Monday, 27 May 2013

26 May 13, AMOC Trial at Tardebigge

Traditionally, the last trial of the BMCA series is the AJS & Matchless Owner’s Club trial at Tardebigge near Birmingham.  This beautiful wood is only used once per year and as such it has become a firm favourite and a must ride event.  Unlike previous iterations, the weather was superb but the course plotters still managed to find some muddy sections in the predominantly clay soils of the venue.

The beautiful bluebell wood at Tardebigge

Having entered well in advance, signing on was a breeze and we got away bang on time for four laps of ten sections riding the intermediate route (comprising five clubman and five expert sections).  Section one was plotted in soft clay below a huge spoil bank where the run-off had made things a bit slippery.  Speed was the key here and having watched Teflon fly through I copied the strategy and flew through.  Section 2 was a very steep climb up the spoil bank and what was very rudimentary on the first lap soon turned a bit tricky.  Having failed to get the power on during lap two I began to lose traction and had to take a rather disappointing three dabs however, I kept the power on and went clean for the remainder.  I was really pleased with the way I rode section 3; it was a really sinuous course up and down the steep spoil bank.  The soft power delivery of NT410 was much in evidence as I gently rolled through for a clean each time.

Spotting the turning point in slippery Sub 1

Section 4 was a real tester and took most of the marks.  The two steep climbs needed precise power management and on the first lap I overcooked the first climb and had to take a dab to get the bike back on course.  The second turn involved a narrowing line between two trees followed by an immediate left-hand turn over slippery clay.  On the first lap I aced it but but subsequent laps were not so kind a maximum and a few dabs saw me pick up too many marks here.  Section 5 featured a really tight downhill off-camber turn followed by an immediate up-hill climb where power delivery was the key and I was pleased to go clean on all four visits.

Smiling as the line is good!
Next up we headed for the canal side sections where once again there was some tricky going.  Section 6 rode well enough and I even had an innovative line worked out to avoid the worst of the muddy climb.  However, having successfully negotiated the climb I got cocky, bunny hopped the front end around, over-cooked it and had to take a steadying dab much to the amusement of the factory.  Section seven is so good that it is always features and in exactly the same format.  The real killer is the big root exit but with no room to get the power on it is quite hard to master.  On the first attempt I spotted another innovative line and having quickly got the front end pointing where I wanted I opened the big 410 up.  All was going well and I got the front wheel over the root but the back end dropped and I had to take a maximum.  This happened on a further two occasions and I finished with dab to take my total on this section alone to sixteen marks lost.

But not that good!

Section eight was fairly rudimentary but did demand some courage but I used second gear and a bit of speed to sail through each time.  Section nine is an old nemesis of mine so I was very pleased to clean it on three occasions but gutted to take a three on my second lap as I mysteriously lost traction in the slippery mud.  Section ten was fairly rudimentary although the exit over an angled log demanded some attention.

Overall, it was a fabulous trial once again and well worth missing the local trial for.  Joe Owen, Andy Hunt and the gang did a brilliant job setting out ten tricky but sensible sections that tested everyone and there were no clean sheets.  Congratulations must go to The Teflon Don who won the best AJS/Matchless award from the AMOC for his efforts.  Well done Nige!

Factory results
Nige Townsend             410 Matchless              33 Best AJS/Matchless award
Jai Jacka                      410 Matchless              35
Dave Arkell                  Ariel HT5                     65
Ken Wallington            Ariel HT5                     111

Exit of sub 10

Riding through the woods

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

19 May 13 Rd 3 ACU Sammy Miller Championship, The Sam Cooper / Union Jack Trial

Round three of the ACU Sammy Miller Championship was the Sam Cooper / Union Jack trial run by Stratford upon Avon MCC at Blockley near Bourton on the Hill.  It was a full factory day out comprising Dave (Ariel HT5), Teflon (410 Matchless), Pete Collins (500 Ariel), Master Chef (Ariel HT5) and I (410 Matchless) and with a bumper entry of over twenty riders for Class 2 alone it was going to be a real struggle to come out with some points.  In the series standings I was in third place and needed to make up some ground on the leaders.  Therefore, I ensured the bike was running well the previous day and did a good maintenance check.

Teflon, Dave & I lining up at the start

The Stratford Club always put on a great trial and it was pleasing to see that there was onsite catering and toilet facilities at the start.  We got away bang on time for the short ride to the first group of five subs at the vast Dovedale Wood.  Despite some mid-week rain the steep banks were generally dry however; the loose Cotswold stone scree demanded the utmost concentration and did catch a few of the unwary riders for annoying dabs.  The first two subs were a mixture of tight turns around the trees followed by steep climbs whilst the last three were long climbs up the huge banks interspersed with flowing but slippery turns. 

