Sunday, October 03, 2004

Edinburgh Trial

Well it's happened and I'm back safely. Here's a report I've done for the Morini Riders' Club:

For a few years I’ve competed on a little Yamaha in the trials organised by the Motor Cycling Club and ever since buying the Kanguro I’d planned to do one on it. These trials are one of motorcycling’s best kept secrets. There are 3 of these each year and have been running for a century in basically the same format. The overall plan is to travel 200 miles or so along a route of country roads and conquer a dozen or so unsurfaced hills without ‘footing’ or coming to an unscheduled stop. Just to spice things up, the first half of the route is at night thereby adding the additional problems of tiredness and darkness.
I’m a newcomer to motorcycling altogether and find the trials very challenging and at no time have I ever come close to clearing all sections faultlessly. So quite why I wanted to swap my Yamaha, which is probably the second best machine for such an event, for an older and unwieldy Kanguro is a mystery to me. Maybe it would give me an excuse for doing so badly?
As summer passed the Edinburgh Trial date of 2nd October got alarmingly close and the list of work to be done gradually got shorter. Years ago the Edinburgh Trial really went to Edinburgh but now it is a tour around Staffordshire and the Peak District for reasons all to do with increasing regulation of motorsport. The location means that I am familiar with some of the hills, but that doesn’t mean that I can ride up them easily.
The journey down the M1 to Tamworth was far easier then on the Yamaha and I was quite pleased that 90 minutes on the motorway hadn’t caused anything to blow up or fall off. By 3am I was on the first section which is an easy farm track, albeit rather slippery at the top. Naturally I blew it and dabbed where I really didn’t need to. The main thing was that I had made a start. The second section is a fairly steep ascent into woodland with a lovely view from the top, well in daylight anyway. The route instructions warned of an ‘unguarded drop on left’ which might frighten the newcomers but isn’t as bad as it sounds. The Kanguro romped up there and everything was looking good. I’ve done a complete 12V rewire and I was getting plenty of light with the engine revving in first. I’d decided that second was a bit high and I was scared of stalling due to the left kickstart in neutral scenario that you’re all familiar with. This is ‘idiosyncratic’ on the road but would be a nightmare in the dark on a hill; especially when neutral disappears when you want it. Roads and sections came and went and by dawn I was at the first of the mudbaths. Having seen a rider on an Africa Twin sail across and a 2CV meander without too many problems it should have been easy, but lacking confidence I paddled the bike across; no stalling though!
After a pub cooked breakfast we went to Ladybower where the club has permission to ride on a bridleway. It’s a fairly easy but sinuous stony track and just needs care and good cornering. Success, the Kanguro is beautifully balanced. Over the next few sections the bike exceeded my expectations but clear sections were few due to poor riding. I found the power delivery reasonably progressive and managed to keep traction up a long grassy bank where others failed to maintain purchase. The final section was another mudbath with a very slippery hill. An MGB in front slithered up and I followed inelegantly on 2 wheels and 2 feet.
Eventually I reached the end. Despite the trial being enjoyable the end always comes as a relief to me as I’m always tired (awake for 33 hours by now, less the odd snooze at rest points) and usually wet and cold. This year the weather had been ideal. Rain beforehand to make the course ‘competitive’ but basically dry for the journey. After signing-off I was looking forwards to a quick journey home for sleep, but the bike wouldn’t start. I really don’t know if I needed choke, less throttle or more throttle, or a remagnetised rotor, or most likely, a bit more energy in my leg. Luckily the Kanguro is sufficiently unusual to attract attention and discussion and I was offered a push. 5 yards was enough and off I went feeling very relieved and slightly embarrassed.
At home I found that the exhaust nuts had vibrated loose; that would account for the progressive increase in engine noise I’d tried to ignore! I still need to find out why the headlight had a few minutes of flickering just before dawn; is it a poor connection or had I leant on the switch? The poor starting needs attention and I suspect I’ll be getting the rotor seen to as there’s nothing to lose.
I think my result will be a little worse than in previous years but overall I’m pleased to have turned a non-runner into a ‘competitive’ bike. Hopefully I’ll gain confidence in riding it, overcome my fear of stalling and ride it in another trial. Just a few niggles to sort out before Easter…

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