Monday, 31 October 2016

'Wheelie School' with Inch Perfect Trials

Lucy wanted to have a trials lesson and found that Inch Perfect Trials near Clitheroe were running some half day sessions for £40.00 each, we checked the dates and a lovely Sunday in October matched up so off we went!

I'd previously been to one of their solo training sessions and got a lot of out it, improving my riding and some of my skills no end, so it was good to see how the whole group got on over the afternoon.

We arrived early as there are lots of road closures around that area at the moment and we wanted to make sure we didn't miss out on time. This allowed us time to look around the place and at the toys in the shop before having a nice lunch which was included in the price.

Our group turned out to be 4 folk, Liam on his 2014 Beta 125, (a 14 year old lad who is going to be a fab little rider when he's older), Nick, a retired member of the North Yorks TRF on his Gas Gas Randonne, a 150 cc trials bike that can be used on the road too, then Lucy & I.

Our instructor for the day was Tom, a relaxed Yorkshire lad, who was clearly very good on a trials bike and although quiet was pretty good at picking up on what we were each doing and offering suitable advice at all levels.

The training was set up in staged processes,
1. Lift the front wheel
2. Lift it higher in a higher gear, 2nd, then 3rd, then 4th...
3. Lift the front wheel and try to hold it for some distance
4. All of the above plus use the back brake to help hold the balance point.
5. Sit down and wheelie for ever!

Tom chose a long open uphill facing section of a field for the training as this made things easier and less intimidating, then explained the principles of compressing the suspension and using the throttle to loft the front wheel. Some may find it easier to start with slipping the clutch, but over time it's not necessary really as body position and throttle control are more important.

We all had lots of practise at this, Lucy went from not able to do it at all to getting the front wheel about a foot off the ground. She is relentless once she starts to practise something and easily did more than the rest of us until she had got it sorted! I can see a stock of head bearings and plastics needed before long! ;-)

Liam was the best of us, he soon had the most of the process sorted and was off up the hill doing ever longer wheelies by the end of the afternoon, youth and fearlessness clearly played a part here!

Nick had a hard time on his bike, the geometry is that of a trials bike but the TTR engine is more suited for trails than stunts, still by the end of lots of practise he could loft the front wheel to the same level as Lucy. More time and practise needed there.

Lucy got her front wheel up plenty of times, her body position was apparently near perfect, but she lacked conviction and power to hold it for any distance, so more time and practice needed for her.

I have practised the whole thing quite a bit so didn't have any issues with the lofting the front wheel, for me it's my arms, I bend them and lean forward which is a really bad habit and makes the bike drop quickly as the weight is in the wrong place. I think I got it right a couple of times and it felt good, then the bike angle got the better of my brain and I was down again... Same as the rest more practise needed here!

After a break in the middle for cakes and a drink, we also headed down to one of the stream beds for a practise on an actual trials section, this again was Lucy's first attempt at one of these and after practically walking it the first time, she was soon up it in style... This is where Nick's bike shone through, it cruised up it and made all of it look really easy. Liam was really good, following Tom up one of the bigger tree rooted exit climbs and getting it sorted on his third attempt! Skills...

On whole another great little biking session and we now have an invite to go ride with the North Yorks TRF group on a bit of a reciprocal rideout deal, bonus!

Monday, 17 October 2016

Hadrians Wall Weekend, hosted by Northumbria TRF

Another fab weekend of playing on bikes and meeting great people...

Northumbria TRF organised their annual Hadrian's Wall adventure for this year, and although there were a few problems in the lead up to the weekend, all things seemed to go really well over the weekend itself...

Lucy & I led a team of lads who had travelled from Devon, (Fabrice & Neil) and Oxfordshire, (Wayne & Marcus) on both days and we picked up a stray from Northumbria for the Sunday, Ben... Bikes were a good old eclectic mix again, a shiny new Husqvarna FE350, a Honda CRF 450, A Yamaha 240 & Honda CR 250. Both of the later bikes were older design bikes but really capable never the less.

