Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Peak District Byways for the Bank Holiday Weekend?

This weekend came together pretty well, even if I do say so myself... we got parking at a mates pub, with excellent food and beer, then two days of some pretty cool lanes in the Peak courtesy of a lot of talking, reading maps & the best day was planned by a mate in the Northumbria TRF, Tony Whitehead.Cheers for that Tony...

Lucy had decided not to ride with us as she is studying for a mountain leading qualification and wanted to get time in the hills practicing navigation, so she came down for the crack in the evenings and some beer too of course... So Geoff, Andy, Lee and I all met up on Sunday morning at the Cheshire Cheese Inn in Hope.

Craig and Laura are the owners of the pub and B+B, I work with Craig these days and we also go back a ways working in the mountains of the world... Laura runs the pub, its a lovely place but book up early as the food has a growing reputation...

 Lee brought his brand new AJP 250, it was very sparkly and white when we set off, he was dancing around on it all over the place, much to the rye amusement of Geoff & Andy on their KTM's... he was also the breakdown recovery and collection service as both the KTM's had bits fall off including tool kits, spare tubes, lights... the list goes on.... I missed a lot of this as I was up front navigating but a lot of laughs were had at everyone's expense, mine mostly for falling off on a flat piece of grass!! YouTube Vid Here

Day 1: Sunday - Breakfast at the Courtyard Cafe in Hope, where you can pull your bike up into their courtyard was the start of the day, it opens at 8, perfect... The riding was pretty relaxed despite there being a 120 mile loop and would suit anybody just getting into laning or just looking for a nice pootle out, there was only one lane that was hard, near Darley Dale, a short steep climb up some gritstone steps, it was a bit of a shock after the easier riding but great fun... Geoff even found it funny despite this lane being the demise of his rear light, it fell apart like a good KTM plastic part seems to!!

The route went from Hope  towards Buxton, then round to Matlock, with a detour to Matlock Bath for a bikers Cafe before heading round to Chatsworth House, Bakewell, Stoney Middleton and back to Hope. There was also a northern loop which we made a start up but the first lane was closed on a TRO for repairs to electrical cables so we heard the pub calling and headed back to Hope.

We had to make a couple of changes to the day as a couple of the lanes had been made Restricted Byways, (Something I've never understood, why not just make it a bridleway & save the confusion?)... One of these being on Shatton Moor above Bamford.

Day 2: Monday - This day started out badly with a muppet moment of navigation by me, but ended as one of the best days riding I've done in awhile, some good longer lanes, plenty of tricky rock steps and steep ups & downs, alongside some fabulous views, all of which is part of the reason the Peak is one of the busiest National Parks in the country.

The route for the day basically headed west towards Macclesfield via Buxton, eventually taking us over the gritstone moors,and bringing us back through Monsal Head.

Geoff's front sprocket had pretty much worn down to nothing by the time we hit Hollingsclough, which also coincided with all of the steep hills of the day!  Geoff's trip record of the only one not to fall off was soon in tatters as he hit the paved section on the ascent out of one of the lanes, seeing him on his arse with a few muffled swear words uttered!

Washgates Ford

Lee made a point of taking the little AJP to the top of the lane with no bother, just to rub it in a bit more!! ;-)

We saw lots of folk out on both days, with only one being truly offensive, a swift 'F' off to each one of us from the guy as we passed by the family group saw us all bristle a bit, but for the most part people were cool, opening gates, chatting nicely and waving us on... lovely to see after all the horror stories that seem to come out from the Peak these days courtesy of a biased set of people and a more realistic story of people's reaction to riders...

Three Shires Head

So a return trip is due, especially as I found a place to take the Sherco for a play too, load up the van and have another weekend in the Peak before heading to Wales for the next session I reckon... Dates to be agreed as yet!

CCM GP450 test ride

I'm looking around at bikes for both UK use and for our big trip. I've narrowed the choices for me down to 3 options. My DR350, the KTM 690 and the CCM GP 450.
So I arranged a test ride last week at the CCM factory in Bolton where they are assembled. The factory is a great place with the history of CCM all over the place, some great bikes on show plus a load of bikes being prepped for the military as they have replaced the old Armstrong bikes with the CCM as the dispatch bike.

