Saturday, 27 July 2013

21 JUL 13, Bath Classic MCC Trial at Lamb's Lair

This trial had slipped off my radar so I was pleased when Dave phoned and mentioned that Bath Classic were again at the Lamb's Lair venue just outside West Harptree in Somerset.  With Pete Collins on family duty the factory were a rider short and so it was that Dave Arkell (Ariel HT5), Master Chef (Ariel HT5), The Telfon Don (Matchless G3LC) and I (Matchless G3LC) took the short drive down from Gloucestershire.

Me, Teflon, Dave & Master Chef at the start
Bath Classic are a very organised club and it was no surprise to see on-site catering and a “Turdis” provided for the riders.  Similarly, signing on was a piece-of-cake and the management were very accommodating.  I inadvertently signed onto the Clubman route however, bowed to peer pressure and joined the rest of the factory on the Premier course and the organisers changed me over with no fuss whatsoever.

The rider briefing, conducted by experienced Clerk-of-the-Course Jon Cull, was hugely entertaining but also very comprehensive; mindful of the extremely hot weather he briefed that complimentary soft drinks were available throughout the event and encouraged riders to remain hydrated.  In my opinion this was very sound advice and is testament to the level-headedness at this club.  Furthermore, the democratic vote on the number of laps was spot on and we got away bang on time for four laps of ten sections.

Jon Cull delivers an entertaining rider brief!
Lamb's Lair was generally bone dry but the organisers still managed to find some water, roots and rocks at the nadir of the venue.  We began at Sub 1 where a stream entry led to big root step followed by sinuous turns up the rocky stream bed.  The root step got progressively wetter and on the second lap I got a three as I lost my line nevertheless, the rest of the laps I went clean.  The bank of Sub 2 featured a couple of loose, dusty turns and finished over some big roots however, as it was dry this section rode well.  The steep bank of Sub 3 was a challenge but it was the stepped exit that caught a few people out.  I went a bit slow on the first lap but kept my feet up to record a clean sheet.  Sub 4 was quite rudimentary in the end as a steep rooty climb looked worse than it was. 

Trying to keep the front down!
Next came the real challenges especially for the big Pre-Unit bikes.  Sub 5 featured tight off-camber turns on loose earth followed by extremely steep climbs.  I took my time here and was pleased to record a paltry dab on lap two however, I my tenacity was tested on lap 1 here as I rode the final climb on the back wheel just feathering the clutch to keep from going over the back.  Similarly, Sub 6 was a lot tighter than it looked; a loose rocky mound in the middle of the section didn't help matters but I was pleased with a clean sheet here.  This section caught a lot of the unwary riders out especially when the fatigue set in. 

Sub 7 was a sinuous affair over loose rock and baked earth with an acute turn followed by a steep climb.  Again, it rode better than it looked but did catch out quite a few of the inexperienced riders. 
The long Sub 8 was a cracking section but most of the entry ran well here.  There was a sting in the tail and the last two subs were quite tricky.  Sub 9 comprised a steep climb up rock slabs led to a steep gulley and up the other side over loose earth.  Dave immediately missed the turn and took a maximum and a brave Teflon even rode it at break neck speed in second gear!  Sub 10 was the real clincher and took marks off 99% of the entry; only the very best (or lucky riders) escaped penalty free here.  Double rock steps led to an off camber turn then to a very steep and rocky climb.  The lighter bikes had the advantage here but I generally rode it well and even cleaned it on lap two however, I hit one of the steps incorrectly on lap three and the bike was thrown down the hill and I incurred a maximum.


A Route  Pre-Unit Pre-65 results

B Barthorpe        Ariel 350    1
J Jacka                Matchless   12
Nige Townsend    Matchless   43
Ken Wallington    Ariel HT5    49
Dave Arkell         Ariel HT5    52

All things considered it was a great day out at Lamb's Lair.  The premier route was spot on; a good challenge for all classes of bike but eminently ridable on a big Pre-Unit.  There's a real friendly atmosphere at this club and they certainly put on good, challenging events.  Thanks to all at Bath Classic MCC and to the observers who braved Saharan conditions to mark our cards.

Heading towards a tricky turn
in Sub 7

Cresting out in Sub 9

Steve O'Connor in top form once again has some
directional problems!

Monday, 15 July 2013


With high pressure dominating the UK weather for much of the preceding week, the Cowcombe Woods venue on the outskirts of Chalford was in prime condition for this year’s Eurocup two day event.  I was able to do both days and in anticipation of the forthcoming Sammy Miller Rd4 I elected to ride the Pre-65, Pre-Unit Expert route.  Unfortunately, due to work and family commitments it wasn’t a full factory day out however, Masterchef was in attendance and observed on section four. 

