Northumbria TRF Camping Weekend

Its been a while since I’ve been out on the CRM but this weekend was the local TRF’s bikes, bevvies and banter weekend, camping in a field near Hexham so I made the effort to go along.

Friday was intermittent rain but it was not raining as I arrived, got the bike out the van and put the tent up. It stayed dry through most of the evening and the campfires were great for keeping warm. There was also a projector, a screen made from bits of wood and an old marquee and some of Steve’s on bike camera footage on display when it got dark enough. When the rain did arrive it was time for bed. It was also rather cold overnight getting near freezing. It rained all night and was raining the next morning.

I was in a group of 5 bikes in the ‘oh look nice scenery’ group which was being led by the treasurer and the three others were southern foreigners. We left a bit late in the hope it would fair up as promised. The bike started first kick despite being in the rain all night which was a surprise. At the first gate I stopped for, it wouldn’t restart and I ended up bumping it but I just assumed it was cold.

The day’s destination was Alston covering several trails I’ve not been on before and some I’ve only done in deep snow. There was an interesting ford with steep hillside with switchbacks either side and a steep rocky climb I quite enjoyed but one of the guys came off on it (nothing serious). We passed through showers but there were also dry times too which wasn’t too bad.

Just before lunch, the bike died suddenly with what looked like loss of electrics. It wouldn’t kick back to life but did when I switched the fuel tap from main to reserve. It seemed fine so I continued on making a mental note to pull the tap apart and check what it was doing at some future date.

We went up to Hartside cafe for a change instead of the cafe in Alston and it was filled with cyclists who looked rather weather beaten. After lunch the bike needed choke to start and took a bit of getting going yet again.

We took a trail I quite enjoyed above a stream raging with white water, crossing through overflowing streams in a few places. We also passed a group of about 20 people (not walkers but people on some kind of tour?) who looked totally bemused that a set of bikes could travel over the ground they could barely stand up on :). Getting back to the road from that trail saw me nearly getting stuck in a bog – I was trying to catch the group up, took a different line to everyone else and the bike nearly came to a stop and was sinking in a boggy bit. Leaping off the seat to the side, keeping the throttle open and pushing got it out thankfully though.

The next ford caused me some fun. There were two lines out, one nice looking and one with a steep rise up a large rock. Half way through the ford the bike went offline and I ended up going the rock route unexpectedly. If I’d applied enough power I’d have made it but I didn’t and the front wheel got up but I then stalled. This then meant reversing the bike back into the river and restarting it with the result of properly wet feet. It was kind of inevitable I guess. Nick then dropped his bike a couple of metres further up the slope to make me feel slightly better.

We were slowly winding around back to Hexham near Slaley when the bike totally died again with something suspiciously electrical looking. To rule it out I checked there was fuel to the carb. I also drained some fuel from the carb in case it was water related but it wasn’t. Messing around with various plugs suggested no spark. To conclusively prove this I ended up putting a finger into the plug cap and since I didn’t fly across the moorland when someone kicked the bike over, it was safe to say the electrics were dead. We tried bumping it and it did start but then nearly died, started and then died again.

A check of various connections didn’t show anything obvious so we decided to tow it remaining few miles back to camp although some members of the group were sceptical you could do this. I’ve never been towed on a bike before so this was an interesting learning experience. We did however make it off the trail back to tarmac and then back to the campsite with only one really hairy moment. At least this happened near the end of the day on the way back and near the site I guess. I was also very grateful for the tow back! 🙂

Back at camp I took it further to bits but didn’t find anything obvious despite a couple of false leads. It did however start and I did a couple of loops around the field however it was miss firing and not reving – I could hold it at full throttle with not much happening.

At this point I was offered lots of semi conflicting advice. The most convincing argument was stator coil failure, intermittent or otherwise. I was also told there were separate windings for the ignition coil power and the lights and that the pickup coils could have failed too.

I’ve since had the manual out and traced bits of the loom and can say for sure it only has one set of stator coils driving everything and these run through what I suspect is a rectifier only (not a reg/rect combo). It has 5 leads, 3 from the stator coils and the other two are +12V and ground. The +12V goes across a large condenser which is why I suspect its a rectifier only.

The stator wires have the same resistance between each pair of wires which suggests if a stator coil has failed its only under load/temperature. I stuck a diode tester on the rectifier leads and saw 0.7v drop between ground and two of the phases and between those two phases and the +12V consistent with a half wave rectifier setup. The third phase doesn’t give me a voltage drop reading. This suggests a couple of the diodes have failed or I’m wrong about it being a half wave rectifier or I’m just plain wrong :).

