Black Desert Training – Wales

With some basic skills under my belt for off roading I decided that considering we were going to be tackling some pretty hardcore routes on our around the world travels on motorbikes it’d probably be wise to have another session of training to practice them and learn some more!

After chatting with a number of good friends they mentioned to us that Tamsin and Craig of Black Desert Training in Wales are just *the* stupendous at off road motorbike training.  With a bit of research I quickly discovered that Tamsin had recently conquered the Dakar and is a major rally rider… naturally I was super impressed and so we booked up a day for some inspirational one-to-one training with the lady herself!

Despite all sorts of weather warnings, flood risks and gale force winds concerned, heading over to Black Desert was looovely – just a right amount of sunshine and fluffy clouds.  With newly fitted MT21′s tyres, I was not only excited about off road awesomeness but too excited about having more grip and half a chance on rocky roads and slidey paths!

On arrival Tamsin and Craigs waved us up on the drive where they were working on various bikes and looking as we generally do… part kitted up, tools at the ready, cuppa not too far away and big grins!  With introductions, tea and chatters it was a nice break into the morning which smoothly glided into some explanations of general riding skills and tips for the bike.  Posture and positioning was demonstrated and after whipping off our wing mirrors we threw on some kit and made our way out into the stunning folds of the Welsh Valleys.

To begin with I followed Tamsin for a good 30mins over all sorts of terrains so to settle into the riding, make sure the posture was good and to become loose and relaxed.  This included various wiggling exercises, legs held out to the side whilst riding, a couple of hills to loosely ride up and some mud and puddles too!  I did notice our new tyres were pretty awesome in comparison to the originals although I was still a bit squirmy over gravel!  With some tips from Tamsin and also some letting down of the rear wheel tyres things just started to really click… I had grip!  My wee little KTM 690 Enduro R Hobbes was loving it without squiggling about everywhere!

Tamsin then ran through cornering with me and with some awesome demonstrations had me practising again and again until I managed to get my bum in the right direction and weight on the right pegs (all I needed to be told was to shove my bum in Sam’s direction and I was sorted!  I just need to imagine him standing on the outside edge of every corner I come to in the future!)  The funny thing was I was a little nervous about the whole practising whizzing around the gravel corner… but not half as much as I was with turning the bike around on the moors to come back round and do it again!  My tight turns are something which requires a little mastering and more guts ;D

After getting grips with that we then found some ruts… my favourite… or not! ;)  Fortunately it looks like I’m not alone here as it would seem most bikers (including Tamsin and Sam!) absolutely despise the buggers.  These ones were nicely surrounded by soft puffy grass… all perfectly positioned for a nice few loving hugs from myself!  Tamsin demonstrated paddling the bike through, one leg riding through and then standing.  Being the pro that she is she made it all look rather pip-squeak!  My turn came round and paddling I was fine at… not much of a problem!  One legged I was alright at too… bit more wibbly but yeh okay.  Standing though?  I am quite simply PANTS at it!  We all decided that it’s because I’m a little jumpy with the steering so if the front tyre bounces the side of the rut I then try and adjust the angle, over compensate and wheeeee the ground gets some loving from me!  By the end I managed it once or twice but yeh… something I need to practice at.  IMO… I’m going to do my up most to avoid them whilst I’m away!  Haha!  Although when we’re out before we leave I will throw myself into them as practice as much as possible!

A few more loops round some stunning scenery (of which I tried to enjoy as much as possible but I was frequently doing my squinty concentration face which means much of it is just a blur ;)) we headed back to Tamsins for some lunch and nibbles so awesomely made up by Craig!

Rehydrated and om nommed out, we then headed off for some hill riding experience!  After a short road ride we took a little road off and headed up this on going incline… that just kept going and going… and going…. and then going some more… past a stunning herd of horses… up and up… and up.  After my recent experiences with our local Hill of Doom our long ascent into the clouds was paralleled with a sinking feeling in my belly at the thought of the kind of hills and terrains we would be attempting at the top!  Fortunately, before nerves could build too much, I was distracted by how utterly breath taking the view was.  Rolling valleys, woodlands and fluffy grass as far as the eye could see with the odd dappling of rock formations.  Tamsin pointed out how much of a shame it was that there was so much fly tipping in the area… I have no idea why people do this… it’s awful.

