Fun in the Snow

Not put off by the ongoing issue with my knee from the last trip (prepatellar bursitis or a big lump of fluid on it in English) I decided to join another run on the CRM today. I have changed to beefier knee armour and a more appropriate helmet. The original destination of Alnwick was too flooded due to melting snow. 2ft deep fords aren’t a problem but 3ft+ is a bit deep for some reason. The guides therefore made the obvious choice of heading for high ground with large amounts of snow, the target being Alston, a favourite of mine on a road bike and one of the highest market towns in England. If there’s weather around, this is where you’ll find it.
The start of the run saw me falling off into thick mud early on as I was trying too many new things at once but that was my only proper fall of the day. We went through the same ford as last time, the water was a bit deeper due to meltwater but the CRM didn’t seem to mind. As we got higher, the snow got deeper and its amazing how much grip you do and don’t have on snow/ice. We ended up snow plouging up a hillside in 1ft deep snow. That wouldn’t have been so bad but the frozen heavily rutted ground underneath was hidden meaning 1ft deep snow at your front wheel might be 3ft deep where you put your foot down to stready the bike. Fun. The CRM started overheating during the hill climb and needed several cooling off periods, packing the engine with snow to cool it down quicker.

Comical moment of the day was getting flung from the seat and landing standing next to the bike, hands still on the controls and carrying on walking alongside the bike without stopping :).

Eventually we made it to Alston. I was totally drained and ready for lunch (cumberland sausage). After lunch the guides laughed evily to themselves and headed off. Hmm, thats never a good sign. I didn’t find the first bit too bad, the next bit I had a go at ploughing the lead track and the bike had a hissy fit, literally where it spat its overheated radiator water out creating a nice steam cloud and making me seriously wonder if I’d holed the cooling system. At ths point I just got off it, leaving it standing in deep snow (no stand needed) and had a lie down in the snow to cool off myself.

40m ahead the next gate was found to be buried deeply in the snow and the guides seriously considered turning back. We’d split into two groups and the other group then arrived so we suggested they dig the gate out which they did and we continued on into ever deeper snow. With a groove to follow ploughed by bikes with bigger engines and better cooling this wasn’t so bad apart from me being totally worn out and aching all over. At the end of this trail some tarmac appeared thankfully and whilst there were some further lanes, the rest of the trip back was much easier.

I tried not to write an essay this time and failed. Pictures are worth 1000 words and whilst a lot haven’t come out well with the camera phone:

This shows the kind of conditions. The riderless bike is my CRM, there is no stand down and its up to its axles in snow, a comparatively shallow bit!

This looks back where at where we’ve just been from the same spot. Very nice scenery. That trench is at least 1ft deep and never usually that straight, you can see it wind around more in the background.

This is at the end of the nasty bit, with everyone (both groups) taking a breather. The decent we’ve just made is the snow between the two walls at in the centre of the picture at the back. I would have enjoyed that bit if I wasn’t so tired, it had a river running down the middle from the meltwater and was good fun.

The endorphins from today are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced and it was a real challenge and good fun. I’m sure its doing my fitness some good too so I’m looking forward to the next trip out.


Getting Muddy

Recently I bought a CRM250 with a view to trying a different form of bike riding.

On Sunday I joined 4 other TRF members for a trip around some local green lanes for its first outing. It was an interesting day, starting from Prudhoe, going I lost track of where and ending up back there, a bit battered but both me and the bike will live to fight another day.

I managed the first unsurfaced bit ok, then on the tarmac to the next bit I noticed people being very careful, then as I was trying to slow down, had the front end slide, I caught it, it slid again I caught it, it slid again and didn’t catch it and ended up sliding down the road following the bike. Oops. I thought the plastic lying in the road was off me but if it was I have no idea where from[3]. One lever protector was twisted around, I’d scraped the tax disc holder (wtf?) and the number plate had flipped up[1] but the bike survived[2]. I’d shredded my waterproof trousers but the Master III trousers underneath survived the abrasion with only one hole in the outermost layer. As for me, I bashed me knee on something but its just swollen/bruised. What a great start and a good first impression to the other guys. They did take a look at my front tyre and suggested I might like to change it for something with grip.

Things thankfully did get better from there. I was given tips about how to get across a rocky ford and made it ok. It was looking a bit touch and go half way but opening the throttle sorted that (as it seemed to in various other places) :). They did tell me to aim at the side of a particular boulder on the other side which I ended up going over the top of but that was a minor detail and what else is suspension for?

We went down various ‘easy’ lanes but nothing too eventful happened and eventually we stopped for lunch.

