The 2012 Dacre Challenge

The Dacre technically isn’t a race.  However, they do keep track of your time and they announce a “winner” at the end…. but it isn’t a race, HA!  This event takes place every other year in Ontario Canada.  The first one started at a small town called Paris and finished in the village of Dacre (sounds similar to Dakar, get it?).  The idea is to simulate what it is like for a single day of the Dakar rally.  Granted the terrain of Ontario is not very similar to the desert but the idea is to have a difficult 800KM (around 500 miles) ride in a single day.

I did the event 2 years ago, this was one of my first big events I entered.  Looking back now I see just how ill prepared I was since I had really just started riding offroad.  I had hopes for better this year.

One unique aspect of this event is it is a team event.  You are not allowed to enter it just on your own but need to enter as a team of 3 to 5 riders.  The idea is since many of the areas are so remote they don’t want you out there by yourself if you have a problem.  Most of the guys I ride with were not up for a 500 miles 16+hour trail ride but through connections with MVTR (my local trail riding club) and advrider I found Josh and Rob who were interested in the challenge.  I had ridden a bit with Rob before but not with Josh.  My original plan was to try to get us all together for a few weekends as a team to do some riding.  With all the running around I have done over the last few months however we only managed 1 team ride.

We never really did get fully prepared as a team.  Then at the last minute Rob ended up not having a bike to ride.  Originally he had planned on using his KTM 950 Adventure but he decided that really would be too big (very good call it turns out) and he found a Husaberg 390.  Then just a few days before he called me and said the dealership wasn’t going to have the 390 ready in time so he was back to not having a bike.  We came up with a plan of getting my new WR450 ready at the last minute.  I had already planned on the DRZ for this ride since the bike is more comfortable so I had not even started getting the WR street legal yet.  The last few days before the event were very busy getting both the WR and the DRZ ready.  Not a lot of sleep.

We headed out Thursday evening after work and started the drive up to Canada.  We stopped at Aaron’s place in Burlington for the night.  Originally Aaron was going to be our support driver but he had not yet gotten a replacement for his passport which he had lost in Mexico during the Mexican 1000.  We slept there for the night and Josh bought a couple tires from Aaron (who is a dealer for Moto-z tires) and we got them mounted up.

Rob riding in the back of the van with the 3 bikes and gear for 3 guys. We made very good use of my Sprinter van on this trip.

There was still a long drive ahead of us on Friday.  We rolled out of Burlington at around 5 AM.  We needed to get across the border and then pick up Ted who thankfully had agreed to be our support driver on short notice.  Ted is the owner of the site and few know Ontario better then he does, perfect guy to drive my van to support us!

Ted taking a self portrait. Without Ted I might still be sitting on the side of the road somewhere in Ontario! Also without him this post would be missing most of the pics! Photo courtesy of Ted Johnson.

Here I am on the long drive to Ontario.  Photo Courtesy of Ted Johnson.

We made it to Orangeville ON, around 4pm, got the bikes unloaded and went through tech.  Of course this is when I realize I don’t have any proof of insurance for the WR450.  I had insured it just a couple days before and left the paperwork at home.  Managed to get Jane to find the paperwork and she scanned and emailed it to me.  Then we discovered Josh’s rear tire wasn’t holding air.  He uses this system called “tu-bliss” which makes a regular spoked wheel a tubliss tire.  It wasn’t holding air.  Lots of fiddling with it then around 10pm he gave up and just put in a regular tube.  I managed to get to bed at 11:00 with the alarm set for 3am.

Prepping the bikes. Photo Courtesy of Ted Johnson.

From left to right, Josh, Doug (me) Rob and Seth. Waiting in line for tech inspection. Photo Courtesy of Ted Johnson.

They start teams at 1 minute intervals with the first rolling off at 4:01 AM.  We were lucky and had a good draw and were of second at 4:02.  I was having issues trying to see my gps, not much contrast between the route and the map on the screen, so Rob ended up leading for a good bit of the morning.

Josh and I getting geared up for our 4:02 AM start time. Photo Courtesy of Ted Johnson.

Doug (me) Josh and Rob ready to roll! Photo Courtesy of Ted Johnson.

Once we got into the trail sections we quickly realized Josh on his nimble Husquvarna TE310 (plus the fact that he is a very good rider) was the faster rider so he would lead.  Rob was having issues on my WR450, new bike he had never ridden before and it really wasn’t set up for him.  He is a tall guy and the stock bar height really didn’t work for him.  So he was trailing behind through the trickier trail sections.  I was in the middle on my heavy DRZ (plus the weight of extra fuel and enough tools to fix about anything) and would try to keep an eye on Josh for a while but he would then slip away so I would check up and make sure Rob was still behind and had not had an issue.  We then would regroup at the end of each trail section.

Rolling out of the first pit in Angus, ON. Photo Courtesy of Ted Johnson.

We had been making decent time throughout the day, sure we got passed by a lot of teams but we were making good enough progress to finish.  We were efficient with our fuel stops and making good steady progress.  We got to the lunch stop where there is a mandatory 30 minute break I believe around 10:00.  This was close to half way and we had done it in 6 hours.  I figured the terrain would get harder after this and slow us down but so far so good.

