Off Road Skills – BMW GS Trophy UK 2017

The GS Trophy UK is an on road/off road challenge that takes place at the Ancient Briton, the Walters Arena and roads around the Brecons in South Wales.

It is a two day event hosted by Simon Paveys OFF ROAD SKILLS & BMW Motorrad UK.

It was something have heard about but never entered. This year I decided to go along and see what it was all about.

To say I was excited was an understatement. I love riding my bike on the road and more recently off road. Riding on road and off road. The two are completely different and each have there own skill sets and styles attached to them. It is something I have been eager to learn, and since buying my BMW R1200 GSA in 2105 I have taken many opportunities to learn with different riders from the TRF and by finding my own trails and learning along the way. So to have a weekend of riding around Wales and trying out my skills against other like minded people was going to be great!

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Lloyd & I ready for the road to Wales!

I packed my things early on Saturday and waited for my friend Lloyd who had also entered and we rode out of London together along the M4 and Into Wales!

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Crossing the Severn Bridge

I grabbed myself a sticker to start the collection again!

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We eventually ended up at the Ancient Briton Pub and Campsite where the event is hosted.

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Upon arrival we registered our names and bikes into the competition and were given; a road book containing details of the next days ride, a start time for the next morning and a goody bag of bits and bobs including a GS T-shirt & some bike cleaner! We then pitched our tent and settled down for a beer or two with the other riders who had entered. All in all 165 people entered and took part in the weekend’s events.

I met up with a few friends who were there and talked with them for a while about the Taffy Dakar, which that took place a month ago and they told me about a nice green road near by. Eager to get some practice in before the next day, I punched in the coordinates into my Viewfinder app and made my way out of camp for a ride around.

The Roman Road was where I was heading, a green lane through wild heathland that ends with a downhill across a rocky road with broken up boulders! I had a blast riding there and found the track with ease. It was pretty dark by the time I got there, but I had my Clearwater Erica lights so wasn’t worried about seeing where I was going in the slightest!

The Roman Road had some loose gravel and a few deep ruts and puddles to pass, but nothing the bike & I couldn’t handle!

I rode it to the end then came back the same way through the valleys and quiet roads to the camp and talked again with my friends about the ride I’d just been on, about this and that until late, then headed back to the tent to get some sleep ready for the next day.

I awoke in the morning early, earlier than most! I had a shower in some nice cold water to wash the bugs out of my hair and made my way out of camp to find somewhere for breakfast and filled the bike and my Jerry can with fuel, as Lloyd was a bit low on motion potion too!

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Just a few Mozzies!

After getting back to camp I got myself ready and made my way to the marquee for the mornings briefing along with everyone else. there were a few mosquitoes and bugs hanging around the marquee!

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Morning briefing in the marquee.

Being new to it all I sat right at the front and listened carefully to all Mr Pavey & his team had to say about the days events; how to read the road book, and the rules of the competition. Then came a short Q&A where the normal extra questions are asked and confirmed, after which it was off to the bikes to strap the road book to the tank, make any last minute adjustments, warm them up and wait for 9.32am, which was mine, and Lloyd’s start time!

The challenges closed at 18:00hrs, and we were told that that would be plenty of time to complete everything in, and have a quick lunch too! The excitement was building and I was looking forward to the day ahead with a huge smile on my face!

I had studied the road book the previous night so had a far idea of what was ahead of me.

Along the way there would be challenges and questions to find the answers to.

Each challenge had a score of 0-5.

0 being the best score and ideal score you wanted to achieve on each challenge, 5 being the worst!

09:32 came and Lloyd and I were off!

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1st instruction:

Left out the camp and 6.6 miles then turn right, then on to Question 1 ….How much to Hire the village hall for a day?

(You can see the road book below!)

The first fitness challenge was to collect 5 items that were spaced out along a path at 10 metre intervals and return them to the top box at the start line as quickly as possible. The score was based on time. The quicker time you completed the task in, the lower point category you would fall in to.

(I scored a 2!)

