A LITTLE WELSH WANDERING ON MOTORCYCLES
HOW GREEN IS MY VALLEY?...GREEN ENOUGH FOR GREEN LANING
Trail riding or Green Laning are one and the same activity. The routes used for Green Laning are known either as BYWAYs, RUPPs, BOATS, UCRs or more commonly...Green Lanes. In a nutshell they are ancient routes that historically were not busy or popular enough to be tarmaced. Although they are often predominantly used by farmers to move machinery and livestock, these routes still require that vehicles and the riders or drivers using them, are as legal as those using the M1. Traversing these Green Lanes has been a popular pastime for many years with folk in or on motorised vehicles using them to gain easy access to the sights, sounds and smells of the countryside.
However in recent years the lanes are coming under threat and are being closed by pressure from different groups.
We all feel we have certain rights and users of the country are no different. We all make judgements and have pre-determined ideas about others and the different groups which either live or play in the countryside are just as guilty as each other. Clearly where we should all be happy to share this land nicely, we ain't prepared to, not one iota.
* The farmers are over protective and want to keep everyone off the paths and byways we are entitled to be on (Get orf moi land)
*The Ramblers think they have a right to go wherever they choose and no-one else does
* The 4 wheel drive lot chew up the lanes and ruin them for everyone else
*The horsey crowd think the lanes are their sole preserve
* And of course the motorcyclists are all hooligans who are riding illegally
* Oh, I've left out the mountain bikers....dunno but we've got to hate them for something. Oh I know their clothes are just too bright
Surely whilst these are wild generalisations, as ever there are elements of truth within them (especially the cyclists clothes!)
Unfortunately this all sets up another problem...the more we use these routes the more conflict seems to ensue...however, if they are not used they may be lost for everyone. Use it or lose it.
Go West young man!
With these thoughts in mind, I headed…No, that’s not quite accurate...what I actually had in mind was having some motorcycle riding fun with some good friends I don’t see enough of. Also high on my agenda was to test my bike, a KTM LC4. In truth it is a tad large for trail riding, it is a 625cc “Adventure” bike, but I was using it because I am setting off on an adventure soon and wanted to see which bits might work loose or fall off!
With these thoughts in mind, I headed west from central London to the M40. My destination was Welshpool, half way up the borderlands between Wales and England. Spanish Chris had made all the arrangements so apart from having the postcode and an idea of the area I didn't really know what to expect.
We were booked in for two days riding and three nights BnB. The four of us know each other from marshalling at Dawn to Dusk, one of the biggest and most demanding enduros on the UK calendar. That does not mean however that we are expert riders, not by any means but we do have some years of falling off and wobbling about under our collective belts.
Our bikes were an eclectic mix, apart from my oversize LC4. Mark, who has limited inside leg measurement, has a diminutive Honda CRF 230. Spanish has a classic 2 stroke Honda CRM 250, he suffers from nerve damage in his hands from years of using power tools and vibrating bikes, he has found the CRM to be smooth enough to enable him to keep riding. Steve the Builder has a Husky 310, the only modern enduro bike in the pack.
We met and chatted with our host and guide Steve. For purposes of accuracy he will be known as Steve the Guide. The first piece of guiding was to direct us to the local pub where over a couple of beers we met Phillip a fellow rider who would be joining us for the next two days.
The Rain God's Day Off
Our first morning dawned dry and we gave thanks to the Celtic Rain God who was taking a day off and after a splendid breakfast we donned our riding gear and headed for them thar hills. We were joined by Simon the last member of our new gang who was riding one of the fabulous KTM Freerides. I was jealous.
Trail riding consists of travelling along a series of tarmaced roads that link up the legitimate trails which are open to use. Steve the Guide's job is to be able to quickly assess the ability of the riders in each group and take them to trails which are appropriate to their skills. There would be little point in pushing riders too far beyond their comfort zone and they would be far less inclined to return a second time or recommend the experience if they struggled all way round. It was quickly apparent that Steve the Guide was a very talented rider who exuded confidence and ability on his bike.
