Archive for July, 2010

Camping in Northumberland

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

This weekend saw an impromptu get together at the field in Hexham I frequent. I couldn’t use the van but my brother left his Impreza lying around which has a towbar and the trailer wasn’t in use so a plan formed and I arrived there with the bike in tow, albeit it rather late on Friday. A relaxing evening was spent around the campfire(s) and video screen which showed some of the videos from when we were out in the snow over the winter which I’d not see before (but the trips themselves were memorable).

That night I remembered I need to replace the airbed. The next morning the people who can’t cope with camping turned up along with a heavy rainstorm just as we were thinking of leaving.

Eventually we were ready and the rain has eased off into a drizzle so five of us left heading south east, mainly over trails I recognised. There was a particular trail I rode rather quickly (for me) and thoroughly enjoyed. Two people swapped bikes and this started a trend. I had a try of a WR250R and a WR450F which made an interesting comparison. The 250 felt like a road bike with a really smooth ride and felt happy handling anything but lacked power. I was following Steve riding it at one point when he suddenly took sharp left, moving over a couple of meters, then slowed right down causing me to nearly collide with the back of him. I was carrying momentum to stop myself sinking into the one long big bog and its unusual for my to catch him anywhere. The softer suspension had caught him out in the soft mud.

By comparison the 450 had lots of power and harder suspension but the four stoke power delivery just doesn’t do it for me. It had horrible vibration a higher speeds. I’ve often wondered how I’d get on with four stokes and now I know. Comments about the CRM weren’t as bad as I expected. People found it very comfortable and capable to ride and not what they’d expected from a 17 year old bike (by far the oldest bike there). All really very positive and people were pleasantly surprised by it.

On the way back coming through part of Slaley, I crested a hill to find a downhill rocky and water eroded section which I was carrying way more speed for than I’m used to. I tried braking but decided that wasn’t an option as the wheels we just locking up. I careered down the slope bouncing the bike off every big rock there, legs flailing around and how I stayed on I have no idea. It was kind of fun though. I quite enjoyed that whole section of trail.

After lunch at the Travellers Rest we went through a ford I know well and over some lanes back to the field. Once back, the various “toys” were then experimented with which including a trial bike, a minimoto and a CR80. I did try them but was a bit worried about breaking them to really try much with them. People took the opportunity to experiment with their own bikes too. I chose to have a play with the CRM and find out what it takes to get the front wheel airborne.

This was never likely to go without incident and sure enough, I quickly managed to get front wheel up, get the bike sideways and ended up bailing off it. Thankfully no damage to me and the damage to the bike was limited to smashing the remains of the brake light and number plate holder which was already in several pieces. I also bent the new numberplate but the new brake light was in one piece. I gaffa taped the light to the bike and decided this wasn’t going to stop me.

The CRM doesn’t really have the raw power to lift the front end just by accelerating hard, even uphill and over crests. I wasn’t really getting anywhere so I stopped again for a while. The next time I had a go, something mentally came together and I found that jamming on the front brake then accelerating resulted in an airborne front wheel with consistency and control. The small drawback with this approach is you can lock the front wheel up all too easily which I managed several times but thankfully I can deal with that happening and I didn’t drop it again although I came close much to the amusement of the spectators.

Having achieved my goal I took off the bike gear and relaxed. Later in the evening I wanted to fetch a golf ball using the bike so just jumped on without any helmet or protective gear and rather worryingly without thinking about it, had it near enough on one wheel just from pulling away. I’m going to have to watch this habit!

The evening was then spent watching more video on the screen around campfires and talking to people, a really relaxing time. I’m now home and mostly unpacked which seemed to be a real chore and I’m totally worn out. Injury wise, I’ve strained my left bicep and have a chunk missing from my thumb. I damaged them loading the trailer on Friday!

I’m grateful to Neil for letting us use the field, my bike control has certainly benefited from it and to everyone else who was there, it was a good weekend.

Northbound to Alnwick/Rothbury

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

For one reason or another I’ve never been on a TRF run north into Northumberland in the Alnwick/Rothbury direction. Those routes are renown locally for their water crossings. The recent headline news story had made me wonder if that choice of direction was a good one but since that matter came to a conclusion early that morning it was no longer a concern, we met up near Prudhoe and off we went.

We were a group of eight with one guy who’d never been outside a field on a trail bike. He managed his inevitable off quite quickly but no real harm done to him (strained muscles?) or the bike and he got back on determined to continue. I stayed around the back of the group acting as sweeper and kept an eye on him. The initial part of the run was quite interesting to me as I’d never seen the trails we used and they were a bit different to ones I’d been on before with long grass, tall enclosing greenery and in one place greenery totally blocking the path which you just had to ride through.

I don’t seem to have done much trail riding this year and my riding was definitely suffering because of it. I nearly managed to drop the bike in the middle of the first big ford but caught it and only managed wet feet thankfully. Our new recruit had not considered we might be going through water, was not really attired for it and was rather nervous about the ford. He stalled halfway and had to push it the rest of the way but didn’t fall in.

I recognised the road we were on at this point, its one the Daytona knows rather well. Along there we had the first puncture of the day which was duly repaired.

We turned off that road and followed a trail eventually coming to a section of trail with warning tape. The reason was clear as a significant section of the bank had been eroded away leaving a 1ft wide strip. We made it through but had to wheel the bikes rather than ride them. I took the only photo of the day there but its poor quality, sorry.

Further trails followed and we ended up heading into Rothbury except the road in was blocked off with a significant police presence, no surprise there. Thankfully we were going the other way at that junction anyway. We looped around the top of the town through the forest and ended up in the next village over where we refuelled and talked a bit with the attendant about the events of the past few days.

We were trying to get to the lunch stop when we suffered the second puncture which was once again duly repaired. The next lane was through a field of lovely long grass so when a KTM lost a gear lever I wasn’t holding out much hope of finding it but it was on the gravel bit afterwards. We finally got a late lunch at Powburn.

It was starting to drizzle at this point but we sat outside under some umbrellas on the tables. Just as we’d finished eating the heavens opened with a torrential downpour so we waited inside until that mostly passed over. It was then more fuel and time to head back. We had hoped to get further north and sometime maybe I will but we were out of time today.

The trip back started off heading up Ingram valley, somewhere I’ve not been for a long time and had further fords but the river levels were extremely low and the ford crossings weren’t that bad. The deepest of the day (2ft?) had a bottom like loose cobbles which is different to any ford I’ve done before. I hit something half way over, got knocked off line but kept going. This meant I went over a large lump of dead tree in the water and missed the ramp up the bank on the other wide. The CRM happily climbed up the bit of steep bank anyway proving once again if you point it at obstacles and keep the power applied its amazing what it can climb over :).

The route back also ended up going through Rothbury, this time coming to it over the river from the south on the other side of the town which meant we went past the other side of the restricted area. Here there was media everywhere and someone in front of a TV camera doing what looked like a live interview next to the main road. They didn’t look amused at the eight bikes going past.

After this it was further tarmac with a few lanes and we were back to Hadrian’s wall and time to head home. It was a long day but I think the new recruit will be back again! I enjoyed seeing a different set of trails and hopefully will see the ones further north sometime soon too. Thanks go to Steve and the rest of the group for the day, the navigating and the good company.