Ride Smart. The art of adventure riding

Brooding skies

CCM, GS and a Triumph somewhere in Shropshire. Don’t forget your brolly.

Post a thread on any internet adventure bike forum inquiring about the off road capabilities of big trail bikes and you are guaranteed to arouse passionate responses. Dare to question the effectiveness of an 1190 Adventure or a GSA 1200 on technical off-road trails and you’re likely to attract responses ranging from a polite but firm rebuttal from BMW GS enthusiasts to poison pen letters and death threats from the online KTM community. OK, that’s a slight exaggeration, not all KTM riders are psychotic but you get the picture, it’s a sensitive subject . The issues surrounding the off-road performance of adventure bikes bikes stem from too much power, too much weight and not enough grip for the job in hand. This shouldn’t deter you from taking your big bike off road, but if you understand the limitations you can plan days out on your bike which play to its strengths rather than amplify its weaknesses.

Dab.jpg

This, believe it or not is a puddle on a trail 1000′ above sea level. Trail riding can be unpredictable…

For those unfamiliar with trail riding allow me to share one or two observations about riding the green lanes you are likely to encounter in the UK. Our unsurfaced roads [ the technical definition of a green lane] are often narrow and rutted and can become waterlogged, which is the reason they become rutted in the first place. These ancient rights of way have often been in use for centuries and sometimes sit well below the level of surrounding fields because the passage of traffic over time has actually worn a deep groove in the countryside. This encourages water to collect. There are lanes close to where I live which never completely dry out and are tricky to navigate on a big bike even in the middle of summer.

The problem is, you won’t find this information on any OS map or your GPS, you have to ride the trail to find out and there’s the rub – half a mile down a narrow track you might suddenly find yourself in a deep muddy rut struggling to find traction . On a typical 110kg trail bike you can simply dismount at this stage, lift the back wheel out of the rut and then do the same with the front and continue on your way. If you’re riding a 200+kg adventure bike you now have a pretty serious problem on your hands, especially if you decide the route is impassable and you need to turn back.

Strata

Bad enough on a 90kg trail bike, on a big adventure bike you would now have your work cut out  . This was taken on Strata Florida in Wales.

Of course we also have access to hard packed trails and forest fire roads in the UK and these aren’t such a problem on an adventure bike, but be aware it’s not possible to do these easy routes in isolation and sooner or later you’re going to come across mud , soft ground and some tight technical trails. This is why taking a big bike off road needs careful thought and planning.

The trick is to avoid getting into a difficult situation in the first place. For instance, if you sense a trail is becoming narrower or getting too muddy stop immediately and go and inspect on foot . If you don’t like what you see don’t be afraid to turn round and find an alternative route. I can’t stress how important this is on a big bike, it might seem a bit feeble, especially if your leading a group but it can save a lot of potential heartache. Getting bogged down in deep mud and unable to go forwards or backwards is a frustrating and exhausting experience.

A pal of mine was out trail riding recently and stopped when he saw something sticking out off a particularly deep muddy bomb hole on a trail. On closer inspection he realised the object was a Land Rover’s roof. Try to picture the consequences of simply ploughing into a similar rut on a big GS hoping it will all sort itself out.

Trail riding can involve a lot of manhandling of the bike. For instance, pulling up to a gate on a steeply rutted lane and stopping the bike often means getting off and having to drag the back wheel around until you find a suitable place to deploy the sidestand. Again, not an issue on a lightweight trail bike but on a heavy adventure bike this type of thing can become very tiring so keep your eyes on the trail and plan well ahead, look where the best grip will be for a restart will be and where you can park the bike and dismount easily. It can be a lot less stressful to stop well short of a gate at a suitable spot and walk the last few yards to open it. When you restart the bike this will usually give you a nice clean getaway instead of having to struggle in the mud and ruts created by all the other vehicles who drove as close as they could to the gate before stopping. Always seek out opportunities to save energy, you don’t know when you might need it. Once fatigue sets in it the possibility of falling off big heavy bikes increases dramatically.

Lands end Bishops wood 1

Once fatigue sets in the chances of falling off a big bike increase dramatically! This is yours truly on the Land’s End Trial a few years ago, my first attempt at tackling serious off- road stuff on an adventure bike.

If you find yourself on a tricky section of steep trail with lots of rock and mud and you’re wondering where to find grip a good tip is to follow the route of any  water flowing down the lane. Water will usually wash away any mud and I find if I need to make a quick decision on which route to take through a hazard there’s usually grip to be found beneath flowing water. On technical trails pick up momentum when you can get traction and then allow the bike to roll along on a neutral throttle over sections where the grip will be compromised. It’s all just common sense really but riding smart can make the difference between having a chilled and enjoyable day or a brutal, unsatisfying slog.

At the risk of stating the bleedin’ obvious, planning routes is very important, much more so than if you were on a small bike. I’ll happily set off on my own on one of the Adventure Ride Pamperas and go and busk it, exploring new routes and going wherever my fancy takes me but I never do this on the KTM 640. I’ll speak to other trail riders and ask them what lanes they think are suitable for big bikes. If you can see from the contour lines there will be a steep ascent, think about planning your route to tackle this lane in reverse so it becomes a descent. If I’m planning a big bike day I’ll look stuff up about the route on the web and ask questions on forums. Forewarned is forearmed.

Descent

Descending can be easier than climbing. This is JP, one of BMW’s off-road instructors making it look easy on a Triumph XC. There is no way this bike would have gone up this slope. Take into account the gradients when planning your route. [photo courtesy of Bike magazine and photographer Chippy Wood]


Don’t be tempted to simply pick out a few Byways on an OS map and head off into the wild blue yonder. Gather as much intel as you can, believe me it will pay dividends.
Before setting out make sure your bike has decent lifting handles and if it doesn’t, fit a lifting strap to the rear of the bike. When possible, leave your adventure style panniers at home, they’ll catch and snag on ruts lifting the rear and losing grip. Do everything possible to minimise getting stranded with a puncture. Pushing a big adventure bike with a flat tyre off a remote trail to the nearest garage will definitely spoil your day. Make sure you know how to remove both wheels and have the tools with you to do so. If you’re serious about going off road and haven’t yet changed a tube on your bike practice in the comfort of your garage. Far better to learn how to deal with a puncture listening to Radio 4 with a cuppa to hand than out in the Brecons with the rain lashing down your neck and dusk approaching. Carry a spare tube [or a tubeless repair kit]. Don’t rely on Co2 cannisters or a tyre repair cannister. By all means take some but for goodness sake carry a mountain bike pump as back up. Treat the tubes with a sealant such as OKO.

