Yamaha Tenere Experience
I wasn’t a good rider when I first learned to ride, in fact, my ability and skills were awful. I was also frightened to ride in the rain for many years. Training back then (1984/5) was inadequate, riders really did learn on the job and on their own.
Trial and error riding alone is not a good way to learn, you adopt poor skills and practice the same poor skills for years until they are perfected – not good for rider improvement and setting a good skill foundation.
I became a motorcycle instructor in 1991 and haven’t looked back since, except to reflect on how poor ‘rider education’ was back then. I really do believe in rider education, this is without a doubt the best way to learn new techniques and improve riding skills.
Learning in different environments helps to hone new riding skills and elevates confidence. The valuable knowledge that is gained when learning off-road is transferable to the road.
My first time on a Tenere
I had previously completed the Off-road Experience on a Yamaha WR250R and was hungry for more information and a different learning experience. Having ridden a big adventure bike previously on a long trip, I was keen to enrol on this bespoke professional course with qualified trainers.
I had a big adventure planned in the next few years, so a proper training plan had to start somewhere and so this is where I chose to start my own rider development.
Booking and traveling to Mid Wales
I started the ball rolling with an email sent to the Yamaha Offroad Team, and a speedy reply soon had me looking at dates before the end of the season.
A conversation with Dylan (one of the instructors) gave me all the information I needed and I was booked onto a course a couple of months away. The reason for this was because they were so busy and this was their earliest date available.
I made payment and received a confirmation email with details of the course, where to go and what to bring with me. All I could do now was wait, but that didn’t stop me reading up on the Tenere Day that I had now enrolled onto, I was excited for my next phase of training.
Make sure you are ready for a big day
The time finally arrived and as I’d done previously, a journey down the night before was going to be the best idea. A long day in the saddle with an early start and then a drive home really wasn’t going to be conducive to the experience. I wanted to be fresh and ready to go.
The drive down the night before was wet and windy and the closer to Llanidloes I got the worse it seemed to be. After checking in to the B&B, it was time for a pint and then off to bed for an early start. The landlord assured me that the weather the next day was going to be torrential rain and high winds until at least 3 pm – perfect conditions, NOT!
If the overnight weather was anything to go by, the day would be a washout and we would be sent home without even making a start. The rain didn’t stop all night, it absolutely hammered it down and could only be described as biblical. I don’t think I’d seen rain like it before for that length of time, which is why Wales is so green!
On The Day
Arriving at the Yamaha Offroad Experience was an experience, the rivers were in flood, the rain was coming down the valley sideways and the roads were flooded in many places. It all added to the nerves and apprehension but knowing how good the team was, I knew I would not be doing anything that was going to be dangerous.
First of all I had to book in, fill in the paperwork and hand over my driving licence. This was different to the Off-road Experience because the Tenere Experience has some on road sections. If this is your chosen course, ensure you take your driving licence with you.
The next thing to do was to get kitted up with the right size clothing. A good touring suit was issued and because the weather was so poor, liners for the trousers and jacket were included.
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Base layers are advised
I wore base layers, so opted not to wear the quilted trouser liners as they would be too hot. I was also given waterproofs, waterproof socks, off-road boots, helmet, goggles and neoprene gloves. Regardless of what I wore, I was going to get wet anyway.
Signed in, kitted out and feeling excited by the prospect of a challenging day, I was put into a group with 5 other riders and we were introduced to the team and given a very good and thorough brief. We were shown the bikes and told about what changes we could make to them and how we should ride them.
There are a few differences between the Tenere 660, 1200 and the new 700 that will be used in the future. With a recommendation, we were issued bikes for the morning session and given the option to change around during the day, this would give us all a greater experience and on different machines.
After the briefing, it was time to get going. We were all kitted up, ready to play ‘follow the leader’. The bikes were started early and given a few minutes to warm up before we headed out onto the local tarmacked roads. You could have mistaken the roads for dirt tracks because of the amount of debris on the ground from the weather the night before.
We went up into the hills on a fairly gentle incline but it soon became steeper as we climbed. The first section was to get used to the bikes and get the feel of them, before the more demanding riding started. It took half an hour or so to get to the gentle off-road section, this was where the instructors kept an eye on us to give their feedback and coaching.
We were given a comprehensive talk on cornering, how to approach and how to exit correctly. The information given was directed at the mistakes we were making, there was a lot of information delivered that would make the riding easier.
Ask as many questions as you need
There were plenty of opportunities to ask questions and engage with the tuition. This ensured that we fully understood what we were trying to achieve. The main thing I got from this initial session was how the bike should feel and what to do if I made a certain mistake.
There was a short circuit we could follow that gave us the necessary practice, Dylan and Martin watched us as we rode around to give feedback and instruction. We were given advice on how to sit down and corner as well as stand up whilst riding.
The techniques used need to be firstly understood and secondly practised to get the feel of the new technique. This gave us the opportunity to get the feel and become more comfortable.
We discussed braking and body position and how to climb and descend gradients. There was a lot of emphasis on safety and how the bikes actually handle, including the low ground clearance and poor suspension in comparison to off-road bikes. Standing and sitting positions were demonstrated, with good rationale about when, where and why.
