The Riders: Richard Clare -XR400, Tony Challice - Africa RD04, Dave Spencer - Africa RD07, John Evans - XT, Archie Henderson - Africa RD07, Father Ted - Transalp, Grandfather Ted - Tenere, Garty - Africa RD07.
Last years 'Ted Scott' was a bit of a watershed BTB experience for me. My Africa had, until that fateful day, been a bit of a road bike, and I had never ventured very far on the rough stuff on it. Several hours later, after nearly seventy miles of track, trail, rock and grass I was back on the road home, the bike was still undamaged and I was hooked. My opinion then, and more so now, was that there is virtually nothing that a big traillie can't do. I also had a very amusing, but nerve-wracking escape from the law, but that's another story.
As usual, the e-group correspondence was building up to the event in its usual manner - loads of postings expressing an interest, Ted had been forced to limit the size of the group to ten from the very start, but as it turned out, we only had eight actually turn up. All along, Ted has been warning that with the forthcoming parliamentary bill, this could very well be the last time that motorcyclists would have the chance to wander the Berwyns unhindered. - All the more reason to do the ride, even if it would possibly be something of a swansong.
Curry, cider and guns
Tony Challice had traveled up to my house from Bristol on the Saturday afternoon. We had partaken of a large curry, and made considerable inroads into my stocks of scrumpy. We had a bit of a latey shooting empty beer cans (of which there were many!) in my garden. As always, the chance to be fresh, wide awake and alert for the days motorcycling went to bollocks, and the following morning (which was a bit overcast but promising) Tony and I dragged ourselves onto the bikes and sped off northwards through Hereford and onto the A49 north. Although Tony would dispute it, we seem to be fairly similar in riding ability, so the pace was fast and safe, with no waiting around. The road is, as yet, unhindered by Gatso camera's and the like, so we arrived at Llangollen with time to spare for fuel and breakfast.
A tale of two titties
At the fuel station we met up with John Evans on his XT, we had been whipping the Llamas ass a bit, and overtaken him some way back, so we apologized and introduced ourselves. The last time I filled up at this particular station was almost exactly a year ago - the girl on the till had virtually given me her life story and told me all about her man troubles. I recognized her and asked if she had sorted things out, and my God she was still moaning! The boyfriend was now her husband, owned the garage and treated her like a slave. The year had not been kind to her looks either, and my previous estimation of her being not bad for a quick one was revised! Coronation Street in deepest Wales.
We retreated from this scene to a café/art gallery on the High street and feasted on bacon sandwiches and coffee. We set out feeling suitably refreshed and arrived in good time at the appointed meeting place by 'The Butterfly Man' at Glyndyfrydwy - a rather garish iridescent sign for a defunct tourist attraction, by the side of the road. It is depressing to see the lack of reverence for such a shrine to Welsh nationalism - the village was the birthplace of Owain Glyndwr, a Welshman with rather more on his political agenda than chasing rentboys around Clapham Common!
Anyway, our band of motorcyclists, the 'Berwyn's eight' chatted for a while and discussed the days activities. I was rather surprised to be asked about gadgets by none other than Archie Henderson. My bike is devoid of them at the moment, and it was a bit rich coming from a man who appears to operate a mobile shrine to Touratech! The weather was looking less promising by the minute, so Ted suggested that we set off.
The Emperors new clothes
Our first trail was almost directly up the mountainside from Glyndyfrydwy, some deep ruts were pointed out as being responsible for Leigh having a puncture some days previously. The pace was fast from the start, and I thought to myself 'take it easy and lay off the front brake' - the exact opposite of what you would do on an enduro bike! Several riders were a lot quicker than Tony and I, so we dropped back a bit where the pace was slower and we could enjoy watching the accidents.
It was nice to see Africa's (bogus priest Father Ted's Transalp not included) in the majority after so many BTB.C meetings becoming more like road bike conventions, with GS's and Varadero's becoming the norm. We all know that Paul could and would have done it all on his if he had not been busily preparing the CTC route, but several comments about the 'Emperors new clothes' and the abilities of some of the other 'messes on GS's' raised some laughs. Where were these much vaunted Teutonic wonder-machines now the going was rough?