Next up was the (in)famous Bridges group and once again the tricky bog at the bottom of the hill demanded some thought.  It was as well to have an early number here, as what can be best described as the shortest sub of the day was immensely tricky.  Basically, it was a muddy entry to a clockwise circumnavigation of a big root ball and back out.  Jon Cull made it look like a walk in the park however, as more riders dragged water and mud onto the roots it soon became treacherous and I was lucky to get away with a dab along with Teflon and Pete however, Dave Arkell and Master Chef both took well deserved cleans here.


After a short ride we arrived at Camp for four subs which really were too easy and the organisers should look to give a challenge.  There was plenty of scope in the massive wood and the addition of a few turns would have made all the difference.  The final sub here was more reminiscent of a VMCC road trial than a national event; all we had to do was ride up a wide track.  This was true of the Scarborough Farm sections which were far too easy; the plethora of land available on the banks could've been utilised to much more effect from what was effectively, just a ride through.  Back out on the road we once again, rode straight past Snowshill and it is a shame that the stream and woods of the old scramble track are no longer used as these really are perfect for big Pre-Unit singles and offer some challenging sections.

The long ride from Scarborough Farm to Saintbury took it's toll on NT410 and I could've sworn that I was experiencing the same pushrod / rocker arm problem that caused my DNF at Rd2 of the PJ1 championship.  The bike sounded awful and was running terribly; Dave had the rocker cover off  (which was no mean feat given how hot the engine was!); Nevertheless, both push rods were to tension but I did notice some float in the exhaust valve rocker arm shaft which can't be healthy and will need some investigation.  Still, the subs rode well and I went clean over the group.  I was very pleased to see Pete Dawson out and about, looking well and keenly watching the action.

Weston Wood was by far the best group of the day.  The opening sub was a real corker; Master Chef rode it like a professional but the rest of the factory had to take a dab.  Fortunately, I held onto the bike and got through with a clean and went on to clean the whole group; no mean feat on the greasy garlic banks.

Jones Bank my first five and effectively ended my challenge for the Sam Cooper trophy and twenty points.  I watched Steve Allen deftly stroke the big Royal Enfield through the extremely tight turns however, a side car went before me, polishing the greasy banked turn and instead of taking a dab I tried for a clean which resulted in a maximum.  The next subs here were really tight and a great challenge and my mood improved as I cleaned the remainder. 

This year, there was a single Sub at Totty's which was designed to separate the field and was both timed and observed.  A long blast down the track led to a tricky section over a bank, into a gulley followed by a big step.  My time wasn't particularly special but I hate to gun the bike and at least I went clean.  The final two subs were at Warners.  The first of which, into a deep bomb-hole, was fairly rudimentary followed by a real corker to end the day.  Sub 30 had it all; tight, off-camber turns and a steep, rooty climb followed by loose scree.  There was plenty of scope in here for more testing subs and I think this group could’ve been utilised to much better effect.

Selected results for The Sam Cooper Union Jack Trail

Class 1 (Rigid frames)

Jon Cull              ex-Teflon Don Matchless G3LC 2 1st
Mike Holloway    AJS 410                                  3 2nd
Graham Howes   BSA Goldstar                           8 3rd

Class 2 (Pre-Unit)

Steve Allen           Royal Enfield              2    1st
Guy Stanley          Not known                 4    2nd
Jai Jacka               Matchless G3LC 410   7    3rd
Peter Collins          Ariel HT5                  10
Dave Arkell           Ariel HT5                   14
Nige Townsend      Matchless G3LC 410   16
Godfrey Hannam   Ariel HT5                   17
Ken Wallington      Ariel HT5                  22
Jes Flower             BSA                         31

Thanks to all at Stratford-upon-Avon MCC for another enjoyable trial.  The reduced mileage was a real bonus but I wish they'd make it a bit more challenging as there were no opportunities to get some marks back.  All the venues we visited had a great deal of scope and I hope next year we will have a challenging Pre-65 course.  My aim was to close the gap on the Class 2 leaders and with Ian Wixon absent and Godfrey having a terrible day, I have moved from third spot to top the table in the series standings. 

Pete Collins gives the Rolls-Royce overalls another
airing at the Sam Cooper trial

Next up: The annual AMOC trial at Tardebigge

Sunday, 12 May 2013

12 May 13 Catch up time!!

Well, it’s been a hectic few months since I last updated the blog.  Work commitments coupled with a few teething problems with the bikes have meant that there’s been little time to get onto the computer.  Following a front suspension upgrade and new hubs/wheels NT410 took a bit of fettling which has cost me some wins nevertheless, the factory have worked hard and I’m now confident that I have NT410 sorted which is good news as the next round of the ACU Sammy Miller Championship is next week at Blockley.  Following a poor result at the Cotswold Cups trial I’m currently residing in third place however, I’m only five points off the lead which is not insurmountable.

