Sunday, 22 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all Matchless Man blog readers.  I hope you've had a good 2013 and I wish you a happy, prosperous and "Feet-Up" 2014. 

I wonder if this bike is still around?

I got this wonderful card from West of England Motor Club and loved it; Thank You very much Robin, Pete and Gary; the factory wish you all the best for 2014.

21 DEC 13, Cheltenham Auto-jumble at the racecourse

Unfortunately, I had a bit of a relapse with my leg this week when succumbing to peer-pressure I walked to and from the pub for a Christmas libation.! Everything seemed fine until the morning when it was horribly apparent that I was back to square one; hobbling around with a lot of pain in the calf muscle area.  Nevertheless, I was determined to keep the leg active in the hope of being able to make a few of my favourite Christmas trials and when Pete Le Plain phoned on Friday afternoon I thought I’d sling my leg over a bike and see how it went.  Heavy overnight rain gave way to a generally dry morning and so it was that I dragged the ex-Alan Saunders long-stroke 350 out of the garage and gave it a run to Cheltenham auto-jumble.  After six months sitting in the garage I checked and topped up the engine and gearbox oil, checked the magneto and gave it a kick.  A very well set up bike, I wasn’t too surprised that it fired first kick and sounded as sweet as a nut.  I haven’t completely ruled out using AS350 at the 2014 TALMAG instead of NT410! 

AS 350 utilises a racecourse fence stake!

The car park was already packed when I got there just after ten o’clock however, it was disappointing to see that there weren’t too many stalls and I guess the weather must’ve put a lot of traders off.  Nevertheless, the stalwarts were there including John Budgen (Ariel spares), Wrighty (with his beautiful, trick Bantam on show) and Andy the Chain Man showing off his new mobile shop; which was quite fitting since I have two of Andy’s chains on AS350!  I've known Andy for a number of years and it was good to catch up with him.  He's been around chains for years and I value his honest advice on chains which, is completely free!  If you'd like to benefit from Andy's knowledge and experience you can visit his website HERE or use the link in the sidebar opposite.
Andy and his new mobile Chain shop
It was good to see a lot of the Gloucestershire and West Midlands trials “scene” at the venue where we discussed the pick of this year’s Christmas trials and reminisced over everyone’s trials year.  With not much on offer I purchased a metric/imperial thread gauge as my Christmas present and headed off home to rest my leg ready for some post Christmas trialling!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

8 DEC 13, ZONA 1 MCC, Race Techniques Trial at Nettleton

Having had a two week lay off following the last rounds of the Sammy Miller Championship I was looking forward to getting back on a bike.  The BMCA were running one of my favourite venues; the aptly named Bedlam on Clee Hill however, with my licence needing to be renewed I decided to ride with my local ACU Club, Zona 1 MCC at Nettleton in their Race Techniques Trophy Trial.  With Dave Arkell still feeling under the weather it was nearly a full factory day out however, Dave walked around giving moral support and indicating some riding lines that I clearly had missed!  Pete Collins and Master Chef were Ariel mounted leaving Teflon and I as the sole Matchless entries.  Dave Eeles got the big Triumph twin out of the garage and it was good to see John Edmonds who was running in the new engine on his lightweight BSA C15.

I entered in advance so signing on was simple and I was pleased to pick up my key for the practice club and the Best Pre-65/Twinshock trophy for the Les Davis trial which I won earlier in the year.  Despite being a monoshock club, the Zona1 team have a wealth of trials experience and are able to cater for all styles and classes of bike and it was pleasing to see a bumper entry of over ninety riders signing on for ten sections to be ridden over four laps.  All sections were really sensible being plotted over the varying terrain of rooty banks, mud and rocks.  As the rocks got covered in mud the going got particularly slippery and with each lap the concentration had to increase in order to avoid needless penalties.  I was riding with confidence and taking care, I was able to clean all sections bar one; Sub 7. 
Taking it steady on the rocky
bank - Photo by Mike Yiend
This sub was the real killer for old bikes.  A long, technical section comprised of a jumble of big loose, mud covered rocks much care had to be taken and I spent a lot of time searching for the optimum line.  This paid off with two single dabs on the first two visits and I was sure I could clean it however, on lap three I lost the front end, my foot slipped on the muddy rocks and I got my left leg trapped between the frame down-tube and the left-hand fork slider.  They smashed into my calf, crushing the muscle which left me immobilised on the deck.  Fortunately, a spectator lifted the bike off me and I cleared the section by crawling away to safety on my bum where I took stock of the situation.  I could hardly walk but with a good result in the offing I persevered through the pain.  Determined to clean it on the final lap I gritted my teeth but the pain was too great and I had to paddle through for a three.  Nevertheless, with no penalties accrued on the other sections this was good enough to take the Pre-65 win.

