The Wettest Winter Since Records Began – Trail Biking And How It Just Got Wetter…

The winter ride out was called a ‘pre-Christmas pootle’ on the West Yorkshire TRF forum so I thought it sounded a fun day out. The run leader was planning to ride his mighty Tenere 660 in contrast to our lighter, smaller Yamahas and Hondas.

Underwater motorbike

Hmm looks a little deep…

The slashing rain on the drive up to Pateley Bridge was only slightly off-putting and had stopped by the time we got to the car park in the lovely, warm van. Other vans arrived soon afterwards with a full range of trades represented – builders, electricians, plumbers and finally the ride leader, Rich, who does something clever with electric gates.

We made our way along the lanes

Doing a permissive route (that is, with special permission granted by the farmer) with a water crossing. It looked pretty fast with all the rain. I was nervous, having fallen off once before in this stream. But this time it was our plumber, not me, who had a little tumble in the water! His Yamaha needed up-ending to clear the water out which wouldn’t be the last time today a blue bike would need lifting up.

We continued up a grassy, slippery hill, or at least, I did. Everyone else was down at the bottom helping to get the Big Bertha Tenere up the slope. Rich had to cross-grain the field to gain speed so he could turn up the hill. The lanes that followed were all very wet and some resembled streams they were running with so much water.

Luckily, the fast-flowing Belford Sump was dispatched with ease by everyone and we made our way up and over the moors.

He who dares….

Then, we came to an unfamiliar lane. Chris, the pre-soaked plumber, was in the lead ahead of me. Sensibly, he stopped as the flooded lane in front of us descended under a disused railway bridge. I stopped too. But as our intrepid run leader would say “Fear causes hesitation”. He hit the throttle
and rode straight in.

And as he later described it “The water quickly rose up around my gentleman area and I knew my classic desert racer couldn’t take much more of this as most of the important stuff is quite low slung. As if on cue it popped and farted and gave up.”

Poor Rich! (with his low slung important stuff)

Water + Motorbikes = Problems

Water + Motorbikes = Problems

Who you gonna call…?

The bike had to be laid down to try and let some water out. Rich tried the starter but it was well and truly “hydro’d”. For a time it felt like we were going to be stuck there with a big, useless bike lying on the ground.

But the combined trades forces were not beaten yet. They heaved the ‘classic desert racer’ up onto the back wheel and got a few pints out of the exhaust, but still no dice on the button. Luckily the next field was slightly downhill, perfect for Chris to carefully tow Rich on the Tenere. Half way down Rich put it into top gear to try and pump some water out.

“If I can get it to run on one, it’ll drag the other one back in I’m sure” he shouted, but Chris just sniffed.

They fut futted along, and low and behold, by the time they reached the bottom of the field, the bike was running very lumpily on one cylinder, and after a moment or two, the other clunked back in. Off they chuffed again with plumes of white (water vapour) coming from the chimney, just like Thomas.

Staying dry?

Cunningly, the rest of us just rode around the side of the flooded lane which was by far the better option if you had any desire to stay dry. The daylight was running out and it was getting cold so we cut out some of the route on the way back. There were loads of brilliant trails through the day – muddy, rutty, grassy, hardpacked, rocky, slippy, slidy but mainly WET.

When we got back to the vans, we were all soaked to the skin. Except for one shrewd electrician who was clad in superb waterproof gear, right down to his knee-length Sealskinz socks. I think he may have been around the winter trail riding block a few times.

Hondahontas

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