Tuesday, 19 June 2012

17 Jun 12, Hawks Cheltenham Spa, The Alan Saunders Memorial Trial

With a few trials happening this weekend I really couldn’t miss this one.  Those who have been reading this blog for a while will be aware that both Penny and I were long standing and stalwart members of Hawks, Cheltenham Spa MCC and therefore, knew Alan Saunders personally.  In addition, it was Alan that sold me my first Matchless, (a 1956 G3LC see picture below), after I badgered him for close on a year.  I always remember him saying that if the bike sat in the garage and didn’t get used he’d be round to see me!  I instantly got on with the bike and I have had some great success with it over the years; most notably, winning the Sammy Miller championship in 2010 and cleaning the TALMAG for a fourth place in 2012. 
I'm sure Alan Saunders would approve!
With NT410 still off the road I did a bit of maintenance to AS500 in preparation for this trial.  On Friday afternoon I got the bike MOTd at Roadrunner Motorcycles in Stroud and on the way back picked up a new IRC from BVM Moto.  The original rear tyre was on there for some time and I had to take it to Malvern Tyres in Cheltenham in order break the bead as it was stuck fast.  The helpful team at Malvern Tyres were brilliant and sorted me out instantly – Thank You.  It took a bit of fiddling and a pinched tube but I eventually got it sorted, greased the spindle, cleaned the hub and brake shoes and put it back together.

I got to Colgate Farm quite early and signed on with Dave Stephens and had a breakfast bap at Suzie’s Food Van.  It was pleasing to see Alan’s son, Mark and grandson, Greg both supporting the trial.  Hawks President, Pete LePlain gave a short valedictory before the start in memory of Alan which was a nice touch.  Dave (Ariel 500) and I both elected to ride the Pre-65 (Red) route and started at Sub 1 bang on 1030.

The first three subs were located on the loose, rocky banks and cambers at the top of the course.  Sub 1 and 2 were tight and twisty through the trees and did take a few marks from the unwary and Sub 3 was the traditional long run across a high, rooty camber before an adrenalin fuelled run down a rooty bank.  Next, we had a long run across the fields to Sub 4.  Located in the middle copse we dropped into a greasy gully, criss-crossing across the stream before giving it a handful on the long, greasy uphill exit.  It rode surprisingly well but I did take a dab on lap two as I got too friendly with a tree.
Concentrating hard as the 500 gets
some grip

Subs 5-7 were located in the bottom copse.  Sub 5 was a fairly rudimentary stream section with a few twists and turns however, with a good deal of water coursing through it there was plenty of grip.  Sub 6 looked quite tricky and was a downhill section on very soft mud which led to a tight gully.  I initially had to take a three but recovered on subsequent laps to clean it. 

Sub 7 was quite frankly ridiculous and caused lots of problems for all the Red route riders.  A long climb led to a greasy rooted entry through a pair of trees.  The root itself was huge and because of limited room you couldn’t get square on it.  This caused many a back wheel to slip away leaving the rider on the ground with his bike on top of him.  I had a very bad off here; I got thrown backwards into the root hitting it just below my left kidney.  I was instantly winded and knew I was in trouble.  I instinctively wiggled my toes and ankles that’s how much I feared the worse.  Dave was quickly on the scene and lifted the bike off me and I crawled away, badly shaken.  I was in a lot of pain and Dave fired the bike up and I rode it gingerly back to the start.  After Dave loaded it into the van I went home and Penny took me to A&E for a check up.  Fortunately, there was no spinal damage and no internal bleeding and as I write I’m in a lot of pain and off work. 

The final group of sections, Sub 8-10, were located on the tree laden banks of the North side of the track and were brilliant, testing, traditional trials sections.  The sinuous uphill off camber Sub 8 was a real tester; I incurred a maximum as the big 500 started to “climb” on me on the first lap.  Sub 9 had a tricky entry and tight, loose exit but rode well and was a real test.  Similarly, Sub 10 was another beauty.  A steep downhill entry across a loose camber led to a stony and rooty gap between the trees which took marks off all.  A cracking, but sensible section. 
In the climb on Sub 10!

