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April 24, 2016
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Just another trail ride? Well, yes, and no... when Greg Villalobos calls asking you if you fancy a 2 day trail ride taking in some of the North’s (and therefore the world’s) finest trails, across Northumbria, Cumbria and Yorkshire, how can you say no? Obviously he is going to film it, he films everything; a micro adventure to the shops, a micro adventure to the kitchen, “I need to go to the loo, Greg NO!”

But presumably there has to be a catch to make it interesting?. Indeed. 2 days riding, between 150 and 200 miles each day and we are bivvying overnight. No tents allowed. Sounds great, count me in, as long as I can get a Weekend Pass.

I arrive at Greg’s on Friday evening in preparation for an early Saturday morning start. Greg takes me through his idea and story-board for the film. The story is everything with one of Greg’s films. I won’t go into too much detail and risk spoiling the film for everybody, so let’s just say it’s a story that will resonate with most trail riders who have a young family.

Saturday morning, and as predicted by the weather forecast, it’s raining. Of course it is. What are you going to do? Weeks of planning and preparation; many pounds spent on bivvy bags and emergency tarps, lifts arranged for the kids to various rugby matches, a new kitchen for the missus, all of your brownie points blown in one go, you just get on with it right?

There are meant to be 5 of us heading out this morning, but Joe has an injured leg that means he can’t ride and the late Noel Thom (he’s not dead, just always late) is meeting us at the Hartside Cafe on the border of Cumbria later in the day. Davy arrives, and with all our overnight gear strapped to the bikes or on our backs, we are ready for the off. Davy and Greg have some great trail bike specific pannier kits from Mosko Moto and Kreiga (thanks to Mosko Moto and Adventure Spec). I am using a single roll bag from Enduristan attached to the handlebars.


Greg takes a breather on the 'H' on the border of Northumberland and Cumbria

The trail riding is great in Northumbria. The Northumbria TRF group is very active, and very welcoming, the average age somewhat lower, I imagine, than the national average. The only thing I don’t like about Northumbria lanes is the amount of bloody ruts! But we are heading in the right direction i.e. to Cumbria! The locals cope far better than me with ruts, barely seeming to notice them. It’s wet and muddy, and bloody slippery. The thought of the several river crossings ahead of us cause a modicum of concern. We come across a ‘big bike’ group who are part of the of the Haggs Bank weekend. They are coping well in the mud on some diverse machinery. One brave chap has ridden from Surrey on his 640 KTM, and will ride back to Surrey after today’s trail ride.

Even in the rain trail riding is brilliant. As we are filming the trip we are making frequent stops to set up shots with the DSLR on a tripod. It is amazing how much footage goes into a film that will last about 5 minutes. You have to love Greg’s low budget approach to filming. A selfie stick made out of an actual stick, and camera clamp mount made out of a pair of mole grips and a drone made out of a £30 kite!

IMG_2907 copy
Drone 03 copy

Who needs a drone?

I don’t mind the frequent stops, I love an easy going day with lots of stops for a chat and a laugh. Rather that than a balls-out day trying to cover as many miles as you can. “Hang on a minute, how many miles are we doing today?”

At the first stop for fuel I check my phone for messages. There are a couple from the late Noel Thom (he’s not dead, just always late). He’s running late, and will meet us a bit further along the route. His excuses are particularly poor this time. His car wouldn’t start (errr, this is a bike trip) and he couldn’t find his wallet. He will redeem himself later. But right now we have a problem as Noel was the only one that knows the route between Hartside and the north Lakes onto the Old Coach Road. Thankfully I have Joe’s coast to coast route on my satnav so we fire it up and off we go.

In the end it is us that are running late. We cover not far short of 200 miles on day one. It’s starting to get dark and as the A591 is still closed (with a 24 hour security guard), we decide to ride the back across the Old Coach Road, call it a day, and take a direct road route to our chosen bivvying spot.


Greg, Davy and Clive feeling a little damp on the Old Coach Road in Cumbria

“Actually I’m tempted to get the kite out again.”

“We’ll see you there Greg.”

I had assumed we would be wild camping on top of a fell somewhere and packed my stove, Spork and Be-Well Expedition packs for tea (that’s northern for ‘supper’ for you posh southern folk) and breakfast. No need. We are spending the night in Noel’s field! Brilliant, if cheating slightly. By the time we arrive the tarp is up in a beautiful spot, 5 feet away from the river, the fire is roaring, the beer is cold and the Rayburn is available for clothes drying duties.

“Sorry lads, just one more shot of everybody arriving...”

Noel has prepared a BBQ feast, with salad. Salad! Salad? And cold beer. It’s been a cold, wet, long day. We have spent about 11 hours on the road, but it’s been fantastic. The beer, the fire and the gorgeous surroundings make for an excellent evening of laughs and tall tales, with only sporadic camera in your face moments.


Have you spent the night in a bivvy bag before? What an amazing night. You have to try it. I had assumed I would spend most of the night awake and uncomfortable. Not so. I slept soundly, the noise of the river drowning out the snoring. I tried out my bivvy bag at about 10pm just to see what it was like, but that was it, I was gone. Something to do with the fresh air, an early start and 200 miles of trail riding no doubt.

We wake up early and at about the same time. Greg must have woken up first, because the selfie stick is already in my face, if I could have got my arms out of the bivvy bag quick enough it would have been somewhere else! Only kidding...I love it really.

We’re up and away pretty quickly, after a round of bacon sandwiches, coffee, tea and Davy fixing his first puncture in 3 years of trail riding. That’s pretty good going. Davy mentioned that he has a pair of Mooses ready to fit in the garage at home, sods law. It is probably even more to do with the law of sod that Davy has another 3 punctures that day! We eventually work out that the inside of his tyre has deformed and is melting his inner tubes. We try doubling up with a split tube, but that only gets us about another 20 miles. Tell us about those Mooses again Davy!


After three years of trail riding Davy finally learns how to fix a puncture

The first trail on Sunday is the fantastic Breast High Pass, titter-ye-not! Two river crossings, steep, rocky and twisty, one of the best mountain passes in the UK without doubt, as long as you don’t mind riding for the rest of the day with wet feet. After Breast High we are heading towards the Dales and onto unfamiliar territory for me. I live between the Lakes and the Dales, but we seem to spend most of our time riding in the Lakes and hardly ever head into the Dales. The Lakes are great riding, but the Dales are fantastic too. Perhaps not as technically challenging but there are some great flowing long lanes. I am fairly certain we only saw one group of walkers all day. I’ll be back.

Lunch is had in the biker enclave of Hawes. The weather couldn’t be more different to yesterday. It’s dry, the sun is out and the roads are heavy with two wheeled joy. All of the biker tribes are represented in Hawes, but we are by far and away the muddiest. Sports bikes are still the most common here, but there is an increasing number of adventure styled machines. It’s just a matter of time until they realise that trail riding is the most fun you can have on 2 wheels, apart from the Wall of Death and Speedway obviously.

We’re not wanting to waste too much time today, we have a lot of miles to do and us Cumbrian’s have a 100 mile drive in the van back from Newcastle. Today is everything good about trail riding. “These are the days that must happen to you.” If you haven’t read Dan Walsh’s book of that name, I can thoroughly recommend it. He’d be in my top 10 list of people to go trail riding with; Barry Sheene, Steve McQueen, Hunter S Thompson, Bob Dylan... and obviously those currently present, it would probably go horribly right. The weather is perfect, the scenery immaculate, the company excellent and the riding great. More filming, more punctures, and a broken chain can’t spoil a perfect day and a perfect weekend. Let’s do it again soon, as soon as we can get another Weekend Pass.

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