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'!