Then at the same location adjacent to the car park and lake was a café/arcade/boathouse where we had to answer Question 2 ….What is the fastest machine in the Boating Hut?

After some debate we made our choice….Sega Rally and wrote it down on the road book!We got back to the bikes, reset the tripometers and rode on to the next challenge, which was to find the answer to Question 3 ….When was the Llwyn Reservoir completed? Answer…1926

Out on the road again we followed the road book to Question 4 …Which was “What must fishermen be wary of here?” Answer – Overhead Power Lines!

Answer written down, we carried on the road again we found ourselves following the road book to the 10000 acre site of the Walters Arena where Off Road Skills, Powered by: World of BMW are based and train riders every week on how to ride off road from all over the world, all year round.

Upon arrival we registered our scorecards and were told that we would have 90 minutes in the Walters Arena to complete 6 challenges, with one of them having a 10-point system.

We freshened up, and decided to go straight in and have a look at what was next!

Challenge 1 – To the Tyre, Turn & Back – Bike given to ride – BMW R1200GS Rallye

You had to get on the bike and start it, ride up and around the tyres and back again, and stop in the box. Sounds easy hey? However the earth around the tyres was very very soft and loose, deliberately so, so each rider would have to find a way to turn the bike in the soft ground, then you panic to get to the end quickly and can easily overrun the stop box, where you can lose valuable time and points trying to drag it back in to the stop box!

(I scored a 2)

Challenge 2 – The Slow Race – Bike given to ride – BMW R1200GS Rallye

You had to ride as slow as you could from the start to the finish over about 20 metres, ideally in over 40 seconds! Many people tried to extended the ride by zigzagging the boundary tape each side, however, it is down to balance and control

(I scored a 2)

Challenge 3 – Trials riding – Bike given to ride – BMW R1200GS Rallye

Start on the bike, ride over a 8-10 inch high log, then around the marked route through tight twists and turns, in and out through a ditch, then you entered a deep rut here you made your way along and then up and out of it to the left, in and out of the ditch again and make your way around to the finish line.

(I scored 5 as I managed to get the sump guard stuck on the log right at the start when trying to cross it. I did request to be able to finish it and actually did the rest okay!)

Challenge 4 – Long Deep muddy Rut – Bike given to ride – BMW R1200GS Rallye

You had to enter the deep muddy rut and ride along it around 30 metres and up and out to the left, through the finish cones without stopping

(I scored a 5 as I stopped….)

Challenge 5 – Ruts, Ridges & Hill Climb – Bike given to ride – BMW R1200GS Rallye

The challenge was to enter the ditch and ride along the dry ruts zigzagging your way through to a tight right hand turn up and out of the ditch and left and up the hill without stopping. This challenge was scored from 10-0.

10 being at the start, 0 being the top of the hill and If you were unlucky enough to stop anyway along the way your score would be marked accordingly at the scored intervals. (I scored a 5 as I lost the balance of the bike on a rut, just as I was approaching the turn and flipped the wheel the other way- very embarrassing!)

Challenge 6 – Average Speed Test – Bike given to ride – BMW GS F800

This challenge took in a scenic route around some of the Walters Arena, up, down and around gravel tracks, the skill was you had to keep an average speed of 22.5mph over the course distance of around 3 miles…I think! (They never disclosed how long the route was!)

(I scored 5 as I was 25 seconds over the time limit! I really couldn’t believe it! I did my utmost to stay at 22.5MPH all the way around, but I guess I was going too slow…….on average!)

I left the challenges feeling disappointed with myself and how I did. I’ve practiced a lot recently, but obviously not enough and I lack some of….a lot of the skills needed to achieve a better score.

I was hard on myself, as I know I can do better and wanted too.

Lloyd (who did better on the challenges J in the arena) and I left to get some lunch from the Catering cabin situated on site. The food was really nice and very welcome. We met our new friends and discussed the challenges and how each other did and what scores we got. After a while my feeling of disappointment left me and I felt that all in all I did okay considering it was my first time. There is always room for improvement!

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The Vines Team!

