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Monmouth to Rhayader to Monmouth 06/07-08-16

View a movie clip here - "shot & edited by Matteo Martignoni"

Arriving in Monmouth on the Friday night, the weather looked good for the weekend. One of the riders was already there having a few beers/food and a few riders were to follow. Sitting in the sun at the hotel having a beer with old friends, new friends & even a friend who we met on the Athens Gibraltar Race from Italy ‘Matteo’. Matteo had flown into London Stansted Thursday night especially for the Adventure Trail Riding trip, hiring our KTM 690 Enduro R Rally Raid for the weekend.

Following a great dinner, more beer & wine at Number 7, Church Street we all headed back to the hotel, some going to bed & others against advice carried on drinking with the infamous ‘Mark Bradford’ our No. 1 sweeper!!!

At breakfast there was a few white/green looking riders, pushing their food about on their plates and tales of a late drink at the hotel with a wedding party. Of course I was tucked up in bed early and knew nothing of these goings on. Mark Bradford looked fresh faced as if he had an early night too.

I tried to get everyone away fuelled for 9:00am but after a lot of faffing around we got away at 9:30am. It’s about 4 or 5 miles on the country lanes of Monmouthshire to the first trail. As you start dropping down the side of the valley in the lane which is a rocky gulley you soon realise that the lane coming up is going to be tough. Through a gate and across a running stream you then start ascending a root filled gulley & then the lane begins in earnest. The rain rut that you are riding in has sides that are soon higher than your head and the base of the rain rut/gulley is smooth wet rock & very slippery. The lane continues for just short of a mile, we took about an hour to get everyone up it. Although Matteo had hired the 690 I suggested he rode my KTM 250 EXC 2t for this lane & I rode the 690. He rode the 250 for the rest of the weekend! The 690 was a bit of a handful on many of the technical lanes.

The lanes after the first one seemed a little easier and flowed by, all very overgrown and difficult to navigate through. If you didn’t know they were lanes you would not use them as you would think they were hedges. After about 40 miles we stopped for lunch at 1:00pm at a Café I use regularly, which to the delight of our group was also the lunch stop for the ‘Babe’s on Bikes’ travelling from London to an overnight in South Wales. Lunch seemed to take a little longer than usual and the boys didn’t seem so keen to push on!

We eventually pushed onto via some stunning rocky lanes to Glasbury for fuel at 48 miles. As soon as we were all fuelled I pushed everyone on as time was against us and we still had many miles to cover. Soon we were up on the tops with fast flowing lanes for miles at a time, we were getting nearer our destination. I cut the route by some 20 miles as we had a table booked for 8:00pm and I wanted to get everyone back in time to shower, wind down & have a couple of beers before dinner.

Good job I did. While waiting with a few of the riders for everyone to group up, I noticed that Richard had a rucksack front and rear? I also noticed that Andy was looking a little white and in pain, it turned out he had got all out of shape and crashed injuring his shoulder & Richard was carrying his bag. He maintained that he was ok to ride to the hotel, the last lane was only 4 miles long and relatively easy going (these northern boys are made of tough stuff). It also turned out that we were missing 8 riders, 5 riders were strung out on gates or junctions and 3 were trying to get the water out of my 250 EXC 2t. Matteo had took the wrong side of the puddle drowning the bike, completely under the water and taking three strokes himself before he found his feet. Mark Bradford drained all the water out of the bike/exhaust & soon caught us up for the last lane into Llandrindod Wells. Matteo was soaked head to toe, his gear was still wet in the morning, but it didn’t seem to get him down.

We re-grouped for pre-dinner drinks on the glass roofed veranda at the hotel and joked about the day’s doings and watched all the ‘Steam Punks’ wandering about the town in their full regalia. When we had all gathered we all made our way to the pub for dinner to find that not only was there an Elton John tribute act on but we had to share the dining room with a bunch of work colleagues, male & female, they were louder than us by a long way. During dinner it was decided that we would fix Andy’s shoulder, with our limited first aid knowledge & the help of Google! Andy did look impressed, we did a dry run on John with Mark Bradford reading the instruction from Google and following them best he could. This was on the restaurant floor. We retired to the bar after dinner to watch Elton belt them out & a mixture of local & holiday makers dance, which just encouraged Elton. I left the pub about 11:00, a few had gone before me and a few stayed and danced the night away.

At breakfast we shared the dining room with what seemed like hundreds of people, Jamaican holiday makers, Steam Punks, Road Bikers & Dirt Bikers all together for a Full English. We were away by 9:05am I was impressed, heading on some new lanes to Rhayader to fuel at ET James the dirt bike dealer. Leaving Rhayader the first lane after a few mile of road work was a great river crossing. It always seems to claim one or two bikes & riders & today it would be “Sumpnut’s” (Paul) turn. We dragged (when I say we, I mean they) him out and stood the bike up on the back wheel to drain the water from the exhaust. The tank was soon removed only to discover that we did not have a spark plug spanner that was long enough to remove the plug. Surprisingly Dave Sayer came to the rescue with a two piece plug spanner that saved the day. Mark Bradford soon had the bike going again and we were on our way.

On the return journey I tried some new lanes and some lanes I have not used for many years. They were so over grown that they were almost impassable without the help of the big 500 EXC’s to muscle a path through, big thanks to John Small & Chris Armstrong. Without the help of a GPS some of these lanes would have been impossible to navigate. We came across a couple of farmers at different times during the day, they confirmed we was on track. As we fixed the radiator on the 250 EXC with liquid metal a couple turned up in a Discovery, an old man got out of the passenger seat and told us ‘with a plum in his voice’ that the right of way through his drive was not a right of way & his wife took lots of picture of us. I decided that it’s not worth arguing and used a lane running parallel which we used the day before.

I noticed that water was still leaking from the 250 EXC 2t, we stopped again to try and mend it. It cost £500 last time I ran it out of water! Turned out that a jubilee clip on one of the hoses had broken and it wasn’t the radiator at all. To my surprise for the second time that day Dave Sayer came to the rescue again with a jubilee clip. ‘Man of the match goes to Dave Sayer’.

As much as it goes against the grain, I had to turn around on one lane as it was impassable. Even on a dirt bike. I had never used the lane before and it was so overgrown that I suspect it hasn’t been used for many years. It wasn’t just yearly vegetation growth, the tree branches had grown so low that you could barely get under them.

We stopped for refreshments at the café as the day before (no babe’s), it was late about 4:30, this was to be our lunch stop and then we fuelled the bikes. From the garage we headed back to Monmouth on the road as it was late, about 20 miles. This usually isn’t much fun but it was a sunny day, the roads are great & I was on the 690, so what not to like.