Friday, 9 January 2015

4 Jan 15, South Reading MCC, The Three Musketeer’s Trial at Watlington

With heavy and persistent rain clearing on Saturday evening leaving sub-zero temperatures and heavy fog on Sunday morning I was half tempted to contest the Cheltenham Home Guard trial at Chedworth.  However, having already entered South Reading MCC’s Three Musketeer’s Trial and in need of some serious practice ahead of year’s first big national trial, The TALMAG Trophy at the end of January, I manned-up, cleared the windscreen and headed up the A40 to Watlington in Oxford via a McDonalds.

Having entered in advance, signing on was a breeze and after fuelling the bike I headed for the start.  We got off a little later than planned and I must say I was pretty cold by the time we got to section one.  Having never ridden at Howe Wood before I didn’t know what to expect however, it reminded me of a typical Golden Valley Classic MCC trial being as it was set in a mixed, mature woodland with greasy, clay banks.  A deep gulley runs down the wood adjacent to the road and many of the sections were plotted to take advantage of this feature.

Sub 1 was a twisty affair on greasy soil which featured a couple of tight turns over big, slippery roots.  I took an immediate dab on the first root to avoid losing the front end but mastered it on subsequent visits.  Sub 2 was similar but didn’t cause too many problems.  Sub 3 was a real cracker which criss-crossed the vast U-shaped gulley.  There was only one line and no way you could be gentle.  I selected second gear, got lined up and fired NT410 down the bank and up the other side before doing it a few more times to reach the end of the section.  Unfortunately, on lap 3 I wasn’t quite lined up correctly and shut the throttle too early; I made it up the huge bank but had to take a steadying dab.  Sub 4 was practically the same with a really greasy exit that demanded respect but I didn’t trouble the scorers and Sub 5 rode well despite it being a twisty affair over roots.

I found the back-five sections a little trickier.  Sub 6 was plotted on a very loose bank and the final uphill turn caught me out on a couple of occasions.  Sub 7 was plotted further up the huge gully and the exit, up a steep, greasy bank got progressively worse.  I used second gear here and whilst it made for too much speed in the twists of the section, it was perfect for grunt and traction getting out up the loose climb. 
At least NT410 wasn't too dirty
Sub 8 was a killer!  It looked so innocuous but caught me out for a pair and a dab.  The section was plotted high up on a steep loose bank and snaked around the trees.  I got a real sense of achievement when I cleaned it on lap 2 and lap 4.  The gulley was used for Sub 9 and its technical approach up a greasy bank with an immediate drop-off towards a log-filled gully was quite demanding and it caught me for a dab three times.  Fortunately, Sub 10 rode better than it looked.  Again, a twisty, uphill section loose soil with greasy roots but I cleaned it each time.  I finished joint first (with John Eckhart) on 10 marks lost but I could’ve done better.  Nevertheless, it was a great trial.

In summary, it was a challenging trial that demanded heart and aggression at times however; it was most enjoyable.  I’ve never ridden with South Reading MCC before but they got it spot on which probably accounts for the great turn out of British bikes.  It’s a shame South Reading MCC don’t run more trials!  Personally, I’ll be back to contest The Three Musketeers Trial next year.  Thanks to South Reading MCC, the Observers, and of course, the landowner who graciously allowed us to use Howe Wood.

Next up: The Pete Simmons Trial at Hungry Hill

Monday, 5 January 2015

05 Jan 14, Happy New Year!

The Christmas period brought some much deserved leave from work and having been off the bike for nearly six months it gave me time to have a look at my main competition bike, NT410, re-commission it from its lay-over and start riding some trials. 

Tackling Sub 2 at the Ron Amey Trial
Carburetion was one of the problems I have been reluctant to tackle since it can take an absolute age to get correct.  Whilst NT410 ran perfectly well with Nigel Townsend’s original set-up, I always believed the main jet was too small at close to maximum throttle and that NT410 should have a bigger carburettor.  So, armed with a new AMAL Mk.1 600 series carburettor, a selection of jets, a jet spanner and the AMAL tuning guide I set about the arduous task of re-jetting NT410.  It demanded a great deal of time and patience but I finally got a good set-up on the evening before the Mike Kemp Classic Trial on 29 Dec.  I learned a lot and gained enormous satisfaction tuning the carburettor myself and I’m glad I finally had the time to do it.  I’d like to apologise to the neighbours at this point; I was at it all day and my final run up the road was conducted in the dark! 

Next up I checked out the gearbox (OK), primary side (chain could do with replacing but has a few trials left in it), magneto (OK) and finally the brakes.  The rear was fine as I only tend to use it on the road but the front shoes needed replacing.  Fortunately, Ken Wallington came to the rescue and thanks to the wonderful people at BVM (namely, Ricky & Laurence) I managed to replace the ones Ken gave me the next day.

The VMCC (Oxford Section) Boxing Day trial at Bessesleigh is a firm favourite of mine and I decided this was going to be my first outing after a six month lay-off.  Celia Walton and the gang put on a wonderful event and I really enjoyed being on the bike again.  I hadn’t got the carburetion totally sorted at this stage so had to really concentrate as large transitional throttle inputs proved a problem.  This was quite disconcerting on the slippery banks and big climbs but I took it in my stride.  I took a couple of dabs on a greasy camber in Sub 9 as NT410 coughed and lost the front end rounding an obstacle during the speed test but I was pleased with how the day went.
Another greasy bank with a steep drop-off
at the Ron Amey Trial
Next up was Thames MCC’s Mike Kemp Classic trial at Hungry Hill.  Always a cracking day out, this trial generally provides good intelligence on how the TALMAG Trophy trial will ride in the new year.  There was a good turn out of British and Twinshock bikes and I was joined by fellow Gloucestershire riders Ken Wallington (Matchless G3LC) and Dave Arkell who was on a Seeley Honda for a change.  I warmed up on some of the sand banks and was immediately happy with the new carburetion.  NT410 went really well in the technical sections as well as on the steep, sandy climbs.  I tackled the eponymous hill in second gear and pleasingly, NT410 just kept pulling however, as the bike got warmer I had to adjust the tick over point to avoid “blipping” in the sections.  I started to feel comfortable as the day went on and I surmounted the more difficult sections admirably.  I was the only Pre-67E Class rider to come away without troubling the scorers winning the route with a clean sheet.

Mike Kemp Classic (Pre-67E Class)

John Jacka          Matchless G3LC   Clean
John Eckhart       Triumph              1
Gordon Smith      BSA                    4

Simon Ward (Greeves) and Ken Wallington (Matchless) tied for fourth place on 5 marks apiece with Dave Arkell (Seeley Honda) finishing on 11 marks lost; a great effort considering he normally rides an Ariel HT5!
The new, comfortable seat unit for NT410
The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that NT410 is missing a seat as the Sammy Miller Products HT5 seat broke way back in June 2014.  With a sore backside and a few days to go before The Three Musketeer’s Trial at Watlington on the 4th Jan, I decided to fabricate a new seat unit for NT410 out of some fibreglass and race foam.  The narrower profile of the new unit suits my style much better and the generous 20mm of foam is certainly comfortable when queuing at sections; And, at a mere 195g it’s lightweight too.

Hopefully, I'll be able to keep this blog up-to-date with news/reports of 2015 trials.  With three National series for Pre-65 bikes plus some great two-day and single day events, 2015 promises to be a bumper year of trials riding!  Happy New Year and Keep your feet up!

Next up:  The Three Musketeer’s Trial