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

Monday, 16 November 2015

France: Trails Around Limoges

I'm having a bit of a tour around France and Spain, the simple plan, see some friends, ride some lanes, drink red wine... It's going pretty good so far...

After catching the ferry in Portsmouth, I got off in Caen, then headed south to meet up with a mate Mike, who I met at the VINCE last June. He was taking a day out of a busy week to go for a ride and show me some of his local trails.

I met his family, the dog and sat eating cake whilst we hatched a plan for the next day before everybody headed off for some sleep. Mike lives in a sleepy little village south of Angouleme, it's surrounded by woodland, farmland, vineyards and chateau's... That idyllic French mix!

Our ride turned into a mix of exploration and make it up as we went due to both of our GPS' having problems. There are loads of lanes in France, it's pretty difficult to establish rights of way in the same way as England & Wales as there are not the records we have and nobody really cares in the more rural areas. If a lane is open, its rideable, if it's blocked for whatever reason you turn around and find another way!

We were waved at cheerily by farmers, walkers and horse riders, even the lads at the golf centre had a giggle with us, asking us how we swung our clubs from the bikes... Polo style was the answer! ;-)

One off the great things about riding round this area was that there are beautiful buildings everywhere, lost in the trees next to winding rivers. The valleys and woodlands are left to do their thing, nature is allowed to have its place in the French mindset and although the cities are growing, the demand for electricity is matching that growth, at the moment there is still that relaxed attitude prevailing that has brought hordes of British immigrants to live in these areas, searching for that lost way of life in the UK.

Windmills galore
We found a beautiful little cottage by a beck that was slowly going back to nature, Mike reckons it would just stay like that unless the family decided to re inhabit it, it won't get sold so will just continue to crumble. Not like the UK eh...

We both had a lazyish ride around, Mike is a good rider, efficient and capable, with a good repertoire of skills that only come with years of experience. A long lunch at a golfing restaurant brought our turn around point and time to get back as Mike had to get back to planning for a big show in Milan or somewhere cool like that!

I headed off to the Pyrenees after some tea and more cake with a desire to ride more of the lanes around the Angouleme region and explore much more... Next year now!

My next stop was a recce of a route I found on Wikiloc, it's an 'enduro' C2C route across this mountain range from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.  I'd sorted out the issues with my GPS and downloaded the Spanish map and GPX file, then as I crossed where the route passed over a main road, parked and got the bike out.

For the next couple of hours I rode in a westerly direction, stopping to take pictures and enjoy the warm sunshine whilst keeping one eye on the clouds rolling over the hills sides to the south as they came up off the plains below.

The riding was easy, nothing technical at all on this section, I wonder what the rest is like?? A puncture brought the ride to its turnaround point, so feeling lazy, I blew the tyre back up a bit then noted the time and headed back to the van with plans to ride this route next autumn.

The holy grail of the Pyrenees C2C is to stay as high as possible, ride the higher lanes and passes, dropping only to get fuel and food, Mike is slowly building this route in his state of files, so maybe one day he'll get to ride it! Meanwhile for me now it's Barcelona and some beers with another mate...

Then Andalucia for more bike riding!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Down South - Trail Riding around Hampshire and Salisbury...

Whilst setting up the Cumbria TRF Facebook page, I got a request to join from a fellow TRF member, Gareth, who lives in Hampshire, a little chat later resulted in an arranged rideout for the weekend. Lucy was working this weekend too, so its an all boys weekend!!

I arrived Friday night and parked up near Salisbury Racecourse in my van at 11pm to get my head down. At 1.30am I was woken up by the sound of an engine next to the van so I got up to find 2 police officers checking out the van, we had a chat, they realised I wasn't out to steal owt and left with a cheery 'sleep well'. Apparently there are loads of 'Coursers' out at that time of night... not sure what they are though!

Day 1:
Saturday morning dawned wet grey and miserable, Matt the run leader turned up first, then the rest over the next hour, with Gareth and his shiny KTM 2 stroker in the mix.

In the afternoon sunshine

We set off straight into a fast byway from the parking, I realised pretty quickly I was the slowest rider of the group, these boys were 'on it' from the word go! Ruts, mud, wet autumn leaves and chalk all set the tone for the trails for today.

I struggled, both with the pace and the terrain, it was all new to me and I felt a bit like a completely new rider again! It really made me a bit humble and also showed me how much further my riding skills can go if I'm prepared to put in the effort.

Not me this time, as I'd just picked my bike up!!


Shoot at it or ride on it...

Just a little bit of a hillside!

This was after the bike rolled on Matt's head!
The guys were great, all having a laugh in the play areas with a couple of them taking turns to look after me, make sure I took the right turns and helped pull me up some of the wet chalk slopes!!

A playground for tanks no less!

Thank you very much for the help and advice guys , it was really appreciated!

We were on the trails for the majority of the ride with very short tarmac sections, riding past venues like Stonehenge, which as a place, never ceases to amaze me, we played on the tank training grounds at the edges of Salisbury Plain and had fun on the local forest trails.

This area is a really great place to play and ride but it is also a bit unforgiving for beginners. I had a fab day out and the guys were really good fun, the day highlighted I have a lot of skills to learn to be able to ride these lanes well.

Gareth found this out as I took him out on a long wet chalk lane, too fast and you can't use the front brake was the lesson from that moment!!! Still at least it provided entertainment for the rest of the group, 3 of whom all had a similar experience before we reached the end of the lane.

To make the day better the sun started to shine as we did the last couple of hours, glorious!

Gareth and his wife very kindly let me stay with them that night, a hot shower, a great dinner and a beer rounded the day off brilliantly. Thanks very much guys...

Day 2:
The Sunday was all about the Hampshire lanes, most of which are like many other lanes around the UK, that is until you hit the chalk ones!

Beech forests litter this area providing a rich back drop of colour and adding an extra spice to the lanes as wet leaves sitting on either deep rutted mud or chalk do make an interesting combination. There are a lot of ruts too as there are a lot of 4x4's using these lanes. We actually rode past 3 lads, one of whom was axle deep in a huge puddle, looking slightly amused as he realised he had a job on his hands to get it out!

My first 'off' of the day was into a hedge because of getting cross rutted, I had so many again today that I actually gave up trying to keep track!! My poor old body is still feeling the effects as I write this with stiff shoulders, a sore thumb and a very sore foot that hasn't really had chance to recover from the break I did in Wales two weeks ago. Hey ho...

One of the lanes is called the 'Hill of Death', very ominous... Gareth breezed up it, me, err no... I sweated, got the bike over heated and in the end had to ask Gareth to ride it up for me, which he did very easily!!

However on Busset Hill, Gareth 'helped' me by launching my bike into the air as his finger slid off my overly stiff clutch lever and left tyre marks on the top section of a fence post... I couldn't stop laughing at his 'help'... Wish I'd have been filming it, it was epic to watch!

I managed to break the flimsy plastic handguards that came with this bike, so the right hand one flapped about for the rest of the day, but still did its job which is a good thing! The rest of the bike  took all the crashes and abuse with aplomb and although it'll take a good 2 hours to clean it properly it's looking a bit better since I showed it a jet wash this morning. (Nice new Bark Busters were bought from a local shop as I'm going to need them for France and Spain).

These 2 puddles are about 4ft deep!

Me in a bush again!

This whole weekend  has highlighted yet another couple of areas around the UK where the trail riding is just truly fabulous. Varied and challenging, with some great folk and some beautiful scenery.

This area is a bike only set of lanes, excellent

Another great bit of exploring and some more people met through the world of motorbikes.

Next up, some trail riding in France and Spain...