John, the sales director, was a cool guy, we met up at the allotted time on a grey damp Friday afternoon, got kitted up and headed out. He has a route he likes to take people on which involves bendy B roads, fast A roads, some byways and even a bit of motorway, so I got a good feel for the bike on loads of terrain.
I like the look of this bike, I like the seating position and the higher more offroad biased handlebars. I really like the 190 ish mile fuel range and the fuel tank position under the saddle and on either side of the twin radiators. The Paris Dakar style front fairing is set up well and will take a decent GPS unit too.
CCM GP 450...
This particular bike was a bit jerky at slow speeds which on a couple of times had the back end stepping out as I was leaned over coming out of a bend, but that could also have been the greasy roads too and me being over eager... It reminded of the 2007 XT660R I had with the same issue, so hopefully there would be a mod somewhere that would smooth this out if CCM haven't already sorted it.
The engine pulled in all gears and seemed to be really happy in 3rd and 4th, with a short 2nd, I'd maybe play with the gearing options a little if I buy one as it'll do a lot of offroad stuff with me these days.

The brakes were good and positive,  progressive at the start and with a bite if you needed it.

The suspension and tyres were road biased, so a little too hard for the off road bits, that said the set up inspired confidence on the road, even in the wet.

I need to look at the options list as it'll need to carry soft luggage and a hard top box, Metal Mule make these specifically for this bike so they would fit with the whole UK bike ethos which I like.

A big thankyou should go to Chris, the designer, another quietly cool guy who obviously knows his stuff where bike design for over-landing is concerned.

On the whole, I like these bikes, I like the 450cc engine, the riding position and the concept. I'm not sure it's in my budget range at the moment at around £8500 with the extras so it may have to go on the wish list, but it is on the list now.

Things I thought it could do with was a rev counter, (though this is personal as I use that more than a speedo), I also found this particular bike a bit 'buzzy' through both the bars and the footpegs, though that could have been a few things and not the engine itself, I'd need to play with it a bit more to find out the why.

There is a cool little article in a old copy of the Adventure Bike Rider mag for the CCM which has a better and more detailed review from someone who knows what they're talking about as opposed to me and my hobby biking knowledge... Look for the cute chick on the cover and that's the right copy

Very glad to have ridden it, now need both Geoff and Lucy to ride to get their opinions too. For me this is the bike you can just turn up, hand over your pounds, get on and go ride round the world on, knowing that the small CCM team can send you a part anywhere in the world you can get a parcel should you need one!
Next up is the KTM in the search for the overlanding trip bike... Watch this space..

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Southwaite Trials Playtime

Gaz & I met up with a lad called Matt at our last trial at Southwaite, once we got talking, turns out here was a game keeper for the local farmers, so had access to loads of land that the farmers didn't use... land that was perfect for us to play on too!!

Downside was that all the rain recently had made the whole place slippy & muddy as hell, still we geared up & set off to see how much fun could be had!!

Matt rides a Beta Rev 3, 2007 version... nice bike, the power delivery comes in much gentler than the Sherco or Gaz's Gas Gas Raga, something which caught me out  on the first muddy climb, which I slid backwards back down.... Twice!! muppet...

Matt had bought one of my Sherco's off me for his mate, no helmet as yet, but he's pretty handy on the bike nevertheless!

Gaz managed to get some good airtime popping over a log at the top of a climb...

A great afternoon out, spoiled a bit by my clutch playing up, I basically had no clutch, the bike would not shut off at all, so prop against a tree & I got to ride both Gaz's bike, Matt's Beta & the 2001 Sherco, so good for me!! Thanks to all the guys for allowing me to play.

So my Sherco has now had the master cylinder & the slave cylinder apart, I've ordered some new seals form the Splatt Shop, so a clutch rebuild due this week, one evening whilst I'm down south somewhere!!

Enduro sessions next weekend in the Lakes or Northumbria with the guys... Lucy has her first weekend off in ages so out to play we go...

Check out Mark, from the Northumbria TRF, losing his KTM 350 in a fast flowing ford here!!