Saturday, 17 October 2015

Birdlip Playtime!

Well, it's been a long time since I wrote on this blog but work takes precedence and finding the time to do trials reports has been a problem lately.  So, what's new?  Well, I've done a lot of fettling to NT410.  

Lots of rock practice at Birdlip & some airborne moments!
The Maxton shocks came off and were serviced at the factory.  I opted to go for slightly lighter springs as the original ones were designed for Dave Dawson who is somewhat taller than myself.  These seem to be working fine and the rear end tracks a lot better although I think there's room to go for a lighter weight still.  The tracking issue was further solved by moving the wheel over slightly in the swinging arm and it has made a noticeable difference in slick conditions particularly, on wet, muddy roots.
Getting NT410 airborne at Birdlip

I was suffering from sore wrists after riding so decided to buy some S3 handlebar clamps and move over to Jitsie fatbars.  The S3 clamps allow for a wide range of adjustment which has alleviated the pain.  It was weird getting used to the fatbars but I think I prefer them to the Alan Whitton clamps and Renthal crossbrace bars I was using before.  They look pretty nice too.

I tidied up the front brake cable using a smaller gauge wire which is much more easier to route through the Alan Whitton cable guide on the number board and on the mudguard risers.  I bought them a while ago but waited until I got the cable sorted first.  I swear the braking is much, much better now but that could just be wishful thinking on my part!  I got rid of the front fork gaiters as they were looking tired and bought some new Marzocchi dust covers from SWM to protect the seals.  I think the forks are much more responsive now and I'd be loathed to go back to gaitered forks.
"Who put that log there?!"

I added some "bling" by moving over to titanium fasteners on non load bearing surfaces which not only makes the bike look nicer but takes some weight off (not that I'm able to detect it mind!).  I bought some Raptor Titanium footrests however, when I took my old aluminium ones off and weighed them up against the Raptors, the ally ones were so much lighter so they've stayed on for now!  I'm not sure what to do with the Raptor ones now.  Talking of titanium, I'm currently waiting to receive two new titanium wheel spindles which are currently being fabricated.  

That's it for NT410 for now although development and fettling continues.  I've been doing some work on El Diablo, the ex-Tony Sullivan G80C so hopefully that will be making an appearance later this year!  I have been doing some trials and made it out for the Exmoor two-day classic, the EUROCUP two-day classic and the Dartmoor two-day classic all of which were outstanding events and I'll try to get a report done on all three when I have time.  In the meantime I'll put some photos courtesy of my friend Heath Brindley which he took during our practice playtime at Birdlip back in August. 

Bye for now!

Air turn at the top of a bank for the camera!

Sunday, 15 February 2015

25 JAN 15, The TALMAG Trophy Trial at Hungry Hill

Watching the action on the Hill
with Dave and Teflon
The first big classic competition of the year is The TALMAG Trophy at Hungry Hill in Aldershot.  Specifically, for four-stroke machines there is always a healthy turnout of beautiful heavyweight singles and in addition to the ubiquitous lightweight Cubs/BSAs, there was some rarely seen stuff like Panther, Douglas, NSU and MV Agusta being ridden around.  Fortunately, the freezing overnight conditions relented somewhat and I only had minimal scraping to do on the van when I left at 0730.  I made my breakfast rendezvous with Ronald MacDonald and fuelled up on a double bacon and egg McMuffin on the way to the trial. 

It’s always advisable to get to the TALMAG early and by the time I arrived the car park was rammed with over 170 riders all of whom were rushing to scrutineering and get signed on.  I quickly unloaded the bike and after an examination by the officials I collected my scrutineer's ticket and signed on.  As expected from a committee who run with almost military precision, this was hassle free and I headed back to the van to get changed.  I headed over to the start around 1000 and met up with the rest of the factory who were in fine fettle.  The starter, Mr. Fraser, kindly let The Teflon Don (Matchless G3LC), Ken Wallington (Matchless G3LC), Dave Arkell (Ariel HT5), Pete Collins (Ariel HT5) and I start as a loose group which was a nice touch and settled the nerves. 

