Lads and Dads.

And dads and daughters. It’s been a busy old week at Adventureride with a distinct family flavour to the proceedings. In the past we’ve had plenty of siblings out on rideouts but this week I was delighted to welcome two  father and son combinations plus a father and daughter .  Alex and dad Tim turned up on a couple of nicely sorted KTM 450s and enjoyed a brisk ride through the border country.It was an entertaining day in near perfect conditions.

Alex and Tim enjoy a quick break and take in the beauty of the view east across the Long Mynd

Alex and Tim enjoy a quick break and take in the beauty of the view east across the Long Mynd

Father shows son the old man can still cut it on a bike.

Father shows son the old man can still cut it on a bike.

Next up were Ian and son Chiz, plus a couple of friends John and Steve. We had a brilliant day out defined by [once again] perfect riding conditions and some great banter. Ian gets the ‘quote of the week’ award when , during an intense discussion about the dangers of crossing fields of cows he came out with the following astute observation [best said in a soft scouse accent] ” You know what cows are don’t you? Cows are just three tons of stupid” It was one of those beautifully timed quips which had me quietly laughing to myself for the rest of the day, in fact I’m chuckling whilst I type this.

Ian’s 19 year old boy Chiz, holds the distinction of being the youngest customer we’ve ever had. Not only was he a lovely lad, he was also a very handy rider and tackled whatever was thrown at him in a calm, mature manner belying his tender years. It crossed my mind that trail riding could be a fantastic way to encourage youngsters out onto bikes. It’s exciting but relatively safe, there’s a great sense of adventure, the bikes are cheap to buy and insure and it’s refreshingly unregulated when compared to road riding which is becoming so restricted due to the indiscriminate use of speed cameras that the pleasure has all but gone out of it nowadays.

Smiling customers. Pics like this really make my day.

Smiling customers. Pics like this really make my day.

Chiz demonstrates his fluid riding style through Hopton Woods. Typical teenager, going out without a proper jacket on...

Chiz demonstrates his fluid riding style through Hopton Woods. Typical teenager, going out without a proper jacket on…

John gives the Pampera a big handful to loft the wheel clear of the ford

John gives the Pampera a big handful to loft the wheel clear of the ford

The stunning weather has blessed every ride lately, and Alan and Chris who turned up towards the end of the week saw the South Shropshire hills at their very best. Neither of the guys had ridden off road for , well let’s just say a very long time. They soon found their feet and we had a memorable ride in amazing weather.

I can't be absolutely certain but I'm fairly sure Chris had a grin on his face for the entire day. A sense of humour would be essential to carry off wearing a jacket like that.

I can’t be absolutely certain but I’m fairly sure Chris had a grin on his face for the entire day. A sense of humour would be essential to carry off wearing a jacket like that.

Alan demonstrates a bit of trials stylee suggesting he may have done this sort of thing before

Alan demonstrates a bit of trials stylee suggesting he may have done this sort of thing before

The final ride of the week had father and daughter combination Mike and Sarah plus buddies Mike and Darrin. As well as a fantastic ride the overnight rain had cleared away the heat haze and left the scenery pin sharp, ideal for taking pics. The combination of perfect conditions and excellent company made it a day [and a week] to remember.

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Mike and daughter Sarah with The Lawley providing a dramatic backdrop

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Offa’s Dyke. The group sharing a bit of banter after a long day’s trail riding. A perfect end to a perfect week

Happy New Year to all our readers!

Bless me Father for I have sinned, it’s been two months since my last post…

Has it really been over two months ? I’m afraid it has, In my defense things got really busy in November, so much so there was no time to compile a blog and then in December things went really quiet and there was nothing to write about. No such excuses today, no sir, because I’ve already done the first ride of 2015. Yesterday I met up with my chums Nick and Mike along with a few more TRF members and we blew the cobwebs away celebrating the new riding season by heading out for the recently re-opened Water Breaks Its Neck Neck. And yes, that is the correct name. But more of that later, in the meantime I’ll do a quick recap of 2014.