Too much power over the rock
but I went clean

There was a healthy turn out of local riders as well as a strong overseas contingent who took the opportunity to gain double points at this event.  Having entered well in advance signing on was painless and we got away bang on time in the midday heat for three laps of ten sections.  With the likes of local legend Bob Hill (Ariel) and national star Arthur Browning (Jawa) in my class it was going to be a tough ask to come out on top.  Despite a lot of twin shock entries the sections were marked perfect for big bikes and took in the whole variety available at this excellent venue.  Sub 6 was the killer for me; a tricky course plotted across a muddy stream became very slick and on lap two I touched a root and lost the front wheel.  This somewhat sealed my fate as regards placing; Bob and Arthur were very able to deal with the conditions and it was Bob Hill who came out on top on Saturday.  A good deal of the entry decided to make the most of the weather and camped at the venue; With a live band, a bar and hot food plus toilets and running water it was a comfortable stay.
Sunday saw a full factory entry.  Dave Arkell, Pete Collins & Masterchef all rode Ariels while Teflon and myself were Matchless shod.  All signed on for the Clubman route while I stayed on the Expert route.  In testament to the club’s hard work all 10 sections on Sunday were completely different and more of a challenge.  There was a bumper turnout once again however, the sunny weather and new faces made queuing a little more bearable.  There were a few killer sections and sub 2 with it’s tight rocky turns was a real test however, it looked worse than it was and I went clean.  In fact, the whole first lap was good with Bob, Arthur and myself all feet up.  On the second lap however, I got thrown off the large sandstone rock step for a maximum which rather blotted my copybook.  Bob and Arthur battled it out and it was once again, Bob Hill and his Ariel that took the honours, with Arthur second and me in third.

Cresting a bank before a sharp

It was great to catch up with fellow West Countryman Clive Causer out on the insanely powerful Triumph outfit again however, the rest of the gang were missing; (Mr Kinsman, Mr. Meeson and Mr. Hoare you must do better!)

I really enjoyed this trial and the weather made such a change from last year when Sunday had to be cancelled.  Thanks to all at Golden Valley Classic for their very hard work in putting on this wonderful two-day trial and of course, to the observers who braved the heat of both days.

Local photographer Mike Yiend was at the venue on Sunday to record the event.  Mike is a stalwart of the Gloucestershire trials scene and can be relied upon to turn up throughout the year in all weathers.  He has a large portfolio of pictures from local trials (as well as the IoM TT and other road racing events) so why not visit Mike's site HERE and bag yourself some PR shots and memories of the weekend's trialling.  Alternatively, use the link in the sidebar on the right.

30 JUN 13 Y Clasur Foel

With no road trial organised for the British Bike Bonanza this year and having to pay a hefty £20 to ride around Sallywood Park I decided to give Mossy’s event a miss (as did many others looking at the entry!).  Instead, I headed to North Wales and contested Y Clasur Foel (The Foel Classic) laid on by Aqueduct Classics.  Under the stewardship of some very fine trials riders and using personnel who have a genuine interest in trials, this club is fast gaining a reputation for quality events and Y Clasur Foel was no exception.  The event is held around the forest and streams of a massive mountain just past the pretty village of Foel. 

Looking a bit nervous at
the start!

The first obstacle was to get the van up the hill on the narrow track and with sheer drops off the mountain it’s strictly one-way traffic.  Over 180 riders were booked on and it is testament to the organisation at the club that signing on, briefing and all the administration were a breeze.  With Teflon on holiday and the rest of the factory at the Bonanza I was on my own however, at such a popular event you always find someone you know.  The event begins from a central point and you do three separate loops of varying sections returning from each loop to the start to hand in your punch card, refuel and get some food.  At one minute intervals and in groups of three we got away bang on time for the 13 sections of loop one.  This consisted predominantly of rocky streams where you had to take the utmost care over the large, loose boulders.  I began with a couple of cleans but took a steadying dab in sub three before going on to clean the rest of this loop.  This was no mean feat and I was pleased that I rode aggressively and attacked each section in turn. 

I refuelled the bike and headed off for the 14 sections of loop two which were completely different being comprised mainly of mud & forest mulch however, some rocky streams did make the card.  Again, I rode well but had to take a dab in sub 19 and sub 22 after which, a long ride to the last group seemed to take it’s toll on me and I became tired.  A needless maximum in sub 27 occurred when I didn’t have the arm strength to muscle the big 410 up a big rock step out of a stream and this led to a three on the last sub where I paddled out up a greasy bank. 

Easy does it on the rocks!

After refuelling the bike I partook of a bacon roll, a packet of beef jerky plus lots of water and headed off for the last loop of 12 sections.  This was by far the most scenic group and a long ride across the mountain top in a freshening breeze was exhilarating.  It seemed to help me out and I felt much more refreshed and settled into some good riding.  I attacked the long stream gulleys and took care on the loose slate shingle of the tighter sections.  I needed a couple of dabs on this loop and I was disappointed with a real soft dab in the penultimate section.

After taking a few photos of the beautiful scenery I headed back to the van and handed my punch card in after a full 6 ½ hours in the saddle; That’s right 6 ½ hours!! (which was exactly the time limit allowed).  I finished with a credible 13 marks lost and was the first big bike home on the Clubman route; of which I’m quite proud.  The majority of the entry comprised Bantams, unit C15s, B40s and Triumph Cubs and I can see why.  The attrition on bike and rider was quite high and I certainly felt it towards the end of loop two.

I enjoyed this trial but felt a little disappointed at no class award; simply being  dumped in the same group as the lightweight bikes is no incentive for anybody to get their big bikes out and is a bit of a slap-in-the-face for the Pre-Unit boys.  Personally, I’d like to see this club run a Pre-65 Pre-Unit event (similar to Y Clasur Foel) which I’m sure would be another brilliant trial from a very well run club.

Chris Haigh's Velo & NT410

Thanks to the whole Aqueduct Classics Team to the observers who were knowledgeable, polite and happy.  If Carlsberg did trials………


The views from the mountain track