Lake District Trails

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!