2013 - My Fifth Year at the Stella Alpina Rally

Other Stella links:

First up, apologies for the lack of blogging on here lately - I have been super busy as there's been some exciting changes in my life; but that's another blog post for another time. Now for what you've all been waiting for!

As you all know, last year I conquered the Stella Alpina on my 1982 Honda CB250N Super Dream, but this year I took my recently purchased 2005 Suzuki GS500.

Usually, I travel over to Bardonecchia with my dad although this year he left the country 10 days earlier than me to attend the Phoenix Rally in Czech Republic, before continuing on to the Stella. In previous years, I have been lazy and relied on him to decide our route and give me directions through our intercom, so this year Sam (my other half) and I, would be navigating ourselves to and from the Alps, using just a 30-year-old printed map.

We allowed ourselves 3 full days to ride to Bardonecchia, planning to cover around 250 - 300 miles a day. Considering that we had no sat nav, it was actually quite easy to navigate through France’s quiet country roads and we didn’t even manage to get lost!

Mid-morning on the Saturday, Sam and I arrived in Bardonecchia and after a good catch-up with my friends, travelled up to a local restaurant to have our traditional pre-Stella lunch with Mario Artusio, the founder of the Stella Alpina Rally.

The next day was the day of the Rally itself. I was keen to see how far up Colle del Sommeiller I could get on my sporty machine and to see if it was any easier to keep upright on the off-road than my old wheezing slug of a Super Dream.

We stopped at the 'control' point reasonably near the top which is where many have a rest, or perhaps go no further, and have the opportunity to buy sandwiches, t-shirts and the rally badge.

It was here that I met some great new people from all over the world and even some readers of my blog who recognised me! It was great to be able to meet some of you who read my geeky updates and it was fantastic to hear the positive feedback you gave me.

Stopping for the beautiful views, but still a while to go until we reach the 'control' point!

 The 'control' or rest area

After a well-deserved rest, we continued on towards the top of the Colle. For this last stretch of the track I actually chose to get on the back of my dad's BMW R80 G/S as the track does become a lot more challenging and I didn’t really want to push my luck any further on the less-negotiable part of the off-road, especially considering the motorcycle I was riding.

One fellow Stella-enthusiast that I met, Dale James, totally put me to shame by riding his particular motorcycle all the way to the top; an Aprilia Tuono 1000r, albeit with Continental TKC80 tyres on – still no mean feat! Click here for the YouTube video of his Stella experience.

 Tightening up some important screws after the off-road riding nearly shook my rear mudguard off!
Both Sam and I completed the Stella without dropping our trusty machines and we had a smashing time. The rest of the week consisted of 3 more days of off-roading in the area with our friends before heading back to Calais via Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium.

 Conquering yet more Alpine passes off-road in the days following the Stella

Overall, I found the GS500 still to be a real challenge to handle on the off-road, but not quite as bad as the Super Dream. Having a more powerful motorcycle this year also helped when we really started climbing in altitude and working with less oxygen.

During the 10 days away from home, I managed 2,625 miles and 6 countries. I wonder what motorcycle I will decide to do the Stella on next year – no doubt something equally as inappropriate for off-road riding as usual!

And don’t forget; it’s the second Sunday in July – every year. See you there in 2014!

Oxford 'Mini T' Disc Lock Review

Recently I decided to upgrade the security of my motorcycle a little and buy a disc lock.

I always find it quite hard to choose a lock when I'm shopping around for one because they all boast similar levels of toughness and reliability.  As it turns out, my other-half was also looking for one when he found this lock by Oxford listed on eBay at half price.  I just can't help myself when I see a good bargain!

My one was half price at £12 only because it had a teeny tiny patch of damp on the carry pouch. The other attraction about this lock is in the name - it's mini!  Super handy for fitting in my pocket for when I want to nip out on the bike without a bag.

The 'Mini T' normally retails at around £20 which I think is still a very reasonable price for a lock that is so small and convenient!

What kind of security do you have for your motorcycle when you're out and about? 
Do you take the risk with just your steering lock or always come well-prepared?

Ride Free

This weekend was incredibly busy for me, going up to Stafford for the Stafford Classic Bike Show, down to Orpington, Kent for a motorcycle club reunion and then back up to Bedfordshire for a local motorcycle event in Ampthill called Ride Free.

Ride Free is an annual event organised by Motorcycling Matters in support of the East Anglian Air Ambulance and offers a variety of attractions to check out during the day.

Held on the grounds of a local school, the show isn’t huge but there’s plenty to see and plenty to do. The main attractions include Steve Colley’s stunt show, Ken Fox’s Wall of Death, local traders and retailers and motorcycle clubs and groups. Alongside that, there are also plenty of other things you can get involved with such as the National ‘Get-on’ Scheme for first-time riders, Bikesafe assessed rides, motorcyclist first-aid courses and slow riding skills sessions.

After a 2 hour ride home from Kent mid morning, I had a tight turnaround with 30 minutes to shower and meet at a friend’s house to ride to the show. We arrived relatively early as I recall last year the car park filled up pretty quickly.

Like last year, it was a warm dry day so both car parks were heaving with motorcycles after a couple of hours. I had a quick scoot around to check out other people’s motorcycles and my favourite by far was a pristine CB 750 Four with only around 13,000 miles on the clock.

My friends and I wandered around the main part of the show, looking at trade stands and motorcycle club stalls and most important of all, there was affordable on-site catering with super tasty chips! Yum!

Later on, we stopped by to see Steve Colley's stunt show. Steve is an incredibly talented trials rider with numerous achievements including 3 Times British Solo Trials Champion, 4 Time Winner at Scottish Six Days Trials and 11 Times Winner of Manx National Two Day Trial.

As accurately said on Steve’s website; ‘The skills of motorcycle trials riders like Steve Colley have to be seen to be believed.’ Many of the stunts performed during the show I would have otherwise thought were impossible - I have since been theorising that perhaps Steve has super powers...

At one point, Steve removed the front wheel and forks, rested the motorcycle on its sump guard on a trials stand and said, “I'm looking for a female volunteer from the crowd!” at which point I looked straight at the ground (you will understand if you also don’t like being picked out for these things haha!) As luck would have it, I was chosen. Luckily, in contradiction to my initial thoughts, the stunt in which I had to take part wasn't a death-defying, life-flashing-before-my-eyes manoeuvre; I only had to remove the trials stand from beneath Steve’s motorcycle (thank god - a simple task for a simple person)

Credit goes to John Prater for these photos!

All in all it was a great performance and Motorcycling Matters made a fantastic choice inviting Mr Colley to  the show. I certainly wouldn't pass up the opportunity to meet him again!

Shortly after the stunt show, I decided to take advantage of the dry weather and go for a ride with some mates in the local area before setting off home. 

Today, the East Anglia Air Ambulance confirmed that a total of £740.18 was raised through Ride Free. Thanks to everyone who donated and contributed their time to making this event a success!