The white horse enduro was on Sunday and I’d been invited to marshal. I’ve never held any illusions about my ability regarding an enduro, its something I’d just never do but this was a chance to see one up close. You know it will be interesting when you’re told which bike to bring and to put low gearing on it.

The view from the top of the hillside, one of the few spots with phone signal

The first part of Saturday was spent cutting out forest and marking out bits of course, hammering in road pins, putting up tape, stapling arrows and so on. It was hot work and I was using a heavy branch to smash through deadwood when the club like head on it it snapped and hit me hard in the nose which was the first incident of the day for me. I managed to embarrass myself stalling repeatedly in front of people in one section. Once you’re stopped on a slope, its a nightmare to get going again.

Later in the afternoon, after marking out was completed, they needed some course times. A group set out and I decided to tag on the back, at least I could check the marking out. In short order, I’d stalled the bike and they disappeared off into the distance, I never did see them again, several didn’t complete the course either. I continued on, coming across some interesting features like a nice decent with a steep, tree rooted climb on the exit to a stream. I gave this a go, mostly made it up but had to help the bike over a root. Later, people pointed out that this was the “expert” route and there was an easier alternative to the right but there was no track going that way visible at this point. This was taken at the stream crossing showing the choice of two routes on the Sunday after the signs had been tweaked:

So far the terrain was unknown and full of surprises, I then came to the bits we’d marked out and/or already ridden so this gave some let up. I was taking breaks periodically since otherwise, I was going to get tired and make more mistakes. I made a phone call on the top of the hillside with great views of the valley where there was phone signal. Shortly after than I managed to catch a rut badly, laid the bike down on its side and barrel rolled off it and down an incline. No damage to anything thankfully as I was going slowly. At some point I also ended up upsidedown on an incline with the bike on top of me which was fun. Periodically, there were interesting features like steep drop off sections. Again, apparently there were easier bits but I wasn’t understanding the marking of these correctly. In the special test section there was an interesting incline you had to go up which for some reason scared the living daylights out of me. They ended up taking out the crazy downhill then uphill section just after this as even though a few of us had made it around, it was going to cut up too easily with a few bikes around it.

Around this time, someone passed me and we exchanged a few words about me taking it easy and them suggesting “the best bits are to come”. I came to the piece of the course I’d been around so far and knew I could head back to the start from here. Since by this point I was suffering exhaustion, the sensible thing to do was to head back. I’d heard stories about having to jump ditches and a dry stone wall but I thought I’d done that part (that seemed easier than they were suggesting). There was definitely some steep hill climbs ahead though. Since I’d likely never do it again, I decided to continue, slowly and carefully. I soon came to the uphill section which was a relentless steep climb for a few hundred meters. Amazingly for me, I did make it to near enough the top without stopping. The bike was trying to stall, bogging down badly and I was determined we were not stopping and its probably one of the few times I’ve ever found the throttle stop. A decent followed, followed by what looked like more hard hill climbs but the hardest climb turned out to be behind me. A boggy trip through the trees brought me back to the start. I’d taken somewhere over two hours, the clubman time was about an hour. Experts would do four of the 12 mile laps, one was enough for me.

It was an early start on Sunday and I’d left the bike outside the van overnight so it was covered in frost. I had to scrape ice off the van windscreen too.

The start area

As a marshal, the idea was to roam around your section making sure everyone was ok, repair the route where possible and generally help out as needed. The section assigned to our group included the downhill section into the stream and another steep downhill section just after it. I did my best to roam around, yet keep out the way of the competitors and help out where needed. We’d also been asked to send people periodically to the starters point to help. I picked a good time to be there under the gazebo for the short downpour we had!

On the steep downhill, I managed to lose my balance on one trip down and ended up “choosing” a head-on collision with a tree into the headlight as the alternatives would have involved clipping the bars against a tree and leaving the bike. As it was, I stopped against the tree, restarted the bike and continued before the marshal behind slid into me (as there was no way he’d have been able to stop and I was conscious of this). Amazingly, there wasn’t too much damage as the light itself stayed intact:

This should be a straight bracket with the tax disc pointing outwards

The day’s activities were then complete and it was then time to demark the course and collect in all the arrows and tape. I helped out, ending up at the back of the group with a heavy paperbag filled with collected in material. I was about to set off once again, tried to kick the engine over to start it and found the kick start lever ended up on the ground. The kick start shaft itself had sheared leaving the casing in a mess too 🙁

Not how you expect a component to fail

Cracks = Not Good

I waited around but nobody came back far enough to find me although I did hear someone in the distance so I was on my own. No problem, I found a hill, bump started the bike and rode fire roads back to the start. Having a GPS on the bike helped!

