Sunday, 27 April 2014

19-20 APR SWCTA Exmoor 2 day Classic Trial - Day One at Cove

I’ve heard a lot about this trial over the years and all of the feedback was good.  Indeed, I had intended to ride the 2013 event but such is its popularity that I missed the entry limit and had to revert to my normal Easter outing at Red Marley with the factory.  Fortunately this year, event organiser Bill Hartnell was kind enough to let me know when the regulations were available and despite getting them in bang on time I was still number eighty six!  NT410 had been playing up a bit of late and thankfully Dave managed to sort out the valve and timing problems and after much hard work, got the blasted chain tensioner to fit without fouling the chain. 
Me, Mark Lucas (59) & Steve Leyshon (91) at the start

With the factory turning out at Red Marley I was on my own for this one.  Penny and I were on the road early with NT410 in the back and despite the Bank Holiday traffic, we were in Thatcher’s Cider factory shop by 0900 where we picked up twenty litres of Cheddar Valley and a six pack of the limited edition 458 cider.  Back on the M5 we made it to Marwoods Farm in Cove near Tiverton well before the 1200 start where it was immediately obvious that this was a very popular trial.  As this was my first time, it was heartening to see so many familiar faces; indeed, there were so many BMCA riders present it could’ve qualified as one of their championship rounds!  There were also familiar faces from the North of England and it was no surprise to see road racing and trials legend Mick Grant (BSA Bantam) along with Speedway superstar Eric Boocock (Triumph Cub) at the meeting as well as some West Country stars like Scott and Colin Dommett.  It was great to see Gary Kinsman back out on his beautiful Ariel once again and well on the road to recovery; well done Gary!
Exiting the stream for the mudbank
of Sub 5

Signing on was a piece of cake and I picked up my First Class award from the Dartmoor 2 day classic back in September 2013 which consisted of a intricately engraved crystal glass.  At the pre-ride briefing we were instructed that the day would consist of three laps of twelve sections and we were set off in number order by Bill Hartnell in groups of three riders at one minute intervals.  Riding the Clubman route I was obliged to start at Sub 4 which eased you in with a steep climb up a loose and root-laden bank with a couple of steps in for good measure.  Fortunately, there was plenty of grip to be had and my worn rear tyre coped admirably.  Pete Meeson’s Sub 5 began as a rock stream however, we turned out of it and exited through a mud flat before a couple of turns up and over a bank at the base of the steep wooded slope.  I selected second gear but the mud rode surprisingly well and I was able to get the big Matchless through with a quick blip of the throttle. 

By far the most challenging section was Clive Causer’s Sub 6 which was a deep, tight and uphill ravine out of the stream.  Barely wide enough for a BSA Bantam it was a really technical section and when you exited the ravine there was a steep, greasy bank to negotiate.  This was really tricky and I took a lot of time to watch a few go through which paid off and I was pleased with my pair of dabs and a clean on the last lap.  The rock gully of Sub 7 caused little trouble but a couple of tight turns in the rock strewn gulley of Sub 8 caught a few of the unwary out.  Mike Holloway’s Sub 9 was entitled Cold Slab and if you got it wrong that’s exactly what you were greeted with!  The big rock steps coupled with some rather unforgiving algae were cruel to those that lost concentration and I was pleased to have cleaned this on each visit.   
The Cold Slab section
Dave Fisher’s Sub 10 proved to be quite tricky.  A steep drop into the stream and an immediate left turn over the shale in the stream bed led to a steep climb topped with an old log.  Turning back into the stream again we were faced with two big steps before a greasy exit up a bank to the track.  Again, I took my time to work out the entry and was pleased to have got it right however, on my first time through, inexplicably, NT410 got caught on the second rock step and I was thrown over the handlebars for a maximum.  This somewhat ruined my day’s score and hurt like hell but I didn’t repeat the incident on subsequent visits.

The rock gully of Sub 11 led to a massive step and tight ravine which looked impossible however, everyone seemed to fly up there and I was no different.  I got my weight to the rear, rode the preceding burm and blipped NT410 up the step diving forward to transfer my weight to the front of the bike for the next tight turn and out of the root laden exit.  Sub 12 was a traditional mud and root combination that demanded respect and I was genuinely pleased to have come through this one unscathed.  After a long ride I got to Sub 1 which was a long, deep gully filled with rocks and mud which, surprisingly, rode really well but I guess that was due to my care and attention rather than being an easy section.  Sub 2 was another eye-opener; a tricky entry over greasy roots led to a deep mud plateau and a log hazard to get over.  Fortunately, NT410 handled this one really well but it was no picnic.  Similarly, Sub 3, a long steep gulley with big, loose rocks in it was quite fearsome but I selected second gear, maintained good speed and cleaned it on all three visits.