In a lot of pain I headed back to the van where it quickly became apparent I could hardly walk and I’d like to thank fellow Pre-65 competitor John Edmonds for helping me get NT410 into the van and strapped down.  Even as I write I am still not walking properly and NT410 remains untouched in the garage.  I guess I was lucky not to have broken my leg or worse, got the dreaded compartment syndrome which saw Master Chef off the road for six months.  Nevertheless, it was a brilliant trial and there's not too many trials where your card is marked by a 10 times British Trials Champion!!

Pre-65 Results:

Jai Jacka             Matchless            10   Best Pre-65 award
John Edmonds     BSA C15             10
Dave Eeles          Triumph 500       16
Ken Wallington    Ariel                   16
Nige Townsend    Matchless            16
Pete Collins         Ariel                   18

It was good to see local photographer Mike Yiend on hand to record the event.  Mike is a stalwart of the West Country trials scene turning out in all weathers to take top quality photos which can be found on his website HERE.  Mike offers a variety of formats to suit every taste and ordering could not be simpler.  With Christmas fast approaching why not visit Mike’s site, get yourself an inexpensive present and support your local photographer.

Thanks to everyone at Zona1 MCC for putting on a great trial and to the observers who were Rob Workman, Robin Isaac, Steve Saunders (Yes, THAT Steve Saunders!), Alan Smetham, Brian Valder, Sarah Saunders, Andy Colbourne and Andy Coopey who ran the Green Route.

Next up: Getting back to fitness for a plethora of Christmas Trials riding! 

Sunday, 24 November 2013

17 NOV 13, ACU Sammy Miller championship Rd 8, The Winston Grove Downland Trophy Trial

After an early night and compared with the previous day, a lay in, Penny and I headed up the A40 towards Didcot for the final round of the ACU Sammy Miller series which began from the Horse & Harrow pub in West Hagbourne.  The final round is generally the most well attended and so it was this year; as 110 riders were signed on to compete for the Winston Grove Trophy.  The car park was already beginning to fill up and I was glad to see my fellow factory rider Dave Arkell (Ariel HT5) had bagged a good spot near the pub.  With such a large entry signing on could’ve been problematic but Claire Robinson’s military precision ensured it was pain free.  After a bacon roll and tea in the well appointed pub we changed and headed for scrutineering ready for the off.  Having had a terrible result here last year I was determined to give a good account of myself and having had a good ride in the Perce Simon I did feel quite relaxed.
Dave and I at the start of The Downland Trial

We got away bang on time and headed for the first group of three sections a few minutes ride away at Napper’s Lane for a couple of subs adjacent to the old railway line.  Whilst the first sub went well a tight, uphill turn on very loose scree in Sub 2 caught me out and I had to take a steadying dab in order to stave off a maximum.  The weather had taken it’s toll on the track and the going between sections here was treacherous however, I managed to clear the tread of the tyres which proved a good idea for Sub 3 which was a sinuous affair plotted in and out of a gulley.  The two Subs at The Moors used the stream which is always tricky but having successfully negotiated an underwater obstacle in the first and gauged the grip levels correctly in the second, I came away without troubling the observers.  The last sub here generally catches me out; the exit is very close to a barbed-wire fence which always catches my eye and I dab but this year I put it out of my mind, rode the stream perfectly and exited the greasy bank for a pleasing clean.

The bowl in Seymour's Arena

Next up was the brilliant Seymour’s arena where we had to ride six technical sections.  A large crowd had built up to watch the sidecar entertainment which gave me time to think about the first tricky sub which featured a huge jumble of rocks in the middle.  The tight entry and exit needed some thought however, my line was good and I only had to take a dab.  I rode really well here and overcame the urge to dab by using innovative lines and good control to move ahead of my main rivals.  Interestingly, traction was a little more difficult to come by this year but I held my nerve and came away with that single dab in the first.

The tricky Lollingdon Hill group followed where wet clay and steep banks combine to make this the most challenging of groups in the entire series.  The first Sub here was a real stinker and most people had taken “fives” rather than get stuck in the deep, muddy bowl as this drains your energy reserves for the rest of the trial.  I was on a high from Seymour’s and decided that if I could get the bike down the hill in third gear I should be able to make the extremely difficult climb.  I rode the decompressor, hopped over the greasy log and lined myself up.  I decided to ride the contours of the bank in a “S” shape and as I opened NT410 up the power came in smoothly and I was away.  The plan worked and I popped out of the ends cards with the first clean of the day and a round of applause from the observer and Dave.  It only became apparent how lucky I’d been when, at the next section I realised I had ridden Sub 12 with the petrol tap off!!  The double Sub of 13-14 was just as difficult and I was overjoyed at getting my weight right in 13 however, Martyn Wilmore got in my way on the exit of 14 and caused me a two.  The observer said I could have a baulk however, looking at the severity of what I’d just done I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and I settled for my two dabs.  They were the last of my penalties for this trial as I cleaned everything else.
Most people dabbed at this point. Keeping
my feet up in a technical section at Seymour's

