Saturday, 30 January 2021


Whilst the rest of the Country seems to be obsessed with the Covid statistics, i've been checking out the stats for my new Youtube channel Byway Nomad.

OK so it's hardly great numbers but then again it is a fairly niche subject so 25 Subscribers is not bad in 28 days. I don't quite think I can describe myself as a "Youtuber" anytime soon though!

In that same time period my videos have had 724 views, that amounts to over 20 hours of watching, also not too bad.

And my Byway Nomad Page on FaceBook to promote the channel is doing well too.

97 Likes so far and even better, 100 Followers 😀

To date I have posted 62 videos on Youtube, these cover 61 separate Green Roads, 55 of which are in the Peak District National Park, mostly in Derbyshire but also in Staffordshire, Cheshire East and Sheffield (South Yorkshire). I still have about another 45 to post.

The other video is in the Lake District National Park in Cumbria and I have another three to post from there. 

Of these I have promoted 29 via the FaceBook Page and more will follow. Once I've posted all the ones already on the channel, my aim is post new videos on Youtube and FaceBook simultaneously.

So what happens when I've posted all my videos?

Well that depends on Covid! Hopefully by then I'll be able to get out on the green roads again and start videoing new lanes.

Sunday, 29 November 2020

You may have been wondering where I've been as I haven't posted since May.

Well OK I doubt you have been wondering but I've been here... At home!

So time for an update and news of something new, see below for that.

Given that my blog is basically about motorcycling, not much has been going on!

After shielding ended at the end of August I continued to work at home and at present apart from a couple of days back in the office I'm still doing that eight months after I first started in March!

Well it isn't actually true that nothing has been going on on the motorcycling front as at Rallymoto we were able to restart events in September with a couple of Adventure Cannonball Road Book events on Salisbury Plain, then the Tour of Wales and Coast 2 Coast Marathon Adventure Cannonballs.

The Salisbury Plain Event was our normal format apart from the fact that due to Covid-Safe requirements we weren't able to hold the start at a café as normal. Instead it was a remote car park and social distancing was required during the hand out of road books, holders etc. with all equipment sanitised and contact minimised. Once out on the trails of course, social distancing came naturally:

This was the principle we were able to adopt for all these events, which proved very successful. Of course this all stopped again when we went into lockdown again and I went back into shielding, although we don't calling it shielding anymore, even if it is just like shielding, confused? I'm not surprised!

So what else have I been up to?

Well this week I decided on a new project...

You may recall I spent 18 months or so surveying green roads in the Peak District National Park for the Trail Riders Fellowship (TRF). Whilst doing this I also videoed every single lane and after suitable editing posted these up on my Vimeo account to back up my surveys. At that time they were password protected but recently i've been using them to answer a few questions on Facebook for people who were asking questions like where was a particular lane, or what condition was this lane in?

As a result I made them all publically available but as Vimeo doesn't seem to the most popular video hosting site for this sort of thing I decided to start a channel on Youtube under the title Byway Nomad. 

There's only a few there at present but I have 107 videos of the Peak District to upload over time. I also intend to make a few explanatory videos on things like how they were researched or what the surfacing information actually means and a few other ideas I have. So please check it out and subscribe if you like what you see....

Click here to view the channel: BYWAY NOMAD

And here's a taster, Three Shires Head:

From now on I intend to video all the lanes I ride and slowly build up a record of green roads open to motorcycles across England and Wales.

So watch this space.....

Saturday, 23 May 2020

What's in a number?

So whilst under "house arrest" during the covid-19 lockdown, I decided to review my 60 by 60 list (see right).

And if you can't see it, that because you're reading this on the mobile version and it doesn't appear on that, scroll down and select "View Web Version" and all will be clear

And yes I know i've only got 56 on the list at the moment but there's still time.... or is there?

Now the "rules" of this exercise were set by Gina, my sister who had the idea first as 60 things to do before the end of your 60th year on the planet. This sneakily gives you an extra year over if it were only until your 60th Birthday.

