Trail Ride the Pyrenees 2010

(Full photo-set available on my Flickr pages here… http://www.flickr.com)

In the last few years, my wife Helen and I have been getting itchy feet for some travelling adventures. The problem being, Helen was a 4×4 Land Rover overlanding enthusiast, whereas I’m two wheels only. Then Helen being the wonderful person she is took her motorbike test and I bought her the trusty Serow, which is reknown as the perfect small bike for the beginner trail rider, or those short in leg.

The plan was to work out how to cram in some adventure abroad on a tight budget, in a short space of time. So after reading up on Austin Vinces adventure riding on Terra Circa & Mondo Enduro, and his wife Lois Pryce‘s journeys from Alaska to Southern tip of Argentina on a Serow and riding through the heart of Africa, we knew what was possible on small bikes and without splashing out on up-to-date luggage systems etc.

Where to?

Not quite being able to take years or even months off, we considered our options of either riding across to Bulgaria where one of Helen’s old overlander buddies was living, or for a mini adventure through the Pyrenees down to Morocco. However as a teacher, this would all have to take place during my summer holiday’s.

As a member of the West Midlands TRF I invited Austin Vince to the club for one of his brilliant presentations. We had a good chat about bikes and travel etc, where I mentioned about wanting to ride the Pyrenees. By the end of the night, he had invited us both to join them on their infamous Pyreknees Up, off road orienteering adventure they arrange each year! Brilliant….we thought, until I realised it was during the last week of term…bugger. However this set the seed for organising our own little trip to the mountains for 2-3 weeks riding.

Travel costs…

However as thing became painfully clear, we were on a VERY tight budget. Costs were looking more than we could cope with, but in the end, with a little help from family we had a plan. Instead of having to ride all through France on our little bikes, we would get the Portsmouth – Bilbao ferry (costing over £500 for the two of us plus bikes, one way), ride along the French border north of the Pyrenees, then down through to Andorra direction picking up some of the Tour de France sections en route, spen d a few days in the mountains riding, then ride back through the Navarra region below the mountains back up to the coast for a couple of days R&R, before getting the Santander – Portsmouth ferry back (£490 for riders and bikes). We then also had a further £1000 for any new kit and spending money for two weeks. Right, time to sort stuff out then…

Which bikes…?

I have been riding off road for a couple of years now, with many years of road riding under my belt. I intended on a 350-400cc trail bike for the trip and was considering either a DRZ400, DR350, XR400 or WR400. I sold my 2-stroke Husqvarna WR250 race bike and managed to source a ‘bargain’ 2003 condition Suzuki DRZ400 for £1250. Most of my friends will use the Trade Descriptions Act to dispute my understanding of ‘a bargain’, however on this purchase I was vindicated, due to other buyers apprehension on buying a Q plate bike from Ebay. The bike also came with a ‘box of bits’ and all was well. Not the air cooled DR350 I’d originally planned, but I’d had quite enough of kick starting bikes with the Husky nightmare and wanted to enjoy the pleasures of electrickery start buttons.

For Helen I bought the Serow a couple of years back, as I’d heard so many good stories about it and being dual start was ideal for a beginner. Helen enjoyed the bike when first out on it, however it had gathered a bit of dust in the garage since and some practice was needed before heading off.

Luggage racks…

So having a budget of next to nothing, I had to get the bikes in working order for the trip along with luggage racks and replacement parts. Luckily for me, I had a very helpful technician at school who managed to fabricate a very handy rear rack for the DRZ, from some old school chair legs. The Serow has an existing rear rack, so the only additional work required is a side panel to hold the panniers away from the exhaust. Zero costs so far.

Luggage is to be a set of old Oxford sports bike panniers I used to have on my Fireblade, along with another set I bought from ebay for a tenner. A borrowed helmet bag rear holdall and an old Oxford rear back pack should hold what we need.

I next bought some light ally tubing and fittings from the B&Q store to create a front rack. I didn’t want any excess weight added to the steering, so this rack would hold nothing more than the roll mats. The tubing ended up costing about £30.

I also fitted a Tools Tube courtesy of www.tools-tube.com who were giving a discount for members of the TRF and the Muddy Monkeys forum. I’ve offered to sort out a new website for them, so the fellas there kindly offered a tube over to me in time for the trip. Thanks!

