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GoldRiver400 - Les Chemins Sauvage. The adventure begins…

Dualsport Trials - hierarchy of tests

  1. Riding challenge - 300km or so of backcountry gravel roads per day

  2. Navigation challenge - follow a Gaia route or navigate by Roadbook

  3. Timekeeping challenge - keep to set average speeds and pass GPS gates on time.

Every adventure begins and ends with a meal. The Dwarves eating Frodo out of house and home, the round the table meal in Alien after the crew came out of cryosleep, just before someone's chest exploded... the Wedding Breakfast......

Our trip on Saturday began and ended at Sayward Junction with a breakfast burger of the best fairground variety (bun, burger, fried egg, droopy cheese slices and lashings of tomato sauce) and a dinner of liver and onions with thick, thick gravy and mashed potato, washed down with a couple of pints of lager as I wasn't driving. Man food!

The Crossroads pub and restaurant IS the place to be!

You may have previously read the format of next year's GR4 is going to be a little different to previous editions as the roads immediately out of Gold River are becoming familiar now and I am in search of fresh horizons. Motorcyclists and armies share a need for food and fuel. Roads out of Gold River lead to Woss and Sayward Junction where there is plenty of both.

There will be three event classes:

  • Exploration (Gaia navigation) - with shortened days to bypass difficult bits

  • Navigation (by Roadbook) - also with bypasses

  • Challenge (Roadbook and Richta time/speed/distance) - Full Monty

Participants can switch between the classes mid-event in response to their fortunes but in order to qualify for the awards riders must complete all four days of Challenge routes.

The GR4 routes-proper will begin after transfer stages from Gold River to either Woss or SJ for second breakfast and fuel before exploring new-to-us gravel roads north and south of the Highway 19 corridor, then a second stop for more food and more fuel before returning to GR along familiar roads.

Myself, Stuart and Gary (RE Himalayan) set out last Saturday to ride a proposed loop route starting and finishing at SJ. I had ridden part of the route previously, but most of it was new to me. According to the method, I had picked out the proposed route on Gaia then set out to ride it in order to demonstrate that it could be done or finding out which passages don't go, find out how difficult it was (is/will be) and make some notes to aid writing the roadbook.

I will try hard not to give too many clues away while giving accurate information about the terrain, hazards, distances and the like - but enough to pique your interest and whet your appetites...

The first part of the route is a fairly steep and loose gravel FSR climb. Not technically difficult, just requires a little determination with speed and throttle to keep your forwards momentum high especially around the hairpin bends.

The route then passes through the Newcastle Ridge forest fire perimeter. It was a little sobering to see the scorched forest mountainside and to think about what it might have been like up close when the fire was burning... I suppose the mountainside will now be left for a number of years while the forestry industry gets around to preparing the land for the future.

Next bit is a bypassable "crinkly bit"...

Some steep, loose, airy climbs and traverses. The challenge is in the loose surfaces and the steepness around (more) hairpin bends. We are not talking exposed single track/deer path difficult. Gary was able to tackle the difficulties without problem on his Himalayan (and the descents once he had turned the ABS off!).

This section will have a bypass for those feeling their way with a new bike - but there will be a Richta control point along it to monitor those riding the Challenge class.

I will be more explicit about the next bit. On the map it looks like there is a rideable loop from the Adam River Rd up to Windy Point and back: There isn't!

There are two bridges missing to complete this loop... by the appearance of the bridge remnants, the bridges were removed many years ago. The recreation site at the end of this not-loop can be reached by wheeled vehicles via the western arm of this loop but the eastern arm ends in two places at a bridgeless ravine.

We won't be going this way!

After a fruitless 90 minutes we returned to the Adam River Rd and pressed on with our recconnaisance.

The next long section was rather straightforward and won't present any difficulties but will be an opportunity to see backcountry Vancouver Island.

The last testing section will be familiar to some - a climb into the clouds (on some days - I did it in snow this May) followed by a hairy-scary descent that was so much fun I wanted to turn round and do it again - until I looked at how far up it was! This too is bypassable and the Roadbook will give details on how to miss this not out. There will be a Control Point in this bit to track the Challenge riders.

Then return to SJ by straightforward gravel roads before food/fuel/rest and transfer back to Gold River.

We did just short of 200km on Saturday, including the fruitless track up to Windy Point, so expect around 180km plus 160km transfer to and from GR for a day total of 340km.

The final version of this day may alter a little but it will be suitable for easy moderate and "as hard as these routes ever are" difficulty by missing out different bits.

"I think we're going on an adventure!"...

JDB 28/08/23

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