I fancied a more local aunt this weekend
After several weeks of long hauls for rides I fancied a more local aunt this weekend and as a bit of a last minute thing I contacted Tigerman and asked if he fancied a ride north of Crediton to Bampton and back. Having put a new trials tyre on the back of his DRZ he was amenable for a few hours out and I posted up the run on the forum to see if anyone else fancied a run out. Late on Saturday night I’d seen no responses so assumed it was Paul and me, but checking my moby on Sunday confirmed that we’d be taking a ‘newbie’ out; excellent video fodder Paul noted, which I considered was a bit harsh… Saturday was a gorgeous day, so being winter in England means Sunday will dawn dreary with rain forecast later. Still no ice, which was the main thing and we arranged to meet at the bottom of the lane over Raddon Hills at Kitlake. We arranged a 9.30am start and I was up early enough to make a flask of tea, pack a few choccies for breakfast and make the run through Bradninch, Silverton and Thorverton to the predefined meeting point. Supping on my hot tea and munching on my Lion Bar I eagerly awaited Paul and the sacrificial lamb, ‘Mike’. However, my track record with newbies is pretty good, I don’t break them like Harty does, but given I rarely know where I’m going, this may be more luck than judgement!
Mike seemed a pretty perky kind of chap, pitching up on a 200cc KTM two stroker and obviously very enthusiastic. It is generally considered that Newcastle supporters are consider hard core, stripped to the waste in the middle of winter stoically watching another trophyless season, however, trail riders are also made of some pretty stern stuff as Mike pitched up in a shirt and motocross top and jeans! Still being an ex-marine, I guess putting your body through various forms of pain is considered routine and riding Devon lanes in mid winter armed with only a couple of mill’s denim is going to hurt…. We set off up the lane, relatively routine in summer, but it runs down to the bottom of the hill and the depression fills with water over winter and so we gave the bikes and Mike’s jeans a good soaking from the off. Mike’s other bike is some mentalist Kwacker with about 5 times the power of my Serow and he’s not ridden off road for over a decade, but he was pretty competent partly owing to the large amount of off road mountain bike riding he does, so his balance is fine, it’s just the fine throttle control that needs refinement. We rode up through Cotton Farm, Way Village and down through Grantland which include a bit of a ride along a very swollen stream with the usual slippery stones ensuring maximum concentration is required to avoid a dunking. I rode through first and sparked up the video eagerly awaiting my victim to follow through. Mike had already showed that falling off held no fear to him and his jeans were still remarkably dry. He cleaned the stream without a hint of a wobble – bugger! Paul followed and but for a tiny wobble also failed to provide the £250 YBF moment.
Riding on the Pennymoor, and signalling a little late for the right hand turn down the lane, I was surprised to see Mike so close behind me, and grabbing a big handful of front brake on very damp, muddy back lanes lead to the inevitable and the front wheel washed out and he fell quite heavily onto the tarmac, a very unforgiving surface I noted from the other day falling off on ice. However, I was covered in a Forcefield exoskeleton of high tech impact absorbent material, rather than cotton supplied by Levi’s, still at least Mike looked cool in his jeans as he struggled for breath lost from the impact of ribs on tarmac. A bit of a bruise to his thigh but t’was barely a scratch and he said he’d ride a few more lanes and see how he got on. We were off and running through the very pleasant lanes of Pennymoor and Cruwys Morchard before the nice lane down and across the Dart at Wood Farm. At the end of the lane, Mike checked his text and decided to call it a day, and would ride back home via Tivvy. His excuse was he had to ride back as he was due to phone his mum… of all the excuses, this was one of the lamest I must say! So Mike for next time (1) waterproof trousers preferably with some form of padding, (2) watch that front brake (3) consider using better excuses any of the following is acceptable:
• My dislocated knees has popped out yet again
• That bruised thigh is actually an open fracture and I losing life threatening amounts of blood
• My bike has some form of terminal problem – oil loss from gear shaft seal (Doug I note use this one once quite effectively..), piston ring is nipping up, some king of bearing has disintegrated etc
Anyway, I hope you got home alright Mike, it was great to have you join us and looking forward to the next time. The threatening weather had still to materialise and if anything there was a slight improvement with a watery winter sun peaking out from the clouds sporadically to encourage us onwards towards Bampton.
