Text by Irene Kotnik (@irene_kotnik), photos by Silke Morisse (@silke.morisse) and Paulo Tropa (@paulo_tropa)


Let's get muddy withML Adventure Tours

From our PETROLETTES team Silke (@silke.morisse) and I decided it would be a great idea to visit our new motorcycle friends the Back Bone Babes (@backbone.babes) in Porto (PT) and to end an extraordinary (2020!) motorcycle season with a big bang!

When we landed in Porto early Friday morning we were longing for coffee and Portuguese backed goods. We desired sun and a warm breeze. I mean what do you expect when you fly south?  We were slightly let down because when we arrived the weather was more like to rainy England. But hey, we didn’t let it rain on our parade! We might be sissies – but we ain’t made out of sugar! This is Enduro Paradise!!! Let’s get muddy!

We spoke two days before we planned our trip with Paulo (@paulo_tropa) from ML Adventure Tours (@mladventure_tours) and he assured us to pick us up in Porto once we arrived. We decided to take a quick sightseeing tour and told the UBER driver to take us to Dom Luís I Bridge – a double-deck metal arch bridge that spans the River Douro between the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia in Portugal. We were rather lightly packed with mainly our motorcycle gear, helmet + goggles, pans, jacket protective padding, gloves, scarf and a rain layer (in case it will rain 😉 ).

Paulo was super happy to see us and wanted to deprive us of another petrolhead highlight of second’s biggest town in Portugal: Garagem Central Porto (@garagemcentralporto) – garage, community gathering spot for those who love motorcycle culture 🔥 A great place to have Portuguese coffee and some helpful petrol chats.
We still didn’t quite know exactly what might happen next – but we certainly felt we were with the right company. We stoped in some side street to pick up a van which was already loaded with a KTM 250cc (2-stroke) and 2 x KTM 350cc (4-stroke) machines. Paulo told us we can try out the machines at some Enduro parkour out of town. I started to feel some adrenaline. Since I am in the beginning of learning Enduro riding and getting comfortable with any type of off-road trails I sensed excitement pulsing in my veins.
Love that feeling!

@backbone.babes

Once we arrived and unloaded the bikes, Paulo showed Silke quickly how far we can disappear in the wilderness. We started our engines and Silke rode next to me holding up her phone and filming. I sensed her big smile unmistakable under the helmet!
„So this is going to be me and you, Silke!“, I thought – hoping I can keep up with her! Oh damn! What am I doing??? B-R-E-A-T-H!

We tested the park and drove wherever the trails took us. Silke fell in love with her 350cc KTM instantly! My KTM (same one as Silke’s) was a bit high for me, which means I couldn’t put both feet on the ground. When I stoped I had to make sure the weight of the machine would shift to my left side and my foot needed to be stable and balanced to hold the load.
Since it was already raining for some days we had more or less mud and big puddles to deal with. But what the hack! This is Enduro riding – deal with it!
After testing the bikes we drove back to Porto and got some food. We made plans with Paulo to meet up in the next morning 9am to start a whole guided day tour. Oh yeah! This will be a big adventure!

I was really looking forward to meet our new motorcycle friends which invited us to come and visit Porto in the first place. It was around 7pm and Ana (@ana.efe) welcomed us warmly in her astounding house! She is one of the founders of the BackBone Babes and together with her husband Luis (@luixsabier) passionate about motorcycles, art and design. What a great mix! The whole house decoration reassembled a wonderful art collection of paintings, illustrations, sculptures, photography works and certainly a special assembly of exotic items! Also, not to forget the pack of dogs which jumped up and down on us once we entered the kitchen.
After we settled in, Ana drove us to Mr.Beans (@mrbeansporto) a sweet Portuguese restaurant co-owned by Isa (@isafevereiro)
– also a member of the BackBones Babes. Isa’s vintage Royal Enfield Bullet was standing inside of the restaurant. Unbelievable! Just because we kicked off our wonderful PETROLETTES Rällly in 2020 we were connected with like minded women who are hosting and giving us such a wonderful time! Silke and I got a little drunk and we certainly fell super happy into bed that night!

