Tuesday, 8 December 2009

It's Showtime!

Just to prove I’m not quite the old dinosaur that I’m sometimes portrayed as, on the spur of the moment I decided to go to the NEC Motorcycle Show. A quick call to my brother-in-law to see if he was interested and I found myself sitting outside his house in Cyril the Citroen at 09:30hrs ready to set of to the Midlands. There’s not a lot you can say about the tedium of trundling up the motorway system, at times crawling along at 20mph, at other times suddenly coming to a halt for no apparent reason, whilst all the time trying to work out if the particular piece of motorway has the SPECS cameras!

Anyway, we finally arrived at Junction 6 of the M42 and followed the signs for the NEC – not easy to do when you’re blinded by the low sun but we finally managed to park up and start the trek to the main halls. The NEC runs a system of free shuttle buses between the car parks and the various exhibitions but the drivers seem to have developed a sixth sense which allows them to arrive at a bus stop just after everyone had given up waiting and set off walking! Still, the walk was no doubt was very beneficial.

After paying the £17 entrance fee £8 parking and the extra £4 for the Show Guide (with free poster!), Chris and I entered the main hall. Considering we didn’t arrive until just after mid-day I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of punters. Although there were plenty of people milling around the main manufacturers’ stands you could still get to see, and bounce on, any models that took your fancy quite easily.

Chris has very different tastes to myself when it comes to bikes, partly driven by the difference in stature between us. Whereas I tend to gravitate towards the Tourers and Sports Adventure bikes, Chris is more the flashy Cruiser style. Plenty of scope for leg pulling there as we try to look cool and knowledgeable as we sit astride the bike of our choice, flicking control levers, twiddling knobs, pressing buttons ad trying not to make “brrmm brrrmmm” noises! ‘Best fit’ bikes for me were the BMW R1200GS and KTM990 Adventure – no surprise there, although I was also taken with the BMW HP2 Supermotard for it’s sheer lunacy. Chris swithered between the Suzuki M800 and the Yamaha XV range – tarts handbags all, you’d need to have shares in Solvol Autosol if you bought either of those!.

Interestingly neither Honda or Ducati had a stand (well there was one stand with two Ducatis on it which was shared with the Owners Club) so perhaps the recession is biting those particular manufacturers hard. All the other major players were there, even Norton, with lots of corporate shirted minions trying their hardest to avoid the gaze of the assembled masses. First prize for the most disinterested show staff easily goes to Suzuki – four members behind the desk arrangement and not one of them could be bothered to point Chris in the direction of the right brochure. At the other end of the spectrum, the prize for most dedicated show staff goes to the gent on the Norton stand who carefully polished the tank of the red Commando after each Numpty had put their sticky fingers on it. I’m surprised there was any paint left!

Luckily it was quite warm in the show as various young ladies circulated amongst the great unwashed (quite literally, in some cases) dressed in what my mother would describe as ‘unsuitable for the season’ skimpy clothing. After much deliberation, my brother-in-law voted the Kawasaki stand the best, even though he didn’t like any of their bikes. One particularly attractive young lady invited me along to what I can only assume was the launch of a new toothpaste called Spearmint Rhino, indeed we were given VIP passes with pictures of more young ladies baring their teeth to prove the efficacy of the product.

Having worn out the seats of a number of bikes we continued our stately progress into the Clothing and Accessories area, via the very nice young ladies on the Carole Nash stand. If I had been in the market for a new road helmet or gear there were some stonking bargains but sadly nothing for those of us that prefer to do it in the dirt. Chris tried on a few sunglasses of the type worn by Cruiser riders (no comment needed!) but nothing tempted us to part with the readies. Another quick coffee, a laugh at the poor unfortunate having his first go on a motorbike, and a last scout round in case we’d missed anything before returning to the main hall for a last look at the bikes.

All in all I found the show as disappointing as ever. It’s nice to see most of the manufacturers’ ranges in one place and accessible but is that really worth £17 and a whole day trekking up to Birmingham and back? There were certainly lots of bargains if you were in the market for some new riding gear but there was also a lot of tat, particularly leather, masquerading as motorcycle gear. I reckon about two hours was the maximum time it took to see everything (and some of it two or three times!)

In the ‘good old days’ at Earls Court I used to buy a new helmet every year plus occasional riding gear but I think my present road gear will outlast me at this rate. Back then I used to be on the Star Rider stand but that’s another story – two quick memories though: taking an 80cc scooter back to the Suzuki stand after one of the instructors totalled it inside Earls Court; and drinking far too many pints of Okells beer and still coming up negative on the Met Police’s new breathalyser (no I didn’t drive home!). At another event, I even managed to crash my BMW as I left the Felixstowe Motorcycle Show (who said motorcycling isn’t glamorous?) resplendent in my Chief Instructor’s uniform – it wasn’t my fault, it was the ex-wife, honest.

The journey back was relatively uneventful for a Friday evening having opted to travel down the A14 / M11 / A120 / A130 route which a) meant we missed the M1 and M25 completely and b) allowed for a short stop at one of my favourite pubs, the Compasses at Littley Green. Proper pub, proper beer, and no piped music. Bit of a holdup around Chelmsford meant it took another hour to get home but I walked through the door to the welcoming smell of stew and dumplings – what more can a chap want in life?
Apart from a good glass of red wine of course!
Toodle Pip

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

What Has He Been Up To?

Well, what’s been happening on the Shiny Stormer front since the September meeting? Not a lot, I’m afraid, hence the lack of scribblings on the blog but as I’d got a couple of minutes to spare I thought I’d just ‘keep in touch’.

Following the last meeting the SS was prepped and made ready for the meeting scheduled for East Hanningfield. The B50 engine was removed from the frame and delivered to my ‘engine man’ with a list of things that needed doing following the lock-up at Marks Tey. With no rush the get the engine completed, as the B50 had effectively retired for the rest of the season, I agreed to start sourcing the obvious parts needed. The SS was promoted to Number One Race Bike for the rest of the season and I was looking forward to the last two meetings.

The chap who was organising the East Hanningfield event unfortunately had to withdraw and a new ‘volunteer’ was found. For the second meeting running we had a virgin organiser so I gave what assistance I could in the run-up to the event which basically consisted of making reassuring noises and telling him all the problems he was experiencing were normal – they weren’t singling him out for special treatment, our members really are that bad filling in forms!

A slight diversion from the Pre65 world the last weekend of September as it was the GLW’s birthday, a significant birthday at that, so a long weekend at Aldeburgh with her sister and brother-in-law was in order. It was basically an excuse to eat too much (the Aldeburgh Food Festival started on the Saturday, a happy coincidence!), drink just enough and take a couple of interesting walks. The weather was stunning and Aldeburgh was teeming with incomers, the majority of whom appeared to be of the braying toff type. It’s a shame that this section of the Suffolk coast-line has become inundated with upper class weekenders with their pink polo shirts and huge handbags (and that’s just the blokes) and I do appreciate the money they bring to local businesses but they do destroy the very essence of the area with their arrogance and total disregard for anyone else. Still we managed to have a good laugh at some of their antics and the designer shops that had sprung up to service their needs.

