Cold, wet and muddy!

The days are short and the weather has changed so its cold, wet and muddy. Obviously I’ve therefore been out on the CRM :).

Typical Northmberland!

A week ago was the local TRF’s bottle and turkey run which involved delivering some Christmas spirit to those landowners who have either been extremely helpful over the year, or have had issues with the rights of way over their land. It gives an opportunity to talk to them about the routes and the TRF’s responsible use policies.

It was an early start ending up at the Travellers Rest near Slaley for a very enjoyable Christmas dinner. I’d not been out for a while and it was nice to see that some new recruits have joined the local group. The Travellers Rest has a ford close by so naturally we went through it both outbound and inbound again. Its not just me who got a baptism of fire that way then (on the same ford as it happens)! The new recruits managed really well.

On Saturday I was out again, heading deeper into Northumberland. I thoroughly enjoyed it and we covered some routes in the Simonburn area which I’ve seen before but only from the other directly (which is harder). I only came off once and than was a comedy stall of momentum on the top of an earth ridge where all my feet could find was thin air at the side of the bike :).

Most interesting moment of the day was one of the fords which was fast flowing deep water. I was at the back from gate duty so missed the first few people going through and having difficulties. Unknown to me several of them just pushed it through. Had I known Steve had done this (unheard of), I’d have probably done things differently. At its deepest, the water was covering the mudguards of the bikes and was at least up to the tops of my legs and also very cold. For the shorter group members this meant waist high.

I had a go at riding through and I think I got further than anyone else that way and was mostly across but in the deepest bit when I let the revs drop low and it stalled. I kept it upright and didn’t get any water into the engine but had to pull the bike out and it was a pain to get it going again. Not as much of a pain as the 525 which also stalled mid river with the race plug in it though.

While others were helping get that going again, someone else wanted some washers to space his footpeg out to stop his kickstart hitting it. Nobody had any but I suggested making some fibre ones out of some reed with this result:

All in all, a couple of very enjoyable trips out!


Hafren Rally 2009

Saturday saw me head for Wales in the van, taking about 6 hours to get to the hotel. In Wales, filling up with diesel I said hello to Brian Eland at the next pump who lives locally – small world. That evening I never did make it to the official social but I did meet up with several Ixies and shared food, beer and banter which is always good.

We remembered to account for daylight savings time changes, had breakfast, travelled the few miles to Sweet Lamb, unloaded the bike, signed on, got the bike scrut’ed and then just had to wait for our start times.

The rally consists of 2.5 laps of a circuit with 3 special stages of which you only do 2 on the final lap covering about ~110 miles. Also, the first lap and first time through each stage is untimed as a sighting lap. There are set times you have to arrive at the times sections by though.

I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive but it was good to finally get going. It was pretty much straight into the first stage but even though a small section went through an MX track it was nothing too worrying. The one double crossed arrows bit descending a rocky path, I felt right at home on.

We eventually we came to the second stage and first time around, it seemed ok. To keep some of the more experienced riders amused, there were some optional excursions marked in between the stages. At this point the group decided it was time to try one. I decided I might as well join them, how hard can it be? 🙂 It turned out to be fine and an interesting diversion. It did make time for the next section a little tight though. Of minor note was that at some point I did end up stopping and leaning the bike against a tree but that doesn’t count as falling

The lap seemed to go on forever and had some fun moments like when I found some sudden large bumps/dips in the track whilst travelling at speed and just had to ride them out, hoping the bike could deal with them which it could :). Eventually the Sweet Lamb complex came into view and I could fuel the bike, grab something quick to eat/drink and then off again.

The first proper timed section must have been ok, I remember little about it. The second timed section was where things went wrong as I came across Russell blocking an uphill bit, mostly made it round him, stalled, got going, looked back to see if he was ok, overbalanced and flooded the bike. Eventually got going then later on an uphill bit I managed fine the first time around, I lost momentum, started to struggle and then had the guy behind plough into me. It took a while to untangle everyone and get moving again but I stayed on the bike throughout. At the end of stage 2 I also managed to crash into one of the the stage exit posts in front of everyone but it was after the timing line so could have been worse :).