I would also strongly advise you don’t ride alone, trail riding isn’t a dangerous activity but in my experience it can be unpredictable. I’ve seen people break bones after an innocuous- looking fall and this would be very bad news if you were riding solo.
Drop the tyre pressures, I find 15psi each end works well on my KTM, don’t be tempted to go too low – unless you’ve got security bolts fitted the power of a big bike can spin the wheel in the tyre and tear the valve out. And don’t forget to put some air back in for the journey home. Ride smart and arrive home in one piece.

home

Photo courtesy Bike magazine and Chippy Wood

Everything but the kitchen sink.

Thankfully we have an excellent reliability record at AdventureRide. I like to think this is a combination of careful maintenance coupled with the Pampera’s inherent ruggedness – bear in mind the Pamperas get ridden by a wide range of riders from novices to experts and lead a pretty hard life. They get crashed and bashed and generally get knocked about. Despite this the bikes take it in their stride and just keep going

By way of contrast when the Ossa was on the fleet I used to leave the van on permanent standby with a spare bike in it in order to deal with whatever problem the Explorer might throw at me . At one stage I even gave a key for the van to a retired friend who offered to act as an emergency call-out should I find myself on some remote trail with a dead Ossa. I recall the van  being deployed on four of the seventeen occasions I rode the bike.  In fact,I ever since the Explorer err….retired itself from active service 10 months ago [more news about that little fiasco in the not too distant future] the fleet Pamperas have enjoyed a 100% reliability record. It was therefore a bit of a surprise to be out on a ride yesterday and find myself dealing with a serious show-stopping breakdown – I should point out at this stage the three customers were all highly experienced riders had all brought along their own bikes, two Honda XRs and Suzuki DRZ. All three bikes were well- prepped and fit for purpose but one of the Hondas, having behaved impeccably all day, threw a wobbler on the return leg of the trip. The problem appeared to be a dropped valve or a slipped cam chain or similar. Whatever it was, it was beyond the scope of a trail side repair and we had to work out how to get the bike and rider home from a remote sector of the England / Wales border.

Smiles all round as the the team optimistically set about finding the source of the problem.

Smiles all round as the the team optimistically set about finding the source of the problem. From left to right, Roy , Tony and Jason. All good men and true.

Ten minutes later the gravity of the situation dawns...

Ten minutes later the gravity of the situation dawns…

If you look at the bag attached to the front of Jason’s XR you will see it’s a common or garden enduro-style bum bag. Or is it? I’m not so sure … Mary Poppins sprung to mind as Jason’s bag spewed forth a baffling array of cables, levers, hydraulic lines , tools , nuts bolts and spares for just about every conceivable problem which might be encountered on a trail. Sadly, none of which could deal with a dropped valve and then, just as I was contemplating the logistical nightmare of rescuing a dead bike from the middle of nowhere Jason held aloft….wait for it…. a tow rope! I could have kissed him. I thought I was a bit OTT about carrying spares and tools for every occasion but clearly Jason has taken it to a whole new level. This is a man you need by your side when going trail riding.

Now,towing a bike with another bike can be tricky unless both tower and towee know their onions. No worries on this score. Within a few minutes we were under way with Tony confidently towing Jason back to civilisation and his bike trailer. I’m not saying there weren’t a few hairy moments on the way home but one way or another we all got home safely.

Towing the line. The lengths some people go to to save ten bob on fuel.

Towing the line. The lengths some people go to to save ten bob on fuel.

Which brings me to the point of this post, just how much kit should you take on a trail ride? Well here’s my starter for ten;

1] Tow rope. Light, cheap and versatile. It’s just gone to the top of my list.

2] Tyre levers

3] Front tube [which can also be used as a rear in an emergency]

4] Tube repair kit, in case the unthinkable happens and you puncture the spare tube. You wouldn’t be the first…

5] All the spanners necessary for front and rear wheel removal- and don’t forget the spanners/allen keys  for the front axle  pinch nuts and the caliper bolts.

6] Gaffer tape and tie wraps. You’d be amazed what can be patched up with these two simple constituents

7] Good quality mountain bike pump. Forget fancy Co2 cannisters and such like, go analogue, a pump will always get you home.

8] Spare clutch and brake levers

9] Spare throttle cable[s] and clutch cable if it’s non hydraulic

10]Two litres of fuel.

11]Spare split link

There’s always more of course but this little lot will do for starters. Happy riding!

Jason prays to the holy spirit of Soichiro Honda for divine inspiration. None came.

Jason prays to the holy spirit of Soichiro Honda for divine inspiration. None came.

We also got a bit of riding in. Tony gets his boots wet...

We also got a bit of riding in. Tony gets his boots wet…

Chain Reaction

The past few weeks at AdventureRide have been intense. Lots of rides with groups of three and four riders have meant the bikes have been worked  very hard. For me , this means lots of cleaning and lots of preventative maintenance followed by long days in the saddle. Yeah , yeah, it’s a tough job etc etc… but no, honestly , it is.

Steve, Richard and Simon

Steve , Richard and Simon. Stiperstones in the background.

Joe

Like I said in the opening paragraph, the bikes have been working hard!

Many years ago I worked  for one of the world’s largest truck operators and saw first hand the importance of effective fleet management.  The consequences of a breakdown in the truck industry is invariably expensive and occasionally dangerous. So how does the macro level of world fleet management translate to the micro level of a tiny rural trail riding business? Well you’d be surprised.

When working at Ryder System I was often impressed by the accuracy of the maintenance expenditure forecasts provided by the fleet engineers. This information had been garnered from experience of running thousands of trucks over millions of miles maintained with rigorous attention to detail. After a while patterns of wear and tear emerge and it starts to become easy to predict when a clutch will be needed or a gearbox is likely to need an overhaul. And so it is with my tiny little fleet of Gas Gas Pamperas. They are becoming boringly predictable. Now remember, when you run a fleet of trail bikes which take you and groups of customers to the back of beyond, boring is Good and surprises are Bad.

Chains , sprockets , wheel bearings , shock linkages, tyres, water pump seals all wear out with monotonous regularity. It’s the cost of doing business. But now here’s a thing, as a fleet operator albeit of  a very tiny fleet, I’m always looking for improvements and ways to extend the service life of components. The two main consumable components on a trail bike are chains and wheel bearings. I took a pragmatic approach to wheel bearings and worked out their tragically short life expectancy had very little to do with quality and everything to do with operating environment. Having done exhaustive field tests [ie riding bikes across lots of fields] I can report high quality branded bearings such as NTN, SKF or FAG wear out just as quickly as unbranded Eastern European bearings. Regular dousings in the river Onny three or four times a week coupled with  healthy dollops of Shropshire clay and mud being compacted against the outer seals will see off the even the finest Japanese made precision bearing just as quick as its Eastern Bloc counterpart. And so I now fit cheap bearings.

