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.