It was a good weekend and I enjoyed it. I doubt I’ll ever enter an enduro, I think this weekend determined that for sure but I might marshal again if they’ll have me back though.


Computer Geek Disease

I can’t be the only “computer geek” who has someone tell them they need to get more fresh air or that they look pale and need some sunshine. In my case this got to the point my parents were making crypt and vampire jokes. it turned out there is a serious side to those comments which I’ve been meaning to write about for a while.

About this time last year, I was noticing that my joints were unhappy about something. In particular stairs were hard to climb up with my joints feeling at least twice my age with tearing sensations in my knees. This was along with various other aches and pains which were slowly getting worse. I’d also fractured my hand 9 years ago and ever since it had a dull ache at the fracture site, particularly after stirring gravy, painting or hammering in nails to a fence or similar activities.

On a different matter and nearly in passing, my GP suggested checking my vitamin D blood level and the test came back as borderline deficient suggesting Osteomalacia (in childhood much more commonly known as Rickets, eek!). Vitamin D is the “sunshine vitamin” being generated by exposure of skin to UV light. You get very little from food sources. A low level made sense in that I work indoors and when I do go out into the countryside and get exercise on the bike, I’m wearing layers of protective clothing and skin exposure is a bad idea. Sunlight exposure generating enough vitamin D in northern latitudes is questionable at the best of times and with a pale skin, any strong sunlight would trigger me to use suncream and hence block off the UV that would generate the vitamin.

Thankfully the “cure” is simple, either sunlight exposure (which here at this time of year isn’t going to work) or supplements. Having taken some supplements, I have to say it was amazing the difference they made with my joints no longer experiencing the tearing sensations and generally feeling a lot better. Also, totally unexpectedly, the fracture which ached when provoked stopped aching and has not done so since! There shouldn’t be any long term issue since the deficiency was mild and any issues reverse themselves with normal vitamin levels.

So if you spend lots of time in front of computers, make sure you get some sunshine too!


Collateral damage

As some people know, I’ve had a little bit of a health scare recently as the first knuckle on my index finger was swollen with a variety of other pains occurring in my hand joints. This combined with some long running unanswered questions and a family history had my GP say effectively “eeek, rheumatoid arthritis?” just from showing him my hand with no other comment. Thankfully blood tests for RA are negative, as are the other blood tests for more exotic diseases they decided to run just in case.

Six weeks on, this raises the question of what is wrong with it since its not really much better and one side of the joint is still swollen. The conclusion is its literally collateral damage, specifically a torn collateral ligament. Its likely this was pressuring tendons causing problems elsewhere and generally confusing things. Treatment is to keep it moving, gentle use. Time to heal, up to 18 months. It could be worse,at least I know what it is now.

Knowing what I do now, how do I suspect I did this? I have a suspicion trying to undo the front sprocket nut on the YZ might have been the trigger. That saw me jumping on a 2m pipe over the ratchet to loosen it in the end.


Ixion@Cadwell 2012

Thursday and Friday was Ixion@Cadwell 2012. Cadwell Park is a race track suited to motorcycles in the middle of rural Lincolnshire. The way it makes use of the natural landscape to form one of the UK’s most technical motorcycle circuits is to me, beautiful, I’ve loved it since I first saw it as a spectator. The event consists of a day, an evening and another day of track time in three groups (Tiggers, Piglets, Eeyores) and this was the eighth time I’ve been. As a piglet, I know my way around the circuit but am schizophrenic often showing eeyore tendencies to admire the scenery and only occasionally showing signs of the bouncy fun of the tiggers who tend to like the scenery so much they are known for engaging in close examination of it. This year they colour coordinated the wrist bands so mine was a lovely piglet pink.

