West Glos & Dean Forest
Motor Cycle Club

Celebrating 71 Years of Motor Cycling 1953 - 2024

Lozere: October 2008

The Taller Moore view has been added since you last looked! Oh and if you are wondering where the heck this place is then this should help.

Combatants were: Mike Allen, Julian Bishop, Anthony Moore, Andrew Moore, Pete Neale, Matt Neale, Rod Jones, Owain Jones, Chris Haines, Paul James, Paul Waycott, Roddy Boycott, Royston Edwards, Ian Vessey, Plus from Ooop North, Dave and Kurt (who Julian and Vess have met on previous trips).

The Vess View

Overnight ferry from Portsmouth - normal stuff. The pub right by the port entrance (Rudmore Cellars?) is not worth another visit - sticky floor, 'Eastenders' on the telly - just not nice. About 200yds away from this, tucked up in what appears to be the freight entrance to the docks is a much much better place - 'The Ship and Castle', a proper pub. Then got searched (AGAIN!) when going through customs. Julian's bag got put through the X-ray machine. His knee-braces caused a lot of head-scratching until the customs chap decided that since they weren't guns or knives then they were OK!

Had a few beers in the 'Dirty Duck' on the ferry, just to get that nice fuzzy feeling when driving down the autoroute next day. Long drive, 8.5 - 9 hours, nearly uneventful except for the torrential showers which didn't make the next few days look too good. The really eventful bit was near the end when we decided to take a scenic road across the mountains for the last 50K. The road was blocked and a detour sent us through narrow winding back roads. At one point, a van speeding towards us refused to move over and swiped the wing mirror, startling Julian (sitting on that side) as he thought it was coming through the window! A minute later a small Peugeot did the same! As luck would have it, we passed a Ford dealer as we dropped into Mende, and a new mirror glass was purchased at great expense!

Arrived at the hotel in Mende with plenty of time to take a walk around the old historic town centre. Pizza for supper - very good too.

Day 1.

A bit of drizzle, but not too bad, and it dried up later anyway. Bit of a relaxed start to the day, got away after 10am after Chris' roadbook briefing. Nothing too difficult, but a couple of rocky climbs early on tested some of riders, but overall a nice rideable 160 kms. Lunch was in a restaurant by a reservoir somewhere. Fuel in the van was delayed as John had to do a massive detour because of more roadworks. All survived the day, and we whiled the evening away in the hotel with much technical talk about bikes and discussions of the finer points of riding styles etc. We talked a load of bull as normal.

Day 2.

Dry, longer (220km) and more technical but with a long forest blast in the middle to make up the mileage. Today needed an earlier start in order to finish before dark. The route started technical with some very rocky climbs. I was riding with Chris, and we soon came upon Jammer on an early climb trying to go sideways up it. Didn't work very well that way as he was clearly demonstrating. We passed him and Mike and Ant, who then spent the rest of the day trying to keep up. Not a race you understand, but they couldn't catch us.....


The Bastard Rocks.

This is an obstacle of monstrous proportions. Not to be attempted when on your own. On the 2005 visit, Julian blamed me for chickening out, and as there was only me and Chris there at first this time, we were both looking to do the same again. However, as we ummed and oo-arred about it, so the rest of the rabble arrived, including Dave and Kurt from ooop north.

Anthony decided on a particular line and gave it his best shot, arriving at the top of the first bit without too much hassle. Then Dave had a go, witnessed by Mike who said "Well, that's done it now, we'll all have to go".

So we did, and all got up. Video clips were taken as proof! Anth, Dave, Mike, Chris (Vids By Vess)

After the first really steep bit there was still a 100yds of rocks to cover which required manhandling of bikes for all riders.

It was about 6pm by the time we arrived back at the hotel, the end to a long and very satisfying day's riding. Bike maintenance was minimal thankfully, and all retired to the bar for another helping of banter and @$%{}ocks which ran late into the night.

Day 3.

More technical going again, and much more single track. The weather held, bit dull and overcast but perfect for our ride.

After lunch it went a bit pear shaped for me. Lost the front turning right onto a rickety bridge at about 2mph. Rolled off, slid across bridge, then slid right over the side, and dropped down 6 foot onto the boulders below. Chris just saw me disappear over the edge. When I stood up to take a bow, his face was a real picture!

I did whack my wrist somewhere on the way down into the abyss, but it turned out not to be broken thankfully. It also clearly illustrated how very easy it would be to get into a major pickle, even from what started as a very trivial 'off'.

At the end of the day, we all made it back to the hotel in one piece. Dinner was in town in a restaurant by the Abbey, and by the time we returned to the hotel the bar was shut, which was just as well really.

Because the next day was a 5am departure for the 8.5 hour drive back up to Le-Havre. Interestingly, the Trellech mob, who took the Dover-Calais route there and back, left the same time as the rest of us but arrived home just as we were getting off the ferry in Portsmouth at 9:30pm.

Brill trip. Many thanks to Chris Evans for organising it, and to the Moto Club Lozerien for allowing Chris to run it over their territory. Can't wait for his new Sardinian trip! or was it Sicily? Who cares! It's sure to be good.

Chris Evans of Sport Adventure has a regular spot in TBM and can be found at www.sport-adventure.com

The Matt Chronicles

Club trip, (well sort of), to France.

Years ago the mutterings of several of our senior members stirred others who had similar memories into agreeing to spend the Christmas present money on a trip to the Lozere region of France, (very south), and join in with 3 days riding under the organisation of Chris Evans. You know, he of the poorly written and excessively packed out articles in TBM. (It takes one to know one, thought I'd get that in before Colin).

