Blast from the past #10 - The start of something

A pair of Teneres, four years ago in January, somewhere in a wood in South Wales.  

The white one on the left belongs to friend Tom, who had bought it new a year earlier.  The black one on the right had been mine for all of a couple of hours, long enough to add thirty miles or so to the 2,866 its first two owners had racked up over the previous 11 months since its first registration in March 2009.

It turned five years old a week ago, passing its third MOT with flying colours and nearly 45,000 miles on the clock.  A lot's happened since then, and it's certainly not so shiny any more.

Blast from the past #9 - Recharge

Somewhere in Northern France, heading southwards towards the (final) Horizons Unlimited Mountain Madness in 2011.  Probably a bit too long a morning getting away from the Channel, especially for Sarah who hadn't been riding much in the weeks before jumping into several-hundred-mile days on the bike.  Time to stop and recharge.

Blast from the past #8 - Diversion

Continuing the theme of stumbling across interesting places, this one is from May 2012, on the way back from the XT660.com Lake District meeting.  After a weekend hanging around with a big group of riders, it was time to head for home, alone and luggaged up.  I'd made a vague plan to meander southwards through Yorkshire and into Derbyshire, but without laying out a specific route.  I only ended up on the road at the bottom of this valley because of a closure on the road I had been following, then spotted a 'Byway open to all Traffic' sign by a gate, and a stony trail leading off up the side of the valley.  Too tempting to resist.

It turned out to be a section of the Pennine Bridleway route, climbing up to this point before dropping back again to rejoin the tarmac road several miles south.  A thoroughly pleasant diversion.

Blast from the past #7 - The face is smiling...

...the shirt says "No Fear".  Neither of these things accurately reflect what's going on inside.

This picture of me was taken by Sarah, in March 2010, about half an hour before I started my first motorcycle race - a four hour Hare & Hounds somewhere near Stourport, organised by TBEC.  At this point my experience of riding dirt bikes was two and a half days of gentle trail riding at the 2009 HUMM, and a quick shakedown ride of the bike in the fields at my parents' place.  Needless to say I was a bit nervous.

Needlessly as it turned out.  Obviously, I was rubbish.  I had my first crash about two minutes in, and by the end had lost count - although the one where I lost the front on a tree root and dived into a muddy puddle sticks in my mind.  More or less all the photos Sarah took during the event show me sat down, bolt upright, and generally being overtaken by someone.  I had to stop half way round one lap because I thought I was about to be sick from the exertion.  The record shows me finishing 117th out of 144 starters.

I was hooked (and I did get slightly less rubbish over the rest of the season).

Blast from the past #6 - It's all about the company

Four years ago this weekend, in a wood somewhere in North Wales.  

My first time at the Dragon Rally, with a motley group of friends-from-internet-bike-forums.  It was also my first trip away on the Tenere, which I'd only bought a few weeks earlier.  We'd made a full weekend of it, staying at Thom's place near Pontypool on the Thursday night, riding up through mid-Wales to stay in Dolgellau on the Friday before heading to the Dragon site on Saturday.

This photo sums up why you'd ride half way across the country to go camping in February.  The riding's done, the tents are up, we've had a look around the site at the selection of wierd machinery that people ride to the Dragon - now there's nothing to do but wrap up warm, have a drink, get some hot food cooking, and talk shit about bikes.

In case you were wondering - yes, that is a birthday cake in the foreground, made by Debs (far right, extravagant knitwear) for Chelle (nearest the camera) and carried all the way from Oxford on the back of a bike.

I had a ticket for this year's rally, but in the end I couldn't work myself up to going - a couple of friends had dropped out, so I would have been braving the gales for a night on my own.  It just wouldn't have been the same.

Blast from the past #5 - Posing

October 2008, and a relatively uncharacteristic trip for us - invited by a friend and her then boyfriend for a few days of late sunshine in Malta.  Ryanair flight, cheap end-of-season hotel deal, you know the sort of thing.  Both the flight and the hotel were about what you'd expect for the price - pretty awful - but it turns out there's a lot to be said for hot sunny days in October, and it's always a pleasure to be in a faraway place with nothing more pressing to do than wander around and see what looks interesting. In this case, the Siege Bell War Memorial in Valletta, just up the hill over my left shoulder as I took this shot.

This trip also roughly coincided with me actually starting to think about photography - rather than just take pictures of stuff and hope it turned out alright - so while you might argue that going out with a camera and a pretty girl in interesting surroundings under bright blue sky counts as stacking the odds in your favour, to end up with something where I still love the colour and the composition five years later was something of an early win.

Blast from the past #4 - Travelling light

It's June 2008, somewhere just south of Calais, on the way to watch a friend race with BEMSEE during one of their occasional overseas excursions to the Croix-en-Ternois circuit.  A Friday afternoon dash away from work, down the motorway to the Channel Tunnel and then out into the French countryside.  The first time I had taken a motorcycle onto foreign soil, a heady mix of freedom, apprehension and excitement.

I'm travelling light - forget your big-bore 'adventure' bikes and shiny metal panniers, let's take a screaming 400cc race-rep to watch others of its kind actually being raced.  My (then brand new) Kriega R35, stuffed with a sleeping bag and a change of clothes, the US-10 piggybacked onto it to hold my camera gear.  Add a waterproof oversuit bungeed to the pillion seat, and a thoroughly inadequate map taped to the fuel tank, and let's go.

Blast from the past #3 - Silliness in Sunny Spain

It's July 2009, and day 1 of the Horizons Unlimited Mountain Madness, a three day orienteering event on the trails of the Spanish Pyrenees.  I'd ended up here as a result of meeting Dave Haines (stood behind me, ballroom dancing with the signpost) through the Performance Bikes magazine forum some time before.  When he put a post on the forum asking for team-mates (and in the process offering the loan of bikes, riding gear, and somewhere to stay on the way down through France), it seemed silly to decline.  The signpost itself is one of the checkpoints, our second of the event, having spent the last couple of hours being extremely lost.

At the time of this photo, I had probably done about three hours of dirt riding.  It's lead to a whole lot more over the last four and a half years, including two more trips to the HUMM (and a trophy from the 2010 event), all the enduro and rally racing I've done, most of the bikes I've bought in the meantime, and ultimately to my USA trip last year.

(The HUMM is, sadly, no more, but essentially the same event continues as 'The Vince')

Blast from the past #2

Summer 2008, somewhere in the depths of a Belgian forest, a few miles from the German border.  We (Sarah, her brother, and I) are a few days into a two week spin through Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France.

We hadn't got off to a great start.  The GPZ500S that Sarah was riding - that's her in the picture - had blown an exhaust header gasket on the way down to Dover, leading to us spending an extra day on the French side of the channel applying half a tin of exhaust repair putty to stop it sounding like a tractor.  After this delayed start, we'd ridden the width of Belgium in a day, including a stop at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit along the way.

Our aim had been to get across the German border, then find somewhere to camp.  Embarrassingly, we had a bit of trouble actually finding Germany - our desire to stick to minor roads despite only having a very large scale map of Western Europe meant these things happened occasionally.  Eventually, after a long day on the bikes, our patience ran out just as a sign for a campsite appeared at a junction.

We had some misgivings as the road left the town and plunged into the forest, getting narrower and narrower and with no more signs, but after a few miles there was indeed a campsite, and after an interesting conversation with the proprietor - me trying a mixture of French and German, him what I assume to be Flemish - we were rewarded with a place to pitch our tents.

I took this photo as we were riding back out of the campsite the next day.  Don't worry, we managed to find Germany at the second attempt.