Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Dorset Ridgeway on Royal Enfield Bullets and a Honda XL250

Redditch Royal Enfield Bullet, Honda XL250 and Indian Bullet.
A crisp February afternoon out on the Dorset Ridgeway. Perfect! Ian out on his twinshock Honda XL250, Dan on his  Redditch Bullet and myself trying out a new arrival to the shed, an Indian Bullet with Hitchcocks trials kit.

Fixing the Bullet gear selector.
Meeting up in Blandford for lunch we headed over to Tollard Royal to join a track taking us up to the ridgeway running just south of Shaftesbury. The ground was hard frozen, the remains of a snowfall lay about and the ruts on the track were filled with frozen puddles. Unfortunately on one such mini skating rink Dan took a mild tumble. Dan was undamaged but the bike could mysteriously no longer change gear. We took the outer cover off and found a bent selector arm. Duly straightened up the bike was good again.

We crossed over to the parallel ridge running north of Shaftesbury and finishing up at Salisbury racecourse. Swapping bikes around it was evident that comparing the Indian Bullet against Dan's well developed machine there will need to be a good few improvements before it is a competitive mount in the long distance MCC trials it was bought for. Easy enough to sort the bike but improvements to the rider may be more troublesome! Riding the XL250 it was striking how more manageable a 25 year old off roader is compared to a 50 year old one, or even a 20 year old Bullet!

Redditch Bullet ride by of grim fly tipping.
The day was slightly marred by an elderly dog walking couple along the top of the ridgeway; though riding along a byway open to motor transport, stopping to let them walk by, even cutting off engines and greeting them with a cheery 'good afternoon' they saw fit to have a rant about motorcyclists using the byway. When we politely pointed out that we were on a track legal for motorcycles to use, we were riding considerately and not damaging it their best response was to shout profanities and storm off! I know there are some motorised users of green lanes who behave inconsiderately but then there are walkers of this ilk too! Midweek the greatest volume of traffic on the lanes is of farmers in Land Rovers and tractors and it would be fairly safe to say that they cause more wear on the tracks than do the motorcycles using them.

Redditch Bullet in action.
There seems to be a growing voice from local councils complaining that it costs tax payers too much to keep the green lanes in a reasonable state of repair. I can't really understand this - they're roads and need repair. There are plenty of asphalt country roads that get minimal traffic, you wouldn't get people moaning about having to keep them serviced. Why differentiate a right of way just because one is paved and the other not? It seems that councils are happy to jump on the bandwagon of the anti motor vehicle walkers as the stance could save them money. The lanes have been used by all manner of transport for hundreds of year. The eighteenth century saw controversy over the size of bullock carts being used and how this was damaging them. It would be sad if now our ancient byways were closed off and allowed to deteriate into small footpaths because of the penny pinching, the irresponsible and the small minded.

Indian Bullet, Redditch Bullet and XL250.
Anyway, rant over, back to the ride... A beautiful day to be out on a bike, crisp and icy but with bright sun so keeping just warm enough. Just after the potty mouthed pensioners we saw a large pile of fly-tipped rubbish looking like the remains of a seventies caravan. That could get me started too... But on with the ride. With the sun lowering in the sky and the new Bullet having no lights it was time to be heading home. As the light failed the temperature plummeted. We stopped in at a village store to stock up on some calories and rode on making it back just before dark.