Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Wales again, by motorcycle

Just me and GB, spending four days riding in Wales. 

The plan
No real plan. We had some GPS routes of some interesting roads we wanted to do, but that was it. No campsites booked either, not even looked at any.

Gear loading
A new set up for me, the possibility of off-roading meant I wanted to leave the topbox behind. Just two panniers and a small pack strapped to the rack. 
GB's smaller bike with tall suspension and tall luggage made getting on and off really difficult for him. I could throw my leg over, no problem. These difference were highlighted later when we got muddy...

We arrived at the campsite and pulled up at our chosen spot. We're chatting as I lean the bike over onto its sidestand only to topple over and fall to the ground. GB has to take a picture, in between wetting himself. Sidestand wasn't down :-P

New tent set-up 
The Hi Gear Soloista, a cheap solo tent (referred to as the coffin) and a cheap tarp was my home for three nights. The idea was it would be quick to put up and down and take up less space on the bike. The tarp would provide a place to cook and shelter from the inevitable Welsh rain. I wanted it to be quick as we weren't planning on staying in the same place each night.
Coffin and tarp, with micro-fiber towel drying on one of the lines.
The set-up worked in as much as it kept me warm and dry but it was more of a faff than my regular tent. The tarp was secured with paracord guy-lines tied with slide-grip knots for easy tensioning. It was small and lightweight but the extra hassle in setting it up and the possibility of having to move it if the wind changed direction means I won't be using it again. I tried it, it's not for me; no real benefits for how I like to camp.
Shouldn't take photos while riding.
Stove expires
After a fair service life, my cheap Chinese multi-fuel stove gave up the ghost, on the first night. I learned a few things over the time and don't regret buying it. I could have still bought a gas canister to get me through the weekend, but I didn't. Not sure why. 

Deep ruts & panniers don't mix
We headed off-road for part of the Strata Florida; through one of a thousand gates and down a fairly steep stony track. At the bottom there was a shallow water crossing, only about 6" deep but had a concrete slab bottom (notoriously slippery). We had to open another gate first and getting the GSA on and off the side-stand on odd slopes and cambers is a challenge in itself. GB went through and straight up the steep, muddy, eroding track on the other side. I had to cross, come back to get the gate and then start from a standstill. I was very impressed with how the GSA handled that hill.

Too many gates and GB couldn't get on or off very easily because of his tall luggage on an already tall bike, so it was up to me to get most of the gates. Too many gates. Being tall and narrow he did have the advantage of not snagging his luggage on tree roots and rocks, like I did, when the track side came up high. Twice I caught my panniers enough to stop me. Once on a tree stump and once on a rock, both times I was in a deep rut with high sided banks so it was impossible to manoeuvre around them or get the stand down. If I'd been narrower (without panniers) I don't think I would have had any issues. GB got through fine with his narrow set-up, as long as he didn't want to get on and off too often he was happy. Snagging my panniers was killing my momentum and I was getting stuck. I could smell my clutch and enough was enough. GB said he would've continued further if he had more fuel, but then he'd have to get his own damn gates. Did I mention there were a lot of gates?

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