This promised to be a big one. Andy from the Trail Riders Fellowship was planning a 140 mile trip
around the North York Moors starting from Boroughbridge. He had a couple of guys (Greg and Mick)
already signed up and so, with some trepidation, I added my name to the list. I know I need to get
time on the bike if I’m to achieve my aim of becoming a decent trail rider with a fair level of technical
skill. I also know that the TRF guys have been really great, offering encouragement and helping me
out when I run into difficulty on the trail. Even though I was probably going to be out of my depth, I
had it to do.
I left the house at 7.30am. I’d run through all the excuses in my mind and found that not one of them was really convincing. I just had to ‘get on my bike’ (Honda CRF250L) and get on with it. I rode up to Boroughbridge and met the guys, who were waiting in the café with their KTMs and Honda outside. It was freezing, so we had a quick brew and bacon sandwich before setting off.
The first few lanes were flooded and greasy so we got an early soaking as we settled into the pace of the ride. There is always quite a bit of road work to do on these run outs and we made our way via various lanes and roads towards Ampleforth where there is a good lane climbing up the side of the escarpment. From there we headed to Helmsley, usually full of motorbikes at the weekend, but not at this early hour.
There is a brilliant lane beyond Pockley which gives splendid views across the dale. Unfortunately the lane that once took you right across the moor was closed to vehicles some time ago. We trail riders must take our pleasure where we can get it and while we always stick to legal trails, it is a sport that is under threat as an increasing number of lanes are closed to motorised vehicles right across the country.
Fog, wind and fags
It was still cold and foggy at the bottom of Westside Road, York, which climbs steadily over Rudland Rigg. The poor visibility didn’t stop Greg and Mick from heading off at a good lick. It is just so exhilarating to ride across the moors! The northern end of the road has a rocky descent which is easy enough to ride if you pick the right line.
The guys then tackled the infamous ‘Plantation’ which is a really steep, slippery, washed out track. Greg cleared it but the other two were caught out by the technical challenges and ended up in the heather. Meanwhile, I sensibly had a cup of coffee at nearby Kildale. Know your limits I say.
There were a few more technical lanes before lunch at Danby. We always have to sit outside cafes because we are usually far too wet and dirty. By this time the sun was making an occasional appearance and the temperature was rising. We continued to head north and eventually came to Danby Rigg having crossed the stunning moorland over wind-blasted Glaisdale. Before we tackled this technical climb and descent, we stopped so that the two smokers could have a fag break. The wind was ferocious and blew Greg’s KTM onto the ground, not once, but twice. Then he broke the bite valve on his Camelbak. Then he uttered a foul oath! The climb over the Rigg in York had my bike bouncing over the rocks. I was pleased with the way I was allowing the bike to squirm and roll beneath me without losing my balance or confidence. The descent was a toughie too and I needed to pause to get over my ‘armpump’ before completing it.
Tiredness takes its toll
We eventually headed south again and after plenty more interesting lanes, we arrived at ‘Thousand Gates’ lane (probably only 8 of them in fact!). Andy binned it here, trying to change from one rut to another. Schoolboy error! The first rule of riding in a rut is never change rut.
With weariness affecting us all, we slowed the pace down in York and headed back to Boroughbridge. We’d managed the full 140 miles as planned and made it for the target of around 5pm. We finished the day with a pint on the High Street. I was exhausted and I’d had enough challenges for one day. But I felt totally brilliant! We all did! Like knights who’d completed a quest!
Hondahontas March 2014