As we set off from home on Friday morning I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to take part in the rally as I was 12 days post-rib-breaking from our slip in Romania. I was very pleased when we had been riding for a while and I was able to report no problems. I could even get on and off the bike reasonably easily.
After a quiet ride across to Germany we arrived at the interesting-looking hotel -the entire front was a large conservatory – and into the pre-rally routine of bike and rider checks. We were hoping to have arrived early enough to have been able to have a couple of hours kip as Kevin hadn’t slept well for two nights and we knew it would be a very late night; somehow it just didn’t happen. We met up with fellow IBA UK members John and Gerald and some of our other European friends too, so spent the time catching up instead.
At 19.45 after a very nice meal we all trooped into the pre-rally briefing and this was our first real indication that we were entered a ‘foreign’ event – sitting at the back listening to what were presumably very interesting words of encouragement and instruction and not understanding a single word! The presentation was cleverly done though as the narrative was in German and the slides in English so we had a fair idea of what was going on. We were also fortunate in that we had entered the Brit Butt Rally earlier in the year so understood most of the rules. There were lots of animated questions, especially once the rally book had been distributed – 81 bonus point opportunities with several high-scoring combinations available.
Once back in our room Kevin sketched out a rough route fairly quickly but as it was too long the hard work of deciding which bonuses to ditch began. The key is ensuring it can be ridden within the 24 hours allowed whilst maximising the points gained. We made the most of Gerhard’s offer that he would be in the building until midnight for individual questions once we had decided which bonuses we would visit. Eventually, at about 00.15, our final effort was ready. We kicked off AutoRoute to see if optimisation would suggest any changes and left it chuntering away to itself whilst we slept. A quick revisit at 03.30 showed only two waypoints that needed to be swapped and our final hours of sleep were too short before we had to get up.
At 07.30 we were waved off by Gerhard and his team and we rode towards our first bonus of the day, the Mintader Bridge over the Ruhr and its graffiti. We arrived just after one of the other competitors and a third bike pulled up as we were finishing – obviously a popular bonus.
Our next bonus was a lovely statue of an old couple in Bad Westernkotten and both Kevin and I had to be in the picture. Our new camera proved nice and easy to use and Kevin set up the timer then ran round to be in the picture without any problems.
Four further waypoints and a delay while some unfortunate bike rider (not in the rally) was lifted into a helicopter following a spill saw us through to lunch time and a timed bonus for a whopping 8000+ points which I think everyone must have gone for. We approached the site via one of our many diversions. It must have been national ‘shut a road’ weekend; I think I counted 9 roads we had planned to go down during our 24 hours that were closed. We met the Rally Team at the large barn in Zilly that hosts the museum and spent an enjoyable quarter of an hour wandering round and staring at the centre piece of the museum – the Harzer Biker Schmiede. This is a huge trike with a tank motor that would make even the biggest Harley engine look like a watch-battery – 38,000 cc!
We rode on and, after another detour caused by road closure, found ourselves at a biker’s rendezvous – the twisty road to the top of the Kyffhäuser Mountain – to take a photo of the monument from a specific location outside a café. There were hundreds of bikers enjoying the late summer sunshine and the bends in the hills. We followed a guy up the road on his bike and sidecar. I think he thought he was Rossi the way he was hanging off the bike going one way and leaning out over the sidecar the other way. It was a good job he was entertaining as he was far too wide to get past! He had to practically stop before every bend to wind-up the engine ready to heave it round! He certainly seemed to be enjoying himself, as were the spectators parked up at every bend.
By half past four we were beginning to get too hot and our next stop was at the Panorama museum in Bad Frankenhausen, a huge modern ‘fortress’ building on top of a hill. We parked up and I volunteered to go to buy something from the museum café to obtain the receipt required for the bonus proof while Kevin took out his jacket liners to stop him melting. I definitely got the raw end of the stick. It was about a half-mile walk up hill and, just as I thought I must nearly be there, a further pathway opened up and it was even further than it had seemed!
German car drivers don’t seem to like people on motorcycles much. There was often little co-operation as we were overtaking anywhere other than autobahns but two drivers on the way to Craula really took the biscuit. We’d overtaken a line of cars and were about to re-enter the queue as something was coming the other way. There was a gap longer than the length of a car between the vehicles but two drivers obviously decided they’d sooner see us wiped out by oncoming traffic than maintain the gap and both of them closed on the car in front in an attempt to prevent us re-joining the near side of the road. There then followed a quick game of chicken which saw the leading car of the two wipe some of its paint off on our nearside pannier before (s)he realised we really were coming back in whether they wanted us to or not and dropped back to their previous position. I have no idea what goes through these people’s minds. I’m pleased to report all the paint was theirs and our pannier was unmarked once it had been wiped off.
A quick visit to the Doppelkurbel-Kniehebel-Tiefziehpresse(!) in Eisenach was followed by our last Saturday daylight bonus at Point Alpha, a Cold War lookout post, where we met one of the other riders just finishing his stop. We didn’t realise at the time that we were entering East Germany but we did see a lot of derelict factories which made us wonder. (Geography is definitely not one of our strong points!).