Saturday morning dawned grey and misty over the moors, Lucy & I planned to get to the kick off area on the Friday night to meet folk and have a gossip, but things got in the way at home, so we set off nice and early of the Saturday morning, getting into the start point for 7.45am. We parked up and unloaded the bikes, all the time chatting to the guys around us, some known faces and some new faces... A nice atmosphere of expectation buzzing quietly in the back ground as machines and people were got ready for a day of playing!

Groups were sorted and leaders/backmarkers assigned and in no time the next thing was briefing and we were off!

For me I chose two classics for the area, Saturday was the Alston run, some of the best lanes in the country and also fairly guaranteed to stay dry as not so many river crossing s to do! It's one of my favourite rides and I love showing people around it, plus so long as you go up Tynehead, Lucy is always smiling, so a winner all round!! :-) Sunday, the Bellingham run which always has the potential for wetness and drowned bikes, but hey everyone was going home after so didn't matter!

The team were all pretty capable riders and the pace was really good, not to quick and not to slow... opening gates became a breeze as the usual second man/third man process took over, although to be fair I kept cocking it up by opening some as the leader, which always left some confusion in the moment! ;-)

The Alston run is a long day for most, long rocky lanes, a couple of river crossings and as we were moving on well, I added in several lanes down into the Eden Valley and a couple near Hexham to make sure we had a full day... So come the night time, a couple of beers, a big dinner and everyone was dozing off!!

The Sunday dawned beautifully, but became wetter later before the sun came back out, a proper northern day of mixed weather... Same process, albeit a little slower this time! ;-)

Today was the day we acquired Ben on his KTM 400 EXC 2006, a lovely clean bike with lots of good little mods to it... Ben lacked a bit of experience but rode well all day and the day went fairly well, with a few small hiccups!

I decided to do the route in reverse to my normal, mainly as the Ash was pretty deep and I didn't want everyone getting soaked at the start of the day, trouble with this way is there is more tarmac work, hey ho... To warm up we did a few of the lanes we'd finished on the previous day, fast and easy, then it was time to head north of the wall and pick up the lanes heading to Bellingham. The lanes get longer as you ride this route, there are loads of gates, but the scenery was great.

We ended up in a cafe in Bellingham where we crossed with a couple of the other groups, the unexpected groups had emptied the cafe of food almost and the staff looked a little harassed, but as always the food was great!

After lunch it was off to Simonburn and the Ash for a play.

Simonburn saw a few of the guys go over the handlebars and into the bog, everybody got muddy and had a great laugh, all helping each other out when needed!

The crossing of the Ash saw three bikes all clean and washed, but the rest wimped out and walked their bikes over the footbridge.

Our final lane of the weekend was a fast one through the forest and then the short road ride back to meeting point...

We swapped contact details, had a piss taking session of each other and then it was time to go our separate ways... hopefully we'll keep in touch and get out and about in the areras of some of the others or just meet up for another ride sometime!!

Great fun, great people, well done to Tony Huntrod, Greg Villalobos and the rest of the Northumbria TRF group for sorting the event out and welcoming so many folk to their lovely area.

Now, next year....

Friday, 14 October 2016

Triumph Tiger 955i 2003 - Comments, a service and a couple of niggles.

I bought this bike earlier in the year based upon a mate's really good comments about the engine and the comfort... I've always wanted to own a Triumph of some kind, I love the sound from the engine and I've always heard good things about them plus a little bit of of pride creeping in for one of the last few British bike manufacturers!!

The Tiger is the one I chose, I needed something that could clock up motorway miles with ease and in comfort and also flip around the little back roads in the Lakes, Dales etc, so it was a natural choice as these big trailee type bikes seem to do all things.

