Classic MX des Nations : Race Day. Ballyblack 17th Sept 2016

Early start for the team at the cottage, with first practice due at 8h15 for the 30+ team. The sun was out and the wind had dropped and a fine day beckoned as we headed over to the track at 07h15. The race day programme is pretty full and long, with the final race not scheduled for 17h30. Each class getting 2 sessions of practice before the team presentations at 12h00 and racing from 13h30.

The scoring for the classes is based on race position, with the lowest total winning. With 4 riders per team and 2 races, the score is taken from the best 6 of 8, where a DNF is scored as 50.  Obviously its important to avoid them and getting the best result can take a little bit of team tactics and planning.  The track at Ballyblack was a long 1.8km / 1.1 mile lap, and would be familiar type to the UK riders. Generally fast with some jumps, which not large gave plenty of air time. Whilst there were some soft patches overall the base of the track was firm and held up pretty well all day. The start was wide and would allow for 40 riders directly on to the gate, so a double line would only be needed for the 50+ race.

For the specific rules, teams and riders the ECMO site, has all the details.  Race position and timings are available on the Mylaps Speedhive page.  For the race report and results, I’ve split it by class.

30+ (rider age), pre72 machines.

With both a Wales-1 and Wales-2 team running in the event some planning was needed, especially as Andy Stanton in the Wales 2 team would be quick. Some discussion prior to racing on how to handle any conflicts over what might be valuable points.

Practice for the 30+ teams went to plan, well almost. Kevin had some fueling problems with the 450 Husky as a result from some crap in the tank. My exhaust cracked and lost a tail pipe in 2nd practice. Thanks for Cecil Pearson’s welder and Pete Hollinshead’s welding skills, it was repaired in 30 minutes so plenty of time before racing.
Race 1 for the 30+ class, with John Cash and Andy Stanton to the fore. Andrew Owen also makes an excellent start.
Race 1 went well for the first 15 seconds, until Guto’s lack of a front brake took out himself and Andy Stanton in the first corner.  A quick restart from Andy saw him get back in to the field quickly. Guto was a bit more off the pace and came off again as he battled to get up the field. After an excellent start, Andrew Owen on the 250cc Husky rode well to keep 16th position. Rob Jones battled hard to take 3rd overall.  The team was in joint 3rd with the England-2 team, behinf England-1 and Northern Ireland-1.
For the Wales-2 team is was mixed. Andy Stanton’s 7th was outstanding, but my Husky seized solid on the back straight on lap 6 and Kevin was struggling after an off on the first lap where he’d injured his leg. Jon Britton rode consistently to finish, but the team ended up with two DNF’s.  Based on the estimated scores the team was therefore in 7th and last place.
For Race 2, the track had held up well and the start didn’t involve a massive pile up of riders. Another brilliant ride got Rob Jones into 6th, with John Cash not far behind. Guto was down on power on the fast circuit on the Peter Lockwood Matchless but got a valuable 13th place. Andrew Owen had an off on the last lap, but still made 18th.   For Wales-2, Andy Stanton got into 6th, 20 seconds ahead of John Cash, though luckily the loss of a point for Wales-1 didn’t make a difference and they got 2nd place behind England-1 and ahead of Northern Ireland-1. With Malcolm Herbert in 20th, Jon Britton in 21st and Kevin Pettit (with leg injury) in 25th, it was all 4 finishing and therefore the two DNF’s from race 1 could be dropped, and they ended up 5th, ahead of Scotland and Northern Ireland-2.
A great result for Wales-1, especially as the England-2 team looked as strong as their first team on paper. The first ever trophy for Wales at the Classic MXdN, but there was more to come.
50+ / Pre70 Machines.
The Welsh team was made up of Pete Hollinshead, Andy Carter, Dai Walker and Derek Brice. Pete was mounted on his unfashionable A10 and was looking to continue the form he showed in Mortimer the previous year and hold off the massed ranks of CZ machinery. Andy Carter had swapped his normal TriBSA mount for a 380 CZ, and loaned a 250 CZ to Derek Brice. As with the 30+ class, a 250cc bike is needed by each team and this provides a real challenge for the teams. Recent form from Dai Walker on his now 440cc BSA justified his selection, but the whole team had a tough ask in what was the premier event, with 11 teams from 10 nations taking part.
Pete managed 3rd into the first corner in race 1, but the heavy BSA was a challenge round the track which had some big jumps and relatively tight turns. He ended

up 8th, with Dai Walker coming in 21st in a race that was dominated by the 3 man Northern Ireland team that finished 1st, 4th and 6th (after losing the 250cc rider with an injury during practice), with Laurance Spence taking the win ahead of Keith Best. England were in 2nd with the Czech Republic (with their only team present at this this year Classic MXdN lying ahead of Scotland.
In race 2 Pete took the holeshot and battled hard to stay in contention eventually finishing in 11th on what was a rougher track on the second 20 minute + 1 lap moto. The rest of the team performed better than in race 1, with Brian in 21, Andy Carter in 23rd and Derek Brice in 30th.  The final position of 7th overall was a little unfortunate as had they each gained 3 places over both moto’s they would have ended up 4th, ahead of Scotland.  It was a tough ask against some strong teams, but Northern Ireland’s win was a highlight of the day and the Laurence Spence v Keith Best battle in race 2 excellent to watch.
In the 60+ / Pre65 bikes  it was going to be a tough ask, and with Geoff Taylor, Dave Bevan from the 2015 event, joined by Welsh championship and Moseley club riders Alistair Fowlie and Bob Twigg, it wasn’t made easier by mechanical issues before and during the meeting. Geoff’s Twinport CZ snapped a gearshaft the week before the event and with spares not being highly available he’d travelled to Ballyblack not sure what bike he’d be riding. He ended up on Malcolm Herbert’s Husqvarna, with the gear change on the wrong side and probably not the bike preparation he was used to.  Bob Twigg’s BSA split it’s fuel tank during the first race, but as well as finishing he managed 9th in the 2nd race a strong finish given the competiton, especially from the French who has a 1,2,3 in the first race and whose score of 15 was the lowest (and best) in any class.
The 66+ class had 6 teams entered, with Sweden and Denmark competing alongside the home nations. Mick Maskelyne competed in 2015 and Peter Lockwood moved up from the 60+, whilst long-time championship support David Simpson rode for Wales this year, along with Bonanza regular Peter Yates. England, with both Phil Edwards and Doug Sherbourne looked well placed and so it proved with a 1,3,5 finish in race 1. With Denmark picking up 50 points for a DNF, Wales were lying a theorectical 3rd with Peter Yates finishing 12th and Mick in 13th.   Race 2 saw a victory for the Swedish rider Jorgen Ahlstrom after a poor start from Doug Sherbourne, but David Simpson started well and got home in 13th place, 1 ahead from Peter who had another consistent ride.  Mick misjudged the fuel needed for the race and stopped on the last lap. Though some there was conjecture at trackside that this may have cost Wales 3rd place, this was not the case as the top 3 of England, Denmark and Sweden were well ahead of Wales with a margin of 48 points.  Wales did come ahead of Scotlad and Northern Ireland.
Wales didn’t have a 70+ team for 2015, but Team Manager Paul Prosser had hunted across the Principality to get a team together. With the late withdrawl of the German team (who competing against was used an incentive) Wales was guarenteed a poduim finish. Brian Walker decided not to ride on the preceeding day, so it was down to John Dunscombe (who had ridden as part of the 66+ team the previous year), Gerald Llewelyn and Corwyn Jones were left to make up the team. With 6 finishes needed the priority was avoiding a DNF. With the Llewelyn Ariel / JAP shedding a magneto in practice, it looked like a familiar pattern seen at Narberth or Teifiside. However paddock miracles were worked and both Gerald and bike finished both races, as did the steady Corwyn Jones on Dai Walkers bike, who primarily concern was preserving it for the 50+ race. However ride of the day went to John Dunscome, who after coming 2nd to Cecil Peason (the JAP Metisse guy) in race 1, went on to win race 2, and thereby becoming the first Welsh rider to win an Classic MXdN race. Superb stuff.

Classic MX des Nations Day 2 : prep day 16th Sept 2016

Overall the entries for the Classic MX des Nations were down on previous years, probably due to the location in Northern Ireland, would meant high travel costs and a long journey for the continental teams. There was no team from Belgium and only 1 team from the Czech Republic.  The only number of teams for the 30+ meant that both England and Wales were allowed to enter second teams, something usually only the host country can do for Wales it allowed some of the people already committed to travel as reserves and helpers to get a ride at one of the premier motocross events.


Having two teams in one race can mean some thought needs to go into planning, as you don’t want the ‘B’ team as such taking points away from the A team. With Andy Stanton coming in as a last minute replacement for Paul Prosser, who rightly decided that being Team Captain was going to take a lot of his time on the day, we had a quick rider who was going to mix it with the A team, but plenty of discussion beforehand meant that there was a plan for ensuring the A team got the focus for the event. On paper the England second team was as quick as its first team so would need team orders potentially to ensure the best results.

The 50+ class was the premier event, with 11 teams on the start and this would be the choice event on race day. As a Welsh team, Paul Prosser had done a great job in getting a team in each class, with the 70+ team now guaranteed a trophy, as the German team had pulled out at the last minute. The sure thing in other classes was with the very impressive, BSA-mounted French team in the 60+ class who’d looked really good in Mortimer last year. However you’d suspect the England would do badly not to finish on the podium in each race.


Classic MX des Nations Day 2

Walking the track; it was a long way round


The day before race day can be a long and somewhat fraught one with plenty of organisational issues along the lines of “cat herding”.  After a relatively quiet night, got to the track for 08h30 and after putting up the pop-up in the sunny, but slightly chilly morning it was time to walk the track. Some feedback from other people in the Welsh team that this really was a long track (2 miles), I set my running/cycling GPS watch and we set off.  You could have been in Devon, with wide corners and grass on the circuit, something the continental riders rarely see. Alberto from ECMO mentioned a few times how good it was to see a track like this, and though there had been some complaints it was something very different for many riders.

Classic MX des Nations Day 2

The boggy section which was cut out for race day. 

The back straight was of Hanbury proportions, but with two jumps en route, the second of which would provide some significant air time for the quicker riders. The main discussion point was on a 150m boggy section at the back of the track, which because of the surrounding reed beds made it feel very much like Abbeycwmhir. The discussion with teams, organiser John Colling and the Clerk of the Course would mean the most of this would be taken out before practice.  The GPS showed the track at just under 2km in length, slightly less once the boggy section was removed.

Back in the paddock, Paul got down to finding riders, sorting race shirts and numbers and checking that everyone was aware of with what needed to be done.  With the ECMO meeting and the preparation for racing tomorrow not really starting to 14h30, along with Kevin and Graham headed off to do some shopping and find some lunch.

The ECMO meeting was relatively short and had some interesting notes, in particular on the European CEC rounds for 2017 and that the Classic des Nations will be in the Czech Republic in 2018. Also, the draw was made for starting positions (as there is no timed practice for the Des Nations) and where it mattered, Paul drew some good slots for the teams, especially with slot 2 for the 50+ class. Wales avoided being the on the jury this year, after being selected at Mortimer the previous year.

