Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Welsh Racebit

Wake up,banging head, but Lord Be Praised the tea wagon has turned up. It's been raining all night but kit and bike are in the van it's just everything else that's wet. I climb out the tent, that hill don't look any smaller in the morning light. More folk turn up and great to see some familiar faces from Midland Classic events.We look down the list of riders and notice maybe a third from our area (Notts/Derbys).
I wait on the startline, man, I am nervous.Next to me though, is a rider looking absolutely petrified and with good reason,it's hid first time and he's on an old Brit 2 stroke (Cotton possibly) which ain't lightweight, though he is. He is 14 years old. So being whacked with some perspective I shoot off the line. Hey, first corner first hill in 3rd the bike wants to play! Tricky uphill bit, Ok then GUN IT, aahhh up she goes,blast along the peaty mashed up ferns foot poised then straight into a traffic jam. It's a tight swampy uphill right turn and they are wheel spinning stuck, 4 or 5 of them, I wait.Then I get bored. GO! Rev,rev,rev through the slime,through the embedded bikes and out. I've made it worst part done. Take it steady up Rabbit Hill (holes),across the moor, round the farm tracks and... oh yeah, The Escalator.They're holding them up ,one at a time please Gentlemen. First gear,DON'T touch the back brake or the clutch but I remember some trials training -use the front on-off-on-off, sorted.I cruise down to the tight right and just miss the tree. Everything else now is OK just the off camber ride along the hill a few slips but fine, even overtake a couple.
It all carried on in the same vein only they cut out some of the hairier parts, and I'm going a bit faster. I whack it open on the field -full bore in third and then CLUNK! Gearbox and Back wheel instantaneously locks and I get thrown off. Get to me feet -this bike is locked up. I'm out.
A figure appears on a quad "Roll it down the hill, and I'll tow you back" LifeSaver! When we drop me bike off we get chatting, he ain't some local farmer but a Welsh fella (called Jock) who goes to loads of Classic events helping the stricken. Top man, he offers me a lift back up the hill on his quad. Just one thing -I have to go in the wooden box over the front wheels ("As Ballast. I flipped it on Hawkstone hill the other week!"). It was fun being a frontal sidecar passenger, can't beat new experiences can ya?!
It got worse second half and they really struggled getting up the swampy hill, me and Mark acted as marshalls.The best one being when a Honda sliding so much headed straight at me. I jumped left,he went left,I jumped right he slew right, so I ran for me life and promptly fell over. He missed me and span round on the hill and came back down nearly taking out 3 more! Him,Us we're all in hysterics.
So, 200 mile drive £50 in expenses bike locked up and didn't finish,So What? I had a ball, and more importantly I learnt something. My little bike can do it, whatever it faces. If I can ride that course I can ride pretty much anything, and if in doubt Gun It, no faintheart ever got anywhere.
That 14 yr old kid? He did just fine...
Vid here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyPldUmOVvw&feature=channel

The Night Before The Assault

Off to foreign climes, Wales to be exact for a new event Llangollen Classic Enduro. The organiser tells me on the phone it will be more of a proper enduro, longer than our Hare & Hounds type events.After a 2 hour drive me and Mark (faithful pitman) pull in to the campsite the night before.Behind us is a great big cliff and in front a similarly imposing hill except this has a track marked out on it.Ummm.. We pitch tents and get chatting to a top fella in his 60s with a 250 twin engined Greeves.He's walked the course already and we inform we're about to do likewise,with a beer. "I'll think you'll need about three,lads!". He's right. We get trekking and it goes up;and up, a tight awkward corner,up some more a slippery climbing corner and yes, up some more.We're outta breath and have to stop for a sit and a smoke.We've done about a tenth of the track,Jesus.Hereafter it gets slightly easier til we get round to new terrain,open moorland.Nice and flat but boggy in places.Then it's on to shale strewn farm tracks which lead round to what became termed "The Escalator". Imagine standing at the top of one in the Tube only incorporating bumps and mud.Then just as you're plummetting to your doom more slippery shale and BIG trees to pile into at the bottom. I crack another beer. Mark finds his ultimate ornament,a horse skull which he duly stuffs in his pack, it probably slid down that descent and broke it's neck! From there on it's through the woods,this course doesn't lack in variation I'll say that.A short blast across a field and then it 45 degree off camber along the side of the hill,very tricky. We've had some beers and stopped a bit but it's took us TWO HOURS to walk it.
Return to the tents and guzzle more beer,plenty of others doing the same except we keep going later and later. The conversation turns to dogs in space, at which point I decide it's really time to call it a night.It's a quarter to One,and I'm racing tomorrow,bugger.Still, I cannot sleep, the rain and my doubts are keeping me awake.Will the bike have the power even for the first hill,more to the point,will I?

The Grassy Knoll

Midland Classic Hillclimb, no not a widowmaker climb til you flip off the back but a twisty grass track up to the top against the clock. For a change I drag out my spare red TS185 which is on trials tyres so in a slightly less competitive class.On the day I find I have been possessed by Homer Simpson, I fill the petrol can and leave in the garage and forget my plug spanner,Doh! The bike has a sulk at having an idiot on board and plays up all day.I just keep it going.
I never do any good racing against clocks and on one run I throw caution to the wind and go hell for leather til I hit the one rough part at the top which chucks me off.Oh well no harm in trying. I post the usual pathetic time (34.12 secs) but it's a cracking Sunday amongst fellow old bike nuts, EastEnders omnibus is no competition.
The final part consists of Handicap run-off races between pairs of riders. You have your best time written on your race plate and the difference in times noted. The slower bike gets that difference as a head start over the other.So in theory you should get to the top roughly together, actually it's much harder to overtake the slower guy (something I use to full advantage at the top corner !). I get the start on a Honda 250,KX400,Triumph 500 etc and do the necessary. I line up with a Yamaha 600, oh eck, well at least I'll get a big start. No! It has 37 secs displayed , 3 seconds on my little TS, whaaaaat?! It leaves the start like the Enterprise hitting warp speed, and me like Granville on a delivery bike. As I return to the checkpoint feverish official activity is observed.Seems that the lad on the bike used the mega slow times of his Dt trail bike on his mate's 600 rocket ship.His "win" is declared null and void so I win. That was actually the final, so albeit in controversial circumstances, I am the champ.Wahoo! I'm a bit shell-shocked but chuffed all the same. I've done 6 of these handicap run-offs now,been in 3 finals and won it twice.All on old 185 trail bikes which makes it even better!
Video (not by me) at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3_Rst-vAf8