The ride between Lollingdon Hill and Aston Pit is one of the most beautiful scenes in trials and I was on a high from the last two groups.  We refuelled at Aston Pit where we did a couple of Subs on the muddy banks before heading off to ride the steep banks of Pump House.  Interestingly, the apple trees here still had some large fruit so I helped myself to the windfalls which, I must say, were wonderfully tasty.  This natural sugar rush stood me in good stead for the steep banks of the four Subs at Air Raid shelter and after polishing off a corned beef sandwich we headed off on the long cross country ride to Bower Farm for one sub on the steep grassy bank.  It was here that I fell off between sections and I really hit my head quite hard on the ground.  Unfortunately, a group of walkers witnessed this impromptu spectacle and I rode off sore and rather embarrassed.

Strange's Gate, the final
The wood at Deer Lane followed and it was great to see the observers had got a roaring fire going in the bomb hole.  After warming myself up I got to grips with these sections and could’ve taken a dab coming down a steep bank and over a fallen tree however, I kept my feet up and was pleased to have come away unscathed.  The long ride back to the start saw me taking much more care as I really didn’t want another skull cracking crash. The penultimate section at Dickie’s rocks was a bit tougher this year especially, the exit and I did spend a lot of time looking at this to ensure I came away clean.  The last section at Strange’s Gate is a stream section near to the start and as always there was a large crowd in attendance.  I did gas NT410 and very nearly over-cooked the exit however, I was able to get the big Matchless under control and finished with a clean.

I thought my four mark loss was par for the day, so I was very surprised to find that I had achieved the best score throughout all classes on my route and beat my rivals quite convincingly by seven marks.  Dave struggled with his chest infection but did finish and provided me with some sound advice throughout the day for which I am most grateful.  Veteran rider and Gentleman, Mike Holloway (Matchless 410) finished second on the day to take the Class 1 championship; very well done Mike.

My prediction was one mark too many

Despite the strong finish I finished my 2013 Sammy Miller campaign as runner up in Class 2 which is the best I could’ve hoped for especially since I have been penalised for competing in all the rounds.  The rules state that you drop your worst round but the winner didn’t do the first round and therefore, loses no points at all (i.e. all his rounds count).  This is a pretty poor ruling in my opinion and goes against those that spend a lot of time and money to compete in all the rounds.  Hopefully, I can take the fight to my rivals next year but I haven’t ruled out changing to Class 1 and will be practicing on a rigid between now and the first round, The Cotswold Cups Trial, on 6th April 2014. 

As always, I owe grateful thanks to the Factory, especially Dave Arkell and Nige Townsend without whose engineering expertise, generosity, time and good grace I wouldn’t be competing.  Thank You both.

Dave (Ariel HT5) exits at Strange's Gate

Thanks to all at North Berks MCC for setting out another superb trial and to the observers.  The route marking was outstanding and I’d like to thank the advance riders for doing such a great job; by far the best route marking I’ve seen in a trial. 

Thanks to all at North Berks MCC
Next up: Zona 1 MCC Race Techniques Trial at Nettleton

16 NOV 13, ACU Sammy Miller championship Rd 7, The Perce Simon Trial

For Classic trials riders November predominantly revolves around one thing; the Sammy Miller championship double header.  A gruelling two days of hard riding in the Home Counties where competitors look to build on their season’s performance and finish strongly.  With second place assured and little chance of taking a third championship title I went into this weekend a little more relaxed than normal which, as it turned out, was a good thing.

Series sponsor Sammy Miller, MBE saw
us off at the start
After defrosting the van, Penny and I hit the road at 0600 for the long drive to beautiful Ashley Hollow venue on the outskirts of Ringwood.  The home of Lord Normanton looked in prime condition and as the fog eventually cleared to reveal clear skies the cool winter sunshine did little to alleviate the chill.  The Perce Simon Trial was originally run as a national trial in 1936 and remains arguably one of the best rounds of this series.  Organisation at the club is spot on so it was not surprise to see Hel’s Kitchen hot food van and a Turdis or two in the pits.  I signed on with Club Secretary, Mary Hodgkinson, and paid here the outstanding postage incurred when Royal Mail refused to honour my Christmas stamps.

Series sponsor Sammy Miller was on hand and waved us away bang on time for two laps of twenty sections split between Ashley Hollow (10 subs) , The Quarry (3 subs) and Hamer Warren (7 subs).  The first four subs in Ashley Hollow comprised traditional loose earth and tight turns over roots with steep climbs and it was good to see a lot of spectators braving the cold conditions.  Sub 5 was the most challenging; a deep mud entry led to a steep, slick bank and after a ninety right a further long, steep, loose climb for more twisty stuff.  This was a cracking section and I was pleased to see Sammy Miller with his notepad, calling us through for the observer who was perched high up the steep bank.  Further twisty descents and loose, steep climbs ensued before the long ride to The Quarry. 

