Ride Smart. The art of adventure riding

Brooding skies

CCM, GS and a Triumph somewhere in Shropshire. Don’t forget your brolly.

Post a thread on any internet adventure bike forum inquiring about the off road capabilities of big trail bikes and you are guaranteed to arouse passionate responses. Dare to question the effectiveness of an 1190 Adventure or a GSA 1200 on technical off-road trails and you’re likely to attract responses ranging from a polite but firm rebuttal from BMW GS enthusiasts to poison pen letters and death threats from the online KTM community. OK, that’s a slight exaggeration, not all KTM riders are psychotic but you get the picture, it’s a sensitive subject . The issues surrounding the off-road performance of adventure bikes bikes stem from too much power, too much weight and not enough grip for the job in hand. This shouldn’t deter you from taking your big bike off road, but if you understand the limitations you can plan days out on your bike which play to its strengths rather than amplify its weaknesses.

Dab.jpg

This, believe it or not is a puddle on a trail 1000′ above sea level. Trail riding can be unpredictable…

For those unfamiliar with trail riding allow me to share one or two observations about riding the green lanes you are likely to encounter in the UK. Our unsurfaced roads [ the technical definition of a green lane] are often narrow and rutted and can become waterlogged, which is the reason they become rutted in the first place. These ancient rights of way have often been in use for centuries and sometimes sit well below the level of surrounding fields because the passage of traffic over time has actually worn a deep groove in the countryside. This encourages water to collect. There are lanes close to where I live which never completely dry out and are tricky to navigate on a big bike even in the middle of summer.

The problem is, you won’t find this information on any OS map or your GPS, you have to ride the trail to find out and there’s the rub – half a mile down a narrow track you might suddenly find yourself in a deep muddy rut struggling to find traction . On a typical 110kg trail bike you can simply dismount at this stage, lift the back wheel out of the rut and then do the same with the front and continue on your way. If you’re riding a 200+kg adventure bike you now have a pretty serious problem on your hands, especially if you decide the route is impassable and you need to turn back.

Strata

Bad enough on a 90kg trail bike, on a big adventure bike you would now have your work cut out  . This was taken on Strata Florida in Wales.

Of course we also have access to hard packed trails and forest fire roads in the UK and these aren’t such a problem on an adventure bike, but be aware it’s not possible to do these easy routes in isolation and sooner or later you’re going to come across mud , soft ground and some tight technical trails. This is why taking a big bike off road needs careful thought and planning.

The trick is to avoid getting into a difficult situation in the first place. For instance, if you sense a trail is becoming narrower or getting too muddy stop immediately and go and inspect on foot . If you don’t like what you see don’t be afraid to turn round and find an alternative route. I can’t stress how important this is on a big bike, it might seem a bit feeble, especially if your leading a group but it can save a lot of potential heartache. Getting bogged down in deep mud and unable to go forwards or backwards is a frustrating and exhausting experience.

A pal of mine was out trail riding recently and stopped when he saw something sticking out off a particularly deep muddy bomb hole on a trail. On closer inspection he realised the object was a Land Rover’s roof. Try to picture the consequences of simply ploughing into a similar rut on a big GS hoping it will all sort itself out.

Trail riding can involve a lot of manhandling of the bike. For instance, pulling up to a gate on a steeply rutted lane and stopping the bike often means getting off and having to drag the back wheel around until you find a suitable place to deploy the sidestand. Again, not an issue on a lightweight trail bike but on a heavy adventure bike this type of thing can become very tiring so keep your eyes on the trail and plan well ahead, look where the best grip will be for a restart will be and where you can park the bike and dismount easily. It can be a lot less stressful to stop well short of a gate at a suitable spot and walk the last few yards to open it. When you restart the bike this will usually give you a nice clean getaway instead of having to struggle in the mud and ruts created by all the other vehicles who drove as close as they could to the gate before stopping. Always seek out opportunities to save energy, you don’t know when you might need it. Once fatigue sets in it the possibility of falling off big heavy bikes increases dramatically.

