Trail riders know that when the temperature drops, it's certainly not time to put the bike away. The changing seasons are one of the very reasons that so many riders take to the trails to experience their regular routes in all conditions. That said, a little incentive to get out on one of the coldest days of the year doesn't hurt.

Wiltshire TRF member Steve Burbidge has provided that incentive for the last 4 years in the way of hot baked goods and fundraising for good causes. We caught up to find out about the Great Christmas Escape.

TRF:

Hi Steve, or should I call you ‘The Baker?’. So, The GREAT Christmas Escape. It looked fantastic. Maybe you could start by letting us know what it is?

Steve:

Thank you. We have run this for a number of years now, as you say I am a baker running a 4th generation family business. I have always had motorbikes and really enjoy meeting other like minded people. When putting on events I have found that food can be a great attraction and the word 'bakery' to bikers is simply an easy magnet. I try to raise money for charity throughout the year and this event is perfect for the winter. In the summer my main event was a weekend event called the Hogroast but now I have moved to doing one day events. We ran the Hogroast for 14 years and raised thousands for local Mencap.

TRF:

Am I right in thinking that the event is a fundraising exercise? Who does the money go towards and how much did you raise?

Steve: 

Yes it is, and Christmas is a very charitable time of year. I find that people are happy to enjoy the events and also if its fundraising I don`t have people being too demanding – they are there to enjoy themselves and feel happy that they are contributing to a good cause at the same time. The last few years I have involved Andover Rotary Club of which I am a member, and the money has gone to Shelter Box a Rotary funded charity which supplies emergency zones with these boxes that contain a tent and supplies for a family. I also support The Senor Gateway club, run by a lady called Mrs Bowsher who all attendees will know as the lady that serves the tea and coffee at Christmas, the money raised pays for trips out for the members who are all associated with Mencap.

TRF:

The films and photos that I’ve seen make it look like everyone had a great day despite the freezing cold weather. There were a lot of you too. Was it just TRF or trail riders from all walks of life?

Steve: 

There are trail riders from all walks of life. Over the years I have got to know quite a few riders from all over the world. I joined the TRF a few years ago and have been going cap in hand to Wiltshire meetings trying hard to drum up guides as I was not happy with the size of the groups.

The fact it’s cold and in deepest winter appeals to those hard-core riders, some ride from far away that morning others come the night before. One year we had a sleepover in a marquee at the local pub. The landlord told me there was a space heater in the marquee, so we filled it with folks. The weather was freezing and the marquee had a massive bulge of water in the roof that froze turning the marquee into a big deep freezer. The space heater decided that it wasn’t going to work that night, so the folks that turned up first thing were frozen to start with. They soon warmed up in the Bakery though

TRF:

There were some unusual bikes out, including side cars! What’s the story behind that? Any other notable machines?

Steve: 

At the beginning it was an event for big bikes only, 1150 GS BMW, then the 1200`s came along, then folks on pogo Sticks, now we have tried to attract the different as “Why be normal “is the word. Yes, sidecars are always good fun, we try to keep it to 2 and 3 wheels and agricultural quads only, with the odd buggy. The last few years we have had a group of pushbike riders who rode 97 kilometres off road – that’s hardcore. We split the groups up and go in different directions but all meet up at a pre-arranged place where pasties, sausage rolls, hot soup, coffee, sweets and mince pies are out on trestle tables for lunch, then off they all go again. We normally meet for lunch near Imber which is an old village in the middle of Salisbury plain that was taken over by the Army in 1943 so that they could train soldiers. Imber is only open at Easter and Christmas so it is quite an attraction

TRF:

Does it take a lot to put this kind of event together? There were so many riders, I’m assuming you broke into smaller groups?

Steve: 

I think that I have got the basic formula off to a tee now, the difficulty folks have when running events have is feeding people. I am sure the draw for this event is the fact it starts from The Most Famous Bakery in Southern England, renowned for its bacon rolls and Hampshire pasties, people know that they are going to get a good spread.

The events starts with Rotary members braving the cold to help with parking and other useful organisation, My family help with registration and breakfast and one of my Bakers is responsible for all the catering and transportation of lunch.

Thanks to the support from the TRF we then break the riders up into groups of approximately 6 riders according to ability and ride requirements. Before everyone sets off I go over the code of conduct expected from all, especially as there may be horses on the plain and I don’t want to upset the locals. The guides are all aware of any TRO’s that may be on the routes too. Over the years we have almost got the group setting out off to a tee, just a little refining needs to be done at the start, instead of the ‘Le Man’ start we had this year I will send the groups out one at a time in future.

TRF:

Thanks Steve and well done. I’m sure a lot of people are looking forward to The GREAT Christmas Escape 2017!


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