Sunday dawned bright and clear and we set off to visit the Minsmere RSPB reserve for a spot of twitching. This proved to be my downfall, quite literally, as I managed one of my trademark stumbles, landing heavily on my right knee and left elbow (no I don’t know how I did that!) but the subsequent bruising and blood proved the point. During the week before the October meeting the knee proved to be annoying but the damage to the elbow meant a lack of feeling in the left hand so riding was out of the question. Bugger!

The decision was also made to shift the meeting from East Hanningfield to Marks Tey as the EH track was deemed too dangerous due to dust as a result of the lack of rain in the area. Talk about a baptism of fire for the organiser! All the riders had to be contacted, plus marshals and officials but he appeared to have done a stirling job as everyone appeared to make it to Marks Tey on the day. I popped along to watch a few races and pick up the Chairman’s articles for the Club Newsletter and the meeting did seem to be very well organised with all the riders seeming to have a good time. Having endured the normal ridicule from the tricyclists, I returned home with sufficient ammunition to write a couple of scathing comments in the editorial!

The following week saw much typing on the home PC before finally putting the quarterly newsletter ‘to bed’. Hard copy delivered to the printers, labels and stamps stuck on envelopes, email copies sent out followed two days later by the ‘snail mail’ editions. Whew! Having lit the blue touch-paper, I then just sat back and waited on the fallout! Didn’t take long but nothing too serious (mainly around the ever-problematic Clubman Class) and hopefully it will have stirred up enough people to speak up at the AGM.

The next meeting is the ‘Christmas Cracker’ at Marks Tey 15th November. Looks like it will be a fun meeting, certainly likely to be a bit wet and muddy, and a last chance for riders to improve their complexions with all that mud before Christmas. I’m not riding but I will be sulking in the pits!

Onward and Upwards!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Red Faced of Rochford

Sunday saw yet another excellent meeting at Marks Tey run on a similar track layout to the previous meeting. so lots of chances to give the bikes some welly. There being a smaller number of riders than our usual meetings meant a more relaxed atmosphere and a chance to make a few new acquaintances but the racing was still as fast and furious as ever.
The day started off with a solitary drive to the track as the GLW was elsewhere selling cakes so, in the absence of a working radio in the (T)rusty Transit I entertained myself my singing some 70's and 80's classics at the top of my voice. I did get some strange looks from passing motorists but they don't know me and I'll never see them again so who cares? Anonymity is definitely the way to go. Then again, I do have a striking (ok, strange) appearance and a surprising voice so perhaps I could win the next X Factor – it worked for that Scots woman!
Parked up in the pits, the bikes were unloaded and fiddled with before signing on and 'machine examination'. Both bikes passed with flying colours and as I was good and early I thought I'd walk the track. Now Marks Tey is notorious for being a bit dusty so the Pre65 Club invested in a huge water tank so the indefatigable Dave Godley can dump gallons of the stuff on the track. Dave had surpassed himself, the track was like ice to walk on with a slippery layer of mud on a hard packed base – what fun! Having congratulated myself on making a whole circuit without falling over it was time for a nice sit down before getting changed into my race gear.
Having only upset one passing lady with a view of my brilliant white legs, and remembering to check tyre pressures, (see, you can teach an old dog new tricks!) the BSA started and we were called forward to practice. As usual the sidecars were first out but even they were having difficulty on the slippery surface so it didn't bode well for the Clubman riders. Sure enough, the first bend proved all my fears to be entirely justified, the second bend reaffirmed those fears and the first jump very nearly required new underwear! Still I managed four laps without major mishap and seemed to be having no more problems than the riders around me – “the track would improve as the day went on” I kept telling myself.
A quick plug check and it was time for the first race. Still very slippery but at least the majority of riders took it fairly sensibly on the first bend and I think most of us made it to the next bend at least! The field settled down with the young hot-heads (who shouldn't really be in the Clubman class) disappearing at the front while the rest of us enjoyed dicing with riders of broadly similar skill. Four laps and a big grin at the end – what fun indeed! Turns out one of the chaps I was dicing with was next to me in the pits so extra pressure to do better next time.
Race two saw a better start but somehow I managed to end up amongst the same riders again! The track was starting to dry so at least there was grip in places and we were all really starting to enjoy it. Speeds increased and multiple lines were starting to appear making overtaking less of a 'shut your eyes and hope' affair and I was generally pleased both with my and the BSA's performance. Back to the pits, another check of the spark plug and a bit more air in the tires, and I strolled off to take some photos. Isn't it funny how some people can't resist playing to the camera, Greg?
As I returned to get ready for my next race I was accosted by two gentlemen who appeared perfectly normal, indeed they had children in tow and there were no obvious signs of heavy medication. “Are you the Shiny Stormer?” and of them asked, “we read your blog”. Bugger, my cover is blown! Red Face Number One! It turns out they were thoroughly decent chaps, with a strange taste in reading material, who were keen to get into the sport. I had to excuse myself to go and race but promised to have a chat when I got back. Worryingly, they said they were looking forward to seeing me race – that was the kiss of death!
The third race saw me actually make the start and survive the first bend and was running in the front half of the field! I even managed to overtake someone so I was moving forward!! I actually took off over the last jump onto the finish straight I was going so well!!! The BSA roared forward as I grabbed top gear and accelerated over the tricky dip!!!! Then it all went horribly wrong – the gear box locked solid and I slid to a halt, somehow staying upright. My eternal thanks to all the riders that managed to avoid me - at least at my size I'm easy to see! End of play for the BSA, BIG time. It's a long push back from the far side of the track (Red Face Number Two!) and I wasn't in the best of moods as I was already working out the cost. My next door neighbour congratulated me on my fifty yard slide which at least put a positive note on it all.
My two new chums spent half an hour or so asking questions about the Club, bikes, rules, and how to go about getting involved in the sport and despite everything I said were still very positive. I suspect we'll be seeing another couple of riders on the line next season with one of them possibly joining the ranks of Stormer riders although the other was hankering after exotic European rubbish. Buy British should be our motto, even if it's not the best!
The next race I took the Shiny Stormer out and despite a decent start I just couldn't get the power down early enough in the corners to progress forwards, still I had an enjoyable scrap with the usual suspects but this time ended up at the back of the bunch. As I didn't need to do anything to the SS apart from adjust the tyre pressures, I packed the BSA into the van before bidding farewell to John as he set off back to Dorset, then going to watch a couple of races. An interesting observation I made was that the noise of a Norton Wasp on full chat can easily be drowned out by the noise from the driver's mother standing 25 yards away!
Last race and a chance to prove the SS's worth. Half decent start and reasonably positioned approaching the first jump, managed to miss a gear and people started coming past. Trying a bit too hard I lost control going up the side of the big jump and lost a few more places, plus took a bit of a bang against the tank (Red Face Number Three - my old rugby master, if ever we suffered a knock to the same area always bellowed “Don't rub 'em boy, count 'em!” as we writhed in agony on the ground) meant a half lap at much reduced speed before being able to returning to 'racing' speed. Not my best performance, but everything relatively ok.
The final sidecar race saw a maiden win for Terry Bacon and Spike Nunn on tricycle No. 146. I don't think I've ever seen two happier chaps than when they returned to the pits. Well done to them. The final race of the day had to be curtailed after an unfortunate accident but apart from that the day went without major incident and most people seemed to have a good time, I certainly did.
Next meeting is at East Hanningfield on 4th October - will the BSA be ready? Will I manage to get rid of the pain but keep the swelling? Will the SS be promoted to Number 1 bike and be used for all five races? Who knows? Who cares?
Keep smiling

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The Shiny Stormer Lives!

