Friday, 29 August 2014

Green Laning - North Lakes Circuit

Lucy & I just rode about 120 miles of small lanes & green lanes all around the North Cumbria region yesterday. It's took quite a bit of time to ride a fair few of these lanes to check them out, then put them together into a day long riding loop but it was worth it!

They take you some great villages, you see some lovely views & there are several cool cafe's en route too... happy days!

So we set off around 10am, the first lanes took us into Waverton to get fuel, then a bit of road to get across to Rosley where we began to slowly climb towards Alston Moor. There is a lovely little lonning that takes you to Welton, then we dropped around & down past Rose Castle & upto Roughton Head. There are two lanes that access fields, farms & villages here, which are great fun & at the moment really dry so quite easy to ride. These take you through to Gaitsgill, then its a bit more road to access the Aikengate lane to the east of the M6.

Aikengate lane is lovely, the views across to the Lakes are beautiful in all weathers, the lane is a bit overgrown at the far end & drops steeply to a fairly knackered old gateway opposite a lovely little cottage. It basically needs more traffic, but be respectful riders as the people who live in the cottage at the end would get very fed up of really loud, screaming bikes & then have cause to complain.

From here we headed up into Armathwaite & picked up a lovely lane that starts out on sand, then moves into woodland before dropping back to the road. This is another little gem of a run out & as always helping us to get closer to Hartside by following off road routes.

Red Lane is the next little playground, which in summer is pretty & easy, in winter it's a mud fest of the highest order! Coming out of the end of Red Lane & following little lanes on the way upto Haresceugh which we descended back to the tarmac. Our final bit before lunch at the cafe was a climb up the lane I call Hazelrigg, this has just been resurfaced with loads of chunky gravel, which makes the climb interesting to say the least, no doubt though this will protect it well for the winter, so thankyou to whoever shelled out for this!
Lucy struggled on the upper section of this, having 4 falls, all of which were very funny to watch & judging by the laughter coming from her helmet each time she found great fun too!! Picking up the poor little XR was getting harder though by the 4th one!

We dropped over the back of the fell into Alston via a couple of lanes that have some great views into Garrigill & Alston itself. We began to look at a couple of the lanes over that way, but they started to take us too far away from home for today's plans, so we retraced our steps to Hartside & returned back down Haresceugh before heading to ride up Gamblesby & back to the A686.

We decided to try to look at a couple of new lanes on our homeward leg, but they turned out to be bridleways & footpaths now plus they travel past a couple of farm houses, so a retreat back into Penrith saw us in Doug's Diner for a great bacon butty, then out to Greystoke to ride the couple of lanes around there.

We rode over to Longlands as Lucy had never ridden this, it was such a beautiful warm day that we decided to spend some time practicing downhill stuff over there, before heading off towards High Ireby & the lovely little lane that leads eventually to Torpenhow. From there it's a short hop on various roads back home.

A grand day out, with a fair initiation into the highs & lows of a full day of off road riding for Lucy, big grins all round, plus a fair bit of tea & cake consumed throughout the day... Fab stuff!!

Here are a few GoPro films of the lanes we rode that we've uploaded to YouTube, enjoy...

YouTube Links:
Hazelrigg Uphill
High Ireby Lane

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Lake District Playing

This last bank holiday weekend a few of us managed to get out on the bikes to play around the Lakes, including visiting plenty of known lanes & visiting a few new ones... Great stuff!!

Mark, Gaz, Lucy & myself all got out to play, there was mud, water, rocks, a couple of off's & some great cafe's, what more can you ask for on a weekend out??

Gaz breaking through the Jurassic Lane

XT600 - with a few new bits... what a beaut!!
DR350 - the perfect old green lane tool!

mmm great signage!

Mark's DR in action...

In a less active setting!

YouTube Links:
Hazelrigg Lane
Haresceugh Lane
Coach Road 
Mosser Fell

Monday, 25 August 2014

Cumbria County Council Letter

Below is a copy of the email I've just sent to our local council, I'm fed up of hearing nothing but negative comments from certain organisations who all seem to have a bee in their bonnet about off road drivers & riders.. yeah sure there a few bad apples out there, but tell me an avenue of life where there aren't these days?? why is there so much angst against a group of people who have decided to use the outdoors in such a way?? When it comes down to a conversation about costs, how much have the huge stone footpaths cost in the lakes, with the quarried stones coming from various parts of the UK in trucks, then helicoptered in to the site, then hand laid... mmm that was cheap! but this seems to be acceptable compared to the lanes that actually need no maintenance, repair themselves most winters & are also looked after by the group of people who use them. The people who practice these sports aren't exactly short of either commitment or enthusiasm, they spend hours making their machinery suitable for the tasks, take my mate Gaz for example, his bike is a 1983 Yamaha, it cost about £500 to buy, he's spent thousands on it to make it what it is today, a great green laning tool... why should that effort & money spent be perceived as a negative thing?? I really don't understand people in the UK these days, they seem to lack any kind of tolerance lately!! 

