It all started with a storm and went south from there, metaphorically and literally. Storm Ciara, I think it was. It’s even got its own Wiki page. Maybe they all do these days. The hazard of untethered trampolines became the new symbol of our spoilt, decadent lifestyles. Airliners were doing that ‘hip-flick’ landing trick and winds hit 220kph off Corsica so all ferries were off. I wasn’t going to reach Marrakech on time.... • • • • • • • • • A few weeks earlier, just before Xmas, I was idly looking for a biggish adv when a bunch of ex-Honda Dirt School ATs popped up on ebay at a reputable London dealer and at a great price. Only a few remained, all less than a year old, under 2000 miles but with scratches, cracked panels and so on. They’d be gone in a few days for sure. I broke contemporary protocols and actually went for a look first before settling on a juicy, Cherry Ripe manual with a bent clutch lever and a fairing panel stitched up with zip ties. I was unable to countenance the added weight of a DCT, but had got that out of my system running an NC750X a few months lack. Great to hear that that motor might be used in a forthcoming CRF800L Say what you like, but a CRF1000L is a handsome machine. It didn’t actually say ‘ex-Honda Dirt School’ in the advert, but I used to watch Columbo and suspected it from the mileage, damage, age and tyres. "Ah, just one more thing" I heard the scruffy gumshoe say. “Check da Dirt School Facebook page. See if ya find ya motorcycle.” Gotcha! My 2019 AT – rego ‘ … PCZ’ parked in a sodden Welsh farmyard alongside a bunch of near-identical Cherry Ripe 2019 ATs. Would you buy an AT used by this gang of Goretex-clad louts? (Notice: image date precedes current social distancing edicts. Only try this at home). Something funny, punk? That front one is just 4 letters away from my PCZ. Pick it up! NOW! But what do you expect? I still don’t get offering quarter-ton bikes shod with Metz Karoo 3s to teach off-road riding in soggy Wales. I remember thinking the same when I did the BMW off-road course years ago. I picked the smallest bike, a lithe 650 Dakar while others less experienced than me struggled with – and inevitably tumbled from – 1150s, or whatever they were at the time, snapping footrest brackets as they fell. Allow me to paraphrase ‘Verbal’ Kint (himself referring to Baudelaire): "The greatest trick BMW etc ever pulled was convincing average riders a 250-kilo motorbike was any kind of off-highway machine." A T7 was what I fancied – and even they are a bit too tall and heavy for my current prefs. I'm getting weary of tall saddles and anyway, it was way too soon for used T7s. An AT was the next best thing and had actually persuaded at least one long-term GS12er I knew to jump battleship. Even though the idea of riding an AT in the places I’d spent 40 years riding Teneres, XRLs, Funduros and most recently, a Himalayan seemed preposterous, the Honda seemed better suited than most. I figured it was high time I tried one of these giant advs I habitually scoff at.