Classic MX des Nations Day 2

Start slots as drawn by the country managers


After the entry fee was paid it was time for scruitineering. Safety checks for bikes were done by the club, with the 4 countries of the jury keeping an eye out for eligibilty. Whilst the ECMO rules are clear and relatively tight watching the time of bikes come through it was clear that some pushing of boundaries had taken place in many sheds and workshops across Europe. No real checks on suspension travel were made (and it was clear that some had more than the maximum front and rear) and that some bikes were out of age range. Whilst as a Welsh team we had two bikes we were aware of that were open to interpretation, having a 1974 Maico for the pre70 class was pushing it a bit. Some of the Husky’s were pushing it a bit, with mid-80’s twin leading shoe front brakes in one case. Potentially something for ECMO to think about in future, especially with the change to pre74 for the 30+ and 50+ for next season.

The riders then signed on and it was time for food and a trip to the excellent beer tent / main marquee as the evening settled in and thoughts turned to race day.

Classic MX des Nations Day 2

Friday night beer tent with Welsh team strategy being actively discussed. Scots and Irish also present with the England team under instruction for an early night. Winning is everything. 



Classic MX des Nations 2016 : Day 1

Relatively early start from Bwlch primarily to allow plenty of time to get to Holyhead with breaks for food and drinks. Team captain Paul Prosser, fellow Wales 30+ B team member Kevin Pettit and Graham Lee Green (holidaymaker) all in the van.  The two Husqvarna’s, my 1970 Hallman and Kevin’s 1972 450 were in the trailer, along with lots of spares and tools. Some fuel and the gas were also loaded up. My other bolt up Husqvarna was making the trip with Dai Walker and contingent, who were also travelling up and aiming to be on the same ferry.

As with events of this nature actually getting the van is a relief as it means you move from planning to actually doing. For Paul is particular it had been pretty stressful with lots of phone calls and some last minute changes to sort out. Geoff Taylor’s CZ had snapped a lay shaft and various rider injuries and ailments were cause for concern. Then there is the politics of who’s in the team and more significantly who’s not. The last minute additional of a Welsh B Team was good as it gives a rare opportunity for some riders to take part, but also created some issues with selection.


Classic MX des Nations

First stop for breakfast in Mallwyd. Stopped here on my Cambrian Way walk and good place for a fry up and the 4.99 breakfast did the job. The Walker clan were heading up the A470 behind us, somewhere between Rhayader and Newtown so we took our time but still no sign when we left. Quick stop in Dolgellau to collect cash and have a near collision with a taxi. Made it Holyhead with an hour to spare so stopped for pints for the passengers and a coffee for the driver

The route up through Wales to Holyhead isn’t quick, but you cannot say it’s not pleasant. No traffic either.
The port queue for the Stena ferry to Dublin had Wales and England team participants ready to go. Due to some miss waving of hands we managed to get the van the holeshot positon off the ferry which would probably the only time we would do it all weekend.

Classic MX des Nations

Leaving Dublin port is a race itself as you battle with trucks to get out and through to the north bound M1 as quickly as posssible during rush our traffic. Excellent fun and spent hours getting out of Dublin in rush hour, the 10 euros toll for the tunnel is money well spent. 

Easy and straightforward drive north and two hours later we were sitting with fish and chips in Newtonards. One thing you can say about a MX road trip is that the diet can result in cases of scury. Holidaymaker Graham was later seen dropping a lime into the top of a pint of lager as a precaution. 

Classic MX des Nations

First stop for drinks in Holyhead (coffee for the driver)

Classic MX des Nations

First off the ferry, due to some interesting maneouvering with the van (and having a Premium crossing as being a loyal Stena user)


Classic MX des Nations

Plenty of good discussion on the ferry, with the team captain (Paul on the right) formulating tactics

 A lot of conversation on the way over had been focused on team tactics, fair and slightly dodgy on how we might be able to advance the Welsh position. Buoyed by the confidence that we would already more successful than last year (3rd place in the 70+ class guaranteed as there were only 3 teams), much mulling over on how to improve in other classes. 

Classic MX des Nations

All too much for the holidaymaker. Only his second visit to Ireland (after a day trip to Rosslare as the previous) and he slept through it.

 The cottages I’d rented were pleasant enough and after quickly settling in went back into Newtonards for an end of day pint.  Picking one of the more dodgy bars had an interesting discussion with the landlord on power boat racing and the escalating  size of motorhomes at events. 


Classic MX des Nations

Welcome pint and the end of a long (sometimes stressful) day.




Classic MX des Nations bike prep

With two weeks cycling in France before heading across to the Classic MX des Nations in Northern Ireland, it was time for some final bike prep. Unfortunately this was more major than anticipated as the bolt up wasnt running well at Hanbury. Luckily Paul was around to lend a hand. 

I decided not to ride after my poor showing at Teifiside and that Andrew Owen was available again to make the trip. However was going to be a reserve rider so the 1970 Hallman needed sorting. Also the Bolt Up was going to be needed by one of the 70+ team so plenty to do with 1.5 days of intermittent shed time. 

First up a look at the 1970 bike which had gotten a second consectutive puntuce. Got the wheel and tyre off on Sunday night after Hanbury before even washing the bike (which Ive worked out a system for after plenty of recent practice).  Checking the spokes at the track indicated only one loose one, but with the complete tyre off quite a few of the nipples were loose. The wheel is a relatively new build carried out by Jan before he sold the bike so made tightening and adjustment relatively easy. In with a new heavy tube and sorted. 

Some other tweaking with the bike on Monday but attention moved to the Bolt Up. Changed the RH crankseal and checked the carb manifold gasket as well as cleaning the carb. However getting ready for a test and there was no spark. The ignition timing on the Bolt Up has been a regular challenge later on in the season. Testing the stator and coil resistance as well as the continuity between and all seemed okay. Some debate between Paul and I on the spark plugs but nothing. Adjourning for dinner and to think I went back out later and tried a Bosch rather than an NGK plug and a spark was there.  

Still not starting so squirted in some EasyStart into the carb mouth. Fired up though again the engine running too quickly. End on Monday and only a few hours on Tuesday to fix as I also needed to work. Some thinking and decided that to put the older Bolt Up engine from the ‘more original’ bike into the frame. 

Good plan which though easy in principle than practice as it seems no two 4-speed engines are the same (though they might initially look this way). Some have an extra bead for strength which means they do not fit some engine mounts. 

So plan C was revert to the ‘original’  bike with small hubs, side float Bing carb and very wide (but period) handlebars. Should be good for Brian Walker’s nostalgia. 
The lack of a front brake on the bike was due to ingress of mud and water forming a vicose paste across shoes and liner, which through some workshop chemical engineering Paul managed to resolve. The engine was placed back in to the frame and the carb cleaned. These fail in two ways whilst racing when the bottom bolt comes loose or if the float chamber gets grit into it stopping the float from dropping and allowing fuel in. 

Quick test up the lane and all good with only a slight rattle from the engine. Ready to a practice session up at the farm. 

And then news from ECMO that due to the low number of entries for the 30+ in Northern Ireland they were allowing second teams from England, Scotland and Wales. So I will be riding after all. 

Hanbury Scramble : first visit and a good one

I’d never ridden at Hanbury for some reason and in my 7th season of racing I’d not managed to get to the track near Droitwich, until now. After some tuning of both the bolt-up and Hallmann Husky’s after frustrating day’s at Teifiside and Abbeycwmhir, I was hoping for a test run or two and maybe some good racing. Picked Paul up at 7am and headed up the A40 again after the National Motorcycle Museum visit the previous day. it rained all the way up to Monmouth and of course stopped as we headed over to the border into Herefordshire. Much brighter weather then ensued and arrived at the track just after 08h30, in a large field below the main track. 

Efficiency with signing on and picking up the transponders from Track Times, who have increased the presence at Classic MX events significantly over the last couple of years. Dai Walker on the recently re-engined BSA was on the preparation trail before the Classic MX des Nations and made the trip up with John, who is useful to have a long with the spanners.  Unlike Teifiside, felt pretty chilled, not too much pressure and looking for a nice days racing.

The track is known for the hills, off-cambers and the long start-finish straight and it lived up to expectations. Practice was also slippery and touching the rear brake on the Bolt-Up had me off on the first off camber corners. Good to know it wasn’t just me as others also came off, but struggled to get on the pace though was bit better when I went out on the Hallman for the final practice session after the sidecars. The Bolt-Up was running and revving high after the 3rd pass down the long straight. Still trying to get it to run cleanly though it’s starting is better. It wasn’t the idle adjustment, which I adjusted by the track (and then lost) and the cable wasn’t sticking. No joy in sorting this out and seems like a leaking crankseal or air getting in somewhere on the bike. Further research to be done.

First race in the pre68 up to 350cc went okay and the track was bedding in a bit, with some of the grass coming off the top of pretty firm soil. Lines were appearing on the corners and its a tricky track than needs to be learnt. Good battle with Andrew Davies and he got past me on lap 4 and I think we were 8th or 9th respectively in what was a pretty healthy line-up. Parked the bike up next to the pit box and walked over to find John and Paul before watching Dai out in the next race on the BSA.  They’d walked up to watch practice earlier and the second walk up the hill up from the paddock had resulted in more cups of tea and a thought of adjourning to the nearby pub and watching the racing from a distance. No complaints from me as managed to get some cups of tea, cake and even an ice cream later on. All very pleasant as the sun broke though and watching the racing with an excellent crowd. Not so pleasant was the rain shower that came before the first pre74 over 250cc race and the subsequent coming together between John Cash and Wayne Partington on the first lap. Both riders went down and whilst John as just shaken, Wayne ended up leaving in the ambulance with a dislocated shoulder and suspected broken collar bone.  Plenty of concern from the other riders, marshals and spectators, whilst Paul ‘Welsh Team Captain’ Prosser was thinking on running over to see if 1/4 of his 30+ team was still intact and inflicting a kiss of life if needed. Also, potential not so good for Wayne and his England ride, as was the fact the ambulance broke down on the way to the hospital.

The sidecar boys and girls, feeling left out as the normal banker for a race stoppage managed a red flag on their own as it all got a bit too keen after the start of the race and destroyed a large section of the track. These delays meant the Jeff Smith Trophy race was shelved and interval being taken. Rain had now stopped and we adjourned to the paddock and caught some sun and a nice chilled out and relaxed atmosphere. Happy with my first race, I was looking forward to more.

I missed a gear off the start and lost 4 or 5 places as result, but went much better on the bike and some of the confidence from Narberth was back and ended up with another battle with Andrew Davies, which I lost again on the final lap. Front brake adjuster had moved again, so took the bike back to paddock and did some quick fixes before heading up for the pre74 up to 250cc race. Had a good battle with Derek Brice on his Bultaco (more Classic MX des Nations prep)  who I got past on lap 3, but who got back past me whilst I slowed down under a yellow flag  (my opinion) as one of the Elsinore contingent crashed through the tape. Good racing and what was now an excellent track.