Lands end Bishops wood 1

Once fatigue sets in the chances of falling off a big bike increase dramatically! This is yours truly on the Land’s End Trial a few years ago, my first attempt at tackling serious off- road stuff on an adventure bike.

If you find yourself on a tricky section of steep trail with lots of rock and mud and you’re wondering where to find grip a good tip is to follow the route of any  water flowing down the lane. Water will usually wash away any mud and I find if I need to make a quick decision on which route to take through a hazard there’s usually grip to be found beneath flowing water. On technical trails pick up momentum when you can get traction and then allow the bike to roll along on a neutral throttle over sections where the grip will be compromised. It’s all just common sense really but riding smart can make the difference between having a chilled and enjoyable day or a brutal, unsatisfying slog.

At the risk of stating the bleedin’ obvious, planning routes is very important, much more so than if you were on a small bike. I’ll happily set off on my own on one of the Adventure Ride Pamperas and go and busk it, exploring new routes and going wherever my fancy takes me but I never do this on the KTM 640. I’ll speak to other trail riders and ask them what lanes they think are suitable for big bikes. If you can see from the contour lines there will be a steep ascent, think about planning your route to tackle this lane in reverse so it becomes a descent. If I’m planning a big bike day I’ll look stuff up about the route on the web and ask questions on forums. Forewarned is forearmed.

Descent

Descending can be easier than climbing. This is JP, one of BMW’s off-road instructors making it look easy on a Triumph XC. There is no way this bike would have gone up this slope. Take into account the gradients when planning your route. [photo courtesy of Bike magazine and photographer Chippy Wood]


Don’t be tempted to simply pick out a few Byways on an OS map and head off into the wild blue yonder. Gather as much intel as you can, believe me it will pay dividends.
Before setting out make sure your bike has decent lifting handles and if it doesn’t, fit a lifting strap to the rear of the bike. When possible, leave your adventure style panniers at home, they’ll catch and snag on ruts lifting the rear and losing grip. Do everything possible to minimise getting stranded with a puncture. Pushing a big adventure bike with a flat tyre off a remote trail to the nearest garage will definitely spoil your day. Make sure you know how to remove both wheels and have the tools with you to do so. If you’re serious about going off road and haven’t yet changed a tube on your bike practice in the comfort of your garage. Far better to learn how to deal with a puncture listening to Radio 4 with a cuppa to hand than out in the Brecons with the rain lashing down your neck and dusk approaching. Carry a spare tube [or a tubeless repair kit]. Don’t rely on Co2 cannisters or a tyre repair cannister. By all means take some but for goodness sake carry a mountain bike pump as back up. Treat the tubes with a sealant such as OKO.

I would also strongly advise you don’t ride alone, trail riding isn’t a dangerous activity but in my experience it can be unpredictable. I’ve seen people break bones after an innocuous- looking fall and this would be very bad news if you were riding solo.
Drop the tyre pressures, I find 15psi each end works well on my KTM, don’t be tempted to go too low – unless you’ve got security bolts fitted the power of a big bike can spin the wheel in the tyre and tear the valve out. And don’t forget to put some air back in for the journey home. Ride smart and arrive home in one piece.

