Archive for July, 2013

Trail Riding in the Yorkshire Dales

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Whilst I know some of the roads and places from road motorcycling and camping I’d never been trail riding in the Yorkshire Dales so when the offer came up, I was happy to accept. We met up on the A1 and made our way to Leyburn which was to be our starting point.

I was with a group of people I’ve not really ridden with before, often just passing out on trails so it was a nice change and they seemed like a friendly enough bunch! 🙂

I had no idea what kind of terrain to expect and it turned out to be quite rocky, kind of like the lake district but quite different too. This meant learning a new kind of surface which is always interesting.

I thought I might have gotten away with my rather worn front tyre, in hindsight, I should have changed it as it caused problems with a lack of grip and confidence. The YZ’s gearing was also suboptimal for that kind of terrain and as I couldn’t go slow enough yet have the engine behaving comfortably.

Whilst there had been rain overnight and there was plenty of cloud cover, it was dry and the trails were hence very dusty. At least the cloud cover kept the temperature reasonable.

The trails themselves were rather nice for a change with some interesting variety of different types. Unfortunately one of the group started having problems with a rear tyre puncture. Attempts were made to pump it up but it became clear this couldn’t be sustained. Shortly after that, after being stopped my bike started rattling. It was hard to figure out where it was coming from but it became clear it was from the engine which is never good.

It seemed to be coming from the kickstart area but inside the casing so we did take the clutch cover off to see if anything untoward could be spotted but there wasn’t anything visible. I therefore made the decision just to ride it and see what happened. Through several more trails it became clear that the rattle only happened when the clutch lever was engaged. Clearly this meant I should just not use the clutch so I switched to clutchless/crash gear changes. Unfortunately the gearing made use of the clutch unavoidable on some uphill sections but on the plus side, the noise didn’t seem to get any worse.

At the lunch and fuel stop in Hawes they patched the problematic rear tyre and I noticed my brake light lens had been smashed and gone missing at some point. We set off for the return journey with the warning that an “interesting” uphill section was coming up and a comment about stopping for photos. For the newbie who has never ridden the trail, this is always a good sign.

Initially it didn’t seem so bad but it did indeed have an interesting section. I decided to try and save the clutch but ended up stalling, I turned around to see the person following then falling off in sympathy (sorry)! Once I’d decided to (ab)use the clutch and got going again, I made it up the rest of the steep section without incident other than stalling it again in relief having made it up the worst bit!

Some of the trails are quite a decent length, some of them being old Roman roads and the Yorkshire Dales scenery is spectaular as ever. Sadly I don’t have many photos as I seemed to be going slower than others for whatever reasons and it wouldn’t have been fair to stop the group to get the camera out.

Sadly the patched tube didn’t hold up and we ended up stopping again to change it and put a spare front tube in the rear wheel to replace it. There appeared to be a trials event going on over that section of trail. Changing the tube over seemed easier this time, perhaps as the tyre was loosened up already.

With the various stops we were a little behind schedule but we did decide to put the final loop of trails in and I’m pleased we did since I think these were the most enjoyable of the day for me. The surface was a different type of stone and for some reason I and the bike were a lot happier on it. There were a couple of small fords and some massive eroded tracks. I’ve never seen a road eroded before the “unsuitable for motor vehicles” sign like that before, it did get even worse after the sign too although not enough to trouble an appropriate motorcycle, just made it more interesting. It was they back to Leyburn, load the bike onto the disco and time to head home.

I’m grateful to the group who took me out, I hope I didn’t hold you up too much and thoroughly enjoyed going somewhere new, and being with some different people too!

Lake District Trails

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

The Lake District is a place I haven’t been as often as I’d like recently. I’ve spent school holidays camping there, sailed on its lakes, raced karts in one of its quarries and ridden motorcycles over its passes. I’ve don’t comparatively little trail riding there though so when the opportunity came up I decided to go for it.

It meant an early start so I loaded the bike onto the bike rack the night before. We met up near Tebay after an uneventful trip on the A69 and M6 which the Discovery coped with nicely. Parking wasn’t a problem since I’d have been complaining to trading standards if it couldn’t get itself back off a grass verge!

There were four of us, we met up and the first shock of the day was one of the bikes tank ranges, at 45 miles which is worryingly low. We set off and the first trail of the day was Breast High road. There is an interesting slimy ford near the start which caused some fun and is good for catching riders who haven’t quite woken up yet, we all did make it through without an early bath.

There is a photo of my only other attempt of Breast High road where you can just see the underside of my bike and I’m lying on the other side of it, I’d hoped to do better today. The road is covered in comparatively large rocks which are hard to ride over since they’re big enough to deflect the bike. I passed one of the group who’d fallen off but was ok, shortly after that I managed to hit a rock which bounced the front wheel off the edge of the track. I did the sensible thing and stood off the bike whilst it plunged over the edge and onto its side, ending up lying there teetering on the edge.

Given some time to think through the recovery all would be ok however the bike was leaking fuel rapidly and the fuel tap was under the bike so I couldn’t get to it to shut it off. I therefore made the decision to lift the bike and it started off over the edge again, the front brake wouldn’t hold it. I therefore decided to let it find its own way down the 10ft drop and which point it was still on its side leaking fuel :/. This time I could lift it, roll it into some handy rocks to stop it and start to think about how to get back onto the trail. I gave the fallen rider I’d passed a thumbs up as he went past at this point, it being clear I’d had an issue given the bike was pointing the wrong way and I was off the track. Once I’d caught my breath, I was able to get back onto the track and continue up past where I fell off last time (another rider was off there today) and continue up to the top.