So that's until October 2021.

But it would appear that 2020 is going to be a complete write off due to Covid 19.
Funnily enough when I came up with the idea (or rather stole the idea off Gina) in August 2018, I wrote:

"but how to come up with a full sixty (and possibly a few in reserve in case some became impossible to achieve, either through cost, unavailability or zombie apocalypse… it pays to plan for all eventualities)."

OK so Covid 19 is not quite the Zombie Apocalypse I was thinking off but i must have known something.😱

So back to my list, I have already done:

1. Go on the London Eye with Champagne Lounge Reception (November 2018)
7. Enter a Long Distance Trial (the Clee Hill Trial January 2019)
8. Visit the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris (November 2018)
25. Learn to SnowBoard (December 2018 to March 2019 at Xscape in Milton Keynes)
26. Participate in the Ride to the Wall to the National Memorial Arboretum (October 2018)
42. Opera in Verona (June 2019, actually twice in one weekend, Aida and Carmen)
45. Go on a Snowboarding holiday (Bormio, Italy March 2019)
46. Have a spa day with Grainne (The Y Spa, September 2018)
49. See Michael McIntyre live at the O2 (October 2018)
50. Drink Rum Cocktails on the Golden Hinde whilst dressed as a pirate (November 2018)
52. Visit the Sacre-Coeur in Paris (November 2018)
53. Ride along in a Piste Groomer at a ski resort (Bormio March 2019)

Yes a paltry 12 off the list.

I was due to do Nos 18 and hopefully 19 and 20 in September:

18. Visit the Isle of Man
19. Ride the TT Course (doesn't have to be in TT week)
20. Climb the highest peak on the IoM, Snaefell

This would have been whilst working on the Rallymoto Isle of Man 500 but that has now been cancelled due to the pandemic, so still just about time if it's on in 2021.

We had already booked our hot air balloon flight (No. 2) but this had to be cancelled due to bad weather. The good news is certificates have been extended for another 18 months as a result of Covid 19, so we still have plenty of time for that. No flights before July at the moment but who really knows?

This and no less than 34 others are currently impossible due to my having to isolate, social distancing rules, the ban on non essential travel that's still in place in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and the restrictions that still apply in England, because events have been cancelled, venues are closed or borders cannot be crossed.

OK some are still in the planning stage but still no idea when they will be possible.

You'll see that includes competing in the Motor Cycling Club's  (MCC) Edinburgh Rally. You may also recall my failed attempt to start in October last year but it is hoped that the trial will go ahead this year on its normal October date so here's hoping for a second try! Entries are due to open in July so hopefully we'll know more by then.

I have also decided to add the MCC's Lands End Trial (normally at Easter) and the Exeter Trial (January) as No's 55 and 56 to my list which will also mean completing the MCC "Triple" if I do them all in the same year (So is that another for the list?) as they are all events i've wanted to have a go at.

So what's left? Well the list currently stands at 56, but....

I've already had to discount:

23. Complete a parachute jump

As my heart attack in 2018 means I fall foul of the British Parachute Association regulations. That means there's actually only 55 on my list.

Then there's

22. Compete in the Hellas Rally, Greece

Although the Rally was postponed it is still planned to go ahead later this year in October but to be honest finances won't allow it, we did after all buy a new house in January and i'm still not sure the myasthenia would react very well to a week long rally in extreme heat in any case so I think my international rallying career is definitely at an end! 😞

That's 54 accounted for so what's on the list that I can still do?:

44. Get a new job

Obviously I can still do this and jobs are still being advertised and a job closer to home is certainly an ambition but only if the right job appears and i'm able to get selected, so who knows? I originally put this on the list as an aspiration as I was getting fed up with my daily 50 minute commute. Of course since moving that has become a one hour, ten minute commute! So very much still an incentive. At least at present as I'm having to shield due to being in the very high risk category my commute only consists of walking downstairs to the study!

So maybe instead of 60 by 60 and having to come up with another six activities to complete my list, I come up with another seven and making it 61 by 61... giving me until 2022

Now there's an idea!

