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UP T’NORTH

DAVE NEWMAN'S LATEST TRAIL RIDE

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With the easing of the lockdown restrictions came conversations about the plans that had been discussed many months previously. One proposal, had been a trip Up T’North to ride the off road trails that stretch across the country from the North Sea to the Irish Sea. Or vice versa. Milky is friends with a group of riders who live up that way and are familiar with the routes that take you across the North York Moors, the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District. On road it is around 150 miles and can take between 3 - 4 hours. The route that we would take was going to be more like 400 miles and take 3 - 4 days. That excludes the ride up to the start and home from the finish making the round trip for us closer to 1000 miles. A fair trip in England on a trail bike.

We were going from east to west. The starting point was Whitby, well just outside to be precise. “We” the southerners were made up of four from London and Kent and one from Gloucestershire, that would be Dave, Lord of the Farriers on his legendary DRZ 400. I was on my trusty old KTM LC4, Milky on his KTM 690, Martin and Mike on their brand new shiny, sexy Yamaha Tenere T7’s. The Northerners:- Sean, Mark, Dave, Roy, and Ian. were on more lightweight affairs, all KTM’s ranging from 350 - 500 more appropriate for some of the more gnarly trails ahead. That left one other Northern rider, Chris Moss who many may know as a renowned bike journo. He was on another Tenere T7, a test bike from Yamaha complete with a lowering kit. More about that later…..

Whitby was busy when we called in to have a look, in fact all of the places we went through were busy. As lockdown rules were eased more and more folk were taking advantage and getting out again. Even though things have been fairly busy in London, traffic wise and in shops as opposed to tourist places, it felt a little strange to be around a lot of people. The whole mask wearing thing was about to be made compulsory in shops but not many were wearing them prior to the rules coming into force. Our “bubble” of smelly riders kept pretty much to ourselves in the places we ate and stayed. We were all pretty relaxed but the COVID situation was never far from my mind. Unless I was riding or picking my bike up.

There is one instance to describe before we reached our first nights stop at the Horseshoe Hotel at Egton Bridge on the River Esk. Martin came a cropper going through a ford on his shiny new T7. He hadn’t seen me go through or my front wheel that attempted to slide away on the algae covered cobbles that made up the floor of the ford. I was able to get a foot down and carry on very cautiously. Martin, in blissful ignorance, confidently stood on his pegs and was therefore unable to save the front of his bike as it slid away. I’m relaying this story as he was able to get it all on his Go Pro: It was an early lesson for us all. Of course I failed to learn it and went down whilst crossing one of many fords and crossings the next day!

The landlord of the Horseshoe Hotel let some of us camp on a small island that are part of the grounds. The Northern Team had thought to book the last rooms available. A splendid meal was had along with a couple of beers. Following a hearty breakfast we prepared to leave. Unfortunately things were not getting any better for Mart as he could not find his keys anywhere. The first group left whilst we searched as best we could but to no avail. Luckily we had brought spare sets of each others keys for just such an event so we were able to carry on. Two days later the wonderful Tony from the Horseshoe called to say they had found the keys and would post them on. Phew.

Mart wasn’t the only one to suffer misfortune. On the way up, outside Leicester Dave was forced off the road by a car on a roundabout. He hurt his left hand and broke his handlebar. A sympathetic motorist stopped, he was able to move the broken bar Into the clamp and continue to a bike shop. There he bought a new set of bars for a mere £80 and carry on. However by the next morning the joint on his thumb had swollen considerably. He attempted gallantly but the pounding from the outset of the first trail showed that continuing was not a good plan. As a farrier he needs two working hands to shoe a horse. Sadly Dave headed home having ridden 250 miles to take part.

