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Devon; the quads beginners’ route

Every year, the staff here at True Grip┬áattend a week of mandatory refresher training. That all sounds quite intimidating but in reality we all have a great time away ‘bonding’ (interpret that as you wish!). I could probably do a series on these training events alone, having battled and survived 6 of them, but this particular one, a beauty from the most recent in 2015 is extra special. Devon was the destination for such training this time around and the site did not disappoint, offering endless tracks over enormous sand dune systems on the coast. Sand is somewhat of a rarity in this country when it comes to off road driving so we were all very excited at the prospect of spending a week on the golden stuff.

With the addition of quad bikes to our fleet, they were┬ávery much the focus – being the flavour of the week amongst the instructors. I was wet behind the ears, eager to please and unjaded by the endless demands and quite frankly ridiculousness displayed by my fellow instructors as soon as they set foot on a new site.

For us that week, there was no rain and thus no excuse for mistakes – conditions were on our side. We as users cannot control the rain and wind that’s needed to produce demanding off road training conditions. Instead we were subjected to intense heat, riding on the grainy loose sand hours on end. Much chocolate and water was consumed during the week to counteract the lengthy days in the scorch.

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After a morning of training on the quads, fine tuning our turns on the flat beach, we headed back to HQ. Led by military trainer we shall call Mr. X, he let us make our own way back via the dunes rather than the usual follow the leader approach. He strongly┬ásuggested taking the┬ásafe path named ‘the highway.’ However, against all advice, 4 of us looked at each other and knew it was our chance to explore the area unsupervised. Mr. X sternly encouraged us to avoid going down a particular path he ironically named ‘the beginners’ route.’ Despite this we gave him the brief nod – the kind of nod you give when you plan on taking no notice – and said ‘ok then.’ We then proceeded to ignore this advice and trust our own unreliable instincts. We were confident in our machines and our ability on untested ground. We had never failed before (never, ever); it was a glorious morning, blah blah blah… lets go on the beginners’ route! Off we went…

Initially things were well. It was an exciting track, gradually curving around the wondrous site. Life was good and sometimes you have to trust your own judgement. mmm. I stood up on the quad and could look over the hill catching sight of our HQ. Then the track started to turn right and left and bend in all directions. It turned a little more, then a little more, right and left and right and up and down and left … it became relentless. We slalomed our way up and down the dunes. We were now up against a very demanding, aggressive track full of crater like holes hidden under vegetation and jaw-droppingly steep slopes that make you look twice. Nonetheless, we pressed on at our own pace.

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Then came a cry from a quad behind: ‘this is too much.’ ‘You’ll be fine, it’ll even out in a minute,’ another instructor bellowed back. The cry then turned to unmistakable silence. Someone was missing. ‘We’ll have to go back.’ Yes I realise that but this was a track devoid of space and the opportunity to turn. Over the next memorable 5 minutes the silence grew and the remaining riders including myself had joined the ‘stuck’ club. Each of us individually had got ourselves into different yet hilarious predicaments. From this, we gained new nicknames! There was ‘the mole;’ who managed to dig himself an enormous hole using his very own quad! Next up is ‘the turtle,’ who had managed to turn his quad into his shell from which you could only see his arms and legs poking out of the side. Third was the ‘flying squirrel’ who miscalculated a rut and was the first lady to fly in Devon. Lastly is me; who went by the name Harry Potter as I used my quad as a broomstick with unfortunate landings!

_DSC3238 Mr. X

Unbeknownst to us, Mr. X, in the miraculous way that only he can, comfortably followed our unfortunate expedition and popped up alongside. Here, he did his best work as he produced the most important bit of kit (the camera) and grabbed evidence of our failures.

‘Shall we turn back?’ I asked. ‘No,’ replied Mr. X, ‘we must press on, I mean who would want a return trip on this route?’

It seems we weren’t the only victims of his beginners’ route.

Each evening we congregated in the bar, sharing our stories and misfortunes of the days riding. Over a shandy or two we moaned and groaned; comparing scars, aches and bruises whilst stocking up on copious amounts of ibuprofen to bury the pain. We refuse to accept that we are no longer invincible young men ready to take on the world! We are all young at heart.