It was very disappointing to have retired on Sub 7 but the truth is I’m surprised I was the only one who got injured here.  The Clerk-of-the-Course should never have allowed this section to go ahead  and I can only hope that the Clerk of the Course and the Club learn from this incident. 

As always, it was great to see Mike Yiend at the venue with his camera.  The pictures in this report were supplied by Mike and if you want to see your pictures log onto Mike’s collection here or click on the Mike Yiend Motorsports photography link on the right hand side.  Why not buy some of Mike’s great photos as a late Father’s Day present and support your local photographer!

You can check your results on the club website HERE

Next up:  Recovering from this injury ahead of the Bonanza Trial!

Monday, 4 June 2012

03 June 12, Andy Hunt's AMOC Trial at Tardebigge (BMCA)

Andy Hunt’s AMOC trial run under the BMCA at Tardebigge is a Matchless Man tradition and with a new bike to try out I was up early.  Penny and I met up with Dave (500 Ariel), Teflon (410 Matchless) and Ken “Ainsley” Wallington (350 Matchless) at Strensham services and availed ourselves of Bacon butties and tea before heading North on the M5 to the Tardebigge venue.
Pete Dawson and I check out the
new 500 Matchless

Having entered in advance signing on was a breeze and I elected to ride the Intermediate route where riders ride 5 Clubman and 5 Expert sections at the organiser’s discretion.  Unlike last year the weather was atrocious and we knew the going would be treacherous.  Dave, Teflon and Ainsley signed up for the Clubman route so I was on my own this time nevertheless, we all rode around together and for 5 Subs each lap we contested the same route.

After getting changed I gave the bike a little run in the pits and was surprised at the amount of power it has.  The Maurice Hocking built AMC gearbox is the same as my 410 but coupled to a long stroke 500cc motor, it’s very lively and I could get the front end up in third gear!

With the rain getting heavier it was critical to get away quickly and make the most of what little grip was available.  Sub 1 was a long, tricky mud slot that could’ve been designed to specifically test the new Matchless.  I elect for second gear, grip the tank with my knees and give it some beans.  The 500 power is awesome and it cuts through the mud with ease.  As predicted the going got atrocious however, I cleaned this section on all four laps.
The cross over in the mud slot of
Sub 1 (note how dark it is!)

On Sub 2 we had to ride the expert route and having mastered the tricky off camber entry I blew it on the tight exit.  I got a three on the first lap however, there was no grip to be had on subsequent laps and I had to roll out each time in the same spot for a maximum.  Sub 3 was another expert section and once again the exit proved the problem.  A series of tight turns led up to a steep, slippery bank and with no room to dial some power in, I ground to a halt each time.  Sub 4 continued the theme; sinuous tight turns over undulating banks and a tricky camber to negotiate at the end.  The first lap I went clean but subsequent laps I was not so lucky and took a mixed bag.  Sub 5 was impossible for me; a tight turn mid section caused me to grind to a halt as I couldn’t get the bike turned.  Subsequently, as the ground became more slippery I had to take maximums each time. 
Concentrating in the tricky Sub 2

The entry to Sub 6 was a deep gulley but on the first lap I gave the 500 some stick and promptly popped out the other side going too fast and had to take a three steadying dabs.  Lesson learnt; a single dab and two cleans followed.  Sub 7 was one of those that you had to ride early.  A steep, slippery descent led to a tight turn followed by a run up a bank where you had to ride the camber.  I elected for second gear and the bike flew up the bank and around the rim for a clean on lap 1.  However, the steep drop got slicker and on each subsequent occasion I couldn’t slow the bike enough and overshot the first turn for a maximum. 

The beginning of Sub 4

Sub 8 was impossible and I got maximums each time.  After a short ride towards the canal we came to Sub 9 where, as in previous years, the exit is crucial.  Unbelievably, I managed to hop the big 500 around and secured a clean on lap 1 but on subsequent efforts I ground to a halt.  Sub 10 looked pretty innocuous but I couldn’t get enough speed into the third turn so had to take dabs on the following slippery bank.  Teflon had a great ride here cleaning it twice!