Initially I started the blog as an informal diary of trail riding in the UK because I wanted to share the experiences of riding in one of the best trail riding areas of the UK. The blog is hosted by WordPress and  a few days ago they sent over the site stats for 2014. Would you believe this blog now has readers in 64 countries? According to the stats the blog had it’s busiest day ever in December and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who takes the time to view it and for the kind comments some readers have sent in and hope you continue to enjoy reading about AdventureRide in 2015.

For me, 2014 will be memorable for the weather. We had an amazing run of good conditions here in the UK and this contributed to having some fantastic rides. Particularly enjoyable was the day out I  now refer to as the Landlord’s ride. Two local pub owners, Ian and Michelle booked a day out and we had a really grand day out.  Both have since made me very welcome in their respective pubs and it was after this ride that I felt I’d put down permanent roots in Shropshire. I’ve grown to really love this county, the locals are fantastic and have made me very welcome.

Publican Michelle smiling coyly at the camera, she might look shy and demure but let me warn you fellahs, she rides a full-house Cheney B50 for fun!

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Another memorable day for me was the first time I deployed the whole fleet of newly acquired Pamperas. I think the only bike which gave any trouble that day was my new Ossa Exporer!  Speaking of which a lot of people have asked me what has become of the Ossa, well I’m afraid it’s now the subject of a legal dispute. It would be inappropriate to discuss it at this stage but hopefully I’ll have something positive to report next month. In contrast to the Ossa, the Pampera’s have without exception, been paragons of virtue. Businesses stand or fall on the ratio of good decisions to bad . So long as the good outweigh the bad  you’ve got half a chance of survival. Buying the Pamperas was one of the good decisions, buying the Ossa one of the more regrettable ones. Sad but true. I’ve now got five Pamperas and one Ossa so at the moment the smart/dumb ratio is looking quite good. I hope Gas Gas rethink the Pampera concept and re-introduce another 94kg trials bike- based trail bike. I’ve lost count of the amount of people who have come up to me and said ” I wish Gas Gas still made these things…”

Danny and the boys enjoying their day out. This was the first time we had the full compliment of four bikes out at once.

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One of the most surprising things since starting AdventureRide has been the success of the solo days and the taster sessions. A lot of riders want to dip their toe into the trail riding water without being under the scrutiny of others and the taster sessions are an ideal way to do this . I’ve had a steady succession of riders coming out for half a day. These short sessions have been a very positive way to introduce people to the sport and we’ll certainly be continuing them in 2015.

This is Martin, a customer from Altrincham, firmly dipping his toe into the trail riding water.

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And so, out with the old and in with the new. Yesterday was the first ride of the new season and quad-riding Nick took us out for one of his typically excellent days out.. It’s always a pleasure to ride with Nick because he rides at a good brisk pace but with great courtesy to other trail users coupled with common sense where hazards are concerned. This means we can cover a lot of ground safely. The group who met up yesterday were all excellent riders and save for the odd stepping-off on greasy ruts , the day passed without incident and all the difficult stuff ‘cleaned’ without a problem. It was great to ride Water Breaks It’s Neck, one of the classic Welsh trails which has been closed by a traffic regulation order for the past couple of years. Now re-opened the trail is in pretty good condition, albeit very slippery in places. As ever in this part of the world the views are stunning  and WBIN didn’t let us down . The rain which persisted all morning suddenly cleared and we were able to enjoy a short spell of weak wintery sunshine. Here’s a few pics to give a flavour of the day.

Nick in typical take-no-prisoners mode. He’s riding a 1000cc V twin Can-Am. Very impressive. I’d love to be able to carry an axe, a jerry can, a tow rope and set of bolt croppers with me when I go out riding! Be afraid, be very afraid.

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Trail riders have a sense of style not found in any other sport. Simon , Paul, Dave, Nick, Ian and Mike show off their sartorial elegance and take a well earned rest after a morning of hard trails and persistent rain.