Putting it into practice
It was now time to really go for it and put our newfound skills into practice. The more gentle terrain was about to become a little more demanding. The rain was still coming down sideways but it was explained to us that because of this, we would have better grip than if it was bone dry. At least we would not have to contend with dust!
The tracks and trails got more demanding as the morning wore on, there were plenty of practice opportunities with regular stops for everyone to catch up. Dylan led the group while Martin followed behind to help anyone who struggled in some of the sections. There wasn’t too much hanging around as the group were all fairly experienced road riders and some had done some off-roading before.
Technique and application
If you want speed and fast riding this is certainly not the course for you. It’s not about how fast you can ride a road bike off-road, it’s all about technique and employing the right skills at the right time to keep the bike moving in total control.
We were put through our paces and some sections really got the heart pounding as we were taken out of our comfort zone. The bikes were capable of far more than we were, this was all about learning new skills and not breaking records, or ourselves.
All the bikes are well maintained and in good condition. At one point one of the riders wanted the rear brake to be adjusted for easier use, toolkit out and within two minutes the guys had the job done. First class service and a willingness to help everyone enjoy the experience, while getting the most out of the day.
A welcome lunch break
As the morning wore on the bad weather started to ease off. The rain wasn’t coming down sideways anymore but had turned into a drizzle, with clear patches of blue sky peering through the clouds in the distance.
We made our way down to the next village for a pub lunch. After getting out of our wet clothing a hot coffee was ordered as we sat and warmed up. It was chill-out time now and we just had a general chat, not about the day but about each other, where we came from and what had motivated us to do this course.
The hot food was great
The homemade food was a welcome sight with some hearty meals of pie and chips being eaten, I opted for the homemade Welsh faggots, with chips and peas. The food was piping hot and filled the gap to enable the concentration levels to remain high for the afternoon session.
Hydration and energy levels were definitely needed for this one-day experience, flagging in the afternoon could lead to unwanted and unnecessary problems.
A second coffee was ordered to wash down lunch, this time it tasted better as we didn’t gulp it down. We chatted amongst ourselves over lunch and got to know each other a little better.
In our group there were only 5 riders, there was a female motorcycle instructor, a liver transplant surgeon, a police officer, and a chap from Australia who was visiting his parents. He had never ridden in Wales before, so had managed to tick this off his bucket list.
A welcome lunch break
The weather decided to be kinder to us during the afternoon. It really was surprising how quickly the place and feel changed when the sun poked its head out, even if only briefly. The feel was different, the views changed and so did the riding.
To start with we stayed on the main road in convoy, putting the bikes through a more familiar feel on tarmacked roads. The gentle start continued as we rode to a local reservoir with an old mine in the valley below. The scenery was amazing now that we had lost the low cloud from the previous hours.
A beautiful part of the world
We rode around the reservoir through some beautiful countryside until we came to a stop at a small stream. We were now only a few hundred meters from the source of the River Severn. It seemed amazing that this river had such humble beginnings when you considered the magnificence of the Severn Bore at the estuary less than a hundred miles away!
The Welsh countryside was stunning. The tracks were off-road but good to ride on as we made our way up to the highest point in Mid Wales at 752 meters above sea level.
It was a false sense of security being on good ground, as the trails became more narrow and more technical. The instructors obviously assessed the group’s riding and chose the routes wisely. The routes were difficult at times and a challenge but nobody had any issues, pushing us out of our comfort zone but at no time was it dangerous.
A perfect experience
There were bumps and humps, jumps and dips along with an ever-changing surface to challenge us. There was slate, loose rocks and shingle, streams running down many tracks from all the rain and puddles with deep bottoms. We experienced almost every type of surface, but that only added to the exciting challenge and the experience gave us all confidence and more ability as time passed.
I really wasn’t sure that we should be doing this type of riding on these bikes (lol). When I thought I was doing okay the trainers would come past at twice the speed and make it look effortless. These guys have a wealth of experience and their ability is due to starting this type of riding just after they learned to walk.
Because of the guidance and confidence that we had in the instructors, it is true to say ‘where they lead – we followed’. This is because we were taken to places that challenged us and gave us a sense of achievement on all types of terrain. Due to the training throughout the day, you cannot help but learn and have a fantastic time.
If you are seeking an adventure in the future or want to get ready for your own, this is definitely worth doing first. The guidance is delivered on point and caters for riders at all levels. If it is your first time off-road on a big tour or if you have limited skills, this first day certainly gets the adrenaline pumping but in a very controlled manner.
This course tends to attract older, more mature riders and those in search of something different. It allows learning to take place at a slow and controlled pace, where skills are set with coaching, practice and development.
Small groups are best
The group was small, which helped everyone get the best out of the day. I personally wish I had done this course before my big trip from England to Istanbul a number of years ago.
It is a great day out and for those who just want something different it should be on every rider’s agenda.
The confidence and knowledge I gained on the day gave me a taste of something different. It was something I was going to pursue in the future and the next big trip started to formulate in my mind – I wonder how long it will take me to get to Mongolia!
This is the perfect course for riders who want to experience proper off-road conditions on a big road bike. The coaching is first class and so is the day, well worth the effort and training experience.
In this case, don’t Keep it on the Black Stuff!