Anyway eventually we were off. Much 'organisation' by Rod, who actually did a good job with the ferry, saw us Portsmouth bound. Not a good start as by the time we were over the bridge the traffic had turned solid. A nasty rumour circulated about a lorry on its roof and 3 vans headed into the outskirts of Bristol to find a way round. This was not very reassuring for me as Jammer had several very good French road atlases on board but nothing that showed Britain. To cut a very long and boring bit of the story very short, we got there, but not in time for the anticipated few pints. Mike with Rod and Owain as passengers checked in first and dashed to the bar. Silly sods as we then started to load. Fastest pint ever I reckon especially as they were blocking the queue. Jumping on, we mustered at the check in desk, found our cabins and headed for the bar. At some point in the evening we ate, a nice lamb shank in my case, and drank more beer. A tragedy of a similar magnitude to the sinking of the Titanic occurred midway through the evening. It shocked the party, put a dampener on the week and undoubtedly set the scene for other problems. The bar ran out of Stella! Julian was bereft. No amount of consolation would help. Until……. Chris discovered bottles of Newcastle Brown and all was well with the world.

Surprisingly relatively early nights were had by all despite the losing of an hour to eurotime. Even so 'bing bong, get up you lazy sods' at some unearthly hour was not welcome. A stonking great fried breakfast, the last for some time, set us up and at about 8 am we were off the ferry and into the joys of Le Havre. As is the way with this sort of thing the van with the sat nav travelled at the back. Actually Jammer's van will only do 37mph down hill so the pair of us sat back and watched Mike take all the long ways round. Actually Sally Satnav did a great job throughout the week although at times she did go rather quiet when faced with 300 miles of motorway with no junctions. Why don't these things make polite conversation or tell dirty jokes or something?

Whilst the journey was long, 520 miles? It was uneventful although wet at times. The Vess mobile ploughed its own path with Chris and Julian as pleasant and helpful passengers. Huh! Mike with Jones Per et Fils (It's hard to believe I know, but he actually teaches French! ed.) on board belted on but kept stopping to wait and Bros Moore plus Pete in the Jambuster acted as a hare to Jammer and myself in the slug wagon. Things became more scenic when with about 50k to go (see we have gone euro now) a motorway junction was taken that would send us to Mende via the pretty way. Jambuster and Slug had reunited at this point, just in time to get a text from Mr A4 to say that the road was blocked and they were lost. A bit of smart map reading and Sally's gorgeous tones soon put us on the right track. From here on in the journey is all a bit of a blur. Paul had 'enjoyed' a service station kebab for lunch and it was making itself known. Sorry, but this had to be the worst atmospheric conditions of my life. Anthony reckoned I looked like a poodle with its head out of the window for the next 50k. A very famous WW1 poet wrote poetry to summarize this time and it was also plagiarised by the Macc Lads of whom the least said the better. Anyway, the line 'Gas Gas quick lads' says it all. In some disarray we arrived in Mende pausing only to open the side door in the outskirts. I cant remember why but it stayed open until we landed at the hotel. The Vess mobile had arrived first putting Chris in a room by himself awaiting a 'friend'. The numbers were such that we volunteered Paul Waycott, currently on his way from Calais. I am sure they got on wonderfully.

Much fussing later we sort of met Chris E, our glorious leader, who 'recommended' several eating places in town. While the others were checking out each others handbags, touching up the lippy etc. Pete and I wandered off to get ahead in the food queue at the recommended steak house. Right outside a whopping great cathedral it was, and very nice. A teenage son with an interest in languages meant that Pete was able to ask for a carafe of the house red. Amazingly that's what we got. Puzzling over the food saw us getting no where until the helpful waiter asked us in English that was umpteen times better than our French what we were after. Our steaks arrived as did the rest of the ladies, (including the two poor sods who knew nothing about us having filled, I believe, the slots by 2 of our mob dropping out. It was suggested that I charge them 4 quid, give them a membership card and then we would talk to them.) Of course we felt it was only fair for them to get into the spirit of things by pointing out that they needed fluent French as not a word of English was spoken in town! Rod, Jammer and Drew all had a stab. I reckon they must have learnt different dialects at school as none of it made sense. Eventually the waiter got fed up and spoilt the joke. That wine was great and 4 carafes later the pair of us toddled off to our beds.

Breakfast was French. The combo of ham and pastries was just the job, as was the coffee. Some of the party ate fruit but I felt that was taking the EEC too far. Remember Waterloo!! The weather was English. Those of us who had organised some form of roadbook holder at home sat around looking smug whilst the others taped Chris's own version to their bike. You may see these in pics somewhere. Think inverted sarny boxes on TV aerials.

Briefing time. The main theme seemed to be to make us wonder what we were in for with tales of horror drops over bottomless cliffs etc. This seemed to be Chris's style for the week which was slightly OTT as at no point was there any real need for anything apart from common sense. Agreed 1 or 2 drops were on the edge of sharp bends and popping off them would have been terminal but I suppose it keeps people on their toes. A sensible request was for us to stay in small groups and behind the leader for the day. This was a very Gallic chap called Duke. Best described as gnome like, he didn't fit his extremely fast Husky. This made no difference as he didn't seem to put his feet down for 3 days. He disappeared at the start of the day and we only saw him after that for lunch.

