After six months of waiting the day finally came and we all met at Gatwick Airport to head off on our epic adventure. We really did have the most amazing time, some got on better than others but everyone enjoyed themselves. We crossed rivers, ascended and descended mountain sides, dodged goats and also fell off our bikes a lot but fortunately laughed even more. The views were fantastic and I remember being sat on my motorcycle on the top of one of the mountains that we had climbed feeling more alive than I had ever felt before, if someone had asked me how I felt at the time I couldn’t have explained it. Although looking back now I’d sum it up with one word, complete.
As soon as I got back to the UK I trawled the motorcycle ads, ebay, biketrader, mcn. You name it I searched it. Within a fortnight I had a KTM 450 EXC sat in my garage, all I had to do next was go out and get some offroad gear (helmet, armour, boots etc). Soon I was trail riding.
Now this was an eye opener for me, when we were riding in Spain we rode wherever we wanted, along tracks, through fields, it didn’t seem to matter. Here in the UK things are a little bit different, the only place you can enjoyably ride an offroad motorcycle over here are on ‘public byways open to all traffic’. I found this out the hard way, the horsey lady told me that I couldn’t ride on a bridleway when she shouted at me quite rudely and tried to hit me. To be honest I was about to put the KTM up for sale when a friend told me out about ‘byways’, which to all intents and purposes are unsurfaced roads and tracks of which we have a reasonable network of in most English counties. All of these byways are indicated on ordnance survey maps. So I bought a few maps and I was off hitting the trails every weekend, it was like being back riding in Spain again but without the mountains, I pretty much felt complete again. I even started riding the KTM along the trails at night!
Night riding is an amazing offroad experience, you attach mountain bike lights to your motorcycle helmet and off you go, a 2am ride through the middle of the country side is really quite interesting and very difficult at the same time, particularly when some of the byways run through fields full of cows, their eyes can be quite scary at night!
Now that I was offroading regularly and as I’m always looking for something else to do I entered myself into a couple of events. The first being the British Army organised ‘Autumn Wander’ on Salisbury Plain. This event consisted of two days navigation along a 250 mile offfroad route, a kind of treasure hunt of sorts. For this event you had to be self-supported which meant tying tents and all sorts onto the back of the dirtbike. It was an amazing weekend, well other than coming last in the rankings which was easily forgiven by the other competitors due to my limited offroad experience (some of the competitors had flown in from South Africa just to take part), when will I ever learn?
I won’t write any more about it and instead leave you to watch the video, see if you can count how many times I fell off or crashed? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9cbwLFYUx8 In the meantime I’ll be sticking to trail riding my beloved KTM on byways and annual visits to the Spanish Mountains, that’s where the fun is at ;-) well for me anyway.
I would encourage anyone to try offroad motorcycling, it can only help with your road riding skills, it certainly has helped with mine. It teaches you so much about low speed control and reading the road and surrounding conditions, you will learn more about front and rear brake control in one day offroading than you will during a month of commuting.
If you do GetOn a dirtbike, please let me know, I’ll look forward to hearing your story…