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Open for business. Water Breaks It’s Neck. The trail is named after a local waterfall adjacent to the track.                                                                                                     

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How many trail riders does it take to change a light bulb? Nick, Ian and Mike extract Mike’s Husky from a deceptively deep rut on the notorious School Lane in Radnor.

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You wait all day for a KTM and then two come along at once.

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I’m not sure what Simon’s riding here. I can’t be certain but I think it’s an Airfix model of a Daimler Ferret scout car

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Mike getting into deep water. I’ve seen Mike traverse some improbably deep ruts on numerous occasions and I’m convinced that Husky has a hidden snorkel.

Mike

So, here endeth the first post of 2015.  Ride safe and I hope you keep visiting the blog or, better still come out for an AdventureRide,     http://www.adventureride.co.uk

Monk’s Trod

Last week I rode an iconic and somewhat controversial Welsh lane, “Monks Trod” . It’s a trail originally established in the twelfth century by Cisterian monks trudging between two Abbeys, one located at Llandindrod Wells and the other at Strata Florida [mentioned in a previous blog]. The ‘Trod has been closed at various times due to erosion and some of these closures have promoted heated debate between off road enthusiasts and Powys Council, who are responsible for its upkeep.

Until last Thursday I’d never ridden it but a combination of a lifting of the TRO [traffic regulation order] which had closed it off and the impending visit of some riders wanting to retrace parts of the old ISDT routes prompted me to put the bike in the van and go and have a look. Monk’s Trod sticks out on the OS map like a sore thumb, the reason being is it forms part of an intriguing group of lanes grouped in a sort of large triangle in the heart of ISDT country and would make an obvious route for a ride. The ‘Trod has also been the missing link in a plan I’ve been developing  to offer an ISDT experience to owners of classic dirt bikes.

So, I took the afternoon off , parked the van up and set off on one of the Pamperas . En route I was overtaken on one of the lanes by a couple of riders moving briskly in the general direction of Monk’s Trod, catching them up at a junction one of the riders turned out to be Dean Clements, proprietor of Clements Moto, the UK importer responsible for the enduro side of the Gas Gas product range. Dean had come up from Kent to enjoy a couple of days trail riding in Wales.

Having established Dean was also heading for Monks Trod I asked if I could tag along behind them and soon the three of us  were traversing a shallow river  and heading up a steep slippery bank  to higher ground. Dean romped up it with me in pursuit but unfortunately his riding buddy struggled to find traction with his heavy ‘ol  Husky four stroke. We waited at the top for some time until Dean  decided to go back and help, meanwhile I elected to continue alone.

Monks trod

Gas Gas and Gas Gas on the grass. Note the mist, more about that later…

Further up the trail I waited at a deep water splash for a photo opportunity of my new riding companions but they never showed and so I presume they decided to call it a day. In hindsight it was a wise decision…

Pressing on I found the going to be tougher and tougher. A lot of these long Welsh trails are defined by long open sections of very boggy ground and evidence of deep erosion in the peat by years of passing traffic is all around. When I say deep I’m talking about metre deep ruts seemingly designed to wedge to the crankcases of any passing Pampera. I found myself having to ride faster and faster to avoid getting bogged down. It’s not a sensible way of riding when out riding solo but I was  worried about getting the bike stuck. To compound matters I’d dropped the front wheel into a couple of unexpectedly deep ruts clouting the handlebar mounted petrol tank with my chest and  had to proceed using an uncomfortable mix of clumsy blunt-edged, leg-out enduro style riding interspersed with delicate feet up trials stylee.

The terrain was truly brutal and, if I’m being honest, not particularly enjoyable. Bear in mind we’ve had one of the driest summers on record here in the UK and the trail has been free from vehicles some time. This means Monks Trod must be in the better condition than it’s been in for years and it was still barely passable. Battering on along deeply recessed peat ditches flanked by marsh grass I must have cut a pathetic sight ploughing a lonely furrow across this inhospitable landscape. And then the track disappeared. Don’t ask me where it went, it simple melted away and I lost the faint imprint of a rear knobbly I’d been following for the past few miles, presumably left by another intrepid solo rider some time in the past week or so.