Andy2

This is what does yer bearings and chains in but who cares? It’s great fun.

Chains are different. The old maxim, buy cheap, buy twice definitely applies here. For years I’ve sworn by Regina O ring ‘Enduro chains’. Not cheap, but tough as old boots needing only minor adjustment after each ride, my only gripe about the Regina Enduro chain is it generates quite a lot of transmission drag, an inevitable consequence of tightly fitted O rings, which is the only way to keep muck out.  For some strange reason I was tempted away from good old Regina by the beguiling blurb put out on t’interweb by Ognibene [pronounce Ognee-benny, not Ognee-bean as I’ve heard some folks say]

Ognibene’s marketing puts out a very convincing argument for their X ring off road chain, primarily focusing on the low drag attributes of their product. And so I bought a couple . They were almost exactly the same price as the Regina chain and so the decision making process was driven by the potential for improved performance rather than a reduction in operating costs.

To say the Ognibene chains wore at an alarming rate would be an understatement. Within half a dozen rides I’d used up all the considerable adjustment available on the Gas Gas and had to remove a link.  Last week whilst out with a group of customers one of the Ognibene’s shed its centre link neatly depositing the chain in a ford, languishing like a dead eel in the gently lapping water. Fishing it out of the stream I could tell from the side to side slop the chain was on its last legs [see pic below]. I haven’t checked the riding log but I’d be surprised if the chain had been used more than a twelve times. A quick check on the second chain revealed its centre link had become dangerously loose and was also in imminent danger of self ejecting. Fortunately I’d packed a couple of spare links and ten minutes later we were on our way with the detached chain refitted and a contingency in place should the second also throw its hand in. As soon as the bikes were back at base I removed both chains and lobbed them in the bin, ordering up a couple of Regina Old Faithfuls to replace them. Rather annoyingly, I’d written to the Ognibene supplier a couple of weeks earlier politely expressing concern at the rate of wear and didn’t get the courtesy of a reply or an acknowledgement.  Don’t you just hate it when that happens? Shame on you Bike Torque Racing for not responding to your customers, and double shame on Ognibene for producing sub standard stuff.

Ognibene

I wouldn’t have believed this was possible. This folks , is an Ognibene X ring chain after a dozen rides. That’s a 100 link chain sideways bent into an arc 92cm long. That’s some serious degradation in such a short time! A complete waste of money…

Which brings me neatly to the point of this particular blog – I’ve now decided to introduce a regular product review element into the posts. It occurred to me I’m in a fairly unique position to assess off road motorcycling products due to the shear amount of hours I’m out on the trails . So, if you’ll indulge me I’m going to vary the ‘voice’ of the blog and provide some hopefully meaningful reviews rather than the thinly-veiled advertorials you find on forums when you search for product reviews.

Here’s a quickie for starters;

Park Tool TL 5 Heavy Duty Steel Levers.

The term ‘heavy duty’ in this instance us a misnomer . This is because is these levers are aimed at cyclists, not trail riders. Park Tools have an excellent reputation in the cycling world and amongst other things produce a range of professional tools for everyday use in bike shops with a well deserved reputation for outstanding quality. I know this because I was in the bicycle business for twenty years. I must confess I have had a set of these levers for years in my cycling tools and never used them, consequently they’ve been hung up gathering dust on the garage wall

It was only when my normal motorcycle tyre levers escaped  through a hole in the tail pack a few weeks back that I started packing the Park levers as  emergency backup. Last week we had a puncture out on the trail  and so the levers were deployed for the first time.  I have to say these levers are the best I’ve ever used on motorcycle tyres. The narrow nose and neatly curved lip make them ideal for getting under the bead of a close fitting trials tyre. They’re a wee bit over-engineered for cycle use and this is what makes them perfect for trail riding. They’re definitely man enough for what we want.

At 200mm long they fit neatly into an Acerbis tool pack …whaddya mean 200mm isn’t very long? If you can’t change a bike tyre using 200mm levers then you’re doing it all wrong.  I’m so impressed with them  I’ve ordered a spare set in case the first set also make a bid for freedom  out on the trail. Prices on the web vary so be if you buy a set be sure to shop around. Expect to pay around £17.

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Initial deployment of the Park TL5s. Is there anything worse than fixing a puncture in front of an audience? Well I suppose it could have been raining as well… Customers Simon and Richard take the opportunity to have a quick break.

Park levers

Park TL5s, I’d say these are a must for any serious trail rider. Beautifully made ,very effective and not too heavy. A definite five stars review. *****

Lads and Dads.

And dads and daughters. It’s been a busy old week at Adventureride with a distinct family flavour to the proceedings. In the past we’ve had plenty of siblings out on rideouts but this week I was delighted to welcome two  father and son combinations plus a father and daughter .  Alex and dad Tim turned up on a couple of nicely sorted KTM 450s and enjoyed a brisk ride through the border country.It was an entertaining day in near perfect conditions.

Alex and Tim enjoy a quick break and take in the beauty of the view east across the Long Mynd

Alex and Tim enjoy a quick break and take in the beauty of the view east across the Long Mynd

Father shows son the old man can still cut it on a bike.

Father shows son the old man can still cut it on a bike.

Next up were Ian and son Chiz, plus a couple of friends John and Steve. We had a brilliant day out defined by [once again] perfect riding conditions and some great banter. Ian gets the ‘quote of the week’ award when , during an intense discussion about the dangers of crossing fields of cows he came out with the following astute observation [best said in a soft scouse accent] ” You know what cows are don’t you? Cows are just three tons of stupid” It was one of those beautifully timed quips which had me quietly laughing to myself for the rest of the day, in fact I’m chuckling whilst I type this.

Ian’s 19 year old boy Chiz, holds the distinction of being the youngest customer we’ve ever had. Not only was he a lovely lad, he was also a very handy rider and tackled whatever was thrown at him in a calm, mature manner belying his tender years. It crossed my mind that trail riding could be a fantastic way to encourage youngsters out onto bikes. It’s exciting but relatively safe, there’s a great sense of adventure, the bikes are cheap to buy and insure and it’s refreshingly unregulated when compared to road riding which is becoming so restricted due to the indiscriminate use of speed cameras that the pleasure has all but gone out of it nowadays.

Smiling customers. Pics like this really make my day.

Smiling customers. Pics like this really make my day.

Chiz demonstrates his fluid riding style through Hopton Woods. Typical teenager, going out without a proper jacket on...