Triumph Tiger 955i 2003

This one turned up at my local bike shop whilst I was shopping for a bike for Lucy, so we ended up with both and I ended up with a loan for two bikes, go figure that one out!! ;-)

Since I've owned it, I fell in love with the engine, it's brilliant, you can go from 25 - 80mph in 5th gear and not have to change at all... the big tank gives a massive 230 mile range, the biggest I've ever had on a bike before and the ride position is pretty comfy, (although I find this particular screen sends the wind buffeting into my head and the perfect angle to give me a headache after 150 miles). The heated grips are a welcome thing and the 'presence' of the bike on the road just allows for great visibility for both me as a rider and other road users.

It came with a battered old top box. it's cracked and has a few marks on it, but for work I just use it anyway, a very useful addition... although at 80mph it makes the bike weave like a bugger on bendy roads.

In the time I've owned it, (so about 7 months now), I've done around 10,000 miles on it, which was a surprise when I looked it up. To be fair though it is 250 miles to work each way and I've also done a few UK long rides, plus I often take a scenic route home instead of the motorway, so that adds a few miles each time I guess.

I've had very few problems with the bike in this time, it's just started and ran each time, until recently that is... now both the regulator and the stator have blown and I've had to do a fair bit of research to get the parts to replace them as the it turns out the stock Triumph versions are just crap and not upto the job. Because of this the bike has been off the road now for a month, which has been annoying to say the least.

Whilst I have the engine apart to replace bits though, I'll give it a full oil/filter, air filter, brakes and general fettle, especially as the winter is now coming around.

Oil Change - This is pretty easy and should be done more regularly by me really, I've left it to long at 10k miles so I may do a couple in quick succession now I've actually got to doing it.

The bike takes around 3.3litres of 10/40 semi synthetic, the filter and drain plug sit underneath the engine and are really easy to get at, so there really is no excuse for leaving it this long!

The oil filter goes in vertically, so you can pre fill it to almost full before you pop it on and it's a 10kn for the torque setting, so not tight at all... once I've changed the oil I generally take the bike for a little run and then leave it overnight before i check for any oil leaks, once it all good, I'll then ride it for a longer trip.

Front Brakes - These are generally pretty soft compared to the bikes I've ridden before. I've upgraded the pads to syntered ones to see if that makes a difference and will check if the fluid needs changing as they are a little spongy, so either the fluid is old or water has gotten into the master cylinder and the fluid which is making it feel awful. Pads I've chosen are the EBC ones: FA196HH.

The Stator & the Rectifier  - These turned into a bit of a mission, I looked around on the web a fair bit for some info and found a few good and informative things out, I've listed some of the better ones below: The stator came from M&P and was £94.00. The code was ESR535. I bought this after looking them up on their website. The rectifier is fine but the stator was too big in diameter, so had to go back and be replaced with an Elextrex G75 at £99.00. This fitted fine, but in hindsight I would have preferred to match the manufacturer for both parts.

A mate of mine has a 2002 Tiger 955i in lime green and in two weeks he had the same two faults crop up on his. As it was from a garage only 2 weeks previous, they replaced it all under warranty and also the fuel sender as they blow all the time too.

When re-fitting the stator, you need the gasket and some silicone sealant for the rubber block that seals the stator casing around the cable exit point. Take your time putting this in and let it set overnight before you start the engine otherwise it'll pop out due to the pressure from the engine and check it for a few days after... this is Andy's one weeping after 3 long days of riding.

It's not a long job but need some care and a bit of understanding about what to do and how to check the electrics afters... once changed instead of killing the battery I was now getting 13.9 volts which is good enough.

Fuel Gauge Issue - The other common fault seems to be the fuel gauge sender. On this bike it went after a week, as I just normally reset the trip meter anyway I didn't bother to change it, but now it's annoying me for some reason so I'll get a new one and replace it. The gauge started to jump around whilst riding, then drop to zero, then upto full and so on... this carried on for nearly two weeks before it died completely.