Find myself in the middle of a dried out upland marsh I quickly became disorientated in the featureless scenery. Where’s a Cisterian monk when you need one? A  mist was settling over the moors and it dawned on me things could quickly go pear-shaped. I parked up the Pamp and climbed out of the ditch  to get a better view. The mist was obscuring any distant reference points and so I cast around hoping to pick up the trail, hopping from tussock to tussock looking for tyre marks. In the end I decided it was too risky to blunder on across the moors in this manner- a mechanical breakdown or an accident could potentially leave me in a very compromised situation and so I went to get the Pampera to head for home but, and here’s the rub – I couldn’t find it. I kid you not, I’d parked it in a gully in a vast landscape of identical gullies and I couldn’t find the bloody thing. A systematic quartering of the territory eventually led me to it and I very gingerly retraced my tracks through the peat until I hit the trail once again and headed back to Rhayder .

Now I don’t want to over dramatise anything  but it just goes to show how things can go wrong trail riding in remote areas. If I’d remembered to pack a compass I’d have been OK but I hadn’t and in the mist I has no visual reference to determine where North was. Would a Satnav help? Perhaps , but I’m not sure how reliable the signal would have been in those conditions.In future I’m going to take a large ball of wool with me and lay a trail so I can find my way home.

So what did I make of the Monks Trod experience? If I’m being honest, not a lot. Some of these long Welsh trails with long sections of boggy ground to cross are very over- rated . Lots of riders love ’em but they’re not for me. It’s not as if a bit of riding finesse can bring some sense of satisfaction of a job well done. You simply have to bludgeon your way through. Fortunately, after this disappointing start to the week,  things very quickly improved and I had some fantastic rides with some very interesting customers culminating in a two day booking with seven riders. Now , under normal circumstances I’m not a fan of large riding groups but my customers on this occasion were highly experienced riders used to riding with each other. They were also able to cover ground very quickly and over the course of two days we rode almost two hundred miles of trails and unclassified roads. Here’s a few pics taken during the course of the week

 

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Rob, pictured above was a great sport and agreed to do some exploring of long forgotten, overgrown lanes [see below]. We had a grand day out riding the Long Mynd and Kerry Ridgeway.

 

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One of my favourite trails, this is Rob climbing up Long Mynd with Stiperstones Ridge in the background looking over towards Wales.

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Same spot, different day, different rider,different style. Dick was one of the riders from the larger group on the two day ride and was warming up for a competitive event the following day.

Radnore arms

The Radnor Arms, New Radnor. A well known watering hole for trail riders exploring the Welsh borders. New Radnor was a medieval walled town and its castle had the dubious reputation as being the unluckiest castle in Wales being virtually destroyed on four occasions and during one particularly troublesome period of unrest was conquered and changed hands 12 times in eighty years. The walls of the town remained until 1840 but the stone was then used for a program of building within the town and only the earthworks now remain.

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Taking in the scenery. Descending from the Kerry Ridgeway towards Sarn the views over the Vale of Montgomery are spectacular.

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Happy customers enjoying a rest on Long Mynd, Wenlock Edge can be seen in the far distance.

 

The Far Side of the Mynd

The Adventure Ride  season  got under way yesterday with the arrival of our first customer in 2014.  Dale, an ex -pat Aussie currently residing in Malta had come to the UK to catch a bit of winter sun before heading to the Med. Actually that’s not strictly true, he was over here on business and decided to sneak in a spot of trail riding.

Like me, Dale is a Laverda enthusiast and we know each other through the thriving online international Laverda community. We’d never met in the flesh and it’s always a pleasure to put a face to a name.

Despite never having ridden off-road  Dale soon settled in to the rhythm of the ride as we explored the network of green lanes  criss-crossing the Welsh  side of Long Mynd.  Heading back towards Ratlinghope we passed through Near Gatten Farm, home to the legendary farmer Phil’s Music Festival [ see details below].  A sign on a gate in the farmyard bears the ominous warning ” No Trespassing, violators will be shot” and to add a bit of gravitas to this statement a large tank stands sentinel at the entrance to the farmyard. I’m afraid I’m not well up on my Main Battle Tanks but it looked like a Challenger to me.