NT410 in the turn on Sub 4

Three subs were plotted here this year and they were much more challenging than in previous years.  The first comprised steep descents and steep climbs up earth levees which were a real challenge to the old iron especially on the front suspension.  The final grass bank of the first sub demanded a high initial attack speed which nearly bottomed out the front forks but I compromised and was clean on both visits.  The next sub here was a real cracker; a tight twisty entry to negotiate before a sheer 100ft shale bank which was like riding in treacle.  The loose stones sapped the power of the big, heavyweight singles which literally sank into the bank and drew to a halt.  I selected third gear and rode the clutch in the twisty preamble before picking my line and opening the 410 up fully.  The bike snapped alive but there was no way I was shutting off until I reached the summit as to do so would have meant failure.  The run down the bank was just as tricky and I rode the decompressor lever until a few feet from the bottom.  Despite Dave’s poorly chest he made it up here on both occasions as did Pete Collins whose Ariel could’ve been designed by Sir Frank Whittle!

The muddy climb of sub 5

The final group of sections were in Hamer Warren and comprised a few old favourites however, I was disappointed to see that the corner mud bowl was omitted this year as that is a guaranteed mark taker.  Nevertheless, there was a stand out decider of a section and that was the tricky Sub 17.  A long, steep descent led to a deep mud slot turn around a tree with a plethora of roots.  This was followed by a steep, muddy climb up a tree laden bank and I saw a lot of riders come to grief here.  Spetacular for the spectators but not for the poor bikes!  I was genuinely pleased to have cleaned this on the first lap but when we arrived for the last lap it was practically impossible.  All the Class 2 hopefuls waited for each other to go but as it turned out we all got threes which decided the final results of the class.

Getting NT410 lined up on the off-camber
turn on Sub 10

In hindsight this was definitely a cleanable trial but a slack dab in the muddy sub 5 and an inevitable three in sub 17 saw me slip to third place with my four mark loss.  Factory riders Dave Arkell (Ariel HT5) finished a creditable eighth on 10ML with Pete Collins (Ariel HT5) on 13ML.  Class 1 leader Mike Holloway (Matchless 410) cemented his position at the vanguard of his class with a solid third place finish on 23ML.
Thanks to Lord Normanton for his continued and valued support to the Perce Simon trial, to all the organisers at Ringwood MC & LCC especially Mary Hodgkinson and to all the observers who braved the cold conditions to mark our cards.

Dave Arkell (Ariel HT5) in the deep mud of Sub 5
Pete Collins (Ariel HT5) finds some grip in Sub 5


Sunday, 10 November 2013

3 NOV 13, Western Classic MCC, The Guy Fawkes Trial at Bisley

Following my visit to Steve Saunders I was active in the garage until 2115 fixing all the bits that had fallen off (or broken off) NT410 during the trials school.  Still, at least it got my mind focussed on the bike and I went over it with a fine toothed comb. Unfortunately, the headstock bearing problem had re-occurred but it was far too late to do any investigation work ahead of an early morning start.  Fortunately, I got to the venue just as Mossy was opening up the parking field however, my various attempts at getting into it came to nothing and I headed for the hard standing at Bisley Community Centre (along with the rest of the wise heads and early arrivals).  Dave (Ariel HT5) & Masterchef (Ariel HT5) arrived shortly after followed by Teflon (Matchless G3LC) and Pete (Ariel HT5) and we headed to the Stirrup Cup to sign on for the Expert route and break our fast on bacon rolls washed down with tea. 
Pete Collins (Ariel HT5) attacks a Sub in Hailey Wood
A good entry of Pre-65 machinery was bolstered by riders from around the country who were keen to build on success in previous rounds of this championship.  It was brilliant to catch up with our fellow West Countrymen, Robin Hoare, Pete Meeson and Gary Kinsman who made the long run up from Devon to ride.  It's always great to see them and they've been absent from the National trials scene for too long!!
Apart from parking, starting at any Western Classic trial is always a problem and so it was that despite having a number in the thirties the factory were among the last group of riders away once again.  To compound matters the first section (as indicated on the supplied map) was omitted and we started instead on the steep slopes of St. Mary’s Wood in Brownshill for six fantastic subs of tree roots and rocks in the undulating ground.  Despite heavy rain in the previous week there was plenty of traction to be had and I was pleased to have come away clean. 

