Out Playing In The Woods

It’s not often that I take a day off to go out and play, but I did last Tuesday and I can thoroughly recommend it!

I’m self-employed and giving myself a day off is a serious issue. The nature of my work is that I have appointments frequently booked many days ahead, and if I want a week day off, I need to organise it up to 12 days ahead. However, I took last Tuesday off at very short notice; I rearranged my appointments and went off on Monday afternoon and all day Tuesday.

So what you may rightly say.

I went down to Wales to enjoy a day out riding the Hafren Forest with Geraint Jones who was having a sponsors day out. There weren’t so many of us, nine in total, Dave Rodenhurst, a capable enduro rider from Morris Oils, a guy from Dunlop (sorry can’t remember his name), Henry Rosenthal, Rees Whittal-Williams and Mark Reynolds from Renthal, Dylan Jones and John Begley who help run the Yamaha Off-Road Experience, myself and GJ.

It was a great day, the weather was absolutely fantastic, blue skies and as clear as a bell, the ground underneath was as dry as it is ever likely to be in that part of the world, we had a variety of very capable machinery and because we all knew one another, all our normal riding inhibitions were cast to the wind.

Laugh, I almost cried with the antics of one of our group, who shall remain nameless but he is the originator of the handlebar company, who, ever since I have known him and ridden with him, is a disaster waiting to happen. Of course it did, but there was no harm done and after six-and-a-half hours in the woods, we dispersed back to the routine and hum-drum of everyday life.

There must be a point to all this, well, yes there is, several in fact.

I have ridden the Hafren Forest trails, many, many times, in fact ever since I first went there testing enduro bikes more than 23 years ago. The trails, mainly created by the enduro fraternity, have always tended to be very bumpy, very rutted and really quite hard work – at least for the newcomers to the sport. But this time they were very different. Nearly all of the well used trails had been graded by a mini-digger with a blade, turning them from quite vicious rides into narrow but fast paths.

I asked why this had happened and Geraint told me that it was at the request of the Forestry Commission, whose attitude to off-roading in the forest is very positive. The FC, which of course receives a healthy revenue from the Yamaha school, has no problem with bikes being used in the area, but of course the reason they have no problems with it is because it is all under control. By encouraging maintenance of the trails, and their use by the school, they are going some way to keeping bikes out of other forest areas where they are less welcome – not because the FC doesn’t want them, but because the forests are used by other users, and there’s no doubt bikes don’t always mix with other groups.

However, whilst it was a Tuesday, we did see several other groups of folks out enjoying the forest and they all were happy to wave to us with no sign of any animosity. I considered it a positive sign and though there are of course some restrictions as usage of forests develops, bikes are very much part of sport in FC land and that must be good for us all long term.

The Hafren Dirt Bike Club, very capable organisers of enduros, have been awarded a round of next year’s World Enduro Championship, in mid-July, in fact the same weekend as the Reeth Three Day, which is a snag for those interested in both, but such clashes are difficult to avoid. We rode a good portion of the trails that will be used and also much of the land that will be used for the extreme test, which in my opinion will be excellent to watch as it is contained very tightly in an easily accessible part of the forest.

As I have just said, Renthal were well represented with Henry, Rees and Mark. Rees is a local guy from Llanidloes and knows the forest well whilst Mark Reynolds is of course a very capable trials rider in the Cheshire Centre. It was his first visit to the Hafren and I think he was very impressed with the land available.

But what struck me most was the very close friendly relationship between the three Renthal guys. All are capable bikers, but even there, on a relaxing day off, they were very interested in their products being tested and devloped on the Yamaha school bikes.

As Henry said, Renthal has to have young blood on its staff to continue the progression of the company, and these young, qualified engineers are with a company where their knowledge, enthusiasm and expertise will be encouraged to the full.

Morris Oils also have a good bloke in Dave Rodenhurst who obviously knows the sport well whilst Big Bryn, who didn’t ride but was at Monday evening’s dinner, was a wealth of interest about Dunlop tyres. It’s good to have these guys involved and between us all, we drive the sport along.