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.
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