With the GLW out of the house for most of the day, now was the chance to try and find out why the Shiny Stormer had a case of the terminal sulks at the last meeting and refused to start. At Maylandsea I had done all the usual checks; plug, points, HT lead, connections, kill switch but there was no sign of electrical life.

Call me old-fashioned but I am reticent to start delving into the engine in the middle of a field where you are guaranteed to lose those vital nuts and bolts in the long grass so the bike was consigned to the van. I have watched people stripping engines down to the crank at some meetings - I'm guessing they've got magnetic hands and highly developed eyesight - but anything requiring the splitting of engine cases is, to my mind, better undertaken in the comfort (and privacy!) of one's own back garden.

So, handlebars attached, remove the spark plug and give it a kick to see if there is any life (all motorcyclists believe in miracles -it might have fixed itself!). After three or four kicks I could hear the faint crack of a spark so YES, miracles do happen! Off with the inspection cover and a quick ferret around the points and I noticed a bit of wetness - out with a clean cloth and a good wipe round followed by a cleaning and resetting of the points and hey presto, a bit fat spark at the points and the spark plug. Replace the spark plug and the engine started third kick (sorry to any of the neighbours that were having a siesta), yet another successful mechanical foray.
I can only assume that the Shiny Stormer enjoyed the camping and early morning start as much as I did and succumbed to condensation. Perhaps it was the Shiny Stormer's way of telling me not to camp.



Don't even think about it.

Burn the tent.

Perhaps I should listen to the Higher Being that is the Shiny Stormer.

Next race is on Sunday 13/09 at Marks Tey and no, I'm not camping! In a vain hope of currying favour with SS, I've published a picture of 'man and machine in perfect harmony' from a previous Marks Tey meeting. If that doesn't work then perhaps I'll have to find a virgin to sacrifice!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Camping it up at Maylandsea

Chris, my brother-in-law, and I thought it would be a jolly good idea to camp overnight prior to one of the race meetings so that we could indulge in manly pursuits such as burning large slabs of meat on a makeshift barbie, drink copious amounts of alcoholic beverages, having non-PC discussions etc. etc. and the Maylandsea meeting on Bank Holiday Sunday seemed a perfect venue. Unfortunately it also seemed a perfect venue for my Good Lady Wife, sister-in-law, youngest niece and, allegedly, Bertie the dog! So what started out as a simple bivouac, beers, barbie, and bog roll sort of trip turned into a full scale logistics exercise.
At least I got off relatively lightly – Chris got dragged off to Camping and General (the shrine to all things semi-permanent) to buy a tent the size of the Albert Hall – while I only had to find space in the (t)rusty Transit for all the gear and food that we suddenly seemed to require. As we would be going up mid-afternoon on the Saturday to set up Base Camp, we took both tents and all the beds with us, with Chris coming up after work with Lynne and the dog (Alice, my niece, had the 'pleasure' of travelling up with the GLW and myself – strangely she chose to travel back with Chris in the car!)
Saturday morning was dry and bright as I started the process of loading the van. Bikes and assorted paraphernalia in first, it was then a question of trying to get everything else in roughly in the reverse order that we would require them at the other end. This was complicated by the frantic creation of yet more salads and similar 'lady-food' by the GLW meaning that the two cool bags plus a crate of food related utensils needed to go in last and be relatively secure. Still everything eventually fitted and off we went. After picking up Alice we managed to go at least a mile before we had to stop to buy sweets for the journey (all of forty minutes) and some milk (that 'someone' had forgotten). Why does it take two females ten minutes to buy two items? One of life's mysteries that us mere males will never understand.
After an uneventful journey we arrived in the field at Maylandsea that was to be our home for the night. There were already a good few camper-vans, caravans and the odd tents in situ and we chose a prime spot taking careful note of the wind direction and the location of the portaloos. After a quick chat with a few of the regulars (“yes, we're camping overnight”, “yes, the GLW is with me”, “no, I haven't got a generator to power the chandelier / oven / hair accessories “, “yes, the GLW is with me of her own accord”, - you get the drift!) it was time to set up the gazebo. Relatively easy but thanks to Dave Metcalf for the loan of the heavy duty tethers as it was a bit gusty.
Next came the tent. We last camped some three years ago (Jan's only other under canvas experience) but we managed a reasonable erection in half an hour or so. Chris arrived about 6:30 and they promptly set about erecting their tent so we were ready for drinks and pre-dinner nibbles by 7:30. The two barbeques were fired up, beers topped up (white wine and fruit based drinks for the ladies) and the feast began. Come 10:30 we were all stuffed and quite tired (must have been all the fresh air) so we retired to the 'comfort' of our tents for a good night's sleep.
Fat chance! The problem with tents is that you can hear everything for miles around and the slightest glimmer of light illuminates the inside of the tent as if you had you own personal lighthouse just next door. Still, the advantage of not being able to sleep is that I saw a spectacular star-lit sky at 3:30, including the Milky Way, and watched a beautiful sunrise over Maylandsea creek at 6:00. The times in between were a bit boring (!) but it is quite amazing how much noise people make when they think they are being quiet. I went for a stroll into the village and waited for the local shop to open before returning with the papers to find the odd signs of life in the paddock.
A strong coffee and a couple of bacon rolls did their best to make me feel human again and I was almost ready to do battle. Signing-on completed, I walked the track with Chris who seemed to have a slight headache (again, we put it down to the fresh air) and returned to base camp decidedly pooped which didn't bode well for my racing!
Practice was announced with the sidecars due out first followed by the Clubman Class in which I ride. The BSA fired up third kick and I carefully warmed the engine before stopping it to get togged up. Helmet, gloves, goggles etc. all in place I go to restart the BSA only to find it no longer wants to play ball. Never mind, I think, I'll use the reliable Shiny Stormer. Kick, Kick, Kick, Swear, Kick, Swear, Curse, Kick, Kick. Perhaps I won't then! By this time I'm rather hot and red faced as the sun is shining nicely down on my black clad figure. I dive into the tool kit for a plug spanner, take the spark plug out of the BSA, clean it, put it back in, and try again. Success! Jan steps forward in her new role of Chief Engineer as I show her which way the throttle turns to keep the engine running while I put helmet gloves etc. back on before riding much too fast through the pits (sorry about that) to get to the start line. Strangely, instead of the 24 Clubman riders I expected on the line there were at least 50 riders of all abilities – looks like a 'free-for-all' again!
We were let out onto track one at a time and the first lap was fairly uneventful as everyone held station but, being one of the last away it wasn't long before the fast guys were coming round to lap me. Now, the thing about some of the Clubman class riders is that we're not that good. Our sedate progress can be somewhat random at times as we ricochet from bump to bump in the wrong gear so when someone who knows what they are doing comes rocketing up behind us their carefully planned overtake can be thwarted by a meandering numpty! Luckily I managed enough control to keep out of the way but a couple of my colleagues were not so lucky and there were heated discussions in the pits following – this will, I fear, have repercussions.
The track was very hard and lumpy, a bit like riding round on a pneumatic drill I imagine, and already becoming quite dusty. I was due out in the second race and took the BSA up to the start-line in readiness. We were finally under Starter's orders and with a wave of the flag we were off, or rather the rest of them were off as I made my customary abysmal start and was last away. Approaching the first bend the pack ahead slowed as they entered the slippery, tightening, right bend – I forgot what bike I was riding and instead of hitting the rear brake, changed up a gear and found myself out of control but in mid-field! As I sorted myself out a few got back past me but as the race progressed I managed to get a few of them back and ended up in a respectable mid field position. Blimey!
The next two races were both red flagged following accidents and the increasing dust made it difficult to see ruts and bumps. This, combined with my apparent inability to walk properly let alone ride a bike, led me to call it a day from the racing point of view. Camping, lack of sleep, and a dodgy back do not, unfortunately, make for happy bedfellows. Never mind – time to take down the tents and reload the van. A definite lesson learned – camping and motocross should be kept separate, especially if Ladies are involved. I think I needed a little bit more 'fresh air' and a little less salad to ensure some sleep. Hopefully the next meeting will be a bit more 'racey'!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Too Many Pork Pies?

