August bank holiday presented the perfect chance to pack our bikes and hit the road. As well as a holiday, this was an off-road training trip for me. I have done a bit of off-road riding before as we rode to Spain last year; there were loads of really nice flowing trails there.
Off-road in Spain mostly means long, sweeping gravel tracks which you can go fairly quick on. In the UK however, green lanes are getting less and less for motorbikes so they are all pretty short in comparison. The conditions are obviously completely different as well, trails in England can change so quickly, you can be riding along a nice flat section which will then quickly turn to thick mud, and suddenly you’re in a bog!
As much as I love road riding, trails give you the opportunity to see things you’d usually miss out on. Instead of looking out across the landscape, you feel like you’re actually in it. I can be going just 30mph on a trail and my heart will be pumping more than going 80 on a road. You’re looking out for jumps, dodging puddles, boulders, and sheep! So this break was a good chance to head to the Lake District and get some training done. My partner in crime Dave has a fair bit of experience off-roading. He used to race mountain bikes and then moved over to moto so he’s pretty handy to pick up some tips from.
We set off on Monday Morning
Riding from Harrogate to Keswick. On the way, there were a few trails that Dave described as straightforward… The first was Stalling Busk which was awesome, it was flat gravel like the ones I’d encountered in Spain. I picked up speed and was making good progress until the track abruptly became badly rutted, probably due to 4×4’s booming down it recently. My front wheel hit a massive ditch and within 5 minutes on the track, I had face planted into a bush. Luckily it was actually quite comfy so I had a soft landing!
We finished that trail and stopped for coffee at a beautiful lake called Semerwater. After lunch we hit another trail called Lady Anne Highway, which was insanely muddy and I skidded over a fair bit but the trail got less technical when riding down on the other side of the mountain, so we got going and gave it some beans!
That night we arrived at our campsite
It was ideal..nice showers, little shop and not too busy so we had quite a large area to pitch up. I love tent life, there’s something about it that gives you a sense of freedom. Being able to just sit with one side open and a cup of coffee, looking out onto the beautiful mountains. One of my favourite things about tent life is falling asleep listening to the rain, relaxes me for some reason. I was just hoping the rain would stop when we wanted to get riding. We were lucky, we had mostly blue skies and sunshine.
We’ve got a pretty good camp set up. We have a LoneRider tent which has lasted us well over the last few years. Our stove is a MSR Dragonfly which can burn just about anything, it’s really handy as we ran out of stove fuel and needed to use our petrol!
We spent the next day being tourists, rode into Keswick and went hiking which was lovely..
After a day taking it easy we made a quick dinner of noodles and got started on our movie selection. I woke up about 3am absolutely freezing so had to put some more layers on, three pairs of socks and a woolly hat. I was just about to get back to sleep when I heard some rustling around inside the tent, I was guessing it was a fox but found something else..a little hedgehog! So cute, but also noisy so I hustled him out and got back in my bag.
The next morning
We tackled the Old Coach Road, there was meant to be some ‘moderate technical challenges’ but it turned out to be a right mission. It had been heavy rainfall for a few days before we attempted the road, so there was thick mud over loose rocks and a lot of puddles. I fell off quite a few times on this trail and although I wasn’t hurt, there were two injuries. My bike ‘Beastie’ had lost a mirror and a gear lever. The mirror I could live without for the 3 hours ride to get home, but not being able to change gears was a problem. Dave did some quick thinking and suddenly I had a gear level again, but it was now shaped very much like a pair of mole grips…! (this obviously isn’t recommended, but I had to get home)
This trail was amazing. I felt pretty happy with myself for getting through it. Even though I fell into a massive puddle/pond and was drenched, I had the best time.
We were absolutely soaked and completely knacked after the Old Coach Road, and then it started raining.. obviously! So we got back onto the road and found the nearest cafe. After stuffing our faces, we rode back to our campsite, had much-needed showers and headed to bed. I slept right through, not cold or even prickly creatures could wake me up this time.
I woke up to the sound of the stove going (much like a tornado jet). Dave was making coffee and breakfast thank god. Caffeine was needed! It was pack up day. We got the tent down pretty fast, everything else got shoved into bags and we strapped the bikes up.
So that was our trip..riding trails and camping in the Lakes, and it was amazing.