Hello and welcome to Alex’s Blog. This week we have a special guest blog from one of our favourite customers at our Oakmere branch, JP Dixon. JP is a professional Overland Guide and Expedition Medic who has travelled on motorcycles throughout Canada, America, Alaska, Europe, northern and central Africa and has raced in navigation Rallies overseas and the UK. He set out on the UK route of the Trans Euro Trail, along with his friend Steve, to see just how good the UK is for adventure riding – and he even tried out the Frank Thomas FTAS001 Adventure Sport helmet to boot to give it a good test for us! Lets find out how he got on:
SO! UK Adventure Riding- does it exist?
Straight answer? – damn right it does!
The Trans Euro Trail is a long-distance trail designed for adventure motorcyclists that runs for 38,000 km throughout Europe. The UK has 2923 km of this amazing trail that consists of unpaved roads and scenic minor roads that starts in Dover and finishes in Newcastle but is it adventurous?
My friend and I, Steve, decided to ride the whole of the UK route in one go. It took 13 days of riding north to south through Cumbria, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire, Cheshire, Wales, Carmarthenshire to Gloucestershire, Wiltshire Hampshire to Sussex West and East. All this on forty percent dirt tracks also known as green lanes or green roads. What an adventure, on a par with other adventures I have had in faraway countries.
We opted to use small bikes; KTM 300 and 350 cc and we obviously had to carry all our camping kit, spares and clothes. We wild camped where possible, used the odd hotel and stayed with friends en route. I have ridden in many continents and I can honestly say this trip was amazing. Some of the trails are challenging with river crossings, steep climbs and descents over the mountains and moorlands. The weather also decided to be typically British; snow, rain, winds, sun and my favourite- heavy frost in the mornings. We completed the trip with no injuries although Steve faceplanted in some ruts, no sense no feeling and he walked it off, we dropped the bikes many times and we pushed ourselves and equipment in true adventure style.
I was asked if I would test some riding kit on this trip. Everyone knew that this trip in was going to be tough and would “Stress Test” the kit possibly to destruction, J&S accessories Oakmere’s very own Ade gave me a choice of helmets to test. I usually use goggles for riding trails but for this trip I wanted a visor, so a typical adventure style helmet was sought; peak, visor, internal sun visor and enough space in the chin piece to breathe hard and not feel like I’m in a Swedish sauna.
I chose the Frank Thomas FTAS001. Why not a more expensive one? When I picked the FTA up it felt well made. I was trying to choose a helmet based on what I was going to be doing, not on brand or price. This helmet was going to be left on the floor while I pushed bikes up hills, it was going to bouncing around in my tent as I struggle to get dressed in the early hours, it would be hit by branches and brambles etc, if I was going to buy a helmet for this trip I believe I would have chosen this one. For under £120 it is by no means an expensive lid, I have far more expensive lids, this one seemed to fit my needs.
Fit: yes, it fitted well, and the size matched all my other helmets: XL, so that was a great start. It is a short helmet by that I mean it doesn’t extend too far down below my jaw and neck line. This has its strengths and weaknesses; in the cold I wore a Buff to keep my neck warm which I think without it I would have been uncomfortable, However in contrast the strengths are that in warmer conditions it allows plenty of air flow and when standing up and riding I never felt the back of the helmet get caught up in my jacket or rucksack. It’s not heavy either at only 1600g it felt comfortable to wear for long periods and the visibility was good. Fit score 7 out of 10. Ten being the best obviously.
Visor: This helmet comes with Pinlock and I can honestly say this helmet never steamed up once on the Pinlock, I was in soaking wet conditions one minute and when I climbed in the mountains those conditions became cold and normally I would have to lift the visor so I don’t ride off a cliff but this helmet just worked. In the snow I used the internal sun visor down with the visor up that way I could differentiate the terrain in the flat light. Visor score 9 out of 10
Peak: The peak is narrow. At first I was concerned it wouldn’t do it’s job, which to clarify is not to just look cool, its to give protection from the sun by positioning the visor where needed by tilting your head, also to protect your face when some friend in front of you roosters mud or stones as they attempt to navigate the terrain. I was surprised, it worked great, the peak also being on the slightly narrow side reduced the drag on the roads, sound and buffeting was not as bad as some of the more expensive helmets I own. I often wore ear plugs so the noise level was not easy to measure, although any helmet with a peak will be noisy. Peak Score: 6 out of 10
Chin strap and buckle: This helmet comes with a quick release buckle as often seen on the entry level helmets, I haven’t owned a helmet with this type of buckle for years and after a few times releasing it I realised the benefits; I could take off and put on my helmet without taking my gloves off! That was a revelation as I often took off my helmet to talk to locals and horse riders on the trails, giving that winning smile helps to ensure you are approachable to non-riders. Chin strap score: 8 out of 10
Overall look: I like it. The one I have had some hi visibility stripes which in the day light were not gaudy. Looks the part for me.
Stress Test score: 8 out of 10, the helmet survived and so did my head. Nothing broke and all the fittings are secure. This test has been hard on the helmet and I believe is equivalent to twelve months of standard riding if not more. I wore this every day; ten hours a day and I never moaned about it once, says a lot for me. A helmet of this price, with the features that it has I think it’s a fantastic realistic priced adventure and trial riding helmet. Would I buy one with my own money? YES! In fact a few of my friends are buying them for their adventures. John-Paul Dixon aka JP.
The TET, Trans Euro Trail have just released another section in the UK in Cornwall and Devon, JP and friends are riding it in a few weeks for another mini UK adventure. For more information on the Trans Euro Trail go here.
Watch this space for more adventures from JP Dixon in the future!
Until next time, stay safe,