Hogsback Rally Raid - Testing the Batt X-Terrain By John Harris – Part 1 of 2

Article by John Harris | Instructor: CountryTrax

As most adventure riders will know, tyre debates have been ongoing for many years, it’s probably one of the most debated topics among fellow adventure riders.

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Most riders try to purchase the tyre which will deliver the best mileage, but also the most grip. There is a reason why our Motor GP idols don’t use normal street tyres on the track, and adventure or off road riding is no exception. Being a firm believer in making adventure riding as easy as possible for myself, I choose my rubber based on the venture I choose to complete. When moving to remote places with zero backup, reliability will be key, as I tend to move a little slower given that medical backup may also not be available. There are, however, times when grip means everything, despite the possibility of a sidewall cut.

Grip was one of the main considerations we attended the annual Rally Raid weekend in Hogsback. With a wet outlook towards the weekend, we called Bruce from Bike Tyre Warehouse (BTW) to see what rear tyres he would have available for us. We all had fairly fresh rubber on the front of our adventure bikes, ranging from Mitas E-13s, Anakee Wilds to the popular Karoo 3s. Bruce was happy to give us options, but with a new shipment of the Batt X-Terrains just offloaded, having tested some of these for Bruce in the past, I convinced my mates to try same. A bit of a spot check on whether my perceptions would be mirrored by my friend, just to make sure I knew what I was talking about and was not just a keyboard junkie.

Rally Raid – Day 0

I really do love my KTM 890 Adventure R Rally, but it’s a bit like an ironing board if you do extended kilometres on a day, therefore I convinced the group that we should trailer down to “De Vlei farm”, a hunters paradise, owned by my brother in law, just outside Cradock for the first night. And then taking the trek down to Hogsback.

The hunters’ cabin being solar and gas powered, was a good starting point where we were treated to a game drive and sundowner on my brother in laws Unimog. This also allowed us to pack a bit smarter and ensure that most of the duplicate tools were removed amongst the riders.

Our solar power drained out around 21h00 if I recall correctly, but this did not stop the festivities from continuing through the night.

Rally Raid – Day 1 (De Vlei to Hogsback)

Having been very involved with the logistics of the trip, I was demoted to being the logistics guy, arranging accommodation, fuel stops and acting as the group mechanic, while Pierre Ackerman took over as the route captain and planned a really good route for us.

The route comprised eleven passes, known to man, but not to us. Riding was mostly twin and single track roads, with shorts bursts on open gravel highways and even less tar. As a person who plans most rides I go on, I learned that we should give other adventure riders a chance to do some of the planning. Pierre did an awesome job of the route and I believe I would not have planned a better route myself.

We crossed some amazing scenery, crossing the likes of the Swaerhoek Pass, Tarka-Botha Pass, Tarka Pass before joining the N10 just outside Mortimer.

Having been very involved with the logistics of the trip, I was demoted to being the logistics guy, arranging accommodation, fuel stops and acting as the group mechanic, while Pierre Ackerman took over as the route captain and planned a really good route for us.

The route comprised eleven passes, known to man, but not to us. Riding was mostly twin and single track roads, with shorts bursts on open gravel highways and even less tar. As a person who plans most rides I go on, I learned that we should give other adventure riders a chance to do some of the planning. Pierre did an awesome job of the route and I believe I would not have planned a better route myself.

We crossed some amazing scenery, crossing the likes of the Swaerhoek Pass, Tarka-Botha Pass, Tarka Pass before joining the N10 just outside Mortimer.

Up until that point, travelling was dry, with some nice little rocky sections and the BATT X-Terrain tyres really held up well, as could be expected. There was enough drive from the rear to steer the front over the loose pebbles with ease. At some point I recall that it became a game of point and shoot for most of us, jumping the hoops and really having fun, shortly after we reached the N10.

With some bystanders on the N10, it was time to see if these rears liked the odd wheelie and some wheelie practice with the shouts and claps from the locals were done, before the tail end of group two arrived. It was only once I ended up back home, that I realized these 6th gear wheelies rip off the knobbies from the front with ease, once you put the wheel down on tarmac.

With our wheelie check done, the group set off, crossing the Great Fish river to ride over Waainek Pass with a turnoff over the mountain on a single trail to Somerset East. Group 1 a.k.a. the Rabbits, missed the turnoff and covered a long stretch of unnecessary tar kilometres, missing out on Waainek, but from what I understand Slagersnek was slaughtered on their ride to Somerset East.

Having refuelled our bodies, we were ready to hit the graveyard shift, to Hogsback. It was close to 13h00 and at this point we had about 300 kms to go. Our work was cut out; if we wanted to finish!

Slagtersnek Pass, Wienandsnek Pass, De Beers Pass, Braambos Pass, Bosnek Pass, Fuller’s Hoek Pass and Pefferskop Pass were all on the agenda.

With time ticking, the Rabbits convinced us that there was not much to see on Slagtersnek Pass and we leapfrogged to Cookhouse and ultimately to the Wienandsnek Pass turnoff on the R63. We continued to ride De Beers Pass, which had some amazing scenery and continued to the top of Braambos Pass.

At this point we had to re-evaluate our situation and decided to do a Beeline to Hogsback. Little did we know that our newly found route would take us over Katberg pass, one of the technical passes to be included the following day for Rally Raid.

We proceeded towards Katberg pass climbing and climbing until we started to descend. Going down Katberg included a lot of loose pebbles, with some slate and small drop offs, where you had to navigate cautiously. Some riders needed a little assistance with others still in the mindset of pointing and shooting. The Batt X-Terrain held up its end of the bargain and I could feel that I had enough feedback from the rear navigating down during the downhill braking. Towards the bottom of the pass, the woods started to cover the roads and the dry downhill turned into a wet twin track, yet still my combination worked well.

At Seymor, we decided to continue our original route which still included Pefferskop Pass, which should be called pothole pass, but continued until we hit the tar road to Hogsback.

With registration closing at 18h00 we arrived there with a couple of minutes to spare, keeping registration open until all our mates arrived. We were welcomed by the Red Cherry team with a free beer, before disembarking to our tents and having a scrumptious dinner at the hotel.

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