Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Last Lakes Ride for the Summer

I needed to use up the last of the rubber on my tyres before fittings the new ones tomorrow, so as it was a beautiful sunny day here in Lakeland, Nigel & I decided to get out for the afternoon and catch the evening light on the fells...

Plenty of northern classic lanes went up our tyres as we headed out towards Penrith, loving the clear skies and the dry trails. We stopped lots, just to gossip and take pictures, Nigel has just come back from two weeks in Belgium on his road bike with his wife, so plenty of stories of roads, war memorials and epic rain!

There were loads of folk out enjoying a sunny day, the paragliders were flying from Skiddaw & Blencathra, families were out, some with kids on little push bikes, some just dancing in the puddles, various folk were walking, a couple with really big packs on multi day journeys, some were really pleasant, exchanging cheery 'hello's as we went past, some were less so unfortunately, (I do hope they are less miserable and critical in their own back yard!). We met a couple of ladies on horseback in Lorton and had a lovely little chat before each of us went on our way.

There are plans to replace a gate on the Coach Road with some funds from the Cumbria TRF group, so we took some pics of it to aid both of our failing memories. I'd already got the measurements ages ago, but have not found the time to get the gate or sort out how to transport it to half way along the Coach Road, so Nigel has decided to take it on as a project for this summer.

Along with this too the trail user groups are trying to organise a day of clearing the drainage gullys and fill in a few of the softer bits with some of the rubble that is still floating around from Storm Desmond last year. Some of the 4x4 groups locally have already made some progress with this, organising a couple of days just using shovels and manpower to fill in the storm water created gulleys and to try to clear up some of the mess made by the more irresponsible folk who use the lanes.

Anyway, I digress again... Once we got to the end of the Coach Road, we had a good chat, then decided to just turn around and go back to Keswick, where we'd split off and head home, me to a hungry dog and Nigel to his wife in her garden enjoying the sun in her way!

I love sunny days anywhere but the UK positively 'glows' at this time of year, it's really green with beautiful light and totally lives up to William Blake's poem;

 And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.

 Happy trails!

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Michelin BIB Mousses - Trying them for the first time!

With the planned riding in Romania looking pretty tough with a full mix of terrain, I listened to the lads who've been before and shelled out a chunk of cash on both new tyres and a set of the Michelin BIB Mousses. Ouch said my pocket!!!

Tyrewise, I've stuck with my favourite for the rear, the Mitas EO7 at £45.00, which has been a great all round tyre on the UK lanes and tarmac. For the front I'm gonna try the Mitas C-25 at £45.00, which is more of a mud/sand tyre, so may not last too long on lots of tarmac but then Romania is not meant to be on tarmac at all! I get them all direct from Wulfsport factory in Workington, so just down the road. Lucy went to school with the daughters and her dad used to ride with the founder, small world!

Both tyres have stiff side walls too, which I prefer on the technical terrain, and if I swap back to tubes after our play in the mountains, then they'll protect the tubes better on fast rocky stuff. At least that's my thinking anyway!!

The mousses, I ended up buying the Michelin BIB ones. they are more expensive than a lot of the others, but everyone I know swears by them and has used them for years, plus they get used in all the big race events, so all those elite riders can't be wrong can they???

Sizes wise I matched the two so the rear is a M18 (90/120 - 18) & the front an M15 (80/100 - 21). I got them from two different places although in hindsight next time I will get them from one to reduce any hassle. A lot of the shops in the UK say they can get them but then actually order them in from overseas once you pay, once they get them they are then sent out to you. For me, I had procrastinated so long about them, so when I ordered them I only had a week to go and couldn't really afford any delays.

MyTyres supplied the front via Ebay, it arrived with all the paperwork, some lube and the mousse itself today, £102.00, the rear was a bit different. I ordered it from J. Groombridge on Ebay. I queried the delivery date and got a really quick reply saying they couldn't send it in time, so as I'd paid, they refunded me straight away, leaving me free to go find another supplier. The service from Groombridge was excellent and I will be using them again because of that.

I asked around some of the lads going to Romania with me and was recommended to go to EnduroTyres. Sure enough, they had them in stock and the rear was with me the next day! More great service and a nice lass on the phone too...

