When the call for help goes out, are you prepared to stick your hand up? Sometimes it takes a while to figure out that the club could do with your help, and that's OK. For new Northumbria TRF member Matthew Stone, it was a bit more 'in at the deep end'. We caught up with him to find out what volunteering looks like as well as why on earth he's looking to get rid of his Honda 250L...?!

TRF:

Hi Matthew. Welcome to the TRF! By all accounts you’ve been busy getting some Green Road miles under your belt. How did you find us?

Matthew:

Thank you, it’s been a very warm welcome from everyone. I have indeed been busy, my first ride out was in late June and since then I’ve been out almost every week with some mid week jaunts thrown in for good measure and a riding holiday out in sunny Spain. I had no idea how addictive trail riding would be. I knew of Green Laning, but didn’t know how to go about doing it legally and responsibly. When you start to look this stuff up, the TRF is clearly the place to go and as my brother commented, these guys have got the s**t together. So I joined.

I’ve ridden bikes for over 10 years, starting life on a little Vespa 125 [which I still own] then quickly made my way up to bigger, faster more terrifying machines, but I had never ridden off-road until this year.

However, joining the TRF was part of a much bigger plan taking place in my life at the start of the year. I was moving from London back to my native North East after a 14 year absence. Having spent the previous 12 months building a new business from a home office in Peckham, I was desperate to find a way to spend more time outdoors.

So, my decision to relocate to Newcastle was swung significantly on the availability of the surrounding countryside we have and the strong, active presence the Northumbria TRF. For anyone who isn’t familiar with the area, I’m now situated with Northumberland to the North, Cumbria to the West, Durham and Yorkshire to the South, then miles of rugged coastline to the East. As far as things go, that’s a pretty good offering when it comes to UK trail riding.

TRF:

I guess you spent a bit of time figuring out what bike to get?

Matthew:

Actually, I chose my bike very quickly and had even decided before I received my TRF membership card. I went for the Honda CRF 250L, a popular choice I’ve since come to learn and managed to find a 2014 model in great condition that had only been used for commuting. I chose the Honda as it seemed a good toe in the water that wasn’t going to cost the earth. I knew it would be reliable, allowing me not to worry about the bike too much and just get out and enjoy the trails. I must admit though, it felt strange picking up a bike I knew I was going to mangle.

Six months on I have to be honest, and I know this will divide opinion, I have fallen out of love with my little Honda. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I went for it as it’s allowed me to throw myself into trail riding with few concerns about the bike, but I have one major gripe. Its weight. With a full tank and the essential addition of a decent bash plate it’s knocking on the door of 150kg. I’m 5’11, around 10 stone and pretty slim, so I’m not the strongest of men and the weight is causing me problems.

I’ve looked at modifications that could reduce the weight but I’ve come to the conclusion, you might as well just buy a better bike. I recently spent three days on a Husqvarna FE250 and it was a real eye opener. With higher spec components on every part of the bike and weighing just over 100kg I felt more confident, more capable and more in control.

Every bike has its pro’s and con’s, but how they affect you individually is important. My advice to anyone choosing their first bike would be to truly consider the practical aspects of owning and riding it. I overlooked the weight issue and in hindsight, it was quite an oversight as I’ve found it to be a significant problem.

TRF:

What would you say have been the key things you’ve learned in your first few months riding Green Roads?

Matthew:

Say ‘yes’ as often as you can. You need to get involved quickly and throw yourself into both the riding and the club. The more active you are as a member, the more riding you will do. It’s as simple that. You dictate your involvement.

TRF:

So you’re getting quite involved then?

Matthew:

As I said, you have to say yes. That’s not just, “yes I want to go riding today” but yes to helping out within the club and volunteering when you can.

Recently there was a request for someone to manage a signage project we are running in conjunction with Northumbria County Council. Following my own advice, I immediately said, “yes I’ll take this on”.

The project will allow us to put signage up, indicating who can and can’t use certain lanes. Not only will the signs inform TRF members of their status whilst out on the lanes, they will also act as a point of reference that can potentially diffuse contention with other users. We hope the roll out of these will begin in the coming weeks and the best bit about it, I get to ride every lane we go and put these signs on.

TRF:

It’s great to have energetic new members on board. Thank you and keep it up!


The TRF relies on volunteers to Conserve Green Roads. Why not stick your hand up that next time your club asks for help. It's really not as scary as you might think :-)