I did have plans for Sunday but someone said the magic words, off-road skills with Simon Pavey – not the megabucks Welsh mountain version (as seen on Long Way Round) but a one-day taster. I’m still a year younger than Patsy Quick was when she entered the Dakar for the first time…
…so the very nice people at SBW Motorrad pretended not to notice the fact that the badge on my tank is neither round, blue nor German, and 9.30am found me in a baltic field in Cambridgeshire nervously eyeing up a couple of molehills while behind me five-year-olds flew through the air with gusto and grace. (7.30 am had found me getting flashed by a GATSO on the Euston Road, but that’s a different story…)
At least my feet looked the part – my Altbergs are black, tall and faintly kinky but have no ankle protection so I was lent a pair of the gnarliest motocross boots I’ve ever seen (only out-gnarled by the set that Jack got – so battered they had to be held on with zip ties.)
I am a control freak. I like to be upright, I like to be not sliding, and I like to be able to touch the ground with both feet. Gravel is my enemy and to date has cost me two indicators, a new side panel, a headlight nacelle and several large helpings of dignity. But life is for learning, and while the 6 guys in Blue group set off round the Kennett Track, I wobbled round the cones under the patient guidance of Chris (photo right) from Simon’s team…who, in a magnificent display of psychology, got me out onto the track before the end of the first session by suggesting that it would only get harder if it started to rain, so best to go while the going was good…
The trick is to stand on the pegs on the straight bits and get right over the bars on the bends to dig the front wheel in. And after 30 minutes of that I had developed thighs of steel and needed a good sit down – on a beautiful, black, shiny new R1200 GS Adventure for a
hoon blast carefully controlled ride-out – sweepy fast bits, wiggly tight bits and back to base across the gravel, which was fine until one of the guys mentioned that the GS in question wasn’t a demonstrator, it was his personal bike which he’d loaned back for the day…no pressure!
I’ve coveted a giant BMW trailie since Richard Fincher wrote about his yellow long-term loan GS with the Big Bird beak when he was editor of Bike. I was tempted to compromise when Dan Walsh took a 650 Dakar round South America, but then, while size may not be everything, why not ride the biggest bike you can touch the ground on? To size and presence on the list of virtues, I can now add the way the scenery disappears behind you when you wind it on, the contrast between the bulky bike and the beautifully smooth controls (couldn’t figure out the indicators, apologies to the guys behind who had to figure out the route without my help) – oh, and did I mention the size? Huge. (And that was just my grin.)
Tired, cold, stiff (and still aching) – most fun I’ve had in years 🙂
Some more photos of the day on my Flickr.