Chiz demonstrates his fluid riding style through Hopton Woods. Typical teenager, going out without a proper jacket on…

John gives the Pampera a big handful to loft the wheel clear of the ford

John gives the Pampera a big handful to loft the wheel clear of the ford

The stunning weather has blessed every ride lately, and Alan and Chris who turned up towards the end of the week saw the South Shropshire hills at their very best. Neither of the guys had ridden off road for , well let’s just say a very long time. They soon found their feet and we had a memorable ride in amazing weather.

I can't be absolutely certain but I'm fairly sure Chris had a grin on his face for the entire day. A sense of humour would be essential to carry off wearing a jacket like that.

I can’t be absolutely certain but I’m fairly sure Chris had a grin on his face for the entire day. A sense of humour would be essential to carry off wearing a jacket like that.

Alan demonstrates a bit of trials stylee suggesting he may have done this sort of thing before

Alan demonstrates a bit of trials stylee suggesting he may have done this sort of thing before

The final ride of the week had father and daughter combination Mike and Sarah plus buddies Mike and Darrin. As well as a fantastic ride the overnight rain had cleared away the heat haze and left the scenery pin sharp, ideal for taking pics. The combination of perfect conditions and excellent company made it a day [and a week] to remember.

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Mike and daughter Sarah with The Lawley providing a dramatic backdrop

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Offa’s Dyke. The group sharing a bit of banter after a long day’s trail riding. A perfect end to a perfect week

Telford 2015. Another great show.

Is it really a year since  I last posted about Telford? Doesn’t time fly when you’re enjoying yourself. Alan Wright’s highly regarded Dirt Bike show was last year acquired by motorcycle publishing house Morton’s who appear to be achieving total world domination of UK classic bike events. Any fears they would somehow spoil or interfere with this popular regional show have been totally unfounded. Morton’s applied a commendably light touch to their administration of the show and Wrighty’s informal spirit lived on in the 2015 event. From an exhibitors point of view Morton’s PR and promotional clout can only be a good thing and from where I stood on stand 23, Hall 3 the show seemed better than ever.

Telford 1

Centre piece on the AdventureRide stand was a 1964 D.O.T. kindly loaned to us by Derek Hertzog from my home town of Altrincham.  It provided a nice bit of eye candy for the stand and drew a lot of comments. If you’re not familiar with the D.O.T. motorcycle brand they were a Manchester based factory who established a reputation for building , amongst other things, decent clubmen’s bikes for off road sport. Whilst not exactly giant killers, a D.O.T. could be a very handy tool in the hands of an experienced national class rider and could often give more exotic works bikes a run for their money.

The D.O.T. had been restored by my chum Pete Priest, who kindly turned out for the second year in succession to lend a hand. For some years now Pete has built a fine reputation for classic bike paintwork and a number of his customer’s bikes have won concours awards. Pete is also a very fine mechanic, campaigning a very potent Commando in hillclimbs and sprints.  He’s now moving the focus of his business into mechanical work and full restorations see http://www.priestbikepaint.co.uk

Pete, or Father Pete as we like to call him, hears yet another confession from one of his flock

Pete

Adjacent to the AdventureRide stand was my mate Nigel Land with his unfeasibly clean TLR Hondas. Nigel specialises in restoring these lovely little Honda trials bikes and has established himself as one of the countries leading TLR restorers. Nigel’s secret , which he confided over a coffee, was to source low mileage donor bikes directly from Japan, bring them in and then totally strip and rebuild them. Having built one or two bikes myself over the years  I understand the logic of sourcing the best possible donor bike possible. It saves money in the long run and you end up with a bike which is as close to a new one as you can achieve.

As you can see from the pic, Nigel’s work is uncompromising and of the highest quality, check him out on http://www.trl-transformations.co.uk

Nigel’s TLR, ’tis indeed a thing of great beauty

TLR

The rest of the show was the usual mix of race and off road bikes, club stands and traders . Guest of honour was Mick Grant, who of course straddles both camps being a hugely talented road racer as well as a very good trials rider, especially on classic stuff. I’ve bumped into Mick on a couple of occasions when doing trials and he’s a very affable bloke always willing to have a bit of banter. One of the great things about motorcycling is our heroes are often so accessible. Mick was handing out the concours awards.

Gritty Yorkshireman more used to receiving trophies than handing them out.

Mick grant

One of the bikes which caught my eye at the show was this intriguing thing badged as a Rhind Tutt Wasp. Was it just sporting the tank off a wasp outfit or was it a solo built by Rhind Tutt? Sadly I didn’t have time to check out the details but it looked an interesting bike nonetheless.

wasp

Oner of my favourite bikes which I see from time to time is Steve Gard’s superb Jawa ISDT bike. I came across Steve with his bike at the Carlisle centenary ISDT celebrations in 2013 [if you scroll to the early posts on this blog you can read all about it]. To me , this bike sums up the heyday of the ISDT era and is in wonderfully original preserved condition, which is just the way I like ’em. Of all the nice bikes at the show this is the one I’d like to have bundled into the back of the van when no-one was looking.

It’s a real shame the ISDT morphed into the ISDE and somehow lost its character. I suppose it was inevitable with the development of modern dirt bikes but for me the ISDT will always be defined by  two strokes, twin shocks and Barbour suits.

Jawa

Wasp badgeJames

This year Telford was good for AdventureRide and I feel the business has now firmly found its feet. The light and easy to ride Pamperas on the AdventureRide fleet and the novice-friendly terrain around Shropshire make it an ideal experience for first time trail riders. We’re now concentrating our efforts on encouraging new comers to try off-roading and the majority of our customers are usually very experienced road riders who have little or no off road experience. A number of female riders came on to the stand at Telford and asked to sit on the Pamperas we had on display. A lot of riders, especially girls, are intimidated by the sheer height of modern trail bikes and the Pampera is a refreshing antidote to those who don’t need 12″ of suspension travel.

After an busy weekend at Telford it was good to be able to kick back and have a relaxing day out with a group of TRF riders. By way of a change I’d advertised a ride out suitable for larger machines or novice riders and was surprised to find all six quickly places quickly filled, obviously there’s a niche there…

Once on the trail it became clear none of the riders were novices, they were simply guys who , like me, don’t necessarily want an intense , white knuckle experience every time they go out. We had a very relaxed day avoiding the more technical trails and instead concentrating on the longer , elevated drover’s trails in the borders. Trail riding doesn’t get much better, here’s a few pics.

Tim making a splash on a well known brand of orange bike

Tim , forest

Big country, little bikes. The group threads its  way along Adstone Rise.