Next up was a sub at “Joes” followed by a no-inspection double subber at The Coombe.  These always have to be ridden with care and I erred on the side of caution favouring first gear rather than second.  This allowed a bit more flexibility in the long, uphill muddy gully that greeted us however, I did have to over rev the bike a tad to maintain forward motion; Nevertheless, I didn’t trouble the observers.  A short ride to Beech Pond followed for a tight, twisty double subber in the mud and roots of this natural but surprisingly dry, muddy bowl.  I paid attention to the tight turns and remembered what Steve Saunders had taught me the previous day and was pleased to come away clean. 

Dave (Ariel HT5) prepares for a steep descent

We blasted up the track and entered the fantastic Hailey Wood for six subs which rode really well before carrying on to the wonderful Oakley Wood for six  quite challenging and technical sections plotted on the steep banks which were laded with greasy roots and decaying leaf litter.  My first dab came at Sub 20 where a tight, sinuous Sub over undulating ground proved difficult to judge.  I went far too slow in a turn and couldn’t get the momentum needed to crest the deeply rooted and greasy bank that followed however, I faired better than Dave who got the big Ariel aerial and was lucky to come away without a maximum.  The last section here was a real stinker however, after spending ten minutes working out my line over some really awkward turns and roots, I was genuinely gob-smacked to see Masterchef ride it for a single dab; a truly outstanding effort in what was one of the day’s real testing Subs.

Robin Hoare (Dot 250) negotiates the roots well

Next up came the traditional Cotswold sections in Gulf Wood and Henwood before the long ride back to the outskirts of Bisley for the final five Subs at Battlescombe.  The first sub here was a real challenge of slick roots, deep mud and an off-camber rooty turn around a mature Oak.  I was very pleased to have cleaned this in front of a watchful factory audience and it was my favourite of the day. 
The remainder of Battlescombe rode well but the technical Sub 30 caught me out and I had to take a couple of dabs as tiredness caused me to misjudge a rooty step and subsequent steep climb.

Gary Kinsman (Ariel HT5) prepares to tackle
Oakley Wood

All things considered this was one of the best Cotswold trials I’ve ridden.  The mix of sections coupled with revisiting some of the traditional Cotswold favourites from years ago was a wonderful experience and my single figure loss was enough to top the factory standings on the day. 
Nevertheless, I’m always amazed that a club that can put on such a great trial is piss poor at the other bits of organisation that are inherent with trials and as I write, there are still no results available!  Furthermore, at the rider briefing Mossy said he nearly cancelled the trial because of a lack of early entries.  Perhaps if the club got a website and communicated with the world more effectively they wouldn’t have to entertain any thoughts of cancelling such great trials.  I sincerely hope that Western Classic MCC will join the 21st century and get a website soon!

My grateful thanks to all the observers who turned out to mark our cards during the trial.
Robin Hoare (Dot 250), Gary Kinsman (HT5) and Pete Meeson (Francis Barnett 250)
take a welcome pause for the camera in Oakley Wood

2 NOV 13, Steve Saunders Trials school at Nettleton

Having completed a thoroughly enjoyable trials school with Mick Andrews and done a few Intermediate routes at the BMCA, I decided to build upon my experience by going along to a Steve Saunders Trials school at the Zona1 MCC ground in Nettleton.  Arriving at 1000 for 1030 I was a little disconcerted to find that I was the only Pre-65 bike at the event however; I resolved to attempt everything the monoshocks did and came away the better for it.  There were riders of all abilities present from a complete novice to two experts from Yorkshire.

NT410 & I on a previous visit, try the
log box!

Steve is an excellent teacher with an easy going style who imparts his knowledge with ease across all levels of ability.  After a quick briefing and consolidation on the basics of riding the bike we immediately began some section work which got progressively harder as the confidence levels grew.  Under Steve’s watchful gaze we were able to iron out a few basic errors and once we got the hang of it Steve moved us up to the next level.  This was an excellent idea; I personally enjoyed the fast pace and being challenged throughout the entire day riding sections I would not normally attempt such as flick turns into deep gulleys!!  Understandably, I didn’t always get it right and there was some attrition on the bike so when I got home there was some rectification work to be done before the Guy Fawkes trial the following morning. 

Overall, it was a fantastic trials school with arguably the best British Trials rider of his generation.  Riders of all abilities were catered for and we were each given tailored advice aimed at correcting our deficiencies and improving our technique.  It was great to catch up with Andy Barefield again and have time to chat to him about his Tiger Cub project which is progressing nicely.  Andy did say I could give it a test ride when it’s complete and I am very much looking forward to doing so.  You can keep up with Andy’s progress via Trial Mag or click HERE

Time for some sump plate graphics?
NT410 & I on a previous visit

Next up: The Guy Fawkes Trial

Monday, 28 October 2013

27 OCT 13, BMCA Rd6 at Waterfall, Hereford

With the heavy rain overnight and the year’s first big storm predicted for Sunday night it seemed somewhat prophetic to head over to Bowley in Herefordshire to a venue called Waterfall.  Having not ridden this venue for some years (on my old long-stroke G3LC) I was keen to revisit it on NT410 and entered the event way back in September.  With Carol unusually absent I signed on for the Intermediate route with Pete Reed while Penny got a brew going.  The large wood comprised a fair proportion of sweet chestnut trees and having got changed, I grabbed a bag and collected a good few pounds of the larger windfalls for a post trial treat.