Getting off the start line at Prestcott Hill Climb
on MH410

By far the most enjoyable Sunday I’ve had for some time was my annual outing with MH410 to the Prestcott Bike Festival on 7 April.  This year I booked two separate runs on the famous Hill Climb circuit which gave me four runs in total.  The weather was perfect this year and having got the measure of the circuit I decided to take a few more risks with MH410 this year and entertain the crowd a bit.  The tight, up-hill hair pin is a specialist corner and during the track inspection I worked out a suitable line to enable me to keep a bit more speed on and get the knee out.  This paid dividends and I was able to get MH410 quite far over which is pretty scary on soft IRC trials tyres.  I’ll post some more photos when they are available however, there’s a good album on the MatchlessMan Facebook page.

Getting MH410 cranked over on soft IRC tyres!

On 14 April I decided to give the PJ1 Northern British Bike championship a try and headed to Cutthorpe near Chesterfield for Rd 2, The Derbyshire Trial.  With the factory sitting this one out I loaded NT410 into the van and headed up the M1.  Penny and I stayed at a beautiful B&B near the start so I was raring to go in the morning.  NT410 fired up sweetly and I headed for the start.  It was a bit intimidating being on your own but I saw Jes Flower and Alan Whitton who made me feel right at home.  We got away bang on time and headed for the first group of sections at Banks’ Banks.  Unfortunately, on a long uphill slog along the road NT410 started to sound quite “tappity” which was followed by what sounded like fuel starvation then the bike stopped.  I checked the plug and the fuel flow but both were fine.  I just couldn’t get the bike started and had to retire without riding a single section!  Disappointed, I took NT410 back to the factory where we found that the inlet valve push rod had come loose and the rocker arm had jumped out of the push rod cup and jammed tight.  Fortunately, it was a two minute fix for Dave and Teflon and I was good to go for the next outing at Zona1 MCC.

Turning NT410 into a log section at the Zona1 Trial

On 21 April it was a full factory outing for the postponed Dennis Saunders trial at Nettleton Quarry.  The weather was perfect for once and there was much hilarity as Pete Collins decided to turn up on his BSA Bantam rather than one of his big Ariels (which he was saving for the Scottish Pre-65 trial).  As you would expect from Steve Saunders crew this trial was perfect for the big bikes albeit a bit easier than the last one.  Nevertheless, you had to concentrate and unfortunately I gassed NT410 too much up a bank and ran into a tree which resulted in a maximum (my only points on the day).  Nige Townsend aka “The Teflon Don” (410 Matchless) took the honours with a clean ride followed by Dave Arkell (Ariel HT5) who took a single dab.  Pete Collins on the much ridiculed Bantam was third with three marks lost while my maximum saw me languishing in fourth spot just ahead of “Master Chef” Ken Wallington (Ariel HT5) on six marks lost.  During the trial Nige noticed that NT410 was a bit flat and he suspected that the timing had slipped so it was back to the factory for more fettling.

Roots were the order of the day at Golden Valley Classic

Upon investigation, it turned out the BTH magneto had moved slightly allowing the timing chain to become quite slack accounting for the diminished performance.  Again, it was a quick fix and we were ready for another full factory outing at the new Hawks MCC venue at Tunnel Hill.  We all elected to ride the Pre-65 route and following some merciless piss-taking the week before, Pete Collins decided to turn up on an Ariel!  Dave Arkell decided to ride his recently restored Seeley Honda instead of the big Ariel.  Once again the weather was very kind and the venue was bone dry which made for some tight turns and off camber stuff but nothing stupid.  The big mark taker was Sub 2; a steep descent into a stream followed by a steep, greasy bank exit along the watercourse.  As the day wore on I had a couple of needless dabs but I did top the factory standings finishing on eight marks lost, with Pete Collins on twelve.  Nige forgot to put his number on and subsequently went around with the previous week’s card much to the confusion of the observers.

Another steep bank but blissfully dry

Last week I headed to the superb Brimpsfield venue for a Golden Valley Classic MCC trial.  With many people at the washed out Scottish Pre-65 trial numbers were slightly down however, this made for a lack of queuing which was nice. Despite a chilly start the weather warmed up and we got away bang on time for four laps of ten sections.  Unfortunately, I never saw Nige at the start and only realised he was at the trial on my last lap.  I elected to ride the hard route and there were some predictably tight and tricky sections however, NT410 went well and I was reasonably pleased with my performance despite a couple of maximums that could’ve been avoided and a duff observer who couldn’t.  Give someone a clip board and a pencil and they turn into monsters!  Second place was pretty good on that course! It was a good day out and I was back home, bike washed and BBQ on by 1530!  Now that’s what I call a result.

Big root step in Sub 5 was trickier than it looked

Next up is Rd 3 of the ACU Sammy Miller national trials series “The Sam Cooper / Union Jack Trial” organised by Stratford-upon-Avon MCC at Blockley near Bourton on the Hill.  Hopefully, NT410 and myself can reduce the deficit this time out!
It was good to see local photographer Mike Yiend at the Hawks and Golden Valley trials.  Mike has a brand new website which can be accessed HERE so why not support your local photographer and buy a picture for your riding album or blog.  They make good presents too!!