Monday, 18 May 2020

The Covid Chronicles

A longer blog than normal as I have decided to document my experiences over these very strange times....

So I write this in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak and what an impact it has had both on my biking activities and on life in general.

At the start of the outbreak I was pulled off my normal day to day duties at work and transferred full time into the Northamptonshire NHS Incident Coordination Centre to work on the response to what we were then still calling the Wuhan Novel Coronavirus. So why me? A result of being the Business Continuity lead and the legacy of twenty five years experience in Emergency Planning, that's why.

In this mode we went from a disease occurring overseas, to one that reached our shores, to the first UK deaths then the first cases locally in Northamptonshire and eventually the first death in the County. 

All very sombre stuff, especially as in the back of my mind was the fact that having a compromised immune system due to the medication I take for Myasthenia makes me at increased risk from the virus. Not only would it be easier for me to catch it, with no available treatments all the health service can do is support patients whilst their immune system fights the disease. Oh hang on a second, what if your immune system doesn't work properly!

We started to learn new terms like Social Distancing, Self Isolation and still my favourite Covidiot! Yes of course it can travel down 5G radio waves you numpties!  And of course the virus and disease also got proper names, SARS-CoV-2 and Covid-19 respectfully and our knowledge grew as we dealt with a deluge of information as constant updates to guidance came flooding in from Public Health England and NHS England.

And then it all changed when Grainne went down with a sore throat in mid March, she duly contacted NHS111 and despite none of her symptoms being any of those listed for Covid-19 she was told to self isolate and of course that meant me too. So I switched to working from home, this of course makes it quite difficult to work on the emergency response so I actually switched back to doing more of the day job again. Grainne thankfully recovered after a few days but as she was never tested at the time, we don't know of it was Covid-19 or not? We do doubt it though.

Grainne was able to go back to work after her symptoms had cleared but I was to continue to self isolate for 14 days in case I developed symptoms. 

But then everything changed....

During this time the government guidance was published on shielding those at extreme risk and contained the category:

"People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection."

Sound familiar?

So I sat back to wait for my letter from NHS England, which eight weeks later, still hasn't arrived! 😕

Despite this It was certain this applied to me and work agreed that I was definitely in this category, so it was 12 week complete isolation for me. This was confirmed when work circulated the letters being sent by NHS England to GPs and one states:

"All patients on the following medications have been centrally identified and will be contacted via the letter: 
• Azathioprine 
Mycophenolate (both types) 
• Cyclosporin 
• Sirolimus 
• Tacrolimus"

Me? I'm on the immunosuppressant Mycophenolate Mofetil so no doubts there. But as I said I still haven't received a letter! It would seem i'm only one of thousands who have been missed so I'm not feeling singled out. As I said work are OK with this so a letter is not essential for me but it seems on getting a letter your name is also given to the supermarkets to allow you to get priority on their home delivery services, which would have been useful!

OK we weren't desperate for food and supplies as we had gone in to this with a well stocked fridge and freezer and even had plenty of toilet rolls in stock as we already have them delivered from the excellent Who Gives a Crap and recently got a box of 48! and Grainne can still shop but It's not exactly fair on her after working long days as a community midwife, including the stress of doing so in full PPE and never knowing if she's going to contract the virus and bring it home with her, to expect her to queue for who knows how long in a supermarket car park after her shift.

I registered on the website as extremely vulnerable and eventually Ocado came up trumps and offered me priority slots for deliveries every two weeks. Even if it did then take a week for them to agree our post code does actually exist. come on Ocado we've only been here five months and the road and house has existed for over a year. 

So currently I continue to work at home, I'm not supposed to leave the house (no not even for one period of exercise a day) but of course as mentioned Grainne is back working in the thick of it, so it is social distancing at home for us as well: separate bedrooms, separate bathrooms and trying to maintain a two metre separation in the house. Not easy at all!

And the guidance on shielding has increased the period to the end of June so that makes it 14 weeks for me and they are already talking about having to extend the date!