The trip down the other side was less eventful and there wasn’t that much water in the ford on the other side. We covered a few more trails and then stopped to discuss where the turning for the next trail might be. We were navigating with a paper based route but I was tracking it on the GPS and it was interesting comparing the two to figure out where we were since my GPS had no useful basemap of the area. We were in one of two places and decided and as it turns out, we picked the wrong one so ended up with the mandatory U turn. I also noticed one of the bikes was chucking out a lot of oil like smoke to the point it looked like a two stroke yet I knew it was a four. At the next stop, I mentioned this to the rider.

We set of again and found the lane we were looking for however half the group was missing. We turned back and found the smoking bike now wouldn’t start, seemingly with a lack of electrical charge. We tried bump starting it but we couldn’t find a problem, or get it going so we towed it to a junction with decent signposts and they called their recovery policy. Then we were three.

We made it to the first garage at 47 miles so we never did get to test the 45 mile tank range since it had broken down first. After a quick food/drink stop, we continued on looping around the southern lakes and then northwards towards Coniston Water. We stopped and chatted to some other trail riders but didn’t see much in the way of walkers or other road users, presumably the baking hot weather had put them off.

One interesting moment of the day was on a nice single track tarmac road which weaved both horizontally and vertically. I had to admit I’d underestimated how much it did so and ended up feeling like the bike was rather light on traction with a trajectory projection heading towards the grass verge. I remember thinking that as vehicles go, this was not a bad one to have that issue on and that I’d aim for the tarmac/grass join which I targeted correctly and continued without incident. I’m reliably told by the person following that “rather light” was in fact airborne, oops.

We then headed up through Grizedale and over to the Langdale area where we did see a few more people and a chain of 4x4s. The route ended up cut a little short since it was now after 6pm and we needed to get back as we looped around and then back over Breast High Road. I made a better job of getting back over it than I had that morning (or its easier going to other way). This is the first time I’d done it the other way since we’d “shortcut” our way back on the previous Lake District trip using the M6 instead of going back over it.

For the return trip, I took the Discovery complete with bike on the rack along the A686 over Hartside. I have to admit I also thoroughly enjoyed doing it. For a vehicle as heavy as it is, you can’t often feel the weight with the engine power, brakes and power steering hiding it and having beautiful handling for something of the size. You do however notice it going down hills since it picks up speed like crazy. Despite some spirited driving, enjoying the road, the bike rack held the bike solidly, I was quite impressed.

The A686 has some hairpin bends and it was amusing to note that with the weight of the bike on the back, putting the power down on hard lock uphill on the hairpins did get the front end slipping. You could feel the electronics waking up and taking note :). I’ve been noticing that sliding in a 4 wheel drive is something quite unlike anything I’ve ever driven too since it can do all wheel powered drifting and the stability control system seems either unable to detect it, unable to do anything about it, or probably both.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed the day although it was very hard going (in all senses) and I ached for days afterwards. Thanks to Phil for leading!

Alnwick and back

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

Its been a while since I’ve ridden the northern lanes from here. Even though there were just two of us interested/available to do it, I decided to go ahead since the weather was lovely for some river crossings.

We met up and set off with the run up to Alnwick being slightly more tarmac biased, stopping for fuel near Morpeth. Its always interesting to see how rivers and river crossings change over time, what was a 1m deep raging torrent I drowned the bike in last time I went through it was a silted up few inches this time!

We kept a fairly leisurely pace but that didn’t stop me sliding out a rut and falling off, first time I’ve done that for a while :/. Kept the bike running and felt ok at the time but appear to have hit the top of my pelvis with the elbow armour and have a lovely bruise there today.

One of the lanes had notices about police action against motor vehicle use so we didn’t use it and and will need to look into it what the rights are there. Near Alnwick we came across the first deep crossing which did look rather washed out. We ended up going slightly downstream to cross where it was a much more reasonable depth.

After a fuel and lunch stop in Alnwick we headed back southwards covering a lot more lanes including a few more interesting fords. I think this part of the trip really made the day for me.

The only downside was that time was getting on and many fuel places were now shut. I thought I should make it back to the start point on the fuel in the tank. There was a minor panic when the bike spluttered out of fuel but that turned out to be a kinked breather hose. A while later it needed to go onto reserve for real though.

Waiting at the bridge to cross over to the start point I glanced in the tank and fuel was conspicuous by its absence. I knew the garage at the start point was also now shut too so I headed straight for the other nearby garage that should still be open. As I waited in traffic to make the right turn into the garage, the bike spluttered completely out of fuel. I knocked it into neutral and pushed it the 5m to the fuel pump. Never have I had such a close run on fuel!

All that remained was to ride back home but there were still a couple of interesting twists left. I decided to ride through Newcastle, something I’ve never done on the trail bikes, taking a route past the football stadium. I’m still a little unclear about what happened but I think someone who had likely had a bit too much to drink decided my hand signal for a turn meant I wanted a hug and therefore ran at the moving bike with his arms outstretched. It was that or a rugby tackle. Thankfully I managed to avoid him, how I’m not entirely sure.

The final part of the route home was the coast road where I kept the bike at comparatively high speed/revs for several miles. Pulling up and stopping in the queue for the roundabout, I was looking at my shadow and noticing a strong swirling haze at the back of the bike. This caused me to turn around to see copious amounts of smoke coming from the exhaust as if something was on fire which in all likelihood, it probably was. I think the oil in the exhaust was probably burning however the engine sounded fine so I continued without unduly worrying about it.

It was an enjoyable day out, thoroughly worn out now mind!