Screen - Andy, who has the lime green Tiger, found a couple of standard screens on Ebay so bought them both..We've both put these originals back on and have just completed a good 1200 blast around Scotland on the bikes, the end result, we both prefer the standard screen as virtually all of the buffeting from the after market ones has disappeared!!

Other than this little lot, the bike has been great. Triumph seemed to have been in the frame of mind of why use one bolt when you can have six when they built these bikes, but the upside of that is that they are very solid machines. The downside is the weight, which is all at the top for some reason and makes the bike hard to manoeuvre when you have to manhandle it, however once it's rolling, happy days.

YouTube Films: 
Delboy's Garage Vids
Engine Service
Juddering Brake Lever Service

Monday, 10 October 2016

A Scottish Trip, 4 days, 4 mates, 4 bikes...

I was lucky enough to be invited on a 4 day road biking weekend this last week by a lad called Martyn who is a friend of a friend... The plan was to head up around the north coast of Scotland on a 1200 mile trip riding some of the best roads in the UK and taking the 'soft' option of using B+B's as the accommodation... Once asked, my reply was instant, 'I'm in... when do we go??'

1200 miles of bliss...

Thursday morning dawned bright and sunny, the bike topbox was loaded very quickly with a pair of jeans, some trainers and a spare set of socks and undies. The oil, fuel & tyre pressures were checked so I set off to meet some of the guys at Corbridge on the A69.

A great bacon butty at the ActivCycle cafe there set me up for the ride up to Edinburgh via Northumberland on the A68, some nice sweepy bends and great scenery in the very blue sky saw us arrive at a Premier Inn at North Queensferry, where we met up with Andy, so the team was now complete...

The bikes were 2 Triumph Tigers, 1 Suzuki TL1000 and a MV Brutale 800... a very eclectic mix of machines...

Indian curry, beer and some gossip rounded off the day before an early night as we knew we had a few miles to get done the next day heading upto Inverness via Braemar.

Once across the Forth Road Bridge, we headed up past the Knockhill circuit on the A823 to Crieff, where we took a little side trip out west by mistake along Loch Earn. Geoff caught the attention of the local Pohlice here, so they turned around and caught him back up for a chat...

Part of this chat helped with the navigation though, so we turned around and headed back to Crieff so we could pick up our planned route onto the A822 past Amulree and across to Dunkeld on the A923 over to Blairgowrie so we could head back north to the Spittal of Glenshee on the A93.

Our day finished in Inverness after passing Cock Bridge, which Andy and Martyn had to pose for a photo at!! This was to be the only day of the trip too that had a very light amount of drizzle as it turned out. Bonus!

We stayed at the Glen Mhor Hotel, which is 5 minutes from plenty of pubs and the centre of Inverness, so we headed out along the river hunting for some food, which took us into a couple of pubs where live music seemed to be the order of the evening... Some very good entertainment and of course some good beer rounded off a lovely day of riding...

This was the best of days, perfect blue skies, clean roads, virtually no traffic and stunning scenery.

We set off north across the Cromarty Bridge on the A9, following this road over the next estuary bridge, the Dornoch Forth Bridge before turning north west onto the A839 to Lairg. A good breakfast there set us up for the ride to the north coast via Tongue on the A836. Wow, what a set of great roads....

Then it was follow the coast road to Durness to reach our furthest point north on this trip...

White sandy beaches, glorious tarmac and stunning scenery met us on every hidden dip and bend, the sky was so clear you could see for miles, including out to sea where on the horizon would be the oil and gas platforms. Geoff and Martyn filled up with fuel at Durness and we all stopped for some sweets/cans of pop like proper tourists... After this though it was ever southwards back to to England!

The rest of the day just followed with more of the same, I've been wanting to come up here for years and so have ticked off a first for me, I'm pretty sure it won;t be my last visit though!