Navigation…

I don’t own a sat-nav gizmo and although I’d been keeping my eyes on a Garmin etrex vista, (as it’s useful on the lanes for use in conjunction with Memory Map files) we thought better of the extra expense. Luckily my Nokia 5800 Xpress music phone decided to introduce a free satnav facility on their system! So I downloaded the necessary maps and used the online system to plot the routes we would be travelling on…worked a treat! I figured this would help with getting through towns, rather than stopping every five minutes to check maps.

The map system though drains the phone battery, so way of charging it as we rode was required. So next purchase was a car charger socket and USB charger lead from Halfords, which I hardwired into the ignition switch. I then used a cheap plastic in car phone holder, which I attached to the bike bars as below…

car charger wired in

USB lead in the charger

Tyres…

Having been used to enduro tyres on my off road or trail bikes, I’d been very impressed with the Pirelli MT43 trials tyre fitted to the DRZ when I bought it, with a (pretty bald by now) AC10 on the front. I’d even considered keeping it on but soon realised it wouldn’t last so some money would have to be spent on new rubber for the bikes. I opted for the Pirelli MT21 dual sport tyre on the front & Continentel TKC 80 on the rear after a bit of comparitive research, wanting a good grip off road, with fairly good durability on road over distance. For the Serow, I knew Helen wouldn’t wear her tyre as thoroughly as I would. So I removed the existing AC10 and refitted her part worn MT21 on the rear to match the current MT front. Job done.

Kit

In order to keep costs down, I chose to ride in my old Akito textile jacket I’ve owned for a fair few years now from my road riding days, a pair of heavy duty canvas jeans, my Shift Combat MX boots and some army gore-tex over pants (£20) in the panniers in case it actually rains. Helen had little in the way of off-road gear, so she used her Alpine stars road boots, a Spidi textile short jacket and bought a pair of Akito Desert pants, with removable linings. I’d done some reviews and these came up as best for their price range of  £129. I also had my head-cam for action video footage…hopefully.

Consumables…

I gave both bikes a thorough going over with the following;

  • new oil and filters
  • clean air filters
  • front & rear wheel bearings
  • head bearings on both
  • chains and sprockets
  • greased all linkages
  • Serow had new fork seals and both given fresh fork oil
  • charged batteries (more on that later)

Toolkit to include…

  • spare front inner (can squeeze into the rear tyre also)
  • tyre levers, compressed air mini-cannisters, tyre repair kit and sealing mousse
  • spanners (ranging from 8mm – 14mm, 24mm rear wheel nut)
  • spare chain links and dry chain lube
  • various cable ties, nuts, fasteners and clips
  • crocodile clips for battery jumping
  • leatherman multitool & mole grips

To help get ourselves better prepared we rode up to Derbyshire for the UK meeting of Horizons Unlimited. An annual meeting of two wheeled travellers in the UK, with regular meetings in other countries across the globe.

This gave us good practice on loading the bikes and riding a small enough distance together with kit. Here we met a group of other Serow riders who were on hand to dish out valuable advice and generally chat bikes. Reggie from the http://www.xt225.com group was a mine of information, while Lois Pryce called up for an impromptu photo shoot shortly followed by her other half Austin Vince who was highly impressed by the line up of XT’s.

All went well with the kit, bikes and support from fellow travellers who were never short of halp and advice. The ride back wasn’t the best as Helen had a ‘moment’ on a corner and soon lost her confidence. Not good.

The following week Helen booked herself on a refresher course of road riding with RMT (Redditch Motorcycle Training) who she learnt with, for some one-to-one tuition. Much wiser than learning from me…both for her skills and our relationship! This refresher helped, but didn’t cure the jitters unfortunately. Not much can be done now as we’re set to go the following Monday! So in the interim, H gets out on her bike on her own and begins to feel a little more at ease. All set then, time for our travels…

Day 1: Hampshire – Portsmouth

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One Response to “Trail Ride the Pyrenees 2010”

  1. […] Sireid's Blogsite Not just another WordPress weblog HomeArt & IllustrationCBR900 FirebladeHusqvarna WR250MountainbikesPhotographySerow XT225Trail Ride the Pyrenees 2010Who, me? […]

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