home

Photo courtesy Bike magazine and Chippy Wood

New Kid on the Block

Stretton anon

There’s a new addition to the AdventureRide fleet – a KTM 640 Adventure. The Adventure was KTM’s initial take on the big trail bike theme, at least it was until they launched the 950, which was a more appropriate corporate response to the ubiquitous BMW GS . To put it in context, the 640 Adventure is the bike Ewan and Charlie really wanted for their round the world motorcycle glamping trip before being lured away by BMW’s more TV-savvy marketing department. The 640 Adventure is more Barry McGuigan than Bruno and gives away almost 100kgs to the Bavarian bruiser . No doubt Ewan and Charlie figured a lighter bike such as the KTM might provide more scope for carrying laptops, camera equipment, Satphones,  a Corby trouser press, a Yurt and all that other essential motorcycle touring equipment they toted about with them. Not to mention a weighty script…
Joking apart, I like the GS and, having owned an R80 G/S back in the day confess to having a soft spot for the early air-cooled models . My good chum Craig has a new 1200 Adventure and by any yardstick you care to measure it by, it’s a spectacular and extremely capable motorcycle. Choosing an adventure bike was a toss up twixt an 1150 GS [the only derivate my meagre budget would allow] or a middleweight 600.
My problem, when choosing an adventure bike is this;  I’ve got a dodgy back and shoulder and if I dropped a GS [which would be inevitable given the amount of trail miles I travel] , there is no way I could pick it up again. No, I needed something lighter and when you start to look at what’s available in middleweight adventure bikes the choice is very narrow. In the end it boiled down to Yamaha’s excellent 660 Tenere, a Kawasaki KLR . a Beemer 650 Dakar [21″ front wheel] or a KTM 640. I’ve not ridden either of the Jap bikes [although I had an MZ fitted with the 660 engine which I liked very much], I like the Beemer’s engine but even the 650 is still a bit heavy for me. I’d ridden a 640 Adventure when they first came out and I knew they were good . The KTM won.

KTM

Tall, wide and handsome. And that’s just the rider. Hepco and Becker Gobi panniers. Would you believe these have a tap arrangement on the outside of the case and hold 3 litres of fluid in the sidewall of each pannier. I always knew there was something missing from my motorcycling life and now I know what it is.

Riding the 640 is like being aboard a very torquey set of stepladders. It really is unfeasibly tall and riding it home from the vendor’s house found myself looking across into the cabs of HGVs, nodding knowingly at the drivers as we surveyed lesser road users from our lofty perches. To me it feels like the World’s Tallest Motorcycle but despite the high c of g the KTM handles superbly. I’m not sure how big trail bikes manage this , but manage it they do. It’s a well known phenomenon that GSs and such like will handle a twisty road as well as a sports bike and presumably this is one of the reasons for the extraordinary growth in the adventure bike sector. Your average modern adventure bike is quick, it’ll stop well, go round corners and take you and the missus plus the kitchen sink across continents, you really can have your cake and eat it, and if you’ve got some Hepco Becker Gobis with optional taps you can make yourself a brew to go with it. Try doing that on an R6.

So, what’s not to like? Ah well, I was just coming to that…
The thing with adventure bikes is they don’t work very well off road in the UK. I emphasise the UK bit in case I get sackfuls of hate mail from disgruntled GS owners, fresh back from epic trips across the Namibian desert . In Blighty our green lanes are more often than not , brown lanes and full of thick, gooey mud . Heavy bikes laden with luggage and equipped with 50/50 road and trail tyres can find themselves floundering in these claggy conditions. This is where I come in and neatly brings me to the reason I’ve bought the KTM. I’ve been putting together some routes specifically aimed at adventure bikes which avoid treacherous , energy sapping ,muddy trails and allow these bikes to shine at what they do best, covering big mileages and able to cope with poorly surfaced roads and hard packed trails. The routes I’ve picked can be navigated on dual purpose tyres and will give an opportunity for adventure bike owners to sample some proper trail riding and get their bikes dirty without having to spend half the day extricating it from a Welsh bog. We’re going to be clocking up some big miles whilst taking in some of the ancient Welsh droving routes on the high overland trails. It’ll be great and it’s going to add a new dimension to AdventureRide . I’m looking forward to the possibility of 350 mile days and perhaps even making it across the mountains to the coast during a typical ride. All you’ll need is a big trail bike and a sense of adventure. Full details will be up on the website quite soon, in the meantime has anybody got a pair of platform boots I can borrow?

Coates pegs 2

Tank

We’ll be avoiding this kind of stuff when we go out with the adventure bikes. This is Strata Florida in Wales after a very dry summer… I kid you not. Imagine this in February. Some people like this kind of stuff. I don’t. There’s no skill involved, it’s just a war of attrition between man and mud.

Little Big Show.