About this time my energy was running low and I slowed down to stop myself making too many mistakes. Eventually Sweet Lamb appeared again, yay, 2 laps completed. Only a few minutes until I had to be at the next gate so no time for a rest.

Strangely I had more energy and felt more optimistic about this lap. Stage 1 was fine. Stage 2 turned into a disaster as I dropped the bike several times, mostly getting away with it until in the clay I properly lay it on its side. Could I kick it back to life? Not for what seemed like an eternity, all just 200 yards from the stage end. I did get it started and finished however 🙂

Thanks to Shez, Gary, Andy, Russell, Jon and Pete for keeping an eye on me, that and just the company in general was much appreciated.

Did I enjoy it? Yes! What have I learnt? I’m hopeless on clay and fire roads. The track is different after 700 motorcycles have been over it pays not to make assumptions. Would I do it again? I’d not rule it out. Wales is a long way away but who knows 🙂

The trip back home was much faster, I guess the roads were just quieter and so I’ve got a few hours to recover before heading to the airport for 4am!


Never straightforward

Last week I was in London and Grenoble due to arrive home on Saturday. Sadly there was a human+train interface in France which delayed trains for hours including the one I was on meaning I missed my train to Newcastle in London and had to stay there overnight arriving back here Sunday.

The Embedded Linux conference was interesting with 8 different presentations on build systems. The common thought was “how can we reduce the number and concentrate the effort into making them better?”. A hard question but OpenEmbedded and Poky seem to be leading the way in the areas of features and userbase size. It was interesting to hear how Montavista are using OE. Learning the way others do things is interesting and I have some new ideas for bitbake too!

Bike wise I’ve been traveling too much to get out on it but next weekend I’m booked into the Hafren rally in Wales in preparation I changed the tyres on the CRM. Whilst doing so I found:

which is a crack running through the sidewall of the rear wheel rim about 10mm in length. Getting another rim is looking difficult and the two on ebay are broken in a similar way so it looks like I’ll have to resort to finding someone with an aluminum welder. Things never seem straightforward.


Kielder Forest Trail Ride

This weekend I took part in run into Kielder forest with permission from the forestry commission. People were invited to camp in a field near Hexham, travel up to the forest in small groups, be led through the forest as one large group with guides spacing it out and then split into groups again to travel back to the campsite. I was asked to and agreed to act as a guide for one of the easy groups.

I arrived early before the weekend to help with the setup of the projector screen for the nighttime entertainment, collecting firewood and so on. A pleasant evening was spent around a campfire. On Friday people started arriving I met far too many new faces and names.

The Big Screen and fires

Saturday was an early start and ~60 bikes were assembled and dispatched in groups. The first half of the day went well, I got my group to the right place at the right time and we set off into the forest. The slower/easy groups were first in the combined pack with me following behind them to deal with any issues. Early on there was a fast flowing ford that nearly caught a couple of my group out but thankfully they made it through. Most of the roads were forest fire roads and fairly solid albeit with a loose surface in places. In Kershope forest we came across some challenging terrain and ended up diverting the second half of the group around via an alternative route.

The most trail bikes I’ve seen in one place!

A couple of people had mechanical issues which the tail runners dealt with and we redeployed the guides accordingly with me ending up back marking the main group. This was fine until we came to a grassy steep ascent which there was no way around. For those that ran into real difficulties, we had some experienced riders who helped get bikes to the top. Being the back marshal I got to be last up after everyone else which made things more of a challenge. There were offers to get the bike up for me but I gave it a go myself and did eventually make the top with a couple of breaks on the way up, one forced to let the overheating bike cool down. I did get some assistance in places which was appreciated. I also managed to twist my knee when my foot was stuck in mud at one point feeling it kind of go pop. Thankfully I was able to take weight off it and stop the twisting quickly and think I just strained it and didn’t do more serious damage. I need to investigate knee braces.

