Kielder Forest Trail Ride

This weekend I took part in run into Kielder forest with permission from the forestry commission. People were invited to camp in a field near Hexham, travel up to the forest in small groups, be led through the forest as one large group with guides spacing it out and then split into groups again to travel back to the campsite. I was asked to and agreed to act as a guide for one of the easy groups.

I arrived early before the weekend to help with the setup of the projector screen for the nighttime entertainment, collecting firewood and so on. A pleasant evening was spent around a campfire. On Friday people started arriving I met far too many new faces and names.

The Big Screen and fires

Saturday was an early start and ~60 bikes were assembled and dispatched in groups. The first half of the day went well, I got my group to the right place at the right time and we set off into the forest. The slower/easy groups were first in the combined pack with me following behind them to deal with any issues. Early on there was a fast flowing ford that nearly caught a couple of my group out but thankfully they made it through. Most of the roads were forest fire roads and fairly solid albeit with a loose surface in places. In Kershope forest we came across some challenging terrain and ended up diverting the second half of the group around via an alternative route.

The most trail bikes I’ve seen in one place!

A couple of people had mechanical issues which the tail runners dealt with and we redeployed the guides accordingly with me ending up back marking the main group. This was fine until we came to a grassy steep ascent which there was no way around. For those that ran into real difficulties, we had some experienced riders who helped get bikes to the top. Being the back marshal I got to be last up after everyone else which made things more of a challenge. There were offers to get the bike up for me but I gave it a go myself and did eventually make the top with a couple of breaks on the way up, one forced to let the overheating bike cool down. I did get some assistance in places which was appreciated. I also managed to twist my knee when my foot was stuck in mud at one point feeling it kind of go pop. Thankfully I was able to take weight off it and stop the twisting quickly and think I just strained it and didn’t do more serious damage. I need to investigate knee braces.

The group stopped at a clearing/junction

At this point our rear group caught back up so I redeployed 2/3rds through the group and this is where the day took a turn for the worse. As I understand it there was a collision between two bikes and then concerns about broken bones.

The incident happened behind me and I spent a while waiting at a junction wondering why there were no bikes following before doubling back carefully to investigate. I didn’t get to the incident before I met a messenger heading for the main group/leader. He was a more experienced rider but I had GPS and the route so I followed in case he couldn’t find his way. I knew there would be plenty of people including the rear guides at the scene.

By the time he reached them, the group was mostly down a steep tricky decent which people couldn’t get back up so I stayed at the top acting as a messenger between the crash site and the others. We were just before the refueling site so I was on reserve and low on fuel.

What follows is a long story and a long day for me. To try and briefly summarise, the riders were taken to hospital by air ambulance. The lack of fuel complicated things, as did the need for people to stay with the crashed bikes while recovery was arranged. There was a messenger’s bike out of fuel in the decent which needed to be recovered and I joined a small sweep through team who checked the route, picked it up and then got to the refuel point. It was then back to Hexham to become the bike recovery detail. The crash site was just short of the Scottish border in a very remote area with no good through roads from the English side meaning long round trips to get to the scene for support. There was also a lack of mobile phone signal for most of the forest and a lot of the surrounding area meaning communication was difficult and Chinese whispers were hard at work.

We did get back, refueled the remaining bikes, collected one of the crashed bikes, the other had already been collected and got everyone back to camp. It did take a while and I’m grateful to those people for their patience.

On a positive note, I’m told both injured people were discharged from hospital that evening. One had a broken thumb in end, the other knee injuries according to the last reports I heard which was much better than the picture painted at the scene.

Some further photos and another experiences of the weekend

I hope this unfortunate incident doesn’t adversely affect our chances of future use of the forest. Several of the riders went out of their way to help in various ways and thanks have to go to them. They’ve helped maintain my faith in human nature.

Finally, I have to say the emergency services did a fantastic job at the scene.


Finally sorting the MGB issues?

I’ve been having problems getting my MGB’s engine to run right. This was traced to an insanely high compression ratio which in turn was caused by fitting standard pistons in a North American export low compression engine.

I did try and mess with the carburation but couldn’t get it right. The three options left were therefore:

  • Take the engine to bits and try and increase the head volume by gaskets or replacement pistons.
  • Convert to some kind of fuel injection and electronic ignition in the hope the carburation could then be customised and fixed.
  • Change the engine for a different one.

Circumstances mean I need a working car. The first option would mean a prolonged period of messing around with the car unusable and I don’t have time or space to do it or the second at the present time. I did however have a known to run space engine stored in the back of a garage so the third option it was.

So on Saturday I extracted said engine from behind mountains of stuff and then pulled the old engine+gearbox out of the car in record time. I switched the gearbox over and was preparing to insert the other engine when I discovered my spare was from a MGBGT which different engine mounting plates. This was recoverable but meant removing the crank pulley, timing cover, camshaft sprockets and chain from both engines and swapping parts which took a while, not least due to having to go and locate bigger sockets+tools to attack the large bolts.

Despite this, by midnight on Saturday the new engine was in with engine and gearbox mounts attached. This left various things to reconnect today (and change the GT waterpump and thermostat housings over too).