News update! I finally got my shielding letter after eight and a half weeks! It still says to remain at home for 12 weeks from the date of the letter.... err that would make it mid August 😲

I did get ill the other week and actually got out of the house for a trip to the car park of the John Radcliffe Hospital for a covid-19 test in a tent in the pouring rain. Thankfully that was negative, not sure that i've ever enjoyed failing a test so much. Turns out it was likely to have been a (non covid) viral infection that triggered a flare up of myasthenia.

So what about bikes?

On the bike front, I'm getting a little fed up with all the facebook posts from people saying how great it is they have all this time to maintain their bikes. 

Apart from not having loads of extra spare time as i'm still working, three out of our four bikes are still in off site storage after the house move in January so inaccessible to us. To be fair only the 450 EXC could do with some TLC but of course  that's one of them that's in storage! I have the 1090R at home but at 18 months old it doesn't need anything doing to it. I've cleaned it and done a few bits of fettling but nothing more to be done. So at present all four bikes are on a SORN and out of use.

And why is it all these people seem to have immaculately tidy workshops? Or perhaps those with messy ones like me don't bother posting pictures. Although to be fair I am in the middle of painting the garage floor a bit at a time, which involves shifting everything around, not to mention having the contents of Owen's flat in there as he moved out of his place in Sheffield back in March as the university was shut down and his tenancy was ending. So he is now staying with us for the time being and enjoying our 120 mbps internet compared to the 6 mbps he was "enjoying" in Sheffield, luckily he can continue his research and work online but what else would you expect when his doctorate is in cyber security.

On the rally front obviously all events are cancelled or postponed and at present we have no idea what the future holds, so we have turned to virtual rallying...

With Burt, Tony and Mike from the Rallymoto team we created daily road bok exercises over four weeks. Entrants were asked to donate to the NHS Charities together and every day they got sent a short road book of about 40-50km and a map excerpt and had to find the finish point.

Every week the answers were put into a conversation table (that sneakily has several wrong answers that are close to the correct ones) and these gave a letter for each correct answer. This created a five letter anagram that gave a word related to bikes or rallying. Entrants could then submit their answers each week for an entry in a prize draw to win some Motoz tyres courtesy of Adventure Spec. Enter each week and that was four goes in the draw.

The eventual winner was drawn last week and we raised £2600 for the NHS Charities Together.

Some of the comments we received back were great, so we are now looking to what we can do next. My Dakar Rally quiz is currently online and seems to be causing a few problems!!!

We are also putting together plans for our postponed events when they eventually happen, hopefully this will be the first...

Sunday, 15 March 2020

The blog is back!

Well you might expect something on Covid-19 but that'll have to wait after a bit of catch up....

After my failed attempt at the Edinburgh Trial last October, things have been relatively quiet on the bike front.

A trip to the Lakes District later in October on the KTM 1090 R for the next Rallymoto Adventure Cannonball turned out pretty wet! Unfortunately we only had 6 competitors turn up but everyone agreed that despite the weather, it was a great event. The ride home down the M6/M1 was less than pleasant as although the rain eventually stopped, it was cold and traffic was awful.

Plans then turned to future events and a decision on whether to continue to use the KTM 450 EXC or not. Given that I can no longer enter Rallies in the UK due to my heart attack but can still have a trials licence, it might be time to convert it from rally trim and make it more suitable for Long Distance Trials.

I had already fitted Pirelli MT43 Trials tyres and lowered the suspension slightly by sliding the forks up through the yokes and reducing the preload on the rear spring. So what else to do?

First step was to remove the navigation tower and fairing. These to make the bike lighter, improve visibility and hopefully a bit more maneuverable. Obviously this also means losing the lights, but as my experience on the Edinburgh showed me they are bright but the beam pattern is not ideal. Also removed as a result are the road book holder and ICO trip meter but more on that later.

I decided to leave the mounting block bolted to the headstock on the basis it would make it easier to restore the navigation tower if I wished to do so in future and removing it does mean having to strip out the forks and yokes, which is a fairly involved process. 

