Tail end of 2021 I had to fly over to Portugal to tie-up some long overdue RUST stuff with publisher Warren. Covid restrictions had restricted travel for some time and with Warren in PT and me in the UK we were behind on getting finished on quite a few projects.
Of course, it wasn’t all work. We rode, too. Three days worth. First day on trail. Next two days at a sand track. Immediately on returning to the UK I had to motor-on down to Wiltshire for the Yamaha WR250F launch and there I rode a motocross track. Now I love trail, but deep sand riding and motocross tracks have lately slipped to the bottom of my ride preferences. So it was a bit of a surprise to find I thoroughly enjoyed both.
I think two (Covid) years which found me riding nearly always big adventure bikes had me thinking it was my time to slow down and just enjoy the wide open spaces. Give over the technical, frenetic stuff to the young ‘uns (to me, Craig is a young ‘un). But forced – honestly I’d say that was the situation – to ride again deep sand and mx, I found I still loved that stuff.
Deep sand is a tough terrain for big adventure bikes. I’d forgotten that having come from enduro riding I’d actually at one point had half-decent sand-riding skills and when I transitioned to adventure riding I would boss even those big 1200 GSs pretty well in the soft stuff. But lack of practice and probably reading too many FB stories of guys sucking in the sand big time has made me a bit shy. Riding Warren’s FE350 in the Portuguese sand was a joy though and I slowly started remembering the old techniques – mostly a case of plenty of throttle and looking well ahead. And ignoring the ploughed furrows of other riders, sand ruts are not ruts, just blast through them. At first I was short of breath, sand riding is an intensely physical thing, but by the end of each day I could ride a fairly fastish 15 minutes at a time. More importantly I was back loving the sand.
Equally I’ve long since said no more motocross tracks (I’m rubbish at jumping). But at the WR250F launch at Rogers Hill, well, there was this awesome undulating track with a decent sense of flow – and it was simply too tempting. I had the track to myself and over the course of an hour I got faster and faster, gaining heaps of confidence getting the wheels really out of line in and out of the corners and gently increasing jump distance. There was a sweet back straight with three or four speed jumps and there it was a real buzz to just nail the WR through the gears and tear down that straight, made even more exciting given the curve at the end into a downhill then a hairpin.
Point being, I’ve become a bit safe in my riding. Probably too safe – you can be too defensive. Riding two terrains I’d really begun to avoid, and on lightweight enduros, kind of reset my default. I loved riding the enduro bikes again, but equally I know that will now play into my adventure riding. I’m going to be that much more confident again riding faster, safer and again attacking the sand the way you should.
So I write this blog not for enduro riders, but adventure riders. I’m not saying you need to buy an enduro bike, maybe just attend an enduro ride school from time to time. Riding different stuff, and stuff you may instinctively not like, can really make a difference. You’ll get back on that adventure bike of yours a new man/woman. Honestly.