By Frank Hoess
Photos By Kit Palmer

International Six Day Enduro, Czech Republic

Six Days always starts off as a special test just to find the Parc Ferme and the USA?s residence. It seemed extremely difficult to navigate to the race town, Jablonec Nad Nisou, which is about two hours northeast of Prague. The road signs were terrible and to compound the navigating dilemma, the previous month?s flooding made for closed roads and unbelievable detours. Our hotel was almost 45 minutes from the start!

The container with our bikes was actually at the parc ferme on time! However, our team was scheduled to be the second to impound on Friday morning between 8:30 and 10:30. Unfortunately we were not able to get into the container until Thursday morning. So as usual we had no time for testing and preparation.

Of course I believe that if you have 40 hours to prepare you bike you?ll spend 40 hours and if you have one day to get it done, somehow in one day it gets done. I like to use every possible minute to get ready because I thought that once the race began there would not be a minute to do any setup or maintenance. So as U.S. riders began to trickle in we soon discovered that kickstands were mandatory. Ahh, there?s the first thing I thought about but didn?t bring. The organizers wanted an attached stand to the motorcycle that they wanted to see on the sixth day. Usually a triangle or some other type of stand is sufficient for impound, which is what I had sent in the US container. Not this year.

It?s now 10:15 a.m. Friday and I?m searching for a permanent side-stand. There?s one at the Factory Husqvarna Truck but I have no way to attach it to the frame. After making a mount, we needed a welder. The English Army Team had a gas welder, but the stand was pretty sketchy with the gas welding. There was only one country with an arc-welder and that was Portugal, and they wouldn?t let me weld it, they had to do it. Seemed ok at the time and what can you do, I?m glad to just get it on there. I was the last U.S. rider to impound at 5 that evening.

We were forewarned that speeding on the roads was not an option and if stopped and ticketed, disqualification would result. It seemed to rain every day at some point and was generally really cold in the morning. Just above freezing. The first day was no different with a cold rain for my start time, riding number 10 the third minute out. I knew that I was starting earlier than prior years but it really was crazy when I finished my first loop and the last American was just starting his day. Once outside the parc ferme we hit the asphalt and were wide open. So much for not speeding. Nothing like freezing, riding on wet roads, watching for police, and trying to find the arrows and trail.

For me the first couple of tests are just trying to get acquainted with the motorcycle, terrain and trying to concentrate on which test is coming up and coordinate that with the 10 tests we previously walked. The first half of the day is usually the difficult part because you have to learn the loop and the times, tests, etc. Times were tight and we were flying down the roads and just about wide open on the trails. Everything is going about normal and I get through the first test and then the second test of that section when the bike starts pinging and detonating. I think it has lost a little water and I?ll slow down a little to make it to the check. But it gets worse and it starts to steam and smoke. The trail has us basically in the middle (at least to me) of nowhere. There?s nothing I can do except to keep going until I get to the control or find some water. As luck would have it the bike just about seized when I crest this little hill and I stop and directly in front of me is a course marshal. Not only is it a marshal, his bright orange bib has a number one on it! What are the odds? So I ask him if he has any water. He doesn?t understand. I try different languages, nothing. I try pointing and eventually he gets it, but he has no water.

I look around and I see a church steeple way off in the distance. There is a little overgrown two-track leading in that direction. I start pushing the bike, but he won?t let me go. We play a friendly tug-of-war. It takes me a minute to figure out that he wants me to take his Jawa/Cz 1950s scooter. I couldn?t even figure out how to start it. The shift lever was positioned like a kick-starter! So I get going with full riding gear on down this trial with these 12-inch diameter tires. As I beat my way to the church, nearly crashing 10 times, I get there and run around it and don?t see any water. I left the scooter running because I didn?t think I would get it running again. I dig through the dumpster and find a two-liter bottle. I go back around the outside of the church again and see this spigot with a hand pump on it, and I try it and out comes water. HOLY WATER!!!!!!!! This must be good stuff.