OK on to the riding. I am not going to go into huge detail of the many, many trails. There are pictures that show the fantastic scenery. The environment was varied and dramatic, some of the lanes are pretty technical, especially for the bigger bikes. Steep tight corners with an abundance of loose stone and rocks that prove quite challenging to say the least. I have already described water crossings. The group from Up T’North fared better on the smaller bikes along with their knowledge and experience of the area. We were all carrying luggage to one degree or another as we were camping. Although it does not add too much weight, it does increase the overall bulk of the bikes. This was particularly so for the Teneres. Mike and Martin both had the tyres that came with the bikes and they are too road biased for the serious trails that are encountered on the moors and dales. Letting some air out helps a bit but in the end more purposeful off-road tyres are essential. The lack of grip was a considerable disadvantage along with the size of the Teneres, resulting in the bikes struggling for forward momentum in the places they needed it most. There were a number of spills over the course of the next few days. Nothing too painful but hard work getting them back up again. The other thing with the tall bikes is getting your feet down in those tricky situations. In standard trim one requires some inside leg measurement, or get one of the lowering kits available. Both bikes have certainly been run in now. Whilst on the subject of the T7, let me say that Chris found his one, even with the lowering kit, a bit of a handful. Chris is certainly not the tallest and that lack of leg length  made all the snotty moments really hard going. The overall opinion is that the bikes are very, very good. Lovely smooth power delivery, good suspension and brakes. Good on and off road. Just need to choose the right tyres and be the right height.

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To get a more in depth assessment of the Tenere T7 keep your eyes open for the report that Chris Moss is doing for both Cycle World and Motorcycle Sport and Leisure.

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We mostly spent our time in two groups but came together when we needed to for navigational purposes. The route was on the GPS’s but when we needed to divert from the chosen trails/roads we joined forces. Also we were together for the all important eating and drinking along the way.

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The route took us to within 12 miles of a now renown town of Barnard Castle. There were some obvious comments about getting eyes tested etc. I won’t go on about it as I’m sure we’ve had enough of Johnson and the Puppet Masters ridiculous excuses…….or not.

Sunday lunchtime found us near the town of Hawes, not somewhere I had heard about but is a Mecca for road riders. The town was heaving and the roads teeming with riders in the afternoon sunshine. Lovely.

We had been riding across a wild and windy moor for some time when the busy M6, somewhat incongruously, came into view. Expecting to need to find a road junction to cross it, we were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves in a small dark tunnel that runs directly under the motorway. Going from east to west the head room decreases towards the far end, necessitating in a duck down to the handlebars followed by a steep climb up a bank on the exit. And all part of a perfectly legal byway.

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By Sunday evening we had reached Kendal by the Lake District. We stayed the night at The Station Inn at Oxeholme. Another welcoming hostelry where some camped whilst the others were in the pubs rooms. This was particularly pleasing as some of us had been camping for two nights. I’m getting a bit old for all that tent and sleeping malarky. The Lake District is a spectacular place to ride through. As such it is very popular with so many people and some, not all, feel they have more right to be there than others. I noticed more walkers giving me skunk eye than is normal, even those walking on tarmac roads seem to feel riders on trail bikes are the progeny of the Devil. Never mind, just smile and say “good afternoon” and don’t let anyone see you biting the heads off chickens.

In the end the unwelcoming walkers had the last laugh over me. My trusty, reliable KTM started making awful noises. Where had all the oil gone? More was put in and it sounded better but I was not going to carry on so headed out of the Lakes at a modest pace towards Huddersfield where my brother lives. The next day before limping south the oil was checked again and there was plenty in the site glass. However with 100 miles to go it sounded too noisy for my liking so I gave in and got recovered home. Another project.

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Meanwhile the remaining riders headed across the trails of Grizedale Forest and their day ended in Ulveston, famed as being the birth place of one Stan Laurel. The next day they went over the moors till they reached the coast and above the town of Millom there were impressive views across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man. From there they were able to follow the trail down to Silecroft Beach and compete the Coast to Coast route.

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Obviously I was disappointed not to have stayed and completed the whole route but I did have a great time. The trails were challenging, the scenery is magnificent and probable just as satisfying was being out with a good bunch of people who were a great laugh and happy to share their knowledge of the trails. An excellent break after all the recent restrictions and anxiety.  

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Posted by Dave Newman
for Wemoto News on 10 August 2020 in Features

Edited By: Denisa Orbulescu

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