Monday, 26 May 2014

11 MAY 14 Some practice time & The Dalesman Trial

I’m in the middle of changing jobs at the moment so a lack of time has precluded me updating the blog however, I’ve been out competing on the bike and practice aside, I've ridden a couple of great trials this month.  The physio sessions continue and I’m getting a bit more strength in the left leg and ankle but there’s a way to go yet.  Fortunately, I have access to a physiotherapist and there’s a gym at my new job location so I can carry on working towards full recovery with the aim of improving my riding.
Getting some rock practice at Nettleton on NT410
Being a member of Zona1 MCC I decided to purchase a practice ticket along with my ACU licence renewal but apart from a lesson from Steve Saunders & a test ride of Andy Barefield’s outstanding Triumph Tiger Cub, I’ve not used the Practice ticket at all.  I had a couple of weeks spare before The Dalesman so Penny and I headed to Nettleton Quarry.  As predicted, I was the only Classic bike there but the mono lads and lasses were interested in the bike and were quite amused by my riding of the tyres and logs.  I was quite regimented in my practice and once I cleaned a section I upped the ante immediately until I went clean again.  I anticipated that Derbyshire would be quite rocky so, having backed the Maxtons down, I had a go at some big rocks and steps.  Feeling drained and with my left leg aching but with some confidence returning I headed off home to clean NT410.

More rock practice at Nettleton

The following week the weather turned wet and as we headed North in treacherous driving conditions I rued my decision not to put a new set of IRC tyres on NT410.  Penny and I stayed at a wonderful guest house not far from the trial and made our way up to the start location, The Miner’s Standard, for dinner and a few pints of Marstons where we were astonished to see the Brough Owners Club having their annual dinner.  With a plethora of knowledgeable motorcyclists to talk to it was a great evening.  We arrived early whereupon I signed on and picked up a route card.  Master Chef had made the long journey up from Stroud that morning and it was nice to see a familiar face.  A few of the Sammy Miller regulars turned up including Speedway Star Eric Boocock (Cub) accompanied by Eddie Bull (Cub) and the evergreen Mick Ash (James) and Mark Spencer (Francis Barnett) who sported a pair of beautiful two strokes. 

Ex-AMC works rider Mick Andrews got us away

Ex-AMC works rider, "Magical" Mick Andrews got us away bang on time and we headed for the village of Ible for three sections in a cattle field.  I must say that I was rather amused as I watched the first rider through go clean as if it was a main road however; subsequent riders soon came to grief on the steep, greasy bank.  Master Chef selected second gear, opened the throttle and went nowhere for a maximum; similarly, I selected third, gently opened the throttle and once I was moving went for some power.  It didn’t work and I ground to a halt some ten feet into the section for a maximum.  Then the hard work came as I tried to get the massive Matchless up the steep, greasy, cow-rutted bank.  I must confess to being completely knackered by the time I got to the top and was pleased to see that Subs 2 and 3 were downhill in a stream.  I was annoyed to have a steadying dab in Sub 2 but cleaned Sub 3 and headed out onto the road (again, having to give NT410 a handful in third to actually reach the road!).


After a long road ride we came to Griffewalk Farm for four Subs laid out boulder strewn field.  Despite a heavy shower they rode well but I got out of position in Sub 6 and had to take a steadying and very disappointing dab.  The next group at Carsington Pastures were similar only the boulders were rocky outcrops.  These were a great group of sections as the mixture of loose earth, wet grass and unpredictable wet lichen covered rocks forced some concentration.  Nevertheless, I misjudged a gap in the rocks and my foot got knocked off the pegs for another slack dab.  A long ride to Longcliffe Top ensued and the first section here was a real frightener and I had to take a couple of dabs right at the end as the tightening gulley and sharp right hand turn combined to make the going tricky.  The next section looked similarly formidable but rode really well as I found a lot of grip up a really steep bank.  Buoyed, I was doing well in the meandering Sub 14 and rode the rock step perfectly however, I got off line and had to take a maximum as I fell off the back of NT410 and was lucky that my head landed between to granite boulders!  A little shaken, I was very hesitant in Sub 15 which had a totally unnecessary and quite dangerous exit over a fallen down wall and there was much grumbling from the entry.  Nevertheless, I took my time, held on and came away with a single dab.

Speedway Star Eric Boocock and the legend, Mick Andrews

Back out onto the road I dumped NT410 into a left hand corner and the back end stepped out on me and it was quite clear I had a puncture.  As the road was very busy I headed back to Longcliffe Top and took stock in the safety of the field.  After some analysis, it became clear that I had a sticky valve so once I blasted some CO2 in there and settled the valve down I headed off for three tricky sections at Nut Wood where the tricky entry of the first Sub caused me to lose another slack dab.  Fatigue was setting in and by the time I got to the eponymous Black Rocks I was flagging.  The first sub caught me out for a slack pair as did the last but it was really tight for a big bike and I resolved to improve my practice regime.