Big Country

Hugh Clearly, a TRF stalwart and tireless rights of way campaigner, shows a bit of trials stylee negotiating deep ruts on the Kerry Ridgeway

Hugh water splash

Smiley riders, always a good sign. Jason clearly enjoying himself on his XR400

Jason smiles

Smiley walkers, an even better sign!

smiler walkers

Will turned up on an impossibly clean KLX 250. Needless to say we soon sorted that out.

will, forest

Little Britain , on the A49 between Craven Arms and Church Stretton. The best bacon butties this side of the Onny river. A Michelin-starred diner if ever there was one.

left to right : Hugh, James, Will, Jason, Craig and Tim

LB

The tremendous weight of James’ BMW caused this sink hole to appear in Bucknell woods.Fortunately I was there to record the moment on camera.

BMW , forest

Area 51. Somewhere in Shropshire…

The start to the 2015 season hasn’t been entirely joyous. Last week I received a phone call from a nice man working for Natural England. He explained they’d received complaints about an image and its caption on my website. The image referred to a place of outstanding natural beauty which , for the sake of a peaceful life, we’ll call Area 51. If nothing else naming it area 51 will bring lots of extra traffic to the blog from Googlers looking for UFOs or Roswell related snippets. The picture showed some riders on road legal trail bikes, riding an unsurfaced Unclassified Country Road [ie a legal highway open to all traffic] in Area 51. So, I hear you ask, what’s the problem?  Well, apparently some riders have been seen  riding illegally [allegedly] in Area 51 and the person[s] who complained to Natural England blamed my website for inciting this lawlessness . It would be lovely to believe my website was so inspirational but I think both you and I know it isn’t. If we extrapolate the theory that showing images of people enjoying themselves incites people to break the law then I suppose you could say Jeremy Clarkson and his Top Gear co -presenters are jointly and severally liable for anyone who breaks the speed limit on the M1. In other words, it’s complete and utter tosh. I also suspect the complaint isn’t genuine. Let’s face it, if Joe Rambler spots some lads out on ‘crossers riding illegally I very much doubt  the first thing he does when he gets home is Google “trail riding in Shropshire”. If he did he’d very likely be pointed towards equestrian or mountain biking websites before he came across mine. No, I think what’s happened here is an anti-vehicle campaigner has been having a browse through my site, spotted the reference and decided to have a tickle at my expense. On occasion, I have been known to say less than flattering things about the anti vehicle lobby and in particular the GLEAM organisation – those self-appointed guardians of the English countryside. Now GLEAM would have you believe Constable’s haywain was clear evidence of vehicles abusing green lanes and trail riders are begat from the spawn of the Devil. In short, they hate us and the iron horse we rode in on.   Natural England do good work and so in the interests of keeping the peace and relieving them of the need to deal with these vexatious complaints I’ve reluctantly pulled the caption. Alien life spotted in Area 51. Edwards Air base is just out of shot on the right. Si Lest you think I’m being a bit paranoid about the anti vehicle movement and their despicable tactics allow me to share this brief anecdote. Last year an elderly trail rider suffered a heart attack and died whilst riding his bike during an equestrian event. The rider was a popular man who had helped at this particular event for many years. Motorcycle trail riders often assist with laying out course markers and other tasks during these events. It’s a symbiotic relationship enabling the riders to ride in area they wouldn’t normally have access to and it saves the event organisers from a tedious and time-consuming task. Bikes are ideal for the job. Following the tragedy you would have thought even the most hardened anti vehicle campaigner would show respect but no, these people will try to make capital out of any circumstance. Following the incident a report was published in an ‘anti’ newsletter which triumphantly [and incorrectly] announced trail riders had now been banned from equestrian meetings following the death of a trail rider who was attempting to ride over the obstacles during a horse trial.. No mention was made of the rider’s long term connection with the event , nor of his volunteer status helping out the organisers or the very important detail that he had suffered a heart attack. The inference in the newsletter was a reckless trail rider who was messing about during a horse event had come to self-inflicted grief. A hysterical rant followed berating trail riders in general and the TRF in particular. It was a particularly horrible and dishonest way to score a few below-the-belt punches against motorcyclists. It’s also rather sinister. We might expect misinformation to be broadcast by government departments and such like but this is a just about green lanes and motorcycles fer Chrisake. You know, come to think of it I might just reinstate that caption.

Happy New Year to all our readers!

Bless me Father for I have sinned, it’s been two months since my last post…

Has it really been over two months ? I’m afraid it has, In my defense things got really busy in November, so much so there was no time to compile a blog and then in December things went really quiet and there was nothing to write about. No such excuses today, no sir, because I’ve already done the first ride of 2015. Yesterday I met up with my chums Nick and Mike along with a few more TRF members and we blew the cobwebs away celebrating the new riding season by heading out for the recently re-opened Water Breaks Its Neck Neck. And yes, that is the correct name. But more of that later, in the meantime I’ll do a quick recap of 2014.

Initially I started the blog as an informal diary of trail riding in the UK because I wanted to share the experiences of riding in one of the best trail riding areas of the UK. The blog is hosted by WordPress and  a few days ago they sent over the site stats for 2014. Would you believe this blog now has readers in 64 countries? According to the stats the blog had it’s busiest day ever in December and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who takes the time to view it and for the kind comments some readers have sent in and hope you continue to enjoy reading about AdventureRide in 2015.

For me, 2014 will be memorable for the weather. We had an amazing run of good conditions here in the UK and this contributed to having some fantastic rides. Particularly enjoyable was the day out I  now refer to as the Landlord’s ride. Two local pub owners, Ian and Michelle booked a day out and we had a really grand day out.  Both have since made me very welcome in their respective pubs and it was after this ride that I felt I’d put down permanent roots in Shropshire. I’ve grown to really love this county, the locals are fantastic and have made me very welcome.

Publican Michelle smiling coyly at the camera, she might look shy and demure but let me warn you fellahs, she rides a full-house Cheney B50 for fun!

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Another memorable day for me was the first time I deployed the whole fleet of newly acquired Pamperas. I think the only bike which gave any trouble that day was my new Ossa Exporer!  Speaking of which a lot of people have asked me what has become of the Ossa, well I’m afraid it’s now the subject of a legal dispute. It would be inappropriate to discuss it at this stage but hopefully I’ll have something positive to report next month. In contrast to the Ossa, the Pampera’s have without exception, been paragons of virtue. Businesses stand or fall on the ratio of good decisions to bad . So long as the good outweigh the bad  you’ve got half a chance of survival. Buying the Pamperas was one of the good decisions, buying the Ossa one of the more regrettable ones. Sad but true. I’ve now got five Pamperas and one Ossa so at the moment the smart/dumb ratio is looking quite good. I hope Gas Gas rethink the Pampera concept and re-introduce another 94kg trials bike- based trail bike. I’ve lost count of the amount of people who have come up to me and said ” I wish Gas Gas still made these things…”

Danny and the boys enjoying their day out. This was the first time we had the full compliment of four bikes out at once.