Lost in the Lanes
The routes can be quite complicated so riders need to be mindful of those behind, the last thing you want is to hang around waiting for lost riders, fortunately we were all experienced in that area so our riding flowed along nicely. For the first of our two days we were taken to higher ground, up over moorland where the trails were loose and rocky and the views, when we had time to look, were dramatic and stunning...especially when the sun was shining. Halfway through the morning our guide was struggling with a flat front tyre. We stopped in a small village next to a fast flowing river and in the time it took us to order and drink a coffee Steve had his bike up on a park bench, wheel off and puncture repaired.
Within a short while we were on our way again, up a hill where I was able to amuse my colleagues by stalling on a steep hairpin, gently placing my bike on the road whilst dancing, oh so gracefully away from it. Steve the Builder was so impressed he insisted on reminding us about it at every possible opportunity, bless him. So with the entertainment over we carried on our merry way, up hill and down dale we went, occasionally stopping to open or close gates or queue up to get over large rocks or fallen trees. On the way we were given pearls of wisdom from our guide as how to tackle the next section. Thus the day progressed until late afternoon when we wearily wove our way back to base. After giving our bikes a once over, we headed off for a welcome shower and down the road to the pub for dinner and to talk rubbish. Steve the Guide joined us and I asked him about riding with people who have less or no off-road experience. He explained that he has a fleet of bikes people can use which vary in performance and he will take people to the easy gentle trails to get them started.
Ah, the Rain God's back at work
The next morning was a different kettle of fish. There was no doubt what part of the world we were in. It started drizzly and progressed to persistent. But, like most of life, if you just get on with it you find that it is not so important. That is until it trickles down your neck, but by then you are a long way from base and lunch break is around the corner. This day's route was termed the “enduro loop” and offered a different set of challenges. There were more rutted trails which always demanded my full attention when riding a big bike, especially when wet and muddy. The front wheel seemed to obey a different set of rules. I also found the limit of the rear trials tyre I had fitted. It worked pretty well for the most part but wet grass was its downfall with the rear wheel spinning like crazy and stubbornly refusing to find any grip. I don’t think I was the only one though.
A bridge too far
One of the more dramatic obstacles was a ford that Steve the Guide described as f*****g slippery, apparently a bona fide technical term. He demonstrated the way through and I followed, picking up a boot full on the way. I jumped off my bike and got the camera out only to watch the others go over the nearby footbridge. However on the return journey several hours later, confidence was a little higher, but so was the level of slipperiness to which Mark fell victim.
I walked mine through. We had a break later when Steve the Builder's Husky developed a fuel situation. Spanish Chris and Mark, who claimed to know nothing about the magic that is fuel injection, fiddled around for twenty minutes and got the beast breathing again.
Despite the inclement conditions, Spring is a good time to go to Wales. The trails are not too overgrown and it is never going to be too hot but if you do start to get too sweaty there are plenty of puddles to fly through and cool down. Also as you might expect, every village seems to have hundreds of daffodils in their hedgerows - lovely.
We were all damp and pretty knackered by the time we completed the afternoon. Knackered but happy.
A fiver in the beer kitty
Back in the pub once more the day was made complete when we found that Spanish had won a fiver on their National Sweepstake. That immediately went in the beer kitty. We’d had a fantastic couple of days riding and we all agreed we would be happy to return for another go.
Away we go
For us Sunday morning was slow and relaxed but Steve the Guide had 10 riders down from Kendal to entertain. Once they had set off the guys packed their vans and I loaded up my bike, it was time for a tearful farewell and head our separate ways. For me the five hour cross country ride home was as much part of the trip as the trail riding. I need to see how me and the KTM would fare under a bit of pressure as the next big adventure is around the corner in June when I plan to ride through Turkey and Iran with two other riding compadres. I reckon we were both looking good after this little trip, just need to work out what tyres to use and away we go.
Just to let you know, we didn’t upset anyone that Steve the Guide didn’t want to upset. In fact most people were happy to see us, particularly in shops, garages and pubs. But even on the trails when we came across farmers and a few walkers there were smiles and acknowledgements. There we are then.
If you like this story and have any similar experiences to add then drop us a line on: firstname.lastname@example.org
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