Sticks and Stones - Red Bull Romaniacs

Set in Dracula’s own backyard, Romaniacs is five days of sheer hell for bikes and riders as enduro racers from all over the world tackle the toughest race in the world

Romania. home to Dracula, the Carpathian mountains, the maddest drivers on earth, and, as of five years ago, the Red Bull Romaniacs extreme enduro rally. This race has built up from very humble beginnings thanks to the hard work of Martin Freinadametz and his team. Martin is an ex-pro snowboarder from Austria. This man is a lunatic, so his concept for one of the toughest off-road races on earth using the carpathian mountain range just outside the city of Sibiu in mid-romania had to involve a high level of horror. The man has succeeded in making a terrifying race which involves lethal street racing as well as madness in the mountains with killer descents and vertical hill-climbs blended with river crossings, rock climbing with your bike on ropes swinging across ravines and punishing long days in the saddle. you could say it was tough.

The racing is on road-legal enduro bikes, as there are some liaison sections on the roads around the Sibiu area. My race bike came from the kind gentle humans of KTM UK, in the shape of an ’09 300 EXC two stroke, complete with the electric start. I raced the ’07 race on a 300 EXC and it proved to be a great tool for this event, taking my sometimes slightly angry self (people call me Angry Geoff, I don’t know why) to a 12th place Pro class finish. So this year, I was hoping for a Top 10. Romaniacs is growing and this year the entries were up to around 250 racers. Absolutely every rider in the event is gaga in some way or other and this is the buzz about the event.

The street-based prologue section qualifies each rider for their start position on the mountain stage days of which there are four. These trips to hell have time limits, around nine hours to complete each day’s riding of 200kms of off- road misery. The organisers try to eliminate as many riders as possible early on in the event as the less people killing themselves on their course the better. so with ‘Spode,’ my trusty sidekick and mechanic at my side, we pitched headlong into the chaos of Romaniacs. but first, we had to get there...

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Getting to Romania, like, how?

Getting to Romania. Like, how?

The road-trip is all part of the adventure and for this year Spode, myself and new team member Irish Stu were lucky enough to secure the use of the ISO2 nutrition camper or, as Spode would refer to it, the Plastic Penis. This spanking camper would be charged with taking us and two bikes, as well as a mountain of kit and parts in an easterly direction across Europe. England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Austria, Hungary and finally Romania. Simple as that!

The trip started well and was a smooth run for the duration, there were only a few hiccups along the way with the usual RTA’s getting under our wheels. when you see a helicopter parked across the carriageways in Germany you can be sure that someone has bought the farm. Spode and Irish piloted the bus perfectly and the odd wrong turn was greeted with massive amounts of northern Irish anger. The journey is generally smooth until the road out of hungary and into romania turns into single carriageway about an hour from the border.

The madness begins at this point as all of a sudden every car, truck, van and motorcycle seems to become hell-bent on being part of death-race 2000! There is no other way to describe the driving and telepathy techniques the drivers seem to use as they overtake on every blind bend. I have travelled all over the world and I am yet to experience a scarier place to drive than Romania (try Egypt, fella – Ed), it was so bad this year that even the street hookers were wearing high visibility jackets! we managed to make it to Sibiu in one piece and it is a ground-kissing experience upon arrival.

The doctor in the hotel took a look at the hole in my elbow and decided it needed to be cleaned out romanian style. The guy decided to soak a bit of bandage with some cleaning gear and proceeded to insert his finger InsIde my elbow to clean it out. I was on the point of passing out so I fought him off and took a seat. He was pushing into the wound and I could feel a lump moving around in there and so, it seemed, could he. Sadistic bastard. A field dressing went on and with the mad doc wanting to see me in the morning, I told him I was number 585 ‘Mr Van Hoodleschmitt’ and promptly left before he could dig around in me any more.

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The Main Event

The Main Event

First thing as far as riding was concerned was the half-hour practice on the street circuit. This gives everyone a chance to test the crazy course and take some time to master the obstacles as generally they always look worse than they are, but equally they are often worse than they look. From experience in this session I was trying to give plenty of room to the other riders when approaching a blind obstacle, the fallen tree ride. I gave a Husaberg-riding German plenty of time on this part of the course as he was looking dodgy on the sections.

I stupidly thought I had given him enough time to clear the log but the guy had wobbled off the trunk and was laying in the departure lounge part of the tree. I tried to launch my Toomer over him and his bike and went down like a sack of shit. Nice! Elbow and shoulder took the brunt of the contact with concrete. I thought for a second that it was all over. That would be bad. I dusted off and rode another couple of laps struggling to hold on before deciding to pack it in.

