To be honest I had my doubts. The the very thought of off-roading 260kgs of Super Tenere adventure bike fostered strong feelings of self preservation. Was this really a good idea?
The Yamaha Tenere experience is run by a Welsh family who need little introduction if you already know your biking onions. If I said the name Jones, you'd probably be none the wiser as half the population of Wales appear to share this surname.
Geraint Jones narrows the guessing job down a bit. He's won an incredible ten British Enduro titles and holds a whopping 8 ISDE medals. If there was a UK motorcycling hall of fame, Geraint would certainly have residence.
He no longer rides competitively but runs the Yamaha off-road school from their idyllic family farm in Powys, just a few miles from the source of the river Severn. Sons Dylan and Rowan - both top notch International-level Enduro riders themselves - share the burdens of duty. They run a full-on Enduro school using WR Yamahas or the Tenere experience which, as the name suggests, uses Yamaha Teneres in 660 and 1200 form. I showed up a couple of weeks ago to sample the Tenere experience and I'm glad to say, my initial doubts were misplaced.
As the venue is about an hour into Wales from Shrewsbury, how and when you arrive is kind of dependent on where you live. We opted for the stay-the-night-before option to make our 9.30 start a bit less stressful. The local town has plenty of good-value pub B&Bs with clean, comfy rooms from £45. We stayed in the Mount Inn, Llandidloes. The cooked breakfast was bigger than my head. We had an evening meal at the recently (and tastefully) revamped Unicorn on the main street. The food was stunning and nearly worth the three hour drive all on its own.
Most of our group brought their own kit but if you arrive in just your thundercrackers the school can kit you out head to toe in all the right gear. The spanking new Yamaha Teneres were lined up in descending cc (and size). I opted for the 1200 first purely because I always believe that diving in head-first is the correct approach. And I'd never ridden Yamaha's big adventure bike before.
On the first few miles of winding lane I realized it wasn't a bad choice. Yes, it's a behemoth but it's got a really flexible, nice sounding motor and it is so comfortable I could have stayed on it all day.
The first trails were gentle - more like badly surfaced roads with the added hazard of dodging sheep without scaring them as it was lambing season. On their standard road exhausts it was pretty easy to doff past the woolly blighters without making them panic. Most of the time.
Dylan, our guide stopped a few miles in and gave us some instruction on how to deal with what lay ahead. We were shown how to position our weight, standing on the pegs, and what we should be doing with our feet, legs and upper body. On the next section we needed it. A steep, mile-long rutted climb with two tricky hairpin bends meant that stopping anywhere was a bad idea and that momentum was our friend.
I left the traction control system on and, by the summit, I was glad. It meant I only had to concentrate on plotting the best path through the ruts rather than worrying about rear grip as well. At the top, slightly out of breath I realised that this was a proper traction control test. Lap times? Pah. Mud and gravel and a 1:3 incline are a much more graphic test of TC, if you ask me.
With the traction switched off, the smooth, fast forest tracks were great fun. The shuddering low-down torque of the Super Tenere made controlling and prolonging rear slides really easy - and fun. Our route before lunch consisted mainly of these fire-break roads - perfectly suited to the big Ten's bulk and soft suspension.
And the views? Blimey. We were blessed with beautiful sunny weather and cloud-less skies. If all you want to do is go sight-seeing on a comfy off -road bike this is where you need to be. Some of the places you can access are so far off the beaten track that you feel really privileged. I think we saw two people all day and, like most ramblers, they looked characteristically miserable. Rambling is clearly a miserable job.
The Jones' have been using this forestry commission land for more than twenty years. Tens of thousands of acres of it. It is a rare privilege, indeed. Using their intimate knowledge of this area, the Tenere experience route is ideally suited to these bikes.
We tackled a couple of tricky declines before lunch before heading over to the Sweet lamb area. Heard of the Sweet Lamb stage in WRC Rally Wales? Same place.
Speaking of tricky decents, this is the first time I cursed the fact that you couldn't switch the 1200's ABS off. Just when you want to lock a rear wheel to change your line, you realise you can't. Ho hum.
We mixed a bit more road into the route to get us between sections and again we were treated to a full 360 view of awesomeness. I found it hard to look ahead, to be honest and found myself watching buzzards, eagles and red kites soar above us.
The highlight of the full-tank-of-fuel route, for me was the last leg. After attacking the most ludicrously twisty moorland road we nipped off-road along a trail that hugged the side of a massive reservoir. This blew us all away. The view was almost surreal...
By the end of the day, I was definitely beginning to wilt having inhaled several bucket fulls of dust. The prospect of a 3-4 hour drive home again was also bearing on my mind. Should have stayed another night in the fantastic pub...
The Yamaha Tenere experience costs a very reasonable £250 for a full day or £100 on your own bike. Call 01686 413324 or just click this link