After lunch and conversations we were on the road again. We reset the tripometers to zero and headed out of the Walters Arena for the second half of the day and back on reading the road book, which took us to the ‘easy’ off road part through a woodland ending up through a small river if you felt like going through it which some of us did and on to Question 5 …What is the sandstone rock that forms the tip of Henrhyd falls called? Answer, Farewell Rock

…..and off and through a farm track and on through the Brecons to the Off Road Skills HQ and to our technical challenge of the day; Removing a rear tyre from the wheel completely and replacing it, with the dots lining up in under 3 minutes!

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I have changed many bicycle tyres in my time, but not motorbike ones!

There is a technique, which the judge’s will show you if you ask for help, and if you make it on in time you will score 3 points for the help. Being too proud to ask for help until too late, I scored a 5, but managed to get the tyre on in the end with help form the judges!

I thought this was a really good task as it gave you an experience you don’t often get, and it gave me the thought that maybe I should be changing my own tyres in future!

We left there and on to the other challenges in the book which took us out toward Llangadog and over the glorious sight of the Black Mountain, where we stopped to take in the views.

And watched the other bikers taking in the mountain road.

After a little rest we headed on to Llanddeusant, then on to Question 6 …What is the last forest on the left here called? Answer…Glasfyndd.

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Lloyd writing the answer down.

Answering the question we rode on to the Castle Coaching Inn and Question 7 …How many uprights on the black railings by the church….Not including gates or posts? Answer 107!

You could either count them or take the ‘very hard’ off road route where the answer could be found nailed to a wooden post along the trail….We counted them……. and I also took the ‘very hard’ off road route to confirm our answer, and a bloody good job I did too as it was totally different from our count! 😉 I rode through the off road section alone as Lloyd was running road tyres.

so I met up with him again at our rendezvous point and we reset the tripometers again and headed out to the open moorland where we had to find the answer to Question 8…What is the telephone number for this phone box? Answer…. 0874 636547.

This answer also could be found in the phone box or…… by riding the ‘medium’ off road route to the answer which was a journey along a dead end gravel track to the edge of a military live firing range!

We took the off road route, got the number and turned around again and out into the lanes of the Brecons back roads to the next and last challenge of the day…the rope walk! We made it with 5 minutes to spare (17.55)

This was an ‘off bike’ challenge! The challenge was to navigate your way through the trees along wire ropes without falling off or putting a foot down!

We both scored a 0!

At last! My first of the day and right at the end of it!

Then just as we finished it started to rain, so we put on our waterproofs and made our way back to the Ancient Briton, feeling happy and having had a most enjoyable day out.

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We joined the line of bikes arriving and waited patiently to hand in our scorecards and to park the bikes up at the tent and get some much needed food and a wee bit of rest!

There was a Bavarian BBQ laid on by ORS & BMW Motorrad UK that was pretty tasty and by far not the ‘wurst’ meal of my life! 😉 Da Boom!

We ate drank and were merry. At 8pm ORS laid on show, consisting of a prize for the dirtiest bike, which during the day I had worked hard on by doing all three off road stages and getting her as mucky as possible, but being a chef I had to garnish her up a bit!

So I added some ferns and leaves to finish her off! And it did the trick! I won! A set of Metzeler ROADTEC tyres! I was pretty happy!

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Then there was a Q&A with instructors & legends Chris Northover, Llewellyn Pavey and of course 10 times Dakar rider & ORS Chief Instructor Simon Pavey, where each talked about the passions and skills and rides all hosted by Billy Bike Truck! They also showed a selection of videos of Chris Northover’s stunt riding around the Russian Embassy in London on his Oset electric trials bike, A few of his daring racing moves, Llewellyn Paveys Dakar Ride with his dad Simon and a video he recorded on a ride out to the far east.

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It was great to hear the stories and watch the films they showed. It just made me want to ride & travel more! After the films we were told about the next days events and given a set of grid coordinates for the next day, which we had to find and ride to in the morning! The night came to a close & people went back to their tents to socialise and have fun and talk about the day’s events.