Day One - Prologue

To say I feel nervous would be an understatement, and as I look around it’s apparent I’m not the only rider stressing about making a mistake and going out on the first day. one small error in the prologue and it’s curtains for the event and to top it off, the rain has poured down during the night. With the Nurofens down my neck I was a bit shaky but ready to go. Hands on helmets, dead engine start. Flag dropped, BS stopped and it was off to hell! A heady mix of logs, tyres, trees, rocks, ramps, concrete, buildings and tarmac followed and riders were going down big style. I ran as high as second on the first lap and traded places with Forster on the factory BMW a couple of times on that lap. Paul bolts off like a scalded cat and no-one was going to touch him.

I got to see a lot of the growing legend that is ‘special’ Greg evans as the Welshman would rip past, only for me to check the soles of his boots on the next obstruction as he flew over the bars. Towards the end the first bit of ‘rule bending’ took place as riders were simply missing parts of the course out. There were guys racing for the podium who were just cutting out a section of track.

That’s how this event rolls. The rules are made up as the race grinds along. I guess that’s part of its charm and sometimes it works in your favour and sometimes against. The building sections caused a few problems. every lap there was a queue for the concrete stairs but it cleared pretty quickly after a bit of pushing and swearing. The no. 8 KTM (me) got me to the checkers in 11th place. I was absolutely pumped with the ride. There were so many Brits filling the results through all the classes, which was great to see. It was wicked to race with these guys and beat all the Johnny foreigners on the crazy streets of Sibiu.

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The mountains of day two

Day Two – The Mountains

Awesome climbs and a course laid out to make everyone feel sick right from the off. This is what Romaniacs is all about. They try to break you early in the event and if you don’t take your ‘A’ game to the mountains on day one, you’ll be punished. I got half way through the day and the Toomer was taking a pounding, we were running into the Top 5 at times as navigation was the key and some of the faster guys were getting lost while having to get used to the GPS. Just when I was remembering how to use the 300’s power to climb better the clutch went into meltdown near the summit of a tall technical climb. There was nothing at all left in it. I was going nowhere except back down the mountain to try and fix the problem.

At the bottom of the ascent was a stream, so I rolled the bike all the way back down and cooled the motor by laying the bike down in the river. Tools out and clutch removed, the plates were cooked and the fibre had melted and congealed with the oil. The plates also went in the stream to cool off and then I had to get a bit Ray Mears on it all, roughing up the friction plates using a small stone. Together with the removal of the outer pressure shim it was just enough to get the bike moving again. off down stream we went. Just a couple of Kilometres later I found a dirt track which led to some familiar territory, as I passed the bottom of the ravine where I had got stuck on the first off-road day in last year’s event! A couple of hours later I was back at the battle bus waiting for Spode and Irish.

There were stories and action unfolding all over the place. Brit Graham Jarvis was storming the course and took the lead, which was superb. I had used my one ‘joker’ day as the ‘rules’ state you can abandon one day but still return to the race the next day. As it was, the whole day was such a fuck-up with people getting lost and GPS tracks not working that only three or four pros actually made it to the finish and the organisers decided to allow an extra ‘abandon day.’ These crazy rule changes meant I dropped from 11th overall to 26th! what a difference a day makes.

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Navigating day two

Day Three – The Longest Day

A 6.15am start in the dark and rain of Romania is not ideal but that was how this day was gonna be. The two guys who laid out the course were riders from previous Romaniacs, so we were promised good things. This section was tough and had some technical parts, impossible bits and many of the fastest-flowing sections of the race.

One of the best things about Romaniacs is the people you meet during the hardest sections, and a couple of these people popped up in the form of Mike Morris and Gordon Johnston from South Africa. These two guys are some of the most friendly people on Earth and we buddied-up for a few tough parts of the day; South Africans are cool blokes and tough men. The day went reasonably smoothly with only a couple of special moments. At the finish of the day I was 24th and running 23rd in the rankings.

Day Four – Navigation

They told us we were in for a tough day and they were correct. We were climbing high and the weather was the biggest problem. The fog had closed in and we had to ride most of the day blind. You couldn’t see past the front fender, it really was that thick. The speeds at times were down to walking pace, even on what would be flat-out stuff as there was no way of knowing what was coming next. There were times when the fog would clear for just a second and you’d be staring at the edge of a cliff. The day was truly gruesome and the weather only lifted with 16kms to go.