Apologies for the non trail riding content but this week I thought I’d share a few pics from our local bike show . The Wistanstow show is now in its 25th year and for a small village bike show it attracts an extraordinary amount of visitors and some superb machinery. This year saw the show’s organiser Ron Maul step down from front of house duties and take a well earned break from the stress of running what has become a very popular regional event. A lot of nice bikes lurk in workshops and barns around the Marches region and Ron has a knack of tempting some rarely seen bikes out into the daylight. Here’s a small selection of some of the bikes on display as well as some of the more interesting stuff scattered around the village hall car park

Wistanstow Village Hall is a beautiful old building gifted to the community by a local benefactor many years ago. Here's a handsome Manx and a Dommie in the indoor display. Note the twin bacon slicers on the Dommie front hub.

Wistanstow Village Hall is a beautiful old building gifted to the community by a local benefactor many years ago. Here’s a handsome Manx and a Dommie in the indoor display. Note the twin bacon slicers on the Dommie front hub.

One of the more intriguing bikes on the display was this EMC 350 cc split single and yes, that is EMC as in Dr Joseph Ehrlich, creator of fine racing motorcycles , F3 cars and various other stuff. Mike Hailwood raced an EMC with some success in his early career.

One of the more intriguing bikes on the display was this EMC 350 cc split single and yes, that is EMC as in Dr Joseph Ehrlich, creator of fine racing motorcycles , F3 cars and various other stuff. Mike Hailwood raced an EMC with some success in his early career.

The EMC might not be much of a looker but you could be fairly certain it was the only one in the car park at whatever event you took it to.

This is te bike I'd like to have taken home from the show. Norton's rare 500T didn't exactly set the worlds alight when the factory launched it but that wouldn't bother me, they're a great looking bike . The owner of this was telling me he bought it sight unseen and when he researched it he discovered ha had bought one of the handful of works bikes produced by the factory. Jammy bugger.

This is the bike I’d like to have taken home from the show. Norton’s rare 500T didn’t exactly set the worlds alight when the factory launched it but that wouldn’t bother me, they’re a great looking bike . The owner of this was telling me he bought it sight unseen and when he researched it he discovered ha had bought one of the handful of works bikes produced by the factory. Jammy bugger.

I shouldn't really like these but I do. It's one of my guilty pleasures. To me, a BMW Steib is a very elegant execution of a fundamentally flawed concept - the motorcycle and sidecar combination. All the disadvantages of a car and a motorcycle rolled into one package . You get caught in traffic jams in the same way a car does but you can also get soaked when it rains- just to remind you you're really on a bike.

I shouldn’t really like these but I do. It’s one of my guilty pleasures. To me, a BMW Steib is a very elegant execution of a fundamentally flawed concept – the motorcycle and sidecar combination. All the disadvantages of a car and a motorcycle rolled into one package . You get caught in traffic jams in the same way a car does but you can also get soaked when it rains- just to remind you you’re really on a bike.

Not a bad crowd for a village bike show. £7000 was raised for the local school. What a fine effort.

Not a bad crowd for a village bike show. £7000 was raised for the local school. What a fine effort.

Lovely old Indian had a sticker on it showing the owner had ridden it to the Sturgis rally in the US. Now that's what I call using your old bike.

Lovely old Indian had a sticker on it showing the owner had ridden it to the Sturgis rally in the US. Now that’s what I call using your old bike.

Until I saw this in the car park I didn't know how much I wanted an early Z1 They really were a stunning looking bike. Let the good times roll.

Until I saw this in the car park I didn’t know how much I wanted an early Z1 They really were a stunning looking bike. Let the good times roll.

Lovely little Ford Thames and as clean on the inside as it was on the outside.

Lovely little Ford Thames and as clean on the inside as it was on the outside.

And finally a picture of Ron Maul the show's creator and organiser sat astride an unfeasibly wide six cylinder GS Suzuki, details of which I'm saving for a later blog.

And finally a picture of Ron Maul the show’s creator and organiser sat astride an unfeasibly wide six cylinder GS Suzuki, details of which I’m saving for a later blog.

And that’s it for this week folks, excuse my classic bike indulgence – next week we’ll be getting down and dirty on the trails again.