Parked the bike up again and Paul came over with a bottle of water and we sat on the grass watching some good racing, including the sidecars and the 2nd British Championship race (won easily by Tim Dallaway).  Alas, in the last pre68 race, I acquired another puncture which it was more than an isolated incident at Teifiside. Rather than trying to fix, decided after 4 races, that enough was enough and I’d park the bike up. Had a chat with a few people in the paddock and then after a 10 minute deliberation on what pub we’d go to, we eventually decided on the one who’s car park you needed to drive through to leave the track. Along with Jon and Reuben, the four of us sat in the sun and watched the end of the racing from afar. Very pleasant.

Post race diagnosis and pre Classic MX des Nations bike prep focused on getting rhe bolt up ready for the 70+ team (either Corwyn Jones or Brian Walker).

Hanbury Scramble 28th Aug 2016

View of the paddock and the track from the adjacent pub car park. 

Hanbury Scramble 28th Aug 2016

And the rain returned as we headed back into Wales



Hanbury Scramble 28th Aug 2016

More that a normal puncture. The tube had ripped, probably as a result of a couple of loose spokes, 

 Great event and well organised by the Moseley club. Will be back next year !

National Motorcycle Musuem visit

Whilst the daughter’s were enjoying the Insomnia gaming festival I managed a trip to Ikea in Coventry (as part of a current petit barn conversion) and a long overdue trip to the National Motorcycle Musuem (NMM) across the M42 from the NEC.

Last time I was here was at a conference whilst still working for Becta in 1999. Becta as a government quango is no more and same goes for the majority of the motorcycle manufacturers in the NMM. From Scott to Norman and Villiers to DMW most have passed though the branding is strong and some, like Triumph have grown again.

The NMM was nearly no more in 2003 after a fire which destroyed some of the bikes and part of the building and at the time I thought it might be a good thing as the whole place had the feeling and decor of a venue once frequented by Jasper Carrot [1] or Bernard Manning.  Brown walls and carpets and lined up exhibits are what the 1970s musuem experience was like based on a memory I had with Reading Town Musuem. The rebuild might to have looked to carry out a bit of an update, but somehow they’ve kept the ambiance that was there before, made up of low key atmosphere, workshop smell and general underwhelming initial impression.


National Motorcycle Museum

Greeves scrambler, with a road racer to the right. The last hall had the competition machinery, with lots of road racers but some off road competition machinery. 

When you’ve got 1000 bikes in the collection, the obvious thing to do is to line them up in date and manufacturer order across 5 halls; this is what they’ve done. Whilst the visitor with some bike experience and knowledge of the history of the British bike industry will get a lot from the well restored and presented exhibits, you can get a bit overwhelmed with the subtle differences between a  1956 and 1957 BSA model.  There are some great photos, of bikes and riders but the floor mounted descriptions of the bike aren’t easy to read and are a bit wordy.

What the NMM achieves is capturing the past glories of the British motorcycle industry that dominated the world market even in the 60’s but somehow, in some way lost the plot in a market being eroded by cheap car ownership, overseas competition from Europe and the Far East and a general complacency and inefficiency in the industry.  Every company, market or industry should look at this demise and understand how domination can easily become destitution.  Have just ordered an interesting book on the subject.


National Motorcycle Museum


You learn something new everyday and the Stepped Piston was that something today.  Bernard Hooper still has the patents and though the website is designed circa 1998, the piston design is an interesting one which makes for more efficient two-strokes with less emissions.

Managed a quick tour in an hour before adjourning for a tea and a scone to the upstairs restaurant and start on the very nice outside terrace. Actually open 08h30 -> 17h00, it’s a good place to stop if you are travelling up or down the M42 as it has a nice ambience.   Sitting on the terrace with one eye on the incoming storm, I also contemplated that the number of oily trays and display stands were indeed indicative of British bikes and their perceived mechanical troubles and that this was also a factor. You could pay good money for the Rolls Royce of bikes, the Brough Superior but a lot of the cheap workmanlike bikes were not that well built and not as well built as European scooters or your 125 Japanese machine.



Les Archer 500T Norton Trials. Liked the look of this. 

The last few years has seen the rise and rise of the retro bike and there is no doubt some of the machines are style icons. Whilst its also easy to lump British bikes into single cylinder BSA’s that leaked oil everywhere, there was significant diversity, from the Villiers engined bikes like Norman’s through the liquid cooled Scott’s. (see the model history, to understand how a 1908 bike was still being made in the 1970’s).


Jeff Smith’s last works BSA, a follow on from the titanium project of 1966. Lots of trick bits on this an and interesting 20″ front wheel. 

Overall, I would say that the museum is well work a visit, but you’ve got to be interested in motorbikes before you go and probably not best to drag along someone who isn’t. You could really do a lot more with the history and stories and Hall 5 with the sporting bikes is the best and you could build on that.  Some displays and thought could be put into the main motorcycle sports, like the Isle of Man TT, circuit racing, scrambles, trials and speedway and include some stories and interesting fact. To some extent, the museum is too full of bikes and it was the sporting events and success in them that to large extent made the companies successful.



[1] By coincidence, heard Jasper Carrots Funky Moped for the first time in ages yesterday.

Heading west…

Back to Penparc near Cardigan for the second time this year and the Teifiside club had made a few adjustments to the track, which is able to fit in plenty of interest in a relatively short space.  After the Bonanza, anything is more interestng than a stubble field with a sub 60 second lap.  Some off cambers and the lines that changed made it challenging for me. I didn’t race well here back in April and this time wasn’t any different and was well off the pace I had at Chester and Abbeycwmhir in July. Been a long week and along with brother-in-law Philip had driven over from Antwerp the previous day, though along with Karl, and Paul we had managed a practice up at Dai’s on the Saturday evening. Philip had selected the Husqvarna Automatic as his weapon of choice for the Sunday racing. The 1975 Husky didn’t want to run and this was eventually traced to the plug cap shorting out on the exhaust. The Automatic gives you time to focus on the track and lines round, rather you having to concern yourself about what gear you are in.


Though entries for the Teifiside had been steady again, but a late flourish with the rare delight of sunny weather promised meant that there were over 100 people racing (90 solos and 12 sidecars), which was another healthy entry for somewhere with the furthest travel for many competitors.
For the pre60/pre65 races and class, it was good to see Dai Walker back, with the bike and rider both running well and pushing Andy Carter in all the races, with Derek Brice well involved in the mix taking the win in the first race. Mick Maskelyne is showing some good form also, prior to his ride in the pre66 class for the Classic MX des Nations.  Matt Morgan had recently bought a bike from Brendan Owen and he’s beginning to get to grips with it and showed some better form.  Had Dai Walker pushed harder, he might have taking the overall win on the day and collected the Cardiganshire Shield from Andy, but probably a reflection of both his return and that for the bike.
The pre78 and Twinshock races were combined, though there were 7 pre78 regulars on the line. It made for some great racing on what is an interesting track, with plenty of ups and downs and choice of racing lines. Rhys Edwards has some great battles with Daniel Griffiths and 2 out of 3 from him, with Nigel Davies  riding consistently to get second overall, as Daniel had a DNF in race 3.  Sam Weaver is continuing to play catch up on points and gained some points on Anthony Guest, who in turned scored only a total of 12 points which only dented slight Kyle Noble’s leaded after he only completed the first race (and that well down the field).
David Weaver got the better of James Edge in all 3 races in the pre78 class, partly through horsepower (275cc more in David’s Bike) and partly though being in the combined race. Some great action though and David has taken the pre78 championship for 2016 as a result. Lee Johnson had a puncture prior to the 2nd race which kept the KX off the starting line, otherwise it might have been very different for the other places, but John Mainwaring and David Goddard scored well and continued as valued supporters of the championship.  Steve Gregson’s CCM enjoyed the return and also managed some consistent finishes in all 3 moto’s.
The sidecars seemed to be enjoying themselves and Rogers/Wernham just edged the points over Jones/Jones over all three races, where the method of points scoping means there is only 2 points between 1st and 2nd. Didn’t get to see much of the racing in the class, so apologies with the brevity here.
The pre68 up to 350cc and pre74 over 250cc class were combined, which meant and an excellent line up of 17 for the first moto and then 16 for the other two races. Phil Anslow won 2 races after Rob Jones was first to the line in race 1, and then broke down on lap1 of race 2. Andrew Owen hasn’t ridden too much this season, but his retun on the bolt-up Husqvarna resulted in some consistent finishes with a best of 4th in the 3rd moto, when he got ahead of fellow Classic MX des Nations teamster Geoff Taylor, who is really finding form on the twinport CZ after switcing from a later 70’s CZ.  In the pre74 class, Ben Weaver won the first two races with the same style and speed he’s shown all season, but he over cooked it in race 3, allowing Willaim Guest (only 17) to take a great win. He is showing some excellent form and style and will be a strong contender for the 2017 season.  Kevin Pettit continues to race well on the ecletic Can Am which is quicker than an Elsinore off the line.
In the Pre68 Unlimited and the Pre74 over 250cc, it was the races between John Cash, Rob Jones and Jonathan Randall which stole the show, with John Cash coming out on top (just) with two wins. Jonathan got the 3rd, with Rob slotting in 2nd for each of the rsaces. Nathan Jones continues to lead the pre68 unlimited class though will be need to race and finish at Llanthony in September to stay ahead of Phil Anslow.
In the Evo’s, the 3rd and final meeting of the season, saw Lee Jones will all three races head of Nigel Davies and Dave James, but it’s Nigel who takes the inaugural championship ahead of both of them. Not a strong turnout and the loss of the Saturday racing at Narberth (because of the separate Evo event) didn’t really help. Some thinking for 2017 is needed.
For me, not the best days racing, and though I missed one race because of a petrol soaked crankcase, I did manage to finish the others, despite a puncture in race 2. Thanks to Andy Carter for the tube and to John, Dai and Kevin in helping with the change. Typically after trying to bump start the bolt-up, it then only took 2-3 metres towed behind the van for it to fire.  However, mind and form were elsewhere and to some extent with Andrew Owen now available to ride in Northern Ireland it’s good to drop back to being the reserve, as like many sports, confidience is part of the mix, along with skill.

What Husqvarna or is it ?

Interested in this engine, and wondering what it is exactly. It is a 175cc and has the classic 4-speed bottom end and looks older than the mid 60’s bolt ups.  However the engine number might suggest that its a Lindstrom.




Not the best day…

The entry regs for the Bonanza should be seen as a warning rather than an invitation as the require some complex calculation of classes and what you can ride. Adrian Moss’s event has had to move venue to Sapperton from its previous home, where its heyday it would have seen 300 riders. 

There are a number of reasons why day wasn’t the best in no particular order. 

