Monday, 27 January 2014

26 Jan 14, The TALMAG Trophy Trial at Hungry Hill

As predicted, the weather for the first big trial of the year, The TALMAG Trophy, was atrocious. Persistent rain in the preceding week, coupled with incessant and often very heavy rain on the day, made for some particularly difficult going on the loose, sandy soil of the famous Hungry Hill venue.  Despite the less than favourable conditions a bumper entry of 169 riders turned out on all manner of four-stroke machinery including a fair few who had made the long journey from the continent.  Penny and I were on the road early and the pits were already jam packed by the time we got there.  I wasted no time in getting NT410 down to scrutineering and after having the bike checked over I went and signed on which, as always, was a piece of cake.  Although, Sammy Miller nearly had my eye out on two occasions with that bloody umbrella of his!
Me, Dave, Teflon & Pete (162) at the start

The course comprised fifteen sections to be ridden over two laps with a special “speed” test to be ridden on lap one between section fourteen and fifteen.  Riders began in pairs from 0931 and being number 100 I had to wait just under an hour to start so Penny flashed up the stove and we had a cup of tea in the back of the van to wash breakfast down.  I re-rendezvoused with factory at the start and despite getting to the line bang on time we had to wait what seemed like an age to get going and I was pretty much soaked by the time I got away.
The Factory get started. Pete Collins, Dave Arkell
and The Teflon Don

Sub 1 eased you in and this flowing section plotted up and down a hummock was already quite cut up and greasy when I got there.  A healthy crowd was enjoying the spectacle and it’s always a pleasure to ride to knowledgeable spectators who appreciate the bikes.  I went first and was pleased with a clean as were Teflon (Matchless G3LC 410) and Pete Collins (Ariel HT5) however, Dave (Ariel HT5) gassed the short stroke Ariel up a bit too much on the final rise and having found some grip the bike climbed on him and he incurred a maximum.  Undeterred, we headed for Sub 2 which was a little changed this year due to the weather however, it was tricky especially the exit climb which forced you towards a deep, central gully that had little real grip but I managed to keep the bike going in second gear and went clean on both laps. 

I was pleased to see that the organisers decided to omit the root laden, greasy bank that normally makes up Sub 3 to 4 and sensibly moved us along the venue to a deep sandy gorge.  Despite a jumble of wet roots for an exit it rode well on both occasions.  Sub 4, which comprised nasty off-camber turns, greasy roots coupled with that infernal sandy soil that makes traction so difficult was really tricky.  I recalled my lesson with Steve Saunders and was pleased to have cleaned it first time around however, after the chairs had been around it was impossible and I paddled through for three on the last lap.  The sinuous Sub 5 culminated in a really loose sandy climb but I gassed NT410 up it on both occasions for cleans.

Easy does it on a slippery descent
Sub 6 was nearly impossible and only a handful of people cleaned it throughout the day.  A very loose, ninety degree turn up a similarly sandy bank was a real tester but using second gear again I managed to go through for a two and three respectively. However, Teflon was rock solid and cleaned it like a main road on the first lap to applause from the factory.  Next up, we headed to the eponymous hill for five sections this year.

Lining up NT410 for the gullied climb

Sub 7 rose from the nadir to a root laden summit via sand and mud however, it rode really well on both occasions but Dave, Teflon and Pete did, understandably, incur some penalties as fatigue and cold set in on the bleak hill.  Sub 8 was another long blast up a spectator lined hill and I duly obliged by hitting third gear and gunning NT410 at full throttle.  Whilst we all sailed up it first time the chairs had once again made for some tricky going and I had to take a dab on the last lap while others spun to a halt.  The “hill” itself was very tricky but I was flat out in third on the last lap and pleasingly cleaned it to some applause (see the video; I’m the first rider through).