Its also possible something like a magnetic pickup has failed but if that were the case it wouldn’t explain the total loss of electrical power I’d swear I saw as it was dieing. Its also been a hard to start since I’ve owned it which could possibly be consistent with it being a single diode down? Loss of the second diode (or maybe more at higher temperatures) has then finished things off?

Anyhow, regardless, there was no way I could use the bike today (Sunday). I stayed there last night for more bevvies, fires and horror movies on the big screen which was good fun. It was sad to see everyone riding off for more fun this morning and not being able to join them but there will be other opportunities. Thanks go to the local TRF group for a good time!


Some pictures for a change

I’ve been lacking photos recently so here are a few to make up for it.

The view from the top of Simonburn taken on Saturday. This was the hill that killed the CRM’s clutch as previous reported here. The trail runs along the treeline but isn’t very visible in this photo.

How to spend a bank holiday weekend – water pipe trench digging, all 0.75m deep to comply with water regs.

Can we tunnel under the coal shed, yes we can! I just removed the remains of the internal wall and its foundations.

The trench wiggling around obstacles.

Loft boarding in progress from Sunday.


Revenge on Simonburn

After the last outing it transpired that I’d likely fractured a rib. I’ve therefore given riding a break for a couple of weekends to give it time to recover.

Yesterday saw six of us head off in the Kielder direction. We had hoped we might see some of the rally there so we had an early start but that didn’t work out. We covered a number of trails which I’d seen before but they didn’t seem as bad in the drier conditions. We also went over one ford “properly” going through the insanely deep bit rather than crawling under bridges and bardbed wire. I was quite pleased with some problematic bits I managed to handle ok. We saw a horse in the distance at one point and all pulled over and stopped, engines off. The rider couldn’t control it and the horse passed sideways with two dogs running loose. What would happen when she met a less respectful road user I don’t know but the horse clearly shouldn’t have been anywhere near a road. This left us having an early lunch in Bellingham and then off in the direction of Simonburn.

Unfortunately upon leaving Bellingham the rider in front stopped to turn right and I didn’t see his hand signal or him slowing until it was too late. At lunch he’d been explaining he couldn’t bend his right elbow beyond ninety degrees which probably contributed to the incident. Rather than skittle him and likely others I went to try and avoid him knowing I’d come off. I’m not entirely sure what I did but I only gave him a glancing blow and he stayed upright (just) whilst I went for a bit of a slide, worryingly with the bike following me. Damage to me was several holes/rips in trousers/jacket/gloves although despite the number of holes, I had only one graze to my left knee. My right forearm is bruised from the primary impact, shoulder/arm strained and my right hip brusied too. It could have been a lot worse. The bike didn’t do too badly either, I scraped what was a nice shiny looking expansion pipe, eroded chunks off the long suffering lever protectors, smashed the homemade clock assembly open and mangled the right footpeg. The speedo also later fell off due to a bolt coming loose. Both I and and the bike were ok to carry on though.

The afternoon of riding saw me making a lot of silly mistakes and I know I can do better. I didn’t come off much more as such, just ended up in various precarious positions often stalling the bike. The route saw us return to several places I’ve been before in drier conditions but the boggy bits were still waterlogged.

The feature of the day had to be the return to Simonburn. In a previous post I described the clutch exploding attempting this. Today I’m pleased to report the Honda made it up and over it. I did find a couple of horrible bogs to get stuck in on the way up but that wasn’t surprising. I also need to work on my ditch crossing technique. They did try an interesting climb up a steep bit of hill next to some kilns. My first attempt didn’t have enough speed and I ended up turning round and going back after making it halfway up. I could have taken the easy route up at this point but decided to give it another go.I made it within inches of the top before veering off along the side of the hill. I tried to recover it but ended up with the bike slipping down the slope and in the end it took three of us to drag it over back over the top the lip. I have a better idea of how to handle such things for next time I guess.

The day ended with the Chollerford steps where I managed to cross rut on an easy bit but I made it up the steps themselves fine. I was feeling a bit battered yesterday and this morning, I can certainly feel it. I have a loft to board out and ton of other DIY to do today but it will keep me moving I guess!


More playing in the Mud

I replaced a failed rear wheel bearing and fitted a new number plate and the bike then passed its MOT this week. Continuing the ongoing theme for weekends, I met up with seven others this morning and went off in search of paths through greenery. It was raining heavily when I left the house and most of the morning was in the rain/sleet/snow along with very strong winds. My glasses/visor steaming up was by far the biggest problem and you could barely see where you were going – note to self – treat with washing up liquid before next time!