Just finished checking over the bikes after last weekend. After a hose down and a clean of the spark plug the Shiny Stormer was returned to it's normal pristine-ish condition. A quick re-tension of the chain, check the points and timing, a double check all the nuts and bolts, and a judicious squirt of WD40 here and there and it's ready to do battle once more. Two strokes are so easy!

On to the BSA. Apply liberal quantities of Gunk where the engine 'displays it's character', hose it down and wipe over with the proverbial oily rag. Check the valve clearances, oil levels, chain, spark plug, then trace through all the electrics to make sure everything is still ok. Then check evey nut and bolt to make sure they haven't succumbed to the vibrations. I was just checking the tyre pressures and wheels when I noticed all was not well with the front forks. The bottom retaining cap was fractured so the front axle was about to make a bid for freedom! Straight on to the internet to order a pair of CNC billet caps. Bit too close for comfort that - reckon I'll have to lay off the pork pies and try not to make quite so many heavy landings.

Apart from that, everything is ready for the next meeting - is this a record? Rumour has it we may even camp on the Saturday night. Time will tell!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Return to the Fray at Marks Tey

The run-up to the race meeting on 16th August was just a bit fraught but everything ended up good in the end. So here's the story behind it all !

I had somehow managed to volunteer to organise the meeting (I suspect another rush of blood to the head!) so from roughly four weeks before race day a steady trickle of envelopes popped through the letter box at Westley Towers, each one presenting it's own special challenge to yours truly. How hard can it be? They just need to fill in the entry form and send it, with a cheque (with their rider number written on the back) and a self addressed envelope, to the organiser by the cut-off date. Being a not-so-civil servant I keep a track of things: two people 'forgot' to put their names on the entry forms; one forgot to put any details whatsoever! over 60% didn't remember to put their rider number on the back of the cheque; and four people forgot to put what races they wanted to enter. That's without those that leave it to the last minute, or beyond! Still, programs at the printers by the Monday morning - time to concentrate of the getting Big Wes Racing in gear.

As the (T)rusty Transit had let me down again for the July meeting, some work was needed. Two new batteries, isolator switches, and a solar powered trickle charger should ensure it will never have a dead battery again. Applying similar logic to the BSA I rigged up a spur feed from it's battery so I can plug in the solar charger between races so that I don't have the same problem of lack of sparks that caused me to stop playing at the Lamarsh meeting. (sorry no write up of that meeting as it was just before the Welsh holiday and burglary - it seemed a bit out of date by the time I had a chance to write it!)

Saturday 15th and the van is retrieved from it's resting place (thanks again to Joy and Keith), bikes and paraphernalia loaded and all the paperwork for the meeting double checked. Time for a relaxing meal in the back garden and a nice early night in readiness for an early start in the morning. Bugger! The neighbours are having a family party which seems to consist of the children dancing to eigthies disco tracks while assorted relatives yell encouragement. Things start to quieten down and we eventually retire to bed only to find I couldn't sleep. Bugger again! Still, at least I wasn't disturbed by the alarm at 6:35 - I was already up. The Good Lady Wife applied the obligatory war paint in record time and packed the essential energy providing food (sausage sarnies - the Food of Champions) and we were on the road by 7:15. With a quick stop to pick up two hefty Sunday papers we were at the track and setting up by 8:00.

Things were a bit quiet when we arrived. Most the people that had stayed overnight were still closeted in their campervans cooking breakfast while a few bleary eyed campers -mainly, I suspect the tricyclists - wandered aimlessly around, possibly trying to cadge a free breakfast? Scrutineering and signing on started around 8:30 and just under 100 solos and 16 sidecar crews were ready for action. The GLW did stirling work guiding the riders through the complicated signing-on procedure : "What's your riding number?"; "Have you got your AMCA licence?"; "Sign here" Worryingly, some riders couldn't remember their riding number (you keep the same one throughout your racing career!), their licences were everywhere except on their persons, and a high proportion couldn't see well enough to sign their name in the space provided. Next time I think we'll just get them to put a thumbprint on a piece of A5 - and I bet some of them still miss!
A riders' meeting was called where 'Our Beloved Chairman' Raymondo imparted a few words of wisdom before leading a minutes silence for Dave Roper, chairman of the Sudbury Motorcycle Club and fellow competitor. This is becoming a worrying trend, along with bulletins of progress of seriously injured riders. We all hope for an 'event free' meeting.
Just time to check over the bikes and get into my riding gear before practice starts. All a bit rushed but the GLW insists I pose for a photo for her blog. Sidecar practice has started so it's time for the Clubman Class rider to get up to the holding area. As I haven't had a chance to walk the track, I try to follow where the sidecars are going to at least give me an idea of the layout. The Shiny Stormer started second kick and we move up onto the start line. About now is when you start realising that you haven't done a couple of fairly crucial things as I can now see how muddy the track is - it seems that Dave Godley had been watering it fairly constantly the evening before and the sidecars had managed to churn it up nicely - and I'm sitting on tyres that are still at 20psi (the pressure I set them too when they are laid up) when they should have been at around 8psi. Oh well, shouldn't be too bad!

We set off and as I approach the first bend I realise it can be too bad, and this is it! Think about riding a bicycle fitted with Teflon tyres on sheet ice on which someone had pured the slipperiest substance known to man, then add an engine with a pronounced power step and you'll be somewhere near my predicament. As soon as I tried to deviate from a straight line, or apply power, or, for all I know, cough the vicious bugger would try and throw me off! I wobbled round for two laps then called it a day, mindful that the GLW was in close proximity and a) she would see her 'little soldier' bite the dust with all the consequent discussions as to whether I should really be doing this and b) I'd get my nice new BSA racing shirt all muddy !

