Long Grass & Hidden Ruts - Report from the First Regular Monthly Ride Out for New Members

Saturday 2nd of September saw the first of our Newbie/Scenic ride-outs which are scheduled to take place on the first weekend of the month. Patrick Robinson did the honours as run leader and I tail-ended. It was nice to see Patrick on the lanes again after a short break from trail riding, and he had reccied a route on his newly acquired 1990s Honda 250 CRM the previous weekend out of Didcot, which was about 70 miles. We had arranged to meet in a sports ground car park on Park Road, just up from the old Premier Bikes shop at 9:30 for a 10:00am departure and by 9:40 everyone was present, togged up and ready to go. In total there were six of us, the others were Chris Craggs on a CRF 250L, Andy Lalor on his spotless as ever WR250 (he has had this bike for four years now and never have I seen it at the start of a ride with any dirt on it), Roger Hill riding his brand new Beta X trainer for only the second time, and Nigel Cutting on his KTM 350 Freeride. With pleasantries exchanged and a quick briefing by Patrick, we were rolling out of Didcot at 9:50 and half mile later turning into our first lane, a dangerous turning on a blind bend safely executed by Patrick waving us through when the oncoming traffic was clear.

Long grass and hidden ruts were ahead of us and we soon had our first casualty in the form of Chris’s gear lever, which after a tumble was bent back on itself. Some firm kicks and it was back in a useable position, and off we went, picking our way along Nappers Lane and Langdon Hill until we reached the Ridgeway.

Chris by now had had a few more tumbles and his gear lever had been booted back into position two or three times. Fortunately, Mr Honda had made it out of steel (although I think it was actually steel mixed with cheese) so it didn’t snap like aluminium would have done, but I was starting to wonder how many times it could be bent before it broke
off. I think Chris was having similar thoughts, plus sporting a few bruises, he decided that ruts were not his thing that day and so he peeled off along the level graded surface of the Ridgeway to tarmac and home.

Then there were five. We made our way to Westridge Green and passing through Aldworth and Compton and on to Beedon 22, where we had an impromptu coming together with two other groups of trail riders, one from the 2017 Overland Event, lead by Vince Byde from Loddon Vale on his EXC300 and the rest on big bikes, and then Adrian Allen came along with Richard and Greg.

The next lane saw Nigel bending a lever, this time a brake lever which I was more cautious about bending fully back into position, as it was alloy - so a halfway position had to do. Unfortunately, Nigel took a whack on his knee and by the time we stopped for fuel and a sandwich at the fuel station at Great Shefford, it was giving him grief, so he decided to peel off on the tarmac to home. Then there were four. By now Andy who hadn’t been out for a year on his trail bike was nicely back in the grove, popping a few wheelies and gliding through the ruts. Roger was also growing in confidence on his Beta, being quite different to his previous CRF250L, the 300 two-stroke reacted a bit quicker to some throttle and he was starting to open it up in places, and you could see love was blossoming. We picked our way to Lambourn and some more lanes to Wantage, through the town and out towards East Hendred, turned off through Ardington and the last lane of the day along Ginge Brook. Left at the end and a couple of miles on tarmac back to Didcot for about 2:30 hrs. Home in time to wash the bike and walk the dog before tea in the last of the day’s glorious sunshine.

Charles Lovell