Anyone expecting a comprehensive route guide to the Berwyns when reading this account will be disappointed. As always, I was far too busy concentrating and trying to stay out of trouble to notice much whilst riding. Ted very kindly sent me a map of the routes a little later, but it just added to my confusion. Anyway, after some serious mixed surfaces we reached Glyn Ceiriog, a small and cheerless place smelling strongly of Sunday lunch cabbage. A few spots of rain failed to dampen our enthusiasm. Everyone was happy with the pace, so we carried on without much of a stop.
Crusty old demon of dirt
Ted Scott knows these trails very well indeed, I am sure that he could do most of them blindfolded. Readers of my last missive on the Stella will hopefully remember my comments on the riding style of Dave Edge, fast, confident and smooth with no obvious showing off. Ted is a similar type, with nothing to prove. Usually trail riding brings out the beast in most of us, roosting, wheelspinning, tail sliding and general environmentally-unfriendly manoeuvres. Ted just rumbles along at top speed and makes it all look easy, when it patently isn't, and after a few miles of these slippery tracks, the over-eager throttle actions of some of us younger types began to reap bad things in spades.
Our next trail took us over the impossibly rocky route, which I know from my mountain biking exploits as the 'Wayfarer'. Ted was a bit fed up because the track had been improved and was now almost rideable! Dave Spencer wiped out splendidly on one bit and managed to dent his tank and do a fair bit of damage.
The Naked Lunch
After a few more well navigated sections of dirt , rock and forest we retired to the café at Glan-yr'Afon for a snack and drink. The rain was falling very hard now, and we donned our waterproofs for the afternoon's enjoyment. Ted recounted how he had, in his own words…' had a real moment. We met a group of (small) trail-bikers, and I thought they had all gone, when I met one on the apex of a completely blind corner, with a vertical 6 foot bank on my left. I was in the left rut, tight into the bank, and this straggler, in a big hurry,appeared in my rut, maximum 15 feet ahead. I could do nothing but brake hard and pray. He dived to his left, we hit shoulders HARD, and got away with it.' ..eek! The food was well down to Welsh cuisine standards, but we made the moment last as we waited for some abatement in the rain.
River deep, mountain high
The hole in the rain never came, so we set off anyway to our favoured river crossing over the Dee by Corwen. Ted opened the gate and we all had a giggle (which annoyingly steamed our visors up) at the sight of a 'trainee' fly fisherman flogging a bush to death. He melted away in shame, and Ted tested the water, which looked mighty deep. For a long and heartstopping moment, we thought that we would see the second submarine disaster of the weekend, and no-one had a camera out to record it! - Ted left the water a bit rattled, his boots full of water and his lips full of excuses. It would appear that there is a thick layer of snotty-looking algae on the river bottom, and it made the going too slippy by half. No-one else even attempted to do it, Ted had knobblies on, and I greatly fear that my 'part worn' T66's would have ensured death by drowning.
Misty mountain hop
Fast roads, narrow roads, gravel strewn tracks, paths and wet grass - mile upon mile of challenging surfaces presented themselves during the afternoon. On one particular section, a violently rocky track from Llandrillo which joins the Bala-Llangynog road, thick fog had descended. I gather that Dave Spencer had another off, and Archie blessed his Motad crash bars for the first time that day. I stopped near the summit and picked up a brand-new bicycle pump that some cyclist had dropped. Ever the upright citizen, I popped it in my rucksac to take home. After this the rain reached prohibitive proportions, the rest of the gang were going to stop for a cuppa and snack at a pub in Llanarmon DC, Tony and I decided to clear off and try to get back home before we got totally soaked.
The road south was exactly the opposite of 'my favourite road' - rain and diesel (I would cheerfully ban it if I could, even though I drive a turbodiesel Citroen!) ensured that upright riding positions and ever-ready 'Paul Clarke' patented leg-out technique (Tee-hee! PC) were the only way to negotiate the many roundabouts on the A5.
Chalfont St Giles
Proctologist-worthy arseache demanded that we stopped at a large roadside winebar/restaurant place incongruously situated just outside Ludlow. The place was full of pissed local twonks who thought it funny that wet motorcyclists ought to seek sanctuary in their expensive and financially doomed watering hole, the cups of tea that eventually arrived began to revive us, and we thankfully hit the road again.
The parting of the ways came up very quickly, Tony and I shook hands at 85 mph and he took the A466 back to Wurzelville.
Thanks to Ted for organizing such a great day out and imparting his knowledge to us and to all the other riders for being good sports on what would otherwise have been such a miserable wet day.
Garty (No gadgets)