Back in the pits, the first job was to adjust tyre pressures on both bikes and then drink loads of water. The weather forecast had promised overcast, possible drizzle, and a temperature of 23 degrees - the reality was cloudless skies and soaring temperatures. Luckily I don't sweet much for a fat bloke. Practice over and the racing can start. Let battle commence!

The first race was for sidecars and they managed all of fifty yards before two outfits came together and cartwheeled down the track dumping riders and passengers wherever they fell. Red Flag. Race stopped and the St Johns Ambulance and paramedics are soon on the spot. About fifteen minutes later and everyone is at least back on their feet although one rider would take no further part that day. So much for an 'event free' meeting!

My first scheduled ride is Race 5 and as the track is still slippy I opt for the BSA - always a tricky choice in view of it's reticence to start but start it did and before I knew it I was sitting on the start line trying to spot riders that are slower than me. Fat chance, everyone looked very purposeful. Being the gentleman I let everyone get at least a five yard start as the flag fell which actually proved to be a good idea as I still had no idea whee the track went. After the first three or four bends the young hotheads had disappeared off into the distance and I settled down to a most enjoyable scrap with three or four riders of similar speed. Great fun, no-one hurt, no death-defying lunges up the inside, just an enjoyable scamper around a muddyish field. By the end of the race I've worked out the track layout and a couple of alternative lines (one on purpose!) so I'm quietly confident for my second race.

Race 9 is called to the holding area and I go to start the BSA. No chance, it's still sulking at being made to work so hard in the last race, so I revert to the Shiny Stormer. Missed the start again but the superior speed of the AJS catapults me into mid field on the first bend. On the second bend it all goes horribly wrong, I miss a gear change, run my front wheel up a competitors leg (sorry about that!) and by the time I'd sorted myself out I'm back behind the same bloke I couldn't overtake in the first race! This time I managed to squeeze past and stay there until the finish flag. What fun and still no injuries! The rider in question did stroll past in the pits and accuse me of resorting to my faster bike to beat him but I'd prefer to put it down to my skill. My how they all laughed.

One more ride before the lunch break, and after cleaning the spark plug the BSA burst into life once more. Although not as quick as the SS, it's a much more enjoyable ride and better suited to the type of track especially now it was drying nicely with lots of loose dirt on the corners. Surprisingly, my old adversary beat me again! Time for some serious sausage action to replace my waning energy levels! Two more rides after lunch, both on the BSA, that were equally good fun and the end of a really good day's racing for the Big Wes Racing Team but the BSA had one last call of duty.

The Club Secretary, K F-J, asked if he could take it out in his last ride. I did warn him that it doesn't always like to start and as that race was a dead-engine start it might not be the best choice but he persevered. So the flag drops and everyone kicks their engines into life, apart from Keith who can be seen merrily kicking away, then he realises that he hadn't switched on the ignition, and off he roared, fourth from last! Still, at the end of the race he had caught a few and enjoyed it immensely. So much so that he upped his offer to £150 to take the BSA of my hands. Dream on matey!
My thanks to all the marshalls, officials and volunteers that helped make this such a successful meeting. Even the GLW enjoyed herself, although she did complain a bit about the noise. Next meeting is at Maylandsea, Bank Holiday Sunday 30th August. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

It's Been a While

It's been a strange few months. A course of physio, a relaxing walking holiday on the Pembrokeshire coast, and finally nailing the issues with the BSA electrics are amongst the highlights. Getting burgled and the ongoing wrangles with the insurance company being, most definitely, the lowest points. I would show you some lovely piccies of Wales and race meetings but the lowlifes took both cameras and the laptop! Still, at least the police have caught them and we're awaiting the commital hearings - I'm starting to see the advantages of Shia law!

Anyway, trying to put that all behind me I busied myself getting ready for the annual Battlesbridge Bike Show. Each year the Pre65 Club put on a demonstration of our bikes and amazing riding skills(!) on a makeshift cicuit to amuse the punters and the organiser, Dave Harper (he of the encyclopaedic Greeves knowledge), invited me along. Thursday evening saw the working party banging in the stakes (blisters on the hands are always a good excuse for a poor performance come race day!), roping off the track area and erecting the Club marquee ready for the static display of 'interesting' bikes. Further fettling by Dave and his crew on Saturday completed the picture so that when I turned up on Sunday it all looked very professional with loads of riders ready to show off for the gathering crowds.

As usual with Pre65 events, we started spot on one hour late with a sharp reminder that this was not a race meeting but a demonstration so no kamikaze moves and make it look good. At least the delay gave me time to exchange pleasantries with the sidecar crews and sponge a coffee off the Metcalfs (thanks Carol). Strangely the starters flag seems to be the signal for all thoughts of 'demonstration' to be expunged from the mind as everyone hammered into the first bend - only to be expected really. Commentary was provided by Terry Sewell (he of the brown knees) in his usual engaging style and we soon had a sizeable crowd watching the antics.
On a personal note, I managed to get in four rides before lunch (3 on the BSA and 1 on the Shiny Stormer) and had a couple of enjoyable tussles with riders whilst definitely getting up a bit of a sweat. Both bikes performed perfectly and have given me a worrying level of confidence for the next meeting at Marks Tey on the 19th July.

As I had promised to be a) be present and b) not limping or otherwise injured at a family bar-b-q that evening I packed up and got ready to leave, only for the (t)rusty Transit to throw it's toys out of the pram and refuse to start! My thanks to Adrian, Margaret and Brian(?) for the push start - I'm pretty sure the Good Lady Wife wouldn't have believed that as an excuse for being late!

Now I'm back in the swing of things, and have got my super new camera up and running, I should be a more frequent blogger. That's either a good thing or not, depending on your viewpoint! I may even persuade the GLW to come along and take a few shots of the Shiny Stprmer in action, just to prove I do actually race the damn thing!

Mustn't grumble!

Friday, 1 May 2009

Time Flies When You're Wonky

It’s all been very quiet in the Land of the Shiny Stormer recently. Having failed to make the second meeting of the year on Easter Sunday with various aches and pains I’m now trying to get in a fit state the for next meeting on May 3rd and, as usual, failing miserably.

A quick update from the last blog : stripped the BSA electrics to try and find where the fault lie. Plug out, ignition on and a swift kick on the kickstart showed a single fat spark followed by a succession of random weak sparks ! Checked all the connections, tried again with the same result. It was no good, I would have to resort to reading the manual (something most chaps will never admit to!). After a bit of scouting around the internet the probable cause was found - out with the multimeter and confirmed the battery was showing just under 12 volts. Break out the spare, fully charged, battery and all is well once again.