  1. The bolt up Husky (the only one that was eligible) didnt run right after practice and whilst it finished race 1, it only made a lap of race 2. Given everything else, it went in the back of the van. 
  2. The track was a stubble field and not a big one at that. It was quick and a lap probably took around a minute. It had a few rocks in it and a nice sheen on the straw. Dare I say it some people on bigger British stuff would have liked it. Plenty of trailing leg. 250cc two stroke it wasnt. 
  3. Given the track size a total of 12 minutes racing was on offer (I was only eligible for one class)
  4. Organisationally its an interesting setup and it could have been better. As an AMCA steward you might have commented on the marshall points as the corner apexes, driving a Suzuki Vitara on the track during the sidecar race and the fencing between spectators and fast moving realtively heavy sidecars. 
  5. A bit of a verbal before the event. 
  6. Not so much in a racing mood

Out in first practice once agaij note to self to get the Michelin M12 tyre off the rear as it seems capable of sliding out on any surface. Bike went well for a couple of laps and then starting missing slightly under load. Changed the plug and got worse for 2nd practice session so went back to the original plug. 

1st started ago and got away from the wonky start line (which was 45 degrees rather than 90 to the line to first corner). However bike started missing and dropped a couple of places. Got an elbow as a guy went by on the last lap who then went into the back of Andrew Davies and went over on a fast corner. 

Watched a couple of races from behind the start and the tight line saw Peter Yates (all the way from Aberdeen) lock bars with Jon Britton. Their previous close encounter was when Jon ran over him at the Bonanza a couple of years back. 

The sidecars were impressive and given it was a British Championship round they had a 15 minute, 13 lap race. It wasnt going to take much for one of the bikes to head into the stakes and rope at speed. When it did happen there was a break in racing as more rope was put up.

On other days I would have spent more time looking to fix the bike and gone out for the 3rd race but it was a bit marginal for 4 minutes of racing.

Took a bit longer to drive back and after washing the bike had a couple of visitors in Kevin and then Paul. Cup of tea and looked the the ignition stator first and the stator plate bolts had cime loose. Therefore the timing was a little bit erratic. Again a maintenance issue and really need to come up with a check list after each meeting as well more time. 

Cleaned out the area behind the rotor (which was full of crap) and with some locktight but it back together. Based on 2mm before TDC this engine is too advanced (it has some significant compression)  so with adjustment the bike then fired up and a quick blast up the lane and running fine. 
Some other maintenance to do including checking the wiring to coil and fixing a small leak in the petrol tank. Oh and changing the rear tyre. 

Mid 70’s day

After starting out getting some old tyres off the rims for the 360 Bolt Up project, I decided to look at the 1975 CR250 as it might be need for Teifiside in a couple of weeks. 

Despite having not been cleaned or run for 3 months it fired up 5th kick. Went through it and tightened some bolts and sorted out the cables and levers. Clutch is pretty light anyway. The front brake is on the end of the adjustment but all in all not bad. The 1976 seat and base I put on it doesnt look perfect but it works. The 75 bike is taller than the 76 models for some reason so it is slight higher than some of the period. I’d fitted some YSS shocks a while ago and they work well. 

All tidy and ready for racing, I moved on to the 1976 360 Automatic. This had stopped working in the pit box and the Devon meeting back at the end of May and an evenings investigation with Paul afterwards failed to get it running beyond a lumpy slow run with no response from the throttle. 

Previous endeavours had looked at the crankseal, fuel tap, changed the carburettor, checked the flywheel and stator, checked the rotor side crankseal and removed the air filter. The somewhat toytown kill switch had also been connected. This latter expedient is slightly risky on a bike you cannot stall to stop and is only recommended if you have the air filter housing off and you can put your hand across the carb inlet. 

First up I changed the petrol (well you never know) but still the same low speed lurching. Some more research and could be that the ring is sticking. Unlikely given its relatively new but had a look anyway. Removed the head and barrel, but piston and ring looked fine. Next step was to change the crankseal behind the flywheel.  The seals and housing is the same as on the older 4 speed bikes (back to 1964) so had some in stock so swapped them over. 

Still no joy and the same lumpy running. Next moved onto the ignition as I’d earlier eliminated the fuel side of things. The stator looked worn with some plastic having come away. However, as it was easier I changed the ignition coil first. The one in stock had a short HT lead and the Motoplats are sealed units but managed to rig it for a test anyway. And voila, running okay. So the Motoplat unit was faulty. 

I rigged in the replacement using one mount bolt rather than two and this seemed to do the trick with just enough lead to reach the plug cap. 

Further tidy up and a cup of tea and a successful day in the garage. 

How to break a drought….

….hold a scramble at Abbeycwmhir. After three weeks of nice weather we were due to have some rain and so it did at Abbeycwmhir. It rained on and off all day, but never heavy enough to get the mudfest from May and an impossible track. It’s a shame as a good entry, a well laid out track and one of the best locations in the country for Classic MX were all set up for a great days racing.  Karl Stevens (along with Katja)  had travel up with myself and Paul from Bwlch, after a pleasant and entertaining barbeque the previous evening.  Paul’s heartbreak over the tank from his Cagiva continues and so he’d didn’t ride, with Dai Walker also not riding as he was detained by bailing and awaiting a new engine for his BSA.


Mid Wales Classic, July 2016 -  First Race Of The Day

First race of the day. Guto’ getting stuck on the gate didn’t stop him winning the race from last on the Peter Lockwood Matchless


The paddock looked decidedly quieter than it did in May, though with 91 entries, it wasn’t too quiet. Perhaps it was better parking or less of the massive campers from the British Championship travelling contingent. Some alterations to the track and relatively narrow in places as it weaved between the reeds and boggy ground across the hillside. The adverse camber corners were there, which are fun wet or dry. It’s a track I struggle on with the 250 as you need easily available power to get out of the corners and up the hills (and probably a better rider)

My own day started badly but got better, but finished with a tinge of disappointment (a bit like dancing with your mates to ‘Come on Eileen’ and then being left dancing with the “girl you fancied” best friend to  Spandau Ballet’s ‘True’ during the erection section at the end of the night). One thing that does need to change are the Michelin M12’s on the Bolt-Up. Whilst they are the mud and grass tyre, compared with the hard pack S12’s. However, S12’s are the one’s to have it seems and the difference in grip on the rear between the bikes was significant. That said, the longer framed Bolt-Up doesn’t seem to grip so well.

Plenty of themes during the meeting apart from the weather, including Paul Prossers continuing quest to find the elusive holy grail that is the team for the Classic MX des Nations. That this quest involves finding riders of the right age, who have a bike of the right age, which is of the right capacity and stroke, who are willing to travel to Northern Ireland and who don’t get upset when they initially don’t get picked and refuse to come when they are asked later.  A thankless task akin to that undertaken by Sir Lancelot, without the adultery of course.   However with the submission of teams due by August 15th still time for some further selections.

Mid Wales Classic, July 2016 - Scrap For The Lead

Guto Llewellyn and Pete Hollinshead battle it out


In the Pre60/Pre65/Metisse races, there was healthy line-up with Pete Hollinshead making his second appearance of the season and probably expecting his usual 3 wins out of 3 on his pre60 machine.  It had been pointed out to Pete and Andy Carter that they might have a bit of challenge on the day as Guto Llewellyn had been united with a reliable bike, in the form of Peter Lockwood’s might Matchless in preparation for the Classic MX des Nations. The Matchless has been used for a few visits by Mick Andrews to the Bonanza see [1] below and as well as being a powerful beast it’s been well set. When it was pointed out that Guto would be challenging Pete, Andy mentioned that he’d need to get past him. After getting stuck in the gate on the first rate, Guto went past Andy, and everyone else in the field to show that on a big bike that lasts more than a lap, Guto is a force to be reckoned with, with a style that will be well suited to Ballyblack.  My own race ended on lap one, with a frayed throttle cable jamming the carb open and putting me on the deck. Kill switches are pointless on stuck open throttles as I’ve noticed in the past.

As I was back at the van in the paddock changing the throttle cable, whilst my toolbox filling up with rain water, I didn’t seen much of the first block of racing.  In the pre74 up to 250cc, Ben Weaver’s search for a decent competitor if Kris Winder isn’t riding continues. He won all three moto’s but outstanding ride on the day goes to Kevin Petitt on the Can Am which he’d picked up from Simon Reilly earlier in the year. It uses the disk vale Rotax engine (the same as SWM trials bikes) and even though it has an enduro disk, they are serious quick out of the box, not requiring the serious mods required for Elsimores or pre74 Yamahas. Kevin grabbed a second and two 3rd’s, whilst William Guest continued to have a great season on the CZ. Gary Wolstenholme has also shown some form this season and along with Chris Lewis (also Honda) and Sam Gittoes (CZ), was well ahead of the rest of the field. The pre74 250 class is the best place for newcomers and older riders a like and it was good to seem some battles down the field, with Karl ‘Savlon’ Stevens having a good day out on his Suzuki TM250 despite the conditions.  Dominic Wall was also back after injury ended his season early last year.


Mid Wales Classic, July 2016 -  Rob Jones

Rob Jones flying

It was great to see pre78 series sponsor Alan Woods back after his early season injury and he was back on the pace for the first two races before engaging in a 50m slide into the first corner in the last race. More John Curry than Bob Hannah, it showed the power of the rear brake on the YZ125. No further damage done and he’ll be back for Teifiside. It was good to see the pre78’s have their own race and David Weaver’s horsepower (400 ish Maico) against James Edge’s 125cc Suzuki meant he edged it on the day, but it provided some great racing.  After numerous rants and workshop woes on Facebook Lee ‘Fallguy’ Johnson got 3 finishes and is now pushing for championship recognition. As well as actually racing this might involve not giving Alan a lift to meetings and ensuring David Goddard is suitably distracted.

Classic MX des Nations hero (after pushing his bike over the line at Mortimer) Rob Jones won all 3 pre68 unlimited races from the advanced pit position ahead of Phil Anslow and Mitchell Harris. Nathan Jones on the 400 Husqvarna scored well again and continues to lead the championship [2].   The pre74 over 250cc battle between John Cash and Jonathan Randall continues, with John getting the first two races ahead of Jonathan and the out-of-class Ben Weaver (looking for some competition). However a loose rear axle nut and the resulting lock-up meant that Jonathan collected more points on the day to keep the championship alive with two rounds to go.  The ‘Ian’s’ Fenwick and Hall both had consistent and good riders given the conditions and along with Sam Gittoes picked up some good points in what was the smallest pre74 field of the season.

By contrast, the pre68 350cc lineup was unusually healthy made up of both regulars and visitors. Rob Jones raced out of class and won all three races, and after winning race 1 Doug Sherbourne retired (not sure why) leaving Mitchell Harris to pick up the most points. Championship leader Phil Anslow also scored well, proving it was just the right motivation that was needed to have a blistering season. Geoff Taylor has acquired a ECMO eligible Twinport CZ and after a couple of experimental run-outs so far this season seems to have got the hang of it and got the points ahead of Vince Hale and Malcolm Herbert.

Mid Wales Classic, July 2016 - Pre-74 up to 250cc Class

Andy Lane and Karl Stevens in the pre74 250cc class


I’ve not got the sidecar results, and didn’t watch any of the racing (due to fixing bikes). However, from my location in the paddock I could see Adam Longmore struggling with his outfit’s performance. In a move to extract more power from the Yamaha XT600 engine recently scavanged from the scrappers he’d decided to increase the fuelling by doing without a pilot jet in the carb.  Meanwhile, racing continued and I do know the Chell’s won the first two races. I did watch them cleaning the chain between races. The little details obviously count.