More handbag swapping left me and Pete wondering what the fuss was so off we went. We got 50 metres before Drew P. Moore tagged on the back so team 230 it was. I have tried to remember the routes for 3 days but have failed miserable. Despite this I can remember enough to bore the average reader to tears, but if you want more details tough. Over the next hour or two the riders of the faster bikes caught and passed us but we were still mid pack until the first of several micro navigation errors allowed most of the mob passed. Chris Evan's road books are best described as adequate rather than brilliant as produced by Colin for the Wyegate. The main issue is that he only differentiated between metalled roads and all other surfaces. There is no indication if an unsurfaced track is a goat track or wide enough for two massive timber lorries. We came across both types and plenty in between. You also need to have a trip that exactly matches his. At the correct distance you have to look for a feature that can be interpreted in the way he does. 99.9% of the time this works although for example I found that his distances were a touch optimistic compared with my GPS. Anyway the 3 of us went sailing over a cross roads. I think it was really the occasional passing of a mouse at right angles to the two lane wide motorway we were on but we missed it and had to retrace our steps for a few hundred metres. This led to the first of the supposed death drops. It was fun. Several hundred metres of very steep and leafy descent. On a mountain bike it would have been the scene for much hilarity and silliness. Less than half way through day 1 of 3 meant that there was some real pussyfooting around. At the bottom the going changed into kilometres of hard wide track covered in chestnut leaves. I preferred the death drop but the hooligans had a great time. This was perhaps a feature of the trip. Some of us saw these fast long lanes as a place to slow down and look at the views and take piccies whilst others saw them as a place to use the main jet. Within reason this was perfectly allowable, especially compared with the lanes at home and it says something for the good sense of the riders!!!!!!!!!! that on the whole everyone kept things shiny side up. Roughly here Mr Evans, riding as sweeper, swept us up having already collected a pair of Jones's. What is the collective noun for these? Last lane before lunch was maybe half a K of fairly steep descent over off camber limestone slabs. Like Limekiln woods but narrower, steeper and with a greater penalty for coming off. Brilliant. I reckon the 09 Wyegate needs to be a bit longer. A blast round a man made lake and over a whopping dam with fantastic views led to lunch which was animal. Ok I suppose although the green beans and lentils were a touch too continental for my tastes.

Lunch on day 1 was also a checkpoint and fuel stop. Trouble was that the van, driven by John Hall, didn't get there on time. The local roads tend to be minor yet crucial and when one is shut the alternatives are few and far between. Ah well, club 230 didn't need fuel so off we went leaving those on more thirsty kit to hang on. We were now 4, Rodders having tagged on. The first few miles up into the hills were brilliant. Windy road right on the edge on a gorge about a mile deep. There was a wall, all 18 inches of it. Sorry, 45cm. Worth a photo or two. Maybe there's one about somewhere. Anyway, the next lanes were now an amalgamation in my clouded memory. We went along the edge of a golf course at about the same altitude as the top of Snowdon. Views were Welsh as well. Stones and wall. Crappy gates and thorns. Just like at home. We had woods as well. Just after the pic of us looking at Pete's wheel by a wall we entered some forest. Generally we were climbing up steep stony tracks covered in chestnut leaves. Brilliant. Eventually the tracks turned sandy/gravely and became real hooligan territory. For others that is. We had a slight nav correction, no because we were lost (Us never!) but just because we didn't believe we were right. Whilst confirming our location were heard this roar below us. Is it a boar, is it a plane? No its just Duke, who as leader had left after us. 'Follow that nutter' one of us said. Some hope. It was like expecting a Moore to be on time or Mike to buy second hand. The best we could do was follow his tracks which were rather obvious. His style was best described as enthusiastic. Each right angled bend was used to the maximum with great grooves in the sandy soil. The next few miles, coz that's what I think in, were along side the second longest deer fence in the universe. Little water grooves and berms, small whoops and all sorts of fun. Weather still welsh. I am reliable informed that it was somewhere within this forest that messrs Waycott, Boycott and Edwards, riding as the token Welsh group had the 1st of several 'chats' from Mr Evans in here. Can't think why. I have to assume that the other 4some of Anth, Mike, Jammer and Owain (who had found someone more exciting than his dad to ride with), were far more sensible. I cannot believe that such a mature bunch would weaken as to go beyond 3rd gear. Thinking about it you do realise that this wasn't a wise mix. At home there would be child protection issues arising from letting such a youngster out with these three. I lose track a bit here. (Note the clever use of the English language), but eventually we reached what passes for civilisation round here. Two sheds, 3 quads, 4 farmers and dozens of sheep dogs. Ah we thought, the fuel stop. Or should it be fool stop? The van was there, just over the level crossing of what looked like a sleepy disused railway. There's more action in the train fixing place by me than on this line. Team diddybike topped up. Probably less than a gallon twix 4 of us and most of that was spilt. We had only done about 100k so it was hardly worth it. Team senior arrived, Bishop, Vess and Haines. I am talking about their air of wisdom of course. 2 got across whilst Chris was nearly wiped out by the Paris to Marseilles goods express. No fancy stuff like barriers around here.

We let them go. Didn't want them in our way you see. All of a sudden the lanes turned to Peak District mud. Lots of ruts, no grip and grass hiding everything. Pete, being Mr Mud, led. Rod followed with Drew P and me playing silly b******* behind. The opportunity arose for Rod to be left behind so being good mates I went for it. Just as he got into one of those nasty and inevitably terminal wobbles. In these situations there is only one option. Nail it! I did and it worked. I missed him. Well nearly. Just as here flailed to as stop, still just astride his bike my super tough, very non moving handguard smacked his helmet. He could have scratched my rubber! The usual sympathy was extended and we proceeded at our usual pace, i.e. at the comfortable speed of the fastest. The weather was now really Welsh and wintery. What seemed like hours of wet forestry gravel, enlivened by allegedly bottomless puddles led us to a dead end. Quite possibly in more ways than one as there was a rather nice chapel in the middle of these god forsaken woods. (Actually, I suspect I have contradicted myself there but why let the truth spoil a good story?) Time for a nutty health bar for Pete followed by the donning of surgical gloves! To keep my hands dry he said. We all cleared off as fast as we could. I'm getting fed up now so just to say that lots more woods, ruts, mud, stones and all sorts of goodies followed. It stopped being Welsh weather and by the time we got back to Mende it was great. We rode past this huge bridge. I don't even pretend to understand the physics of it. Like the Severn bridge but taller, narrower and probably cheaper to cross.