Access all areas

I can’t believe it’s been a month since my last post, doesn’t time fly when you’re busy? And what a month it’s been . With exciting new trails to explore,  rights of way issues to investigate and a steady stream of customers coming through the door its been hectic to say the least. I’ve had a couple of larger rider groups on the rides, instead of the usual two and three man groups  there’s been a few seven and eight man teams to take out . Under normal circumstances  large groups are a no- no for me  because keeping large numbers of riders under control can sometimes be akin to herding cats. However I knew the guys coming out were experienced, sensible riders and so relaxed the rules a bit. I’m glad I did because we had some memorable days out .

One of the group rides was booked by Ian, a returning customer who asked me to organise a stag weekend for him. Now I know what you’re thinking and no, the weekend didn’t involve pole dancers, hookers,alcohol and recreational drugs. For a start, it’s very difficult to source reliable pole dancers in South Shropshire. Instead I suggested to Ian we could do a sort of bastardised biathlon. As you probably know the biathlon is one of the more unusual  Olympic disciplines involving cross country skiing and rifle shooting. I suggested to Ian we could put on our own version and organise a semi competitive weekend of trail/ trial riding and clay pigeon shooting . Riders start the weekend with fifty points and had points deducted for ‘footing’ on a one of the trials sections or failing to shoot the required number of clay pigeons. Motorcycles and firearms- what could possibly go wrong?

We had a great couple of days riding and shooting, it helps when you have a great group of guys who are up for a good laugh . I have a feeling we’ll be running a few more of these events in the future.

ian sootin    domPull!

rainbow

Rainbow warriors.

After the excitement of the biathlon it was back to the interesting , but somewhat less dynamic task of researching routes. Due to the slighter higher group numbers and frequency of rides in October I tried to vary the routes as much as possible. The reason being I try to respect the people who farm and live along the routes , not to mention the other lane users such as walkers, cyclists and equestrians. I wouldn’t like to see groups of motorcyclists frequently riding past my front door and I don’t see why others should. I try to keep the disturbances to a minimum , preferably once a fortnight and certainly no more than once a week. The policy seems to be working because I invariably get a cheery thumbs up when I take a group through some of the many farmyards the trails pass through. I intend to keep it that way and I believe sympathetic useage is the key to keeping everyone happy.

To provide variety means constantly researching alternative routes and a few weeks ago I went to investigate a lane which is clearly indicated on the Ordnance Survey map as an ‘ORPA‘ [Other Route with Public Access … the UK rights of way network is littered with these confusing acronyms] There was a gate across the lane with two  laminated  posters attached, one declaring the route closed to motor vehicles and the other displaying a map showing a disputed right of way. The posters had been placed on the gate by a lady with a property adjacent to the lane who clearly wanted to deny access to it. She had triumphantly displayed an email from Shropshire County Council who had responded to an email sent by her asking for clarification of the lanes status regarding vehicular access. The council officer had stated the county records for a short  section of this long lane were missing and therefore it was not possible to confirm whether the right of way was continuous for the whole length of the lane. Of course not being able to confirm the existence of a right of way doesn’t necessarily mean there is no right of way, it simply confirms there is no existing record currently on file.

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The lady in the adjacent house has rather mischievously interpreted the  council officer’s comments as confirmation that vehicles are banned and subsequently posted the misleading and inaccurate notices. Yesterday I called into Shirehall [Shropshire County Council headquarters] and asked to see the ‘Definitive Map’, a series of ancient maps which clearly show the right of way network. I mentioned the lane in question and the very helpful lady from the council gave me a knowing look and said ” Oh yes, we’ve had numerous discussions about that one” She was far too polite and professional to comment on the individual who had posted the notices but when I asked her if the route was a right of way  she replied “Well it’s pretty obvious it is a right of way but for some reason the records have gone astray” . When I asked if I was within my rights to use the lane she shrugged her shoulders and said ” I don’t see why not”.

She then gave me an interesting tip that her department only deals with lanes up to BOAT  classification [see what I mean by confusing acronyms- Byway Open to All Traffic] and that the county highways department might very well have confirmation of the lane status as the lane may well be a UCR. Just in case you were wondering – Unclassified Country Road.