The MRI scans show that I do indeed have a brain (much to the present Mrs. W’s, and numerous club members’, surprise) but also identified the root of my problems as being a ‘wonky’ neck (that’s a technical term apparently). The consultant suggested I take up swimming and forget about motorcycles but did admit that I wouldn’t do any further damage by continuing to race so I thanked him for his advice and decided to ignore it. Now awaiting physio / deep tissue massage to restore me to my former ‘racing snake’ glory.

Plans to embark on a get fit campaign between Easter and the May Bank Holiday hit a couple of problems. A ten day stomach bug, although doing wonders for my weight, didn’t help, followed by an overnight trip to France for a slap-up meal followed immediately by my monthly meeting with a couple of chaps for a session down the local pub. At this rate I’ll need to resort to those trousers you see advertised with the hidden elasticated ‘comfort’ waistband

That weekend was spent at Southwold with a couple of friends. For those of you unaware, Southwold is the home of Adnams, brewers of excellent Suffolk ale so it would have been churlish not to do my bit for the local economy and sample a good few pints. Although we walked miles (to pubs) each day I still managed yet another injury – this time to my wrist while trying to lever myself off a futon of all things – those Japanese have a lot to answer for! - if God (or whatever Supreme Being floats your boat) had meant us to sleep that close to the floor he wouldn't have let me grow to 6ft. 5ins.. Looks like strapping will be the order of the day on Sunday.

It's now Friday evening and I've just finished checking over both the bikes and we're ready to go. Will I make it, and if so will the bikes start? Will I bothered to take any photos? (yes I know it's boring without pretty pictures but I couldn't work out how to incorporate some of my MRI scans!) Tune in next week for the next 'exciting-ish' installment.

Toodle Pip

Monday, 23 March 2009

That's Better !

Mark and Paul Woodford gave the green light to use one of the pastures so the chance to give the bikes (and me) a bit of a run-out was gratefully accepted. With the van loaded and a quick call from my broher-in-law Chris confirming he was available for a 'play' I set off for Canewdon. My normal practice field, with plenty of lumps and bumps was being used for grazing so we were relegated to a very latge flat pasture down by the river. Strangely this pleased Chris (a relative newcomer to the art of doing yourself damage on a motorcycle!) but meant a rather restricted try out for yours truly.

A further complication was that the entrance to the field was too boggy for the (t)rusty Transit so the bikes had to be unloaded then pushed half a mile to the 'play area'. Shouldn't have been a problem as I had checked the bikes over and everything seemed fine. Best laid plans and all that – the BSA decided to sulk at not having it's own blog and positively refused to start. A walk back to the van to get a new spark plug and spanner while Chris had a potter round on the Shiny Stormer (which started second kick, as always!) Back at the BSA and the sparks still proved elusive. Without tools to hand, and of course they were all back at the van, there was no way it was going to start. A shame but there we are, we'd just have to take turns on the Shiny Stormer.

First session on the Stormer and it was surprisingly fast. The problem with having a large flattish field to play in is that a) you soon find yourself flat out in top gear, b) you have no points of reference so you have no idea where you are, and c) the supposedly flat surface is like anything but!
Although the idea of whizzing around flat out is initially appealing, it's actually quite boring. All the fun is in the initial accelaration and corners – any numpty can go fast in a straight line, just ask my brother! The only two points of reference were the pond (although it looks like a source of fun I was warned it was at least four feet deep so to be avoided) and a white plastic bucket so trying to map out an interesting track in your mind relied on recognising the slightly dark clump of grass by the large mole hill each lap – fat chance! It soon degenerated into a series of 'point and squirt' scenarios, each lap being subtley different.

For those that have never sampled the delights of off-road motorcycling there is one over-riding truth that is strange but true. The faster you ride, the smoother the ride. At moderate speeds it felt like I was riding on a pneumatic drill but up the speed and it smooths out nicely. The problem is, you have to slow down for corners. Chris, in particular, was suffering from numb hands from the constant vibrations whilst I was tempted to keep the speed up with sweeping third gear bends in the interests of comfort.

On the plus side I managed to get a couple of hours in the saddle so at least I have a fighting chance to remember where the gear lever is, plus test out the neck and shoulders 'in combat' so to speak. The Shiny Stormer managed to take solid abuse from Chris and myself with hardly a hiccough – quite impressive really. The BSA was consigned to the Transit and I'll need to check through the electrics yet again before the next meeting on Easter Sunday.

Next milestone will be April 3rd when I get the results from the various tests. I have a funny feeling they will fail to find a brain, in which case I am ideally suited to contimue in Classic Scrambles. Here's hoping!

My thanks to Chris for standing resolutely still whilst I rode straight at him for the photos.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Marks Tey 'No Show'

First injury of the year and I didn't even get to ride the Shiny Stormer! Spent Friday morning having an MRI scan (they are vainly trying to find a brain!) and ended up totally buggered for the weekend. As I already have a bad back, lying very still for the best part of an hour is really not a good idea even though I tried to mitigate the damage by drinking copious pints of real ale in the evening. Come Saturday morning, come the realisation that I would struggle to load the bikes into the van, let alone ride them on the Sunday. To the relief of the present Mrs W. the race weekend was aborted midday on Saturday and I resigned myself to watching rugby instead.

The MRI debacle was interesting to say the least. The nice South African technician, after admiring my All Blacks rugby shirt, instructed me to lie down on the rather hard bed before clamping some large headphones over my ears saying that the music will help pass the time. A quick slide into the tunnel as he shouts “It'll take about 30 minutes” and I find myself staring at the top of the white tunnel about six inches from my face. No music could be heard but that's ok as I thought I could doze off and time would fly. Fat chance – after a minute or so the machine started whirring, then clattering, then it sounded like someone was using a pneumatic drill just by my left ear. Just when I got used to a particular noise it would stop and a new and exciting variation would assault the senses. Bear in mind, dear reader, that the reason I was undertaking this procedure was my suffering perpetual headaches and you imagine how much fun I was having! Finally the noise stopped and I glided back out into the real world once more. Luckily the noise and my throbbing head had kept my mind off my back, until I tried to get off the bed – what fun! I'd locked up solid.

What a good job I then had to have a second scan – more of the same but this time with an accompaniment of elevator style musak (the technician remembered to turn the music on this time – I wish he hadn’t bothered!) By the time I'd finished and driven home I felt like I'd been run over by a very noisy vibrating steamroller!

Come Sunday, I thought I had best show willing and pop up to Marks Tey and see what was happening. The track was in perfect condition and was laid out to provide a good variety of twisty bits and fast straights. Lots of new riders (including one who rode in a dayglo vest with an L plate on his back) and some interesting bikes resurrected and being put to good use including a couple of tidy Maicos. Quite a few Stormers were out there too along with a fair smattering of ‘new’ Greeves Challengers. Quite a few sidecars, or ‘tricycles’ as I prefer to call them turned out and did a fine job of clearing away the taller grass before the solos took to the track – there has to be a reason why they are there!