Back at camp, Mr Evans descended on us for our road books and in my case to thoroughly clean out my GPS. I suppose its professional paranoia, not wanting us to be able to retrace our steps at a later date. Anyway over beer, wine, dinner and more beer the evening ended after much debriefing and bull****. What was on for tomorrow? The biiiig day. Today had been a mere 167 k whereas 220 or so were to come. An early night was had by some.

Lozere part 3 Day 2

In a break with tradition I didn't have a hangover on Thursday morning. Not like some! Breakfast was slightly early as today was the biggy. Hmmm. The morning briefing from Chris was full of the dangers of the day. At several points we were warned of death drops that would ensnare us if we were not careful. There was also a general moan at those who chose to see where they were going yesterday rather than wear goggles. Oh well, each to their own. To some extent you could see that two different types of people come on Chris's trips. Some are enduro riders out for a thrash and others are trail riders after greater distances and less hassle than in the UK. I didn't dare mention that both myself and Pete and maybe others didn't bother with armour. We left the open face helmets in the van to avoid being picked on even more.

Team 230 set off first I think but were soon passed on the wide open tracks that met us to begin with. A few miles out we entered the first technical lane of the day. Now't hard, maybe a bit like Craig-y-Master but dry. Pete led then Droopy. Me next having shoved Rod to the back. My humour wasn't helped by being shoved out of the way by the two northern lads whose trail etiquette wasn't the same as ours. Oh well 100 metres later the pair of them were on the floor so I had my own back. At tarmac 75% of club 230 waited. Waycott and Edwards appeared mentioning that someone, probably from our group was lying around at the bottom of the hill. "ah, that'll be Rod" . "Oh well Owain is here as well having his CCM mended by the supplying dealer" Sorry Rod, time was pressing. Slightly further on we met those who had passed us while waiting coming back. Missed a turn I suppose. We were happy to keep going and indeed were going the right way. The lane went up. And even more up. Steep and long with no room to stop. Round a corner we came across Jammer. Facing down hill on a very loose and stony hill. Dunno why but I suspect he has a good excuse. It was time to go for it. Flat out in 3rd. Gravel, rocks, dust, sticks. Pete was flying until Mr 'I'm facing the wrong way' James moved. Oops. 'Watch your language Pete'. Droopy got tangled up as well. Having the benefit of being 3rd I saw the problem, chose the line and with the grace of a Bolshoi ballet dancing sailed past. It was hard work. I dunno how long this hill was but it went on for ever. Hundreds of metres easily. My arms were getting tired just holding on while standing up. The line on the other side looked smoother so I moved over and sat down. Bad move. I'm up the bank and stopped. This did not look good as obviously Jammer had failed to get going and the carnage along side him didn't encourage me. I sat down, hit second and pulled away. Just like flat tarmac!!! The 230 worked brilliantly. Enough power to pull off on a steep hill but enough grip not to spin out. Easy. Pure talent I suppose. Hours later Pete and Drew scrabbled inelegantly to the top in a cloud of stream. As the bikes are air cooled I suppose this must have been from them.

Lanes and lanes later we descended endless hairpins into yet another gorge until my arms ached with braking. Eventually things flattened out and we were on a vehicle width track several hundred feet above the bottom. Bit narrow though if you were on the outside edge in a car. We approached a death bend or so the road book said. Agreed it might have been rather terminal if the bend wasn't taken. A scene from the Road runner cartoon came to mind but to be honest you would have been a complete pillock to fail to make the bend. I commented to Droopy that this would have been a great mountain bike track. Miles of down hill. More road!!! Then more track. Single I think. Definitely uphill and narrow on the side of steep hills. Not terminal to ride off but it would have been a pig to get the bike back. At a rough guess we were riding along a steep hill side that gradually became about 1500 feet high. No problems just great scenery and riding. There are some pics about of cliffs on skylines from this area. The gruesome 4 some from yesterday turned up. 'Where's your dad Owain?' 'Dunno' We followed them, hoping for some laughs but the drop offs had calmed them down. Boring.

At the van/petrol check in town Pete decided that he would reseat his rear tyre. It was making Drew and I feel sick watching its wobble. Rod turned up. Don't know where from. Anyway we sent him and Drew off to spread us out a bit whilst Pete played with his wheel and I offered expert advice. Off we went leaving the Welsh 3 some nearly ready to leave.