I went back to my tent and freshened up, then popped down to the Ancient Briton pub on site to see what the score was and have a well deserved pint of beer and write about the days events.IMG_6977

I stayed there until 1am talking with the locals, then went for a shower as the water was hot and eventually went to sleep to get some get rest for the next day, I say rest, as I didn’t really sleep!

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I was up early and brushed the bike down and got ready for the days ride.

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We met at the marquee for a briefing where we were told that on the four corners of the camp were some BMW teddy bears which we had to find and take one and ride to the grid coordinates we were given the night before and have check in with our score cards, after which we would make our way to the Walters arena once again for the results and where the challenges for the finalist would take place.

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We found the bears, strapped them to the bike in different fashions and left the Ancient Briton campsite and made our way out on the road to the first grid coordinate which happened to be the Pontsticill reservoir!

A place I know well as when I was a young lad at school I went there to an outward bounds centre in Dolygaer just a mile up the road. It is a place I have been back to since several times on my bike as it is a beautiful place to be, and spend some time, so when I realised we were on our way there I was very happy to be able to see it again! I even took a quick detour around to Dolygaer to see the place once again and get a pic of the bear in the post box!

Then met up with Lloyd again and carried on to the next place, which was the Walters Arena via some lovely little tracks and quiet roads through heathland and the rolling valleys covered with a mist that lay upon the ground like a blanket covering the land as far as you could see.

We arrived at the Walters Arena around 11am and parked up the bikes with the others and awaited the results eagerly!

After my performance the previous day I didn’t expect to place anywhere near the top or even in the top 12, but I was happy to be there and enjoy the day and was rooting for my friend Wil Linssen whom I have been out riding green roads with twice around Herts and Thetford Forest in Norfolk and I thought he might have a chance of doing well!

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After an hour or so the results were in…………..drum roll!!! Nerves were high for all the competitors, as all of us wanted a top 12 place, and the chance to go to Mongolia to represent the UK in the GS Trophy.

The Team results were; (in no particular order)

Vines 1

Rainbow 2

Cotswold 3

Hurst

The Ladies results were

Kirsty Hodges

Peta Louis

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The winner of the ladies Kirsty Hodges, & Peta Louis

The top 12 individual finalists were; (in no particular order)

Luke Milton

Rob Mayes

Mike Wells

Rob Withey

Wil Linssen

Dave Bixter

Richard Cox

Tom Grayson

Peter Urquhart

Pete Twigg

Ben Luker

Craig Keyworth

To say they were happy was an understatement. However the happiness was soon overcome by the realisation of the serious task that lay ahead each of them now, and the nerves and pressure was on to achieve a top 3 place!

They were given a briefing of the challenges, and then told to pick a motorbike to ride. They then had time to check over the bikes and set them up to how they wanted, making any adjustments to the brake pedals etc.

Whilst the top 12 were getting ready the rest of us either started to make our way home or stayed around to watch the finals, being interested in the challenges and watching the riders compete and just happy to be there I stayed around with the 100 or so other people to watch. Families & friends had joined the competitors and we were all looking forward to watching the final tests!

After an hour it was time, everything was in place. The final 12 were ready, the bikes were ready, the judges were ready, and the photographers were all in place, the spectators were eager to see who would make it through to the end and what would happen along the way!

 Challenge 1 – To the Tyre, Turn & Back!

For the final, this challenge started with the bike placed in a two feet deep rut. The rider then had to get on, start the bike and make their way out of the rut and onto the soft ground, over the jump, along and turn on the soft ground around the tyres and then back to finish in the stop box. Again, many of the finalist made it look easy, there were a few who over shot the stop box and lost time and points by having to pull the bike back into the stop box to complete the challenge. It was heart breaking watching them trying with all their might to pull this heavy BMW GS1200 Rallye back on that soft ground! Thinking back….If that had been me, I think I would have just dropped the bike and dragged it back by the back wheel! Easy to say…hard to do.