Team woods

One of the most surprising things since starting AdventureRide has been the success of the solo days and the taster sessions. A lot of riders want to dip their toe into the trail riding water without being under the scrutiny of others and the taster sessions are an ideal way to do this . I’ve had a steady succession of riders coming out for half a day. These short sessions have been a very positive way to introduce people to the sport and we’ll certainly be continuing them in 2015.

This is Martin, a customer from Altrincham, firmly dipping his toe into the trail riding water.

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And so, out with the old and in with the new. Yesterday was the first ride of the new season and quad-riding Nick took us out for one of his typically excellent days out.. It’s always a pleasure to ride with Nick because he rides at a good brisk pace but with great courtesy to other trail users coupled with common sense where hazards are concerned. This means we can cover a lot of ground safely. The group who met up yesterday were all excellent riders and save for the odd stepping-off on greasy ruts , the day passed without incident and all the difficult stuff ‘cleaned’ without a problem. It was great to ride Water Breaks It’s Neck, one of the classic Welsh trails which has been closed by a traffic regulation order for the past couple of years. Now re-opened the trail is in pretty good condition, albeit very slippery in places. As ever in this part of the world the views are stunning  and WBIN didn’t let us down . The rain which persisted all morning suddenly cleared and we were able to enjoy a short spell of weak wintery sunshine. Here’s a few pics to give a flavour of the day.

Nick in typical take-no-prisoners mode. He’s riding a 1000cc V twin Can-Am. Very impressive. I’d love to be able to carry an axe, a jerry can, a tow rope and set of bolt croppers with me when I go out riding! Be afraid, be very afraid.

Nick wbin

Trail riders have a sense of style not found in any other sport. Simon , Paul, Dave, Nick, Ian and Mike show off their sartorial elegance and take a well earned rest after a morning of hard trails and persistent rain.

Motley crew

Open for business. Water Breaks It’s Neck. The trail is named after a local waterfall adjacent to the track.                                                                                                     

group wbin

How many trail riders does it take to change a light bulb? Nick, Ian and Mike extract Mike’s Husky from a deceptively deep rut on the notorious School Lane in Radnor.

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You wait all day for a KTM and then two come along at once.

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I’m not sure what Simon’s riding here. I can’t be certain but I think it’s an Airfix model of a Daimler Ferret scout car

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Mike getting into deep water. I’ve seen Mike traverse some improbably deep ruts on numerous occasions and I’m convinced that Husky has a hidden snorkel.

Mike

So, here endeth the first post of 2015.  Ride safe and I hope you keep visiting the blog or, better still come out for an AdventureRide,     http://www.adventureride.co.uk

Access all areas

I can’t believe it’s been a month since my last post, doesn’t time fly when you’re busy? And what a month it’s been . With exciting new trails to explore,  rights of way issues to investigate and a steady stream of customers coming through the door its been hectic to say the least. I’ve had a couple of larger rider groups on the rides, instead of the usual two and three man groups  there’s been a few seven and eight man teams to take out . Under normal circumstances  large groups are a no- no for me  because keeping large numbers of riders under control can sometimes be akin to herding cats. However I knew the guys coming out were experienced, sensible riders and so relaxed the rules a bit. I’m glad I did because we had some memorable days out .

One of the group rides was booked by Ian, a returning customer who asked me to organise a stag weekend for him. Now I know what you’re thinking and no, the weekend didn’t involve pole dancers, hookers,alcohol and recreational drugs. For a start, it’s very difficult to source reliable pole dancers in South Shropshire. Instead I suggested to Ian we could do a sort of bastardised biathlon. As you probably know the biathlon is one of the more unusual  Olympic disciplines involving cross country skiing and rifle shooting. I suggested to Ian we could put on our own version and organise a semi competitive weekend of trail/ trial riding and clay pigeon shooting . Riders start the weekend with fifty points and had points deducted for ‘footing’ on a one of the trials sections or failing to shoot the required number of clay pigeons. Motorcycles and firearms- what could possibly go wrong?

We had a great couple of days riding and shooting, it helps when you have a great group of guys who are up for a good laugh . I have a feeling we’ll be running a few more of these events in the future.

ian sootin    domPull!

rainbow

Rainbow warriors.

After the excitement of the biathlon it was back to the interesting , but somewhat less dynamic task of researching routes. Due to the slighter higher group numbers and frequency of rides in October I tried to vary the routes as much as possible. The reason being I try to respect the people who farm and live along the routes , not to mention the other lane users such as walkers, cyclists and equestrians. I wouldn’t like to see groups of motorcyclists frequently riding past my front door and I don’t see why others should. I try to keep the disturbances to a minimum , preferably once a fortnight and certainly no more than once a week. The policy seems to be working because I invariably get a cheery thumbs up when I take a group through some of the many farmyards the trails pass through. I intend to keep it that way and I believe sympathetic useage is the key to keeping everyone happy.

To provide variety means constantly researching alternative routes and a few weeks ago I went to investigate a lane which is clearly indicated on the Ordnance Survey map as an ‘ORPA‘ [Other Route with Public Access … the UK rights of way network is littered with these confusing acronyms] There was a gate across the lane with two  laminated  posters attached, one declaring the route closed to motor vehicles and the other displaying a map showing a disputed right of way. The posters had been placed on the gate by a lady with a property adjacent to the lane who clearly wanted to deny access to it. She had triumphantly displayed an email from Shropshire County Council who had responded to an email sent by her asking for clarification of the lanes status regarding vehicular access. The council officer had stated the county records for a short  section of this long lane were missing and therefore it was not possible to confirm whether the right of way was continuous for the whole length of the lane. Of course not being able to confirm the existence of a right of way doesn’t necessarily mean there is no right of way, it simply confirms there is no existing record currently on file.

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The lady in the adjacent house has rather mischievously interpreted the  council officer’s comments as confirmation that vehicles are banned and subsequently posted the misleading and inaccurate notices. Yesterday I called into Shirehall [Shropshire County Council headquarters] and asked to see the ‘Definitive Map’, a series of ancient maps which clearly show the right of way network. I mentioned the lane in question and the very helpful lady from the council gave me a knowing look and said ” Oh yes, we’ve had numerous discussions about that one” She was far too polite and professional to comment on the individual who had posted the notices but when I asked her if the route was a right of way  she replied “Well it’s pretty obvious it is a right of way but for some reason the records have gone astray” . When I asked if I was within my rights to use the lane she shrugged her shoulders and said ” I don’t see why not”.