By now it was dark and the bonuses would be harder to find. The first one was advertised as needing a 600m walk to find the ‘centre point of the EU’. We rode down the trail through a wood and saw what we assumed was a parking spot with some benches. Thinking that the point we were looking for would be 600m further down we continued while wishing we were on the GS. Eventually the road degenerated sufficiently that we parked up and resigned to walking to the spot. After quite a long walk we decided we must have overshot then spotted a sign pointing back the way we had come. We were just about to get back on the bike when another rally rider came along –Anouscha on her Harley. We exchanged greetings and rode back up together. Unfortunately we overshot the turning and ended up doing another U turn whilst Anouscha carried on. We found the spot (the ‘parking spot’ we’d passed) and took our photo as Anouscha came back into view; she’d actually found someone to ask.
One of the special bonuses was to send the Rallymaster an SMS text between 10pm and 11pm. We tried but were having problems with ‘no signal’. At one of our stops to try again Kevin decided we were ahead of schedule and we could extend our route. So, whilst I tried to text he modified the route to add one bonus point, the gallows at Beerfelden (Note from Kevin: This proved to be a mistake which cost us quite a few points as we ended up behind schedule and had to miss bonus points towards the end of the ride. Lyn did try to suggest it wasn’t a good idea at the time but I disagreed; I was wrong. In future I will definitely adopt a modified maxim from diving – plan the ride and ride the plan.) [addition from Lyn…’and listen to my wife!’]
We had to make a compulsory one-hour rest stop which we completed standing at a Service Station. Kevin always finds it harder to stop than to carry on so he was pacing round the garage, stretching, eating peanuts etc., anything but sleeping. Still, it was an hour off the bike which is always a blessing.
At 01:47 we found ourselves wandering round in the pitch black of a hill-top car park (which had an empty car in it) in the middle of nowhere outside Beerfeldener looking for a large stone in front of a gallows! We found a stone that looked promising but the wording was wrong. Further investigation failed to show the stone we needed to photograph so we assumed we were in the wrong place. We rode down the road a bit further but when we noticed signs pointing back to where we’d just been we knew we were wrong, so…back to the car park.
To the side was a small copse of trees. Perhaps that was it? It looked like there was a bit of a grave yard so we wandered in. Gulp! There was a stone and, yes, it did have the right text! Behind it was the gallows – a tripod of stone pillars apparently built in 1597 to replace the wooden originals and last used in 1804. We’d found it. I was very glad when the picture was taken and we were able to leave. It was definitely the spookiest place I’ve been to!
We were riding along quite nicely and were en-route to a good bonus point in St. Goarshausen when Mrs Sat Nav said “Continue along the road then board ferry”. “Ferry??!!” we both said together and just laughed, there wouldn’t be any ferries at that time of the morning. Another lesson learned – make sure we know if ferries are on the route. A quick U-turn, edit the route to remove the waypoint and we were off again.
While bombing along the motorway Kevin announced that he had to stop for a sleep so we stopped for about half an hour. I heroically played iPhone Scrabble while he snoozed; I lost!
Then we were on our way again to our last achievable bonus which was at the point where Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium meet. This one meant a lot of points as there were essentially two-bonuses-for-the-price-of-one as there were two monuments that could be captured, the other being the highest point in The Netherlands.
Time was beginning to run out and we hurried to get the pictures. We weren’t really sure we had the right one and it was only as we were riding out that we saw what it was we really should have photographed. More time taken as we had to get off the bike again. As we came out of the park we took a wrong turn and ended up in Belgium! Not right, so yet another U turn!
We were very conscious of Gerhard’s reiteration of the standard IBA Rally rule – ‘One second late and you DNF’. The Sat Nav said we were going to be 5 minutes late if we continued as we were. Luckily, at the time of day we were riding there was not a lot of traffic around and we were riding on autobahns with no speed limit so Kevin was able to open the bike up and we made good progress. We thought it was all over when turning from one motorway to another we ended up on the wrong one! Luckily there was another way back to the correct road which only cost us about 5 minutes. We finally rolled into the finish post with 4 minutes to spare – we’d made it!!
All that was needed now was to complete the paperwork and present ourselves and the evidence for scrutiny. This can be a bit of an ordeal with points left on the table if the jury find something wrong but we lost no points there thankfully.
As the results were read out we were getting happier and happier. Thankful to have finished at all it looked like we would get a top 20 place, then top 10. Eventually our names were read out – we’d got 4th with 942 miles ridden and 36040 points.
Our Bonuses (in order)
Mintarder Bridge , Bad Westernkotten , Wolfhagen , Krebeck  (I thought that was in Canada!), Drei Annen Hohne , Zilly , Kelbra , Bad Frankenhausen , Craula , Eisenach , Geisa , Meerholz , Geo-Siamese (9 and 16) , SMS Bonus , Mandatory Rest Stop , Raststätte Spessart , Beerfelden , Mainz , Länder (Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands) , Vaals , MBS GmbH .
We’d like to thank Gerhard and his team for the excellent organisation; the team was very welcoming, the food was great and the rally book was superb! Thank you IBA Germany for a great weekend.
Click here for our Bonus Photo’s.