Big grins in a great setting & with good company!

Feel free to compliment your local council when they provide such an excellent resource!

Dear Sirs

I would like to offer both my thanks & my compliments for the website information that you have provided concerning the off road driving & riding in Cumbria. Managing & promoting this activity in an organised way is a much more pro-active method of dealing with the pressures involved. Cumbria is one of the few Council’s where this information is openly available & long may that continue.

Several of our little group live in Cumbria, my girlfriend & I plus a variety of friends who are from various parts of the UK, (They all visit the Lakes & surrounding areas to enjoy the countryside & ride all of these lanes on a regular basis), use this information to access the lanes that we enjoy so much. 

We make every effort to stay within the boundaries of what is perceived as socially acceptable behaviour whilst out, shutting gates, riding quietly, giving way to walkers/horses etc. That is very rarely a difficult task, (although we have encountered a couple of 'interesting people displaying some odd behaviour over the years). 

We also devote some time to cleaning up less used lanes up, trimming back overgrown vegetation etc. This is after all a past time that requires a lot of energy, some financial investment & a love of being in the outdoors & challenging oneself in multiple ways.

One thing I would like to add to my thanks is that I always seem to hear only negative comments from certain bodies who seem to be very antagonistic against all of the off road community, from my point of view, as someone who has both earned my living & enjoyed all forms of outdoor activities, (Including walking, climbing, mountain biking, caving etc), around the UK & much further afield is that I have yet to meet any person practicing off road activities that has acted in any way other than respectful of the areas they use for their leisure activities. I am fully aware that there are individuals who are far less respectful, however in my experience I have found that the odd piece of antagonism that I have personally experienced has come from outside sources who do not even use the areas they are complaining about. 

Most of the folk I’ve encountered practicing these sports are 40 & over, they bring revenue to the region as tourist visitors or live here, they prefer the lanes to be unmanaged so that they can ‘test’ themselves & their machinery, so there is little cost in the form of maintenance for yourselves, (although I am aware you must have some legal requirements to meet). They deal with any mechanical failures themselves as they are generally in small groups & carrying the necessary equipment along with having specialist knowledge to render a solution efficiently.

On the whole I have found the people I’ve met are ‘normal’ people, they earn a living, they pay their taxes, they try not to break the laws of this land & they just want to enjoy the pastime that they have found. 

I thought I would send you these positive comments & post them onto the Trail Riders Fellowship forum so that for once there are some positive comments for your efforts instead of the more common less positive statements that seem to be the norm in the UK. So thank you again for all of your efforts to make this an accessible past time for all.


Reply 26 August 2014

Mr Stout

Thank you for the feedback but as a rule it is mostly positive feedback we receive regarding the web-site and vehicle use in Cumbria. From the start of the process we decided it was important to give a ‘yes’ message rather than telling people what they cannot do.

I’m afraid that Cumbria CC cannot take all the credit for the information supplied and credit must also go to the TRF, who’s volunteers collate the information and monitor the routes on the ground for us.


David Gibson | Senior Countryside Access Officer| Strategic Asset Management | Parkhouse Building |Kingmoor Park | Carlisle | CA6 4SJ |

Suzuki DR650 - Mark's Bike

This is a bike that has seen a hard life... It looks a little tired up close & it's showing it's age & abuse by continually having mechanical issues. So far each time we've set out for a weekend of riding, this bike has broken down & had to be recovered or limp home. It cost £1200 from a bike shop near Nuneaton. Not a place I'd go back to after the hassles with this bike & the dodgy sales guy, but hey you live & learn...

Suzuki DR650
That said with some time, effort & a fair bit of expenditure it could be brought back to something resembling a decent bike. It benefits from the pedigree it has come from, another bombproof bike from Suzuki, with a well tried & tested set of kit behind it. Like all good things it needs some love & attention to bring it back to it's former glory!