She then gave me an interesting tip that her department only deals with lanes up to BOAT  classification [see what I mean by confusing acronyms- Byway Open to All Traffic] and that the county highways department might very well have confirmation of the lane status as the lane may well be a UCR. Just in case you were wondering – Unclassified Country Road.

The lane will now be included in my routes, it’s a lovely old lane and by the look of the bordering hedgerow is hundreds of years old .When I first started AdventureRide I made a mental note not to be come militant about these abuses but, having seen some very unjust lane closures perpetrated by  selfish landowners  manipulating the system to suit themselves I feel we must make a stand on this sort of thing. Trail enthusiasts were shamefully short changed by the NERC laws passed in 2006 [Natural Environment and Rural Communities act] The NERC act was a piece of legislation shoehorned into UK law by a group of people with a very specific agenda. It was sold to Parliament on the basis of preserving green lanes but in reality it was a toff’s charter, facilitating the closure of ancient rights of way . A lot of powerful landowners seized the golden opportunity gifted to them by the NERC Act to ban the oiks from their land once and for all. If you look at the areas surrounding a lot of the large shooting estates you will see a suspicious absence of green lanes. The NERC act effectively allowed these powerful landowners to ring fence themselves from the general public. Not since the infamous enclosure acts of the 17th century has there been a more unjust denial of public access to open spaces.

Much work is being done behind the scenes to try and unravel the damage done by the NERC act. To reinstate a BOAT [many of which have been downgraded post- NERC to bridleways] is notoriously difficult and gets harder with each passing year. To apply for a lane to be upgraded [ie returned to the status quo which existed happily for hundreds of years] requires a lot of evidence of past useage and this is becoming increasing difficult to obtain. I’m going to have a crack at getting one or two reopened around here and will post occasional updates on the blog.

To give an idea of the sort of prevalent attitude we’re dealing with here’s the current government spin put on the aforementioned enclosures  act. I lifted the following comment off http://www.parliament.uk. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

“There is little doubt that enclosure greatly improved the agricultural productivity of farms from the late 18th century by bringing more land into effective agricultural use. It also brought considerable change to the local landscape.”

What a strange reflection on a period of British history which saw many poor rural communities bullied into near starvation by unscrupulous land owners grabbers denying them access to land they had farmed for generations.

Enough of the quasi political ranting, let’s end the blog on a lighter note. Here’s a few images of Adventureriders enjoying themselves during the past few weeks..

..ridgeway grouphappy customers

dickRadnore arms

station roupmedlicott

Wild Riding.

You’ve heard the expression ‘wild camping’? It’s the term applied to off piste camping away from formal camping areas. Well today I’ve been doing a bit of wild riding; exploring remote tracks which are not public rights of way. Under normal circumstances this would of course be illegal but today I had the great privilege of being shown around some very remote corners of Shropshire by my good mate Mickey, a keen trail rider and arch off-road enthusiast. Through family and business contacts Mickey is very closely connected to the local farming community and enjoys , metaphorically speaking, an access all areas, back stage pass to some of the most beautiful riding country in the region. Mickey very generously offered to show me around his manor and take me on a days trail riding most of us can only dream about.

Mickey hill

Access all areas, Mickey fires his Beta Alp up the bank of a disused quarry.

Today we’ve ridden gnarly singletrack, explored ancient lanes long closed to motorised traffic, meandered through dense woodland, descended into deserted quarries, blasted across vast fields of stubble and picked our way along rock strewn trails wending our way through parts of the Shropshire landscape fundamentally untouched since the Iron Age. We’ve cruised along disused railway tracks , burbled quietly through peaceful farmyards and not seen a single soul or another rider the whole day. However, we did drop in for a brew  on more than one occasion with various members of Mickey’s extended family and enjoyed a chinwag. All in all it was a grand day out exploring terrain which is off limits except by special invitation. To cap it all the sun shone all day and we had perfect weather for our jolly. Wild riding indeed and if there’s a more enjoyable way to spend a day on a motorcycle I’ve yet to experience it.

Bob Lane

Deserted unused lane, once a RUPP [Road Used as a Public Path] but sadly no longer [see below].

The elation of riding these deserted roads and paths was also tinged with a sense of loss mixed in with a little bit of anger. You see a number of the routes we traveled were once perfectly legitimate vehicular rights of ways , enjoyed by motorcyclists and motorists since the advent of motorised traffic without the need for permission of the landowner. In 2006 these rights were swept away in the stroke of a bureaucrats pen when the NERC law [Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act] was passed  amid much controversy and accusations of dodgy parliamentary dealing. It’s a long story and  too complicated to be dealt with here…

Overnight off-road enthusiasts lost the right to use these lanes and the face of green laning in the UK was changed forever. Never has much been lost for so many by the selfish actions of so few.

Today made me appreciate how important it is to support bodies such as LARA [Land Access and Recreation Association] and of course the Trail Riders Fellowship, [www.trf.org.uk] two key players in the fight to retain legal vehicular access to these ancient roads. It’s absolutely imperative that we keep what little we’ve got left and also , where practical, fight to re-instate lanes which have been unlawfully closed. If you’ve been thinking about joining the TRF then don’t delay, the organisation needs your support to fight the good fight and ensure we off road enthusiasts don’t suffer the injustice of yet another NERC debacle.

Many thanks to Mickey for an outstanding days riding. Here’s to the next time!

Mickey River

Mickey fording a stream . Thankfully this particular lane is still a legal route and able to be enjoyed by anyone with a suitable vehicle

To finish first, first you’ve got to finish.

I once drove all the way to Croatia to race at Rijeka, it was a 4,000 mile round trip dragging a caravan halfway across Europe. My recollections of the trip aren’t pleasant. With a caravan you become a motoring pariah; truck drivers  give no quarter and private motorists hate you. And when you see a van with a caravan hitched to the back it makes you look as if you belong to a certain Anglo-Irish sub-culture who might offer to tarmac your driveway at a bargain price.  So, after a very stressful journey which included a rather intense experience with some  stony- faced Slav border guards whilst entering the former eastern Bloc , we arrived at the circuit. The bike lasted half a lap.  A faulty ignition rotor gave up the ghost and it was game over. Pack up your stuff and drive home. To finish first, first you’ve got to finish.

Experiences like that can be character building. You either quit and find another hobby or you learn from it and try to make sure it doesn’t happen again. My chum Pip Higham , drag racer, Suzuki technical guru and ace bike builder drummed into me the importance of checking everything before a race and then checking again for potential ‘race losers’ or ‘show stoppers’ as he calls them. I like to think some of Pip’s pragmatically thorough approach to bike preparation has rubbed off on me over the years and I’m quite pernickety about preparing the Adventure Ride bikes before an outing. The consequences of mechanical breakdowns out on a remote trail can be just as distressing as a mechanical failure in Croatia, especially if you’ve got four customers in tow who have taken a day off work and paid good money to be with you.