The next group at Carson’s Farm were plotted in what can best be described as “Cotswold slime interspersed with granite”.  The banks were devoid of traction and even walking the tight, twisty sections was a challenge.  I saw some cracking accidents in here, most notably Mick Ash and Mark Spencer who both had frightening offs in Sub 22; fortunately, both riders were unhurt.  Finally, we arrived at Sacheveral Farm for more grass banks interspersed with rocks.  The first section here, Sub 26, featured a really tricky exit and I was genuinely pleased to have cleaned it and the rest of the group.

Tyre pratice on a bank

Finally, we headed for the short ride back to the Miner’s Standard and I was glad it was over.  The convivial atmosphere of the previous night coupled with the Marston’s Pedigree along with the energy sapping first Sub, all combined and I was genuinely tired.  In the end, the decision not to put new tyres on NT410 cost me dear and despite winning the Clubman Pre-Unit Class on 34 marks lost I could have won this trial.  I’m glad I went as this was critical intelligence for next year where hopefully, The Dalesman Trial will be incorporated into the Sammy Miller National championship and a fitting addition it will be too. 

Thanks to Henry Gaunt, the observers and everyone at the Dales Classic Club for an excellent day’s trialling and I look forward to returning for next year’s event where hopefully, with a new tyre, I can ride a bit better!  Click the link to visit the Club's site and see pictures and reports from The Dalesman Trial

Airborne again!!

Monday, 12 May 2014

20 APR SWCTA Exmoor 2 day Classic Trial - Day Two at Lynton

The overnight accommodation was excellent and fortunately, not too far away from the start at Shallowford Farm so Penny & I had a leisurely breakfast before heading off at a very reasonable 0915.  The weather had turned distinctly wintry and it was chilly on the exposed Exmoor hills.  Fortunately, there was no signing on as we kept the same numbers from Day one however, on Day two we got away in reverse order.  The ground consisted of a mile or so of stream in a steep sided valley and the subs were plotted using the natural terrain.  It was clear this was going to be a technical day.

Did somebody say rocks?

We headed to Sub 4 and the rumours proved to be correct.  There were rocks; thousands of them; all covered in the world’s slipperiest algae and nobody seemed overly keen trail blaze.  Eventually, Neil Osman (Royal Enfield) powered his way through for a clean and the rest of the entry quickly followed.  I mounted up and it didn’t ride as bad as it looked; you had to take care, but I encountered no problems and was pleased with a clean sheet.  Mike Holloway’s Sub 5 was a long stream section with lots of loose, algae-covered rocks and a couple of steps but I took my time and came away without troubling Mike’s pencil. Sub 6 continued the theme but was even more treacherous with the addition of “Welsh Teeth” (those slate-type rocks that are a particular feature of Welsh streams) and a high rock step.  Sub 7 was a real cracker; a tight twisty start led to a stream crossing before a huge climb.  I saw many riders come to grief here so I selected second gear, clutched my way through the tight stuff and gunned it up the bank for a clean each time.  At one stage I was airborne; taking off as I came off the second step on the bank. 
Entering Sub 6
Subs 8 – 10 saw us back in the stream; unfortunately, I couldn’t decide on a line for sub 9 and two dabs ensued however, I elected to fire NT410 up a near vertical climb on subsequent laps for a satisfying pair of cleans.  Sub 11 was my nemesis; I just couldn’t master the slippery entry into the stream and the subsequent tight turn back out for the long climb.  I eventually got it right on the last lap but had to take a two and a three here.  Similarly, Sub 12 was quite a tester for all.  Plotted up a steep grassy bank and making use of the embedded granite boulders strewn around the venue it was quite tight so trying to gauge the speed was crucial.  My initial clean was followed by a three before a very satisfying clean on the last lap when the rain that was threatening all day made the going distinctly hazardous.  We made our way back to the start for Subs 1-3 which were back in the stream.  Pete Meeson’s Sub 2 looked horrendous but rode well however, I did have to take a disappointing dab on my second visit and a similarly gutting dab on lap one of Sub 3 but I guess it did stop me having a maximum.

Firing the Matchy out of the stream in Sub 4

By the last lap the rain was getting heavier and I was glad to have finished strongly with a clean sheet.  In hindsight I should’ve done better and I was certainly capable of cleaning Day 2 however, a combination of fatigue and lack of familiarity with the ground cost me the Class A Clubman win and I came home in second place. 

Overall, it was an excellent couple of days and this trial is certainly in my all-time top five.  SWCTA laid on a great sporting trial; with so many familiar faces and the friendly atmosphere it was like a local trial and I would certainly recommend this trial to anyone with a classic bike.  If I had one (very slight) criticism it would be the amount of twinshock machines in the entry which only serve to make the expert route practically impossible for all but the best heavyweight Pre-Unit riders on very trick machinery.  I understand the economics so do not want to labour the point and I very much look forward to being lucky enough to gain an entry for next year’s event.

Taking it steay over the rocks

A very big Thank You to Bill Hartnell, the course plotters and observers who made this trial possible and not forgetting the landowners, Gilbert Cummins and Joe Leaworthy for their staunch and kind support over many years.