Sunday, 27 December 2015

Cumbria TRF Christmas Run around Alston

It was my turn to lead a ride for the Cumbria TRF so a group of 6 of us met up at Hartside Cafe at 9am this morning, all keen and eager to work off our christmas excess!

Nigel, from Dumfries, Del from Penrith, (both on a pair nice 6 days KTM's, then James on his 2 stroke Kawazaki, Gary on his Reiju 450 which also has a Recluse Clutch and loads of other trick bits. Lucy & I made up the 6 so that was us off into the first lane just down the way from Hartside Cafe...

Tynehead was next up, with the usual fun as people got stuck or had issues with the ruts, Coldberry Moor down and around past Nenthead and back around to Alston for some fuel and food.

We had a play in Limestone Brae which wasn't as deep as I thought it would be, all across in one piece this time, even Lucy...

Isaacs Tea trail followed and a play in the ruts and mud on a lane I don't know the name of, then it was back to Hartside for some lunch and tea before heading down into the Eden Valley for a play.

Haresceugh has this sign at the top but its fine to ride.

 Another great day, lots of good chat with some great folk and who knows maybe some more riding folk to catch up with in the future...

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Storm Desmond Effects on the Northen Lakes Lanes

I had the morning off this morning, so decided to get the bike out and go explore the damage to the lanes from Storm Desmond... the whole of the Lakes has suffered some heavy damage due to the sheer volume of water that this storm dropped onto it in one weekend.

Tarmac roads have been washed away in many places, landslides have damaged all kins of things and of course the ongoing rain seems to be bringing more of the same but on a slower scale.

One of the lanes most affected is the Coach Road, there is a lot of new channels opened up and some of them are really deep and wide. Water is still coming off the fells and the constant rain is just piling on the pressure. I was amazed at the level of washout and damage really, but when I actually compare it to the likes of the A591 Keswick/Ambleside road, I guess it's just a natural state of affairs.

Here are some images as I traveled East to West...

New but shallow

Existing but with some deeper holes
new and deep

Really deep, almost 1.5 to 2 feet

Knee deep!

Rock steps and a mini river

completely new runnels

Wash out from the hillsides above
With all the mess around on the tarmac roads I suspect things like this won't even get looked at for a long time, which is fine, the priority should be the well used and busy tarmac lanes first.

On a trail bike all of this is passable without too much issue, however I saw a number of plastic bits from various 4x4's lying in some of the wider & deeper holes from vehicles who had obviously tried to do what I was doing and lost a bit!

It would need someone with more 4x4 experience to comment properly but I suspect this lane is now not really suitable for beginners or low slung vehicles like it always has been before.

Longlands Fell has not sufffered very much at all, with just a few short shallow runnels formed but the ground is water soaked and the grassy sections will suffer a bit until things dry up.

Some of the smaller lanes have had their tarmac surface damaged a fair bit and a ride through Mungridale saw a section of a landslide that had been cleared away and some sections of tarmac seriously damaged, resulting in care needed by normal cars passing through.

I came through this valley trying to get home on the night all this happened and had to retreat to a friends place as the valley was a river and the A66 had been closed at Keswick...

From inside a warm van looking at the road!

Halfway through a puddle upto my radiator!

Hey ho, this is the weather and there is nowt we can do about it, but clear up the mess...

Update: Christmas Day...
On Christmas morning, Lucy & I did a ride round some of the local lanes and found High Bank had a large beech tree lying across it, so if you have a good long bar chainsaw and a Landy, there is some firewood to be had for a bit of effort! Mind you check with the farmer first though... ;-)

We also came across a lane I've been meaning to look at for ages, but it has a small blockage on it at the moment from the farmer I'm guessing...

 Happy days on the trails!

Friday, 18 December 2015

KTM 640 Adventure

OK so it's an old bike these days, it has carbs, it vibrates like a ladies hand held unit and it is orange!

But for some reason, despite never having ridden one of these bikes as yet, I have a real soft spot for them. I've seen them out on the UK lanes in the Dales, drove past them on the motorway heading somewhere quickly in a van and always have a lingering look back, quietly wishing I was on that bike instead of behind a steering wheel! I very nearly bought one this spring but got sucked into an EXC instead as they are better for green laning, which is my main fun riding these days...

So I thought I'd have a look at them properly and decide whether I'll get one in the spring or go for that more expensive KTM 690 Enduro as Lucy & I go around the perennial debate about which bike to ride around the world on.

Here some of the info I've found on the net so far... not sure about it's total correctness, so don't treat it as 100% reliable but it's a rough guideline...

These bikes appeared on the scene in 1997 and were around until 2007 when they were replaced by the 690. They came in 3 colours over the years, all of which I didn't like except for the plain orange one for some reason...

1999 KTM 640 Adventure

The original engine size was 620cc, which apparently was upgraded to 625cc in 1998, the early bikes had plenty of issues with snapping clutch cables, soft wheels and spokes and loads of vibration but seemed to have developed a hardy following despite these build quality issues. At this time too, KTM was a smaller company with less resources but with big ideas.