The dry conditions were in stark contrast to last year’s wash-out and it certainly drew a larger than normal turn out of spectators which definitely added to the atmosphere.  Sub 1 got us into the mood and a deceptively slippery entry and heavily rooted, steep exit took marks from the unwary.  Sub 2 was much the same but rode well and there was plenty of room to pick a line.  The first group of hill sections were quite rudimentary and even the experts got away lightly here.  Sub 6 was a new section and was plotted over a long adverse camber followed by a steep descent and rise.  The dry conditions really helped here and I imagine this would’ve been incredibly tricky in the wet.  The normal Sub 7 ground was not used this year which I thought was a mistake.  This is a tricky section and is a guaranteed mark taker but the organisers opted for a big uphill blast over slippery roots that rode better than it looked.  Sub 8 was a real cracker; a sinuous affair plotted over the loose, sandy banks of a bomb-hole really made you think and I took a lot of time to look over this section and get my line right.

Not quite Grey Mare's ridge but it was
a costly dab!

Next up we headed for the Hungry Hill group of sections.  Sub 9 was a flat out blast up the hill which caused little problem and this was followed by the Hungry Hill climb.  This year, the ground was very cut up and the loose sand made it difficult to get traction.  This section was the big mark taker and I must confess that I was over confident on the second lap keeping the throttle pinned all the way to the top instead of backing off for the roots.  I guess I got carried away and hit the roots in the final gulley far too fast and had to take the most costly of dabs which cost me the trial.  Sub 11 was another great section and the organisers had really thought about this one laying out a traditional twisty affair over the sandy banks.  The last four Subs were traditional blasts up the steep sandy banks but there was plenty of grip in the dry conditions and not many people troubled the observer’s pencil.

With lots of people going clean the emphasis was on the special test and not being one to wring-the-neck of my bikes I realised I had to pull out all the stops and go for it.  I gunned the bike around and even went through the periphery of bush on the down loop! My 34.6 second lap was the fastest Clubman time of the day which, had I been clean would’ve guaranteed me a consecutive Class D win.  However, in the final analysis it was The Teflon Don who came out on top and took the Class D win this year.  As the builder of both his bike and mine, I think he’s taken another first in being the only bloke to have two of his bikes on the podium!  Well done Nige; a great effort.

Class D (Clubman)

1. Nigel Townsend        Matchless G3LC           Clean         ST 36.3
2. Paul Casling             Matchless G3C             Clean         ST 39.1
3. John Jacka               Matchless G3LC            1               ST 34.6

Dave Arkell                  Ariel HT5                       8               ST 39.6
Ken Wallington            Matchless G3LC            17             ST 43.2

Cleaning the hill on lap 1

Class F (Over 65) was hotly contested this year with several riders going clean however, it was Chard’s John Pym on his beautiful Trifield T90 who got the better of factory stalwart and ace tyre mechanic Pete Collins on his Ariel.  John lost 6 marks to Pete’s 10 however, it was the Stroud man who was fastest on the special test; his 35.8 second effort was a great result.

It was neck and neck in Class G (Sidecars) this year but it was Paul Fishlock & Debbie Merrell (Ariel HT5) who came out ahead of Gloucestershire’s Ian Hannam & Deborah Smith (BSA B40) by virtue of the most cleans rule.  Both outfits tied on 8 marks lost and posted identical special test times of 41.6 seconds.  

Thanks to the TALMAG committee for another great trial this year particularly, the Secretary of the Meeting, Mrs. Pat Gaines and Clerk of the Course, Mr. K Allaway.  Of course, the greatest thanks go to the observers who braved the chilly conditions to mark our cards.

Many thanks to Gary Attfield who braved the cold conditions and kindly supplied the photographs for this report.

It was perhaps a more sombre occasion this year as the great Len Hutty Jnr, who made the TALMAG very much his own trial, was absent having succumbed to cancer late last year.  Nevertheless, his memory lives on and I was very pleased to see the Len Hutty Award for the best Matchless added to the list of silverware this year; A very fitting tribute to Len and a brilliant way to keep the great man’s memory alive.  

Sadly missed this year.  The great Len Hutty Jnr. & his
immaculate Matchless pictured in 2012

Next up:  Golden Valley Classic Rd 1 at Brimpsfield

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