Monday, 23 July 2012

22 JUL 12, Bath Classic MC Club trial at Lamb’s Lair

With the weather warming up I decided to take AS 500 to the Lamb’s Lair venue for my first Bath Classic MC trial.  Unfortunately, we were a bit light on factory riders as Dave, Teflon and Pete Collins were otherwise engaged and Ken Wallington’s Matchless was off the road as he continues to finish the latest iteration.  Nevertheless, there was a good turn out of Gloucestershire riders including Steve O’Connor (500T Norton), Fred Clutterbuck (250 Cotton) and the evergreen Brian Hyett (175 BSA).  Over 90 riders signed on however, disappointingly there were only two Pre-Unit bikes.

Lovely shot from Heath Brindley
of AS 500 in sub 2

Having not ridden here before and spotting the lack of Pre-Unit bikes in the pits, I erred on the side of caution and elected to ride the Clubman route.  Signing on was a breeze and after grabbing a cup to tea for the missus I got changed for the start.  After a thorough briefing from Clerk-of-the-Course, Jon Cull, we headed off to contest ten sections over four laps.  The North Somerset ground comprises ancient coastal clay littered with smooth sea-eroded rocks interspersed with limestone outcrops which made for some interesting rock steps (which I practiced on with local legend Heath Brindley afterwards).

All the sections flowed around the natural obstacles of rock and trees and used the steep banks to good effect.  The venue had been hit by the bad weather and in addition, some 4x4 drivers had chewed it up pretty badly in places.  To that end the course was set out deliberately to avoid the problem areas and despite being a little on the easy side in places, it did take marks off the unwary.  In retrospect I should’ve ridden the expert route but when it’s your first time and you don’t get a chance to look around first you have to go with what’s comfortable.
Banking it into the turn in Sub 8

Thanks to Jon Cull and the Bath Classic MC team for putting on a cracking trial.  It was perfect for big Pre-Unit singles (rigid & springer) and I have already spoken to the factory about us all attending the next Bath Classic trial.  It was good to see the Clerk of the Course utilising The Teflon Don’s rigid AJS to such good effect!  Thanks also to all the observers who braved the tropical conditions to score us.

Clubman results:

Pre-Unit rigid              Jon Cull              350 AJS              clean
Pre-Unit Springer         John Jacka          500 Matchless     clean
Unit construction         F Lovell               250 BSA             clean

Next up: Some maintenance for AS 500 including more fork oil! 

Getting cute at the end! The summit of the
triple step during practice at the end!
Check out the results of this trial HERE

Check out the Bath Classic MC website HERE

Heath's brilliant album of the day is HERE

Friday, 20 July 2012

20 JUL 12, ACU Sammy Miller Rd 4 The Yorkshire Dales Trial, addendum

For the first time ever, an ACU Sammy Miller Championship round has appeared on the ACU trials news page.  Normally, there is a dearth of reporting by the ACU on this series which is quite annoying given the popularity of the competition and its obvious appeal to a wide audience.  The report, which was written by Barry Robinson, featured on page 37 of this week's TMX.

To check Barry Robinson's report please click HERE

Ilkley and District MCC have kindly put some photographs on their website.  These were taken by local legend Jack Knoops.  If you would like to purchase some of Jack's pictures from the day please visit the Yorkshire Centre ACU webpage HERE and follow the instructions and show your support for the Jack.

Here are a selection of photographs taken by Jack during the trial.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

15 JUL 12, ACU Sammy Miller products Rd 4, The Yorkshire Dales Trial

After leaving Gloucestershire mid-afternoon Dave and I arrived at Pateley Bridge showground around 6pm and after parking the vans hot-footed it to The Royal Oak for dinner and a pint.  It was no surprise to see the early arrivals already availing themselves (particularly, the side car boys!!) and we met up with fellow West countrymen Gary Kinsman and Peter Meeson.  The Karaoke man started at 2200 but by 2202 he’d inadvertently cleared the pub.  I stayed on for another pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord bitter which was divine.

