Saturday, 25 July 2015


When we caught up with Geoff & Lee to make our final plans for route choice for the two days, it was really pretty much too late as we were all there now and we’d all four planned our routes independent of each other, however Geoff’s finish almost linked with Lee’s beginning and Lucy & I had planned hers to start from my finish point, so we had some continuity. Or so we thought...
Geoff, Lucy & I looking fairly normal
And Lee!!
However the reality was there are 80 points to collect and nobody got more than about 60 ish, with our team getting 23 in total.

Berga Map...
Set off was at 08.40am,  return no later than 20.40pm or Di Jones ruling applied, ie every minute back late meant a later start the next day...

Our score was in the lower middle of the points collected, I reckon this was down to several reasons...
1.       Geoff, Lee & lucy can’t navigate for shite in the mountains ;-)
2.       Route plans should only include the ones that link up & the 4 point ones should be in that...
3.       All the group members should plan their routes with more chat & time than we’d had!

One of the tags we were looking for!
Day 1.
So we set off on Saturday morning, arriving at the start point as the first ones... eager us.. noo! The 'start line' was Austin sat in a chair on the roundabout, watch, overalls and all!. 

08.40am, we were off... Geoff was the first to navigate, it took us until about 10.30am to find the first point and it was one of Lucy’s! Found totally by accident as some other ‘Vincers’ were at the point as Geoff rode past...

Geoff's first point found!
The next one was actually one of Geoff’s and we were off on his trail, for a bit any hoo... we were soon lost again though!!!

The trails were ace, lots of more technical stuff, plenty of steep loose and gravelly lanes, a lot of beautiful woodland and some stunning scenery from the Spanish Pyrenees. Our route covered the North Eastern section of the Berga map and took us upto towards La Pobla from Cal Rosa. The variety of the terrain blew us all away, some hidden trails marked in dashed lines on the map were some of the best...

Err wrong way here... that's an old footbridge!
I had my moment of the trip at the end of the day, we had collected our last point and was heading back, when I met a 4x4 on the trail on a blind bend... we both stopped, but I ended up on the deck with a badly bruised knee and some scrapes... motocross trousers have no protection at all!

Everybody loved the day and as we rolled back into camp, with a less than mighty 12 points for the day, beers and a BBQ followed with partners & Lee’s daughter...

Meeting other 'Vincers' at the point

La Pobla, fuel & ice cream...

Lots of chat, good banter and plenty of good gossip with some of the guys we’d met on the trails during the day...

Day 2
Lee was up for navigating and after we’d had a fast road ride in the cooler morning air to Baga, (just north of Berga), he took over to get us to the first point in the North West section of the map.
First point, perfect!
This success elicited a dance of jubilation on his part, plenty of gloating to Geoff and then we were off to point two.

Lee's first point...
The view back into the plains to the South

Where the feck are we??
Point two meant a U turn, lucy had a spill on steep ground, but we got there... the scenery was just getting better and better by now, beautiful high mountain trails, winding through the Pyrenean plateau’s full of animals grazing on the lush summer grasses.

You can camp here too!

Where next Lucy?

The climbing looks ace on this peak...

Go Girl!!
We stopped plenty to enjoy the views and relish in the joy of achieving such heady heights and sights as we passed through this fantastic landscape.

Our drama of the day came around a point called Moripol, a lost bit of a ruin in the hills, we were struggling to pinpoint exactly where the descent was, the map wasn’t that accurate and the descent took us to a newly graded road that wound its way in the general direction we wanted to head, so we followed this... the problem was Lucy’s KTM was now on reserve, we had 2 spare litres of fuel of which one had gone into her tank already and the navigation wasn’t that easy.

We cruised down the descents out of gear or with the clutch in, which was a bit hairy as they were really steep and loose, fuel was about 10 miles as the crow flies, but for us, it could have been 100 miles!
Slowly slowly we crept along, conserving fuel and at every junction we checked and re checked everything, the strain of being stranded was playing on everybodies minds a fair bit.

After a few debates, we finally fully located ourselves and headed down to the tarmac road that wound to the valley bottom and the fuel stop at St Lorenc... glorious petrol, coffee, cake and ice cream followed, it was now 4pm!

We left Lee’s section and headed into my bit in the South West part of the map, the trails weren’t as dramatic as in the higher Pyrenees, but the fast flowing sweeping bends were great fun, the little electric wire gates were a constant reminder to pay attention as they were pretty hard to see and the navigation was pretty tricky as there were more turns, but for me it was a little easier as I had planned this section so knew it fairly well from my planning stage.

We took in a long ridge line that took us to tarmac, then blasted up around a bunch of bends to get in some of lucy’s points, picking up a couple more points before heading back to get in to camp for 20.30!

11 points for the day... a total of 23 for the team! A total of 380 km ridden in 24 hours!!

Large beers, plenty of good banter amongst the teams, some seriously shite over priced food from the resort and lots of speel from Austin to all the teams as he announced the winning teams and thanked the various people who had come to the event.