Our bed for the night was at the old Scottish house of the Corriness Guest House, a friendly welcome in the pretty village of Poolewe, which is perched on the edge of the beautiful Loch Ewe. As we arrived the light was dropping and the shadows just added to the place and the scenery.

We were all extremely happy that the sun had shone so much throughout the day and allowed us to see some of the views... a great place to be!

Sunday started out great and ended with a minor epic which ensured we arrived at our B+B in Largs after dark. All of the roads were so fast and flowing this day, it was like the road builder rode a bike and knew just how to make a camber work for them...


We passed through Kinlochewe, then out to Achnasheen before dropping south again to pick up fuel in Lochcarron. Once fuelled, we retraced our road back to Strathcarron before heading through Achmore down to Loch Alsh. That was a great road! On now to Shiel Bridge and Invergarry on more fantastic bendy heaven before dropping into Fort William for another top up and some tea.

Eilean Donan Castle

More tea!

Commando Monument outside Fort William

We changed the route a bit from here after a bit of discussion and decided to head down past Oban to near the bottom of the peninsula at Lochgilphead. Yet another great road, with hundreds of hidden bays where various sized yachts were moored up.

After Inverary is where my fun started, I got a little seperated from the guys and ended up following an old couple in a nice shiny new car, on a long straight I saw a Police car in a car park just as I was about to overtake the car, so I backed off. I checked again for the police car and the old couple decided to stop and turn right just at that point... bugger!! I stamped on all the brakes, but the Triumph is a heavy beast and so bang into the rear bumper went both the bike and me and down we both went, right in front of the 2 police officers!!

Both the people and the vehicles are fine really, I even got checked out in an ambulance by some paramedics to be sure...  my bike will need a fettle to make it look tidy again and we had to check over the suspension, brakes and steering to make sure it was ride able again before the police would let me go, fine and 3 points for careless driving in my pocket to be paid asap!! The couple in the car were fine and I'm sure a garage somewhere and the insurance will profit from the whole thing!

I gingerly set off again, the guys had come back to find me and so promptly started to take the pee as they should do! Then it was a run down to Dunoon to catch the ferry to get back across to the main part of the southern Scotland.

Oops, wrong ferry!

Aaah right ferry

I had planned to continue on from here, getting home really late so I could go to work on the Monday, but with the bike being bashed up, I felt it safer to stay in a group and do the ride in the daylight, so stayed over at the very welcoming B+B Martyn & Andy had used before.

So more beer and food finished the night, albeit it not as good as the previous nights, but hey any food will do when you're hungry enough!!

We set off for England and promptly got lost around Kilmarnock, ending up on the A76 which had loads of roadworks but took us to Dumfries, then eventually back to Carlisle via the old road along the coast as the A75 had some kind of blockage and was closed off.

So I've now got the bike back home, time to strip down the front end properly and have a look at it before trying anymore big miles, the boys peeled off and headed to Hawes on their various routes home... so that's it for now, another great bit of fun with a good bunch of mates and bikes!!

What's next??

Premier Inn £62.00 - Expensive and basic
Glen Mhor Hotel £54.00 - Medium price for convenience
Corriness Guest House £45.00 - Lovely and great breakfast
Whin Park B+B £45.00 - Really friendly and great breakfast

Fuel prices varied from £1.09 per litre to £1.17 per litre, (more expensive the further north you go)... My bike holds 22 litres and does 230 miles to that on a steady run. I spent around £100

Hunters Quay - Gourock Ferry:  
£8.50 per bike or £25 for a book of 6 tickets, which was cheaper so we bought the book!

We ate in local pubs/cafe's mostly, oh and an Indian restaurant, the food was pretty good on the whole minus the Wetherspoons where they still haven't figured out how to microwave frozen meals as yet... (still the food was the cheapest and it was nearly 8pm)!! Most nights were around £10 - £15 pounds then beer on top... We didn't really eat lunch but did have breakfast around 10 or 11am, these were around £5 - £7 including tea or coffee.

Total trip cost was around £400 all in...