A trial with benefits!

We got away bang on time and headed down the track to the first two subs which were plotted on the steep banks above the stream.  Despite the rain the going was fairly easy and there was traction to be had.  The Inters had to ride the expert route for Sub two and a steep, greasy bank leading to an off camber turn by a rabbit hole was a lot trickier than it looked however, I took notice of a few of my betters and was pleased to come away unscathed.  After a short ride through wood we descended the bank for the first stream sections.  Andy Pitt observed the double sub which surprisingly, had some traction.  I elected to ride in second gear and gunned the big Matchy up the greasy climbs that followed the stream entry and recorded another clean sheet on all four laps here.

We meandered back down through the wood to the group of sections that makes this venue so unique.  The river was in full spate and the eponymous cascade was spectacular.  The going was particularly poor here and got progressively worse as the day wore on.  The deep, claggy mud was treacherous and I saw a few riders come to grief trying to get between the sections.  Sub 5 was quite technical and Inters had to ride the expert route.  It comprised a twisty, rocky stream with a couple of nasty steps.  I watched a few of the entry go through before I settled on my line.  The last step was a double and the landing slab was really loose and wet however, it was cleanable if you stayed to the right hand side.  I had to take a steadying on the first attempt but subsequent cleans were a real pleasure and I was glad I didn’t get too throttle-happy instead favouring a measured steady pace.  Next up was a double sub (6 & 7) in the rocky stream below the waterfall.  The fast flowing river was an added challenge and it was impossible to see the rocks underneath.  I plotted what looked like a good line, steeled myself and went for it.  Such was the nature of this section that you had to keep your wits about you at each visit and I was pleased to come away without troubling the observers on all occasions.  Some were not so lucky and at least one bike turned into a submarine as the rider sank beneath the waves.

I knew that Naval swimming test would pay off!

Sub 8 was a real stinker and became almost impossible as the day wore on.  A very slick entry led to a tight turn then a full power blast up the long, greasy bank to the track.  Again, it was a second gear section and I was genuinely pleased to have held on for a clean first time around however, my second attempt saw me use third gear but NT410 found lots of grip and threw me off the back end!  My third attempt was an almost inevitable maximum but I held on during the last attempt for a paddle three.  I incurred thirteen of my seventeen mark loss here and it was the lighter bikes that had the advantage nevertheless, that shouldn’t detract from the class of those that went clean here; it was a pleasure to watch them demonstrate their talent.

Flat out up the bank in Sub 8!

Sub 9 was another expert section and it was a real tight and twisty affair which caught out many of the top BMCA regulars.  I was therefore, quite pleased to have cleaned it on the first attempt however, I had to take a single dad on each subsequent visit.  In hindsight, this was quite tricky for a big bike so I was reasonably pleased with my score but you can always do better.  The final sub was a long run up a tricky gulley with a massive rock step and rooty bank at the end.  I’m glad I walked this one first which resulted in a clean sheet here. 

The tricky Sub 9

Overall, it was a grand day out and a pleasing return to this outstanding venue.  Yes, it was typically greasy with some deep and fast flowing stream sections but that’s what makes it so special.  My seventeen mark loss was enough to take third place on the Intermediate route which is a solid result in my book.  This event, coupled with a Steve Saunders trials school next Saturday should be good practice for The Guy Fawkes trial next Sunday; hopefully, I can continue to build on a bit of form and move up the order a bit.

Grateful thanks to Jim Pickering, Ken Garfield and Andy Pitt for laying out the sections and to the observers who were: Sue Jones, Andy Pitt, Neil Roberton, Phil Gittins and Malcolm Holden.

Next up: A trials school with 10 times British Champion Steve Saunders

The Captain of U-20 surfaces to recharge his batteries!

Andy Hunt in good form exiting Sub 6 shows how it's done

Saturday, 19 October 2013

13 OCT 13, ACU Sammy Miller championship Rd 6, The Greensmith Trial

With a sticking clutch, worn rear tyre and far too much free play in the headstock bearings I paid a rather hasty visit over the factory on Saturday afternoon for some rectification work ahead of The Greensmith Trial.  Listening to the weather forecast as I drove I decided that I’d ridden my last trial with wet feet so I stopped off at BVM and invested in a new pair of Hebo Tech EVO trials boots.  