Almost everyone back for 20.30pm

Beer & Wine and photos, not a good mix...
The whole event was a laugh, we have all ridden some great lanes, totally different from the UK, the bikes performed really well, our confidence in our own skills has moved on a notch again and we’ve met some great people, some of whom no doubt we’ll ride with again...

A great job well done by Austin Vince and his partner Lois Pryce, bringing all of those people together into such an amazing area, all experiencing the wonders of the trails in the Spanish Pyrenees... spoiled a little by the expensive accommodation venue which to be fair was a last minute change due to a double booking error.

Lucy & I have discussed at length on the drive through France to the Gorge du Tarn for the second part of our holiday about whether we would go again, the event is really expensive, we have spent approximately £1600 on the trip, (I’ll work it out a bit more exact when I have the time), so that is an awful lot of money for just a weekend in the Pyrenees, but the fact that we have elongated it to a two week trip to try to make the costs more bearable have helped a little... 

We both really enjoyed ourselves, met some great people and had a good laugh... it’s bloody expensive which ever way you cut it, but to be honest the knowledge about the riding in the Pyrenees is priceless to us and we will most probably try to do another VINCE when funds allow both to check out a new area and to catch up with a few people...

The next VINCE, ie 2016, is around Oliana in September apparently...

Thanks to everyone involved, but especially Lucy, Geoff & Lee as without them it wouldn't have been such a laugh...

Here's to the next adventure!!

Oh & here a couple of unedited GoPro films of some of the riding...
1. Dry Riverbed crossing
2. Lost in the bushes!

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

The Week Leading Upto The Vince...

Lucy & I got on the ferry to Dunkirk after a long drive south and some delays due to the industrial action at Calais... hey ho... we landed in France at about 11pm, drove for a bit to clear the coast, then found a Formule 1 for 35 euros and crashed.

Next morning saw us drive the length of France to the edge of the Pyrenees, where we found abeautiful campsite on the Foix. 22 euros for both of us and the van for the night, fab place, really quiet with loads of good climbing nearby and the Col du Tourmalet just up the road. 

We had planned to get up high before crossing into Spain to get the bikes out and visit the Cirque de Garvanie, a spectacular limestone amphitheatre in the middle of the Pyrenees, which has been on the cards for me to visit for 10 years but as the Tour de France was coming through, all the roads were closed so we headed direct to Berga and the Berga Resort where the Vince was being held.

It turned out to be a proper touristy site, full of Spanish people on holiday with camper vans, caravans and the tents...  It has to be said the pool was ace and the view from the terrace where the bar was beautiful with band after band of limestone cliffs stretching into the distance.

We paid our fees until the next Monday, some 280 euros then parked up and got set up, as we walked around we bumped into a few people from various Haggs Bank bike meets and also met some lovely new folk including Mike from Kriega Equipment and a lad called Glen who were both riding in the PyreneesUp, another annual event ran alongside the Vince with the Twin Shock Trial. All three events use the same trails but in different times of the week.

It seems we were a bit of an anomaly as we had turned up early to ride several of the lanes and generally just practice navigation skills with Lucy as well as look at riding overseas, again a first for Lucy. 

The trails we rode were brilliant, really easy technically but with loads of them, so you could ride easily for 8 hours solid and just get loads of experience. The first day I did the navigation on a mix of trails I had put together on the GPS and also on the Google maps I had put together. This system worked well for me, but Lucy seemed to struggle  with the whole navigation side of things, getting quite upset and generally wound up about it. So on day 2 we decided to call it a day early only to find the KTM had a collapsed rear wheel bearing. This had the usual effect on the bike, it rode like shite, especially on tarmac, so we swapped bikes and crept back to Berga.

The evening was spent chatting all things bikes with a group of lads who had the necessary KTM bearings, they were all from Hampshire, great guys and with a few beers and the wheel stripped down we soon got it sorted with plenty of good giggles on the way.

Thursday dawned hot and sunny, another 35 + degree day, it just seemed to get hooter as the week went on, but given there were thunder storms forecast for the weekend that would fit... We decide to have a lazy day and firkle with the bikes. the KTM needed an indicator, the oil and coolant topping up, the GPS cable had blown a fuse and o course the bearings had been changed and we needed to find replacements for the boys from Hampshire, so a shopping trip ensued. The DR just needed the brakes cleaning as the sand and dust were making them squeal and the side stand needed lubing as it was a bugger to get down.

On the whole a lazy day, but the relaxation did us both good and it also meant we got to chat to more folks & catch up on a whole load of things... ace stuff

Geoff & Lee plus partners arrived on Friday afternoon, so it was straight into the Vince for them... more about that in the next post, now it's wine time!!

Sunday, 5 July 2015

An Inspirational film for all those would be round the world bikers out there!

Having watched all of the Austin Vince films now and quite a few other films about going for a long ride, this is a nice little summary from the two brothers about the why and how to ride a big adventure... on the cheap too!! Bonus...

FOOD, PETROL, BEER: Around the World with Austin Vince

Get out there and go for a play!