The lane will now be included in my routes, it’s a lovely old lane and by the look of the bordering hedgerow is hundreds of years old .When I first started AdventureRide I made a mental note not to be come militant about these abuses but, having seen some very unjust lane closures perpetrated by  selfish landowners  manipulating the system to suit themselves I feel we must make a stand on this sort of thing. Trail enthusiasts were shamefully short changed by the NERC laws passed in 2006 [Natural Environment and Rural Communities act] The NERC act was a piece of legislation shoehorned into UK law by a group of people with a very specific agenda. It was sold to Parliament on the basis of preserving green lanes but in reality it was a toff’s charter, facilitating the closure of ancient rights of way . A lot of powerful landowners seized the golden opportunity gifted to them by the NERC Act to ban the oiks from their land once and for all. If you look at the areas surrounding a lot of the large shooting estates you will see a suspicious absence of green lanes. The NERC act effectively allowed these powerful landowners to ring fence themselves from the general public. Not since the infamous enclosure acts of the 17th century has there been a more unjust denial of public access to open spaces.

Much work is being done behind the scenes to try and unravel the damage done by the NERC act. To reinstate a BOAT [many of which have been downgraded post- NERC to bridleways] is notoriously difficult and gets harder with each passing year. To apply for a lane to be upgraded [ie returned to the status quo which existed happily for hundreds of years] requires a lot of evidence of past useage and this is becoming increasing difficult to obtain. I’m going to have a crack at getting one or two reopened around here and will post occasional updates on the blog.

To give an idea of the sort of prevalent attitude we’re dealing with here’s the current government spin put on the aforementioned enclosures  act. I lifted the following comment off http://www.parliament.uk. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

“There is little doubt that enclosure greatly improved the agricultural productivity of farms from the late 18th century by bringing more land into effective agricultural use. It also brought considerable change to the local landscape.”

What a strange reflection on a period of British history which saw many poor rural communities bullied into near starvation by unscrupulous land owners grabbers denying them access to land they had farmed for generations.

Enough of the quasi political ranting, let’s end the blog on a lighter note. Here’s a few images of Adventureriders enjoying themselves during the past few weeks..

..ridgeway grouphappy customers

dickRadnore arms

station roupmedlicott

Busman’s Holiday

You could be forgiven for thinking that going out trail riding might be the furthest thing from my mind to do on a day off. By and large you’d be right. However, when the offer of a ride came from Nick and Mike, two of my chums from the The Trail Riders Fellowship I was delighted to tag along. Nick you see, is the Rights of Way expert for this part of the country and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the area. I’m very grateful to Nick because when I originally came up with the idea of running guided trail rides in the borders region he was kind enough to drop by and give some very valuable pointers about routes and rights of way. On subsequent occasions when I’ve asked Nick about the legal status of such and such a lane, it doesn’t matter how obscure or remote it is, Nick has invariably ridden it at some stage , can usually quote it’s official number on the definitive map and will give a current legal status.In short, Nick Knows His Stuff.

So, the chance to ride in Nick’s manor, down on the Hereford and Shropshire border, was an opportunity not to miss, busman’s holiday or not. It also provided the opportunity to re-acquaint myself with Mike, who I’d bumped into at the Telford Show earlier in the year. Turning up at Nick’s cottage I could smell the bacon wafting down the path and upon walking into the kitchen had a bacon butty [or bap/barm/cob depending on what part of the country you’re from] and a cuppa thrust in my hand whilst Nick briefed us on the riding plan for the day. We were joined for the day by young Antoni, a recently recruited TRF member who wanted to sample some trails in the area.

It was a motley selection of machines which made their way slowly down Nick’s lane before setting off . Nick was riding his quad, something you don’t see very often on the lanes in my neck of the woods. It’s an impressive beastie with a pokey engine, selectable four wheel drive and a reverse gear. I’d never have considered using one for trail riding but as the day wore on I became more and more impressed with it. Strapped to various parts of the quad was an axe, a jerry can, some rope andI think I even spotted a set of bolt croppers poking out . I think this is what the police refer to as ‘going equipped’.  Mike was riding a svelte and purposeful-looking looking Husqvarna trail bike and Antoni had brought along his imposing F800GS BMW. Add my diminutive Ossa to the list and you couldn’t have compiled a more diverse group of vehicles if you’d tried.