Thanks to LuckyRich01 for this video clip
Leaving the hill behind we headed for Sub 12 where, whilst waiting in the queue for my turn, it was an absolute pleasure to hear John Pym’s Triumph on full song up the initial steep bank!  The Sub itself was quite tricky, with lots of off camber mud and roots to deal with so I used second gear once again and fairly blasted through it foregoing my normal slow-and-steady style.  Sub 13 had a nasty turn in it followed by an extremely steep climb that was devoid of traction and I was livid to have taken a couple of completely unnecessary dabs on the first lap however, I ensured I got it right on the last lap for a well deserved clean.  This year’s special test was a speed event around the sand dunes and I was glad I heeded the observer’s advice to have a look first.  I never normally thrash my bike on these sections but having lost out on a class win in 2012 due to “taking it easy” I resolved to be a bit more competitive this year.  I’m happy to report it certainly paid off as I beat the second place man by a whopping four seconds!  Of the factory riders Pete Collins is the most competitive and always gives this big Ariel a damn good thrashing but this year he ground to a halt for what must surely be his worst time ever.   
Hanging off NT410 getting ready for a steep
drop off in Sub 4

The final sub, plotted on ground overlooking the pits, had a nasty cambered turn in the middle but I rode it aggressively to record a clean on both laps not, as in the results, for a three! But I guess the hardy observer would’ve been completely frozen by that time so I’ll forgive him.

TALMAG 2014 was a good day out for the factory; I was very pleased to have won Class D especially as I am recovering from a broken leg (see previous posts!) and I’m so glad I finally got some speed on the special test (which offset the errant three mark penalty).  Teflon came in fifth with Dave Arkell fifteenth in the Clubman class with Pete Collins gaining sixth place in the Over-65 class.  Master Chef had to leg it Zurich so only did one lap but fair play to him and Jon Cull for contesting what was a very testing expert route.  Somerset’s John Pym rode superbly for his fourth place in the Over-65 class. 
Getting ready to gas NT410 up on a climb
The weather and difficult going got to a lot of riders and a quick scan of the results indicates that over 42% of riders retired early.  The terrain is notoriously difficult to get any grip from and I found myself using second and third gear on the majority of sections.  It was pleasing to see the organisers had borne the weather in mind and some blatantly over-used sections and what would’ve been a dangerous root laden bank, were omitted.

Fighting for some grip on an off-camber
root-laden turn typical of the venue
Thanks to The TALMAG MCC for their outstanding efforts in putting this huge trial together and to the tenacious observers who braved cold, wet conditions all day to mark our cards; a truly Herculean effort so Thank You one and all!

I’m going to rest my leg again so won’t be contesting the Zona1 MCC trial at Birdlip this weekend and may have a few weeks off to recover fully for the next big trial which is Golden Valley Classic’s March Hare Trial in March.


Thursday, 16 January 2014

16 Jan 14, I think we’ll send you for an X-ray……

You wouldn’t credit it would you?!  As regular readers will know I had a nasty “off” at the Zona1 Race Techniques Trial back at the start of December and have been struggling with my left leg.  I’ve been to the Doctors and the medical centre every week since it happened and was told to “take some Ibuprofen and keep walking on it!”  Well finally, after five weeks of pain I got a referral for an X-ray and as you can see the cause of the pain is a broken Fibula!  It’s been that long since it happened that the bone has already started to heal.  Still, I’ve ridden three trials with it broken and gained some credible results (including a win!) so, all things being equal and with some more rest, I’m quietly confident that I’ll be OK for the TALMAG at the end of the month! 

"Well Doctor, what do you think?"
"Take some Ibuprofen and keep walking on it Mr. J!"

Friday, 3 January 2014

03 Jan 14, Happy New Year

Happy New Year!  It’s that time when thoughts turn to the first big classic competition of the year at Hungry Hill and of course it’s the TALMAG Trophy.  Specifically, for four-stroke machines there is always a healthy turnout of heavyweight singles in addition to a veritable cornucopia of British and some continental machines from every factory you could imagine.  2014 will once again be a full factory day out and although I’m still struggling with my leg injury, I hope to be able to put in a solid performance on my main competition bike, NT410, vice my usual TALMAG mount of AS350.  The long-stroke G3LC is in pretty much standard trim and would be a bit heavy to lug around this year, but I hope to have it out again for TALMAG 2015.