This causes a problem as the obvious next step is to restore the standard headlight cowl but this fouls on the mounting block. In the past I have used the headlight cowl from my old CCM as it offers more clearance but both of these set ups suffer from having woefully inadequate lights, something I wanted to address.

The answer presented itself from the spares box in the shape of a headlamp cowl from my old KTM 690 Enduro. Which has a halogen headlamp, it too fouls the mounting block but I had a solution in mind for that. It also has the advantage of already being fitted with the short KTM accessory windscreen

Another issue is that it has a 55/60w halogen bulb which is a bit too much for the EXCs electrical system. I had learnt this with my original light set up in the fairing that used two 55w halogen lamps and had necessitated the fitting of the 30w LED lamps to stop the battery constantly going flat. This did however allow me to experiment with different bulbs to reduce the electrical load whilst still increasing light output.

First experiment was with a H4 HID (High Intensity Discharge) bulb, this seemed to work OK and it certainly produced a very impressive bright, white light. It also has the advantage of requiring much less power than a halogen and doesn’t have a great impact on the beam pattern. Unfortunately it suffered from a ‘flicker’ on both dip and main beam, although I suspect this might have been as a result of the battery being low, definitely more testing needed there.

The second experiment was using an LED bulb, again these are very bright but due to the way they produce light can have a significant impact on the beam pattern. Fortunately the effect is not too bad and it has certainly improved the lighting. Another issue with the LED bulb is the large ballast with cooling fins on the back of the bulb. This absolutely fouls on the mounting block so a solution needed to be engineered.

This was achieved with two 4mm aluminium plates cut to shape and mounted each side of the forks and another on the base to use the standard mounting pegs to push the headlamp cowl forward. Currently mounted to the forks with cable ties, the plan is to adapt the rubber straps from the standard light.

Next plan is to build a small dash panel on top of the cowl, firstly to block the backwash of light from the headlamp but also to allow the fitting of a fuse box, switches and power socket.

So how to address the lack of road book holder and trip meter? This came from my friend Andy on the Edinburgh Trial. He had simply used the road book to work out the route and create a GPX file that could be uploaded onto his Garmin Montana GPS. So no need for the road book holder or trip meter at all and with the added bonus that by using the powered mount the GPS is lit up and so clearly visible at night and takes up much less space on the handlebars too.

In its new set up I used the 450 to recce the Northamptonshire Adventure Cannonball that took place in November. It performed really well and without the rally fairing feels so much lighter and nimbler on the lanes!

The Northamptonshire Adventure Cannonball was also beset by rain which made conditions on some of the lanes "interesting"! But numbers were much improved with over 20 competitors turning up on the day.

After this the bikes went into storage ready for our move of house to Oxfordshire. 

The move went well in January and we have almost finished unpacking!

So far I have only retrieved one bike, my 1090 R, so used this in January to ride to the Peak District for the next Adventure Cannonball. This was an "extreme" designed for enduro bikes rather than the big adventure bikes. Although I did create a slightly modified road book for anyone crazy enough to bring a big bike along! 

This was nearly too well attended with a glitch on the website causing two separate entry forms and at one stage it looked like we might have 60 riders turn up! In the event we had 34 riders turn up to the Old Smithy Tea Room in Monyash and needless to say it rained again!

Overall it went well with only one unfortunate accident when my friend Michael forgot he was riding back in the UK and hit a car whilst on the wrong side of the road causing significant damage to the front end including a flat tyre! Luckily he walked away with just bruises; the AA got the car mobile with the spare wheel and plenty of cable ties! We recovered Michael to the cafe along with his bike that unfortunately didn't fare too well with a large chunk taken out of the swing arm!!!