The LC4 engine is iconic and it is one of the reasons that KTM gained notoriety, its reliable, fairly easy to repair and has a great versatility, whilst delivering a punchy amount of power when you need it. This was first produced in 1996 with electric start so the 640 was one of the early bikes to have it as it's power plant.

Dry weight is listed as 154kg for a 1999 model... then they seemed to go up for the 2006 model to158kg dry, not that light nowadays, especially compared to the 690 at 140kg dry weight, (but the 690 doesn't have either the range or the fairing/lights that the 640 has).

With both electric and kick start, the single cylinder had plenty of power for the trails but poor road manners in compared to it's rival the BMW F650 which is what it was compared with at the time of release. To me though it's real rivals were the Honda XR650 & the Suzuki DR650, not the purely road based BMW.

The KTM, Honda & Suzuki all had an off road base with a nod towards road use, but out of the three the KTM was the one that had the edge, with the impeccable off road set up and then the fairing, the 28 litre fuel tank and the lights.

To my thinking this is where KTM made its mark and the 640 became the worlds only true 'Adventure' bike for riding around the world on at this time.(I'll not get into the argument about 'you can ride any bike around the world discussion' here as people have their own opinions and this is mine from what I've read so far)...

Somewhere in the world!

These bikes have a really high seat height which comes from their off road background, (1998 910mm to 945mm in 2006) lowering kits have been added to most of them or the suspension softened to allow normal leg length to touch the floor...  as time progressed it seems KTM raised the seat height marginally, possibly to respond to market request??

As far as I can tell, the early bikes all had WP upside down forks up front and WP monoshocks at the back. (Although I found the picture above of the 1999 version with standard front forks so not sure if this was an addition by an owner or something from KTM). They can deal with the majority of things that rough terrain can throw at you, river crossings, deep mud, ruts etc with no problems at all, you can easily lift the front wheel whenever you want once you're comfortable with the weight. Like all trail bikes, for the road, they were better when stiffened up, but in reality the SuperMoto version was made for that element.

Wheels came in the now standard 21'' & 18'' although again the 1999 seemed to have had a 16'' rear for some reason, possibly to suit the market at the time. With the large array of rubber available these days those sizes are still relevant and give a good choice depending upon actual rider usage.

The cockpit comes in a fairly clear and concise package with space to add your gizmo's where necessary, I've seen these bikes with rally roadbooks and counters as well as the latest GPS units. What ever takes your fancy I guess.

These bikes have been used as commuter bikes, rally bikes and go anywhere bikes... the German military had their own version in a drab olive green and a bright orange! Most have been fitted with some kind of rack or pannier system, all seem to have brought a smile to someones face and everybody I've spoken too so far has fond memories of their bike. More so the off road fraternity though, as the more road biased folk seem to have sold them on quickly!

ADV did a write up on their Top 10 Adventure Bikes available in 2014, here is their write up summary, its a bit suspect as to their choce of bikes for me personally but hey for the purposes of this blog, its a modern comparison I guess.

So I guess I need to ride one and see what I think, one thing is for certain, one of these requires far less 'preparation' than the current version of the 690 which is really a heavy enduro bike that you can spend £2000 or more on to make it into an adventure bike for a round the world trip...

If I find out any more I'll add it to this page...

Further Info:

Here is a link to some manuals stuff:
640 LC4

Specs for all KTM's can be found HERE

Plus just found this blog about KTM history...

Happy trails & Merry Christmas to All...

2016 Cumbria BikeSafe Course Dates

Just got this through on email, Cumbria Police are running their successful Bike Safe courses over the 2016 summer, so here are the dates.

Fee is £10 per person, what a bargain!

BIKESAFE Cumbria Course Dates 2016:

Need a refresher from some impartial but highly skilled riders?

1. Date and Time: 10/04/2016 09:00 AM - 10/04/2016 05:00 PM
Venue: Penrith
2. Date and Time: 15/05/2016 09:00 AM - 15/05/2016 05:00 PM
Venue: Kendal Fire station
3. Date and Time: 19/06/2016 09:00 AM - 19/06/2016 05:00 PM
Venue: Carlisle
4. Date and Time: 31/07/2016 09:00 AM - 31/07/2016 05:00 PM
Venue: Workington
5. Date and Time: 20/08/2016 09:00 AM - 20/08/2016 05:00 PM
Venue: Kendal Fire station
6. Date and Time: 04/09/2016 09:00 AM - 04/09/2016 05:00 PM
Venue: Carlisle

Contact to reserve a place and call on 08444 151206 if you are on the waiting list, they will then transfer you to the session of your choice.

NB: There will be a £10 per person fee for these

Rock, Moor & River Motorcycle Sports In Yorkshire From The 1950's

This is another little bit of history, can you guess the lanes in it?

