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 cafĂ© (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.