At this point I shall be diplomatic and not specify who was leading/navigating. Occasionally the road book had us going straight on past a tiny track that would have not been noticed if it was not un-necessarily put in. Because it was there we occasionally and momentarily thought it should be used even though the arrow went straight on. In this case the tiny track had been used in the past but was now to be ignored. The arrow on it had been deleted and moved but its existence confused one of us while we were rushing to catch up. Lack of wheel tracks might have told us we were in the wrong place but the surface was dry and stony. 200 metres up the path, such that it was disappeared. This isn't strictly true as we could see it, 15 feet down the hillside where it had fallen. The hillside was terraced and we were above the top wall. Pete tried to ride the bike length gap but rather rapidly bailed out uphill and pushed across knocking a few more stones down on his way. Remember that. He rode on and out of site. Being the clever one of the bunch I missed out the jumping off bit and started walking the bike over the gap. The front wheel made it but the back wheel needed those stones that Pete had displaced and started to slide down into the abyss. I am a past expert at dropping bikes in a hurry and stuck the bars into the slope before it went all the way. 'Oh dear'. It wasn't moving up at all. It was moving though! I looked ahead, saw a helmet and waved like a demented seagull. The helmet moved – away! Never mind it was only 50 metres, I'll walk on up. Helmet by bike I wandered up. Hmm, no Pete. Another 50. Nope. Its warm now, better undo the jacket. Start shouting. Keep walking. To be fair there was nowhere to turn round. My gear began to be draped along the track like the debris from Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. Hours later. Well possibly 30 mins I reached tarmac of sorts. No Pete. By now I was a little depressed. Funny how you start to talk to your self. Pete's parentage was definitely in question.

I had no idea where I was, no one was obviously coming to get me as they would have been along by now and my bike was in a hole. See the pic. Its been dragged a good way up to that point. Getting desperate I retraced my steps. I intended to leave my gear so as to ride up the hill ( if I ever got my bike out) unencumbered. For some reason I did pick it up though. Good job as it turned out. When I got back to my bike I didn't. It was gone!!! Who cares where, it was gone. I reached the road to find it neatly parked, helmet and all. No Pete though. We could well have lost an hour by now. Logic moved in. Retrace my steps to the last known point, a bridge 50 yards away. Now CAREFULLY look at the road book. Blast. There's no arrow on that poxy path. I should have gone straight on. At this point Pete arrived having realised the error, ridden from his end of the track along the road to the start point and walked up to find my bike but no me. Some how he not only dragged the bike up from the hole but turned it round as well. All we had to do now was ride the next 50k to lunch then the other 110 as well.

Speed with care. That's what we needed and applied. Up through an orchard. You know in Wales you get the odd flock of sheep. Well these were very odd. Goats in fact, all with bells. Millions of them. At some point we got swept up. Chris must have been hanging about to be behind us! We followed him along some great roads although judging by the way he kept looking back he wasn't keen on my 'tourist looking at the views' speed. The next significant lane was a stunner. Great long descent along the wall of a huge gorge. The track was about a car wide but there is no way I would take 4 wheels along it even if the boulders would allow. There were several options on riding style. Swift was possible. Looking at the view was another. They were very much mutually exclusive if the 3rd option, freefall, wasn't wanted. There was the potential to go a huge way if a wobble got totally out of control. My Pant-Glas riding style would have been terminal. Moving on. We came to Chris's favourite lane. Winding along the sides of another gorge but this time in the trees so the drops were less evident. Across off camber rocks and dirt, up steep little climbs and over slippery slabs. Great fun although in the wet I suspect carnage. Around the corner we met the rest of team Diddybike. Drew was nowhere to be seen but Rod was looking bemused at the back end of his bike which seemed to want to drop down the bank of no return. Feeling sociable for a change we joined forces a dragged him though. Droopy was waiting ahead. He urged Rod on showed him the exact line between 2 trees and Rod went the wrong way! I wasn't stopping. Sorry again Rod, you made good grip. I suspect Pete did the same as he reached flat ground next. Then Drew arrived. At this point I must admit we thought about making Chris earn his money but Drew was too kind. Chris had said keep going and try to catch up so we did. Road followed by forestry track. Muddy, timber lorry chewed led onto grass and suddenly tarmac and the lunch stop. Others were there, we were not too late! In fact the other 2 from team 230 were still behind with the sweeper. Participants in other trail rides with me and Pete will know that no lunch til tea time is our motto. By ignoring food and keeping going we actually moved ahead of the Welsh 3 some. Pete had half a bag of dried mango and I had a handful of toffees. More than enough. In fact we felt positively decadent.

Keep moving was the theme. Soon we were caught by the Welsh but they didn't get past as things were narrow and rooty. We actually got away from them on a long rooty climb where at one point Pete ground to a halt where I kept going. My manners were slipping by now.

I have to mention that as it rarely happens. Passing Pete that is. Suddenly gravel. Chris had warned of this. Miles of it. Hard packed dirt, the odd puddle and the potential of other vehicles. Not a one. Even my dislike for forestry going was overwhelmed. Water grooves and whoops. Berms and drops. Brilliant. The odd stop for a piccy and before we knew it tarmac again. Maybe 20 or 30 k of ground had been covered with not another person to be seen. And all off road. This tarmac had a certain character. The road wasn't wide enough for a white line. It twisted and turned for miles. The edges were covered in leaves leaving a narrow strip of grip in the middle. The bends were a supermoto fans dream. Knobblies were pushed to their limits. Apparently a certain CCM 404 riding builder who shall be nameless found the limits and high sided the lot. What a surprise. Fat lot of good his 3 weeks in France on the road bike earlier this summer had did him. You would have thought that a trained motorcycle instructor and member of the ADI would have kept it shiny side up. Then again his bike was never shiny so maybe that was a good enough reason. At the top of the pass it was even more forestry but this time down. We must have dropped below sea level judging but the huge amount of down. Here the Welsh mob caught us. Waycott proved that a 200 KTM can be made to go as fast at a 380. There must be more somewhere but mind has gone blank again. I remember open hills and stony tracks, friendly locals, all 3 of them and trying to keep the KTMs in sight.

