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Terror on the Horseshoe Pass - North Wales

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A friend & I went to North Wales at the weekend, and did some off-road riding - it was EXCELLENT. Many of the guys in our Saturday group were on big 4 stroke KTMs and Husqvarnas, as well as several Suzi DRZ400s and Yamaha WR 426s. I didn't take a camera though, so cannot show you. I met a guy who's put together a little website though - it's www.crm250.com named after the trail bike he (and I) ride. He'll be linking to my site shortly, and we are hoping to set up another trip to the French Alps again next year. In his photo gallery, look at the photos of Horseshoe Pass, as that is where we rode on Sunday. I've nicked a couple of pictures from his site, and inserted them in the right places here, to show you the terrain, even if the people are not us, on this occasion. I'll cc this to Vince DiVetta, as I took him there this Summer, on road bikes, after the non-TT, and he also rides a dirt bike.

There a few pics of some real nutters there doing massive jumps. We met two similar characters there, on full-blown motocross bikes. One was on a Honda CR250 and the other on a Suzuki RM250. Both new models. As we didn't know the area very well, I asked them where we could go to ride. I should have known better! They were just kitting up in the car park, and I hadn't seen how they rode. I should have suspected however - they were on race bikes, with no number plates, lights or any spurious stuff that didn't contribute to a bike's function. They donned helmets and said, "follow us" before shooting off in a plume of spraying gravel. They headed straight for a slate ridge, some 2 or 3 metres high and almost vertical. Up they went and over the top into a quarry.

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I looked at John, and he looked at me with a worried look on both our faces. He said, "You first". Shit. Oh well, go for it. As there wasn't any obvious alternative, off I went, and actually cleared the barrier quite easily. These ridges have been built purposely to try and stop riders getting into the quarry area - but they just act as a challenge!

We chased them at quite some speed through different parts of the quarry, noticing a fearsome looking ramp constructed off to our left. (That ramp appears on the CRM website - see photo below)

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We hit a couple of jumps where our local heroes got 2 or 3 metres of air, and me and my mate wimped out and did little hops instead!

Then they speeded up and headed for another slate ridge, near the perimeter fence. I saw them complete the most enormous jumps so far. The ridge looked so intimidating, I made up my mind that I wasn't going to attempt it at all - not even slowly. As I rode around it, I saw a barbed wire fence; then it struck me what they had just done. They had successfully leapt clean over the perimeter fence - just like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape. Bollocks to that I thought - but deep down, I was so impressed and envious!

There was actually a gate nearby, which they pointed out to us, so we didn't have to go for the suicide leap - thank God!

They then lead us across muddy farmland, which was soft and boggy in parts. You just have to keep a bit of speed up and hope for the best.

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(John slid off 2 or 3 times trying to keep pace), and then our chaps shot up the biggest, loose rocky climb I've ever seen - to the top of a small mountain. It was loose, steep, slightly rutted and sooooh long! About 1000 feet (?) to the top! Hit it fast, stand up, gas it hard all the way in 3rd then 2nd and hold on loosely but firmly if you know what I mean, as the bike bucks its way to the top. I made it, but must admit, it's not something I would have attempted, if I hadn't been led on by the motocross boys. They'd disappeared over the top - I couldn't just chicken out and go back could I?

When I reached the top, heart pounding, I could see them waiting in the distance, silhouetted at the summit of the next huge climb. I waited a while to get my breath back, but also to hang on for John, who hadn't made it yet. It turns out he didn't make the climb, fell off, and had to drop down and try it again. We've always said these CRM250s have more than enough power for off-road use, but in fact, they only just made it up these hills - they were really struggling as we got to the top and only just made it. Having to drop to 1st would only have induced massive wheel spin and certain failure. Or maybe I'm just a fat bastard :)

My concern for John wasn't really the reason for me dawdling awhile on this summit. It was the humungous drop on the other side! It was worse than the one I'd just come up. A wave of fear came upon me as I stared down the near vertical drop, covered with loose slate & shale. If this was level, you wouldn't worry too much about blatting along at 40 to 50mph over it, but because it drops so cruelly and irreversibly downhill, it doesn't look feasible without the use of a parachute. Ah well, in for a penny, in for a pound, keep the feet on the pegs, and drop over the edge. Let the two-stroke engine provide some minimal rear wheel engine braking, while gently applying the front brake in the few areas where possible, and cruise on down - actually very controlled and smooth. That was easy! It's just a confidence thing.

One of the fast lads went back to give John some assistance, and when they arrived back, we let them go before they got us into any more trouble!

We caught them up again later, practicing at an unofficial moto-cross track on the open moorland. We had a final chat, before we took the road route back to Horseshoe Pass. We took the road back, partly because we didn't really want to face the return climb up that hill - which the fast lads admitted was harder than the way we'd come down. They said it was impossible to make it on the loose stuff, but you had to gun it flat out up the grass alongside - very steep, and a recipe for disaster if you lose momentum. The other reason was, riding on these moors is totally illegal, and Police and Council staff in Land Rovers do try and enforce this. It's a 2000 fine if you get caught - but many people do it, every weekend, and no one's been caught because it's so easy to outrun the law. Unless of course you fall off and break your leg!

The two fast boys were in their 20s - young, fit and fearless (and reckless?). One had only been riding a year - but, they go up to practice on these hills every weekend, whereas I go every blue moon. They did admit however, that it did take them quite a few months to build up enough nerve to do that perimeter fence jump!

PS - I did this route again last weekend (1st December) and actually found it quite straightforward this time - it's only scary the first time.

This story was kindly provided by Bike Tours UK website, www.biketours-uk.com


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