Following the TALMAG thoughts turn to the National series and once again, there are two main championships; the ACU Sammy Miller championship and the PJ1 Northern British bike championship.  Once again, the Sammy Miller series has been trimmed down and disappointingly, this year, comprises only seven rounds.  This is such a shame and I can only hope that this historic series will be looked at by the ACU Trials & Enduro committee with a view to ensuring it remains viable for 2015 and beyond.  The silver lining (if there is one) is that a reduced Sammy Miller means fewer clashes with the PJ1 Northern British bike championship so it should be possible to compete in both series simultaneously (vice 22 June of course!).  Having suffered a mechanical failure on NT410 just five miles into The Derbyshire Trial last year I hope to get a bit further this year and sample some Midland Classic MCC sections.  Trials dates are listed below:-

ACU Sammy Miller Trials championship rounds for 2014

6 April – The Cotswold Cups trial
18 May – The Sam Cooper / Union Jack trial
22 June – The Yorkshire Dales trial
4 October – The Vic Ashford trial
19 October – The Greensmith trial
15 November – The Perce Simon trial
16 November – The Downland Trophy trial

PJ1 Northern British Bike Championship 2014

30th March Poachers’ Bag AJS & Matchless Club
Mike Gallagher Tel: 01507 443232

13th April Derbyshire Trial Midland Classic Club
Mike Worthy Tel: 01246 862896

1st June Reliance Cup Trial South Liverpool Club
Frank Anderton Tel: 01744 892422

22nd June West Riding Trial Yorkshire Classic Club
Neil Anderton Tel: 01422 831581

3rd August Croesi’r Ddfryn Dyfrdwy Trial LLDMCC
Brad Jones Tel: 01691 774120

12th October Waterside Trial Red Rose Classic Club
Andrew Scott Tel: 01282 695483

Interspersed with these trials will be some notable outings to regional and club events and chief amongst them will be Golden Valley Classic’s The March Hare Trial, the Rickman Motorcycles championship, The Dartmoor two day classic, the Red Marley trial and the annual factory outing to Tardebigge at the end of the BMCA year.  In addition, I’ll be running MH410 up Prestcott Hill Climb circuit at their annual bike festival again this year and hopefully, I’ll be taking my Honda RC162 replica on its first run up the hill too!   Anyway, whatever you’re up to trials wise this year, I wish you all a happy and “feet-up” 2014.
Santa was good to me this year. The RC162 for Prestcott!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

29 DEC 13, The Mike Kemp Classic trial at Hungry Hill

Having entered this event way back in November and with “cabin fever” setting in due to my injury, I decided to risk the leg and get some practice in at Thames MCC’s annual running of the Mike Kemp Classic at Hungry Hill.  It’s only a month or so until the TALMAG trophy trial and even if my riding was compromised at least I’d have a good idea how the ground was riding.  With an eye on safety I elected to ride the P-67B route and this was a wise decision as my movement on the bike was severely compromised by the crushed sinews in my calf.  Simply walking the sections was agony and Penny was not amused when she saw me struggling along in Sub 2.  Nevertheless, I wanted to give the leg a full work-out and test the limits of its fitness, so continued through the pain.   
Warming NT410 up on a cold morning
The sections on this route were really sensible but with limited movement I made some uncharacteristic and schoolboy errors as I struggled to control NT410 on the loose, sandy soil.  The sections plotted over Hungry Hill itself rode pretty well and I was pleased to have cleaned them all.  The earlier errors mounted up and I could only manage third place in the final reckoning.  Still, at least I didn’t damage the leg any further.  By the time I got home the whole leg had stiffened significantly and I immediately iced the muscle and took some Ibuprofen before retiring to bed early, glad in the thought that I’d actually ridden.  Some further rest is required I think so that’ll be my last ride for 2013!