All of a sudden on a bleak bit of hill side was the petrol van. A few litres each and Pete and I were pointed to a patch of colour on the hill side a few klicks away. That's the rest of them we were told. Problems we thought? You bet

We had reached a certain set of well known and notorious rocks. They had no need to be included but I was told that Duke had suggested their inclusion for a bit of fun! Unfortunately due to the censorious nature of the website editor and his well known puritanical streak I cannot inform you of the name of these rocks. Suffice it to say that they had the same name as I had called Pete when he abandoned me earlier. Quite how rocks can be illegitimate I do not know but these were! 2 sets of slabs/steps that looked quiet harmless if tricky . Plenty of grip though. Nothing too hard for the Boxing Day trial and maybe even the middle route at Stony Green. As Pete and I got to the first set Anth appeared like some gloating gargoyle at the top. He wasn't helpful!. Showing commitment I had a go. Halfway up it all went STOP. Apparently that was much the same as others had done. A second try went no further as I hit the kill switch in my flailings. I was on for a clean then you must know. Pete had a go and reached the same point but common sense prevailed and we dragged the bike up. Time for me again. Did I mention the grip? This time more commitment was shown. The front wheel reached the top. The back wheel tried to follow. I didn't but held onto the throttle. A familiar scenario now arose. Front wheel above head, back wheel above head as well, bike dead level and upright but inverted. Oh yeah and at head height in mid air. I remember trying to push the bike so at least it got to the top and didn't land on me. Those rocks are easier now that I have removed a huge chunk. My much maligned hand guards did the job and the damage was confined to a few scratches on the false rad shrouds. At least the bike was near the top. Pete had shown his fitness level earlier in the day so in an attempt to even things out a bit I let him do the rest of the manhandling. The second set proved easier though still beyond our skill levels. The need to keep ahead of the Welsh kept us moving on as they had not been much more successful. It is a measure of the difficulty of these rocks that Chris Evans offers a bottle of champers to anyone who cleans them. He feels safe here although 1 person has lightened his wallet. I bet that hurt.

I think Pete must have a different semaphore system in his head to me. Remember my frantic waving to no avail earlier. 'I thought you meant go on' he said. Trying to find second gear now didn't work for me now. At some point I had bent my gear lever in a touch and it wouldn't shift up so I was stuck in first. I saw Pete waiting a few hundred metres ahead so waved, shook my head and stopped. What did he do? Guess. Eventually my snail like, first gear pace got through to him and some rudimentary blacksmithing was done.

Chris had said in his pre event blurb and had stressed this morning that mousses were the only viable option to avoid punctures. The next lane was a sure fire puncture spot and several were guaranteed. Purely to prove him wrong some care was taken on the next lane. Peak District like stones with lots of pointy bits. All of a sudden the surface changed . Grassy rides such as seen in the Corinium. Ace. This suddenly went off camber. 'Oops, roots. Never mind remember your mountain biking, let it flow, don't touch the brakes, think smooth.' - 'Yeah' - 'bugger!' I don't notice the transition from upright to flat on my side. I did recognise sliding on the roots though. Funnily enough the total lack of friction meant that there was no pain and the bike stayed running. My first off this week. I hoped it was the last. The next lanes must have been easy and smooth as I cannot remember them. We dropped into Mende via our way out that morning. Great views but probably useless pics. Droopy and Chris joined us here. Drew had had a guided tour since lunch time. No nav and no errors. Don't know what happened to Rod. Such team spirit hey? He was back at the hotel so he can't have been left at the rocks so it all worked out well in the end.

2 days down. No injuries. Bike still working although a few nuts got tightened that night. 1 notch tighter on the chain, more for the sake of doing it than any real need. This isn't so bad after all. Only tomorrow to survive. Dinner was steak but no vinegar for the chips. More wine tonight though. Bed. Very dehydrated. 3 litres of water drunk over night and umpteen trips to the bog.

Lozere trip Day 3

It was our last day already. No injuries that I knew of. Tame. Chris's briefing contained its usual horror warnings. Today was to be more 'technical' than the previous days having a much greater proportion of single track type going. Yeah! The first section included some of the going included in the recent WEC round that was on telly about a week before we went. He did say that some of the early climbs and tracks were awkward and challenging. I suspect he was trying to discretely warn off anyone who may be liable to struggle on long stony climbs. Actually this was perhaps a shame as none of the going was difficult and it is likely that nothing in this first section was as hard as the more awkward bits of any Wyegate although I could see the potential for delay if there was too much pushing and shoving. He also mentioned a nasty drop of known as 'the steps'. Team 230 minus Rod pushed off mid pack today. Turns out that Rod had decided that cutting the first part of the course was better than lots of pushing and shoving. The desperate first climb proved uneventful.

It may seem that at times I am criticising Chris's route descriptions or sounding bighead about how easy the route was. This is not the case. I am sure he has a huge range of riding abilities and perhaps more importantly experience on his trips. It is undoubtedly better to be over cautious than too casual and have people in over their heads.

Anyway some lovely twisty single track led to the road crossing and the steps. We had been told not to ride the main step but to go around and even then walk the bike down. Now't too it. (after the event that is!) I wasn't going to ride this main step although even a renowned wimp such as myself has ridden drops as big as that and on a mountain bike we would be egging each other on. From below you could see that there was a small kicker built up to allow a good ascent and indeed it was such that I reckon the Wyegate needs to be a touch longer this year to include it. More twisty stuff. Single track and off camber for miles. At some point, about 25 k out I think, I stopped to adjust my chain. It seemed a bit noisy and as I had tightened it up a notch the previous night without any real need I decided to slacken it again. That characteristic whine of a tight chain stopped but the regular click didn't. To be honest I was beginning to get a bit paranoid, especially as nothing had gone wrong so far this trip. Was that click there yesterday? Maybe. Oh well that meant it wasn't important. Lots more of this stuff brought us to some blasts up wide sandy lanes. Lots of ruts and drainage ditches. Suddenly Lunch. Everyone was gathered around a rough looking farm building with a wooden balcony looking out over the woods. Droopy and Pete parked their bikes at the base of the steps leaving plenty of access up two wooden ramps. I reckon we had more 'moments' on these damn ramps than the rest of the riding. The swimming pool looked cold. For some reason I had been feeling rather chilly this morning despite the more technical riding. Rather than whinge and moan I made a simple and practical move to cover my head thus retaining crucial body heat. For some reason known only to the Moore brothers this was the occasion for some ridicule. Quite how they can justify criticising my dress sense I'll never know. A picture on the website shows the injustice of it all.

