Carla McKenzie is planning to ride over a thousand miles of byways, back roads and dirt tracks from John O’Groats to Land’s End – starting on her 51st birthday – in aid of the Dougie Dalzell Memorial Trust and Bike Tours for the Wounded.
Bike Tours for the Wounded provide free places on motorcycle tours – as pillion passengers – for serving and veteran, wounded, injured and sick members of our British Armed Forces with life changing injuries.
Despite setting herself this epic task, it wasn’t until early February 2015 that Carla had her first motorcycle trail ride and she quickly discovered that three decades of riding on tarmac is no preparation for mud, rocks and roots.
“I came quite a cropper first time out and I’m desperately trying to get my dirt-riding skills and my strength and fitness up to the required standard in time for the big ride in July – it’s a scary prospect!
“To speed things up I‘ve enlisted the support of the Wiltshire branch of the Trail Riders Fellowship, and training has begun in earnest. I’m on a steep learning curve, but I’m enjoying it immensely – trail riding is a whole new world to me and the Trail Rider’s Fellowship guys have been fantastic. Whenever I start to struggle I’m boosted by the thought that I’m doing it for people who have suffered terribly, and who now face far greater challenges than me, every day.”
Planning the trip hasn’t been without its challenges as the laws on greenlaning differ between England and Scotland.
“I’m currently in the process of writing to various landlords to ask their permission to ride across their land in order to plan a viable route but this is currently a work in progress. I’m well aware that the rights of way for motor vehicles simply don’t exist in Scotland as they do in England and Wales. But I’m planning to do as much of the journey on byways as possible.”
It’s not just the navigation which can be a challenge – weather can play a huge part.
“The condition of the trails is very weather-dependant – what could have been easy on one run, may not be on another. I’ve learnt already never to think that I’ve cracked it.”
Carla will be completing the whole trip, which she is aiming to complete in two weeks and will be camping along the way, but will be joined by different people at various points on her adventure.
“From John O’Groats to Northumberland I’m hoping to take two or three people with me. In Northumberland I’m joining the Bike Tours for the Wounded riders and will travel with them to Taunton, then from there, I will complete the ride with the same team as I am riding with on the first leg.”
One of the biggest challenges has been the level of fitness required to undertake such a challenge – something Carla isn’t taking lightly.
“I’m currently training two and a half hours a week, plus eight hours riding and the plan is to increase this as the big ride approaches. This is alongside a weight loss plan – although I don’t propose to disclose any of the relevant numbers! I have done a total of four long days off road riding in the past month, but will be upping this to two days per week.
“Getting to know and understand a new genre of motorcycling has been interesting. I’ve learnt lots of new skills and I know that I have to trust the bike to have the agility to make it through the difficult and varying terrain that we’re going to encounter.”
We’ll be keeping up with Carla’s progress here at MoreBikes.co.uk and wish her all the best for her adventure.
To find out more about her trip and to donate, visit: www.justgiving.com/Carla-McKenzie1
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