Sometimes you just want to get away from it all and that trail bike in the garage can be the perfect way to get 'lost' out on the lanes. Cumbria TRF member Steve Stout packed his panniers and set out with a map but no destination. All was going well, until the classic lakeland weather put in an appearance.

I wanted to do a bit a of a shakedown on some things I've upgraded on my bike, so I decided to go out for a couple of days on a solo ride with the bags packed onto the bike and see how things got on... not so well it turns out!!

I’d upgraded the electrics on my KTM 400 EXC, new lights and a few other little additions, the old lot were a little tired and my bike, being 14 years old now was well overdue some TLC.

The first day was a beautiful sunny winters day so once I'd finished some jobs at home and did some packing I headed out with a couple of options in mind but no real direction... Living in the North Lakes leaves you with lots of options, but as I couldn’t decide where to go, I decided to wing it and see where I ended up.

Heading first east, then south for a bit saw a bunch of old classics under my tyres in a general direction towards Hawes in the Dales. The terrain changes quite a bit as you traverse from one National Park to the next, the farmland is different, the stone walls change shape and the general lay of the land changes and softens too along with the accents.

I reached Hawes at dusk so I stopped off for some supplies before heading up into the hills via the little rock steps known as the Devils Staircase. The new lights were great and I could ride at night with confidence in their modern beams. Once I figured I’d gotten high enough away from any habitation or potential night time visitors I decided to wild camp behind a wall for the night, sheltering from the wind and rain to come according to the forecast!

The night started out pretty cool with a really big moon rising in a window of cloud, the stars were out and the wind wasn't too bad. Dinner was veggie samosas, a sausage roll and a can of Hobgoblin beer to wash it down, excellent!

Once dinner was done, I checked the bike and then got myself wrapped up in my sleeping bag with a book to read for a bit before dozing off all warm and toasty. As the night wore on though, the wind picked up, the rain came down and temperature dropped, so ear plugs were called for as the tent was moving around a fair bit by now! I was very glad to have tucked in behind the wall I have to say.

The next morning brought that grey mizzle so special to the northern UK, oh and high winds. I cooked some breakfast and a coffee, then packed up inside the tent until all that was left was the flysheet, the single pole and the pegs of the tent itself, once done I forced myself out into the weather. I loaded the panniers onto the bike then it was off onto the rest of the lane, a feat in the sideways winds!!

I had the vague idea of trying to get over towards Reeth, where a mate lives but as I headed over towards Stalling Busk, I got a puncture in my front tyre, so parked up by the side of the little flooded lake and got it sorted... a nice old farmer stopped to see if I was alright and we had a bit of a gossip, then it was back up the hill... I promptly got a second puncture after about 20 minutes and my electric start died, so it was back to kick starting the bike again.. mmm a few things stacking up here!

This was my spare tube, the rain was sheeting in again, so I decided to head back to Hawes to the cafe for second breakfast, once there and warm again, I decided to go up to Martin at MHB Motorcycles in Kirkby Stephen and get a replacement tube. We ended up gossiping about all kinds of things and I left there at 3pm. During all of this, the electric start wasn't working and we couldn't find the reason why, but I was also struggling with lights and it appears there is a drain on the system somewhere, so it was home time before it got too dark to ride.

I took in a couple more new lanes as I headed west again, however I also found that the panniers were now bending the plastic rear panel into the tyre, which if nothing else made a right row. Then to cap it all off, I ran out of petrol, luckily about 400 metres from my next fuel stop, so not too far to push the bike!

The final ride back was cold, dark and a little scary, car drivers aren't very friendly in the UK on the whole, especially to slow moving trail bikes, and a couple were more than a little close for comfort, still my light seems to have worked fine again which makes me wonder about water ingress as well as the battery... oh well, more sorting to be done...

I had a fabulous time despite the trials and tribulations, there is something very special about traversing the landscape of the UK slowly on a trail bike and for me the wild camping was a must, I prefer it to any hotel. The journey was almost a trip down memory lane too as all of the lanes I rode were shown to me by other TRF members at some point, that trading of knowledge has led me to some beautiful places in the UK that I would never have looked at if I hadn’t gotten into trail riding.

Where next I wonder???


You don't have to ride solo to enjoy Green Roads in England and Wales. The TRF has over 4,000 members all over the country who enjoy riding respectfully in small groups. Find your nearest regional group here.