Mike gets the Brave Little Soldier award for turning up with a gruesomely crushed and broken finger on his right hand, sustained in an accident shackling up his trailer. Not the easiest injury to deal with when riding a motorcycle, especially when trail riding.

Mike exits the unimaginatively named Forest Wood. Well, what is it, a forest or a wood? Herefordshire can be very confusing for an expat townie like me

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Anyway, we all set off and were soon in the swing of things exploring some rarely used lanes in Hereford,  one of the quietest , sparsely populated counties in England. For me , it was  liberating  to be released from the burden of planning routes, lunch stops or refueling, or worrying about mechanical issues and punctures arising on customer’s bikes. All I had to do was follow Nick, which was actually easier said than done because he pilots his quad with great aplomb and it would be a brave man who tried to keep up with him across country. It seems to just float along those deeply rutted lanes which can be such a challenging pain in the backside for two wheel traffic . Steep, technical, rocky climbs? No problem, just twist the throttle and hang on. The way it appeared to effortlessly negotiate almost every obstacle and hazard thrown in its path was a real eye opener for me. Of course it helps if you know how to ride it…

Stormin’ Nick, a man on a mission.

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Antoni’s Beemer didn’t fare quite so well and struggled for grip on the tight, technical sections, especially on loose rock . Or mud. And  grass and gravel. In fact it didn’t seem to have any grip anywhere. Antoni did some heroic riding  and managed to coax the porky Beemer up  sections I wouldn’t have dreamed of tackling on such a big bike. Sadly it had the better of him on more than one occasion and usually took all four of us to extricate it from whatever rut it had managed to dig itself into. On a couple of occasions it simply couldn’t make it up the trail and an alternative route had to be found. Poor Antoni was worn out by the experience and at one point I offered to give him a break and see if I could do any better and get it up a particularly tricky section. I couldn’t, in fact when I sat on it I wondered how he’d managed get as far as he’d already done on it. Big respect. I gave it the merest whiff of throttle looking for some traction and immediately fell sideways off it . In the end I elected to ride it back down the hill.

Under Nick’s watchful eye Antoni plunges the Panzerwagen into the ford before heading south to annex  Shropshire

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Coasting back down the trail on Antoni’s GS reminded me of a Jaguar XJ12 I once owned back in the days when normal people could afford fuel. Like the Jag, the GS felt very comfy but also very vague and isolated from the terrain. The GS also felt about four times heavier than my Ossa, which is a bit of an exaggeration because in fact it’s only three times heavier. I kid you not.

These big Beemers are excellent road bikes and will tackle hard packed trails reasonably well but on the type of going one might reasonably expect to encounter on a typical day of green lane riding in the UK, they are hopeless. I know this will upset some folk but it happens to be true. In my opinion the image of adventure punted about by manufacturers in the mega trail bike sector is a fallacy. A six hundred quid, thirty year old Honda XR200 would leave any one of these big bikes for dead as soon as the going gets tough and I wish BMW, KTM and Yamaha  et al would be a bit more honest when promoting these behemoths to the general public. No one denies they are fine motorbikes, but the stark reality is, they don’t really do what they say on the tin. There, I’ve said it, flame me if you will, I’ve got broad shoulders.

Anthony takes the Long Way Home. Again.

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At around 4pm I noticed  a slow puncture in my front wheel, sustained , I think, when I hit a concrete cross-drain a bit too hard on a fast forestry track near Black Hill at Knighton. Not wanting to hold up proceedings and being too bone idle to change a tube on a garage forecourt I banged 40psi in the tyre, left the boys to it and rode slowly back to my van. It had been a superb day out  and a very different experience to a typical day with AdventureRide.  I was surprised at how little-used the Herefordshire lanes appeared to be and some of the more technical trails were really challenging and enjoyable. I’m  fortunate to be able to earn a living from trail riding but of course my riding enjoyment must always take a back seat to the customers needs. A day out with Nick and the boys  reminded me of just how rewarding and absorbing our hobby is . Nick, I owe you one…