We awoke to a clear blue sky and bright sunshine.  After a van brew we made our way up to scrutineering, signed on, booked our lunch-stop sandwiches and had breakfast.  I say breakfast, but it was more of a banquet on a plate.  We both ate our fill but neither Dave nor I could finish it.  Still, it stood us in good stead and after dropping our fuel cans off for later in the day, we made our way to the start.
Me and AS 500 at the start

We got away just after 1000 and soon caught up with Peter and Gary as we arrived at the first group of 4 Subs at Watergate.  This group is traditionally a fairly easy start however; Dave did lose his way in Sub 2 and took a pair of dabs.  We quickly finished these and headed onto the road for the short moorland ride to Cock Hill Mines for another 4 Subs.  The first sub featured a steep, rocky climb that led to an off camber shale run towards the end cards.  The gates were so wide that I totally lost my bearings, missed a gate and took a maximum.  This rudimentary mistake cost me dear however, I tried to put it to the back of my mind and rode the rest in this group clean.  It was good to see the long rocky stream being used this year but the organisers could’ve let us use the whole of it.

We headed back to the road, through Pateley Bridge and out onto Low Wath road for a pair of Subs at West Wood and a little further down the road we rode three Subs at Rayner’s Field adjacent to Gouthwaite reservoir.  These were fairly rudimentary sections and the gates were very wide once again however, some riders did lose marks as hidden rocks, slippery cambers and those wide gates took their toll!  Back on the road we skirted the other side of the reservoir and headed for a group of three subs at Covill Farm.  The field lies adjacent to a stream and is quite boggy in places.  It had clearly not been grazed and the grass was waist high making the going unpredictable.  The first Sub here featured a muddy entry but I opted to use a few of the scattered rocks to gain some traction but lost the front end which cost me a dab.  Further into this Sub a small cairn made for an airborne exit over the end gate which was fun.  The second Sub featured a tight turn in the very rocky stream.  Having made the turn I lined up for the exit, opened the throttle but jarred a couple of rocks and had to foot my way out.  The last sub was a sinuous affair but thankfully, the long stroke 500 plonked through and I recorded a clean. 
AS 500 at the lunch stop with
Peter Meeson and Gary Kinsman
The last group of the morning consisted of 3 Subs at West House Farm.  Two Subs were on the steep, grassy banks and the final one used the very rocky stream before a slippery exit.  None took marks and I was thankful of a clean end to the morning session. 

Back on the road we headed for lunch at Lofthouse where we refilled the bikes with fuel and ourselves with Ham rolls washed down with tea.  Thanks to a cracking pace we were the first to arrive so could afford to take a leisurely lunch.  It was good to catch up with our fellow competitors such as Jes Flower and find out how they had faired.  Godfrey Hannam arrived a little later as he missed the turn for Covill Farm and to double back before lunch.  Nevertheless, it worked out for him as he cleaned the lot.

We got away keenly at 1315 and after a long but scenic ride across Kirkby Malzeard Moor (where the route card has the instruction “Enjoy the View”) we arrived at the notoriously tricky High Ray Carr for 3 Subs.  The first was rather rudimentary and I went clean but the second and third were difficult as the course threaded its way through and over the numerous boulders lying in the steep grassy bank.  I had a nasty off on the second sub here last year so took my time this year and got a respectable pair of dabs.  The next section was the day’s trickiest.  A difficult succession of rock steps before a tight 90 degree right led to a steep, stepped bank and after a tree gate an extremely rocky descent.  There was much angst on display here but I rode the big 500 aggressively to record a single dab and a pat on the back from the observer. 
Dave dicusses the morning
session with Jon Bliss

Back on the road we headed for the infamous Winksley Moor group of 4 Subs.  The deep rocky stream and steep banks make for some tricky going.  The first sub featured a “staircase” of jumbled rocks which were covered in algae and 50% of the entry lost marks here however, I took my time to select a line, rode robustly and recorded a clean.  Buoyed by this I was on a roll and cleaned the rest in this group.  With one group left we headed, with trepidation to Kingstone Farm for the last 5 Subs.

I never do well here.  I’m always tired or the bike’s picked up a problem and the sections are quite difficult.  Again, you have to thread your way through big rocks embedded in the side of a steep bank.  What’s more, the bike started to smoke badly and I feared the worst.  The most difficult was the first section which took marks off 75% of the Class.  With lots of spectators smelling a crash and lots of teeth sucking by the entry I took ages to pick a line.  Nevertheless, it paid off and I recorded a spectacular clean.  This gave me confidence and I took my time, concentrated hard and for the first time cleaned this whole group.