Another cold, wet ride home which wasn't helped by the side stand cut out switch failing again (although I was able to rectify that after cleaning mud from it), the battery in my intercom died, so no music on the journey, my phone (that I was using for navigation as I'd never ridden from the Peaks to our new house before) wouldn't charge as it got water into the charging port. NB: newer iPhones may be waterproof but not if you want to charge them. So the battery in that died and I had to navigate round the M6 toll near Litchfield (no easy task) as best I could. And to add insult to injury my heated jacket stopped working after I stopped for fuel, forgot to unplug it and pulled the wires apart as I got off the bike!!!
I got home, bored, cold and slightly damp (although to be honest the waterproofs worked as they should).

Apart from a few rides to work one day, the bike has remained in the garage since, although I did eventually get round to cleaning it!

Since then I have been involved in getting ready for the next big projects, writing the Safety Plan and Risk Assessment for the Kielder 500 in March and starting the arrangements for my role as Clerk of the Course at the Adventure Bike Rider Festival in the Summer, although this is where Coronavirus has thrown a spanner in the works, that i'll cover next time.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Edinburgh Aftermath

My ad hoc recovery service eventually dropped me back at the Duke of York at 02:30!

The bike was unloaded from Tony’s trailer and he then decided to bed down in his van in the car park. I returned to my van in the camp site and crawled into bed, I had fortuitously loaded a camp bed and sleeping bag as I guessed I would need a sleep after completing the Trial and before leaving had set these up in the back of the van!

About three hours later I was awoken to the sound of bikes arriving for the compulsory breakfast stop. Realising this would go on for a couple of hours, I decided to get up. 

Walking to the marquee erected behind the pub revealed a scene of tired bodies grimly clutching bacon rolls and cups of tea or coffee with that glassy eyed stare of the sleep deprived! And they still had about six hours more riding ahead of them.

I got myself a bacon roll and cup of tea, both of which were nothing to write home about and at first revelled in the welcome heat of the propane space heater… that was until the smell drove me back outside.

I bumped into Richard and his wife Clare outside and they were both doing well and both had scored cleans on all the sections so far!

I then considered my next moves; I could go out and spectate but realized the competitors would now be on their way up beyond Buxton to the Goyt Forest for sections like The Incline and over Pym Chair to The Corkscrew. These had the disadvantage of being in the opposite direction to my journey home. Alternatively I could wait until they started to loop back to sections closer to the finish but a check of the route guidance showed I might have to wait another two hours before they reached them. So I reluctantly decided to head slowly for home and the very inviting prospect of my own bed!

I deliberately took a route back avoiding the motorway as much as possible and I did have to break into the emergency can of Red Bull to keep myself alert As well as a couple of coffee stops but eventually made it home OK. After a hot shower I went to bed….

The next day I awoke feeling a lot better and started the task of unloading the van. This was of course made easier by the fact that I didn’t have to clean the bike or my gear, only having done a 53 mile road ride.

I pulled the rear wheel out and checked the bearings, the offside bearing was perfectly OK but the nearside was a complete disaster! It came out in a dozen different pieces. It was clear that the bearing had corroded and seized up which is why it had shown no play at the MOT or when I checked it. It would seem that the ride from Pomerey to Tamworth had been enough to free off the corrosion and cause the bearing to fall apart.

There is still part of the bearing stuck in the hub but this shouldn’t be too hard to remove and damage to the hub seems minimal so shouldn’t be a problem. I stuck my other wheel onto the bike so it was mobile again and started thinking how to prepare for the next MCC event, the Exeter in January!

Lessons learnt.

  • Don’t just check the bearings; replace them before the event.
  • Look at the possibility of fitting heated grips to the bike
  • Get a decent battery if the Lithium one doesn’t perform.
  • Rig a method of jump starting the bike without having to unbolt the seat
  • Buy a battery booster pack
  • Look at an alternative lighting solution (HID or vLED)
  • Fit a helmet mounted light (LED)

·  But then whilst checking out the entries for the MCCs Exeter Trial in January, it seems they have introduced a new class just for Adventure Bikes, so maybe the 1090 Adventure R would be a good prospect instead:

The pros:

·         Heated grips
·         Enough Electrical power for my heated jacket
·         Comfortable seat
·         Easy on road cruising
·         200 mile+ fuel range

The cons:

·         125 bhp (or still 100 bhp in off road mode) = too much!
·         220 Kilograms = too much!
·         Its Big!
·         Restrictive choice of tyres

On the latter the rear rim is much too wide for a trials tyre so you are restricted to a list of tyres, or to those that comply with the standing supplementary regulations (SSRs), This specifies The space between the tread blocks must NOT extend across the complete tyre, measured at right angles to the tyre wall unless broken by a block” which pretty much ensures they will have limited grip off road. 

