BMW Off Road Skills Brecon Beacon Adventure

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Back in July I headed down to South Wales to join the Off Road Skills team to do my Level One Off Road Training.  It was a brilliant couple of days, made a huge difference to my off road riding, increased my confidence and basically left me wanting more…

The Brecon Beacons Adventure was the perfect next step.  The two day adventure ride based in Radnorshire, mid Wales organised by the Off Road Skills Team is made up of riding the great tracks and roads of Radnor Forest.

I went at the end of October – a two day off road adventure when a huge wind and rain storm was forecast in the UK.  But hey, surely a bit of rain and mud wasn’t that different to a lot of rain and mud?!

I was joining the Bahnstormer Motorrad dealership group.  We all arrived on Saturday evening ahead of our Sunday morning departure.  I was a little nervous, it had been a few months since I’d done the Off Road Level One Course and the conditions this time were very different.  It was wet and muddy, not dry and dusty.

We split into three groups of 6-8 riders, each group with an instructor and headed out from the Off Road Skills headquarters.  We soon left the road and found a pace on a stoney lane track with a little water on it in places!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was riding an F 800GS.  I love the bike although I would’t have minded being on the R 1200GS after a test ride earlier in the year and realising that it isn’t as intimidating as it looks!  The bikes are amazing and as we did our first few miles off road I started to think I was getting the hang of it….

….It wasn’t long before I came off!  Heading down a muddy track, out of the ruts and on the wet slippery grass in the centre I pulled on the brakes.  Bad move!  The brakes locked and the back tyre (acting like it was on ice) slid round.  Of course the best thing would have been to use engine breaking, commit to going and not try to stop – easier said than done though.

This wasn't a fall - Richard was just getting some mud off his jacket!
This wasn’t a fall – Richard was just getting some mud off his jacket!

Coming off was a good thing, it took away my fear about coming off!  I was moving slowly, it didn’t hurt and it was a soft landing.  I soon realised what I was doing wrong, it was my fear and harshness with the brakes that made me fall off – every time!

By the afternoon I felt I’d made significant improvement and in just a day we’d covered almost 100miles of country roads, muddy lanes, open moorland and forest areas.

That night we welcomed the cosy country pub and hearty meal.  Listening to the rain continue I knew that more deep water would be in store for the next day.  And I was right!

Crossing an overflowing river!
Crossing an overflowing river!

On day two our group was riding with Simon Pavey, who is possibly one of the most patient people I’ve ever met! As I went sideways down a bank and came off the bike Simon grinned at me and said, “You know what you did wrong? You looked down.”  He then said to me, “Relax, look up and let the wheels roll”.

And something clicked.

Let the wheels roll...
Let the wheels roll…

Relax, look up and let the wheels roll.  Relax, look up and let the wheels roll.  Relax, look up and let the wheels roll. The perfect mantra for off road riding.

I began riding with less fear and in turn I used less energy.  Everything felt better.  It reminded me a lot of when I was learning to ski.  The last thing I wanted to do was point my skis down hill, lean forward and go but as soon as I had the confidence to do that it all slotted into place..  Then it was all about practice!

The final afternoon was spent all riding as one large group back across the mountain tracks at our own pace, free to pick a line and just go for it.

It was exhilarating, fast and fun….

Getting dirty!
Getting dirty!
The happy Bahnstormer Group at the end of the trip.
The happy Bahnstormer Group at the end of the trip.