The direction for the day was Durham and the Tees valley. We covered terrain that was a mix of rocks and mud in a form I’ve not seen before and was an interesting challenge. We also tried some comparatively unused trails which involved riding across heather moors with no path on a couple of occasions. I continue to be amazed at the  surfaces and obstacles the bikes will take on. I found the bike will cross 1ft deep car wheel ruts without noticing, its possible I partially jumped them, I’m not entirely sure but I made it across them when they appeared unexpectedly anyway! 🙂

I’d not been through Hamsterly forest before and kind of enjoyed the rocky exposed erosion there although the damage done by 4x4s was evident. Just before lunch I had my only fall of the day where at speed I tried to cross over what looked like a change in grass but turned out to be a narrow deep well established rut which threw the bike over. According to the witness following, I went over the bars and barrel rolled several times. My left shoulder took the main impact but it feels just bruised, thankfully.

After the off, I just left the bike on its side until feeling came back into my arm as I’ve previously learnt the hard way not to use muscles until you’ve worked out what damage you’ve done. The bike had taken an impact to the headlight, smashing the warning lights support bracket and the speedo support bracket but my design worked as the units themselves are fine, the brackets sacrificed (as per the design) and there was no other damage to the bike.

The lunch stop was shortly after this and quite welcome to let my shoulder recover a bit and to warm up (drying out wasn’t a realistic possibility).

The trip back was a lot of the route down reversed with some added twists and was comparatively uneventful. The rain had stopped and the visor wasn’t misting up making things much more pleasant and my gloves even partially dried out.

I don’t feel too tired so my fitness must be improving. I also managed a few saves today, staying on the bike for a change which was good. The ford and stream crossings today didn’t seem too bad either. I just hope my shoulder/arm isn’t too bad tomorrow as I have a DIY project to start.


Fun in the Fog

To continue a running theme, I went out playing on the CRM again yesterday. This time there was four of us in total, all KTMs apart from my trusty Honda. The direction for the day was North West and we ended up in northern Cumbria in the Brampton area.

The points of interest:

  • Spending two thirds of the day in heavy fog where I couldn’t see a rider less than 10m in front of me at times. Mist on the visor was a real problem.
  • Having a farmer on a quad weaving to stop us overtaking and then stopping and complaining about our speed (on a tarmac road).
  • The only fall of the day while crossing a ford where after being bounced off line by a rock, I deciding to launch the bike up the opposite bank in the wrong place rather than risk falling into the water.
  • Watching the bike falling off the sidestand while I was holding a gate open
  • Finding they still have railway crossings with gatekeepers who open the gates for you. He seemed surprised to see us.
  • Seeing and travelling along a rather quaint ‘disused’ byway with worn hedgerows either side, completely greened over and partially filled with debris.
  • Finding I hadn’t quite nipped the oil drain plug up tightly enough since it was dripping. Oops.
  • Riding along a rut, following the run leader when he suddenly changed ruts but not having the time to plan/execute a changeover myself. People never do that without good reason. Sure enough, the rut deepened substantially and I thought I was in trouble but somehow the bike made it through it albeit with me flailing around :).

Special mention goes to the landowner in Northern Cumbria in need of anger management lessons. I can see both sides of this but the fact is he has a public road running through the middle of his property. Yes, its not very actively used which he should really be thankful for. It would only be passable on two wheels due to the treeline around the ford at the bottom of the hill. It was obvious not a lot has passed that way for a while although you could clearly see where the road is.

We pay our road tax/MOT/insurance and hence have a right to use it and we shouldn’t have to put up with the abuse he hurled at us. I can’t remember when I last herd that amount of swearing and combined with the threats about putting things through the bike wheel spokes amongst the other abuse, it was not a pleasant experience. It amounted to bullying and intimidation which is not something I agree with so I suspect we’ll be back there. A report will go in suggesting the council rights of way officer pays him a visit too.

On a more cheerful note, we covered quite a considerable mileage (150+?) and whilst it was a long day, the trails were much easier than last weekend and I’m mostly saddlesore rather than totally drained of energy like last week. The pillion seat is actually quite comfortable to sit on when you need a change of position. The only damage to the bike I’m aware of is that in the last 5 miles back to where the van was parked, my numberplate shattered due to pressure from the spring mountings I have it on. It’ll need a new plate before the imminent MOT (and an improved spring mounting design).

Now, I just need to clean the bike and clothing…


Too much lying down on the job

After a missing a couple of weekends I was quite keen to get out on the CRM again. I joined a couple of others for a early morning start and I have to admit, I wasn’t at my best due to lack of sleep, remnants of jetlag and a rather turbulent week but nothing ventured, noting gained.