My current Mitas E07 does comply with this rule but is not the best tyre if it gets really muddy.

Of the allowed tyres the Continental TKC80 is most probably the best as it is the original fitment on the 1090 R. But they are expensive, wear out very quickly and I although I do have one in the garage, it has limited tread left on it.

Two of the tyres, the Michelin T63 and the Dunlop 603 are no longer manufactured!

And the other two, the Bridgestone TW302 and the Kenda 270 are not made in a size large enough for the 1090 (or for most Adventure bikes these days).

I know the MCC is all about tradition but I think they do really need to move with the times on this subject!

On the other hand I guess that anyone else on an Adventure bike will have the same handicap!

The class is defined as:

"Adventure motorcycles manufactured from 1980 onwards, with multi-cylinder engines and a capacity above 470cc"

And looking at the results from the Edinburgh I can only see one bike that would have genuinely fallen into this class, Richard’s KTM 990 Adventure, so in any case the competition might be limited. 

Choices, choices!

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Edinburgh Trial(s and tribulations)

Leaving straight from work on the Friday evening, I drove straight to the finish point for the trial, the Duke of York at Pomeroy where I had arranged to leave the van. Arriving shortly after seven o’clock I booked in as I'd paid for overnight parking on the adjacent camp site and went to park.
I immediately had a sense of déjà vu from the ABR Festival as I was directed to a hard standing next door to my friend Andy. We both unloaded bikes and Andy decided it would be a good idea to check if his bike started OK. It wouldn't on the electric start but did on the kick start. I did the same and mine started on the button no problem. 

I decided to go back into the pub for dinner and Andy decided to have a kip in his car, with a request for me to wake him at 9:30 if he wasn’t already up. 
After dinner where I shared a table with a former car competitor who had driven all the way from Aberdeen to work on the control at Carsington Water (that’s dedication) I returned to find Andy already up. 

We had decided to head down to the start at about 10:00 o’clock. My start was at 00:21 and as it was about a 1 hour 15 minute ride down to Tamworth I’d have plenty of time, Andy wasn’t off until 01:55 so had an even more time to spare. So we got kitted up ready to leave.
And then my bike wouldn’t start!
We tried kick starting it but no joy; we tried bump starting it down the short slope of the campsite but no joy! So off came the seat and the jump leads came out but again, nothing doing! 

All very strange, then a fellow competitor turned up with a battery booster pack and it started straight away, I’m guessing the jump leads weren’t connected properly as it should have started just as easily (well it was pretty dark). So whilst Andy kept the bike ticking over, I bolted the seat back on and got kitted up (again).
All ready to go and the bike decided to stall as soon as I put it into gear!!!
Andy asked if I minded if he headed off, which was only fair so I set about unbolting the seat again and getting the jump leads out again. 

This time it started easily and as it had warmed up enough not to need the choke, I used my trusty clothes peg to jam the throttle partly open and keep the bike running whilst I put everything back together, put the jump leads away, got kitted up again and locked up the van.
This time I got underway without problems and headed off down the A515 and a few issues were immediately apparent. Remember the problems the MOT tester had with the beam pattern of my LED headlights… I could see why!
It occurred to me that I’d only ridden the bike in the dark once before in Morocco on the Tuareg Rally. That had been along a virtually straight road to the petrol station 15km outside of Merzouga. 
I recalled they chucked out plenty of light straight in front, in fact enough to clearly annoy every car driver coming the other way! Since then I had blanked off the top of the low beam to create a flat topped 'dip' beam.
Now this obviously worked as I didn’t seem to be having any impact on oncoming traffic, none of whom flashed me and although the light was nice and bright, the beam was pretty much just a “blob” of light in front of me. Great in a straight line but not great for sharp bends where I really needed a wider spread of light. 