Mark's riding skills make this bike look small & it suits his riding style coming from a motocross background. Green laning requires multiple skills from many disciplines, with little time to decide which is the best method to use as you approach an obstacle, Mark tends to use the power of the bike to see him through & a fair bit of good balance, it's great to watch him power up a steep uphill section or blast into some deep water. Once the DR is sorted & set up right it'll be a cool tool to use.

Before that however it's all about getting it running consistently, on a steep technical uphill near Hartside Cafe near Alston at the weekend, the clutch decided to give out, so a retreat was in order, turn the bike around, which had now turned into a rather heavy lump, get it running & roll down hill as best as he could. Some adjustment to various bits of the clutch assembly & Mark crept upto the cafe on the tarmac for some tea, before bailing & heading back to mine.

Mark headed back home with a plan to order a new clutch & come back up to fit it, so that'll be a wet weekend in playing with oily bits. The bike has just had its cam chain adjuster replaced after it failed, broke to bits & fell into the bottom of the engine, causing a long recovery session of about 3.5hrs as we were really in the middle of nowhere when it happened... hey ho, the joys of dirt biking...

Lets see what the next phase of the renovation of this bike will bring!!

Green Laning Initiation

I started learning to ride at the beginning of June this year and my initiation to green laning was a couple of weeks ago with Steve, Steve's brother in law, Mark and his mate Gaz. I have a little Honda XR 125 and it handles the off road stuff really well, much better than I do! On my first day out we covered some great local lanes and I fell off a couple of times, got totally soaked but absolutely loved it. I need to work a bit on my technique - no that's a lie - I need to work a lot on my technique as I spent most of the day hanging on and hoping for the best - but had a great time and it helped my confidence massively. I had a fun day and the lads were great and totally looked after for me and I am sure they also had a chuckle at my 'interesting' technique.

Add caption

A  few weeks later, after failing my big bike mod 2 and being completely gutted, Steve suggested that I get out and do some more green lanes and forget about junctions and roundabouts. He couldn't have suggested anything better.....

I was working most of the bank holiday weekend and so spent most of the days sulking but then getting out in the evenings to enjoy the quieter roads and the setting sun. On Friday evening Steve and me headed out over the Coach Road and after letting out some air pressure out of my highly pumped up tyres, I started to get the hang of it. There's one tricky uphill section on the Coach Road that I am still working out, but the rest of it I really enjoy. Its a great section of off road for a beginner like me and you really feel like you are out on the fells away from the busy traffic of the main roads. We had a play around and after a couple more lanes headed for home before it got too dark.

On the Saturday evening I met up in Caldbeck with Steve and Gaz on their way back from a day out over Alston way. It was a great evening and I did a little ford crossing that I was really pleased with and I felt like my off road riding was more in control and less Kamakaze like! After stopping in for a cuppa at Gaz's house and saying hello to Sophie, Steve and I carried on. I still haven't quite got the hang off mud yet and did a great lob off in a muddy section - at least it was a soft landing.

On the Sunday evening after meeting Steve for a cuppa at Shepherd's Cafe in Borrowdale we headed over Honister pass and through Buttermere towards Loweswater. It was a relief to finally get off road away from the heavy tourist traffic and the fell road that I struggled with on my first day of off road riding felt much easier and I felt like I was starting to relax more and really enjoy myself.

One thing I can say is that all the time I feel like my riding is improving massively. I am on that lovely learning curve and enjoying every minute. Its great to be out riding off road and I feel like my riding skills are really benefiting, whilst having loads of fun.

My DR350 SEW 1998

I bought a DR 350 before I went to the States to ride the TAT, now I'm back home, the XT is somewhere on the ocean floating merrily back to the UK, so my attention has turned to the little DR that has been sitting in my front room waiting for some attention.

DR350 SEW 1998

This bike had been neglected in a garage for a number of years, it was ridden as a learner bike by a young kid a few years ago, then thrashed around the fields of the farm the family lived on in the Peak District, then left in the garage as far as we can tell.

When I bought it the guy was selling up a few of his bikes as he had 26 in his shed & he wanted to free up some space... (Yes I did say 26!!). I rode it for a quick 2 miles when I bought it, first impressions were, strong solid engine, tatty little thing needs some TLC, it had broken levers, a knackered clutch cable, bald tyres & shite brakes. All fixable things though, the frame has rust patches all over it, the front manifold pipe was corroded & the bike just looks its age & a bit forlorn & unloved... we'll soon get that sorted though... It has a recorded mileage of 6200 miles, I guess you never know with these older bikes whether they've done more or not. I offered him £750 & after a discussion with his wife he agreed, so we paid him there & then & loaded the bike into the van, where it has now sat for the last 2 months leaking fuel onto the floor!