The group stopped at a clearing/junction

At this point our rear group caught back up so I redeployed 2/3rds through the group and this is where the day took a turn for the worse. As I understand it there was a collision between two bikes and then concerns about broken bones.

The incident happened behind me and I spent a while waiting at a junction wondering why there were no bikes following before doubling back carefully to investigate. I didn’t get to the incident before I met a messenger heading for the main group/leader. He was a more experienced rider but I had GPS and the route so I followed in case he couldn’t find his way. I knew there would be plenty of people including the rear guides at the scene.

By the time he reached them, the group was mostly down a steep tricky decent which people couldn’t get back up so I stayed at the top acting as a messenger between the crash site and the others. We were just before the refueling site so I was on reserve and low on fuel.

What follows is a long story and a long day for me. To try and briefly summarise, the riders were taken to hospital by air ambulance. The lack of fuel complicated things, as did the need for people to stay with the crashed bikes while recovery was arranged. There was a messenger’s bike out of fuel in the decent which needed to be recovered and I joined a small sweep through team who checked the route, picked it up and then got to the refuel point. It was then back to Hexham to become the bike recovery detail. The crash site was just short of the Scottish border in a very remote area with no good through roads from the English side meaning long round trips to get to the scene for support. There was also a lack of mobile phone signal for most of the forest and a lot of the surrounding area meaning communication was difficult and Chinese whispers were hard at work.

We did get back, refueled the remaining bikes, collected one of the crashed bikes, the other had already been collected and got everyone back to camp. It did take a while and I’m grateful to those people for their patience.

On a positive note, I’m told both injured people were discharged from hospital that evening. One had a broken thumb in end, the other knee injuries according to the last reports I heard which was much better than the picture painted at the scene.

Some further photos and another experiences of the weekend

I hope this unfortunate incident doesn’t adversely affect our chances of future use of the forest. Several of the riders went out of their way to help in various ways and thanks have to go to them. They’ve helped maintain my faith in human nature.

Finally, I have to say the emergency services did a fantastic job at the scene.


Finally sorting the MGB issues?

I’ve been having problems getting my MGB’s engine to run right. This was traced to an insanely high compression ratio which in turn was caused by fitting standard pistons in a North American export low compression engine.

I did try and mess with the carburation but couldn’t get it right. The three options left were therefore:

  • Take the engine to bits and try and increase the head volume by gaskets or replacement pistons.
  • Convert to some kind of fuel injection and electronic ignition in the hope the carburation could then be customised and fixed.
  • Change the engine for a different one.

Circumstances mean I need a working car. The first option would mean a prolonged period of messing around with the car unusable and I don’t have time or space to do it or the second at the present time. I did however have a known to run space engine stored in the back of a garage so the third option it was.

So on Saturday I extracted said engine from behind mountains of stuff and then pulled the old engine+gearbox out of the car in record time. I switched the gearbox over and was preparing to insert the other engine when I discovered my spare was from a MGBGT which different engine mounting plates. This was recoverable but meant removing the crank pulley, timing cover, camshaft sprockets and chain from both engines and swapping parts which took a while, not least due to having to go and locate bigger sockets+tools to attack the large bolts.

Despite this, by midnight on Saturday the new engine was in with engine and gearbox mounts attached. This left various things to reconnect today (and change the GT waterpump and thermostat housings over too).

Mid afternoon Sunday I turned the key, it kicked over and after a few rotations, fired up :). Apparently I looked rather surprised. It miss fired a little at high rpm due to the distributor being loose and advancing itself but that was easy to fix by actually setting the timing.

The trip back from my brothers workshop seemed to go ok although the speedo died half way. The engine doesn’t miss/back fire, die at 3,000rpm or misbehave like the other so initial signs are good. The speedo cable had snapped and has now been temporarily repaired.