A healthy Twinshock class was dominated by Steve Adams and other Devon visitors (who’d forgone the Dorset meeting also running on the weekend). It was good to see Rhys Edwards taking top points on his first outing on the Maico and Yamaha collection. Series leader Kyle Noble didn’t have a good start losing out to Anthony Guest, but Anthony had issues in race 2 himself. Sam Weaver scored good points despite his best efforts not to actually use his main Maico machine all season. He also scored top points for the loudest bike when his exhaust broke,

Despite the weather, some really great racing, which entertained the relatively small crowd. Steve Goode’s commentary was excellent and many thanks to the Mid Wales club. Much appreciated by all the riders.

Nearly forgot, after a DNF in Race 1 in the pre65’s, managed three finishes on the Hallman Husky in the pre68. In the last pre65 race, I’d kept ahead of Mark Abbot, until a wire dropped off the HT coil in the last corner. Bummer but could have been worse. After a hassle free event at Chester, it was more of a challenge to do 6 races.

For the results see the Google Sheet

For Eric Miles’ excellent photos see Flickr

[1] This is the Adrian Moss event, with the most complex regs for any event in the AMCA calendar, rather than the 1960’s TV Western.

[2] If you are wondering why other riders didn’t score points in this class, its because normally you can only score points for one class on one bike. You need a different bike to score points in a different class. You can ride in races, but not score championship points.

Classic MX des Nations 2016 : travel, accommodation and why you should go ?


This years Classic MX des Nations is at Ballyblack, Co Antrim,  Northern Ireland and Wales will be sending a team for the second year, following it’s battle to gain equal status with English, Irish and Scottish in European Classic Motocross. Therefore, rather than brexiting, it’s a continuing path to european recognition for Welsh Classic MX (or Scrambles as Jock prefers).  After last years event in Mortimer, England, this years event will be held overseas, (but not) in Northern Ireland. No passport required.

Why you should go?

There are going to be a maximum of 20 riders in teams riding for Wales and team captain Paul Prosser has already made some announcements on the Facebook channel. Getting the right age of rider, riding the correct age of bike, makes the task of picking a team a little challenging and means that a lot of the Welsh Championship riders don’t get a ride. As well as picking on ability (to do well) it’s also a case of finding people who want to go. If you are not riding, you should plan to go and watch and support Wales (think Euro 2016 support), as it’s not too bad to get too.

There was some great support last year and there is plenty of activity in the pits on Friday, with the main action on Saturday 17th September. There is no racing on Sunday.

Classic MX des Nations : Northern Ireland Classic Scrambles Club

Facebook Page

The Track

Bit of classic scrambles track and as the ever-videoing Chris Montignani from Scotland has been there, plenty of videos including rider view and as a spectator.  There are also a couple of jumps on the track 🙂


Where is it ?

Ballyblack is just outside Newtonards, not far out of Belfast.  You can see the track from space, well Google Maps anyway


Getting there


You can go via Ferry with Fishguard -> Rosslare, Holyhead -> Dublin and Cairnryan -> Belfast all options, the best route depending where you live in Wales

see … some possible routes but if you are driving then you can take the ferry from Fishguard, Holyhead or Cairnryan.  My own route (Malcolm) and schedule to Ballyblack is using Stena from Holyhead to Dublin as this is the shortest time and distance from Brecon and the ferry times work okay.


They’ll be an ECMO meeting on the Sunday morning for a couple of hours, so still leaving plenty of time for trip back to Dublin.

When booking you travel there are a number of discount ferry codes,   when booking online with Stena use the code ‘9RS16’ for a 15% discount. There have been a number of deals throughout the year on Stena, including some at 25%.



If you fancy a shorter, flying visit then you could fly into Belfast City Airport, which is only a 30 minute drive away from the track.  There are flights for £75 return from Bristol and £65 from Birmingham and renting a car or scrounging a lift shouldn’t be too much problem. As per normal, the flights from Cardiff are twice the price and only once a day.


Where to Stay

If you’ve not got a massive luxury camper, or cannot blag your way into one with the England team, then you have a number of options, including taking a tent.  There are some options on Airbnb for cheap self catering, with a 10 minute drive or so to the track.  There are two cheap options in Newtonards, and some others out near the track.  There are some other local self catering options, hotels and B and B’s. Check TripAdvisor etc.  I’ll be staying, a long with a few others at the nearby Cunningburn Cottages.





Black Mountains MBO : Talybont Event July 10th 2016

My second Mountain Bike Orienteering event, after the Govilon event last month and with some hope of doing a bit better in terms of judging time and getting some more points.

I decided to cycle the couple of km’s down to the start at the Outdoor Centre at Talybont with the knowledge I’d have to cycle back up the hill after it had finished. The map area was a lot smaller than the previous Govilon event, but there were a lot more hills, taking in the flanks of the Brecon Beacons, the hills around Talybont Reservoir, Tor y Foel, Trefil Quarries and Cwm Crawnon.  Waited 15 minutes after the start time before I picked up the map (and started the clock running) getting all my kit and my head in order.  Remembered to start the clock running this time as I picked it up.


MBO Map Talybont

This map includes mapping data licensed from Ordnance Survey. Crown Copyright and/or database right 2016
. License number 100033596

Spent a couple of minutes looking at the map and decided on a counter-clockwise route, starting with the canal and then up to Talybont Forest before heading down to Aber and the Talybont Reservoir dam. As before I’d make my mind up then and see how I was getting on. Living nearby I knew where the uphill bits were going to be and had a vision of getting round to the Trefil checkpoints and down Cwm Pyrgad and through Cwm Crawnon. Depending on time I could go back via the canal or via Bwlch. A lot of ascent and I’d not been running or cycling all week having picked up a cold.

With a bit more purpse I set off, though I’d left my elastic bands for the CP sheet at home. My home made map holder (WH Smiths £2.99 clipboard conversion) seemed okay though rattling a bit.

First check point on the canal, nice and easy but the pull up into Talybont Forest wasn’t and needed some pushing. Second check point was on the forestry track and the run down to the third was excellent with a sharp descent down a track to reach it. I’d worked out the reading the description for the check point location as the previous checkpoint meant you could keep an eye out for it. The run round for check point 4 was also good, with some pushing up a grassy bridleway. Then down to the road coming out at Aber when prior to going back up into the woods on the LH side or the reservior, I headed across the dam to pick up a 30 point marker and then come back, well worth the 10 minutes needed. Up away from the road and a long slog to the next 25 point checkpoint, again of forestry tracks. Still no rain but looking a bit ominous. Right on the edge of the map and knew that I’d need to turn off the forestry track down to the road and the next CP, but missed the turn. Spent 3-4 minutes looking for it, and was obscured in the trees (plenty of others had fun trying to find it as I found out later) but track down was excellent single track, with nettles.  Across the bridge above the reservoir and up a track that I’d only descended before, and ended up with some pushing to CP19 and then plenty more pushing up to CP04. This is where I’m losing lots of time, simple up hill fitness.



With over 2 hours gone,  bit of a call to make on whether I’d get round to Trefil, but concious of the time I had left last time I  went for it. Instead of going up on the Dolygaer track I went round the Brinore Tramroad, which was a mistake as it’s rough going even up when flat. I’d walked it in May so should have known, but will took me 35 minutes to get to the control point at Trefil. The bash down Cwm Pyrgad was excellent,but with only 45 minutes left, it was going to be tight back to Talybont. I’d already checked the CP locations and knew where they were. After picking up the 30 points in Cwm Crawnon, I went for the flat option towards Llangyndir and missed the 10 point CP, before picking up 15 and 10 points by the canal on the run back.

Only 3 minutes over which was excellent given my position at Trefil, so very happy with the run back. Just shows what downhill tarmac does for your time.   Came 16th overall with a final score of 297, which though not the 300 target was happy about given the score and terrain.   No problems with the bike, but tested it a bit on some of the downhills and it needs a service badly, especially the bottom bracket.  Didn’t have time for photos today but a couple of good videos posted by other riders (bit quicker than me)

Good fun again and will look at future dates to see what events I can make. For some reason I didn’t show up on the Strava Flyby for the event (unlike last time) though my own route was pretty similar to the others.


Get out you b*stard….

There was some disbelief from myself when Dai Walker mentioned a product called ‘Start ya Bastard‘ but indeed there is an Australian (no suprise) alternative to EasyStart (for the original joke advert)


There is no doubt that some form of magic spray such as Get Out You Bastard would have been welcome in the Bwlch workshop today.  It all started in a straight-forward manner wheeling the bike up to the garage. I’d bought the bike from Jef Bens earlier in the year (at pre Brexit exchange rates). There aren’t many 360 bolt-ups and the bike is from 1967, which was the fourth year of manufacture (there were 100 250cc bikes made in 1964) so some rarity value.  Aim was to strip the frame and start to have a look at the engine, prior to a return visit to Jef’s to work out what I needed to complete the restoration. The aim is for a race, rather than show bike, though I’ll probably powder coat the frame, after some modifications to get large shocks in and check that I can get some footrests etc.

Engine came out relatively quickly and managed to remove the plastics (which looked like a 70’s replacement for the original ally ones). A real mix of nuts and bolts with some I suspected of being imperial and had to dive to the back of the workshop to find my 9/16 spanner for some of the frame bolts. The bike smacked of having been apart for a while, so was already wondered what challenges what might await.

With the engine on the bench, thought I’d tackle the frame first and after getting the rear wheel out, hit the first problem, with the steering head bearing. Unlike 70’s Jap bikes, after removing the main nut above the top yoke, the bearings sit between an outer and inner top shell. You usually knock this round with a drift or screwdriver, but Swedish wisdom has this as a flat sided cone, which according to the manual you can adjust with a pair of split pliers.  With some heat, I got this moving but then it stuck solid and wouldn’t move. Heat and repeat a couple of times and still no joy, so I retired for lunch and to listen to Ann Peebles ‘Can’t Stand the Rain’ which had just turned up in the post.  As an aside, the postman used to race a bit of motocross and his father used to race CZ’s back in the day, so will need to catch up again at some point. A quick tour of the garage and you could see the look of lust for racing in his eyes. Always good to see.

With the rain coming down. Paul appeared up from Llangynidr as obviously any form of gardening was going to be futile. I had considered a trip up to the lake to sail the recently re-rigged boat but a brief glimpse of sun wasn’t long enough. More heat and effort from the pliers and still no movement, even with both of us on the case. Paul nipped back to the house to pick up a set of stilsons of various sizes, but even these weren’t able to move the cone. Time for more tea and then after removing all the front end put the cone into the vice and then moved the bottom yoke to free the cone.  This took 1.5 hours of buggering around and with the upper bearing cone finally removed it was on the next challenge. I’d already eyed up a potential issue.

There is no doubt that 70% of posts to bike restoration forums have “swingarm bolt” in the subject line, just do a Google search (though you can substitute swingarm bolt for pivot bolt to find more).  A quick look showed that this wasn’t going to be easy. The earlier Bolt-Ups have different swingarm arrangement to the 1967 models, with a bar acting as a pivot shaft, with two bolts holding it in place at either end. The 67 models moved to the more commonly seen approach with a single bolt, with threads at each end, passing though swingarm bushes and bushes on the frame.  A quick tap and it was clear this wasn’t going to move in a hurry.