Lunch was great. The salad was a bit green for me but the bits of bacon in it were just the job. Then the bread and sausage arrived. Hard, thin salami like sausage. Great form chewing, should have kept some for emergency rations. The treatment this had from the waitress gave some indication of the type of establishment this was. Hang on don't start wondering about innuendo just yet. Somehow, rather unfairly all of it ended up on one plate at the far end of the large trestle table. Said waitress grabbed a hunk, and chucked it on to the bare table at the end. Any H&S freak would have had a fit. I doubt the table had been cleaned since the last of the foot hovering cats had licked it that morning. Who cares, real catering this was although one or two of the party looked dubious. Meat arrived. Great hunks of lamb. Not poncy slices but chunks. Then the spuds. 2 whopping great frying pans, encrusted with years of use were full of spuds fried in cheese. I expect some pedant will give me come culinary term for this later. Now we need to persuade Elaine to do this on club nights! There was pudding and coffee as well. A real meal for men not health freaks. Probably used a months worth of unhealthy eating for Pete though.

Time to go. The usual group went off with Rod and son somewhere there as well. Team 230 were somewhat distorted though. Chris Evans had decide that he wanted to try a 230. I suspect he also wanted to get coverage of his black KTM with his rear facing helmet cam. Funnily enough he didn't want to swap with me, choosing the photogenically challenged Droopy instead. So with Chris at the head of the procession and Drew trying to look competent we had a guided tour of miles of woods. Narrow switch backs with steep drops and climbs. 2nd , 3rd, 2nd, 3rd, bottom,. Manic. Like Olympic BMX. At some point Rod and Owain appeared. Chris's sweeper job seemed to be less important than his filming so they were left to fend for themselves although this was no problem as they (how do I say that they kept up with no problem without it sounding like this was unusual, and offending them, which it wasn't as we were all much the same in riding ability? Oh stuff it!)

At one point Chris dad Gained a bend on us 4 and we had to navigate which was tricky as we hadn't had time to look at the road books so had no idea where we were. Common sense, detective work and following tyre marks got us together again. Chris was editing film so Rod and Owain were waved on though to keep the group size down. Drew handed the black KTM back muttering something about 'gutless and not capable'. I have to assume he was in the middle of some self depreciating self commentary. Chris left us to make our own way. Haven't a clue where he went though. He is very good at leapfrogging ahead by missing out the snotty bits. A few lanes on we had to drop down across a meadow to a stream with an old mill , or so we were told, in the fork of it . Chris's description of his road book drawing shall remain discrete as it is for robust and worldly wise ears only. And Colin won't post it anyway. Obvious if tricky as the escape from the river was a touch worn away by the poorly controlled throttle work of previous members of our group. Short and typically poor quality bit of video of the author at this point on the website. We were just about to leave when from totally the wrong part of the meadow the Joneses appeared. How had they managed to miss the crossing I'll never know. Oh why had we wasted that time chatting? Two more bikes to drag up as if our own hadn't been enough trouble. My suggestion to bugger off whilst they were dithering with a bit of wire fell on deaf ears. I reckon that family are hard of hearing. I mean does Rod ever listen? We told both of them to take a very obvious and left route. What does Owain do? Goes right up the hard way for even more pulling. Naturally Rod following on and observing the problems and having been told again which way to go does exactly the opposite. Never mind. Justice was done as the next thing was that Rod started leaping around like he had been harpooned. All because some innocent little wasp had stung him in the eye. Then Owain started a similar war dance. Pete and I having little sympathy for the injuries of others cleared off up the hill. Hours, alright minutes, latter Droopy arrived. Somehow his helmet, left handy whilst pushing and pulling had got filled with leaf mould. Rod being helpful and obviously only semi coherent had helpfully shaken this out. Thing is Drew's glasses were in the mix and were now somewhere in half an acre of leaves. Hee Hee. A bit later we met Chris who had cleverly avoided all this by going around and he told the 3 of us to keep going to keep the group size down and he would travel with the Jones. Fair enough. A later lane saw the 3 of us discussing the road book when a red blur shot passed on the road. Rod in a hurry. We didn't think we could catch him to explain the error of his way and decide that as he is all grown up he could find his own route. Hours later the petrol van was found. As we were pulling away Chris and Owain arrived. No Rod. Had the sting turned fatal? Was Rod on a mission. Nope , he had turned for home on the road.

More lanes. At the end of one Drew commented that I was right and there was a clicking coming from my chain. Pete then casually mentioned that maybe I'd better fix it as the main back plate of the joining link had snapped in two. For at least 110k of hard and fast riding I had been putting all of the CRF230's considerable bhp through just the outside plate and clip of the joining link. Bloody hell. There were plenty of places where I was glad that didn't break and jam the lot round the drive spocket. The next lanes would have been evil if wet. Along miles of hillside in thick woods on single track paths. Knackering but brilliant. All to soon funnily enough we blasted up several lanes consisting of boulders like rugby balls to reach tarmac and some K of road to the end.