The final parts I bought for this was some Stainless Steel Tyre Valves, these go into the rim to protect from water/dirt ingress and also I can add air to the tube on any longer tarmac sections, protecting the mousse a little and potentially making the ride a little firmer too. 

It's all still a test for me never having used these before, so I'm looking forward to finding out how they feel and perform. One thing is for sure, I will be more comfortable hitting rock steps harder on them knowing there is nothing to puncture and will also have to carry less kit with no spare tube, metal work or puncture stuff. All good for the playtime stuff but not as good for the longer road sections when I finish playing, so I'll maybe change back to the tubes after, we'll see...

So next up is fitting them. Now I've never done them before and everyone tells me they are a pig to fit, lots of swearing/sweating etc coming up apparently! As usual, I reverted to YouTube for some 'how to' vids before embarking on this exercise and came across these:

Mousse Fitting Films
Enduro Engineering - A US garage making it look real easy!

RallyMotoUK - UK based rally service place who have loads of experience.

I'll let you know how they faired in reality in terms of fitting! I'm expecting a fight as I don't have a tyre stand or any bead buddies, so we'll see once I cobble together a bunch of kit!

More new toys to play with!!

UPDATE: 01/06/2017 - Actually fitting the things!

So fitted the mousses today, it took plenty of time, especially the rear, but using the methods in the Enduro Engineering film above, it wasn't that much harder than fitting tubes. The front went on really easy, once I'd re-watched the film again and realised I was doing it wrong!

The rear was a bit more of an effort, without a tyre stand, so I had to codge one out of a plastic box. I reckon an old tyre rim bolted to a board would do the same thing if you're tight on cash.

The main issue was getting the tyre to stay on the bottom side of the rimlock when I laid it back down on the floor, so resting it onto a heavy duty plastic tub helped me to get the first tyre lever in a couple of spokes to one side of the rimlock whilst keeping the tyre in place wth my knee. After this the tyre went on fine until I was back round to the rim lock.

Getting two of the tyre levers down into the tyre to get it to sit into the inner part of the rim and help to get the last part of the tyre on was an effort and took almost as long as getting the tyre to stqay on the rimlock. Once I'd got the irons in place, then it went pretty smoothly, although the edge of the rubbber rimlock then got caught under the bead of the tyre, so I had to take that part back off again. Once the bead was seated correctly, then that was it. Done!

For the next time I think I'll try to get a tyre stand and maybe one with a bead breaker just because they really make things easier.

Made in Wales!
The only other thing I'd say is the grease for the mousse is the same size for both the rear and the front, which is not enough I'd suggest. So again next time I'd buy a 5ltr tub of the stuff and lather it on, especially as all the films say how important it is to keep the mousse lubed.

Key advice...
1. Watch the film, try it, then go back and watch the film again and you'll realise what you've missed out!!
2. Check the orientation of the tyre each time you seperate the rim from the tyre. I still mounted it the wrong way round after working it out a least 5 times!!
3. Have plenty of tyre levers, I used 5 this time around, 1 short, 4 long. My favourite ones are in the image below, strong, good bead hook, and nice and long and all for £7.00! Bargain...

Hopefully now I'll have no probs with the tyres or mousses and will just get to ride until the tyres are knackered... we'll see

Update: 11th July 2017
After over a month of using these now, my tyres are almost dead, so I thought I'd write up my impressions so far.

Over all I like the mousses, on the rear wheel the traction is good and the feel is good. The mix of BIB mousse and Midas E07 tyre works well together and they seem to wear well, having now reached Greece, so they have done the harder enduro days with the boys for a week, then the TET through  Romania and Bulgaria. I could be tight and just turn the tyre around to wear out the rear face as I'm still on dry trails and there is about half the depth of tread left, but we'll see.

The front is a bit 'dead' to the feel. It hits thing hard, then bounces over it, but I can't explain the deadness in the feedback to myself, so won't try to here. The Mitas C-25 on the front has been a hard wearing tyre, lasting much better than Gareth's on the hard enduro week, then also doing the same as the rear on the TET.It'll easy do a fair bit more, so I'll look to change it after the Albania section which is next. It does skit on rocky surfaces now and then, which is unsettling, but it always recovers so no harm done so far!