Challenge 2 – The Slow Race

This time the course was slightly longer and 6 finalists rode lined up next to each other, so there was a bit more pressure to keep yourself slower than the rider next to you. It started with two horn blasts, the first was to start, and if you had not started moving with both feet up on the pegs by the second blast you scored a 5. Sadly that happened to a few of them.

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Challenge 3 – Trials riding

It was the same course as the Sunday, however, this time it was set in reverse so you finish by riding over the log. Same rules, 3 points if you place a foot down, 5 points if you stop, so constant motion was key! The course claimed a couple of people in the ruts and the tight corners again! It was tough!

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Challenge 5 – Ruts, Ridges & Hill Climb

The same scoring system applied to this one again as before, only the course was longer with an extended hill climb! So you really wanted to score as low as possible to make the top 3!

If was great to see the guys and girls making their way through the tight turns then making the GS Rallye climb up to the finish line at the top of the hill!

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The individual finals took around a couple of hours to complete, then it was time for the Team entry finals!

They had two bikes and one set of keys. The first bike was at the top of a hill; the second bike was placed at the bottom of the hill around a corner.

They had to get both bikes and all the riders around the course, which was set on the perimeter of a small lake, down and up a big ditch, and then came the difficult part! After pulling the bike out of the ditch they had to work out a way to get the motorbike from the red line to the finish line without the bike touching the ground. This area covered about 20 metres! There were four wooden railway sleepers to the side of the “red zone” which some of the team members saw and used to try and lift the bike on to and roll it along, then place another one in front of it and so on until the bike had crossed the line, the teams started pinching the sleepers between each other and it was chaos!

One team tried to lift the bike, but if you tried to do that and put the bike down you incurred a 5 second penalty! I think it would have been worth it to take the 5 second penalty, as the time it took to move the wooden sleepers into place was more time consuming than receiving the penalty! One team had a genius idea of using their jackets and riding the bike across them, as technically the motorbike did not touch the ground!!

It was a great way to finish a great weekend of riding! We all cheered them on and watched laughing at the ways they thought up to get the bikes over the red zone and across the finish line!!!

Now it was the long wait until the results of the final were in! I say long, only half an hour or so, bit it must have felt like forever for the final 12 and the teams to see if they had been skilled and lucky enough to make it through to the final 3!!

Soon enough the results were in and Bike Truck Billy gathered everyone around to end the weekend officially by reading out the results of the finals!

I was rooting for my friend Wil & new pal Luke to make it through to the top 3, the other people were there rooting for their friends to make it through, the atmosphere was tense but fun!

Bike Truck Billy finally put us all out of our wait by announcing the list!

Drum roll again……………..

This years overall winner is……………….Pete Twigg from Sheffield!

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Pete had competed for the last 7 years! Good Man Pete!

When I asked him how he felt about winning he said, “I never thought I’d win it, I’m over the moon! It hasn’t quite sunk in yet. I’m looking forward to Mongolia”

Pete makes up the final 3 along with Craig Keyworth & Ben Luker who are all going to Mongolia! I wish them the very best of luck and will be following their progress with interest!

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The winner of the ladies class was Kirsty Hodges, who along with Peta Louis Hodgkinson who will represent the UK in the International GS Trophy Women’s Final! Go girls!

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Over all the weekend was superb and some of the best money I have ever spent. From the moment I left London to the moment I got to Wales and then home again I had so much fun!

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Luke Milton

The people I met at the weekend, the roads I rode, the views I took in, the new places visited and the new skills I had picked up, things I had learnt about myself and things I need to practice for next year, all of it was brilliant. The road book is gold in itself, as it has some amazing roads and routes through the Brecons that take you on roads you’d probably never find yourself, so I’ll keep that for sure.

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Wil Linssen

I simply cannot wait to enter again next year and try my hand again!

I want to say a huge Thank you to Simon Pavey and his wife who run the Off Road Skills and to all of his amazing instructors and guys and girls who are just simply the best guys to hang out with and be around, and that helped make the weekend so enjoyable. A big Thank you to BMW and to ORS for hosting us and to the Ancient Briton Pub.

You can see all the results here!

See you next year already!

 

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