One from the archives. Originally published in TBM years ago.
Got none from the actual enduro, but a few KLX250 photos survive.
Monday morning and no way could I face going to work. I lay curled up like an armadillo with rigor mortis, then spent the day hobbling around like a mugging victim. I had been mugged all right; mugged by my first Welsh enduro.
Two days earlier I’d looked with pride at my bright green KLX250 (the early 1980s one, not the zippy four-valver). Tiny mods set it apart from your run-of-the-mill trailie: Barum knobblies, an axle wrench strapped to the swingarm for speedy wheel changes, bore and stroke Tippexed on the crankcases as required by the ACU, and those rrrrracing numbers. Not a sixteen-year old throttle-wanker’s ’69’ but 1 2 3. Did it mean I was rated hundred and twenty third? Probably, but later that day me and my race-prepped KLX caught the Aberystwyth train.
After no less than eight trail bikes in eighteen fun-filled months of riding all the nearby woods, bomb holes and wasteland to death, I’d quickly tired of congested southeast England’s feeble ’round-and-round-a-field’ so-called enduros. Following months of scanning the ‘Enduro regs available’ in the back of Trials & Motocross News, I took the plunge and entered my first Welsh enduro on my 14-hp mutton-dressed-as-dirtbike.
I knew all about the Big Ones, the Welsh Two Day and the Brecon, events I’d never survive, but here was a likely candidate: Cwm Owen (might have the name mixed up). It wasn’t a British championship round which must mean it’s dead easy – brain-out racers wouldn’t even get out of bed for this one. I sent off for the forms and promptly got my racing number, final instructions (just like Mission Impossible!) and a list of local B&Bs.
Like renting a van, B&Bs were for the pampered elite, so on arriving at Aber late Saturday evening, I bought some Lucozade and a tube of Toffos from a late-night garage and rode out up the A44. Around midnight I figured a roadside plantation was a good place to sleep and, killing the lights, rode down into the forest, unrolled my sleeping bag and pretended to fall asleep.
Next thing I knew I was woken by the din of a rorty stroker tearing past me the on road above. Dying for just a few more minutes of dozing, I turned over – and rolled down the hill. In my weary haste to pass out last night, I’d ended up sleeping on the edge of a pine-clad slope and before I knew what was happening, I was tumbling through the trees trapped in my bag like a rolled-up taco. I fiddled frantically with the drawstring and zip as sky, trees and pine needles spun past. A tree caught my feet and swung me headfirst down the slope like a sledge just as I managed to get my arms out and kick off the bag. A few somersaults and I slithered to a halt against a fence.
Dazed and confused, I staggered back up to the bike, got dressed and 20 minutes later was signing-up for three 20-mile laps in the four-stroke Clubman’s (beginners?) class. In those days monoshockers like KDXs and ITs were beginning to impact the enduro world hitherto ruled by twin-shock chainsaws like Maicos, KTMs and the odd yellow PE, all of which were tearing off up the track at one-minute intervals. With his minute due, it was the turn of lip-chewing One Twenty Three to push his KLX up to the starting line alongside a purposeful XR250. “GO!” shouted the starter with a drop of the hand, and I fair broke off the KLX’s kick-starter to get the holeshot on the XR.
“Take it easy now, watch those ruts…” I warned myself as I neared the first bend where the track swung uphill, “…it’s not a race, it’s an e n d u r o”. An enduro it may have been, but for crap riders like myself it might as well be a race as flat-out was the only way to keep on the pace. Within seconds the XR shot past, never to be seen again leaving me a breathless, rigid-limbed, goggle steaming learner bouncing from rut to rut as I struggled to get the feel of the Kawasaki at ‘racing’ speeds.
Up on the moor top a long boggy section stretched ahead where several bikes had floundered. With no obvious line to left or right, all I could do was drop a gear, roll open the throttle, move back and see how far I’d get. Luckily the KLX’s 14-odd horses couldn’t spin the skin off a baked rice pudding and amazingly I got across and up the far side. With confidence boosted, a few miles later I found myself riding blissfully alone across the hills following the Castrol marker flags. I was doubtless last but who cares, it was this feeling of being truly in the wilds that gave Welsh events their special flavour.
Coming back to the bog on the next lap, I thought I’d be clever and try a firmer-looking route to the left. I soon realised why no one was going this way; the ground was broken up by treacherous peat troughs and eventually the KLX dropped into one such pit the size of a big bath but handlebar deep. Thirty miles of moorland hammering on a handful of Toffos had already taken its toll, but at times like this you don’t think about how knackered you are or your multitude of aches and pains – you just do what must be done. I heaved the front wheel up to one side of the pit and after much cursing, managed to get the back wheel onto the other side of the trench. Crawling out of the mire and straddling the bike on my tip toes, I was planning to attempt I’m not sure what – some kind of fanciful kick-start wheelie manoeuvre? One foot slipped and I toppled back into the slushy peat soup with a splat.
By the time I’d dragged myself out and got back on course, finishing the second lap was all I could think of as I sagged over onto the bars like a wet sheet. Coming down the hill leading to the starting area I lacked even the wit to ride off the easy drop offs: instead I’d brake hard at the last minute to tip myself over the handlebars again and again while formations of low-flying Maicos on their sixth lap accelerated overhead like scrambled Typhoons.
The third lap was a lonesome fog of agony and repeated prangs at the slightest obstacle until I finally dribbled into the parking area just as everyone was packing up.
“Oh there you are, One Twenty Three” said the nice Welsh lady, ticking me off her list. “We were wondering what happened to you. Is that your bag by the fence?”
“Urg” was all I could manage in response.
I pumped up my tyres and, feeling like I’d been run over by a stampede of yaks who then decided to turn back and ran over me again, I weaved wearily back down to Aberystwyth to find a train strike had just begun.
“London is it? Oh I think Shrewsbury [77 miles away] is the nearest station, but you better hurry mind, last train leaves at 9.21…”
Months later, with bruises healed and KLX long gone, I got a weighty packet in the post. Inside was a bronze medallion centred with an enamelled bike mono-wheeling across the skies. My name was stamped on the back and an accompanying note said “Finisher, Cwm Owen Enduro, 1981”.