Off Road Skills Level One–April 14th and 15th 2013–Day 1 (Sunday) Intro

So if you’ve read my previous post you will know that we are staying at the Old Tredegar, there is a group of 8 of us, and we are all travelling around in a VW Transporter Shuttle in Silver (did I mention the colour?).

Nicky did a sterling job of looking after us all for breakfast on Sunday morning and then we all headed back to our rooms to kit up for the journey to the industrial estate where ORS are based. Longest bit for me (as expected and in order of duration) was 1. Removing the visor from the Enduro (was going to use goggles) 2. Putting in the contact lenses. 3. Putting on the Tech 3s.

Actually the Alpinestars Tech 3s are quite easy to put on but the long part is getting the adjustment of the closures correct. There is a large Velcro flap which folds over and can get a little crossed up if you do it wrong. The buckles have some rotational movement but it is better to get everything straight so that the buckles go in. The buckles close reasonably easily apart from the inevitable one or two which don’t play ball – experience over the weekend led me to believe that the buckles have to be flat to click in properly. If they are slightly indented then they don’t line up properly and won’t click shut.

Then a double check to make sure I had everything I would need – gloves and helmet kit wise, driving license for signing in. And then stomped off on the nice new and clean carpet to get in the van. The route to the industrial estate is reasonably short but twisty – Ystradgynlais is pretty flat in the middle but go a mile in any direction and it basically follows a series of steep river valleys with inevitable changes in elevation and twist and turns. In fact at the back door of the Old Tredegar is a river, not something you appreciate properly on Google Street View.

As we turned the sweeping corner in the Industrial estate all the bikes where there waiting. In a long row out on to the road, grouped according to type and all nice and clean after the wash they had had the previous day. And nearest to their unit was the row of R1200GS bikes – the brand new model, so new in fact that it had been the previous model that David had had a shot on on the first Level One Motorrad group the previous October. One of those was going to be my ride for the next two days.

First stage was signing on – usual disclaimer forms etc., it was good to see some familiar faces from Knockhill – Simon Pavey was kicking around, as was Kevin Hammond who was helping check forms etc. Linley Pavey was also around – my wife got to know Linley a little at Knockhill as she sat with the ORS team while I was down a muddy hill falling off a few times.

I got handed a key to one of the new R1200GS bikes – this was to be the first time I would ride the new bike ever, and it would be on semi-knobblies and mainly off road. Some introduction! I hunted around for my bike but couldn’t find it. All of the bikes are numbered at ORS with the numbers in big letters on their screens but there were a couple of R1200 bikes missing screens – so David rightly did the sensible thing –try the key in the bike to see if it switches on. Right enough, I was on the screen less bike.

So we were gathered together got a wee speech and a quick explanation that filming was not allowed due to the site owners rules (and concerns) – follow to the petrol station and then form and fill up. And then up to the famous Walters Arena – ok famous to someone who scours magazines, YouTube and watched Long Way Round a few times. So it was goggles on, and ride along on the bike with the low seat. As usual I had no feel for the gear change in my motocross boots, but the space was decent on the big GS and I could hook my foot under the lever – rather than sweeping the side like I have had to do on smaller bikes like the G650 or the KTMs I had ridden a few years previously. As the roads were damp we took it pretty easy – on the way at least.

It was an interesting experience already – there must have been about 10 of each type of bike, so with R1200GS, F800GS, G650GS (or was it F700 ?) and enduro Husqvarna bikes, plus instructors on their R1200GS Adventures there was a lot of bikes at the petrol station. All good stuff. Then it was a fair ride up and out of town to get to the entrance we would use to the Arena. A bit of Google map work after the visit shows how big the area is and how many entrances lead in, thankfully with a big group I didn’t need to wait on the big gate getting opened.

Then it was on to an old road with potholes – and already some of the other participants were up on the pegs. It had been a couple of years since I had ridden off road and on an unfamiliar bike I stuck to sitting down – this would change quite quickly, all of the riding we would end up doing would be standing up.