I'll stick to using mousses from now on for the UK green lane use I think, but I'll soon be changing back to the ultra heavy duty tubes for the rest of the TET as I prefer the front end feel for these over longer distances.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Romania - Here we come...

I'm now on count down days wise until departure day!

John Paul & I will be driving to the ferry on our 25 hour trip across Europe to get to where we're staying in Romania. We're heading to a farm in the hills near a town called Caransebes. There we'll meet up with the other lads, Gareth, Darren & Steve and then it's time for some playtime!

I'm free all of this week so will be clocking up some hours on the bike for some last minute fitness training, then Thursday will be the last full service of the bikes before loading everything up on Friday.

It's amazing how much time it takes to prepare for a big trip, I've done a load of work on the van, treating all the rusty bits of bodywork, sorting out the crap paintwork and then cleaning and getting some service work done on it. The back of the van has had some new shelves and cupboards added, the cooker has been rebuilt to make it more solid for a much longer trip. Then a bit of painting/re-varnishing to make it all look spic & span again.

I have a couple of things left to do this week, replace the part full gas cylinder with a fresh full one, change the oil, oil filter, fuel filter on the van and get the brakes bled through.The local village mechanic is gouing to weld me a couple of replacement panels on the rear doors as I couldn't find any replacements, then I'll need to paint the doors to match the rest of the body, so will need a dry day for that, which is not looking promising on the forecast!

All that's missing now is Lucy, she's still in Peru and not back until June 13th, so the 'boys trip' will be over before she gets to us, which is a shame...

Anyway here's a sample film that one of the boys found on YouTube of the area we're heading to... Enjoy

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Peak District Bimble...

A lovely guy called Hugh Cleary has been coming up to the Lakes over the last year and each time has been going out on the lanes up here. Through a mutual friend, he contacted me to sort out information from a local source and over time we've now chatted a bit but never met. So this weekend I thought I'd change that. I contacted Hugh and asked if he was free to go for a ride as I was coming back from down south this weekend, once he said yes, I then asked a couple of other people to see if they were free and low and behold, overnight, we had four of us ready to ride.

We met up on Sunday morning near Whaley Bridge, Hugh, Mark, JP & I. All kit was checked, bikes fuelled and so after some chat, we were off.

A few of the first lanes, I'd ridden before, so knew what was coming, then Hugh took us on a few I'd not ridden but which took us to some lovely places.

There were groups of kids out doing their Duke of Edinburgh Awards, loads of walkers and hundreds of cyclists, both on the roads and the trails, so all in all it was shaping up to be a busy day out in the Peak! The bonus was that everyone was smiley and waving, we each stopped for a bit of a chat finding out what each of us were doing for the day. A proper summer's day out for all!

It's funny, but for me the Peak District is basically a big manicured farm these days, with a lot of quarries, roads and people. It's landscape has been changed by human management drastically over the years and now more than ever, the 'natural' scenery we see is actually a bit like someone has sat down and planned out a garden at a stately home, then set out to make it that way. Somewhere in man's drive to completely control our enviroment and extract anything that is useful to us, we have lost sight of the fact that there is no more land around, what we have is what we have and so in reality we need to find out how to work with it and not just draw a picture in our minds eye and hold the place in that image forever. Something all of the National Parks seem hell bent on doing. 

We almost had a moment when Mark's rear tyre decided to part company with his wheel rim. It turned out his son Leigh had broken the bead whilst fitting the new tyre the previous night and as time was short, Mark had decided to risk it. We ended up shepherding him back to the van, where he decided to bail and go home.

Hugh took us on a some tarmac to get back onto his planned route, then we picked up the lanes again and  started winding our way down the western side of the region, via many of the classic areas. All the way, Hugh kept chatting about the lanes history, something I'm always keen to hear about.