Concentrating hard in Sub 11

This was a friendly and really well thought out trial on some cracking ground.  Despite 48% of the entry being Twinshock machines, the Clubman route was spot on for a big Pre-Unit bike and much credit must be given to the course plotters who resisted the urge to focus solely on the Twinshock bikes and tighten things up. 

Thanks to all the observers who marked our cards and to the land owner Gilbert Cummings for his kind generosity in allowing the club to use this wonderful piece of ground and for his continued support for this great event.

Back into the water in Sub 7

Overall, Day One was tough but very enjoyable.  My inexplicable maximum in Sub 10 cost me dear and I finished 2= on seven marks lost when two should’ve been par.  Nevertheless, as we headed off for our overnight accommodation near Lynton I was reasonably pleased with my efforts at my first Exmoor Classic trial however; slightly daunted by tales of the big rocks of Day two I opted for an early night!!
Next up: Day Two at Shallowford Farm, Barbrook.

Mid point log in Sub 10


Sunday, 13 April 2014

6 Apr 14 Prescott Bike Festival 2014

Having participated in the inaugural event and enjoyed it so much, the Prescott Bike festival Run-the-Hill event is a Matchless Man annual outing.  As you can imagine, it sells out very quickly so I entered this event in early January.  Unfortunately, the National trials calendar wasn’t firmed up by then and as a result there was a clash with Round 1 of the ACU Sammy Miller national championship, The Cotswold Cups trial at Bisley.  Still, the rules state you drop a round in the final reckoning and as Mossy is a bit of a bandit (and has ripped me off before for national championship points before) I was quite confident I wouldn’t be missing out on the trials front.

Tucking in after leaving the line on MH410
Last year I vowed to buy a road racing bike for this event but with Manx Nortons, AJS 7Rs and Matchless G50s fetching ridiculous money I was always going to find it a tall order.  However, I was lucky to find and purchase a Honda RC162 “Mike Hailwood” replica early in the year and I planned to run this, as well as MH410, up the hill.  However, the bad weather did not allow any practice time on the Honda and with a wet track sporting some mud on it I decided discretion was the better part of valour.

My Honda RC162 replica which I didn't run this year
With a very shiny and fully checked MH410 I left home around 0800 for the short trip to Gotherington and parked MH410 against the third cherry tree in the paddock (as I don’t have a stand).  Once again, the Marshall’s were spot-on and the general organisation was of a very high calibre.  After signing-on with two of the most enthusiastic and wonderful staff in the information hut, I got my safety brief and did a quick walk of the hill.  Besides being damp there was some grass clippings and mud on the surface which took some the less experienced riders by surprise and there was lots of wheel-spinning off the line!!

Catching the apex in the Hairpin
Disappointingly, there was no brolly girl this year but a good crowd made the event feel special.  I was quite taken by surprise when I rounded the bottom loop and saw so many people watching from the banks before the tricky Ettores bend.  My first run was as fast as I dared to go but as the track dried out I gave MH410 a handful for the last run of the morning and bettered my time.  During the break I had a wander around the top paddocks taking in the sights of rare motorcycling machinery such as a reverse-head Manx Norton, a plethora of RC161 / RC162s and some rare racing 50cc bikes.  The best bike was undoubtedly the ex-Frankie Chilli MotoGP Ducati.  If you think the Honda on open megaphones sounds good, you need to hear that! It literally blows you away!

Ready for the second half of the hill
The afternoon runs were blighted by a little rain but I still got a good turn of speed and got the knee out on knobbly tyres! (which got the adrenaline flowing).  Thanks to Dom Jackson and Mandy Miles for the photos used here.  Photos of the event are available from the event website HERE 

Thanks to all the staff and Marshalls at Prescott for putting on another spectacular and very well organised event.  Personally, I’m looking forward to next year where hopefully, I can run the Honda as well as MH410.

Building some speed off the line

13 Apr 14, The March Update!

Firstly, apologies for the complete lack of posts on here over the last month or so, but it has been rather hectic recently and I haven’t had time to get to the computer.  I’m happy to report that I have been getting out and riding so here’s a quick round-up of what I’ve been getting up to on my Matchless during March 2014.
Action from Binegar (see below)
First up was Golden Valley Classic’s March Hare Trial.  This brilliant local trial which takes in around 50 miles of the South Gloucestershire countryside heralds the start of the year’s long distance trials and is the perfect opportunity to gauge how you’ll go during the “Millers”.  Unfortunately, weeks of high winds and heavy rain took their toll on the ground however, the route planners were out regularly, clearing fallen trees and branches from the many tracks and woods used during the trial.  It was obvious that the club had put in a lot of hard work in some pretty adverse weather and I was pleased to get some hard standing parking this year in the Hunter’s Hall car park.  Over 150 riders contested the route and despite a strong showing from British bikes we were outnumbered by the twinshocks, “Pamps” and Enduro idiots (who seem incapable of behaving rationally and with courtesy. Personally, I ban them form the event but the club have to make money on the trial). 

