“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.”
The greats of Sport....
It's not for me to compare myself to the greats of the sport, that burden lies with others, but in one day the instructors converted me from a novice to an enthusiastic novice with the confidence for more dirt riding, a significant change, given my lack of experience away from tarmac..
The Trail School (www.trailworld.co.uk, phone: 01582 842244) is situated north of London (they also do amazing looking tours of southern Spain). It is easy to get to from the M1 – and they supply all the bikes and kit, you just turn up at 9am.
My first impression was of the enduro boots, seemingly cast from stone- but they quickly became comfortable. The next was the group of six people taking part – all oldies (ish) and all thankfully lacking serious experience off road, so we were all in the same boat.
Full Knobblies and electric starters
The bikes supplied were AJP 200 four stroke enduro machines, with full knobblies and electric starters, a great idea for this sort of thing. The bikes were very well maintained, light, and simple to ride – the only problem some might have is the seat height, which requires a bit of technique to get on and off if you are short of leg – however they also have small wheeled versions available so it's not an issue.
As our excellent instructor Gary Horwood said:
“You'll probably spend 80% of your time standing on the pegs”
- lucky really, as the seat was about the width of a brick, though less yielding.
Berm baby, Berm!
We started around the mile long track pottering along getting used to the bikes, then progressed to trying different sections in detail, with particular advice on negotiating long narrow ruts, berms, loose stones, use of brakes etc. – most of it was very different to how you would naturally ride on the road, and most interesting – I barely used the clutch all day, for example.
Allowing the bike to move around underneath you, and do the work for you, was I think the most useful tip of the day- an alien concept for the road rider, but great fun as soon as you became confident in the bike's ability and began to relax.
Hot baths and long drinks
Mental concentration in the tighter sections was required, and it was easy to drift off message and mess it up – my hat goes off to these long distance enduro riders, who must also be in top physical shape - our gentle introduction was enough, by the end of the day, to make us think of hot baths and long drinks.
As far as crashing goes, everyone took a gentle tumble at some point, no harm done, and I cleverly saved my one get off until the end of the day when the camera was pointed at me, showing off.
I believe it was the English polymath William Whewell (it was) who said:
“Every failure is a step to success.”
How true, and now I know to sit down on the seat while powering out of a turn on soft ground...
Setting the right tone
|There he goes again - will nothing stop this man?|
I would heartily recommend this school for off road beginners, and I'm already planning my next day out at Trailworld, on their extended tour of the nearby green lanes.