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Gnarly Back Roads

July 2014

I have really been enjoying the dry weather we have had this summer. It has helped me improve my slow manoeuvres and my cornering skills. More importantly it has encouraged me to be on the bike even more. As I keep saying miles under the tyres is the only way one can improve and gain experience on a bike. I will ride in the rain but a warm sunny day makes for plans to be out as long as possible in the saddle.

So I decide I am going to try and be out of the house on my bike for 7am on a Sunday morning. Those of you who know me personally know this is a huge feat. I am not a morning person. But the lure of quiet roads on a summer morning is enough to make me try. I decide a trip to Wales is in order. I have not ventured into Wales yet under my own horse power and as I love Wales it seems one hell of a good plan to me.

The alarm goes off at 6.30 am. I take 10 minutes to clear the fog out of my head and stagger out of bed. As I fumble about getting breakfast, climbing into bike gear, checking the bike and loading it (going to stay at the bf's that night so panniers on and loaded) it appears I have not as usual left myself sufficient time for the task. You think at my age I would realise I need a while to organise myself but hey ho I'm ready for 8am. Not the 7am I hoped for but it is still early and I will try harder next time to hit that elusive 7am mark.

I have a lot of stresses going on at the moment, with work, money and putting my house up for sale. The bike is my therapy, the forget it all and just ride and smile time. It keeps me sane. It gives me that all important me time where I can just be at peace and enjoy each moment.

The boyfriend is on his 125cc as well to keep mine company and as we set off he tells me to lead to Frodsham. I have a mini panic as I try to reconstruct the route in my mind. I have been there before in the car with sat-nav but not on the bike and with only reading road signs. I pull a little sulk because I usually like just to follow. But then I recall how much I liked leading to Knaresborough. It is simple lack of confidence and fear of getting lost that is stopping me and well there is only one way to get over any fear so man up girl and lets get going. 

I remember the route ok, there is a  little uncertainty on one of the roundabouts. The bridge being closed and diversions in place also throw me into a moments confusion. But Frodsham is reached and as Ren comes past to take the lead I am feeling happy and relaxed.

The bike went in for yearly service the other day and it's running sweet. I have been riding this bike now for 10 months and I think at long last it is beginning to finally become that bit more natural. I feel a lot more at ease and in control.

Once into Wales we find ourselves near Mold. Rather by accident we end up going down a rugged, twisty and very steep track. I should be scared right? I should be cursing the bf for taking a learner to such a gnarly place right? No I am bloody loving it. As the bike goes down and down through the dappled forest with the back brake firmly applied to stop it running away with itself I am in pure heaven.

We cross a ford at the bottom and get off the bike to take some photos. Ren loves fords. He used to take Cath a former girlfriend of his on trips on the bike to find fords and no doubt they bring back fond if somewhat bitter-sweet memories for him. But he is eyeing me warily. Does he think I am about to burst into tears and start beating him with the nearest branch for coming down this scary track? He relaxes when I tell him I loved it. He now just thinks I am crazy instead. Oh well crazy is better than mad ... if you get what I mean.

a small ford down a narrow dark tree covered lane in Wales
Look where a 125cc can take you

I find the downwards section more fun. Ren prefers going uphill as he feels more in control of the bike on the up. I however prefer downhill. Maybe it is because I have yet to fully master what gear I need to be in for various inclines but the going down just gives me a special thrill. So for me going down will probably remain my favourite.

We stop off at the Ponderosa Cafe, Llangollen. A favourite biking spot there are lots of other bikers here today enjoying the sunshine. There is a chance that some friends might be joining us here but it turns out they can not make it. So it leaves just the two of us to carry on. The bf asks if we should continue on the main roads or go and find some more back roads, seeing I enjoyed the other one so much. As it is just the two of us and we are both on our 125cc's it would seem a waste not to take the opportunity to go exploring.

So more goat tracks it is then. Or rather sheep tracks because we do indeed get stuck behind a flock of sheep as they are moving to pastures new. I end up having to stop behind them on a very steep incline which is immediately followed by a switchback. Could you ask for a worse place to stop? As my heart begins to flutter I thank my friend Tom for taking me to the Trough last winter because having stalled the bike on my attempts to do a uphill switchback there at least I have some experience, if somewhat limited an how not to do it this time. The sheep move on ... my heart is beating fast ... the revs are high ... will I roll backwards? ... will I slip on the gravelly surface? ... will I fail to make the sharp bend the second after moving  off? ... da da dahhhh!!

It is a success the girl and bike survive!! Survive to do more tracks. Some of which have grass growing in the raised middle so that there is barely room for the bike tyres to squeeze along. Some are uneven and have gravel strewn across. Some are steep and twisty. Some lead to dead ends. But all are fun. They take you places few other people are. It is like having the place to yourself at times. Just us on the two bikes and nothing else but the specular scenery all around us.

sharon on her motorcycle navigating a narrow welsh lane
Gnarly roads, a new passion of mine! 

I think I have found a new joy in my biking. The deserted lonely gnarly tracks have my name written all over them. I find these tracks scary in a way but also exhilarating. It is about getting out there into the real countryside where few others venture. You find some unexpectedly beautiful places. 

Yes I have dreams of owning a Ninja 300 and being able to overtake that bloody annoying car in front. But a Ninja 300 would not have liked these tracks the way my little Zen did. He and I were made for such roads. So I may be keeping this 125cc for some time, maybe even forever if I can. In the perfect world he would live in a nice cosy garage along his new friend the Ninja 300. But if I had to chose between him and the Ninja right now I would keep the Keeway 125cc. Because hell man we got tracks to ride!!  

keeway rks125 in the wooded lane loaded up with saddlebags and a roll
Little Zen is at home on little tracks
sharon sits on a stone wall i her bike gear smiling in the welsh sun
Can you tell I am having fun? My cheeks ache     

Reader's Comments

Bob said :-
This is the way. Gnarly back roads are the best fun on a bike. I ride an FX650, it's perfect for the job being not much heavier than a 250 but with enough power to do motorways if needed. The great gobs of torque make single track roads a real delight to ride, feeling the engine lugging you out of the tight corners is a treat.
Keep off the main roads and away from the sportsbike knobbers and the world's your oyster.
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
My SLR 650 was great for the gnarly back roads too Bob. However we both are finding our 125s are equally at home there and for us we like to go real slow at times and soak it all in. The smaller engines just potter along so happily. Yeah, back roads rock.
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC

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