A few weeks back I was panicking that I hadn’t ridden off road in months & we had a competition coming up.
The worst thing about ‘off road’ in England is getting to grips with BOATs (byways open to all traffic). It’s a minefield of local council wims to figure out where you can and can’t ride.
So, I searched the internet and found Ride the Wild, a tour guide operating in Surrey Hills and willing to take novices out green laning at the weekends. Sounded just what I needed to boost my confidence.
Here’s some details on the day long ‘novice’ ride out
I was the only participant. I was insanely nervous (you’ve ridden to Mongolia Anna, why nervous about a few hours in Surrey?!) but found comfort in the knowledge that if I had truly forgotten everything, at least I’d only be making an arse of myself in front of the guides instead of a whole heap of riders!
I had two guides. Phil and his mate Chris. After short introductions we set off promptly from Ryker’s Cafe (the motorbiking hub in Surrey).
Chris was mostly up front on his monstrous KTM 1190 instantly enjoying every second of sliding on the mud. Phil hung out behind me, assessing my ability, which, it appeared, wasn’t as bad as I thought. I made it through the first spots of mud, and the next.
Progress never felt so good
Soon I was standing up. I’d forgotten what it felt like to feel the bike moving underneath me so easily. My mind was half concentrating, half joyously reminiscing.
Next I was practicing riding through the slippery sections using the camber of the track to gain grip – a technique the guys were teaching me. Didn’t do this one on the slippery tracks of Russia!
We flew through some deep water numerous times and the terrain mixed between wide, narrow, mud and gravel. We stopped regularly to rest.
Next we played with feeling the back end wobble under acceleration, locking the back wheel and skidding.
For the record I’ve never locked the back wheel, I’ve never intentionally skidded. I never knew how easy it was to manage or how fun it could be.
It started to feel comfortable
Don’t get me wrong, it was still hard work. Each rut, each mud section, each pool of water took concentration but Phil’s encouragement helped enormously and I realised all the things I feared weren’t so bad after all.
Just before heading home Phil announced I hadn’t challenged myself enough and we were going to head up a clay hill before returning.
This sounded worse than bog standard mud
Clay mixed with rain turns to a slippery mess. We paused just before setting up the hill. Phil gave me some coaching that under the pass was where it turned bad, deep ruts and lots of sliding joy. He reminded me the worse that would happen is I drop the bike but I’ll be going so slow it wouldn’t matter.
He wasn’t wrong. As we entered the track I wished there was another way… as I went under the pass I tried to focus on something that looked nice to ride in the distance, Gertrude was like Bambi on ice, I was all over the place. It’s funny as hell now but it wasn’t long and she was on her side.
Chris was long gone so Phil helped pick her up and eventually (after a lot more sliding around) we were up the hill again. The worst was conquered.
The lanes were glorious fun, quiet and a perfect mix of challenge with rest. Phil & Chris were excellent guides. Tomorrow Howard comes with me to ride with them again.. this time though, there will also be 4 other guys on the rideout. Let’s see how well I do with that one…
PHOTO CREDIT TO RIDE THE WILD – I’ve totally ripped these off their Facebook page (thanks Phil 🙂