As predicted the local riders did well and split the series regulars.  Jimbo Jardine (James) took the class win with Class leader Jon Bliss (BSA) second and Geoff Walker (BSA) was third by virtue of the most cleans rule, ahead of Godfrey Hannam (Ariel HT5) who rode superbly throughout the day.  My twelve mark loss was only good enough for ninth place just ahead of Jes Flower (James) on the most cleans rule!
AS 500 after the trial

Once again, Ilkley and District MCC laid on a fantastic trial.  The organisation was out of the top drawer and Secretary of the Meeting, Nick Pullan, was handing out provisional results when we got back to the van!!  I’d like to thank all the observers, Nick Pullan and the whole team at Ilkley for an outstanding effort and a cracking trial. 

You can check out the results on the club website HERE 
Or check the gallery HERE

In the final analysis my missed gate at Cock Hill Mines cost me four places and five championship points.  I really must concentrate harder and avoid unnecessary errors.  I know I can do it; my afternoon ride (for 3) was outstanding – only the eventual class winner beat me (by a dab) during the afternoon and my performance at Kingstone Farm was my best so far.

Next up in the Sammy Miller series we head to Builth Wells MCC for The Frank Jones Trial.  Hopefully, NT410 will be back on the road and sporting some improvements.  With any championship pressure now firmly gone I can enjoy myself and look to take a few points off my rivals.  I took the class win in Builth last year and will look to repeat it this year.
About to get started for the afternoon session!
Thanks to Jes Flower for this picture

Friday, 13 July 2012

13 July 12, A look ahead to Rd 4 of the 2012 ACU Sammy Miller series

It’s mid July so that means the long trip up to the beautiful Pateley Bridge venue for ACU Sammy Miller products Rd. 4 The Yorkshire Dales trial hosted by Ilkley and District MCC.  This is a very popular trial and there’s a bumper entry of over 80 riders booked on.  Secretary of the meeting, Nick Pullan has said the trial will go ahead despite other events in Yorkshire falling foul of the adverse weather conditions.

The Class 1 entry appears very light this year with Graham Howes (BSA BB32A) making the long trip up from Oxfordshire.  It will definitely be worth the trip; with a guaranteed 20 points on offer Graham should move into second place just two points behind current Class 1 leader Mike Holloway (400 AJS).  This would see Gloucestershire’s Peter Collins (350 AJS) move down to third ahead of Steve O’Connor (Norton 500T) and five times consecutive Class 1 champion Steve Allen (350 Matchless) who currently resides in fifth place having missed the first two rounds.  Mind you, I wouldn’t rule out Steve Allen grabbing a late entry, taking the Class win and moving up to fourth!

The rule change to Class 2 (any British TWSH) sees another bumper entry of sixteen Clubman riders signed on.  Once again, there’s a strong Gloucestershire presence and current Class 2 leader Jon Bliss (250 BSA) and second place man, Godfrey Hannam (Ariel HT 500) are scheduled to ride.  Whilst I’m currently the Class 2 Champion, due to a bad run in the final group of sections in Rd 3, I’m languishing way back in third with no real hope of winning a third consecutive Class 2 championship.  Gary Kinsman (Ariel HT 500) and Pete Meeson (Francis Barnett 250) make the long run up from Devon and both can improve their championship standings with a good result this weekend.  Disappointingly, there’s no Robin Hoare this time.  He’s currently in fourth place ahead of Dave Arkell (Ariel 500) and a no show will cost him a place in the standings.
A typical stream exit!

Nevertheless, there’s a strong contingent of very capable Yorkshire riders scheduled to take part and they will be totally au fait with the terrain.  With strong performances guaranteed from the likes of Eddie Bull, Eric Boocock, Judy McDonald, Rob Moore and Rob Forrest (all Triumph Cub) the Class 2 regulars are going to have to be on top form.

Class 3 (non-British TWSH Clubmen) is a tightly fought Class but Mick Whitehouse is a whole win ahead of the field and the Fantic mounted Barnstable man will look to extend his lead at the top of the table ahead of Duncan Trickett.  With David Cole absent, Aylesbury’s Steve Chandler (Honda TLR) will look to improve his points tally and move up from fifth to fourth spot.

Class 5 (any British TWSH Expert) is another close group.  Current leader Tim Blackmore (BSA Bantam) will look to extend his lead but with some truly capable Northern riders on show he may well have his work cut out.  Carl Batty (Triumph twin), Davy Emmot (Triumph Trophy), Mick Grant (BANTAM?!), Keith Gardner (Cub) and Peter Salt are bound to feature high up the results.  Alan Whitton is scheduled to ride but having picked up an injury in last week’s PJ1 round he may not be able to compete.