A lot of the lanes around the area were old Roman roads or later Turnpike roads, and some of the Turnpike roads were toll roads where you paid at either end to support mainteneance of them and they had large coaching places where horses and carriages could be rested, repaired etc. A good example of this is the A515 at Newhaven, where the old coaching inn is on the left as you head north. This was a Turnpike road stage. The roman road runs nearby and through some trees now.

Nowadays, they are almost lost in lots of places as modern roads have buried them under tarmac or seen them bull dozed, quarried or farmed out of existence. The remaining lanes are all under threat from the prevailing mentality of the current management of the Peak District National Park Authority and some very biased people who appear to have an overwhelming desire to make the Peak District into their idea of a utopia and anybody who doesn't fit or agree is either castigated or painted in an unfavourable light! When I ride around here, I am very much conscious of the conflict that the lane users are facing in this area and that we are ambassadors of our past time, so taking it steady and chatting to all is just a part of the day.

At the moment, there are plenty of lanes still there though and I would highly recommend anybody go to the Peak and ride as much as you can, after all they need to be ridden to fully appreciate all that they have to offer.

We met up with a lovely family at the Three Shires, they all lived local and next to a lane, their son, who was only about ten, was super keen on his bikes and we got chatting about his KTM 85 that he's planning on having this year. A little font of knowledge in one so young...

Lunch stop was at Hartington, a lovely little village, where a load of Harley Davidson's were parked up, all the riders having food/drinks, we stopped at the local village shop and had coffee and a huge Peak Pastie! Well worth the £2.50 that was...

After this it was down around Biggin to some of the lanes around there before heading back north as the day was now getting on. Our last lanes were a bit muddy which was a surprise as most places had been really dry, which was interesting after the recent heavy rain we've had.

We got back to the vehicles on tarmac, winding through the Goyt Valley, back to Whaley Bridge. Hugh left us to head back home and JP & I stopped off for some food before saying bye and driving to our homes.

Another lovely day out on the lanes, some more nice folk met and chatted with, a little more knowledge about some of the lanes tucked in my head and plans for some more visits to come!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Trans Euro Trail - Time to go see some of the world again...

Well, the sun is properly shining in the UK at the moment, a taster of the weather to come I hope...

I've now set my leaving date for June 03rd, all the chores and responsibilities at home have been done/handed over, the bikes are prepped, the van is serviced and we're good to go!

The Trans Euro Trail is a concept by a guy called John Ross, a military doctor who lives in the north of England. His idea was simple, ride unsealed roads as much as possible around Europe on trails suitable for bikes upto a KTM 690/Yamaha Tenere size.  It is a community led project and not out to make lots of money, that said some kind of donation to keep the website running and deal with the admin is always welcome!!

I have no idea how long it has taken to get to get to where it is now from it's original discussion, but I've been involved for the last year and this has been the time of a rapid period of input from the 30-40 people in all the different countries so that now the TET is ready to have it's own website. John is now in the process of finalising various routes and cleaning up the many GPX files submitted by all of the people based in the individual countries. this alone takes hours of work! It iwill then be all ridden and checked before going 'live' so to speak.

I've taken various parts of the route GPX files to create a long, almost continuous, trip. Now is the time to go ride as much of it as possible this summer. Alongside this Lucy & I plan to visit a lot of places and meet a lot of people to get the most out of our time.

I doubt we'll get to ride it all in one go, but it's something to aspire to and, as if it is needed, it is an excuse to go ride my bike!!

One idea I've just hit upon is to visit all of the Wolrd Heritage Sites as we travel. I was looking at their list of sites around the world and it occurred to me to add this to any future trip! There are 1052 sites currently in many countries around the world. Some countries have more than one site so it's a reaosn to travel the whole country to get to them,now that's an education process!
814 are 'cultural' sites, so man made at some point I'd guess. 203 are 'natural' and 35 are 'mixed', whatever that means! When I looked at the list I've laready been to loads as I've travelled previously, so this is more of a continuation of that really!! 

So with this and the HelpX website info, we have more than enough to keep ourselves busy when not on two wheels...

First stop for me will be Romania, then head south after this and slowly wend our way back west as the weather turns cooler... mmm starting to get a little excited now that things have finally fallen into place after months of killing time and waiting for various balls to line up!