The view from the clubhouse showing the track entry, the top of the mountain with the pit straight and the entry to the mountain in the background

I missed the event last year so it has been a while since I’ve been to Cadwell and I’ve not done as much riding of the Daytona as I’d like having given priority to the trail riding. Thursday was red hot sunshine. The first session is the infamous “no-brakes” drill where you ride around the circuit without touching the brakes. I love the fact you can still go over 100mph down the straight, scrub the speed off up the hill into Coppice and not have to touch the brakes, that has to be my favourite corner. I also discovered you can go around Mansfield quicker than I’ve typically done so in the past. It helped being as hot as there was no worry about any moisture affecting traction and the tyres were extremely sticky. Since I’m not commuting on the bike it does have sports compound tyres on it which helps (dual compound commuting tyres on the VFR were never as sticky).

It took some time to remind myself which gear to be in where on the track, I quickly remembered not to use first gear anywhere after I attempted it. Some corners I seemed better on (Hairpin, Mansfield), others I seem to have regressed (Charlies 1, Barn). In the first proper session I was surprised to find the front end going light over the mountain (front wheel in the air) as I hadn’t intended it and try and avoid it. The offroad riding does seem to have helped as I was much less unhappy about it than I would once have been.

The Hairpin

Hall Bends

I had a session with one of the new instructors following and then leading me which was interesting. It highlighted that I was disjointed between Coppice and Charlies which is something I tried to work on without an awful lot of success during the day. Other than that, the usual advice still applied, “just go faster”, my lines were basically ok.

At lunchtime I topped off the fuel tank with 10L from the cans which I was hoping would see me through the day which it did (the fuel light came on for the last two laps of the evening session). The evening session was split into two groups, Pigores and Tiglets of which I opted for the former. It highlighted that whilst I could circulate at a faster pace than some of the Eeyores, I have little experience of overtaking and was very reluctant to do so other than down the straights where I could use the 675’s acceleration and straight line speed to my advantage. Right at the end there wasn’t enough time for two sessions so they announced an open pit lane. I took a short break, then went back out for a final session. The organiser came past me at the end of park straight and I was quite interested in his line and the way he went into Park. The trouble was I was so busy paying attention to that I forgot to brake myself and steamed into the corner at a much increased speed. I did touch the brake slightly on the apex but managed to force myself to leave it alone and hope the bike would go around the corner which it did, being capable of much more than the rider. In total I covered 186 miles on the track on Thursday, which is quite some mileage given the concentration required for that kind of riding. I added a further 10 miles to refuel the bike at the end of the day.

Friday started with another no-brakes drill which I have to say are a useful learning exercise. The day was cloudy and the temperatures were much lower. After the no-brakes drill the front tyre didn’t look well, covered in peeled rubber that had stuck back on (“cold tearing”?). After the first session it was much worse and also I realised rather cold compared to the temperature it should be. I ended up dropping the front tyre pressure quite considerably to get it to match the wear and temperature of the much healthier looking and warmer rear.

Whilst I have no evidence of it, I think I did slowly make improvements to my speed around the circuit through out the day. Towards the end of the day, I was talking to someone about improving and whilst I could do some things they mentioned (e.g. find the throttle stop on the straight and avoid braking for coppice at least some of the time) there were other things I could definitely work on. They also mentioned an interesting tip about going deep into charlies 1 so that you could accelerate for park straight earlier. In the next session I went into that corner knocking off 15% speed to try the different line which did seem much nicer. It was so much nicer I arrived at the end of the straight with much more speed than I’d ever done before and had to brake considerably harder for park which made life interesting. They happened to be circulating in that session and I followed them into coppice as they overtook me at that point, roughly carrying the same speed at entry. What was clear was that I was losing speed at the corner apex at which point they steamed away from me at a point where I do feel I want to go faster but I’ve lost momentum. It showed exactly where I’d need to carry more speed and another rider who overtook there demonstrated the same effect. Something to work on next time. In the last session of the day, the fuel light came on again, beautifully timed.

I covered 285 miles on the track over the two days and 370 miles in the van getting there and back. There were a few crashes although thankfully it was mainly damage to people’s wallets. It was noticeable how many other 675s there were this year, they’re becoming common with about six of them there! They still look best in red to me though and despite being repeatedly told otherwise, there was only one red 675 there (which people were confusing with a red CBR600).