Then came the section after lunch.  They had listed this as a “tough section” and that is all they said about it.  Last time I remember this being the most fun of the event but the routing was a bit different this time.  Most of it was fine but there were several big mud holes with big rocks in them.  This is when the DRZ decided to kick my butt… you may recall that in Mexico the bike had started to have an intermittent problem where the electric start would not work.  This started to happen again.   A few times I would stall the engine in one of these mud holes and not be able to restart.  I would have to push the bike out and get it onto hard ground.  Then I would need to attempt to push start it.  Once I got the engine to turn over once from a push the electric start would fire right off.  This really took what was left of my energy and I was quite a ways behind Josh and Rob at the end of this section.

At the next pit we took a break, ate something, and refiled our hydration packs.  I had run out of water on the previous section which took away even more of my energy.  It was around 3pm now, 11 hours into the ride.  Based on the time estimates they gave in the riders meeting the day before things were still looking good to make the final cutoff by 8:30 that evening.  If we made that cutoff we were sure to be able to finish the event.

Just a few miles away from the pit my ride ended.  Going around a gentle curve on a paved road I heard a noise from the bike and it suddenly felt like I was in neutral.  I pulled over to the side of the road and saw that the nut that holds the sprocket to the engine was gone.  The shaft was just spinning inside of the sprocket so there was no drive.  I carry a few spare nuts and bolts and a good selection of tools with me but this wasn’t something I was going to be able to fix.  I made the decision that my ride may be over but Rob and Josh could still finish.  Being on a paved road in good weather with plenty of water and food I felt find waiting for the van and sent them off to try to finish.

I hit the “help” button on my spot tracker which was set up to send Ted a text message to his phone with my coordinates.  I was prepared to wait for an hour or two but was pleasantly surprised to see the van arrive not 5 minutes later!  Turns out Ted had not even seen the message on his phone yet but this was the same route he was taking anyway and he saw my bike on the side of the road.

Ted and Seth (who dropped out earlier due to a blown head gasket and was riding with Ted) stopped and looked at the problem.  They thought they could get me back in the race and quickly ran to the next town to find a hardware store and picked up an assortment of nuts and washers in what they thought was roughly the right size.  The biggest nut they could find was a 16mm but turns out we needed a 17mm which is an odd size and not something you were likely to find in a regular hardware store.  So, I was officially out and we loaded up the DRZ.

Based on the rough estimates we expected to see the guys at the Camel Chute, the final checkpoint, at around 5:30 PM.  With the time spent trying to get my bike ready we were concerned they might beat us there but when we rolled in and asked if team “Live Free or Die” has come through yet they said that none of the teams had gotten there yet.  Evidently the section before this was slower than expected.

We parked the van and got comfortable since it looked like we would be there for a while.  The first team didnt’ make it there until after 6PM.  This was “Flanny” and Dan who were Seth’s teammates.  They were making amazing time but unfortunately it wasn’t “offical” since they were down to just 2 riders.  Still they were making amazing time since at the previous checkpoint they were a ways behind the leaders and now had a good lead.  But, the real shocking thing about them is Dan was doing this with a broken wrist!  He had broken his wrist much earlier in the day and managed to keep riding.  Even more socking is he is a doctor and should know better lol!

Teams were stretched out a good bit at this point and a few mentioned that the previous trail section was extremely difficult.  A few trees had fallen making some very difficult obstacles to get over or around.  We kept hoping to see Rob and Josh roll in but as the cutoff came closer we started to loose hope.  At this point we didn’t know if they were still even on the trail or not and might have gone straight to Dacre.  We wanted to get tents set up before dark so once the 8:30 cutoff time passed we left a gas can with the check workers so they would have fuel and headed off to Dacre.  We later learned that we missed them by just a few minutes.

I figured I would be nice and set up their tents.  After 17 grueling hours on a bike I figured they would be in no mood to set up a tent in the dark.   We were eating dinner in the community center when around 9:30 or so they stumbled in, covered in mud and looking completely beat.  Turns out Josh’s bike had run out of fuel and they needed to get fuel out of the WR to keep him going.  The original plan is I was carrying the extra fuel on the DRZ.  Getting fuel out of the WR was a bit slower and between that and getting stuck in mud and having to cross the downed trees took just enough time that they missed the cutoff by around 10 minutes.

Rob at the end of a grueling day. Photo courtesy of Seth Strait.

In the end I believe 10 of the 22 teams completed the full course with all team members intact.  This years course was MUCH more difficult than the one 2 years ago.  I believe the winning team did it in under 12 hours in 2010 while this time the winning team was over 15 hours.  Still they had a higher percentage of riders who finished the course this year, likely due to the better weather (in 2010 it rained most of the day) and better preparation by many riders.

This really is an amazing event and well organized by the guys at Rally Connex.  Ontario really has become one of my favorite areas to ride and I will certainly be back whether it be the Dacre or just up there riding for fun.


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2 Responses to The 2012 Dacre Challenge

  1. Terry Young says:

    Nice write up. I worked the last checkpoint and heard some of these stories as riders and crew arrived.

    If you liked your riding in Ontario please consider the Calabogie Boogie Trail Ride or Dual Sport Ride Sept 8 & 9. I do the layout for the D-S ride and it will likely use much of the same trails as the last section of the Dacre challenge again this year. It will also be designed with options for those riders not looking for rocks or mud.

  2. Graham says:

    2010 fastest time was 13h 15min… Agree it was not as challenging as this year.

    Good write up….

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