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Derbyshire TET (TRANS EURO TRAIL - Autumn Raid)

The easy option would be to crack open a beer, sit with my feet up in front of the log burner and ignore the rain on this dark cold Friday night.

A more determined option would be to kiss the family goodbye, layer up, wheel out the old Africa Twin and point it in the direction of the dark moors above Holmfirth.

I began to question my judgement when rain turned to hail as I snaked down the Woodhead pass following the red glow of evening traffic tail lights, blurred by the sleet sliding diagonally off my mx goggles.

But hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

My motivation to be out regardless of the weather stemmed from two weeks previous. I’d been riding in the warm Spanish sunshine surrounded by endless trails during a day’s ride with a company in Eastern Andalucía.

Now 20 degrees colder, dark and wet, it was a stark contrast, but I was much happier to be back on my own bike after the day in Spain proved to be frustrating. The tired, poorly maintained bikes, multiple punctures and waiting around for novice riders reduced our total saddle time to around 3hrs that day so the experience had left me feeling short changed and eager to get back out on the trails. Besides, Autumn is my favourite season to be out riding.

An hour later, I pulled up alongside a knobbly shod KTM990r indicating that I’d found the bunkhouse that would be our base for the weekend.

Glancing down at its Mitas E09 shod rear, I felt a little under prepared on my well worn Michelin Desert which had already done a stage of the 2017 Dakar by its previous owner Kurt Burroughs.

Brew in hand, I made my introduction to Jim (AKA Bond_yzf) and we warmed our bones in front of the bunk house stove whilst discussing tomorrow’s route before heading out for some pub grub.

The next morning saw the arrival of Ian from Leicestershire on a very nice overland prepped DR650.

Jim announced the other two expected riders had dropped out so it was now just the three of us.

Tyre pressure lowered and helmets on, we ready to go by 9am.

The stone walls of the bunk house reverberated to a five cylinder chorus by the Arrow, Motad and Remus tail pipes as we rumbled out of the carpark.

We decided to get a few trails under the wheels before breakfast, so Jim led us to the start of the trail after a quick fuel stop in Leek, situated just over the border into Staffordshire.

What then followed was a fabulous day of trail riding in the gorgeous Derbyshire countryside.

A good pace was set over a mixed terrain of rutty, muddy tracks including a river crossing in the valley bottom, before turning onto a rocky climb amongst a large group of trials riders warming up for an event.

I envied their agility as they traversed the river banks, rocks and gullies that surrounded us.

The suitability of their machinery in this environment was reinforced by the sound of my bash plate banging and scraping over the numerous rock steps under a quarter ton motorcycle plus rider.

Lining up to attack yet another concrete covered storm drain that crossed the trail at an awkward angle, my rear tyre protested as it lost traction leaving both wheels straddling the drain. A hand-full of gas and as much weight over the rear 15 PSI footprint gave just enough traction to spin the tyre over the obstacle.

From then on it was feet up and weight forward until I crested the climb to meet the others.

Down the other side of the hill we stopped by an old stone bridge to rehydrate and shed a layer of clothing in an effort to counter the rising perspiration.

The trail then wound a gentle line along the valley side but over confidence and speed resulted in my first and only ‘off’ that day as the 21 year old suspension objected to a particular rocky section, bouncing me off line down a slight ditch into a dry stone wall.

Turning off the fuel tap, I heard Ian approaching, and on seeing my predicament, the pair of us dragged the old girl back up onto the track and inspected the damage amongst a strong smell of petrol.

Only a slight graze to the screen and a detached mirror proved the battle scarred crash bars proved their worth again.

An hour later we rewarded ourselves with a delicious hot sandwich at a remote cafe in Quarnford near Buxton. This gave us chance to cool down after wrestling the heavy bikes up some of the steeper sections of trail.

Fed and watered, we ventured on as cloud lifted and conditions brightened before stopping in what looked like a old quarry for a play.

The afternoon took us from hill to dale throughout the Peak District linked by numerous pretty villages.

The next casualty was the 990. I followed Jim down the left hand rut of a narrow walled lane as he held his line and pace, brushing past the increasingly dense bushes. One particular thick woody outcrop knocked Jim off line and loosing traction on the front, he went down against the wall.

The KTM held up well with the strong aftermarket carbon screen taking the brunt of the impact. A broken indicator was temporarily repaired using tape from Ian’s substantial tool kit.

Progressing on, the limestone bedrock proved a challenge where it formed a base of natural cobbles on one section of trail.

The surface was so polished, the heavy twins slithered sideways to a brief halt whilst Ian on his lighter sure footed single confidently picked his way along.

Ian’s confidence however was later dented when he lost the front end to grapefruit sized rock buried in the autumn leaves during a climb through a wooded area. Despite bruised fingers he remounted, gave it some gas and immediately hit another buried rock which knocked him off balance and with an unintentional twist of the throttle the DR launched into an uncontrolled and violent ‘S’ shaped donut with Ian clinging on for dear life.

The bike and rider suffered no damage and I cursed at not having a helmet to capture the best ‘off’ I’ve seen in a while.

Now we’d got our spills behind us, we cracked on, and eventually finished the last section of trail arriving in Bradfield at 5pm.

The head & tail lights were cleaned of mud to illuminate the road as darkness set in during the one hour ride back to the bunkhouse.

En-route, I reflected what a great 120ish miles of riding Derbyshire had offered that day with only one short section inaccessible due to a padlocked gate. Jim had done a sterling job navigating the route and I could never get board by the sight and sound of his 990 carving its way up the numerous leaf strewn, bermed gullies.

The day was rounded off with few pints to wash down the pub grub as the three of us recounted past travel stories and discussed future plans.

The bikes had performed faultlessly and the absence of any punctures had ensured swift progress (hence few photos) to complete the trails in one day leaving Sunday free.

After a morning brew, rear tyre pressure raised, we said our goodbyes and agreed to meet up again for the next section of the TET.

A free day ahead of me, I decided to ride up to the Yorkshire Dales to meet my old friend Darren (AKA Dazzerrtw) who was recovering from a recent bike accident.

He was giving a presentation of his world bike tour in the Victoria Hall in Settle to raise money for the air ambulance service that had rescued him.

The gig, equally amusing, inspirational and well attended offered a chance to catch up with a few old friends before leaving for the two hour journey home.

Rolling the bike into the garage, filthy after its 342 mile weekend, the combination of darkness and aroma of Sunday lunch put any notion of cleaning it out of my head. On seeing the grin on my face, the wife said “You cut that fine! Had fun?”

Cracking open a beer, I said; “Weekends like that remind me why I ride a big trailie”,

To which she replied "Oh good, because next weekend the bathroom needs painting!".

Created By
Chris Parker
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All photos by Chris Parker

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