Following our confidence having been built up on the off-road course, we have take a couple of trips down the greenlanes in our area. Feeling that the ‘Not suitable for motorised transport’ warning signs should adequately prepare us for the roads we are expecting.
Well, I don’t know so much about the roads being the problem. My first tumble came through misjudging the width of the panniers, and clipping a fridge that some considerate soul had left on the path (right next to a large puddle too). The most dramatic off though came through a combination off confusion and bad luck. I was leading down a long twisty and rather steep hill, and hadn’t seen Cathy behind me for a little while so decided to wait and see if I needed to go back up and help. Cathy had started the downhill quite tentatively, and having regained her confidence was now coming down the hill full tilt (I think you can see where this is going). I won’t go into the exchange of words as Cathy rounded the corner to try and haul a bike to a standstill against the inevitability of gravity and gravel. Needless to say I spent the next day beating out my panniers and the glue gun will be warmed up for some reconstructive surgery on the front of Cathy’s bike.
On a positive note though we now know that the panniers will take a real beating (in more ways than one). Also that even when we are both in a tangled pile of idiot and machine, it is possible to extricate ourselves and carry on.
On 5th & 6th August 2007, we embarked on a fabulous two-day training exercise with BMW’s off-road school in Wales. Arriving the night before we checked in to the Abercrave Inn just a few miles down the road, bursting with anticipation and excitement at what lay ahead. Next morning, at breakfast, we met several bikers clad in off-road gear and it became clear that we weren’t the only ones there who were going back to school!
We arrived early to sign up and sort out boot hire before grabbing a cup of tea and being issued with our bikes for the duration of the course. (Or so the theory goes! Between us we managed to dismember and disembowel a total of three bikes!)
The course was brilliant – more than either of us had expected. Our instructor, Alan, an irish chap nicknamed ‘even bigger paddy’ by his colleagues, had the patience of a god and managed to teach us the tricks of the trade with the greatest of ease, always keeping a calm outward exterior when actually he must have wanted to strangle us sometimes.
The first exercise was, fittingly, how to pick up your bike. This is a helpful skill to have, especially when you have a habit of tilting sideways and then toppling off! Indeed, Cathy did manage a couple of intimate moments with the ground over the course of the two days, and has the battlescars to prove it. From there it was on to how to break on loose ground, what not to do when you’re riding down steep slopes, and using momentum to tackle sharp rises in the terrain (getting airborne was not part of the deal, but we managed it in the process anyway!). Next came ‘how to recover a bike when you’ve stalled it on a steep rise’, a task Cathy managed to turn into ‘watch me roll down the hill like a Gloucester cheese’!