Forest Trail Ride/Camping Weekend

Last weekend should have been the Northumbria TRF Forest Trail Ride. Unfortunately that got cancelled by the Forestry Commission due to the amount of water logged ground. We offered the attendees a trail riding weekend instead.

Friday night wasn’t promising with rain pouring down all night. The camping field drains really well but even that was covered in pools of standing water. Its times like this I appreciate having a decent tent. Saturday morning arrived and amazingly whilst everything was wet, it was not raining. I had a choice of leading a group of four other locals or taking some visitors out and opted for the locals. We set off and on the second trail, one of the members bikes stopped and wouldn’t start. We spent a while dismantling various bits of the bike, draining off the float bowl and ended up changing the plug. It started and seemed to be working again. At the next short trail, I reached the end and there was nobody following. I had seen them turn off for it. I headed back to find the bike had died again. We ended up arranging for him to get picked up and we continued with the route.

We soon ran into the another group who were basically doing a similar route. They’d given time to let us get ahead but the breakdown had set us back. We devised a plan to overtake them by filling up at a different fuel station and this went to plan and we overtook. We were also skipping some of the trails due to the amount of water and the likely bad ground conditions on them.

After a few more trails, I noticed on a road section that the bike was revving a lot more freely than the changes in speed would suggest. Either the wheel was slipping, or the clutch was. The next trail proved interesting with the bike not behaving as it should being hard to pull away, stalling and generally being snatchy. I also noticed the clutch cable had no slack in it, in fact being more like a banjo string. I stopped and checked the adjusters which were all maxed out, never a good sign.

I’ve had a complete clutch failure before and I vowed then that if I ever had signs of one again, I’d stop and head home whilst I still had drive. I therefore made my apologies to the group and headed back to the camping field on my own. I was back there by 1pm. Thankfully, because the group were locals, they could find their way to the lunch stop without me where they joined with group we were trying to stay ahead of. If I’d been leading the visitors there would have been a more significant problem.

The problem also meant that I was out of action for Sunday although with the light drizzle falling on Sunday morning, I wasn’t too upset about that. At least the problem should be a simple fix with a new set of clutch plates likely to resolve the problem. I did have a look at the clutch when I got back and the steels are in good condition with no notches on the clutch basket either.



Today, North Tyneside was hit by the kind of storm you usually only hear about or see on the news. I watched from my office window looking out over the bay as the sky got darker and darker to the point cars started using headlights, the sky was like a stroboscope and there was the gentle rumble of thunder in the background. The rain then arrived, hammering down and soon there was a river flowing down my street, on both the road and pavement. I couldn’t stop grinning, I can totally sympathise with storm chasers!

The police were soon on the scene to block off the road since it was flooding on the corner just down the road. I wasn’t too worried, there is a cliff and the water can only get so high. The back of the house is more of a risk but they’ve just put new special storm drains in there.

Its not often I get interrupted by a phonecall when in a meeting but I was, by my Mum who after discussing sausages mentioned in passing she was worried about their house and car and the rising water levels. With my Dad being away, I agreed to go up there. If its that bad out there, my only car option, a Mazda MX5 isn’t really appropriate. Easy, I’ll just use the YZ. I grabbed my road bike gear, put a change of clothes in plastic bags which in turn went into the backpack and set off. Traffic was chaotic as cars are allergic to more than 3″ of water and were driving all over to avoid it. I just rode through it all no problem, maybe 12″ on one roundabout.

So far so good until I tried to get into my parent’s estate to which the entrance was flooded. If I’m put off on a YZ, it must be bad. I did ride into it and made the mistake of going too slowly and carefully and the bike stalled. No chance of restarting it in water that deep (say 2.5-3ft) so I pushed it around to my parents house, rather annoyed with myself. The photo above is of the junction after the levels dropped a bit. Its hard to picture without knowing the area but the roads under there drop quite a bit level wise.

My Mum’s car, parked in the road was certainly at risk if the water got any higher so I moved it onto the drive. The house itself seemed to be ok, the risk would be flooding from the rear and the drains were holding up and draining.

The street around the corner was where the water was coming from and was also like a river. Basically, water off the fields behind the estate had nowhere to go other than through the estate.

