Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Wales: A Weekend Around Barmouth

I organised another weekend in Wales,this time to the Barmouth area... a quick email around some of the TRF lads saw Ian, Graham & Mike meeting up with Gareth & myself for some riding and a bit of a craic!

As it turned out I had to miss the Saturday as the carb on my 400 had a hissy fit and was running awful. I took the bike to Martin at MHB Motorcycles in Kirby Stephen and we sonic cleaned it and changed the plug cap and the spark plug. This made the bike run better but it was still a bit hiccuppy now and then. But I decided to drive to Wales that night anyway!

Meanwhile the lads had a terrific day, playing all over the lanes to the south of Barmouth and I found them in the bar at the Hotel Min y Mor reliving their escapades of the day, videos, photos and smiles all round!

As our dog had been couped up in the van for most of the day, I took her for a run on the lovely long beach at Barmouth, then duties done returned to the bar for beers, some dinner and some gossip.

The next morning arrived far too early as we didn't leave the bar until 1am, kicked out by the hotel staff!

Bikes were prepped, kit sorted, the dog fed & walked, then we were off...

The first lane was a proper wake up call, steep, slightly damp cobbles. Graham had a mare on it for some reason and I managed to blip my throttle which dumped a ton of fuel into the carb and flipped my bike out from under me and upside down! Ooops... After this though the bike ran better albeit not the gentle beastie I was used to, it had become pretty savage off the bottom with the standard jets in it.

Gareth led the way again, having an encyclopedic knowledge of the Welsh lanes from his many previous visits. That said he still managed to find a few he hadn't done before. The clouds were low hanging, it was a bit damp and cool in the air, but for us it was great, no hot sweaty moments, even with some of the technical lanes.

Graham left us after a couple of particularly bouncy rough lanes as his arms were burnt out from the previous day, so that left us back to a group of four for the remainder of the day.

We passed through some fabulous scenery, small rushing streams bubbling over rocky waterfalls, superb woodland, down long forgotten lanes to the newer larger tarmac roads that are crisscrossing the country more and more in the chase for 'improvements'. Some of the houses in these areas have been here for centuries, tucked into places to shelter from the prevailing weather and built of whatever the local stone is nearby. I love the places you get to see in the UK when you trail ride.

We came through one lane with a plan to do a loop in a bit of forest, but a large tree down over the trail had us diverting back to a flatter forest track. As we passed through the forest and onto the single track section, we met a large group of mountain bikers, who were all cheery and happy to see others out on the trails.
Then we were back out into the fields and uplands before heading back down to refuel for the final ride back over some of the morning lanes and back to the hotel car park to finish the day out.

 A load of new lanes added to the list, a ride with a bunch of folks I only know a little and as usual plenty of laughs, memories and plans to get out and ride again.

Trail riding is an amazing sport for so many reasons, the places you go, the people you meet and the memories you create as you pass your life by. It's almost as good a travelling overseas!

Monday, 27 March 2017

3 Days Out... Friends, Bikes and Sunshine

So another weekend, another multi day trip planned... 

This time Geoff & I decided to get out on our bikes with a plan to test out some new kit, check out some new lanes and just go for a ride around the Northern Counties. It was a little bit of a repeat of the 4 day trip I did a few month's back, but with a day knocked off and a load of new B roads and lanes to see where they took us.

We loaded up the bikes, both of us trying out new pannier systems for the trail bikes. Me with the Giant Loop Coyote, bought from Adventure Spec and Geoff with his Ortlieb motorcycle panniers. Space wise both of these were fine for these kind of multi day routes, both sat well on the bikes and never moved, no matter how bouncy or raggy the riding got. Geoff's are easier to pack as they are a simple shape and although on this trip we never saw a drop of rain, they are supposed to be fully water proof. He picked them up off Ebay for £80 as a second hand pair, so a bargain!

The Coyote's sit really well on the bike and remove the need for straps across the seat as their horseshoe shape means they don't go anywhere anyway. Again very solid on the bike, a bit more of a pain to pack, with a little bit of wasted space, but as this was first time using them, we'll see whether that changes. In cold weather the fabric is stiff which makes the zip a pig to do up!

We had decided to go to Danny's at Haggs Bank Bunkhouse to catch up and have a gossip, so we rode a few lanes to get there, settling in really and all on familiar ground for both of us. We found Danny in a digger flattening loads of ground for a new caravan, so after a cuppa, we pitched our tents and headed out onto the local lanes to enjoy the sunshine!

Spring lambs were playing about everywhere, the farmers were hard at work, buzzards were flying around and rabbits were dodging their many predators whilst trying to fill their bellies as fast as they can. March is often a fabulous weather time in the UK, sunshine and cold but clear days and this was an especially pristine few days of wall to wall sunshine with heavy frost overnight.

Once the day was done, we headed into Alston for some fish and chips from the new chippy, bought some beers and headed back to Haggs Bank to spend the evening relating tales of biking stories from all round the globe! That night was pretty cold and a lad from Hartlepool on a Triumph Tiger 800 XC was camping over, no mat, just a sleeping bag, so he had a chilly night!

Alston Chippy

Early morning views!

Great camp spot

looking up the valley
We said our goodbyes to Danny and with a Triumph and it's rider, Mike, in tow we set off for the next day of our trip. Loads of flowing lanes followed as we headed over towards Hexham. One hairy moment was when Mike drowned his Triumph in a river, much to our delight but not his!

On the whole, Mike could handle his bike well on the rougher stuff and although he seemed to have Duracell batteries in his jaw whenever we stopped, he was a nice guy and a pleasure to ride with...

Mike left us just south of Hexham to head back as we'd killed him off energy wise, so we continued on our way playing on the lanes and enjoying the fabulous views unfolding around us. We dipped into a valley on a winding tarmac road that was just stunning, Muggleswick is a village in the northern part of County Durham and it was stunning, a real backwater, with lots of history by the looks of some of the ruins in the bottom of the gorge. Well worth a revisit I reckon.

We traversed a north to south route of County Durham, calling in at Barnard Castle for some fuel. We saw an old grey bearded guy here on his Armstrong, a 'proper' old army bike that had clearly seen a lot of use. it had Land Rover stickers on the tank too! We also saw the Bowes Musuem, a really impressive building and grounds, along with the Egglestone Abbey ruins where we stopped for a bit to just enjoy the atmosphere.

We rolled into Reeth around 5pm, passing a mountain rescue team who were heading upto the edge above Reeth to rescue someone who had collapsed. We also passed a group of guys in 4x4's climbing to the top. they looked to be having fun despite the fact that the guy in the oldest Landy was a bit of a grumpy old git to me!

We spent the evening changing tyres for John, so he could come out with us the next day on his lovely KTM 690 Rally and in the pub having dinner and a beer or two!

Toilet with free toiletries and flowers!

Our final day was through the Dales and back to the Lakes, another perfect blue sky day. John showed us a load of lanes local to him, many of which I'd not ridden before. We lost Geoff at one point as he did his usual brilliant navigation and ended up heading to Hawes, where we met him again!

We bumped into a bunch of lads from both Northumbria and the Teeside TRF groups, so a good gossip was had there all round. They ended up with a poorly Suzuki at one point so never made the cafe in time for a proper catch up, which was a shame.

Our final part of the day was meeting Lucy, she had taken her bike out and followed our route until she bumped into us, then we all headed off on a few lanes not on the planned route but winding steadily homeward. A few fords, some good chat and a load more lanes ridden to complete the 3 days.

Some fabulous riding, some great banter and a lot of new places explored, some of the many good reasons to go trail riding!