Monday, 22 October 2007

OTT Enduro !

I spent Saturday tearing around the Peak District riding a Yamaha WR250F Enduro bike. Hammering gravel lanes and boulder strewn descents has long been an ambition of mine and so I got in touch with Overlander Trail Tours (OTT) and booked a days guided session with one to one tuition. It’s a long and tough day which starts at around 08:30 and finishes at 16:30, over this period you cover approx. 100 miles of prime Peak District terrain.

It’s worth mentioning here that OTT are a very professional outfit. They stick to tracks that are legal and treat all other trail users with respect and often stop and talk to people on the trail which serves as good PR for the sport, so many idiots give off-roading a bad name and it was good to see that OTT do their best to leave people with a good impression. Mike my guide was excellent both at riding his bike like he stole it and also at promoting the sport in the best possible way.

The drive up to the headquarters of OTT was interesting, taking me past the famous ‘Cat and Fiddle’ pub where I managed to stop and get a few pictures of the sun rising over the Peaks, and of the fantastic scenery over the moors.


Having looked at their homepage I kind of expected lots of terrain similar to that shown in the top picture, however as I discovered later there seemed to be more of the kind of the terrain shown in the second picture ... So it was that I was a bit bemused when I had to wear knee, elbow, shoulder, back and chest armour as well as armoured boots and hard wearing jacket and trousers - I felt a bit like Judge Dredd ! As it was I had good reason to be thankful for the armour ...

Crash Number 1 occurred after around an hour of riding, I was getting used to standing up over the bars letting the bike do its thing as we hurtled up a track over boulders and ruts and I was feeling good, maybe going a bit faster than my newly found but limited abilities needed, anyway, near the top of the track prior to a 90 degree bend was a large dip in the ground which I entered and shot out of with no front wheel on the ground to steer with ... the wheel touched down just prior to the handlebar guards and my shoulder impacting a dry stone wall. Which luckily collapsed and so absorbed most of the impact ... So with no damage other than a few scuffs (to the bike, not me) I picked the bike up and we carried on.

A fantastic part of the day was spent thrashing the bikes down the gravelly quarry lanes, with only a 3 feet high chicken wire fence separating us from the sheer drop on our left, it never felt overly dangerous though as the quarry roads, although loose gravel, were fairly smooth and these bikes are fantastic, their handling and braking is in a league of their own.

Later on I did my first river crossing which was fantastic and seemed to involve very little skill to be honest. Keep the revs up, the speed constant, relax and let the bike do it’s thing. One thing I learned from this day is that courage is key - lose your bottle and you lose the bike, tense up and you will soon crash, the bikes are so good that they require minimum input to control, small relaxed fluid movements and a pair of big b******s are key to having a successfull and fun time when riding hard offroad.

Crash Number 2 (the reason that I am still stiff as a board 2 days later I think) occurred in the last 30 minutes of the day. Hurtling up a rock strewn ascent, that we had actually descended successfully earlier that day, I lost control, twisted the throttle back by accident and shot out of the rut into the wall at the side of the trail. This wall didn’t collapse and with the bike on top of me and the smell of petrol I lay under the bike feeling rather sorry for myself. I suspect I lost concentration or strength or both as by this time I was shattered and that was the result.

Fortunately the only damage to the bike was a front mudguard snapped in two, which was not classed as a slight scrape and so I had to pay £30 to replace it. One of the good things about OTT is that your maximum financial exposure is £100 so even if I had written the bike off all I would have had to pay would be £100.

Here’s a photo of me post Crash Number 1 and pre Crash Number 2 ...

Following this incident we headed back to HQ, the end of a fantastic day. I will definitely go again. I’m still unsure whether I will buy my own bike and take it up as a regular sport but there is no denying it is a lot of fun and very good exercise. Definitely recommended

“Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that’s even remotely true!” - Homer Simpson

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