It was a bit better on main beam (i.e. both LEDs illuminated) and to be honest I could maintain the 50 mph speed limit but certainly no faster.
Also when trying to get the bike started I had worked up quite a sweat, which despite my several layers was now cooling rapidly and making very cold.
The other problem was my road book; I had added instructions for the trip to Tamworth and before the event had thought of how to illuminate it for the night session. 

The obvious solution was to buy the LED lighting strip from F2R designed for just that purpose and which simply plugs inside. But of course I’d have to order that from Portugal and I’d left it too late! 

The other alternative that I had read on an LDT forum was to use chemical glow sticks inside the holder, I had one of those so all sorted, or at least so I thought!
I did think of testing it out before the trial but as I only had the one, I didn’t want to use it. Yes I could have ordered more but again I left it too late! As it was it turned out I activated it before leaving only to find it produced a very dim glow behind the road book, totally useless! I then remembered I had a second glow stick in my first aid kit.
And you guessed it… a marginally brighter but still very dim glow that still made it impossible to read the road book! 

Oh well I had memorised the route (as I had decided to ride the trial route in reverse to familiarise myself with it) and then back again as far as the first checkpoint at Carsington. I had also driven half the route on my way to Pomeroy so no great problem.
Around Alrewas, I started seeing signs for the National Memorial Arboretum and temporary signs for the Ride to the Wall (RTTW) and realised it was the next day as it generally coincides with the date of the Edinburgh.
Last year the Edinburgh had run in appalling conditions and I remembered the torrential rain on the RTTW, the very first of my Sixty by Sixty list and the first time I’d ridden a motorbike following my diagnosis with myasthenia. 

I had only got through that day on a combination of medication, sheer bloody will power and the comfort of my heated jacket! Sadly the EXC doesn’t produce enough electrical power for luxuries like that!

The weather last year, shared by the RTTW and the Edinburgh Trial!
Passing the roundabout at the entrance to the National Memorial Arboretum, the signposts said Tamworth was only eight miles away and straight on but I knew the route turned right and switched to minor roads here. 

Almost immediately I found the navigation tricky as the “road” was indistinguishable from a couple of farm tracks leading off and despite stopping and checking the OS Map on my phone, it wasn’t clear. So I decided to back track to the roundabout and follow the road signs to Tamworth. In fact when I later checked the map properly I had taken a wrong turn.
This way was straightforward until I was just riding into the outskirts of town with about three miles to go when the bike started to shake and weave around. My first thought was a puncture but a quick stop to check and both tyres were fine! I pushed on keeping the speed to under 30 mph until I eventually pulled into the services.
Immediately the problem became clear, a rear wheel bearing had collapsed resulting in several inches of sideways play in the wheel. There was no way I could continue so sadly had to accept that my first attempt at the Edinburgh Trial was over before it had even started!
Upon arrival at Tamworth Services
This was particularly annoying as not only had I checked the bike over fully before loading it in the van the night before, it had of course only just passed an MOT less than a week previously.

I went inside to the sign on desk to declare myself as a non starter and then decided to get a coffee before calling out the RAC. I spotted another friend, Richard who was competing on his KTM 990 Adventure and was explaining what had happened when a car competitor on the next table offered me a lift back to the pub. 

His friend (another Tony) had brought him and his car to the event and was going to the pub to wait it out before taking him home again but didn’t actually know where the Duke of York was. So in exchange for navigating I got a quick recovery back to my van on his trailer. 
As it turns out this may have been very fortuitous as I discovered another competitor later had a puncture on the course and waited five and a half hours for the RAC sat at the side of the road at the exposed Pym Chair. 

OK a similar wait in the services would not have been as bad but I’m glad It didn’t come to that.
To be continued…