I was determined not to have wet feet on this trial!

Rain all day Saturday and poor conditions on Sunday morning coupled with a good turnout of BMCA experts riding the Clubman route meant this was always going to be a really challenging round.  Clee Hill was smothered in mist as we approached the Kremlin Inn and I was grateful that the entry fee included a complimentary bacon/sausage sandwich and a cup of tea/coffee.  Having entered in advance, signing on was stress free and I informed Secretary-of-the-Meeting, Ann Fairbrother, that Dave wouldn’t be riding (and Penny had his sausage sandwich and coffee!).

The mist gradually gave way to steady rain and having got soaked to the skin in my supposedly “waterproof” jacket too many times before, I decided to wear a pair of them over my rugby shirt; one trials jacket and one snowboarding jacket over the top.  Such was the relentless cold and rain that this proved a brilliant idea and I remained dry and warm all day.  For the bottom half I donned my Halvarsson’s rubberised denim trousers; these windproof and waterproof beauties are perfect for trials and a lot easier to move around in than the old Belstaffs. 

I got away bang on time and must confess to feeling rather lonely without Dave riding beside me on the five mile journey to the first group of five subs at Silvington Wood.  Such was the rain that getting to the sections proved treacherous and I took great care after losing the front end a few times.  The first four subs were all tight, twisty and slick affairs and I was pleased to clean them all however, the last sub here was a real stinker.  An interminably long blast through deep mud with a few corners thrown in made for some tricky going and I inevitably paid the price for not selecting third gear when I had to take a paddle three.

Kicking the bike up at the start
After a short ride we arrived at Silvington Farm for three stream and muddy bank sections.  The first sub here was so long that I queued with the rest of the entry for almost thirty minutes in the cold.  This very technical section was a real beauty and I was pleased to have cleaned the most difficult bits however, I missed the “Section Ends” card for an absolutely gutting maximum.  I was seething at how I (and so many others) could have missed it and I can only assume it was the cold/damp conditions that sapped my memory.  This affected the subsequent subs and I took an unnecessary dab in the next sub before recovering to clean the last.  I’d like to thank Matt Sleep (Honda TLR) for saving NT410 from keeling over in the soft conditions!

Next up was the wood at Starvecrow for four really slick subs.  Given the huge wood and variety of natural obstacles available I was surprised at what we had to ride.  The first two subs consisted of a downhill meander through the trees albeit on very slick mud.  The third Sub here was exceedingly tricky in that it comprised a steep climb up a muddy bank (with no traction) with no run up.  Some brave riders elected to ride down a 1:3 bank on the opposite side before gunning the bike through the “begins” cards, but they came to grief.  I selected third, gunned the bike and was genuinely shocked to find myself at the summit without penalty!  I then got a bit trigger happy and spun the back wheel up in the last sub and had to settle for a paddle three up the long, muddy climb.  Getting out of this group called for some third gear action too and I flew back to the road for the short ride to Brockleton Brook.

My old favourites of Brockleton Brook, for a double-subber in the rocky stream, then over the road for four Subs at Furlong followed and I was disappointed to have taken a couple of unnecessary dabs in the first double-subber here.  It was a shame we didn’t get a chance to ride the cascade next to the road, as the opportunity to jump the middle step in the cascade is a real buzz and something I traditionally look forward to.  A short ride to Hopton Brook followed for another double-subber where the deep water was an initial concern but a couple of deep mud slots were the real challenge.  I kept the bike pinned and was pleased to come away not troubling the scorers.

The long ride to the next group at the aptly named Bedlam was welcome recuperation.  This long, rocky gulley is traditionally where the Greensmith Trial is won or lost and with tiredness creeping in I made a concerted effort to avoid silly mistakes.  We had to ride six quite technical Subs here over the loose scree and big boulders.  I decided to be aggressive which paid dividends as I cleaned the first Sub here in style however a silly (and needless) dab in the next was a disappointment.  I was determined to clean the rest of the group here and held on in the penultimate Sub despite getting spat off line and having to inadvertently ride some really big boulders!  The last sub really annoyed me; I was so transfixed by the greasy climb to the exit that I selected second gear.  This led to me coming off a bank too quickly and I got thrown off line and had to take an absolutely gut-wrenching three.

A smile on a grey day. NT410 went brilliantly

It was only a short ride across the fields for a final four subs at Park Lane.  The first one was a long rock gully which I rode hard for a pleasing clean.  The next Sub featured lots of mud and a big root step but I selected second gear, gunned the bike, took an innovative line and came away with a pleasing clean.  The third Sub here was the clincher and I took my time to watch riders go through.  A big rock step was hard to get over and this was followed by a steep, rooty, muddy bank which meant you had to have traction immediately after the step.  I bounced up the step but was way off line and came to grief on the bank for another crushing maximum.  My right thigh cramped up and I couldn’t get the bike out unaided.  Thankfully, Neil Fairbrother’s son was on hand and I’d like to thank him for getting NT410 out of that gulley.  With cramp firmly set in I rode the last Sub somewhat gingerly and had to take an almost inevitable dab; A disappointing end to a fantastic trial.