I mean if I would have known what awaited me the next day I guess I would have not slept that peacefully!

Alright, we were a bit late in the morning – but I guess we were surfing an easy going southern European wave. Paulo and his crew were waiting for us – all guys!
We got into our gear and luckily Paulo fixed a smaller KTM (250cc 2-stroke), which was much easy for me to handle.
The weather didn’t change a bit. I looked up and the gray sky spitted tiny little raindrops down on us! Great!
Once we were ready we left the gas station and drove up a massive hill somewhere off-road.
Wow! So, this is the beginning. I felt my back tire slipping on the moistly stones. „Do not let go of the throttle! Do not let go of the throttle!“ I repeatedly told myself while one of the guys fell down right behind me.

Ok, I didn’t quite know what was the worst at that moment: raindrops on my goggles which were already completely steamed up. I couldn’t basically see anything! I already felt I am wearing way too many layers – my body heat didn’t cool down my adrenaline output… our guide Paulo will definitely test our limits and might take some dangerous risks!

All great components for a beginner!

We started riding some good off-road trails: sandy, rocky, tree barks, puddles, hills, bushes and so forth.
The whole adventure package!
It’s all about the physics – standing on your bike transfers the centre of gravity from the saddle down to a point directly between the wheels for better control and manoeuvrability.
Here is my advice: When you are on the pegs you should aim to grip the bike with your legs, pushing in towards the centre of the bike to keep the bike in check and using the big thigh and calf muscles rather than the little ones in your fingers. Don’t hang on to the bars until your knuckles turn white! Also, good to know: hands should be relatively relaxed, and ideally gripping with the inner two fingers and thumb most of the time which will enable you to use two fingers to slip the clutch if needed and work the front brake. If you always ride gripping with your entire hand, the transition to the levers will make you feel out of control and panicky. I had my first crash when we attended a big hill and I was gripping with my entire hand and my bike bucked like a wild horse from underneath me. Practice loosening up your hands on the smoother stuff so that it becomes more natural on the technical stuff.
Ideally you want to be riding with your arms slightly bent, never locked out and straight as this is a short-cut to a broken collarbone.  A bent arm will allow you to move with the bike rather than fight against it.
Paulo and Silke told me about how to target fixation: „You need to look where you want to go, rather than where you don’t.“ That really helped!
In terms of brakes, if you ride normally on the road the mantra of 80% front and 20% back will change once you head for the dirt, this is a ratio that is rarely going to be correct. You are going to need to develop a whole set of braking techniques to keep yourself and the bike upright. I tried using back brakes as much as I was normally used to use front brakes. Silke kept shouting: „Use your back brakes!“ I guess I am just not used to it and it really helps to test it out!

Believe me, by the end I couldn’t and didn’t want to stand up anymore but it’s actually easier when you isolate yourself from the bike’s movements. Another advantage is that it will allow you to experiment with steering the bike with your feet. Push down on the right hand peg and see what happens – who knew? Foot steering is used in all disciplines from motocross to road racing, so it’s sensible that off-road riders give it a go.

Oh, and start to trust your tires. Off-road tires have an excellent traction and are the key for the surface you pick to ride on. Once I felt how my bike’s knobs dig into the dirt and hold onto stones I had more confidence in riding. By the end of the day I felt many times off my KTM and I was not afraid to stretch my limits. I would highly recommend this sort of action to anyone who wants to increase their risk factor!!!

@mladventure_tours

Did I already braked about the wonderful scenery, yet?
Paulo picked a great route which included everything, even crossing a river and riding down on big stone plates where you tend to just fully slip away.
Silke and I were purely exhausted and extremely pumped with adrenaline.
I couldn’t have asked for a better partner in crime on my side and Paulo’s ML Adventure Tours certainly will be something to pursue in the future again.

Stay tuned!
We are planning a PETROLETTES adventure weekend in Portugal this season where only female riders can take part, because in mixed groups the idea of competition always leads to stressful situations. Riding just with women is a different experience – the group dynamics are more collegial and easy going. Sign up to our newsletter and write us if you are interestes: info@petrolettes.com