The first thing of note was that on tarmac, the bike was a new bike. The tyres are wonderful compared to the other ones on the road and off road, they felt more confident too. With the small group and the new found grip and probably mt state of mind, I became more adventurous with the bike, firstly by standing up a lot more and also by going a bit quicker. This proved to be a bit risky as I lost track of how many times I fell off the bike, I suspect it made double figures. I feel sorry for the CRM.

We covered many different tyres of terrain ranging from gravel tracks, moorland, watery muddy bogs under trees, rocky terrain with obstacles and the ever present fords. Points of interest were:

  • Coming to stop on a steep bit of hill with the front wheel up a step, trying to get going again, wheeling it and ending up with the bike vertical and me pinned against the  bank under it.
  • Successfully getting across a combination of a corner combined with bogs and a stream only to have the bike cross rut, go sideways, stall and fall over.
  • Trying to get through a bog on the moorland and getting very stuck. When you can’t see the rear wheel as it under the mud, you know its going to be fun getting it out. The three of us did get it out (thanks guys!). As I walked out, I stepped on a bad bit and I disappeared into another bit of the bog up to the tops of my thighs..
  • Crossing a ford, I went for the standing up with a bit of momentum approach. I hit a very large rock in the middle and according to the observers, the bars went to full lock, the bike stopped and I went over the bars. The bike took a little coaxing back into life since the exhaust was full of water but the engine thankfully wasn’t. After this I was rather wet. It did clean the mud off my boots and the bike though.
  • The only on tarmac incident of the day, coming up to a T junction and I was busy looking for a sign of which way to go. I put the brakes on to stop having not seen the gravel and the front wheel slid from under me, with the others watching with a grandstand view.

The day finished a little early as the others are out again tomorrow. I think given my performance this was probably good for me too. Despite the number of incidents, the clothing and other gear did its job and I’m fine, even if I may have difficulty moving tomorrow (as usual). The bike just needs some TLC on the usual areas like bending the handguards back into shape and checking on the state of the gearbox oil.

So it was good and I did enjoy it but I’ll not be pushing the boundaries quite so much next time and will hopefully have a few less interesting moments with the bike ending up on its side.


LEDs – A magic answer for vehicle lights?

I didn’t have time to write this during the week but on Thursday I finished off the repairs to the CRM. I’d already filed the notches out the clutch basket, added new friction plates and springs and reassembled the CRM’s clutch. I’d also changed the tyres to get rid of the horrible AC10s so all that remained was the set the pressures, add oils, water and bend the handguards back into shape and refit them.

By this point it was late in the evening and dark. I got kitted up, locked up the house, got the bike started and was about to ride off when I noticed a significant lack of lights on the bike. Main beam headlight worked, low beam did not, brake lights worked but no tail light or number plate light. Obviously it could not be use like this in the dark.

I decided for lights front and back to fail, it must be a wiring or switch fault and started pulling the bike to bits in the dark at the side of the road in front of the house. The bike only has electrical power when the engine is running and it was cold so wouldn’t idle. The neighbours love me. After an hour I determined there were two faults, the low beam was a fault in the headlight assembly itself and the tail light was just totally dead but had power. Its and LED unit so unlikely to be a blown bulb. Hmm.

The photos summarise the problem:

Somehow the whole thing was full of a fine silt which had corroded through the circuit boards. Filtering the silt let me find corroded remains of various components. This light unit is sold for off road vehicles and I bought it new at the end of January. To have failed this spectacularly in that time frame leaves me pretty much speechless.

I wanted to get out on the bike over the weekend and a replacement light could not be obtained in time so I chose to try and repair the mess. I found the needed resistors and diodes in my spares collection and while cleaning it up a couple of leds were found to no longer be attached to the board and had to be replaced with unmatched ones but I got the tail and brake lights working. The number plate light wasn’t so lucky, I got it working with a lab power supply but I didn’t have the 9V zener diode needed to make it work again. Plenty of silicon was used to seal it upon reassembly although I don’t hold out much hope of these repairs lasting long as there is so much corrosion, the vibration from the bike will kill it again in short order. It was enough to get it back on the road though with some minor further bodging though.


Growing Old

The past few years have given me an insight into the world of the truly elderly. Old age is an extremely cruel process and I wish I could be more upbeat about the way we (society) handle it but I think it has a lot to learn. Surprisingly few people understand the elements of true old age and I wish more people did in a way but also hope people never have to learn about or experience it too. My experiences have probably aged parts of me beyond my years.

