Thread: Highland Motors
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Old 05-28-2007, 05:05 AM   #82
John in Leeds
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Joined: Jan 2007
Oddometer: 378
Off road at last

Great excitement for me the opportunity of a day in the Yorkshire dales. At last Dave had put aside the paint brush and agreed Saturday. It’s been a long time coming, there always something more important getting priority. How to tell it? Start at the beginning. I’m going to paste links to the pictures ‘cos they’re big files and I think they are worth the extra quality.

The bike had the off road wheels fitted with the nobblies and on the road I found the first few miles terrifying, the rear particularly was very loose with zero grip, hope it does better off road but I was not convinced and starting to be a little afraid. The 14 tooth gear sprocket and the larger rear made a fast walking pace possible giving the possibility of low speed control. The bark buster hand guards ordered from ORO in March had still not arrived, (on the high seas from China apparently), so on Dave’s advice I loosened the clamps on the clutch and brake leavers so they would hopefully rotate and not break in event of a tumble.

Dave is a very experienced trail rider having an encyclopaedic knowledge of routes in the Yorkshire area. He has done some enduros and the lads who ride with him reckon he can be quick and do the difficult stuff. My last experience showed he would also give me some very challenging sections. Some 5 years ago he took his Africa twin on the first off road I had done with my 1150gs. Needless to say I turned it over on the Deadmans decent, very much to my cost.

This time he was taking his Honda 250, a light speciality tail bike with near enough identical tyres to mine. Of course I was going to be seriously outgunned in both rider ability and machine off road capability. More stress but I was there to learn.

Start took us along some lower dale farm roads not to difficult and he did take it easy. Fortunately the land was dry with only little rain the previous day, bright and lovely sunshine and some dust blowing up when the throttle was tweaked. After that it was onto some real off road. You can see the comparison of machine sizes

I was finding the need to get a better control of the throttle as there was so much power, the more control of the bike I developed the better this was and the launch over holes and ditches was very welcome. The first ford was one to take particular care. The technique was to keep feet down for a dab as the stream bed was full of big slippery rocks, they were difficult to see and I still had not developed the control to do feet up. Dave also kept his feet down saying this crossing was one that he had been unseated into a number of times. Fortunately the level was quite low and through a combination of power to the back wheel and good luck I was over (trust Dave to offer an early baptism). I find that the natural position for riding the Outback is seated, it is not well suited to standing on the pegs but it is no worse for that.

One problem with the bike has been finding neutral when stationary, neutral easily found with the engine stopped, so that I did at all the gate openings as the engine starts easily warm or hot. The gearbox was faultless with not one missed changed, excellent!

Climbing rocky or greasy slopes seemed to be no bother, the tyres gripped well and were starting to give confidence. The suspension felt compliant making the ride comfortable and taking the steps and rocks totally in its stride, making even this rider look good.

Another ford but this one was easy. Sorry for the bullshine pic.

A few miles of proper moor top road were very difficult for me where the surface was tennis and billiard ball sized rocks. Dave just blasted away leaving me with the advice, ‘give it the berries, the bike will cope’, well probably the bike would but I was still not confident enough, as soon as the load comes back on the front wheel control becomes more difficult, and you have to slow down for bends, (the Highland goes bloody fast). Although I was making good progress I just could not relax and let it go.

On the top where the surface was better Dave asked for a dabble on the Outback. 2 pieces of video to come soon with Dave’s own pics, big files. I have never heard it from off the saddle before, the Highland bellow, awesome.

Video to come, please be patient, they are big files and I am going to have to reduce them.

Next some road work on tar the tyres starting to give some confidence but not being an off roader the ‘looseness’ is taking a bit of getting used to.

Next on to a most interesting piece of off road, called the ‘Scalectix’ or ‘slot’. The start of which was across a couple of fields over sheep cropped grass. We could see a paraglider and some hang gliders getting tremendous lift of an outcrop of rocks to one side of the track. Wonderful views.

The slot was a single narrow sheep track deeply sunk across the moor. Some big steps, rocks and short steep climbs. Unfortunately off road pics are like the ‘ones that got away’, you can’t stop easily to take photos of the really difficult stuff as you loose you rhythm and fall off more. Fortunately I did not fall of, well sort of, I was off the bike but to Dave’s amusement the bike stayed up in the ‘slot’. He called it a ‘tactical dismount’, ‘that bike will not go down’.

We stopped for a feed in Coverdale, I was getting hungry and tired and really fancied a long drink. Yorkshire puddings, minced beef and gravy together with a couple of pints of shandy to make up for all the lost sweat, sat outside in the beer garden, Top!

The next section over Deadmans, my last nemesis, ‘let’s see how you deal with this’ says Dave, ‘we’ll rate your progress at Middlesmoor’. The start of the track was a horror for me, all loose round stones with sharp rocky outcrops down the middle.

I tried and better tried to thwap it up the hill but just could not loosen up enough to make fast progress comfortable. Gained the top at good speed but I need to do better. Then on to the downgrade.

Five years ago the 1150GS would just not provide any engine braking in first gear, and although I was able to just keep the front brake on and off lock (I had been practicing pushing a locked front wheel) the back wheel locked, speed would not reduce with the enormous weight and I came off on the steep bend going down, bummer. Now you know the reason for the Highland.

The downhill was negotiated without incident, loads of engine braking and light weight took away all, well most of the fear, no problem.

Across the dam at Scar House, and on to the Middlesmoor trail. Five years ago I had got the GS stuck on a rock and could go no further, I had done enough damage. Though I was fitter and stronger then I could do no more and turned round back to the road.

This time Dave led up the rocky track, angular not round rocks with open spaces of clean rock, the Highland loved it, the suspension took the rocks with ease and composure, the easy power making full use of the grip, damn Dave was actually getting in the way, for this road the Highland was far faster, the bike not the rider. As Dave says the bikes are always better than we are.

Then the road home the tyres working far better along Gouthwaite side (fabulous road) but I’m still not used to the loose feeling of an off road bike on off road tyres. I’m learning but more practice required.

Many thanks to you Dave if you ever get to see this, I definitely owe you a few beers

More to come

John in Leeds screwed with this post 10-04-2007 at 12:06 PM
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