Up through Templeton and the woods on Witheridge Moor brought us up across the Link Road and a ride up along the UCR through Coleford Bottom, a hard bottomed, longish lane taking us up to the Iron Mill stream where we rode a short lane at Quoit a cross and down a narrow stony/muddy lane at Carscombe, which would have been quite a challenge coming up the hill. We then crossed thw Iron Mill Stream at Pinkworthy Farm via a UCR and I was anticipating using the bridge as about the same time last year we rode it and decided that there was too much flow to attempt the crossing. Given all of the river crossings so far had been through deeper and more water than last year, we were surprised to see it was eminently fordable and we crossed without any drama.
We headed down across the Exe and into Bampton to ride the excellent series of lanes around Morebath, Shillingform and Huntsham. The first lane up through Holwell Farm was a narrow, loose and inplaces, rocky lane where Paul struggled for grip even with a new hoop on the back, sliding across the mud and ‘resting’ against the hedge for a well earned break as I caught him up. I did not seem to struggle as badly with my new trials tyre on the back but noted I was running about 12psi compared with his 18 psi ish. It was either than or my skill. I suspect tyre pressure. The muddy lane at Morebath was next then again a lane best ridden down to Claypits which was very narrow, washed out in places with bits of vegetation seeking to snag unwary riders. We now turned south and picked up a nice lane out of Shillingford at Doddiscombe, a classic winter Devon lane, leafless oaks, narrow patches of mud and rock, winding down across a stream before climbing up out of the valley to provide views over the rolling landscape. Missing a turn (again) we doubled back to find a farm style track up through Pipshayne, east of Bampton then we enjoyed a couple of faster hard packed lanes over Bampton Down and the long Byway at Huntsham. Nothing technical, but good cruising lanes. The clouds on the horizon were darkening and the light levels were dropping even at 1 o’clock in the afternoon as we tracked south through Uplowman and skirting Tiverton rode the increasingly washed out UCR at Thurlescombe. After a couple of easy lanes at Butterleigh I decided we’d ride up the ever steepening lane past Hayne Farm. My success rate for the lane is about 3 out of 4 times I clear it, the fourth time I eat rock. Having cleared it the last three times did not bode well… It was particularly greasy but the climbing ability of the Serow, in first gear, ears pinned back, a few words to the gods I fancied my chances. Being a pretty local lane for me, I have rode it enough to know a line which normally works, starting on the right, dodging the holly bushes before sliding across to the left to avoid some particularly greasy rocks and hey presto, around the corner and onto the tarmac. However, the transition across from the right to the left hand side of the rocky bit did not go entirely to plan and the front wheel did something unplanned and I went badger hunting. The problem being the classic trail riding equation:
Speed = momentum (good) α 1/reaction time (not so good)
I had the pace but not the skill to anticipate the unexpected antics of the front wheel.
However, my newly acquired exoskeleton absorbed the impact and I grappled with the bike now slightly above me on a small rocky ledge. A burst of adrenalin would have help me right the bike, but Paul kindly stopped and yoinked it upright with me. That left us both stationary on the steepest part of the lane. This is where decent tyres come into play and we both got going again, and I inelegantly legged and bounced my way to the top, breathing heavily. Paul was nowhere to be seen so I took the camera and walked to the corner to video him ride up which did slowly but surely until right near the top when the bike was revving and the wheel was not spinning, which did not seem right. We rode down an old ‘yellow’ road on the map, but now well and truly reverting back to nature with the springs from the fields gouging away at the remnants of tarmac and rapidly cutting down through the classic red sandstone geology; the recent deluges not helping the erosion. Riding up towards Bickleigh Paul dropped back, his clutch slipping badly, and thus explaining the lack of forward movement at the top of Hayne lane. We decided to call it a day there rather than ride the last lane before parting, Paul adjusting his clutch in the hope of getting some connection between engine and rear wheel. I tracked back home to Cully, hoping he got back down the A3072 to Crediton OK.
Overall it was a fine day out, nice to meet someone new and to ride a couple of news lanes; winter trail riding is challenging but very rewarding. It’s easy to look out the window and decide not to tog up and get out, but I find like most outdoor activities – you rarely regret the decision to have made the effort.
Sean 12th January 2014.