A typical stream entry!
Class 6 (non British TWSH Expert) is by far the tightest class and all the main protagonists are scheduled to ride.  With two wins and a third already under his belt, Class leader Mark Stokes will be hard to beat but fresh from a Rd 3 win Swindon’s Martyn Wilmore will be looking for another 20 point haul this time out. 

Third place man Dave Dawson (Fantic) makes the trip up from Worcestershire and will be looking to cement his position in the standings.  Nevertheless, you can never rule out the venerable Peter Gaunt (Honda 60).  On home ground and with a wealth of experience to draw upon I wouldn’t rule him out of a Class win.

One thing’s for sure; it’s going to be a tough and hard fought weekend but hopefully very enjoyable.  Fingers crossed for no more bloody rain!!!

Check out the entries and find out more about the trial on the Ilkley & District MCC site HERE

Thursday, 12 July 2012

10 July 12, Some essential maintenance

When I hurt my back I didn’t (and subsequently couldn’t) wash the bike off.  I hate leaving any bike dirty as it really damages them however, I had no choice.  I couldn’t even lift the front end up to put it on a stand.  Knowing that it’d get covered at the Euro Cup I brushed what mud I could off and rode hoping I hadn’t missed anything.  Following the Euro Cup ride I decided to give AS 500 a good deep clean and have a good look around prior to Rd 4 of the 2012 ACU Sammy Miller championship at Pateley Bridge.

I’m really pleased with AS500; it’s a beauty and just the ticket when it comes to learning how to ride a long stroke 500 however, it’s always best to check what you’ve bought and get better acquainted it.  The first thing I noticed was that the rear drive sprocket was worn and the O ring chain, being quite old, had seen better days.  Fortunately, I had a new sprocket of the right variety hung up in the garage so all I needed to do was drill out the holes to the correct diameter and fix it to the Rickman rear hub.  Pete le Plain kindly donated some new stainless fasteners to finish the job off.  I picked up a new 520 chain from BVM during the week and adjusted it to fit.

As previously mentioned, the rear wheel bearings were completely shot and needed to be replaced.  Fortunately, the aptly named "Mayday Seals" in Cheltenham had some on the shelf so I picked them up on the way home from work and popped them in after completing the sprocket.  Having examined the old ones I made the right decision. 

Check out the Mayday Seals webpage HERE

It’s always wise to change the gearbox oil and I slapped in some new EP90 gear oil that I had originally bought for the differential box on my Land Rover.  It was pleasing to note that the AMC box had undergone a Maurice Hocking worm gear conversion and given the age of the bike, this was probably one of Maurice’s last ones.  A few people have these conversions, such as Len Hutty and Andy Bamford and it really makes the clutch quite light and much more useable. 

I removed the primary side cover to reveal some accumulated mud and general detritus that had built up due to the clutch opening on the rear of the inner primary cover not being sealed properly.  I hadn’t got anything to plug it with immediately so I’ll rectify this following the Yorkshire Dales trial on Sunday.  The Jawa speedway clutch came up lovely and to finish the primary side I bought a new 420 chain from BVM to replace the original. 

Finally, I checked all the fasteners, topped up the engine oil and took it for a spin around the village between the showers.  Fingers crossed, this should see my through the rocks and streams of the Yorkshire Dales but just in case, I’ll take plenty of spare gear in the van and in my riding bag!

Looking a lot cleaner with some
elbow grease!

7 Jul 12, Euro Cup 2012, Day 1 The Gerry Holdstock Cup Trial

With my back returning to normal and having entered in advance I decided to give the Euro Cup a go.  The weather was really bad in the preceding week and getting to the field was treacherous so I dropped the van at Dave’s, unloaded AS500, put it on my old trailer with Dave’s gleaming 500 Ariel and went up to Chalford in the Shogun.  It worked a treat; Dave & I breezed in totally by-passing the tractor laid on by the club to pull competitors in, and eventually out of, the venue.

There was a bumper entry from across the UK and it was pleasing to see a lot of competitors from the near continent.  A few riders elected to swap machinery and it was quite disorientating seeing fellow West countryman Clive Causer piloting an outfit vice his 410 Matchless! (it looked a bit of a handful if I’m honest!).  I had the opportunity to pilot one myself.  At sign-on Deborah Smith asked if I fancied piloting Ian Hannam’s outfit for the day.  Unfortunately, Ian had sliced his hand on a Stanley knife and couldn’t ride leaving Deborah stranded.  I must say, I did think about it but on reflection it’s probably best for both of us and that beautiful BSA outfit that I reluctantly, declined.

