Camping in Northumberland

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.