SINCE Paul Sheehan started Excess Energy 15 years ago, the off-road company has welcomed more than 6,000 bikers, on rides varying from gentle UK green lanes to multi-day tours through Moroccan mountains.
Flexibility is very much the 48-year-old’s modus operandi. He tailors each and every tour to suit the riders’ desire, ability and budget, ensuring that they get the most from each experience.
When the opportunity to ride Rogershill enduro circuit with Excess Energy arose, it was not to be missed. Better known for its motocross track, the owners of Rogershill occasionally open up a larger part of their farm to cater for the enduro riders, creating a six-mile long track with narrow, technical sections, large jumps and steep berms in equal measure.
Our day began early; Paul had a group of complete beginners who had signed up for a closed circuit enduro day without realising what it would entail. While he could easily have delegated the group to one of his instructors, Paul chose to take them under his own wing. He did, after all, once own the largest motorcycle training schools in the South West, and therefore (justifiably) feels that he is best qualified to do the job.
I meanwhile climbed aboard a 2018 KTM EXC 250 – new to the fleet less than a week before. Kitted up and guided by instructor Marcus, I made my way out on to the circuit.
The bike performed flawlessly but the same could not be said for me. Better accustomed to wider green lanes, at first I struggled to stick to the hard-packed six-inch wide tyre groove. On more than one occasion I found myself stuck, holding up a queue of experienced riders. But surprisingly, no-one was angry, instead they hopped from their bikes to give me a hand.
After just one lap of the 6-mile course I was exhausted, but exhilarated. I pulled off the track to take a breather, but instructor Marcus had no such intentions, coercing me back on.
The second lap was slightly easier. The first section was all jumps and berms, followed by a narrow route through the woods. This required a lot of clutch and delicate steering, in order not to come a cropper in the trees. More jumps followed, and then a sprint across a deep soil field led me into a narrow riverbed, no wider than a tyre, and with bushes and brambles encroaching on either side. This spat me out over a tall mound, before the route took a sharp left and onto a steep, log section. Smooth and slippery, the logs took the course to the next level of difficulty and I’d been advised to take a shortcut and bypass them.
Never one to say no to a challenge, l hit the logs as head on as the snaking track would allow me and had a surprising amount of success.
By the third, and fourth laps I was completing the loop without stopping, and Marcus had taken a back seat, offering advice and tips, but allowing me to make my own way around. I was feeling good – too good and before long the inevitable happened. Pinning the throttle by accident, I left the track and ended in an adjacent ditch. Luckily, with nothing hurt but my pride, I re-joined the course and continued cautiously.
Lunch was a casual affair – hot dogs cooked on a BBQ behind the Excess Energy van – and I got a chance to chat with the beginners. They probably wouldn’t make it on to the track that day, Paul had confided, but they were learning fast and had already mastered clutch control. Most importantly, they were having a ball of a time racing across the rutted field.
Re-energised we hit the trail once more. I was familiar with the track now and made quick progress around the loop. Marcus continued to offer advice – sitting further up the seat would give the front wheel more grip in the corners and bouncing the back could give the rear enough traction to get out of a rut.
After a handful more laps, rain started to fall and so the day began to wind down. Paul packed his beginners up and they left grinning from ear to ear, with promises of a return visit.
They had clearly enjoyed their day – something Paul attributed to their attitude, rather than his teaching.
‘I'm not a magician, I can get the most out of some people but not everyone,’ he said.
‘It's not about their ability to ride, it’s about their attitude, and that they want to be there. My priority is that everyone turns up with their arms and legs facing the right direction, and they go home the same way.’
After a day of off-roading with Excess Energy, I was going home in one exhilarated, albeit bruised piece.