For me I have a rebuild project in mind for this bike, first though the basics, sort it out so it runs sweetly & I can go play on the local fells for the remainder of the summer until I head back to the Antarctic for another stint of work.

So far I've replaced the levers with OEM parts, put a clutch cable on it, changed the oil & filter, put in an OEM air filter, removed the rear rack frame & re-bolted the under seat frame as it was missing loads of the original bolts. I've also added a little tail bag for some tools so I can do basic repairs should something break whilst I'm out playing in the local mud & rocks.

Next up is new rubber, that'll come in the form of a Midas 110/90-18 on the rear, the standard wheel apparently is a 17 inch one but for some reason there is an 18 inch one on this bike. The front is a Metzler MC5 on a 80/100-21 rim, fitting these is the job for tomorrow morning as they have just been delivered.

After a few changes the bike is looking a bit more like a dirt bike!!
I'm struggling to find a decent bash plate for this bike, all the manufacturers who made them seem to have stopped, run out or just unlisted these bikes. The stock one is OK but the oil pipes are open to damage from the rocks we have around here, the rear of the engine is also open & the engine side casings are a definite for a hole without some kind of cover, so I'll keep looking for the time being but I might just get one made at the local garage or try to adapt a DR600 one that my brother in law has in his garage. We'll see...
Sept 2014 - Bashplate update:  still haven't found a replacement, but the existing one seems to be doing a good job too so not sure I'll bother until its properly winter time... The DR650 one doesn't fit at all...

The header pipe is available in the UK in stainless steel at £130.00, that's pretty expensive but if its the only choice I can find then that'll be it. It seems after a bit more time on the internet that Keintech in the US produce one too at $129, I'd have to add import tax etc so not sure it'll be any cheaper & the last one I've found is at Predator Motorsport which is £108.00 plus postage.

I found a site that makes luggage racks for these bikes too, Manracks, not sure I'll add one of these but its good to know that somewhere exists where I can get one.

I reckon it might be a good idea to replace a few O rings on this baby too, the only place I've found that sells the entire set is a US site, This Ole Tractor - Gregory Bender, he seems to do a lot with Moto Guzzi bits too but there is also a set of all the O rings on the DR for $8.50, can't go wrong with that really.. Thanks guys...

As I've surfed the net more on this bike, I've found a few dedicated blogs, with plenty of useful info so here are the links for these...
Joergs DR350
Dirt Rider Mag 
Nath - trip to Russia
ADV Rider - Tiny War Machine DR rebuild write up
ADV Rider - DisTech's DR350 rebuild

I've had to rebuild the carb, a few of the O rings had perished, this is why it was leaking fuel, so I replaced them & gave the whole thing a good blow out with an airgun, I also added an inline fuel filter after draining the fuel tank & finding lots of bits in it. I do have a larger tank for the bike, it needs to be resprayed dark grey to match it in, so that is a wet day job, in the meantime the bike has a 90 mile range on it's original tank, which is OK when I'm riding with Gaz but it's a pain when I'm out with Lucy who has a 200 mile range on her little XR!!

I've recently replaced the front brake line with a HEL product, this seems pretty well made, the only comment I would say is that the banjo's need to be facing opposing directions as with the way they are at the moment fitting them puts a twist into the line which means it doesn't sit flat to the fork stanchion.

Next major job is to rebuild the front forks, I want a new set of progressive fork springs in there, fresh oil goes without saying & to replace the rubber gaiters as the current ones are pretty brittle & they got tore at a visit to Drumclog on some wire that was across a track... nasty stuff!! In an deal world I'd like to have the finish on the alloy redone, but I suspect that'll be another job for future days!!

DR350 Fork Service Info

Gaz & I have pencilled in a night next week to get all this done ready for our little blast up & over Gatesgarth Pass in the Lakes, a permit only route & pretty tough!!

The fork service was fairly straight forward, the manual has all the information you need, even though it's a manual for an older model. It appears the forks are the same throughout the model range. It took us about 2 hours with all our faffing. We also put on some aftermarket fork boots, although they fit, they are not as neat as the originals, which is a shame. They also needed some holes in the back to allow the air to flow so they didn't pop off the end of the forks legs...

The DR at home in the mud!!