In my experience the kind of thing which catches out the unwary trail rider is usually avoidable and with a bit of pre-planning the opportunities for disappointment can be minimised. Modern engines  rarely break down nowadays and even if they do develop problems it’s usually possible to limp home one way or another. Conversely if your drive chain snaps you ain’t going nowhere. It’s the simple stuff you need to prepare for.

Trail riding is a harsh environment for a motorcycle. Can you imagine what this sort of treatment does to chains , wheel bearings and suspension linkages? It’s ‘orrible.

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Here’s a list of some of the more common showstoppers and a few tips how to avoid them.

Chains.

You might get away with a dry chain on a road bike but out on the trail they tend to break more readily. It’s a brutal environment and any weak links , if you’ll pardon the pun, quickly manifest themselves. I stopped using expensive chain lube aerosols some time ago, whatever you put on will get washed off as soon as you’ve crossed two or three fords anyway. Nowadays I use a half inch paint brush and liberally paint the chain with whatever cheap oil I can find in the remainder bin at Halfords.  Remember on an O-ring chain the rollers themselves are sealed, it’s the rubber O-rings themselves you are trying to lubricate so they can slide easily against the side plates. Once the O-rings dry out the chain becomes stiff and creates unwanted friction and drag even if the rollers are running smoothly. I’ve also equipped my bikes with a Loobman chain oiler [www.loobman.co.uk]  These ingenious little  chain oilers are  cheap as chips [less than twenty quid] and have halved the chainwear on my customer bikes. It’s a manual system and every so often whilst out on the trail I give the Loobman a few pumps to deliver some fresh oil. Highly recommended.

Top Tip; if you’re using a split link chain a blob of silicone sealant pressed in an around the spring clip will prevent it flying off. Carry a spare link tie wrapped on the bike somewhere just in case, oh, and a cheap chain splitter.

Yeah, yeah, before you say anything this shot was taken immediately after a ride prior to cleaning.  Note the centre link filled in with silicone and also  the feed head on the Loobman oiler.

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Link tiewrapped to the ‘bars. Cheap insurance.

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Tyres.

Punctures can definitely spoil your day. I don’t mind changing a tube in the warmth of my garage listening to Radio 4 with a mug of tea and choccy digestive to hand , in fact in a perverse way I quite enjoy it. Any such enthusiasm disappears when I’m on a bleak hill top with an easterly wind blowing up my Jacksie and rain dribbling down my neck. No siree, you don’t want to be getting unnecessary punctures if you can avoid it.

Recently I’ve started using OKO tyre sealant and have had very good results, in fact I reckon it’s brilliant stuff. Get it from http://www.thefordcentre.com, they’re based in Brum, are nice people and really know their stuff. I use it in conjunction with 4mm heavy duty tubes and with that combo punctures should be a thing of the past.Bear in mind though if you clout a rock at speed the ensuing snakebite puncture can sometimes be too large for the OKO to work so my advice is always carry some patches , a spare tube tyre levers and a pump just in case.  A pump ? Yeah I know the modern way is to use a CO2 cannister but I’ve had problems with these and prefer the good ‘ol analogue method. You know it makes sense. Even if you aren’t experienced at changing a tube at least if someone else comes along who is you’ve got the right kit to deal with the problem.

Top Tip; a lot of punctures are cause by tyre creep which drags the tube and pulls the valve out. Mark the tyres with Tippex and keep an eye on it during a ride. In my experience fronts suffer from creep more than rears. Strange but true. Also think about your tyre pressures. 8psi in the rear and 12psi in the front might give you lots of grip but  will also increase the incidence of punctures. You’re not in a competition so sacrifice a bit of grip for reliablity. Run ’em at 15psi.

Tippex, simple but effective.

Ossa creep

Levers

A snapped clutch or brake lever can quickly bring proceedings to a halt. Carry a spare and tie wrap it to the handlebar safely. Now here’s a strange one, recently I’ve had a spate of the adjusters rattling loose and I put this down to the dry weather making the trails very harsh and creating extra vibration [mud is like a shock absorber]. When an adjuster falls out on the trail you are usually stuffed and it’s a long walk home

Top Tip; Put a blob of silicone sealant on the adjuster locknut, it’s a tip I picked up when endurance racing and it works a treat.

Not pretty but infinitely preferable to walking home

Lever

Grips

I’ve once saw a nasty accident caused by a grip slipping off a handlebar. If’ you’ve got bark busters on this isn’t such a problem but even so a rotating grip can be distracting even if it isn’t a danger. Grips which are on tight in the workshop can suddenly slide off in the most unpredictable situations , especially in damp conditions. Again, harking back to my racing days the best solution is to lockwire them on. Failing that use some hairspray when fitting the grips, it dries and hold them in place, just like your barnet.

Lockwired grips are a useful safety aid and much kinder to the environment than  Harmony hairspray. They also have the added advantage of making you look as if you’ve just competed in an ISDT, especially if you’ve got the split link tied to your handlebars.

Lockwire

 

Whilst you’ve got the Tippex  out here’s another tip; Use it to write the number of your breakdown provider on the back of a side panel. Don’t rely on storing the number on your mobile, if the ‘phone gets wet or the screen breaks your done for.

Brakes

When you look at the performance of modern dirt bike brakes and the conditions they have to function under it’s a miracle they stay working as long as they do.  The problem is, if they start to drag or bind it’s sometimes difficult to detect , especially if you’re plugging through thick mud. the first thing you know about it is when smoke starts pouring off a caliper or you find you’ve got no brakes on a steep descent.

A lot of problems can be avoided if you detach each caliper when doing your pre ride check, whip the pads out and by judicious use of a tyre lever hold back the piston[s] leaving one free and gently press the brake lever.  Check each piston in turn and make sure it’s moving freely. Sometimes they get gummed up with accumulated trail crud and they can stick , it’s an easy fix in the workshop but not so simple out on the trail. If a pad is dragging slightly you’d be surprised how quickly this will boil the brake fluid leaving you without a brake. It’s a 5 minute pre ride check and perhaps a bit OTT but one day you’ll be glad you did it . I do it on all the customer bikes and have avoided potential problems on more than one occasion

That’s all for this now folks, due to various commitments I won’t be able to post for a week or two so until the next time, ride safe.

Gratuitous endurance racing shot.Oh happy days, just look at the concentration.  Then, half a lap later… The same rules of bike preparation are equally important on a trail bike.

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