspension travel they take out with that factory lowering but there's also lowering via a different seat shape as I understand it. I did get both wheels airborne on the bike at least once fairly impressively to test the suspension travel! A little extra suspension, however small, may have come in handy on that one! Did I say already that I enjoyed myself! I honestly didn't want the day to end. I was grinning the entire day.

Me and the assembled team of solo riders - we made it to the finish! Awesome work navigating you guys! Nice pace too!

The evening after the Rally was a little more festive than Friday with people gathering to tell some tales and enjoy a beverage. There was also the Rider dinner, charity raffle, a little speech from Chris Duff from BMW Motorrad Canada, a slideshow presentation of pictures from the event and of course the awards ceremony.

The awards ceremony begins. Check out that trophy! You don't get to keep it actually... just hold it for a few minutes. Bragging rights and your name on the trophy is your reward!

One participant might have partied just a little too hard the night after the Rally and left a candle in his tent - luckily he lit it then left the tent... lucky for him anyway and not so much for his tent and gear. He lost EVERYTHING except the clothes on his back and the stuff he had packed on his bike. Wallet, helmet, motorcycle boots, clothing, - everything! I thought I heard someone say 'fire' in the night but I was pretty wiped out and apparently slept through it. I helped him clear up the rubble in the morning and since I drove there in a car and was passing by his place on the drive home I ended up riding his bike back to his house and he drove my car. So I got to squeeze in one last BMW demo - not the best of circumstances but it made for a nice trip back home for me.

That was one HOT fire! There was nothing left. That little thing at the top right above the yellow nylon rope is what's left of an AlpineStars motorcycle boot! All his stuff was reduced to dust and bits of plastic.

Now that the Rally is over I've taken to watching F8 videos and checking on insurance rates on the Beemer. I sure could get used to the ability to see where all those dirt roads go, and trade in my Honda VFR 800. The BMW F800 GS was a joy to drive. It was very capable on road and off. Soaking up all kinds of bumps and power to spare for anything I put it through. I even turned on the hand warner's when he mist got really heavy and my hands were wet. Now that's luxury! Factory hand warmers on a bike as capable off road as the F8! It's pretty awesome!

Hey nice shirt!

I'll see you next year!

I think everybody really enjoyed themselves, judging from the tired dirty smiles at the finish line. You'd never know it was a first year event. Apparently they spent two summers testing out trails and working out routes to be able to pull it off. I'm expecting even bigger and better things next year and they're considering adding some rider training events and an extra day to the event. They've got September 11, 12, 13 booked for next year.  Mark your calendars!

Special thanks to:

Rob and Courtney at Canada Moto Guide and Canada Moto Rallies
BMW Motorrad Canada - for the use of the BMW F800 GS
Arai Americas - for the use of the Arai VX-Pro4

Other Articles and Blog links covering the 2014 Fundy Adventure Rally:

CMG Online
Big Land Adventure Films
Mark Richardson for MSN Autos

Twitter Hash Tag #FundyADV