Its MOT is due in a couple of weeks so lets hope that goes ok.

Some photos with the camera phone (sadly a bit fuzzy):

Where’s the engine gone?

The original engine and gearbox on the engine hoist

The new engine in the car but missing the radiator, carbs, plug leads and other parts and with the wrong thermostat housing

The replacement fully installed


An action packed four days

Its taken me a while to post this but the 6th/7th August were my annual trip to Cadwell Park, a race circuit in Lincolnshire (some nice views from the air).

The Daytona coming into Coppice

Whilst I’m not sure I was going much quicker this year, I was a lot more comfortable to be doing what I was doing which was nice. Oddly I was also much more comfortable moving around the bike a bit this year, perhaps due to the offroad riding and being happier about the bike moving underneath me.

Piglets (the group I was in) did seem to have a few ‘interesting’ overtakes this year and the person who out braked themselves into Park and shot up my inside just as I was about to turn into the corner made life interesting. Thankfully they then went offline letting me turn into the corner and everyone survived. They also did find me and apologise which does make a difference.

On Friday we packed up and left quickly as I was booked into a TRF camping weekend in Yorkshire. This meant driving home, unloading the bikes, unpacking the van, loading the CRM and offroad stuff and catching a few hours sleep and then getting to North Yorkshire for 8am on Saturday.

I was pleased to actually manage that (who needs sleep!) and then spent a pleasant weekend riding around the North York moors 🙂 I was out with a number of friends from Northumbria TRF being led by the event Yorkshire event organiser.

The TRF runs were not without incident. 2 miles out on Saturday we had a puncture. The CRM was then miss firing like crazy so I tried changing the plug with no change. After going slowly up a steep hill on full throttle with no power I investigated further finding some rather soggy ECU connections, removed the water and rewrapped it in plastic. The bike started, sounded good and then died, not wanting to restart. We quickly discovered the plastic on the ECU was now sucked over the airbox inlet. Oops :). After application of tape, it ran fine.

Some lanes followed, then a relaxed pub lunch where it was noted my number plate and bracket were snapped off and missing. Hmm. We then headed back to the camp site with some concerns over the amount of fuel we had due to no fuel stop.

We went down an interesting very steep rocky descent which was heavily water eroded with large boulder obstacles. I’ve never been over anything quite like it before and was very pleased we were going downhill!

After some trips across some moorland it was then lots of downhill roads into the camp field. This was fortunate as the bike chose this moment to run out of fuel. I coasted down the hill and pushed it the remaining distance to the van. Beautiful timing 🙂

Whilst the day had been red hot, we spent the evening huddled around a fire watching video about the Ertsberg rally projected onto the side of a barn. There was also a steam train + dining car came by and a lovely stone bridge to watch it from.

The next day with the bike being refueled we headed out for a short run towards the coast. I managed to stall it in the ford next to the field which was a good start but kept my footing, restarted and got out. There was a steep muddy climb with some troublesome tree roots half way up which did cause me problems as I’d stopped at the bottom to close a gate. With a little assistance I did make it up eventually though :).

Things got better from there with other people falling off instead of me. I had to pull another CRM off the top of someone after he overtook me trying to show off :).

We stopped near Whitby for breakfast/lunch/icecream and then took to some lanes near Robin Hood bay. I took some photos here with the camera phone:

On the way out of there someone suffered a rear puncture meaning a tyre changing stop. A police car drove past, turned around, came back and stopped with the officers than questioning us on where we’d been. We eventually convinced them we’d been doing legal things and they were leaving when they spotted a bike missing its number plate (not mine). Thankfully they left with just a warning about getting it sorted and that there were traffic cops around on the nearby trunk road who would pull us for it.

This left a dilemma as there was a number in the group without plates but we decided to chance the main road and there was no traffic cops thankfully.