Ride of the day must undoubtedly go to Andy Roberton who piloted his rigid James around for a measly 10 marks lost ahead of Class 1 leader Mike Holloway who was outstanding on the big rigid AJS.

With so many BMCA Expert and other Expert riders riding the Clubman route I was pleased to have attained fifth place which keeps me in overall second place in Class 2.  A couple of silly maximums were gutting especially the needless one at Silvington Farm and I must try to concentrate more and be more disciplined in my approach.  Still, at least NT410 went faultlessly during the day & I've got Dave Arkell and The Teflon Don to thank for sorting the bike out at very short notice on Saturday afternoon.

Thanks to the organisers, South Birmingham Motor Club, Clerk-of-the-Course Tim Fairbrother, the gracious landowners for their kind permission to use the land and to all the observers who braved the exceptionally damp conditions to mark our cards during the trial.  You are truly generous people.

The next Sammy Miller round is The Perce Simon Trial hosted by Ringwood at the Ashley Hollow venue near Southampton in November.

Friday, 4 October 2013

29 SEP 13, BMCA Rd 2 at Ullenhall

I awoke, aching from the previous day's trials school but eager to get back on the bike and test out what difference Mick Andrews lessons would to my riding.  Despite Hawks being on just up the road at Dowdeswell, I elected to drive to the BMCA at Ullenhall near Henley-in-Arden to contest the Intermediate route against some lightweight bikes.

Approaching a turn in Sub 4
After a quick breakfast we headed off and arrived early securing a place in the field instead of the verge as in previous years.  Signing on was a breeze and after booking onto the Intermediate route (for a tougher challenge) I entered a later round at the Waterfall venue in Hereford (which will be great practice for the last two rounds of the ACU Sammy Miller national championship in November).  This venue may not be the largest on the calendar but it is certainly one of the best when it's dry.  It consists of a beautiful wood which is skirted by some steep, rooty banks and bomb holes. 

Experienced BMCA riders Dave Jones & Mick Hemming plotted a challenging but sensible course of ten sections to be ridden over four laps.  I got away early and headed up the track for some quick practice to set my mind on the lessons I'd learnt with Mick Andrews the previous day.

Sub 1 and 2 were plotted on the steep banks of a bomb-hole and the Inters rode the Clubman route here.  A couple of tight turns on loose earth and a tight, tricky exit to Sub 2 were quite challenging but I got through clean.  Sub 3 was the first of the expert Subs and a typical BMCA section.  A rudimentary entry up a bank led to an acutely off-camber climb across roots to an immediate steep downhill run followed by a sharp right-hand turn up a bank.  I was mindful of my positioning on the bike and was pleased to have gone clean on each visit.  Likewise with Sub 4; a blip over a log after a tight turn was exactly what we'd practiced at Binegar and again it was pleasing to go clean.  
Keeping inside the markers!
Sub 5 saw us back on the expert route where the tight turn around a big rooty oak tree was a lot more difficult than it looked.  I struggled on the first lap but kept my feet up and got over for a clean.  A dab on the second lap followed but I got the hang of it for the remainder.  Sub 6 had a horrendous downhill run followed by an off-camber immediate turn up another bank but it rode much better than it looked and I took care to go clean on each lap.  Sub 7 was very technical with a sting in the tail.  Lots of tight turns followed by a steep root step led to a tight left-hander with a log across the exit (for good measure!) Having seen some seasoned experts come to grief here I was very pleased to clean this Sub on each lap.  Sub 8 was a sinuous affair on a bank but rode well.
Sub 9 was my nemesis; for some reason I just couldn't get each technical part correct at the same time until the last lap.  This was really annoying however, I was having a good run so knuckled down.  Unfortunately, Sub 10 cost me my first Intermediate route win as, on lap three, I failed to “double-blip” over a root in a steep bank, jarring the front wheel which knocked me off line and outside the markers for a maximum.  This was quite disappointing but I did finish third on the Inters route against two Bantams.
A steep descent in Sub 2
Thanks to Dave Jones and Mick Hemming for putting on a great trial and I'd like to wish Mick a speedy recovery!  Thanks also to the observers who were:-

Carol Davis, John Danter, Graham Archer, Joe Owen, Ray Barrett, Chris Taylor, Tony Crossley, Sue Jones, Roger Galpin and Malcolm Holden. 

Next up: The Moto Brittanica Trial in the Forest of Dean

Turning just like Mick Andrews!