Golden Valley Classic did a fantastic job to get the course prepared and I know that a lot of work was put in by the section plotters.  The course consisted of 10 sections to be ridden over 3 laps using a punch card system which you handed in at the end of each lap.  I elected to ride the Clubman route on the ex-Tony Sullivan 500 and I thought it was a very fair route given the state of the ground.  Whilst marks were taken off the unwary there was nothing dangerous about the sections.  However, riding between the sections was a bit hairy at times and on several occasions I nearly lost the front end.  It was nice to see a Scotsman taking a dab or two in the Gloucestershire mud!!

Despite doing some exercise prior to the event my back started to really play up half way through the first lap; so much so, that walking the sections was more painful than riding them.  Still, it must be doing the muscles good so I carried on.  Sub 8 was the real killer for me; I lost all of my marks here.  A dab on lap one and lap two led to a paddled three when hit a mystery object mid-section on lap three.  Still, a 5 mark loss on a comeback ride was a good start and it was way good enough to take the Pre-Unit Clubman win.  The 500 went very well in the slick conditions and I used second gear quite a bit.  Sub 10 was a very tricky sub but I attacked it aggressively which paid off.
Dave between sections on his 500 Ariel

Unfortunately, Dave had to get back so I left before the festivities in the evening which, I heard, were top drawer.  Due to heavy and persistent overnight rain Day 2 of the Euro Cup had to be cancelled.  Still, I really enjoyed the trial and all those to whom I have spoken had a fantastic time riding, socialising and/or both.

Thanks to all at Golden Valley Classic MCC and the Euro Cup team for putting on an outstanding event which is rightly gaining in popularity.  I’ll certainly be entering early again next year when hopefully the weather will be kinder and we can get a full two days riding at the splendid Cowcombe venue.

You can access the Golden Valley Classic website HERE

Results:  Pre-Unit 4 Stroke Clubman

John Jacka (500 Matchless)     5
Bernt Sattler (300 BMW)         11
Dave Arkell (500 Ariel)            12

Next up: ACU Sammy Miller products Rd 4, The Yorkshire Dales Trial at Pateley Bridge.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

02 Jul 12 - Recovering, but very slowly!

Unfortunately, I’m on a slow road to recovery.  Two weeks since my “off” at The Alan Saunders Memorial trial I’m still experiencing a lot of pain in my lower back and have limited mobility.  I’ve been doing some exercises to get movement into the area and have done some long walks up Cleeve Hill and have managed to carry some weight.  To compound the problems I have had a recurrence of my right wrist problem which affects the strength of my grip.  Thankfully, this problem at least, appears to be getting better.
Disassembled Rockshock unit

Disappointingly, I was unable to compete in the British Bike Bonanza road trial last Saturday (30 June) which really annoyed me since I’d already paid to enter the event.  Dave, Teflon and Ainsley had a good ride around by all accounts although there was a bit of rain on the day!  I am hoping to be fit enough to compete in the two-day Euro Cup Trial at Cowcombe woods this weekend (7-8th July); I’ve already entered so it’s just a case of being fit enough to ride and getting the new 500 ready. 

When I changed the rear tyre it was obvious that some wear and tear had occurred.  The rear wheel bearings are pretty shot and the rear sprocket is badly worn.  I have purchased some bearings and luckily, had a sprocket in the workshop however, it needs some drilling/milling in order to make it fit which I haven’t been able to tackle.  Hopefully, Dave or Teflon can help me out on this one! 
Another view of the disassembled unit
Anyway, I decided to have a go at NT410s Rockshocks which went rock-hard following my exploits jumping the bike at the Zona 1 trial at Nettleton bottom (see the MatchlessMan Facebook profile picture!).  I have since added some Maxton shocks to NT410 so have a little time to mess around with them.  I must say that John Bull, the proprietor of Rockshocks, is an outstanding person to do business with.  When I explained what had happened he provided some sound advice as well as a replacement seal kit and special tool to get the units apart.  Including postage, it all came to a very reasonable £24.  Check out John Bull's Rockshock website HERE.
Hopefully, I’ll be fit enough to ride the Euro Cup trial this weekend as I need to get some practice in ahead of the next ACU Sammy Miller products national trial, The Yorkshire Dales Trial, at Pateley Bridge on the 15 July.  Keep your fingers crossed!!