The past few weeks have given me an insight into things I’d rather not have witnessed and again, I think society still has a lot to learn. There are also things to take encouragement from and I have a deep respect for Macmillan and Marie Curie nurses doing a job I don’t think I could ever do.

My Gran reached the age of 98 through shear determination with a good helping of stubbornness, seeing all kinds of changes in the surrounding world only some of which she accepted. I can only hope to live up the various examples she set. RIP


The weekend in Pictures

The last post didn’t have many pictures so here are some to balance things out. Firstly, the view from Chollerford bridge whilst waiting for recovery from my camera phone which doesn’t do the sky justice:

The state of the bike after being towed down a muddy hillside:

A view of the clutch basket on the bike. The comb like bits should be flat:

A better picture of the notched clutch basket. The black gunge is the remains of clutch friction plate and is also spread all over the gearbox:

Also, I ended up cutting the centre clutch nut off, the top of the nut above partially shows the butchery. It was on so tightly that I was going to damage something trying to remove it and I’d rather just buy a new nut than break something more expensive!

The state of some of the clutch plates clearly shows why there was no more drive. It should look more like the one on the left but only overheated metal remains of the one on the right:

The state of the steels that run between the friction plates. Some of these have seen some serious temperature and should be the colour of the silver one. The shiny spot on the top plate is where I tried cleaning it. I’m not sure whether to reuse these or not:

An old karting trick is just to file the notches out the clutch basket which I’ve done here. This would probably run ok but I haven’t decided whether to use this or not yet:


Simonburn 1 Honda 0

I’m going to be away for the next few weekends so I wanted to make the most of this one and get out on the CRM again. Today’s destination was Kielder to scout out some routes for a future event.

The day seemed much less difficult that the last time out and whilst the ground was very wet, it all seemed to go ok. I did end up going down a hillside way too fast, the bike and me careering all over the place, unable to brake as if I’d have tried, I’ve have been off. How I made it to the cameraman waiting at the bottom without falling off I have no idea. There was also an interesting ford crossing which I made it across and just had some difficulty getting up the large sheer rock step on the other side.

We found one trail we were looking for, the ford for the next one seemed to have entirely disappeared and the third route was fenced off and will need reporting. With that complete, back to Bellingham for lunch.

For the route back, it was decided to do something challenging and incorporate Simonburn. This is the hill that they avoided on my first trip out. We arrived there and I had immense difficulty getting through the gate at the bottom as the mud just seemed to grip the back wheel and it wouldn’t turn no matter what I did with the clutch/revs. I should have noted this and stopped then but no, I ploughed on up the hill. After the first bit, I had to stop with the bike over heating as it had needed a lot of revs to make it up there. After it cooled off, I tried to move away and the clutch seemed wrong. I adjusted the cable a bit, it seemed ok and had drive again but I was concerned and tried to ride through a ditch to where the rest were waiting as at this point I was thinking about heading back down. I got to the ditch, tried to power out, the clutch failed completely and the bike and I lay down in the water.

With help, we pulled the bike out and confirmed there was no longer any drive so it turned into a recovery operation. Others volunteered to tow it down the hill and it was suggested I let them do it as they had more of an idea of what they were doing. On the plus side I got to take a YZ250 back down and that was really good fun and interesting to see how much easier it tackled certain things. The tow back down was crazy with a couple of falls and if the bike wasn’t muddy to start with, it really was now but it made it back to tarmac.

At this point, I decided it was time for the RAC but they kindly offered to tow the bike down from the hills to Chollerford to make locating me easier. I think they were kind of enjoying themselves so I let them, following this time on a Honda XR250R which held the road nicely and was comfy but was totally flat and had no brakes by any standard I’d use.

At Chollerford we pulled into a garage to one side of a forecourt and the guy came out swearing his head off about how we couldn’t park there. We suggested that a polite request to move the bikes would have gone down better which just set him off more. That garage will not be used by anyone present in future and nobody refueled there or bought the drinks they were about to.

Nothing too eventful happened from here, the recovery vehicle arrived, picked up the bike, took me back to where the van was parked and I drove home. The bike should just need new clutch friction plates and springs but I’ll know for sure when I pull it apart after cleaning it later today. I may also replace the notched clutch basket, we’ll see if I can find one at the right price. Its a slight dint to the reliable Honda reputation but I guess clutch plates are a consumable.

I’m encouraged to have made it half way up Simonburn with a malfunctioning clutch and next time I will make it to the top! I will also change the tyres as the AC10s on it at the moment have a reputation and both bikes I tried griped mud or road better than mine.