Mid afternoon Sunday I turned the key, it kicked over and after a few rotations, fired up :). Apparently I looked rather surprised. It miss fired a little at high rpm due to the distributor being loose and advancing itself but that was easy to fix by actually setting the timing.

The trip back from my brothers workshop seemed to go ok although the speedo died half way. The engine doesn’t miss/back fire, die at 3,000rpm or misbehave like the other so initial signs are good. The speedo cable had snapped and has now been temporarily repaired.

Its MOT is due in a couple of weeks so lets hope that goes ok.

Some photos with the camera phone (sadly a bit fuzzy):

Where’s the engine gone?

The original engine and gearbox on the engine hoist

The new engine in the car but missing the radiator, carbs, plug leads and other parts and with the wrong thermostat housing

The replacement fully installed


An action packed four days

Its taken me a while to post this but the 6th/7th August were my annual trip to Cadwell Park, a race circuit in Lincolnshire (some nice views from the air).

The Daytona coming into Coppice

Whilst I’m not sure I was going much quicker this year, I was a lot more comfortable to be doing what I was doing which was nice. Oddly I was also much more comfortable moving around the bike a bit this year, perhaps due to the offroad riding and being happier about the bike moving underneath me.

Piglets (the group I was in) did seem to have a few ‘interesting’ overtakes this year and the person who out braked themselves into Park and shot up my inside just as I was about to turn into the corner made life interesting. Thankfully they then went offline letting me turn into the corner and everyone survived. They also did find me and apologise which does make a difference.

On Friday we packed up and left quickly as I was booked into a TRF camping weekend in Yorkshire. This meant driving home, unloading the bikes, unpacking the van, loading the CRM and offroad stuff and catching a few hours sleep and then getting to North Yorkshire for 8am on Saturday.

I was pleased to actually manage that (who needs sleep!) and then spent a pleasant weekend riding around the North York moors 🙂 I was out with a number of friends from Northumbria TRF being led by the event Yorkshire event organiser.

The TRF runs were not without incident. 2 miles out on Saturday we had a puncture. The CRM was then miss firing like crazy so I tried changing the plug with no change. After going slowly up a steep hill on full throttle with no power I investigated further finding some rather soggy ECU connections, removed the water and rewrapped it in plastic. The bike started, sounded good and then died, not wanting to restart. We quickly discovered the plastic on the ECU was now sucked over the airbox inlet. Oops :). After application of tape, it ran fine.

Some lanes followed, then a relaxed pub lunch where it was noted my number plate and bracket were snapped off and missing. Hmm. We then headed back to the camp site with some concerns over the amount of fuel we had due to no fuel stop.

We went down an interesting very steep rocky descent which was heavily water eroded with large boulder obstacles. I’ve never been over anything quite like it before and was very pleased we were going downhill!

After some trips across some moorland it was then lots of downhill roads into the camp field. This was fortunate as the bike chose this moment to run out of fuel. I coasted down the hill and pushed it the remaining distance to the van. Beautiful timing 🙂

Whilst the day had been red hot, we spent the evening huddled around a fire watching video about the Ertsberg rally projected onto the side of a barn. There was also a steam train + dining car came by and a lovely stone bridge to watch it from.

The next day with the bike being refueled we headed out for a short run towards the coast. I managed to stall it in the ford next to the field which was a good start but kept my footing, restarted and got out. There was a steep muddy climb with some troublesome tree roots half way up which did cause me problems as I’d stopped at the bottom to close a gate. With a little assistance I did make it up eventually though :).

Things got better from there with other people falling off instead of me. I had to pull another CRM off the top of someone after he overtook me trying to show off :).

We stopped near Whitby for breakfast/lunch/icecream and then took to some lanes near Robin Hood bay. I took some photos here with the camera phone:

On the way out of there someone suffered a rear puncture meaning a tyre changing stop. A police car drove past, turned around, came back and stopped with the officers than questioning us on where we’d been. We eventually convinced them we’d been doing legal things and they were leaving when they spotted a bike missing its number plate (not mine). Thankfully they left with just a warning about getting it sorted and that there were traffic cops around on the nearby trunk road who would pull us for it.

This left a dilemma as there was a number in the group without plates but we decided to chance the main road and there was no traffic cops thankfully.

The rest of the trip back to the field went fine, we came up to another group and it was interesting to see some riders who were slower than me for a change! I was out with some rather good riders and the slowest there, as usual with my Northumbria TRF friends :/.

In the ford next to the field, the other CRM owner decided to drown his bike but at least we could tow him back onto the site to fix it. Several people seemed to have problems going through there this time and the water was significantly higher than that morning. I rode through without incident which was nice :).

This just left packing up and driving home which I eventually summoned the energy to do. I’ve been having problems with my energy levels recently, not helped by the flu thing I had and whilst I’m totally shattered, I did manage everything and came back home in one piece with working bikes! I only fell off twice on Saturday both just silly bike sideways, lie down under it things and didn’t come off on Sunday.

So an action packed four days, tiring but enjoyable and good fun!

Next up is the Northumbria TRF run into Kielder forest on the 22nd August.