The rest of the trip back to the field went fine, we came up to another group and it was interesting to see some riders who were slower than me for a change! I was out with some rather good riders and the slowest there, as usual with my Northumbria TRF friends :/.

In the ford next to the field, the other CRM owner decided to drown his bike but at least we could tow him back onto the site to fix it. Several people seemed to have problems going through there this time and the water was significantly higher than that morning. I rode through without incident which was nice :).

This just left packing up and driving home which I eventually summoned the energy to do. I’ve been having problems with my energy levels recently, not helped by the flu thing I had and whilst I’m totally shattered, I did manage everything and came back home in one piece with working bikes! I only fell off twice on Saturday both just silly bike sideways, lie down under it things and didn’t come off on Sunday.

So an action packed four days, tiring but enjoyable and good fun!

Next up is the Northumbria TRF run into Kielder forest on the 22nd August.


Mechanical Suffering

When checking the bike over I discovered the chain and sprockets are unlikely to last another trip out and one of the rear wheel bearings has play in it. I took some photos of the suffering of the bike:

A little bit of erosion

and plenty of scratches to the handguards.

A sick looking front sprocket

and a not much better looking rear

The front panel has finally been ripped from its mount on the radiator. This has been likely to happen for a while as it was already badly cracked. I haven’t decided how to fix this yet.

A standard bike footpeg

The footpeg I mostly rebuilt from bits of steel bar

The bike, showing signs of wear but not holding up badly considering.


Riding in the Mist

I went out on the bike on Saturday meeting up with three other local TRF people. The weather wasn’t too nice being think mist/drizzle in the Tyne valley and making riding with glasses + visor a pain. After going around Slaley forest we headed for the Wear valley and there was briefly sun for a while before the stop for lunch in Alston. Just before lunch the CRM developed a tendency to stall and refusal to start which turned out to be an oiled up plug – I had spares. Of note was the group leader falling into the Wear which makes a change from me falling off.

After lunch we headed back via some trails I’ve done before. On a downhill rocky section I picked up a bit of speed I had difficulty losing and ended up dropping the bike and sliding down the rocks with the bike on my leg. I was trapped under the bike for a while until I worked out how to lift the bike off without putting pressure on my leg. The bike boots did their job well and its just a bit bruised thankfully. The bike was fine after a little adjustment of the handguards.

Apart from the CRM stalling whilst holding another persons bike for a gate and refusing to restart, the rest of the trip was without incident. For this trip I had my new Garmin Oregon 300 in a pocket so I can now work out where I’ve been and start contributing to OpenStreetMap. I need to sort out a bikemount/batteries/charger for it but it seems to have kept a reasonable track of my position despite the horrible weather and being in a pocket.


Weekend Photos

People like photos, so here are some from the weekend on flickr:
Northumbria TRF Camping Weekend Photos

Thanks Tony!


Broken Bike Update

The bike has a full wave regulator + rectifier combined and the OE replacement part is expensive but Elextrex do a suitable cheaper aftermarket part. It arrived this morning so I fitted it tonight. The first thing you notice is the replacement is twice the size of the original and won’t fit the original location but it does have connectors that fit straight to the loom. Thankfully the bike has an aftermarket rear shock with no external reservoir so there is a space where that should go I could mount the reg/rect in.

As I removed the old unit, I found a hidden metal clip which had half sawn through the leads to it. Gah! This would explain the cut outs, the single dead phase and the other electrical gremlins. If I’d found that on Saturday night I could have repaired it and used the bike on Sunday plus saved the cost of a new unit assuming its undamaged from the shorts. Ah well.
After fitting the new unit, its noticeably easier to start, so far so good. The road test revealed a horrible misfire after higher rpms just like it did in the field. Much faffing with spark plugs ensued but that wasn’t the problem. Dismantling the CDI/ECU connections, applying copious WD40 and reassembling did fix it though.

So its ready to go playing in mud and I have an unusually strong urge to use it. Roll on the weekend (assuming I can find anyone to play with).