Back in February Howard and I signed us up to the MCC Lands End Trial. It’s a non stop, 15 hour endurance / reliability trial from Cirencester or Bridgewater (depending on your entry) to Hayle in Cornwall.
Easter weekend we did it, and this is the long delayed blog about the mini adventure!
Last minute preparation for a long distance enduro trial
The starting point for the ‘race’ was Bridgewater in Somerset. We spent Thursday getting the bikes ready, finishing the mapping and going for a practice ride near Romsey.
GPS decided not to play ball
As newbies to trails & ‘route cards’, we weren’t keen on the old school method of mounting a contraption to the handlebars and attempting to read printed route instructions while riding off road.
We thought GPS would be much easier. It would have been if it would work. Eventually, after spending most of Friday on it, Howard at least got waypoint markers to show. It would have to suffice as we were out of time.
The heavens opened as we set off for the start of the trial
We hit the road from Eastleigh to Bridgewater around 7.30pm. It soon started to drizzle. We gave in somewhere fairly near Bridgewater to put waterproofs on. It was too late really. I was already damp.
Bridgewater motor vehicle fairground
As we got closer to the Rugby Club it was easy to see who was also competing. The Motorcycling Club have many cars and vintage vehicles. They looked fab (even at 11pm). The drizzle eased as we pulled up to the humming of car and motorbike engines and a carnival like atmosphere of anticipation from participants and officials making the Club buzz.
Time went quick, we did our scrutiniser’s check (where they test basics on your bike and your MOT), found some food and checked in by handing over the precious route cards. A quick cup of instant coffee and before we knew it, 12:15am arrived and we were signalled to start.
First hurdle fail
We set off from Bridgewater in the rain with the GPS useless because there weren’t any waypoints close enough to tell us how to get out of town. I’m ashamed to admit we followed other competitors… it felt like the only way out of the town. Until we realised they were in a different class and heading in totally the wrong direction!
40 minutes later we were eventually somewhere near we should be. Luckily for us entering the ‘O’ (novice) category, time didn’t matter.
Our first Observed Section – a dirt track somewhere around 2:00am
As someone who doesn’t do night riding just getting to Bridgewater was an achievement. Now we were going to put ourselves though a sleepless night and circa 12 Sections (tests) of off road capability while trying to get to Hayle in one piece. People really do this for fun?
Arriving at the Section Howard was told I couldn’t just follow him. Alarm bells ring for me. What, I can’t follow him? But I follow him everywhere. How will I do it on my own?
Well I did. It was an easy route actually, just earthy ground hardly affected by the rain.
Making ground across Devon & Exmoor by motorcycle, in the middle of the night
Most of the night was decent road riding. Exmoor was bitter with driving rain, wind & fog. It wasn’t long before I felt the rain seeping through my trousers. We had a welcome stop at Barbrook Village Hall (3:00am) but I didn’t really dry out until 2:00pm on Saturday.
5am woodland section rolled into a morning of observed section off road fun
I managed to work myself into a wonderful anxious frenzy every time we came to an observed section. The problem (joy) was that we’d pull up to the section where a queue of vehicles would be in front of us, and all we’d see (if lucky) was the drop of a flag and the car/ bike take off. Then I’d hear the engine struggle and/or the throttle go and you knew there was something treacherous (exciting) just around the corner. Every time I feared the worst possible scenario and every time I love the challenge. Nearly all were difficult for one reason or another. Every one was also amazing fun.
The most memorable (before Blue Hills) were the woodland tests. After a night of rain (that we rode through) and 100 other vehicles trying them before us, we encountered the most amazing, glorious, exhilarating slippery mud. I just wish we hadn’t forgotten the GoPro!
Blue Hills. The official climax of The Land’s End Trail (but not the finale)
Blue Hills is a section of footpath near St Agnes in Cornwall. It’s an MCC owned track and there are two parts; Old Blue Hills and Blue Hills 2. Old Blue Hills is a short steep, turning challenge followed by tarmac. Blue Hills 2 is described as an ‘unsurfaced lane with severe gradient roughness Category 10’. Roughness categories are 1 – 10, 10 being the most severe.
As ‘O’ category entrants, we had the choice which section we did but couldn’t do both. We’d spoken to a motorists during the 3am stop and he was adamant we needed to try Blue Hills 2. We agreed.
We arrived at the Perranporth check point around 2.30pm and had to declare what route we were doing; it was Blue Hills 2 we chose. We then met another motorist who told us how hard Blue Hills 2 is… with a big step to climb at the end. Eek! Too late to change our minds now!
The ride up Blue Hills
Riding down to the valley and watching other vehicles attempt the route on the other bank made me wish we’d chosen the other route. It was packed of spectators and looked so steep and the cars really struggled. How were we really going to get up it? I didn’t capture any photos but here are some I’ve found (sorry and thanks to whoever owns them).
Watching Howard take-off up this huge, rough gravel hill was party hysterical and party petrifying. I was willing him not to fall. It would have been nearly impossible to kick start Edward on that, especially with bruised ribs (he did that on the Romsey ride on Thursday). He made it. I was relieved… but now it was my turn.
I took to the technique I love so much – twist the throttle and just bloody go for it. I motored all the way with the mantra ‘I’ve done the Pamir, that was worse’. Before I knew it I was at the top, with friends and family waving (and a slightly grumpy old man telling me off for missing the stop point I didn’t see).
The final stretch was back roads to Hayle. There was no grand finale but it was great to pull into the Brewers Fayre and know we’d done it.
Anyone thinking of doing long distance motorcycling for the first time?
- If you’re thinking about a long distance motorcycling adventure, go on a local long distance trial first. I wish we’d had the time to do one before our trip last year
- The admin/ paperwork to sign up to your first is mind boggling – get someone experienced to help you
- Have a few green lane practice runs, we went out with Ride the Wild and it gave my confidence a massive boost
- Nail the route planning – whether you are going old school with paper or programming the GPS, if you don’t get this sorted it will make your trip miserable.