I managed to take a couple of snaps with the Box Brownie just to get a flavour of the proceedings before heading off home and have dotted them amongst these scribbles. Not a promising start to the season. It can only get better! Hopefully I can sneak out for a bit of practice next weekend if the fields have dried out a bit.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Best Laid Plans and All That

Saturday dawned to the sound of a note being pushed through my letterbox. It was from Bill, my neighbour, asking if I could pop in for a moment as he needed assistance. No problem, I thought, I’d quickly give him a hand with whatever it was, then run the GLW out to the farm shop before returning home to load up the bikes ready for a good three or four hours practice. It turns out that was the nearest I got to riding the bikes all weekend – best laid plans and all that!

The assistance required was advice regarding Bill’s fence, or rather, lack of fence, between our gardens. Although the ivy that had enveloped the fence panels gave a nice background to the pictures of the Shiny Stormer it had basically destroyed the fence and Bills shed, whilst our Forsythia bush had also wreaked havoc with the remaining panels. After a quick discussion it was decided it all had to come down and a new fence put in it’s place but we’d need to start soon as the birds were starting to look for nesting sites, particularly our ‘tame’ robins (Bill’s a bit of a twitcher like the GLW and nothing is allowed to disturb our little feathered friends!). So, with the way forward decided I was then aware of a strange voice saying “that won’t take long, we can rip this all down, bung it in the Transit van, offload it at the local ‘Civic Amenity Site’ and have everything clear ready for the new fence in no time”. Then I realised it was me saying that and in doing so had consigned my plans to practice to Never Never Land once again.

‘Interesting’ facts relating to fence demolition :- ‘won’t take long’ translated to 8 ½ hrs. on Saturday and a further 5 hrs on Sunday of solid graft; a forty foot fence with associated ivy and assorted shrubbery completely fills a long wheelbase Transit twice; ivy gets everywhere and is incredibly strong – chasing the roots out is no easy task!

The most ‘fun’ I had was at the Civic Amenity Site where one of the ‘Recycling Amenity Operatives’ (I know that is what they are called because he has a day-glo jacket proudly declaring such) stood watching me as I struggled to unload the van and get everything in the Green Waste container to make sure I didn’t put any bits of trellis or fencing in with it. No suggestion of offering any assistance, not even wielding his broom to help gather bits together that had fallen on the ground, just watching. I suppose he was at least doing something, his colleague was fast asleep in his little hut watching over the glass recycling bins!

So with a week to go until the season’s first meeting, I have yet again failed to get any practice but at least I got a fair old physical workout! Roll on next weekend; in the meantime I’m taking a vow of silence.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Testing, Testing

It’s that time of year when the (t)rusty Big Wes Racing transport undergoes it’s MOT test. Last year it passed, much to everyone’s surprise, with barely a problem but as it’s stood in a field for nearly seven months I didn’t have a lot of hope for a success this time around. Transit vans don’t respond well to being neglected, it seems. If they are in constant use then very little goes wrong but leave them standing and they just fade away!

I will admit that my van is possibly not the most attractive cosmetically, being an ex-DOCWRA vehicle that had obviously had a hard life (it was a bargain when I bought it four years ago). The chap I bought it off had obviously tried to make it look slightly less rough by over spraying the whole van in red that is now fading badly so the whole van has a mottled look that is enhanced greatly by the cobwebs, bird poo, and algae. Nice. The up-side of all this is that it has cost me very little to keep running and who needs a heater or radio anyway?

So, retrieved Trevor the Transit van from it’s resting place (thanks to Joy and Keith for the free parking) and trundled down to the local MOT station. After the normal formalities, I joined the other despondent looking blokes waiting for their pride and joy to undergo the yearly humiliation of the MOT. Most MOT stations are not the sort of place anyone would choose to spend time but this one is at least making an effort – a ‘TV Lounge’ with heating and a café (a small windowless and soulless corner out the back) are provided for customer comfort – but I prefer to lurk about and watch the testers at work while affecting an air of devil-may-care.

Trevor’s test started and there was a lot of activity around the lights, not a good start. Much ‘up and down’ on the ramp and hitting of metallic parts with a hammer followed - I had a good mind to tell the tester to stop as he was dislodging so much dirt and rust but Trevor exacted his own revenge by depositing some of the rust in the tester’s eye. Much testing of the brakes (never Trevor’s strong point) and the test was over. A very solemn and blinking tester retired to his office to teach Trevor a lesson.

It failed! Strangely it failed on items that it had passed on last year so perhaps trying to blind the tester was not such a smart move? Anyway, we then get to the difficult decision as to whether it’s worth fixing it or taking it to the breakers. A bit of discussion, a pragmatic approach to costs (yes, I’ll pay cash) and a deal is struck for the necessary work to be done for a suitably small amount and it looks like Trevor will live another year!

Blimey, that’s the bikes and transport sorted and still two weeks to the start of the season. A record! So if you are driving around and see a big red Transit with a big red-faced driver, you may well have seen Big Wes Racing in action. Be afraid, be very afraid!

No pictures I’m afraid, Trevor is camera shy.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Mechanic (of sorts!)

Another chance to get down the shed for four or five hours and tinker last weekend. Nothing’s simple at Big Wes Racing - what I originally thought was a more than adequate sized shed has proved woefully inadequate so most of the general work on the bikes takes part outside on the patio. Also, in order to get the bikes down the side of the house and into the shed in the first place the handlebars have to be removed and a shortened set fitted to wheel them around with. Not a big problem really but it does mean a ten to fifteen minute job refitting the proper bars before you start.

The Shiny Stormer just needed a change of gearbox and primary chaincase oils and a check over the electrics and was ready for starting. A quick change of footwear (not even I am daft enough to try and start it wearing flipflops) a splash of fuel, set the kill switch and give it a hefty kick. Peace reigned. Keep kicking! On the fifth or sixth kick the engine caught and the familiar crackle from the ‘silencer’ filled the air. Choke off, blipping the throttle to keep it running, the smell of Castrol R started wafting around the garden, and all was well with the world. Suddenly the back door to the house burst open and the Good Lady Wife told me, in no uncertain terms, to stop making all that noise! – something to do with disturbing the birds (she’s a bit of a twitcher on the quiet) or some such. What was really scary was that it sounded just like my late mother-in-law Vera. My wife, not the Stormer, I hasten to add! So, engine stopped, a quick inspection of the spark plug (round, shiny, with a little sticky out bit in the middle and another bent bit – all seemed ok to me) and a last check over before moving on to the BSA.

The BSA B50 is, essentially, a modified road bike compared to the purpose built Stormer so weighs considerably more. After much effort it emerged from the shed and was lifted onto it’s stand. A quick oil topup (more ‘R’. I’m not sure if it’s the best oil for the engines but it certainly smells the best!) before tracing through all the electrics to make sure everything is still ok. Even though it is fitted with electronic ignition it is critical that everything is absolutely perfect to ensure any chance of starting the beast. Checked over the suspension and adjusted the head races and everything seemed ready to try and start it but by now it was getting dark and starting to rain so, convinced that shed fairies wouldn’t undo all my hard work and it would start when required, and not wanting to incur the further wrath of the GLW, I started the process of swapping back handlebars and shoehorning the bikes back into the shed.