I get back to the bike and fill it up with water and try to start it. Locked up. Turn the bike upside down and drain out the water, put a new plug in and pushed it down the hill towards the church, for about 3 or 4 tenths before it starts. I say thanks to the marshal and head to the check. I didn?t put any more water in it, when it was not running, because it would just lock up. I was about 25 minutes late to the control and rode the bike the rest of the loop (90-plus miles) and tests with no water in it, filling up only when it was running and trying not to lose any more route points.

I make it to the parc ferme, take it apart and fix the O-rings and replace the head and rear tire without losing any more time.

I really wanted a gold medal because in ?91 (Czechoslovakia) I had a flat tire and wound up with silver. Well, I thought, I have gold and silver, so a bronze would complete the collection.
Turns out everyone lost time at that control so they gave us our time back, and I had an early Christmas present.

Day two was the same as day one in reverse. I tried not to freeze in the morning and stay dry. Impossible. I also tried to save the motorcycle. Made it through and was happy the bike lasted another day. Waved to my marshal buddy when I spotted him.

Day Three, new course and wet terrain. This was the day with two ski slope tests. The one had really wicked off-cambers and the other had super steep mountains. The time to the controls were reasonable but you had to pay attention. Also being on number 10 didn’t help with the off-cambers on the tests. This is why I made sure I had new tires every night for the next day. I was stopped by the police for no working headlight; told them I would fix it. Bike was running, not great but good, like a semi-clapped out 115cc. The ski slopes and muddy tests were taking a toll on the bike.

Didn?t have time to fix the light, was stopped again and told them I would fix it. Crashed in the last test and completely wrecked the headlight! Now I really have to fix it. Actually it broke at the mounts to the forks as well as the light being cracked. Slight problem, as it is a marked part. Fortunately after some discussions with officials I found out, as I thought, we could replace it and have it remarked. Getting a new backing and number was a hassle. Waved to my marshal buddy when I saw him again today.

Day Four was the same a day three but in reverse. The tests were mostly run in the same direction. It was really raining hard. I knew several of the tests would be tough. They were either so slick you couldn?t say on the track or the ruts were so deep you couldn?t go forward. The ruts were actually up to my gas tank! The bike was not happy with the day. After the ski slope test with the mountains in the bike was running like a seriously clapped out 105 cc bigbore. Hey, it was still running and I had top ten times overall. Of course they threw out those tests because some key Czech riders had problems. Waved to my marshal and changed my tires and air filter.

Day Five, first section, it was raining and the fog and mist was so dense you had to navigate by the tree lines and curbs on the roads. All of the first riders through the first control were late. So much for that yellow medal. But you never stop putting in 100 percent, that is the spirit of the ISDE. In the first test that kick-stand that had sketchy gas and arc welding, somehow wedged itself between the shifter and foot peg, making for a test that I think they took my time with a sundial. Changed more tires and wave to my marshal buddy.

Day Six, the organizers threw out the first check! Another Christmas present in September. Got to the final moto and saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Worked on the bike, no major adjustments and impounded for the final moto. My moto was the first one starting at 10:30. I thought I had plenty of time to change at the car, which was about 1 mile away. While there I heard my moto start. The bikes were actually lined up at the gate! I ran to my bike and was the last one out for the practice lap. I told you I like to use every possible minute to get ready. The final moto was five laps of a great test. I think the bike finally sucked the rest of the chrome off the cylinder. When I crossed that finish line I knew that the bike gave me everything it had and then some.

The final moto was set up great for spectating as I watched and cheered on my fellow American team members. It was truly an ISDE that would test both the rider?s ability and the bikes endurability. It is just as hard sometimes to get a gold as it is to get a bronze. The bottom line is that when everything is going wrong, teamwork, experience, and perseverance can help you come out on top. That?s what the ISDE is about!

I can?t thank all the friends and family that give of their time and money to help the American team. They work very hard and help keep us going when it gets tough.


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