Looping back around to leave the phenomenal Bardenas landscape via the track we’d arrived on, I noticed crops growing in the dry soil. A network of canals carry water into the region to enable its use as a working landscape, even when sods of ploughed earth look to have the consistency of cannon balls!
The swirling jade waters of the canals sure looked tempting as we rode parallel with them, though the water flows too fast to consider a quick dip. Besides, a town lay just a few minutes away.
We swigged down two ice cold drinks and ordered another couple before the café’s proprietor even had chance to step back inside. Sandwiches, ice creams and another brace of Cokes soon followed, while we revelled in the shade of the tree-lined street. Still, there was a long way to travel yet…
Seventy-five percent of the ride would be spent away from tarmac, heading back towards France on rural tracks and wooded trails. The scenery continued to stun and photo stops were obligatory.
Chris warned that one particular trail, a technical stretch of singletrack, may cause a few problems and selflessly opted to ride it on the Transalp. Good on him!
Starting with a few awkward off-camber banks around washed-out ruts, the lane climbed up and over a small hill. A variety of gnarled roots, rocksteps, muddy holes and tractor ruts tested our mettle and the bike’s abilities. The Ténéré, I’m pleased to say, was fantastic. It clambered over everything I pointed it at and could be ridden at a crawl, trials-style, when required. It felt far lighter than the spec sheet suggests, and didn’t scrape its undercarriage once. Top stuff!
Unfortunately, Chris wasn’t fairing quite so well on the Transalp, and the root of his problems was the bike’s lack of ground clearance. Running more than three inches lower than the Yam, it clanged its centrestand and scraped its bellypan on a number of rocks, often pitching the bike off to one side or lifting a wheel in the process. Nonetheless, Chris teased it to the end of the trail without too much drama.
Long hours on the bikes (including a large number of ‘photocalls’) plus the oppressive heat of the desert meant we were pretty much bushed by the early evening, though we still had a good few kilometres to click off. When you were sat down, the Transalp was a comfortable place to be. When you were stood up, the hunched-over stance soon set your back aching.
Similarly the Yamaha, with its pleasantly upright riding position, was comfortable when you were sat in the seat. Only, like the Honda, when you stood up it eventually wore you down. And that’s purely down to the pegs…
The Yamaha bean-counter specced the Ténéré with horribly thin and narrow, decidedly ungrippy steel footpegs deserves to be subjected to some particularly nasty medieval torture. Which, coincidentally, is just what it feels like you’ve suffered after a few hours up on the pegs of the 660! Really, some proper wide pegs would make the bike SO much more comfortable!
(Curiously the more ‘roady’ Honda was fitted with uncomfortably firm yet clearly dirt-biased waffle grips, whilst the off-road Yamaha came with equally uncomfortable roadbike grips…)