After this they headed for a section with some knowing looks. “Hmm”, I think. They pointed out some deep ruts up a hillside and said to my relief we weren’t going that way as it would be a bit rough on a novice and would do something moderate instead. They warned me about another ford which had rather deep sides but the bike seemed to enjoy that one, then it was onto the moderate hillside. I wasn’t getting much traction and stopped half way up for a chat with one of them about weight distribution. The other guy tried to get going and had a lot of difficultly so they started to say I’d be better off going to the bottom and starting again. I decided to at least try and move and actually got traction and proceeded up the hill[4] in what they later described as a model manoeuvre. That was probably the highlight of the day.

There was a ford crossing followed by a another steep hillside which I didn’t do quite as well on. I did manage some photos of that one although they don’t do the gradient justice and the camera phone is rubbish.

The next flat boggy bit with big reedy clumps of grass and 1ft deep standing water was my idea of hell. I wasn’t doing too badly until I went offline and hit a clump head on and ended up stuck on top of it. Getting off the bike I was able to power it off with me standing next to it. I seem to remember lying on my side in the mud at a point too, wondering why I always went over onto my left side. It wasn’t a crash as such, just safer to lie me and the bike down and rethink things a bit.

After getting into difficulties on the real boggy bit, I tried an alternative route, got hopelessly out of shape and the phrase “when in a hole, stop digging” became relevant and I ended up letting one of them get the bike somewhere near the track again. They told me to stay on line and it was good advice. You live and learn.

The next bit of hillside was fun, as indicated by them all gathered around the top to watch. I did the first bit great, and got 3/4 of the way then stalled. After some help getting the front wheel in the same rut as the rear I did make it to the top. At this point my energy reserves were at a low and I really started for feel it, being barely able to lift the bike, let alone kick start the thing. Some talk about the next bit of route involved the word “steps” so I could guess whats was coming.

Sure enough, it started going uphill, very rocky and then I ran into difficulties stalling it on the first step as I lacked momentum, stalled half over it and then couldn’t get the back wheel up. After several attempts I made it over that one, over the next, then find then all gathered about the big final one to watch. I built up plenty of speed, looked like I was going to collide with the bank on one side so just pulled that leg out the way, did collide with the side but just kept the throttle nailed and that was that, no problem :). Apparently that shamed one of them who had fallen off there whilst I was having fun with the first step.

I hated the next bit of soft rut following and the bike flashed a warning light which I think was the temperature one as it went out again. More lanes followed with varying challenges and eventually we ended up back in Prudhoe.

All in all, quite good fun. Scary at times, I’ve a lot to learn and having sat typing this, I know my knee will scream with pain when I get up but I’m pleased I went and did it. I’m grateful for the patience and help from the other guys as its obvious I was slowing them down a bit but you have to start somewhere I guess and as they said, they’ve all been there. I’m really impressed with the amount of abuse the CRM took and survived, a testimony to what you can do with engineering.

Its probably a good thing I’m in Brussels next weekend and have a coupleof weeks to recover before my next outing. I *must* get some proper armour before next time. I’m *very* thankful I bought proper boots.

Oh, and one of them had a helmet mounted video camera which I’m dreading seeing the highlights of…

[1] I spring mounted my plate and I should probably patent that design as it survived a ton of abuse which conventional bolts wouldn’t have done.
[2] I’m very thankful I removed the indicators as they wouldn’t have survived.
[3] At least two of the group have crashed cars or bikes at that spot so the plastic must have been from someone else.
[4] This mainly involved full throttle, wheel spin, no mechanical sympathy and sheer determination that I was going up the hill.


Beaver gets an Upgrade

A Poky beaver gets an upgrade.


Baskerville Hall

I spent my weekend at Baskerville Hall in South Wales which quite an impressive building, now a hotel and is where Conan Doyle wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles even if he set it in Dartmoor to confuse people. You can feel something of the book about the place.

As the pictures feel, it was mainly dark, wet and windy. I covered 762 miles on the 675 over the weekend and saw some lovely roads and scenery but sadly took few pictures due to the weather.

I was in good company with lots of friends there and the number wimping out and traveling by car was lower than expected!

The bad bit is the bike is now totally filthy and is going to take some cleaning. Its also developed some worrying squeaks. The new tyres coped admirably with the wet roads and my confidence in the wet on the bike has defintely improved.

On a technical note, I did take a GPS and the n800, wiring both into the bike battery for the first time. Unfortunately due to a cable mixup, the n800 didn’t charge and ran out of battery by the time I reached Wales. I hadn’t taken any paper maps but thankfully knew where I was going. Maybe next time I’ll finally get a working navigation system on there.


The Grim Frozen North

As some people might have realised I quite living in the grim frozen north. Why? I like the wide range of scenery it has to offer and the beauty of the place. As a random sample, here’s a photo of Dunstanburgh Castle from the weekend:

(Click to enlarge)


Poky 3.1 (Pinky) Released

Lots of things have been happening and I don’t pay enough attention to this site but I should mention the new Poky release here. It includes lots of exciting improvements including the SDK and QEMU integration which make it one of the most functional cross compiling application development environments around. The new manual should make things easier for new users too. For more information see the new Poky Website!