We’ll be riding along that ridge on the way home, what do you reckon is the range of a 120mm artillery piece?

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Despite this overt display of overwhelming military force the farmer gave us a cheery wave as we passed very slowly through his yard [ well you wouldn’t want to upset a man with a tank would you?] and after surveying the ordnance we went back to the Ordnance Survey and planned our route back across the Mynd.

By this stage in the ride my Antipodean guest had become increasingly comfortable with the concept of riding off- road. So much so he romped up one particularly steep muddy which subsequently had on my backside rolling in the mud. Put it down to beginners luck… Fortunately he didn’t witness this faux pas and I certainly wasn’t going to ‘fess up  when I eventually caught him up. Dale , if you’re reading this, tough luck mate, you missed a great photo opportunity.

I live on the lower reaches of Long Mynd and can testify the weather can sometimes have a mynd of its own. Yesterday was no exception and we experienced bright sun, low cloud, mist, biting winds and even a mini blizzard at one point . Dale took it all in his stride and seemed to enjoy himself.

“What’s the most direct route back to Malta from here?”

Dale blizzard

All in all it was a great start to the riding season and despite the January weather  a very enjoyable day out.

Farmer Phil’s Music Festival is a 3 day event which takes place on the 8th to 10th of August this year . Details can be found on http://www.farmerphilsfestival.co.uk . Confirmed acts for this year include The Orb and the legendary Blockheads. Sounds like a good gig to me, I think I’ll be buying a ticket.

Final shot of the ride. Stream crossing near Adstone Hill

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Shopping around

Yesterday I went to the Motorcycle Expo at the NEC, it’s a business to business show aimed at creating connections within the bike trade. I was there with my AdventureRide hat on to check out what was available on the trail bike front. Gas Gas were exhibiting a pre production Cami 250 trail bike which was attracting a lot of attention. The Cami has been in production for a couple of years now and has been sold into the South American market, the bike on display at the show was the new European version featuring upside down forks and a few other modifications. With the Cami having been in production for a couple of years it’s safe to assume the bike should have been comprehensively de-bugged by now. The Cami on display looked superb and there was nothing about to suggest a pre production lash up, it looked extremely purposeful with the careful attention to detail which Gas Gas are renowned for.

For many years now Gas Gas have been distributed by John Shirt in Buxton, recently this has changed and whilst Shirts will still handle the trials product the enduro bikes [and the Cami trail bike ] will be handled by ClementsMoto of Canterbury. With a  £4k price tag the Cami  is an interesting option for riders wanting a high quality, fit-for- purpose trail bike as opposed to a de-tuned enduro bike. It’s a tad porky at 117kg [bear in mind I’ve been spoiled by my 94kg Pampera] but it’s still acceptable within the class and is to be expected at the price. ClementsMoto proprietor Dean Clements has promised to let me try out a Cami as soon as one becomes available and hopefully in the next month or two I can publish a full riding report.

The cobby looking Cami featured some nice detail engineering including a proper grab slot under the seat, essential on a trail bike which is bound to need hauling out of deep mud at some point

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Less impressive at Motorcycle Expo was the KTM stand or, to be more specific, the KTM staff. I sidled up to the stand on three separate occasions hoping to have a chat about the Freeride, the 350 four stroke version was on display and it looked looked fantastic. Unfortunately the two members of  staff on the stand seemed more interested  in their laptops and iPhones than speaking to customers . There’s a fine line between not bugging someone  and totally ignoring them.

In a previous life I’ve done my fair share of manning exhibition stands and the first rule is always to engage the customer and gather as much intel as you can. The second rule is don’t slouch around in chairs.  Perhaps KTM are so successful nowadays they don’t need to try very hard, but you have to question as to why go to all the time and trouble of setting up a market stall if you’re not going to try and flog your wares?