Friday, 29 January 2010

Tracks and tracking

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One thing about the snow is it's easy to spot tracks, fresh fallen snow obliterates those tracks and then they reappear when something sets foot on the white stuff
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My tracks seem to be going in a different direction to those of the dogs and as for these sheep tracks, well, I doubt they had been around for a while
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Rabbits, foxes, mice, rats, otters and various bird tracks have all been easily seen in this wintry weather. Today, however, I met a fresh set of tracks. Not only did I meet them but had the privilege of being the one to test drive them. Now I bet that's got you going, how on earth do you test drive tracks left by feet.... Who mentioned feet?
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Guess the picture has given it away huh? Aye, tracks for a quad bike. An American import with only one supplier in this country. Ordered when the weather was at it's worst and bikes wouldn't travel through the depth of snow, unfortunately delivered when the snow was receding.

It took the better half five hours to fit these things onto the bike yesterday. Mind you special brackets had to be fitted to the bike before these contraptions could be put into place. Apparently the brackets will remain a permanent fixture on the bike hopefully meaning it will be a great deal faster to change wheels to tracks the next time.

On turning up on this farm this morning to gather I was given the honour of having the tracked bike to use, the farmer taking the other bike with it's usual wheels. I thought this quite a treat until I set off with the monster.

The tracks are intended for very soft ground, snow, sand and anything a normal four wheeled bike would struggle to travel through, they're definitely not intended for hard roads and green ground. I found driving along in a straight line was fine, steering was a totally different matter.

A normal bike wheel only has about 25 square inches making contact with the ground, whereas these tracks will have nearer 300 square inches making contact (as Shep is hopeless with anything mathematical these measurements have been added by the better half), obviously this will make the turning circle a great deal bigger on the tracked bike as there is more purchase with the ground. I've never driven a tank yet but would say a similar comparison would be the difference between steering a car and a tank.

I did feel at times that I was trying to steer a tank, to say the steering was heavy was an understatement, however, on snow it was a different matter all together. I found a bank side totally filled in with snow, you would never consider taking a normal wheeled quad into a situation like this - it would sink, especially as I drove uphill and the gradient was steep. In actual fact the farmer attempted the same manoeuvre with his 'normal' bike and didn't even managed a few feet. The tracked creature flew up with no hassle and was much easier to steer.

I also took the tracks through a bottomless boggy spot - the sort Shep is noted for sinking into - it flew over the top without a hick, no sign what so ever that it would even consider sinking and never cut through the soggy surface.

I have to conclude that these tracks will indeed be successful when there is snow on the ground and access to stock isn't possible with your traditional four wheeled bike, if they were here a week or two back this particular farmer's life would have been a great deal easier. It may be time consuming fitting the tracks but is bound to become quicker than the initial fitting, hopefully it will just be like changing the wheels.

Must say though that I'm back there tomorrow and would give my eye teeth to have my wheels back, or mebbes I ought to hope for more snow??!!

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