Fours weeks to the first race meeting on March 15th and I’m well ahead of schedule with the bikes. Checking with Paul Woodford, one of the farmers that kindly allows me to use their land for practice, it seems my normal field would be more suited to bog-snorkelling than riding scramblers so looks like I’ll start the season once more without any practice. Doesn’t bode well! My fitness regime also doesn’t seem to be having a lot of effect – despite trying to be good with food and alcohol intake, I seem to be gaining weight. I suspect the GLW is trying to sabotage my racing efforts by tempting me with her pies and cakes (she does make the best pies in the country, probably). I must be more strong willed.

Anyone for tiffin?

Monday, 16 February 2009

Bunfight at the Bungalow Cafe

What fun! Sunday saw the AGM of the Pre65 Motocross Club at the Bungalow Café, Marks Tey. The great and the good of the membership attended, including our Hon. President John Giles, and everyone had their chance to have a say on the running of the Club and its regulations. I was going to take some photos but decided it would be just that bit too gruesome for public consumption!

The preceding autojumble had a couple of interesting Greeves for sale and one notable committee member was spotted squirreling away a gearbox, forks, bars and other assorted bits and pieces that he would, no doubt, have to hide from the wife on his return home. The meeting proper started with its normal promptness at precisely 12:14hrs. with the Chairman clambering on a chair to tower above the seated throng. Following his customary introduction and thanking of all the members that had helped make the 2008 season such a success, he went on to announce that the June meeting would be a memorial meeting to Roy Patten and John Waylett at a new track at Lamarsh. Some members visibly blanched when it was announced that the land included hills and that the tracks would take full advantage of the terrain – we’re not known as the Essex Branch of the Flat Earth Society for nothing!

Once the financial review had been completed and the officers of the Club re-elected we came to AOB – always a lively (if lengthy) debate at these meetings. Importantly, after much debate and a four way vote on options put forward from the floor, the smaller capacity class for pre 1965 bikes has been set as “up to 350cc”, overturning last years ruling. Most people seemed happy with the decision although I did overhear one of the faster riders discussing how far he could over-bore his Greeves in a bid to keep up with the trick four-strokes. Other topics discussed covered signing on and the use of pegs for practice sessions to segregate Racers from Clubmen, authority at the start gate, and changes in eligibility for Cheney type frames, all of which were fascinating to the people there but would be of little interest to the wider public so I will gloss over them.

It is strange, however, that the most vanilla of subjects often provoke the most heated debate when you get a group of passionate people together. So it was when the subject of riding kit was raised. Our regulations state that outer clothing should be of ‘period appearance’ but in the last couple of seasons a growing number of riders have been wearing modern shirts and jeans with dayglo graphics. Claim and counter-claim was made over the relative costs of modern and traditional motocross jeans with leather varieties supposedly costing between £70 and £400, depending who you believe. In the end it was left to the riders to exercise discretion and try to minimise the encroaching ‘dayglo menace’. I will be interesting to see the effect at the first meeting in March!

In an effort to toe the corporate line my race shirt for the coming season is a replica of the 1960’s BSA Works Team shirts in black and it looks like I’ll be dusting off the old leathers that I noticed had mysteriously shrunk the last time I attempted to wear them. As I’m organising the meeting in August, I might well enforce a dress code just to stir things up a bit. Cravats and monocles all round! Pip Pip!

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Down the Shed

Managed to spend a coouple of hours down the shed tinkering (it's a bloke thing!) and generally sorting things out ready for the start of the season. Always makes me smile when I see the plaque that my sister-in-law gave me for my 50th birthday !
Possibly the poshest shed in Essex?

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

What are Classic Scrambles?

For those of you not familiar with the Classic Scramble scene, I thought I’d give a short explanation. Referred to by the Good Lady Wife as “a load of old gits riding old bikes round a field”, I prefer a slightly more accurate, “the racing of classic British motorcycles, recreating the sights, sounds and smells of the Scrambles meetings from the 1960s and early 1970s”. This was the heyday of off-road motorcycling when British bikes and riders ruled the World and races shown on BBC’s Grandstand and ITV’s World of Sport drew huge audiences. Riders such as Dave Bickers, John Banks, and Vic Eastwood became household names as people tuned in to watch them battle against the elements, (it always seemed to be muddy!) the course, and each other for that all important trophy.Sadly, as the British motorcycle industry declined, their influence on the sport diminished until, in the mid 1970’s, Japanese and European machinery became increasingly competitive and British machinery virtually disappeared. A few small manufacturers, such CCM, attempted to stem the foreign invasion but for the rank and file riders the options available for a competitive machine were no longer British.

Luckily, a few of the riders held onto their bikes, keeping them either for the odd practice ride or for sentimental reasons. In the late 1980s some of these riders got together to stage demonstrations where they could dust off their old bikes and race against their peers which led to the formation of a number of clubs, including the Pre65 Motocross Club which celebrated it’s 25th anniversary in 2007. Through the 1990s the Classic Scramble scene continued to grow and dedicated meetings were organised using, where possible, tracks that had been in use in the 1960s.

As the sport became more popular, the need for regulation led to the Amateur Motorcycle Association (AMCA) adopting Classic Scrambles and rules governing eligibility being formalised. At present there are three main classes for motorcycles: those manufactured before 31/12/1960 (the Pre60 class); those manufactured before 31/12/1965 (the Pre65 class); and those manufactured before 31/12/1974 (the Pre74 class). Within each class there are also subdivisions according to engine capacity.

Just about every weekend between March and October there is a Classic Scramble meeting being held somewhere in the UK, with some riders travelling extensively. The Pre65 Motocross Club, of which I am a member, organises around ten meetings a year in Essex and Suffolk and many of our members only ride in those meetings. Details of the club and where it’s meetings are held can be found on it’s website at http://www.pre65.co.uk/ .

Meetings are open to the public, and usually a small charge is made for spectators. So if you’re interested is seeing some ‘old gits’ on a variety of classic British (and the occasionally early European) machinery, come along a have a look. Just to prove the Shiny Stormer does get used, the two photos accompanying this entry were taken at our Marks Tey meeting October ’07.

Saturday, 24 January 2009


It's 2009. The excesses of Christmas, New Year and Burn's Night are gone and past and it's time to start thinking about the upcoming race season. This will be my sixth season with the Pre65 Motocross Club and I feel this will be the year that everything falls into place and I really start to get faster! It's all in the mind, of course, and I'm sure my physical shortcomings and the large yellow streak up my back won't hamper my progress at all!

To the right is my Shiny AJS Stormer that is my primary race bike. A replica of a 1972 model, it was built from new parts seven years ago and I was lucky enough to come across it in pristine condition. After a few years use and a couple of knocks it's not quite so shiny but near enough. My other bike is a BSA B50, the bike I lusted after in the 1970s when I last raced but couldn't afford. Notorious for being difficult to start, after many attempts it now seems to be fairly reliable and I look forward to using it more this season.

This blog will, hopefully follow the preparation for the seasion and the successes, and failures, of a complete duffer - always assuming I don't injure my typing fingers!

Anyway, welcome to my blog. Hopefully it will be at times informative, funny, interesting and worth following. If not, I'm sure you'll let me know.