Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Trail-Rides Wales 27.08.06
Well I think it's about time I actually posted something so here goes. When I met up with Michelle and Iain at the HU meet in Ripley, we had such a good weekend that we all decided it would be a good idea to get a camping weekend in before the 'Big Trip'. After a bit of faffing with various dates and deciding to tie in the weekend with a bit of off-roading practice, we settled on Wales where 'Trail-Rides Wales' (http://www.trailrides-wales.com) are based.
Unfortunately Iain was serving time in DIY Gaol getting his flat ready for letting (something I actually need to do myself but think fitting bathrooms is a bit more involved than clearing out cupboards) so I headed down to Devils Bridge campsite to meet up with Michelle who got there about 2 hours before me. After some dodgy fish and chips, a few beers with a group of Harley riders from Grimsby and brushing my teeth with foot cream in the dark, it was off to bed.
So on sunday morning, we set off for the trail ride meeting point at some unpronounceable forestry car park not too far from the campsite. As we were using our own bikes, apart from an Africa Twin, looking around at rest of the lighter machines with knobblies on, we started to get a little bit apprehensive. And as it turned out, we were right to. The morning started off with a group of around 8 or so riders lead by Colin and we headed off up the track into the hills.
It became quickly apparent that the Tourance tires we both had on really didn't get on with the mud/wet grass of which there was quite a bit but on the gravel, they seemed fine. Anytime I came near the slidey stuff, I had to slow right down and keep my feet on the ground. The mornings route led us through valleys, up and over steep hills and along narrow tracks and the scenery was just fantastic, not that we had any time to look at it though. While the rest off the group were riding rings around us, we started feeling we were slowing them down a bit but they were great and very understanding. While I was finding it hard, Michelle had a bit more bother as the KLR is pretty lardy for a lady (despite removing some 'ballast' that morning) and unfortunately she had a one or two spills, some quite spectacular with one involving a dry stone wall which fared only marginally better than the KLR. If it wasn't for a bunch of mountain bikers stopping halfway up a steep hill track and some careless twat tearing about on a mini-moto, I reckon she'd have been fine. A lot of people would probably have given up by this point and by lunchtime when they announced that we'd be doing some of the same route in reverse, Michelle briefly thought about doing just that, but fortune shone in the offer of using a lighter Yamaha 125 with proper off road tyres for the afternoon slot and after that, there was no stopping her!
The afternoon group was slightly smaller and was led by Marianne who was great at giving us good pointers and riding tips. Something must have clicked as we both started to handle the tracks so much better than the morning and soon we were fearlessly tearing up and down with a lot more confidence. I'll admit that during the morning I was having serious doubts about the size of my bike for this trip as it seemed so ridiculously heavy, but by the afternoon I was taking it up steep slopes with rocky steps and loose gravel that I would have a job getting my mountain bike up. I still managed to drop it on a steep gravely bend though but was quietly relieved when I was able to pick it up myself, but it took a while to get going again as the rear wheel had started to spin in the gravel. The river crossings were great fun too and though we took a few photos, you'd be hard pressed to say who was who due to bow waves and spray! The rutted farm tracks were the worst but as long as you stood up on the pegs and held the bars loosely, the bike just coasted through. In the end, I was really amazed at the versatility of the GS and think I've actually found new confidence in riding it.
By the end of the day, we both had huge grins on our faces and were saying that if we can do that, the trip will be a doddle. That set the precedent for the rest of the weekend which involved kite flying in torrential rain on the beach and can honenstly say, I'm looking forward to the actual trip more than ever now.