One of the first decisions you have to make is that the bolt is going to be scrap by the time you get it out, so some form of replacement is going to be needed. Using a drift to preserve the threads and nothing moved at all.  Out with the penetrating oil and the heat still nothing moved.  So, some direct hits onto the shaft and some movement so a glimmer of hope it was going to come out.  Now with a mushroomed end of the bolt, out with the angle grinder to trim it up, before continuing to push the bolt through. It’s long bolt and not the biggest in terms of diameter and therefore to find a suitable drift.  Got so far but then the bolt got stuck.

With what must have been only 2 or 3cm left to get out it still didn’ want to emerge from its hole, the bolt wasn’t going any further. So put the bolt into the vice and by leveraging the frame with a long 1m crowbar got it out some more, but still it wasn’t completely out. Time for another cup of tea and a decision to be made.  The option was to cut the bolt and then hammer the small part back in, past the swingarm section and then pull out the swingarm. A bit of a risky strategy, but the tea and some fig rolls determined that this was the only way to go. Back out with the angle grinder to cut the bar and trim round the edges to ensure it fitted back into the hole.

Well surprisingly it worked and the crowbar separated the swingarm from the frame, leaving the small cut section in the frame bushes, or so we though. Got the drift out with some careful use of a long screwdriver and job done. Except what had happened to the small section of swingarm bolt we’d cut off ? Strange. but finally job done.  It had only take 4 hours.

The good news after removing the bolt was that the Speedway GP from Cardiff was on BT Sport so a dose of racing, along with the last of the Belgian beer supply and Suzi Perry helped erase the memory of the swingarm bolt.  Amazing how long what should have been a simple job can take.  I’d been relatively methodical and mad some notes of parts that would be needed. In particular, the existing ignition was on points, (Femsa) and this would need changing to Motoplat or other electronic.


More on the restoration project to come, time permitting. Next job will be to strip the engine and have a look inside.

A week is a long time….

It’s been a week since the excellent Narberth 2-Day meeting for 2016, and that’s been a long time. Not only the EU referendum has taken place, but I’ve hosted 30+ colleagues in Crickhowell all week and now find myself writing this in San Francisco. Wales got hammered by the All Blacks, but got past Northern Ireland and into the last 8 at the Euro’s.  It makes the racing from last week seem a distant memory already, so important that I write it down now. Partly to avoid falling asleep to early (and the jet lag implications) but partly so I remember some of the details.

The week prior to Narberth had seen me spend 4 days working in London and I managed to dive on the 13h45 from Paddington and then get Tamara to pick me up in Abergavenny so we could finish loading the van. It absolutely hammered it down, but around 19h00, Paul Prosser and I headed off in convey, with Tamara and Harry in the van with me, off to West Atherton Farm with the promise of a good weekends racing.  Not so much rain in West Wales, which was good and there was a healthy contingent already camped out in the field. We parked 100m or so from Kevin and the Tredegar contingent, partly to be nearer the start and partly for flat group for camping. As darkness settled, Tamara and Harry put up the tent, whilst I put up the LED lights for the pop-up gazebo, as well as getting the record player up and running.  Some music and beers with Kevin and it wasn’t a late night as I headed for the lilo in the gazebo and probably my best night sleep of the week. The only interruption was from Harry putting air back in to his and Tamara’s air bed, which had a leak.

This year it was the turn of the Icelandic flag to be raised over the Bwlch / Llangynidr pits (after Angola last year) and the temptation to the raise the EU flag was resisted.  A strong riding contingent including the usual suspects. However good to see Lee Robins’ out on his JAP, his first race meeting since 1972.   Saturday was a ‘fun’, non-championship day and the race schedule was interesting and accommodated the Stuart Davis Memorial event, which was open to invited Evo and Modern riders. All races 5 laps, with 7 laps for the memorial events, which proved to be about the right length. The Twinshock races were split above and below 250cc and as well as a pre68 race, the pre74 class was split by age; above and below 50 years old.

Further work on the ignition timing on the BSA. It's an interesting set-up which had been causing Dai some problems

Further work on the ignition timing on the BSA. It’s an interesting set-up which had been causing Dai some problems

Saturday started dry and sunny and stayed that way, belying the forecast. Got the bolt-up out for a test run in the pre68 race and the track was in excellent condition and the bike, once started, was going really well.  The club had changed the start to run along the bottom of the paddock field and it provided firmer ground, a good run to the first left hander and something different.

Good entries all day, with over 30 on the line for the Memorial races, but the pre74 over 50 years old races were all excellent (my opinion) and provided close racing between myself, Paul, Dai and Kevin. Race 1 saw Kevin on the CanAm take the initiative to sit in 3rd behind Andy Carter who was exercising his CZ prior to the classic MX des Nations.  Kevin did take a tumble, allowing Paul Prosser to get ahead and with Dai Walker over taking me on the last lap and a restarted Kevin getting a wheel in front on the line, it was close racing.  Race 2 was also close, though Dai pulled up with an ignition problem on the BSA, though Kevin on the Can Am managed to stay on for a solid 2nd place. Paul kept ahead of me for all 5 laps, with me not finding a way past him.

The 3rd pre74 race saw Paul take a tumble on the 2nd corner whilst battling it out with Andy Carter, who was getting the hang of the CZ. He managed to avoid getting hit himself, though the Cagiva fuel tank was less lucky and ended up with a banana shape to it. Not the best given the unobtainable nature of Cagiva twinshock parts.  David Weaver came out for this race, with Mark Evans on Kevin’s Can Am, with Kevin on the YZ400. Not exactly pre74, but made for some great racing, with Kevin easing up at the end to give Andy Carter another win. I managed a 3rd, with Mark behind.

Not good

Not a good new look for the Cagiva.


The classes on the Saturday, whilst I had some initial concerns really worked for some classes. True, the pre74 up to 50 years old was less well attended, but the Twinshock cc split (above below 250cc) worked well. For the older pre74 gits the racing proved to be close and interesting.

Sunday’s racing reverted to the standard Welsh Championship format, based primarily on machine age. A few more people turned up, but unfortunately the weather also reverted to the classic West Wales type; light rain turning to heavier as the day went. The decision to water the track on Saturday proved to be overkill as the rain came in early on Sunday. Another trip this year into Narberth for fish and chips and a quick pint before heading back to the live music in the field.  Rockabilly, however mild is one of the rare musical genres that doesn’t float my boat so after a couple of beers and some discussion, I headed off for a nights sleep in the van.

In the slippery conditions, Andy Carter got back on the Jawa to score maximum points in the pre60 class, winning all 3 races (which were wisely reduced to 4 laps).  The tricky conditions suited Mick Maskelyne who had two good races and Derek Brice who managed two seconds, only ending up third behind Steve James who took a while to get the Metisse on song, having arrived after Saturdays racing. On the bolt up Husqvarna, my formed from Saturday continued with two fourths and a third. Gave Guto Llewellyn a run out on the Husqvarna and he went well before falling off on the 3rd lap.

The Pre68 350cc and pre74 250cc races were combined and Ben Weaver won all 3 races getting maximum pre74 points, ahead of the pre68 contenders, Mitchell Harris and Phil Anslow. William Guest got an excellent 2nd place in the last race with some great riding in what was becoming pretty poor conditions.  Some consistent riding from Sam Gittoes and Glenn Morgan all afternoon made for good points and reward for getting soaked and plastered in mud.

John Cash won all three in the pre68 unlimited and pre74 over 250 combined races ahead of both Mitchell Harris (pre68) and Jonathan Randall (pre74) . Notable rides for the afternoon included those from Nathan Jones on the 400 4-speed Husqvarna and Ian Fenwick on the CZ, both of whom score lots of points towards the championship on an afternoon which made you wonder why you went racing.

Kyle Noble continued from his superb form at Teifiside and won all 3 races ahead of Anthony Guest, Dylan Davies and Nigel Davies, all of whom pushed him hard. A tough

Further notes and photos:

Ian Hall / Bethany Ford’s photo album on Flickr

Results and Welsh Championship Standings on Google Sheets

One of the better days racing….

When you get back home and your worst place finish was 5th, that it didn’t rain and that the only tool taken out of the toolbox all day was the funnel, you know you’ve had a good day racing. Since his last trip out to Abbeycwmhir, Karl had bought a Suzuki TM250 for the pre74 class and a quick preview on the Saturday up the lane in Bwlch chasing a cat showed that it sounded good and seemed to go well.  I’d been busy and had no shed time on the Husqvarnas, so it was a quick fix and clean to both bikes before putting them in to the van.  A quiet evening watching Germany and Italy taking bad penalties and off to bed, for an early 06h30 start.

Neither Dai (broken bike) nor Paul (broken bike) were riding though in their roles on knowledgeable sages and holders of spanners they fancied the trip to Chester. Luckily we managed to split them up in the two vans as even the individual excitement on spotting some classic tractors near Newtown was pretty extreme. Speedy journey up the A483 without horseboxes and though I forgot to get some petrol (as concerned I’d double mixed the fuel, 17:1 not such a good ratio).. Paddock looked in good shape, though there was some evidence of the carnage from the flooding during the 100-miler event a couple of weeks before.

[All photos courtesy of Eric Miles]


Chester Classic, July 2016 -  Twinshock Start

Start of the Twinshock / Pre78 race. The Weavers start to move into formation.

Coming up North so to speak means you get a different set of people and bikes in the paddock,  including an Automatic Husqvarna, a AJS Stormer, a CanAm (not from Tredegar) and a plethora of Bultacos, that seem to be lost from down south.

Practice went away on time and pretty smoothly, with the track altered slightly from the ruts and bumps of the 100 miler course from earlier in June. No sidecars until Septembers meting either, so the berms and ruts on the track could stay in place (I like sidecars, honestly).


Chester Classic, July 2016 -  Malcolm Herbert

One of my better racing shots. Both bikes went well all day, but kept losing the front brake on the Hallman so need to make a few adjustments.

In the Pre60 / Pre65 Metisse races it was primarily between Andy Carter and Chris Dean during the day, with Andy continuing to show some fine form, despite the front brake on the Jawa completely disintegrating after the first race. Dismantling the Metisse meant he could continue to score points in the pre60 class, which he continues to dominate. Jon Britton, Mick Maskelyne and the smooth Peter Lockwood on the Dot all score good points towards the championship. Mick is showing good form also and is ready for the Classic MX des Nations. I managed some good results and after finishing behind Mark Abbot in race 1, managed to get past him in race 2. Derek Brice picked up maximum points on the day and leads the pre65 class for the championship. Personally, couldn’t get near him and whilst he needed a spare bike for race 2 (after a puncture) it didn’t slow him down.