The guy at the checkpoint told me I only had 30 minutes to get down off the mountain or I was going to time out of the day and be disqualified! The Toomer sang as we headed off down the mountain, rejuvenated by the fact that we could now see what was approaching. I have to say that too many chances were taken in that half hour of my life and I can’t actually remember ever riding as hard as that before. with seconds to spare and a three-metre waterfall to negotiate before the finish, the 300 went into launch mode and I just made it in time to finish 18th on the day.

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The final push

Day Five – The Final Push

Oh man, I got properly lost! I was happily riding along until I came across a bit of signage which sent me off-track with what I thought to be a P for ‘Pro’ together with an E for ‘expert.’ I thought they must be chucking in some unridden naughtiness so off I went, only to find a fully panicking organiser talking about an emergency track change. Turns out I shouldn’t have been up that trail and I lost a load of time while trying to get back on track from the ‘emergency’ change.

Dilemma number two was a stranded Richard Elwood on his CR250. Richard’s front sprocket bolt had fallen out which caused the sprocket to come off at high speed! The man was flat-out when it happened so there could have been massive carnage. when I rocked up and stopped to help, Richard was scratching his head and trying to assess the damage. I took one look at the situation and stood there scratching my head as well. The sprocket was wedged into a now broken swingarm and had also embedded itself into the Hondas aluminium frame as well as breaking the chain in the process.

We were in the middle of nowhere with only the most basic of tools and it looked like the only way to get the sprocket out was to take the swingarm off. Richard told me it was cool to haul ass and leave him there but that wouldn’t have been very British of me. I’d seen a small wooden shack down the mountain a bit. Surely no-one would live there? Just so happens that someone did, and the old woodman was coming out of his shack as I was walking down. I used universal tool-swing actions to let him know we needed a hammer and some kind of metal bar, so he took me into his place past the rabid animals and snarling devil-dogs and after some rustling around and talking to himself he came out of his living room/garage/bedroom/dining room with an old hammer and a couple of three foot-long metal bars.

A lot of grunting and hammering went on until the sprocket came out. Now it had to be fixed to the bike but the bolt had gone, chemical metal is a great thing and is always present in my Kreiga bum bag. Next stop was the chain, a bit more blacksmithing and the chain was back in shape leaving only the bent chainguide to straighten before we were able to set off. The man from the shack had stayed with us during the repair and was really happy when I gave him my Twix bar as a token of thanks.

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I left Richard and took off into the hills, coming across an expert rider who had taken a wrong turn onto one of our Pro-only routes. He was stuck and spinning holes in the hill. I told him he was off course and he told me he wasn’t. Which was fine, but he was in my way. I helped him out of the precarious position he was in and for about another 50 metres of hill, then shouted back up at him to see if I needed help with the same section of track but he simply cracked on! Fucking French twat - Angry Geoff surfaced and I ripped up through the hill, only to find the arrogant little shit lying in the track with his bike on top of him. now that made me smile, and I used him and his bike for traction while laughing as I rode over him.

Everything worked great after service and it was good to catch up with some British guys who were at the race spectating. One of the guys was dressed as a black bear in the woods and was jumping out on riders as they struggled up the mountain! The rest of the day went well and the run in to the finish was glorious riding in the loamy wet dirt. As I came out of the trees Spode and Irish Stu were there to greet me and I was so drained I couldn’t really get my head around reaching the end. I was kind of stunned and overwhelmed by it all. It was great we could get to the end as a team as everyone involved puts a lot of effort into that final moment. It was over for us and I was pretty emotional on the inside, it was great to see loads of other happy and excited Brits and as we sat down for a moment of celebration at the finish area I almost burst into tears. What a whoopsie!


We checked our result for the last day and overall. Geoff Walker on the no. 8 KTM was classed as ‘disqualified.’ That was a fat kick in the balls as all the riding was done and we had reached the finish, but I’d been seen riding on the road when the clutch was shot and that’s the luck of the draw. This race is not only about luck out there on the mountains, it’s also about how lucky you are with the circus of ‘organisation’. The rules with this event are pretty simple, there may as well not be any as some are used and some are simply ignored when the time is right. Maybe it will be sorted one day, but then it wouldn’t be the Romaniacs.

Ready to give it a go?

If you fancy a trip to the madness the plan is simple. Just get yourself onto and keep yourself updated with the news on when the event will take place as well as opening dates for entries.

Simply fill in an online form, pay the euros and prepare yourself for one hell of a ride in the homeland of that dude who sleeps during the day and bites people.