I think a lot of people were lucky. Here it looks like the water made it up to the air bricks in the underfloor space but with any luck it didn’t make it into the house itself.

I went for a look around. This pond is where all the water above flowed to about half a mile away. There would be some very underwater houses here 🙁

Here, the road has been blown out by a sewer pipe bursting. When I rode over this on the way to my parents, there was water flowing through those cracks.

No surprise that this underpass was flooded. I didn’t try the bike through it, its deep in there even for the YZ.

The remains of the flood at the bottom of my street. I did ride through this one even it was cordoned off.

I went for a walk on the seafront and came across this on the upper promenade. Under Whitley Bay sea front, there is a 3m diameter storm sewer/storage pipe which runs for several miles. The idea is simple, when it rains, this gets used as a giant tank which fills and they can then slowly process the water later. Here, one of the access points to this huge sewer has been blown open. You can only imagine what that implies.

Here is an illustration of what it must have been like on a small scale. This is on the lower promenade where some of the storm drains were still lifting the covers and overflowing onto it. It looked like some kind of large scale water feature from this angle.

The water patterns in the sand here indicate the water must have been seriously flowing off the lower prom onto the sand.

I couldn’t resist ending with a shot of the sunset. This is basically the view from my office, the camera not doing the colours justice. The bay sweeping around ending with the lighthouse. Blyth’s piers and wind turbines silhouetted in the background. Beautiful.


Coast to Coast Part 2

Part two of the coast to coast write up is now at


Coast to Coast

The day for the coast to coast arrived, we made it to the meeting point for 2am, set off in the Lake District from the west coast at 5:30am and headed for the east coast. The trip was not without incident although that wasn’t really a surprise.

People have been asking how it went and I’ve shared part one of a write up at I’d warn its long and has lots of photos, mostly stills taken from the video footage. I took 20GB worth of video footage of the trip but there wasn’t time to stop and take photos, not that you could carry a decent camera trail riding anyway. Its taking some time to write up but I’ll try and get the rest of the write up completed soon.


Coast to Coast Prelude

“Coast to Coast” trips from the west to east coast of the UK are fashionable at the moment, be it walking, cycling or otherwise. For me, this weekend’s challenge is covering ~250 miles of green lanes by motorcycle, starting on the west coast near Ulverston and ending up near Alnwick on the east side, all in one day. Anyone with a map will notice this is a diagonal crossing, not a straight line and the route itself is even more convoluted to incoropate a good selection of lanes. There is a wide selection of terrain, including some deep fords which anyone reading this blog will know are associated with Alnwick.

All seemed to be going well with perparations, even my complete lack of transport for the bike on the day in question was to be resolved by dropping it off at a collection point in advance when I could borrow a van. I’ve decided to use the YZ over the CRM despite the CRM being the logical choice (better tank range, oil tank, comfy seat) mainly on fun factor although it also has the better tyres on it. I was about to put the YZ into the van to transport it and thought “I’d better just check it starts”. Turning on the fuel lead to a puddle forming under the bike with a continual stream of fuel flowing from the overflow pipes. Hmm, not good.

None of the normal tricks to resolve this helped so it was back into the garage where I removed the carb, along with half the bike or so it seemed after letting the person at the collection point know I’d be “a bit late”. I’ve never dismantled this part of the YZ before but that wasn’t going to stop me. There was gunge in the carb and the fuel valve seemed to operate ok with things cleaned up. The floats weren’t holed or anything nasty like that and once back together, it started and worked with no fuel leaking. I didn’t have any bits left over either which is always good.

I’m hoping this is my share of the mechanical gremlins and I’ve got them out the way now. The bike is waiting ready for us to meet at 2am on Saturday (tomorrow) at the collection point from where we set off to get dropped off in the Lake District. Then the fun begins! 🙂


The spirit of Linux lives on (literally)

One memory that springs to mind this evening is something tglx said at a plumbers conference about modern Linux hackers of the modern generation not being able to hold to traditional values, like properly enjoying beer!

I think this evening we proved that wrong. If the team here in Romania was trying to get me drunk, they’re going to have to try harder but it was an enjoyable evening and I think there are people who appreciate those traditional values, long may it continue! 🙂