Getting Muddy

Recently I bought a CRM250 with a view to trying a different form of bike riding.

On Sunday I joined 4 other TRF members for a trip around some local green lanes for its first outing. It was an interesting day, starting from Prudhoe, going I lost track of where and ending up back there, a bit battered but both me and the bike will live to fight another day.

I managed the first unsurfaced bit ok, then on the tarmac to the next bit I noticed people being very careful, then as I was trying to slow down, had the front end slide, I caught it, it slid again I caught it, it slid again and didn’t catch it and ended up sliding down the road following the bike. Oops. I thought the plastic lying in the road was off me but if it was I have no idea where from[3]. One lever protector was twisted around, I’d scraped the tax disc holder (wtf?) and the number plate had flipped up[1] but the bike survived[2]. I’d shredded my waterproof trousers but the Master III trousers underneath survived the abrasion with only one hole in the outermost layer. As for me, I bashed me knee on something but its just swollen/bruised. What a great start and a good first impression to the other guys. They did take a look at my front tyre and suggested I might like to change it for something with grip.

Things thankfully did get better from there. I was given tips about how to get across a rocky ford and made it ok. It was looking a bit touch and go half way but opening the throttle sorted that (as it seemed to in various other places) :). They did tell me to aim at the side of a particular boulder on the other side which I ended up going over the top of but that was a minor detail and what else is suspension for?

We went down various ‘easy’ lanes but nothing too eventful happened and eventually we stopped for lunch.

After this they headed for a section with some knowing looks. “Hmm”, I think. They pointed out some deep ruts up a hillside and said to my relief we weren’t going that way as it would be a bit rough on a novice and would do something moderate instead. They warned me about another ford which had rather deep sides but the bike seemed to enjoy that one, then it was onto the moderate hillside. I wasn’t getting much traction and stopped half way up for a chat with one of them about weight distribution. The other guy tried to get going and had a lot of difficultly so they started to say I’d be better off going to the bottom and starting again. I decided to at least try and move and actually got traction and proceeded up the hill[4] in what they later described as a model manoeuvre. That was probably the highlight of the day.

There was a ford crossing followed by a another steep hillside which I didn’t do quite as well on. I did manage some photos of that one although they don’t do the gradient justice and the camera phone is rubbish.

The next flat boggy bit with big reedy clumps of grass and 1ft deep standing water was my idea of hell. I wasn’t doing too badly until I went offline and hit a clump head on and ended up stuck on top of it. Getting off the bike I was able to power it off with me standing next to it. I seem to remember lying on my side in the mud at a point too, wondering why I always went over onto my left side. It wasn’t a crash as such, just safer to lie me and the bike down and rethink things a bit.

After getting into difficulties on the real boggy bit, I tried an alternative route, got hopelessly out of shape and the phrase “when in a hole, stop digging” became relevant and I ended up letting one of them get the bike somewhere near the track again. They told me to stay on line and it was good advice. You live and learn.

The next bit of hillside was fun, as indicated by them all gathered around the top to watch. I did the first bit great, and got 3/4 of the way then stalled. After some help getting the front wheel in the same rut as the rear I did make it to the top. At this point my energy reserves were at a low and I really started for feel it, being barely able to lift the bike, let alone kick start the thing. Some talk about the next bit of route involved the word “steps” so I could guess whats was coming.

Sure enough, it started going uphill, very rocky and then I ran into difficulties stalling it on the first step as I lacked momentum, stalled half over it and then couldn’t get the back wheel up. After several attempts I made it over that one, over the next, then find then all gathered about the big final one to watch. I built up plenty of speed, looked like I was going to collide with the bank on one side so just pulled that leg out the way, did collide with the side but just kept the throttle nailed and that was that, no problem :). Apparently that shamed one of them who had fallen off there whilst I was having fun with the first step.

I hated the next bit of soft rut following and the bike flashed a warning light which I think was the temperature one as it went out again. More lanes followed with varying challenges and eventually we ended up back in Prudhoe.

All in all, quite good fun. Scary at times, I’ve a lot to learn and having sat typing this, I know my knee will scream with pain when I get up but I’m pleased I went and did it. I’m grateful for the patience and help from the other guys as its obvious I was slowing them down a bit but you have to start somewhere I guess and as they said, they’ve all been there. I’m really impressed with the amount of abuse the CRM took and survived, a testimony to what you can do with engineering.

Its probably a good thing I’m in Brussels next weekend and have a coupleof weeks to recover before my next outing. I *must* get some proper armour before next time. I’m *very* thankful I bought proper boots.

Oh, and one of them had a helmet mounted video camera which I’m dreading seeing the highlights of…

[1] I spring mounted my plate and I should probably patent that design as it survived a ton of abuse which conventional bolts wouldn’t have done.
[2] I’m very thankful I removed the indicators as they wouldn’t have survived.
[3] At least two of the group have crashed cars or bikes at that spot so the plastic must have been from someone else.
[4] This mainly involved full throttle, wheel spin, no mechanical sympathy and sheer determination that I was going up the hill.