Before conquering any hills Tamsin runs through various breaking techniques.  She explains how I am going to do a nice big back wheel lock up creating a good old skid… of which she would demonstrate firstly slowly then secondly with a bit of RARGh!  So off she whizzes and within seconds she is flying past us doing a brilliant lock and creating a nice long skid.  At this point I turned to Sam and was like “I thought Tamsin said she’d do the slow skid first?”…. by which point Tamsin had circled round and then accelerated to lightening speed, breaking awesomely and creating the most STUPENDOUSLY awesome massive skid in the universe!  As you can probably tell… I was mightily impressed!  It must have been nearing a hundred yards!  My turn up, I wasn’t so sure I could be so speedy buuuuut as I came round I thought “bugger it, the worst that can happen I’ll come off on bouncy grass” and although I didn’t cane it as much as speed demon Tamsin I did open up more than I would have and produced a lush skid I was SUPER chuffed of!

Another attempt and I manage about the same… we then did a few front braking exercises and then… it was hill time!  Hidden in plain sight was a beaut of a hill… quite a short little  blighter but steep and with loose stones, chunks of rocks and grass!  Nice!  Tamsin goes straight on up and taking a big breath I manage to trundle up behind followed swiftly by Sam.  She then runs through the descent… first time round in first (no clutch or brakes), second with front brakes, third with front and back brakes and fourth with front brakes but the engine off and paddling!  As always, going down a steep hill in first letting the engine brake for itself never fails to put the right jitters up me!  I managed it though (forgot to breathe but managed it!) and made my way back up… going up the hill now seemed like nothing in comparison to going down!  Front braking wise, Tamsin said I could do it seated if I liked but considering I had Sam in the background making gestures suggesting whether I had the balls I decided standing… and voila!  The others went well (have to admit much prefer rolling down a hill with the engine on though) – no offs just lots of wheeees and nervous laughter!

Dead chuffed with myself we go off for a ride to put into practice all that has been learned .  Trundling back down I weaved after Tamsin as she took a more grass zig zag route through sheep and horses, over rocks and through ruts.  Eventually she turns off up a GIGANTIC long rolling loose rocky hill with ruts… testing!  With a wibble and wobble, a bit of paddling but constant throttle I skid on up, back end kicking out and front end desperately trying to avoid hefty rocks!  I make it though and am greeted by a grinning Tamsin at the top!  So proud I was!  We bundle off through some heather where I stall and fall off… and then continue stalling.  Worried something’s wrong with my bike I stop a tick and mention it to Sam only to realise I’ve been a complete twit and had been pulling off in second.  Numpty!  After a lovely ride we head back on the road and arrive home to Tamsin and Craig!  We were presented with freshly baked cakes too (don’t mind if we do!) and after a good hour of chatting about bikes, riding, rallys, design and all sorts we decide to head off home.

Stupendously awesomely great day had by me!  Once again I have learned so much doing off road training… I cannot say enough how I think every bike rider should take a day out to do such a course!  Not only is it amazing fun, but it also changes how you ride even on the roads and for the better.  As expected, Tamsin was truly superb and incredibly inspirational, her riding is second to none.  Having started learning in her twenties too it brought a smile to my face thinking that some day in the future I have a chance of being near to her skill in riding if I keep up the practice!

Big thank you again to Tasmin and Craig at Black Desert Training as well as to Sam for being there and supporting me all along!

So… up next… Return of the Hill of Doom.  Time to put in practice my skills and beat the doomyness!

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1 Comment

  1. GemGem

    January 9, 2013
    / Reply

    Is bike training obligatory for home made meals and cake? I could hire Craig :)

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