Towards the end of October I completed a 3 day navigation enduro in the Massif de Morvan organised by Sport Adventure. This was the third of these events I have entered – the first was in the Normandie mud last November, followed by the Dordogne in May. This time I was teamed up with my mate Dougie who had driven down from Yorkshire in his big van.
There were about 15 of us in total and the event follows a consistent format. Three days of riding nearly all off road covering about 150Km per day. Riding along unknown trails at a reasonable speed is challenging enough but the navigation element is what makes these events unique. The route is marked out using a road book system – as used on the Paris Dakar rally. This is a scroll of paper mounted to a reader on the handlebars of the bike. The navigation instructions are presented as small pictograms with distance markers – for example “turn sharp right in 1Km opposite a church” or “take the left fork in the trail in 800m”. This seems simple enough but at speed the changes in direction come thick and fast and are quite difficult to read when you are bouncing along a rough trail at speed.
Following a spell of bad weather last year there were a lot of fallen trees across the trails – some were small and could be ridden over, some were large and presented a large enough gap underneath to just about squeeze the bike through, others completely blocked the trail and it was then necessary to head off into the woods to try to find a way round. The logs were wet and slippery which meant that even crossing a small one was quite treacherous and resulted in a few offs.
Accurate distance measurement is vital as a check that you are in the right place – each box on the road book shows the distance from the previous junction and the total distance travelled. Paying close attention to this ensures that even if you go wrong, which we did many times, you can quickly recognise the error and backtrack.
The conditions were quite muddy in places but nothing like the gloop we experienced in Normandie. On the first day it started to rain in the afternoon and got dark early which made the trails through the woods much more difficult to follow safely so we finished early and missed out the last 20Km. We did manage to complete the route on the next two days.
I tried to describe the feeling of riding in this event to my family and came up with this…
Riding along unknown often slippery trails with random fallen trees at the speed I like to ride (as fast as possible with a small safety margin) is a huge buzz – much like skiing on the edge of control I would imagine – requires 100% concentration and good fitness/endurance to be able to do more than 10mins. Add to that the need to navigate using the road book and odometer with changes of direction every few hundred yards. Then do it for hours at a time…