NT410 at Golden Valley Classic MCC's March Hare Trial

The first group of sections at Tinkley Lane were pretty tricky and set the tone for the day.  We wended our way on through Crawly, Coaley and Ashmead mostly off road and into the long and demanding trails of Stinchcombe. The three rocky sections at Breakheart Quarry were a welcome break from the mud and were followed by a mouth-watering spread of cakes kindly provided by the ladies of the club.  In addition this year, the ladies put on hot tomato soup; this former trials staple was perfect for alleviating the chills and very much appreciated.  We rode on to Pitt Court, the demanding Westridge Woods and from Axe Lane into Ashen Plain and on to the group through Uley woods. A short respite on the road led into the final loop down through Ozleworth, Combe and final sections in Scrubbits.

Finding some grip on NT410 in Binegar Quarry

I was one of the last riders back and glad to see the van.  It was a tough day in the saddle and I was quite tired truth be told.  This very slippery trial called for the higher gears and I can’t think of another trial where I’ve used third so often!  I never go really well at this trial but this year the poor conditions coupled with some aggressive riding suited me better and I came out with my best result of third place (7 ML) behind some venerable company.  The Factory had mixed results with Pete Collins (Ariel - 24 ML) coming out ahead of Ken Wallington (Ariel - 34 ML) and Dave Arkell (Ariel - 49 ML).  The Teflon Don was absent on recuperation following his recent operation.  All things considered it was another superb trial and I would like to thank all the Golden Valley Classic crew for their sterling efforts in getting this trial put on.  Thanks also to the ladies for the Tomato soup and the hardy observers without whom, we’d be stuffed.  Full results can be found HERE

Sporting the Trial Classic shirt at Binegar

My next trial was on 9th March with Bath Classic MCC who, due to the weather, elected to use Binegar Quarry near Gurney Slade.  With Jon Cull having given up Clerk-of-the-Course duties it was difficult to work out which route to ride however, with Heath Brindley out on Andy Barefield’s beautiful Cub I elected to ride the Expert route with him using NT410.  The new Clerk must be a Twin shock rider as it was quite tight in places but overall it was a pretty fair course.  Only three big bikes contested the Expert route and it was the magnificent Barry Barthorpe (Ariel - Clean) who came out on top; his clean ride putting the evergreen Bob Hill (Ariel – 31 ML) and myself (41 ML) to shame.  Heath’s modern riding style saw him have a few problems with the Cub however, he acquitted himself well and but for a brace of “fives” where he stalled the Cub he could’ve been third.  Somerset’s John Pym (Triumph) topped the Pre-Unit class on the B route, with Golden Valley’s Steve O’Connor coming second on the unwieldy Norton 500T.  Full results can be seen HERE

Holy Cow! it's a long way down from here!

Lastly, I headed over to Brimpsfield with the rest of the Factory on the 30th March to ride in Stroud Valley MCC’s Minchinhampton Cup Trial.  Despite being billed as a Novice trial this predominantly monoshock club put on a very testing B route and all the factory riders decided this was the best option.  The Brimpsfield venue was in tip-top condition and featured good use of the steep root-laden banks, deep mud and rocky streams.  I went reasonably well and should’ve cleaned the trial but for some really slack and needless dabs.  Nevertheless, I was the first “big” bike home on the B route which was no mean feat.  Congratulations to Pre-65 rider Ray Collins (BSA 175) who cleaned the B route.  The hardest section was Sub 10 where a really tight and technical entry led to a steep, clay bank with a massive rut half way up it.  I elected to use second gear and was elated to come away with a single dab from my three visits.  Dave Arkell, who was on his beautiful Seeley Honda, used hardly any power and seemed to float up the bank as if it had been tarmac!  Results for the factory (featuring some riders on “different” bikes) are:-

Jai Jacka             Matchless 410              4
Pete Collins         Beta 200                     11
Dave Arkell         Seeley Honda 200        16
Nige Townsend    Matchless 410              18
Ken Wallington    Ariel HT500                  39

Heath on the Cub, Me (NT410), Lisa & Andy (Camera) at
the start of Bath Classic MCC's club trial