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Winter Has Arrived... a short trip to the Dales

We had planned a weekend out in the Lakes this weekend, however the heavy flooding has left roads closed and serious damage throughout the County, so a swift change in plans saw Geoff, Andy, Lee and myself heading to the Dales for a day out instead.

Plans failed there too as the heavy rains turned to snow!

 We set off up the Cam High Road in rain, but it soon turned to snow and the higher we went, the deeper it got... you couldn't tell what was under the flat surface so all of us were off a few times!

Geoff's bike never even made it off the trailer!

We saw a lad out with his hounds, he'd elt them off for a run and now had to wait an unknown time for them to come back... it was snowing hard when we left him.. after this we saw 2 Land Rover's out for a play... great stuff!

The trails were ride able, but the tarmac was really slippy so after a couple of hours we bailed back to the pub!

On the way back to Cumbria, loads of cars were getting stuck in the wet snow, I was pretty glad I had my snow tyres on as some of the little hills were really slippy.

Back home to Lucy, the log fire and some beer...

If you want to see more about the flooding in Cumbria recently, have a look at Cumbria Crack or the BBC Look North stuff.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Another great piece of history from the Lakes!

This is a little film that has been sent to me recently with an Austin 8 doing loads of passes in the Lakes, most of which were either pre tarmac or pre NERC and subsequent closures...

I like this kind of thing and find it fascinating what was achieved with the technology of the time and the tenacity of the people involved!

 An Austin 8 - The Introduction Movie 1939


Thursday, 19 November 2015

Spain - Andalucia Trails - Day 2

After a day off from riding to cement a drainage gully, then a lazy evening, Graham & I planned another day out on the trails checking out some trails that head through to the south west down towards Tarifa.

We returned to near Gaucin, traversed around to Colmenar and took a trail that the locals use to get to Las Canillas, the plan after that was a mix of bendy tarmac mountain roads and easy trails down to Tariffa.

We never got that far though... the mapping I had downloaded to navigate by was a bit vague in parts, the trails on the grounds are slightly different and the beautiful cork woodlands are managed by the forestry, so things can be moved / changed or closed as needed to make things more interesting!

We moved pretty well for the most part, the trails themselves were easy, the views stunning, the sky, very big and blue. What a great day to be out...

This area has loads of trails, however there is an area that is completely out of bounds. Its an area of outstanding natural beauty and the cork woodlands are protected both for their crop and their history. Anyone caught in this area is fined very heavily and their vehicles can be confiscated. The rest of the hills are fair game though, there are trails that are used daily and are generally in good condition.

The problems came as we realised we had come off our planned route, a very winding descent and re-assent saw us scratching our heads trying to figure out  where we had missed a turn...  dead ends seem to be the order of the day here!

We found a couple more trails and tried them out, they either ended in chains across the trail or in one case, the trail became a foot path winding down through the trees into the unknown.

We had decided to retrace our steps back towards Colmenar, fuel was starting to run low, time was marching on etc etc, when we came across a couple of locals working in the forest. A good giggle and a long chat saw them give us the route details, which turned out to be one of the lanes we had tried but it had been gated so we had turned around without checking for locks etc!

When we arrived back at a tarmac road, we turned back towards Gaucin and to where we'd parked the van.

A lovely dinner of Spaghetti Bolognese finished the day off...

Happy days

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Spain - Andalucia Trails

I finished the 12 hour dive from Barcelona to La Linea around 1pm ish on Monday, I caught up with some old friends,Graham & Karen, over a bottle of wine and pizza at their house. After a late night of chatting, some sleep and a beautiful sunrise start we set of to collect Graham's bike from his garage.

The riding started with a trip to the garage as I'd found I'd got a puncture, 10 euros saw it sorted, so off we set for a play on some of the local lanes. 

Winched up to change the inner tube.
 Graham's bike is a Yamaha XT 600, its absolutely beautiful in a royal blue, with all the shiny bits well polished... He's spent hours working on it to make it sparkle so... riding dirt trails would soon change that though!

None of the trails were difficult technically, but as with both France and the Pyrenees, the scenery was beautiful, with hills rolling away into the distance, Farmers were working on their various plots of land, some quite chatty, some not so much... Horses were all over the place, cattle too and some black pigs, which provide prize meat for the locals.

Drinking water from a source

Trails rolling into the distance

A local farmer giving us route advice

His little dog
We rode around a load of lanes near Gaucin, they just roll into the hills and for us, Graham managed to pick up loads of info from the locals, as his Spanish is so good, it was a real bonus to have that luxury really. One farmer had us talking for nearly 20 mins, talking about his old Renault 4 and his Citreon C15 van, both of which he'd bought from new well over 20 years ago, they were in beautiful condition and were still in daily use as the modern stuff can't ope with these trails as well.

We rode upto a view point Graham knew called the Viewpoint of Africa,a great place, great views and it would make a lovely bivvy spot to watch both the sunrise and sunset!

So after this it was back to the village for a tapas lunch in the sunshine...

Happy Days