One of the biggest issues, especially for less experienced riders, is finding somewhere legal to ride their adventure bikes off road. The mass closure of many ancient byways to anything with an engine has left large parts of the country with little access to rideable off-road routes.
We decided to put the Sweet Lamb Adventure Rally Biking centre to the test on a trio of different motorcycles to see how it works. Sweet Lamb is in mid-Wales and there are 6500 acres of pristine Welsh countryside available for guests to ride and there are also plenty of public byways in the same area too.
Among the many options available, we chose to take our own bikes (you can, at certain times of the year, rent one of theirs if you wish). We also decided to hire a lead rider who knew the area and could also make sure we weren’t going to get ourselves in trouble or stuck somewhere remote!
Our three bikes were quite a spread across the adventure market with one BMW R1200GS Rallye, a Yamaha Tenere 700 and a full-blown enduro machine, in the form of a GASGAS EC350F. You can read more details on the bikes and riders in the separate story below.
The Sweet Lamb Adventure experience we paid for was for a small group that was led by an experienced rider who knows the local lanes. Before we set off we chatted through what we wanted to get from the day – a mix of bikes and a mix of off-road abilities meant we were going to ride around the needs of all of us, with a gradual build-up of difficulty from the terrain.
Trying to tackle extreme off-road routes on a BMW R1200GS Rallye with only a change of tyres, wasn’t something the owner Neil was too keen on, but he did want to challenge himself and improve – yet still be able to ride to work on Monday on the same bike!
Not only is the mid-Wales scenery stunning but the legal access to large parts of it blew our minds. River crossings, steep climbs and decents, long gravel roads, forest tracks, open byways, some road sections linking it all together, not to mention a nice bit of lunch mid-way around a long ride made it great fun.
The day was one of the best experiences all three of us have enjoyed on bikes in combined riding years of more than 75 years! We all loved it and all of us were much better riders by the end of the day. We’re all determined to get back to Sweet Lamb again just as soon as possible.
GS rider Neil said: “I saw an advert for a weekend trail riding around Sweet Lamb and dropped them an email for details. There was a quick response from boss-man Rob, with loads of helpful info on bikes and kit required (including obligatory knobbly tyres), and we booked it as a small group of three.
“I was very nervous about taking the big GS properly off-road, having previously only ridden some rolling trails around Thetford. Our guide Lee broke us in gently on gravel trails around the Sweet Lamb complex before commencing on more challenging rock trails, with some hefty step descents and root-strewn woodland paths.
“The day progressed onto steep boulder trails with water splashes and river crossings. I’ve never concentrated for so long and felt so far out of my comfort zone on a bike, yet came away feeling exhilarated and having really accomplished something. We covered around 80 miles of mixed on and off road, all legal and taking in beautiful mountain and coastal scenery.
“Our guide planned our route, even adapting them to suit my bike and ability (in reality, I don’t think he relished the idea of dragging my huge GS up the hills if I got stuck!) A day like this would be very difficult without a guide, or the permissions with landowners that’s the Sweet Lamb team have secured. I’ll definitely be back.”
The bikes we rode
2017 BMW R1200GS Rallye – The UK’s best-selling motorcycle above 125cc for so many years, it’s hard to remember a time when the GS wasn’t at the top of the sales tables. This bike is Neil Tomlinson’s daily rider and regularly takes him on his commute to work.
The only modifications made to the bike for this trip was the fitment of a set of Michelin Anakee Wild tyres.
2020 Yamaha Tenere 700 – Another daily rider, this time a Yamaha Tenere 700 belonging to Marc Potter. This bike does a fair bit of off-road riding and has a few modifcations aimed at increasing the off-road capability.
Along with a set of Dunlop road-legal knobbly tyres, this bike has a set of Yamaha crash bars and a K-Tech suspension revalve kit to more suit harsher terrain.
2021 GasGas EC350F – Totally standard but the most off-road capable of the bikes out of the crate. The GasGas EC350F is a 350cc four-stroke road-legal enduro bike that shares much with the KTM 350 enduro range but with a slightly smaller price tag. The 350cc single-cylinder engine is a mixture of docile low rev rideability and ferocious higher rev power.
More details can be found at Adventure Rally Bike.