No doubt Phil Anslow is out to prove a point after his two DNF’s at last years Classic MXdN and not being picked for the 50+ team for this years trip to Northern Ireland. He showed some good form in the pre68 up to 350cc and two of the three races after Mitchell Harris had retired Bob Woods BSA in race 2. (Mitchell had already had the larger capacity bike fail in practice). Odgie Danaan made his annual visit to the Welsh Championship on the big-bang Honda 305cc  (as far as I’m aware an altered crank means both pistons are fired together, better grip?) and had some good rides including a 2nd.  In the two-stroke battle, I score two 5ths and a 3rd, with Andrew Davies getting ahead in the final race. Vince Hale also scored well on the day.

Phil Anslow rode the same bike in the Unlimited Pre68 class, again winning 2 out of 3 races, with Mitch Hughes getting the better of him in race 2. Some close racing here showing how difficult it was to pass on the Chester track. Though wide in some places there was really only one line. After the Classic MX Organiser let him know he was in the pre68, rather than the pre74 class, whilst it was on the line, Nathan Jones on the 4-speed 400c Husqvarna managed to ride consistently in all the races. As such he heads the championship after 3 rounds. This is most likely the half-way stage this season after the demise of the Border round in May as the scheduling will make it difficult for a rearrangement to be put in. Good to see Barrie Townend going well again after the 2015 pre65 champion had made a sluggish start to the season.

Chester Classic, July 2016 -  Maximum Effort

Chris Dean on the Tribsa


In the Pre74 classes it was two very different stories. With no Kris Winder, who won everything at Blencarn the previous week, it was Ben Weaver’s turn to dominate on a Honda Elsinore.  Showing some excellent style it was three easy wins over fellow Elsinore riders Simon and Chris Carter. However performance of the day came from 17 year old William Guest who’s 2nd in the final race showed the massive improvement he’d made over the year when he rode his first meeting at Chester last year. He missed a gear on the penultimate corner but manage to keep the Carters at bay for a fine result.  Karl Stevens (797) had bought his own bike, a TM250 and it was good to see him engaged him in lower order battles around the track. Always great when you find someone to race with.

John Cash took maximum points from the Pre74 over 250cc class, but only after some major battles with both Brian Littler and Jonathan Randall, who took a spill whilst challenging strongly in race 2.  Ian Fenwick had bike problems in race 3, but still managed to pick up enough points to keep him 3rd in the Championship standings. John Cash showed a fine riding style all day and things looked pretty smooth out at the front.

Chester Classic, July 2016 -  In The Thick Of It

Great photo of David Weaver on the Maico

A good line up for the pre78 / Twinshock race. With Paul Prossers Cagiva broken and Alan Woods knee not fit enough to allow him to ride, it was David Weaver v James Edge in the pre78 class. Though he tired in the last race (some training ?), David managed to pick up 42 points against the 39 scored by James.

The Twinshock series this year has some renewed vigour and the Maico mounted Nobles from Cardigan are having an impact. Kyle continued to lead the championship after winning two races (not sure what happened in race 2, but I was in between my two races per block) with Keelan in his first full season riding consistently after blowing a head gasket. The paddocks was a hive of Maico activity all afternoon. Anthony Guest has moved from a Honda CR480 to a RM400 Suzuki and after getting two seconds, faded in race 3. He stays second in the championship behind Kyle. Standout performance was John Tilson’s 2nd in the 3rd race, his best result for a while.

The track rode well all day and though rough in places it was a pleasure to ride. From both direct experience when racing and from watching other races it wasn’t the easiest place to pass and the start was really important. Get that right and you stood a chance. My missing gears in the 3rd pre68 race meant I was behind Andrew Davies and then really struggled to get past him. There were some over taking places but you had to judge it right.

My own performances this seasons show I’m getting the hang of the RH change on the 4-speed Huskies and just need some more track time. Abbeycwmhir up next and whilst a great track, it’s not the best place for an underpowered two-stroke against the behemoths of 600+ cc British 4-strokes. Shall see how it goes.

Went to look at a bike at Ted Evans’ on the way back south; Ted’s driving (Suzuki Vitara, with bike rack and caravan) is certainly more adventurous than it is with the CZ on the track and the visions of a weaving, overtaking caravan will stay me for a while. Paul and Dai spent the time drooling over the old tractors in the shed, which is a troubling development. Maybe some other form of event (often seen in Russia and Poland) might be more appropriate for them ?

The visit to Ted’s was a memorable end to a great days racing. Classic MX at its best.

The full results from Chester can be found on the 2016 results spreadsheet.


Black Mountains MBO : Govilon 12/June 2016

After a lapse moment I’d entered a Mountain Bike Orienteering event run by Black Mountain MBO starting at Govilon. Some research prior to the event and it seemed you have to visit as many control points during the 3.5 hours time limit and that different control points are worth different values, from 10 to 30 and that there are a maximum of 500 points.


You need to plan to cover the best routes between check points, distance, ascent and trail are all factors.  You get a preview of the map area and you’ll get an idea of the structure and layout from it. It also helps to know the terrain where you are going, making sure you are not going up too many stupid hills.


Not been on the bike for a while, so spent some time of Saturday going through it and cleaning it. Bit of play in the rear wheel bearing but gears all selecting and brakes all in good order. Plenty of heavy rain on the Sunday morning so did contemplate staying in bed, but stopped around 07h30, so up for breakfast and headed over to Govilon and signing on, due to open at 09h00. A few people around and got chatting to a few people for tips and advice for the first time rider. Couple of things I found out:

  • you get the map with the control points after the start time, so good plan to work out the first few control points and get a general idea of where you are going to end up. I made my mind up to tackle the first 3 checkpoints before taking the route up Gilwern Hill via the road, rather than the steep track. I’d then do a circuit of the Blorenge check points before working out how many more I could do before heading back on the canal via Llanfoist.  I spent the first 5 minutes doing a more detailed look at the route (and debated taking my glasses for the map)
  • you get a description of where the control points are located and they are marked with black/yellow tape. The electronic control points are small and slightly hidden and its more geocaching than normal orienteering. Hiding means they don’t get nicked and the electronic system means that the token holds the timings.
  • you can start at any time between 09h30 and 10h15 and you have 3h30 to complete the route, with time penalties. You obviously want control points with the higher values, but these are sometimes harder to get to and further away.


First control point was 01, and then I went for 03, before 02 (most people did it the other way round) and then I headed up the tarmac road as planned. Probably the longer way round, but easier and no pushing required. I did 04, but took a few minutes to find it and overshot. Most people were coming up the other way and then followed a group up to checkpoint 12. Rather going over the top to Blaenavon, I headed up to the radio masts on the Blorenge before doing the circuit round.  Some great tracks and the weather stayed fair, with no further rain. The descent down from the Blorenge was great and managed another 4 controls. I decided to not take in a last control with 50 minutes and headed back on the canal for the final 3, but ended up back in Golivon with 20 minutes to spare. Bit of a misjudgement and should have done the last one for an additional 20 points.


Checked in on the final control and then downloaded the controls and times from the SI Dibber and got my results printed, and it went straight into the overall results. I’d managed 14 controls and scored 285 points. Shame I’d missed the last CP as would have scored over 300. There were a few scores over 400 and the leading score was 485, which requires some pretty serious fitness and good navigation.  I’d taken the last hour relatively easily, partly as there weren’t too many options for last minute controls.  Ended up 25th in the the final results, which was okay for 1st time out.

The bike survived, though I did have two broken spokes which was a testament to some of the rough terrain and possibly the poor maintenance on my bike.  A thoroughly recommended event to do, though fitness is a strong part of it.  Something different and good fun. Getting fitter and smarter on the bike is a good idea though !

Black Mountains MBO : WTF ?

As always I find myself being drawn into to do something a bit different and via Facebook, it seems that I’ve entered a Mountain Bike Orienteering (MBO) event on Sunday, being run out of Govilon.  Its run by the Black Mountains MBO club, and it seems I missed the event on local turf which ran at the beginning of May (bit of a shame) starting in Tretower.

The area for Sunday  is the Blorenge and associated big hills south from Govilon and over to Blaenavon.  You get a sneak preview of the route area, but not the control points (well that’s not a surprise).


What I understand is, that you need to visit as many control points during the 3h30 time limit. Each control has a value (10,20 or 30) and you score based the value and the number you do. The penalties for being over time get pretty severe as far as I can tell though there don’t seem to be penalties for finishing early.  Obviously you’ve got to plan for your physical fitness and avoid the stupid ascents, though I might aim for the stupid descents 🙂


The previous event looks interesting and you can see the type of routes people did if you then compare them to the results and look the routes that were taken.


My rather knackered Specialized bike has been washed and service and I’ll take it for a practice spin in the morning to make sure it’s functioning correctly prior to Sunday. I might make a map board, but will see if that’s a good option. I guess it’s like doing the Knooppunten in Belgium but not quite as flat. And it’s a race.

Crotty’s Treasure : a short trip to Ireland

This trip took place 9 years ago and pre-dates my writing up of regular reports on bike trips.  However, with Xander Harkness’ untimely death from cancer this last weekend, it’s a trip that has really come back as one of the stand-out journeys I’ve made on the bike and as part of working for Red Hat. 9 years okay, things were a little more ad hoc in Consulting and myself and others in the UK team, which was 7-8 people had picked up reputation of travel-anywhere fixers. This was at the end of period where the bulk of our work was doing Oracle RAC installs on Linux in 4-5 weeks, that were taking Accenture and others 12 months. A couple of years earlier, following a Severity 1 call from Bord na Mona in Ireland at 9pm, I’d ended up on another overnight ferry trip and in their data centre in Kildare at 8h30 and problem solved before the morning tea and scones.

Therefore the consulting team was made up of some very self-sufficient people, who could plan travel and make decisions autonomously, all to good effect with the customer.   Over the previous year or so, Xander had been working with  large retail  in Eastleigh and Southampton and in a creative effort to cut expenses we’d rented a house cheaper in the marina in Southampton, so we’d spent some time together onsite and at the house, and we’d even held a UK Consulting team meet up there, which involve a lot of recycled computer hardware and skullduggery.    At one point, Xander has discovered the main build server and version control system was on a PC under a receptionists desk,  rather than in the data centre. With 80% of the people working there as contractors, it wasn’t the easiest environment, especially as you normally had no desk or chair and worked from cardboard boxes.   The main office was Mitchell House, opposite Eastleigh railway station and it’s reputation amongst the Red Hat team wasn’t high. At one time over 50% of the RH Consultants in the UK worked there.

Mitchell House, the main offices used by the customer in Eastleigh, which had a serious poor reputation. After resigning, one of the contractors made a slight alteration to the signage.

Mitchell House, the main offices used by the customer in Eastleigh, which had a seriously poor reputation as a workspace. After resigning, one of the contractors made a slight alteration to the signage.

Like all good trips, it wasn’t really planned and unfortunately I cannot remember how I ended up in Cardiff at 22h00 on a midweek April evening and picking Xander up at the station. I was going to the Red Hat Cork Office for a meeting, and as a bit of a surprise for Dave Owens, original Finance lead for Red Hat in Europe, as was leaving and taking a new job with ex-RH CFO Kevin Thompson. Somewhere during the day, I must have said to Xander I was off to Ireland and did he want to come. So with some borrowed motorcycle kit, we headed off at 22h30 from Cardiff, with the aim of getting to Fishguard for the 02h30 sailing to Rosslare.

