Monday, June 18, 2012

OFF: [road skills]

Having experienced the roads of Greece on two motorised wheels in a previous blog post (and in real life) I decided to learn some skills with the official sounding BMW Powered Off Road Skills organisation somwehere near Port Talbot by taking the Level One "trash our bikes ££ weekend course".  Naturally it mostly rained but this gave experience on Somme like trench warfare.

Of note the famous stand up comedian Ross Noble participated but the real amusement came from the less notable participants (note that for legal reasons I'm not using the real names except for Ross Noble, Simon Pavey and Jenny).

Bikes are supplied - anything GS available. When trashed a white van appears with another one.
Introductory briefing t the centre by the ever attentive and unflappable Simon Pavey. Training takes place 5 miles away on the private 4000 acre Walters Arena.
I am allocated a BMW G650 Sertao number 26.
Refuelling 40 bikes on the way to the training grounds - I don't think that puddle is petrol - more probably diesel.
Initial training is carried out at the sports arena - spot the TV celeb: Ross Noble is the scruffy filthy one: he was the professional stand up comedian - the rest of us were doing it to look good...
How to pick up a GS and look for a lost contact lens at the same time.
It's a matter of leverage, no brute strength required at all.
This is Jenny demonstrating the off road pose - main advantage it looks cool, but one can see further and allegedly control the machine better. Jenny was rather cool too.
Stand up comedians slalom riding on the arena - one of these tedious and pointless exercises that one is made to perform as amusement to others.
Kev and Jenny - instructors for the weekend for the cowards group ( group).  Following the arena we were taken to surrounding forest fire roads and rutted tracks for real off road riding.
This ordeal is the emergency stopping on a hill trick - the scrub at the bottom is the catchment area.
Back at the centre after day 1.....
Day 2 became quite eventful.  The ambulance only had to come once and that was to remove Jane to casualty - quite how she destroyed herself and a motorbike within 10 yards of exiting a track between 2 rocks at walking pace defeats me.  Francois who had confused the front brake with the rear brake on day 1 and had  performed a spectacular high side wipe out  carried on with day 2 under the heavy influence of ibuprofen and Cabernet Sauvignon .  Terry managed to perform a perfect 90 degree turn out of a deep muddy rut and rode into a bush at high speed. I spoke to Ross Noble.

I fell off once only whilst performing my interpretation of the momentum exercise:  this involves ascending a steep bank using momentum only and stopping on the top.  I managed the first bit to a degree but forgot to apply the brakes and rolled backwards down the bank again arriving in a heap at the bottom. 

I return the machine dirty but whole - unlike others.
Special Welsh mud proves impossible to remove!

P.S  Don't try this at home:


  1. You know it has been a great day when the bike is hanging in the tree.

    Sounds like great fun. I am glad your bike only took a nap once and with the rain you probably enjoyed it more, otherwise you wouldn't have had all that lovely mud to muck about in.

  2. Ok. That is just downright awesome!! How did you like the bike? Forgot to appy to brake when faced with the prospect of returning downhill backwards??? For shame. But at least you werent too dinged up.

    I love the idea of a never ending supply of bikes and a van to whisk broken ways away quickly!

  3. They obviously don't have an age restrictions, meaning it can't be too dangerous ;-)

    Your bunch seem to use fairly worn out bikes, or how come they have to take a nap every so often?

  4. Lori: The bike was fine but the R1200GS is so much better on these dirt roads - better torque and balance! The Sertao would score on technically demanding sections like "rock hopping" where a light bike has advantages.

    Sonja: All these bikes were brand new 3 months ago! They will all be sold in the winter - interested?

  5. Cool, I have really enjoyed learning the new skills with riding off road, of course have fallen off a few times but shit happens. Standing up on the foot pegs has been a revelation and has really helped me.

    While you are ot to old (cough) stick with the 1200.

  6. ooopps the was supposed to say NOT to old....

  7. Dear Nikos:

    I am awfully proud of you, considering how you balked at riding in golf cart the first time we met (claiming that the lack of a helmet under these circumstances had to guide your judgement).

    And yet, you prevailed in Wales, and presumably returned with some sort of certificate.

    Congratulations. The bandages came off my right leg today. In another ten days, they will come off the left too.

    Fondest regards,
    Twisted Roads

  8. Roger

    With respect to age, I am now working on the premise that you are only as old as the woman you feel.


    I have anxiety in travelling in anything made in China as I know that the IPR has been ripped off.

    Many thanks for leaving a message and good luck for a speedy recovery

  9. That really sounded like an awesome workshop. Just out of curiosity, I'm assuming that you were given a choice, why didn't you choose a bile like your own?

  10. RichardM

    All the larger capacity machines were sold out when I booked - however I'm a coward too....

  11. It's so nice to see that you have been cleaning your blogging up, Mr Nikos, with something quite wholesome and not full of unnecessary innuendo.

    I myself learned to do it in the dirt at quite a young age. My beloved Grandfather, Edgar, took me out on an old ex-WD BSA M20, but later I progressed to a Bultaco trials bike. I must admit that I found it quite exciting doing it standing up with a Sherpa.

  12. I've often wondered about doing one of these courses (they aren't far from me) but I have always held back on the basis that I don't bounce as well as I used to. I have owned trail bikes for many years, but never done more than a bit of mild green-laning.

    Full marks for giving it a go and not trashing the bike.

  13. Miss Jessop

    Clearly I'm losing my touch - I'll try harder next time.


    Thanks but the mud in Wales is soft...


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