The instructions said 'Follow the BMW roundels in the industrial estate which will guide you to the depot' ...... my friend Paul and I said 'where are the BMW roundels'?? We eventually spied a likely looking building by the amount of mud that was on the drive up to the main doors, typically we were an hour and a half early and the place was deserted so we wondered about catching some zzzzz's having been out of bed at 0430!!
About an hour later the instructors arrived and having put on the Burco for tea and coffee started expertly riding out a seemingly never ending stream of 650GS, 650 Dakars and 1200GS's and parking up in the road outside. A steady trickle of likely looking candidates arrived by car and bike some seeming to brim with confidence others like ourselves somewhat apprehensive. The next half hour was spent filling in forms, donning the hired boots and two piece Savannah suits ready for the fray. Fortunately no-one had forgotten their driving licence without which you cannot commence the course.
'Gentlemen select your bikes' was the next order of the day so the 30 or so of us eventually zeroed in on a likely looking machine and familiarised ourselves with the controls. Eventually we started riding in mass convoy up to the Enduro Park a distance of about 8 miles, as the day was grey and fresh I was soon severely doubting the wisdom of only wearing a tee shirt and knickers under the Savannah suit as by the time we arrived I was absolutely freezing, as it turned out feeling cold was to be the least of my worries!!!
We were quickly divided into skill levels on the basis of: Done off road before, regular road rider or occasional rider and with a few adjustments to even up group size we were introduced to our instructor 'Gary'and moved off in our groups to an open flat area of shale. First order of the day was picking the bike up (it seemed we were going to be doing a lot of this!) followed by holding the bike at its point of balance, full lock turns under power, locked up rear wheel braking and front wheel braking by which time we were all boiling hot and losing pounds due to the private saunas inside our suits.
Following the free lunch of roast beef baguette, fruit and tea or coffee we then nervously moved off on to some of the forest trails and this first section was not without spills. We then commenced an exercise of riding down a cliff using engine braking and then brakes..very scary....the photos just dont do it justice!!! Oh and as a little sweetener Gary made us stop and restart half way down the cliff...very amusing!!! It was somewhere around here that Robert took a tumble which resulted in some serious ankle damage but being the tough guy that he is he kept on riding
We finished off the afternoon with more trail riding and putting our new skills to use, then it was back to the depot get out of our gear and find our accommodation. We were staying at the Abercrave Inn which we can highly recommend, it has the particular advantage of hosting the group evening meal which was attended by all the instructors and trainees, a very enjoyable evening although some of us early starters could hardly keep our eyes open by the end of the evening.
What a contrast to the previous days grey skies, we were greeted by an absolutely beautiful morning and after breakfast headed to the depot. Quite a few of us were nursing bruises and aches and pains and Roberts ankle had swollen so much he could not get his boot on so missed the second day entirely! The rest of us convoyed back up to the Enduro park and were quickly back out on the trails again.
After a warm up run we were introduced to our second test of courage and balance, this time on a different cliff we had to stop the bike in gear, get off it, turn it around, get back on it and ride it down the hill!!! It has to be said that those courageous types who went first demonstrated all the ways NOT to dismount and control the bike to the benefit of the those who had hung back at the start of the exercise, the standard definately improved as we worked our way through the group
After a visit to the Chuck Wagon we were back in action, by now several of us were limping and standing in the freezing cold stream to reduce the pain in damaged feet and ankles. Next exercise was 'momentum' learning how to declutch towards the top of a rise to be in control over the top. This was great fun only marred by the fact that I crashed while turning around to take my turn so now I had joined the ranks of the 'riding wounded'.
The rest of the day was spent reinforcing the newly learned skills and I particularly enjoyed a last 'burnup' around the trails with our new confidence allowing us to do things we would not have thought possible just 24 hours previous. Hats off to Gary, Simon and the rest of the the instructing team for making hard work so enjoyable and finding a way to get through our fear. Perhaps I will see you there next year when I am sure I will be back to either redo Level 1 on a 1200 or maybe do Level 2??? I cant wait!!!...Oh and by the way......buy or hire some decent boots and the schools riding gear..dont wreck your own!!!
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