Fishguard waiting for the night ferry to Rosslare

Fishguard waiting for the night ferry to Rosslare

At the time, my KTM 950 Adventure was nearly 3 years old and just run in. Pretty good bike for a two-up run and it didn’t hang about. It was a pretty chilly run down to Fishguard, but pretty rapid and we ended up in a cabin on the boat by 02h00.  Unlike some friends and colleagues, Xander you knew was pretty self-sufficient and one of those people who leads and adds to trips rather just follows and doesn’t want to get involved.  As with some previous trips,  travelling and working with Xander was easy as he (like me) had a natural self sufficiency and an ability to pass this on to others.


We did read the sign and yes, we did ask to go up to the lake. A superb April day in the Comeraghs

We did read the sign and yes, we did ask to go up to the lake. A superb April day in the Comeraghs

You get off the ferry a bit too early at Rosslare, at 06h15, and that’s especially true in April as its only just getting light. It was going to be a nice day, but it was a chilly start.  As part of the reason of being in Cork was to be a surprise turn-up at the leaving party, we had some time during the day and given it’s only a 2 – 2.5 hour drive to Cork (this was before the Waterford bypass before you ask why it was taking me so long on the bike), I’d already planned a bit of diversion.  At the time I was doing some Geocaching with the kids and as part of work event in the Black Mountains in Wales, had placed a few caches, including one that I’d rated 4 / 5 for terrain.  Therefore I’d been eyeing up a cache in the Comeragh mountains between Waterford and Dungarven, which had had very few finds and was a bit inaccessible. Crotty’s Treasure was obscure to say the least, and rather than picking off hundreds of micro-caches in motorway services and in city parks, I’d started to do a few of the difficult ones.  It was probably this plan, with a bit of walk in the middle of nowhere that had interested Xander in the trip, as much as the Red Hat meeting and Dave’s leaving do.

Xander above Crotty's Lake at the bottom of the gully leading up to the cache location

Xander above Crotty’s Lake at the bottom of the gully leading up to the cache location

After some breakfast somewhere around Waterford, we’d headed up towards the mountains, with some printed instructions of where to get access, to park the bike and then kick off for the walk. The KTM  was excellent offroad and did a couple of steep miles up a track until we hit a locked gate on the mountain, and then finding somewhere flat parked the bike and got ready for a walk. The mist was burning off and it was going to be an exceptional day in April (for Ireland) with no wind or rain.  Unlike the UK, where most upland areas have some form of right to roam and public access, this isn’t the case in Ireland and as such the paths are less well define (or undefined) and access is a little more restricted. We’d asked permission to go up the lane and not had any issues, though this why the cache was archived later in the year.   Walking in Ireland is a little more wilder in Wales and you have a greater sense of remoteness. The walk up to the lake, following the description and the GPS was all good. Getting up to the cache wasn’t so easy and was a bit of scramble to the base of a steep gully. A few exchanged glances and we continued up what was all a bit slippery and filled with loose, recently descended rocks. Xander found the remains of the cache in washed down mud and rocks at the bottom on the gully. The cache owner, who I’d contacted beforehand had asked that as I was going there, whether I’d take a replacement with me, just in case.  I’d therefore taken a plastic tub with us on the bike and carried it up the hill and we set about finding the remnants, putting then in the new box and signing the new log book I’d also brought.

Arrow marks the spot; the cache was meant to be halfway up this gully, but was in fact in bits at the bottom. We'd brought a replacement at the request of the cache owner

Arrow marks the spot; the cache was meant to be halfway up this gully, but was in fact in bits at the bottom. We’d brought a replacement at the request of the cache owner

We went up the gully, to what we though was the right location and position the cache out of the way of water and rockfall, though we suspected that it’s future wouldn’t be a long one, given usual weather. It was a great walk and scramble and on the way down it was even warm enough (just) for a swim in the lake, though instant testicle retraction was guaranteed, as was the afterwards warming up agony of feet and hands. Given the lack of sleep the previous night on the way over, it was one way of keeping awake.


Comeragh Mountains, aren't far from the coast and are a superb range of hills

Comeragh Mountains, aren’t far from the coast and are a superb range of hills

Back to the bike and down the lane, before continuing on the road to Cork, I think stopping for a late lunch in Youghal.  The KTM was a great bike and went brilliant until 2010 until an idiot in a Mazda RX8 put me and the bike into the central reservation on the A419 coming out of Gloucester.  We made Cork in plenty of time for the meeting and then the bar, prior to having an interesting night out with Dave Owens and colleagues for his leaving do. To be honest, whether it be the 9 years or the amount of drink consumed on the night I don’t have many recollections of the evening, though searching through the photo/video archive I’ve some scary footage that should deter some people from trying to remember what really did happen.


KTM 950 Adventure, probably the best bike for road/off road I've ever owned

KTM 950 Adventure, probably the best bike for road/off road I’ve ever owned


Coming back from Ireland a day or two later, I was heading for the coast in Pembrokeshire, West Wales to spend a week with the kids and then wife (and the ex Mother-in-Law) and Xander also joined us for a day, doing some surfing and canoeing on the beaches of Broad Haven and Newgale. It did involve taking him down to Withybush A&E and he got smacked in the chin be the canoe when he got wiped out. He headed back east on the train from Haverfordwest, hopefully having enjoyed the trip. He did speak to me afterwards and like many things at the time, it was part of the culture of Red Hat, combining what wasn’t an easy job with quite a few laughs and adventures to keep you sane.


Later that night in Cork, as Dave Owens looks in to the face of what he was going to be become on working with closed-source software

Later that night in Cork, as Dave Owens looks in to the face of what he was going to be become on working with closed-source software

Over the last few years, with Xander changing jobs and settling down in Stockholm, I’d seen less and less of him and not really spent anywhere the amount of time that I’d done up to an including 2007. A really nice guy and great colleague, he was a person that was easy to be with and who had taste for the adventurous and less ordinary. Though I’d not forgotten about this trip, it’s something that I’ll now look upon with even fonder memories and with a continued to determination to live as much life as possible. If there is an opportunity, then grab it, as you may not get another.


Roar on the Moor: North Devon Classic Scramble 29/May 2016


With the Border meeting at Welshpool cancelled, a few of the Welsh regulars (myself, Kevin, Ian and Graham) ended up getting late entries for the Roar on the Moor, run by North Devon (Atlantic) near South Molton. New venue and track, and possibly with the Bank Holiday weekend, it wasn’t a massive entry (50 twinshocks and 35+ classics as an estimate).  However the weather was excellent and was a great location.  The track was, er different, 70% scramble, 30% enduro but personally I enjoyed it, with some technical bits and some open sections, so that all 4 gears on the Husky were used each lap.

The 360 Automatic went well in practice but whilst waiting in the pit box, with engine running, before the first race, it decided to stop and not restart for the rest of the day. What’s always entertaining when you are trying to fix a bike is the amount of advice you get, both good and bad from others. Some of these  comments are excellent and useful whilst some are just a distraction. Spark and fuel, a carb stripdown, flywheel off to check the crankseal and timing, but all these looked good. I’m presuming the bike is just completely flooded after the wait. One of the disadvantages of the Automatic is that you can’t bump start it down the field. Anyway gave up on that and focus on riding the 1970 Husky instead. Got 4 good races out of it, with the first pre74 race being the best. The bike had some weird tyres on it (Kenda rear) and trying to give it too much to stay up with a Metisse saw my downfall in race 2. The Twinshock C races were a bit frenetic for the first couple of laps but good fun. Missed some gears in the last race and the 250 was down on power on the fast sections towards the end of the lap.



The first Twinshock C race (which I missed with the non-functioning Automatic)  ended up with a red flag after a coming together with new riders at their first meeting; one broken collarbone and one broken leg.  This provided a long break which turned into the lunch break. In the end the racing schedule ended up about 17h00, after the second age related race didn’t start after a finisher in the previous race decided to drive straight into a stake and ended up with he and bike going flying.



Kevin’s CanAm shed a chain in race 1, and then in race 2 whilst he was running 3rd (he blamed the split link I’d lent him) and after fitting a new chain, with borrow battery powered angle grinder for the 3rd race, the internal clutch nut had come undone. He’d gone well on the YZ400 and had got a 3rd in the Twinshock C race. Ian Hall’s return riding continued on the pre74 and in the in race watering system does look a bit weird but does do the job of mouth wetting. Best Welsh championship regular on the day was Graham Trump, who’s ability to wheel out a working bike from the tatty transit doesn’t cease to amaze. Perhaps it was the missing front mudguard, but there were a couple of 3rd places and some good racing.

With no traffic there and back (honest 2h10 only from Bwlch to South Molton) it was as easy to get as Welshpool nearly and you can use the cruise control for most of the journey.



Don’t see too many of these out racing.  A Greeves Hawkstone, with Dave Bickers favourite front fork selection.

Nice atmosphere, great weather, not a bad track and a well run meeting. Recommended Bank Holiday trip away. As an additional bonus for the travelling Welsh contingent I’d brought along the portable record player I’d picked up in Belgium last year.   As well as some Motown, Northern Soul and 80’s managed to play an appropriate track for the location. The Wurzels were on Top of the Pops with Combine Harvester, which was at #1 in the charts 40 years ago this month. I’ll be taking requests and maybe spinning the decks at Narberth in a couple of weeks.  If you want to sing along, the lyrics are further down:



I drove my tractor through your haystack last night
(ooh aah ooh aah)
I threw me pitchfork at your dog to keep quiet
(ooh aah ooh aah)
Now something’s telling me
That you’m avoiding me
Come on now darling you’ve got something I need

[Chorus] Cuz I got a brand new combine harvester
An’ I’ll give you the key
Come on now let’s get together
In perfect harmony
I got twenty acres
An’ you got forty-three
Now I got a brand new combine harvester
An’ I’ll give you the key

She made I laugh ha ha

I’ll stick by you, I’ll give you all that you need
(ooh aah ooh aah)
We’ll ‘ave twins and triplets
I’m a man built for speed
(ooh aah ooh aah)
And you know I’ll love you darlin’
So give me your hand
(ooh aah ooh aah)
But what I want the most
Is all they acres of land


Ooaah she’s a lovely bit of stuff an’ all

For seven long years I’ve been alone in this place
(ooh aah ooh aah)
Eat, sleep, in the kitchen, it’s a proper disgrace
(ooh aah ooh aah)
Now if I cleaned it up would you change your mind
(ooh aah ooh aah)
I’ll give up drinking scrumpy and that lager and lime


Who loves thee baby ha

Weren’t we a grand couple at that last wurzel dance
I wore brand new gaters and me cordouroy pants
In your new Sunday dress with your perfume smelling grand
We had our photos took and us holding hands

Now I got a brand new combine harvester
An’ I’ll give you the key
Now that we’me both past our fifties I think that you and me
Should stop this galavanting and will you marry me
Coz I got a brand new combine harvester
An’ I’ll give you the key

Aahh yu’re a fine lookin’ woman and I can’t wait to get me ‘ands on your land.