It really was a war of attrition.  The big 500 was tearing my arms out of their sockets and I experienced the dreaded arm-pump for the first time in ages as I struggled to hold on.  With the bike being much higher and heavier I did fall off a couple of times as I reached for the ground but it wasn’t there!  Still, it was a great day and a good learning experience. I think I'm going to enjoy learning how to ride this bike and I thank Tony Sullivan for selling it to me.

With a good deal of retirements my 131 mark loss was good enough to take the Best AJS/Matchless award and 2nd place on the Intermediate route behind John Colclough and his BSA.  Dave finished top of the factory on the Clubman route.  His 105 mark loss saw him take 5th place ahead of Teflon on 107 (6th) and Ken Wallington on 159 marks lost.
Cold, wet but happy to have finished!

Thanks to the BMCA for putting on another excellent event and Thanks to Andy Hunt, Pete Dawson, Mark Lucas and Steve Jones for laying out the sections for another top trial. 

Thanks also to the observers Tony Hawkins, Philip Hibberd, Colin Tolley, Andrew Tolley, Dave Hammersley, Gary Mas, Dave Rochelle, Jeff and Lee Mitchell and Malcolm Holden for braving the cold, damp conditions. 

Hopefully, next year will be a dry one!

You can check your results here

02 Jun 12, Matchless Man update

Well, the run up to the Jubilee holiday was quite busy.  Following the Barrett Trial on Sunday I purchased Tony Sullivan’s 500cc Matchless which, due to a wrist injury, he longer rode.  I first saw this bike at the Hawks venue in 2001 and really loved it, so when it became available I couldn't help myself.  The 500cc long-stroke engine is mounted high in the Ariel frame and I think that will take some getting used to however, at least I won’t be catching the sump pan on the smallest of obstacles – I think this will be a good bike for the Dartmoor 2 day trial in September.  The first run out will be at the final BMCA event of 2012 at Tardebigge on Sunday (next blog post!).
Pete Dawson gets a look at my new
acquistion; Tony Sullivan's 500 Matchless

With Alan Whitton thankfully on the mend and a day’s leave to take, I arranged to meet him on Friday to discuss the next iteration on NT410.  I’ve decided upon front and rear hubs plus yokes which should dramatically improve the braking performance and aesthetics. 

Having removed the front end from NT410 I dismantled the forks into their component parts ready for the AMC sliders to be machined to accept an AW Race Engineering spindle and spacers.  Whilst chatting to Alan I decided to have a fork brace fitted to the top of the sliders which should stiffen up the steering and allow me to hang a mudguard thereby obviating the need for troublesome stays.  This also frees up an anchor point for the brake arm torsion rod.  Hopefully, in three weeks time I’ll be able to bolt on the new front end and rear wheel.  Keep checking back
NT410 with the front end removed
awaiting Whitton hubs/yokes

Martyn Bratby sent my rear REH brake shoes back after relining them to 6mm of compound.  As always, he did an outstanding job and only charged me the £3 postage.  Once again, a top service from a customer focussed motorcycle man.  Ironically, I probably won’t get to use them now as both hubs will be replaced with AW Race Engineering ones however; I may keep both wheels and re-use them.

On Saturday I visited the Cheltenham Autojumble which despite the chilly conditions was well attended.  It was good to catch up with Mike Ruck of the Herefordshire Classic Trials Club who informed me that HCTC will be looking to run a summer event at excellent Clyro venue and are in hoping to return to the Waterfall at Bowley Court.  This is an outstanding venue however, in recent years it has been used by Wye Valley so has not been set out for Pre-65 bikes.  Fingers crossed that Mike and the HCTC can secure a Pre-65 trial at this outstanding venue.  Factory men, Teflon and Pete Collins were there and Teflon picked up a Matchless head and his reconditioned carburettor.  I was glad to see Ariel salesman John Budgen at the venue and bought some new chain adjusters for NT410 as the set I have on now got seriously chewed when I lost the wheel spindle nut in Jersey.

Next up: Andy Hunt’s AMOC Trial with the BMCA at Tardebigge