The feature of this trip was the multitude of evil looking motorcycle cops on every junction. No smiles and lots of drake glasses and Terminator style looks. We soon found out why. Stationary traffic. Handily enough there was a nice hard shoulder for us to filter on. Yeah. Can't remember how long this queue was but it went all the way to Mende. A good 5 miles and maybe more. All good natured until the first roundabout. These euros certainly know what their horn is for.

It was over. Stings aside no injuries that I knew of. 540'ish K of mostly off road. Brilliant. All we had to do was get up at some unearthly hour in the morning and drive home.

This trip is great. Do it. Go with mates of a similar riding ability and go to enjoy yourselves, take photos and finish.

The Moore View

Following a 2 ½ hour traffic jam around Bristol, we headed south to Portsmouth, where we boarded the LD Lines over night ferry to Le Havre. A surprisingly good meal on board, washed down by a few Murphys was followed by formation swaying (due to the swell) back to our cabins.

The Transit entourage began with Vessvan seating Vess, Jules and Chris, while VanAllen carried Rod, Owain and Mike. Moorevan was transporting Pete, Drew and myself, while Jammer and Matt followed up the rear as odd white van man out in their Fiat.

A full day's drive South on Tuesday via Dreux, Chartres, Orleans, and Clermont Ferrand, saw us arrive at Mende where we would be based for the next four nights in one of the least populated areas of France. Several 'Beautiful British Steaks' later and we wandered back to the Hotel-Pont-Roupt prepared for Day 1.

At the morning briefing it was announced by Chris Evans that no party had completed all three days without at least one trip to hospital. Hmmn. Undeterred, we set off in groups of between 2 and 4 for day one 160km. Many climbs, single track, and some very technical descents led us into the lunch stop, which was a restaurant overlooking a huge reservoir. We had to wait here for en extra half hour or so for John Hall with our petrol cans, as he had encountered several closed roads on his way. At this point 'Club 230' (as we decided Drew, Pete, Matt and Rod should be called on their CRF230 Hondas) made their getaway having sipped next to no unleaded all morning. At some point through the afternoon, they were eventually 'reeled in' by Mike, Paul and myself on our 450/400/440s. Was this due to the fact that Pete had stopped by a chapel and healing fountain to do 10 press ups to get warm?

Following a hot bath, food, and a few beer grandes back at the Hotel, many of us didn't sleep too well. Were we subconsciously worried about the 220km ahead of us on Thursday including the infamous 'Ba***rd Rocks'? Breakfast at 7.30 was followed by a briefing, warning us that if in the opinion of John or Chris that it was too dark to continue towards the end of the day safely, we would be sent back by road. This soon got us into gear as everyone wanted to finish the day, even if this meant missing lunch for Matt and Pete to catch up following a navigational error. Unfortunately Julian's bike refused to start, enabling him to sit back, relax, and enjoy lunch (and what a lunch it was for 19 Euros), and the stunning scenery in John's van, whilst watching the rest of us rushing around. There was still plenty of technical going, as well as many km's of forestry track and even some interesting hairpin road ascents. Excellent! Our group which included Owain on his CCM 404 by now, reached the 'Rocks' to find Vess and Chris walking the section. We all looked at various lines to get onto the first ledge and I decided that with a 34" inside leg to get some big dabs down, and many people around to catch/photograph the event, I should have a go. We all got up with some guidance and man handling leaving only Drew and Chris Evans to use the route around them as time was getting on and no one was there to catch them! A few km's later, and I learned a damp lesson that a 450KTM will out accelerate a 440CCM when racing towards a puddle (nearly the size of Lightmoor) to get each other wet. My last recollection before the bow wave struck, was that a tree was to the right, so I decided to keep left which was where Mike was. Had Mike stayed on his line to continue supporting me whilst I couldn't see under water I may have kept my balance? No rain all day – both soaked! Back at the Hotel I think everyone was chuffed to finish the day (I know I was), and we spent a little longer in the bar enjoying some beer on the house at the end of the evening whilst reviewing the day's highlights.

Day three began with more long technical climbs to warm everyone up and by this time my arms were letting me know how little riding I'd done all year. Some very tight single track followed with some more descents and lunch in the middle of nowhere, on a hill side apparently about 5 miles from anywhere. If the salad and cold meat starter didn't get you, or the lamb main course, then the cheese board ensured you weren't going to leave this place, with its open fire and views empty! Jammer, by this time seemed to be flagging as he was having a lie down in nearly every lane. He kept coming back for more though, and thankfully so did his bike! Meanwhile Drew had a slight change in bike from CRF230 Diddibike (as Chris called them) to 300 EXC KTM. Chris rode the Diddibike with a helmet cam on facing backwards to film Drew on the Stealth like black blinged up stroker. Maybe we we'll see this on Chris's website soon? We carried on to finish the day and tip toed over many jagged rocks preserving our tubes! No punctures in 3 days - result!

The trip back to Le Havre began at 5.00am on Saturday, and sharing the driving helped the 8 ½ hour drive before lunch pass better than expected. Rod ordered Crab sandwiches in French for 3 of us that turned out to be Ham and Cheese (he did a great job the rest of the time).

Following the crossing back to Portsmouth, the return journey across the M4 was less congested approaching midnight than the previous Monday at 4.30pm.

The whole trip for me from start to finish, was about as good as it gets, and I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did. The navigation by road book works brilliantly once you get into it, and it allows you to go at your own pace without having a tour guide breathing down your neck. Very few dates are available for next year, which just about sums it up.