Text message at 7.45am – I’ve forgotten my boots just going back home to get them, Tom.
So it was definite. We were going out. I did think we would struggle through to make the 9.00am Pateley Bridge meet-up with the three other riders from the West Yorkshire TRF. My angst levels were increasing as I didn`t want to be late. Eventually, the affectionately named Tardy Tom arrived and we loaded my Honda CRF 250L into the van alongside his Yamaha 250WR. We made it just in time, phew.
Leaving Pateley, the route took us along the road to Middlesmoor where the tarmac disappeared and the surface became uneven and rocky, with it finally descending steeply, about three miles on, to a reservoir. Blimey, this was exciting and exhilarating stuff, and the day had only just kicked off. The climb up the ominously-named ‘Deadmans’ lay ahead. Tardy Tom and the crew are all experienced off-road riders but I am still gaining my spurs and am ona steep learning curve in the dark art of making reasonable line choices, deploying effective clutch control and balancing the revs to cope with the ever-changing terrain; basically in fact, just trying to stay on the bike.
The weather was calm, it was sunny and the countryside looked stunning.
I relaxed as the ride went on and felt positively elated as I cleanly rode a tricky, rocky descent that I had failed to negotiate up, a couple of months previous. My elation was shortlived since the next challenge proved too much; I was gutted! A cobbled road, notoriously permanently flooded, and extremely slimy under the wheel, sucked me off the line and dumped me into the water. My elbow still bears the scars, although I have since managed to regain my pride.
The ride continued, taking in some superb roads through the Yorkshire Dales, stopping in Hawes for lunch along with about 50 other motorcyclists of every denomination. We then headed off to Reeth to the fabulous, rocky climb onto Fremington Edge.
My Bike – the fabulous Honda CRF 250L
The Honda is surprisingly nimble on this kind of track despite it being essentially a road bike with some off-road capability – a reasonable trail bike in effect. The CRF250L was brought out in 2012 to fill a gap in the market between the road and enduro/MX bikes which had previously been met by the old CRF230. I have made a few changes to my bike, notably swapping the stock tyres for some Michelin AC10 which has massively improved the grip on demanding terrain.
Handguards are also `a must `for a novice and my fitting them has saved me numerous times. The sump and radiator guard are also essential pieces of kit, to deflect rocks and stones that get flung up from the trail. In terms of performance, an exhaust pipe upgrade will be required in time. In terms of looks, a ‘tail-end tidy’ will give the bike a much sleeker appearance.
So, back to the ride and final messages…….
The final stages of the 110-mile ride were lost in a blur of fatigue. It also included just one more final unloading where I went ‘off’ in another stream. Over time I have developed something of a fear of stream crossings; I believe I know the technique that I should employ; revs on the high side, a focus on the exit point, holding a neutral body position, keeping up a reasonable speed and of course the all-important BIG DOLLOP OF LUCK. However, practising what I believe doesn`t always go according to plan! So, about 10 hours after setting out we arrived back at the start point, weary but exhilarated. We removed soggy kit, re-loaded the bikes (how muddy?) and adjourned to the nearest inn for a pint. By crikey, beer has never tasted so good. Until the next time…….
Footnote: the West Yorkshire TRF is affiliated to the national Trail Riders Fellowship, established in 1970, working to preserve the rights of way for off-road motorcyclists. All its rides are on legal trails.