Tuesday, 25 September 2012


2012 Race Season is just about over... it's been fun. Mostly. Time to try recover a bit of that debt I've ploughed myself into... time to liberate some space and get some cash!

Nine sets of road tyres with less than 10% wear on them... some of them brand new! Loads of other bits and bobs... carbon this, fibre that. It's all gotta go! FleaBay is my friend.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

ShorttrackUK Club and GNC Round 6 - Rye House

I woke on Sunday morning feeling pretty sore and bashed up, not really up for a race. My left shoulder ached, both elbows were bruised, both thumbs were in pain and swollen, I struggled to lift my left leg to get my socks on with a pain in my joint. Nevrmind, we got racin' to do. A bowl of oats, strong cawfee and Ibuprofen for the road down to Rye House. Rye House is where I first put on a hot-shoe and swung my leg over one of these cool-ass, no-brake flattrack bikes a few years ago.

 Race-face on and Ready to rock 'n roll!
Thanks to James Boddy for the pic

After practice the day before, and then a Speedway meeting after that, the track needed a bit of extra care. As a result it was a bit over-watered. The practice session and first heats were a slimy mudfest. But the track improved with every heat, eventually getting a nice blue groove by the time we got to the finals.

Rider's Briefing
I was struggling with poor starts all day. My first few heats were pretty mediocre. But as the track improved, I loosened up and most of the pain from yesterday's shenanigan's receded. I was still gripping the bars like a monkey becasue both my thumbs were sprained. But I was racing smooth and consistent... besided crap starts, I hardly made a mistake all day.

The pits was crammed, so I setup in the paddock...
By the time we got to the last few heats, I was still making crap starts but then moving up through the field and finishing strong. I did enough to qualify 8th in the Thunderbikes and 9th in the first semi-final (the Restricted class was being run with the Pro/Open GNC class). Game on!

Slipin' and a slidin' around
Thanks to James Boddy for the pic

Restricted/Pro Semi-final - I make an okay start from the back row. I have a rare old battle with Mick Trapmore as I struggle to get past him. I try the inside, the outside... everywhere. But he sticks to his line and is consistent. I eventually make the pass coming out of turn 2. I get 6th and just miss getting into the final... still got the 'last chance'.

In the thick of it...
Thanks to James Boddy for the pic

Thunderbike Final - Middle of the grid and I make another crap start. Guy Sutherland goes down into turn 1 in front of me. I steer the bike past his head sliding along the ground and just glimpse mayhem unfolding around him out the corner of my eye. Red-flag. 4 bikes down. It's a pretty big shunt... turn 1 Thunderbike Final at Rye House... just like the carnage I got cought up in last year. Mabe having crap starts all day was a good thing after all.

Restart. I make a better job of it this time. It's good close racing. No-one gives an inch and you have to earn it. Awesome fun! I land up bagging 5th. Whooo-hooo! Good job!

Back from injury, Tim Neave picks up where he left off on the two-smoke Thunderbike... blowing everyone away!
Thanks to James Boddy for the pic

No chance to celebrate - I have 1 race rest and then I'm out in the 'Last Chance' where the first two riders get through to the Grand Final. I have never reached a Grand Final, this is why I still have an 'R' plate. But this 'R' plate allows me to compete in the Restricted class - where I am competitive... so it's not a bad thing. I'm starting on pole for the 'Last Chace'. The thought of purposely coming third in the Last Chance so that I retain my Restricted status comes into my mind...

What. a. load. of. BULLSHIT!
I'm here to do the best I can... and if that means not being able to compete in the Restricted class again (the only class where I have got a podium in flattrackin)... then so be it. I want to win this!

Last Chance - Another awful start from pole and I'm level 5th going into turn 1... but I keep it tight and get on the gas as early as I can and land up 3rd on the exit. Yeah! Trappy is ahead of me. A replay of the semi-final and we battle for 3 or 4 laps. Inside, outside, on the loose stuff... over the marbles. Eventually I make the pass stick coming out of turn 4. By this time Vince Hurst in first place has gapped the rest of us. I finish 2nd and make my first Grand Final! Yeeeeeee-ha!

Battling with Trappy - I try the inside...
...and the outside.
Thanks to James Boddy for the pic
I have time to get my breath back, spash a litre of fuel in the bike and it's time for the Grand Final. Time slows down. It's ceremonious. Aaron Silvester (winner of the days Junior and Youth classes) wheels my bike out for me. Wow! Now THAT feels special. I'm last on the grid, but that doesn't matter. This is the GRAND FINAL and I'm in it with my beat-up Thunderbike :-) I just soak it all up...

Grand Final - starting from the back, on the inside (in the muck), I was never going to get a rocket start. But I get off the line ok and trundle into turn one in 12th place (not last... there are a whole lot of riders that didn't make the final...). It's a 12 lapper... which is great for me, because as with road racing, I lap faster as the race goes on.

Paul Scott (Scotty) got a great second on his home-made mini-framer in the mini-bike class
Thanks to James Boddy for the pic
After a few laps choking on others' dust I make my move... I pass Vince Hurst and then David Homan (who normally beats me in the Restricted class). Guy Sutherland is half a straight length ahead of me. After two or so laps of pushing to make up the gap, I'm steaming into turn 1...

Young guns Tom Wolley and Tim Neave stylin' it up
Thanks to James Boddy for the pic

Flashback two months earlier: I popped into my local bikeshop. "What are the cheapest rear brake pads you have for a '05 KTM Duke 2?".
"We got these for 18 quid."
I have a look at them. Never heard of teh brand. Nicely packaged. Too nice.
"Have you got any cheaper?"
"Hmmmmm." The shop-guy looks at me suspiciously...
"We have these for 9 quid?"
I have a look. Chinese-cheap-n-nasty with Chinglish operating instluchins on the back. Perfect.
"I'll take 'em."
This is the quest for a softer feel on the rear brake - standard pads in the Brembo calliper lock up the rear too easily on the dirt. I tested these Chinese wonders at Buxton and during practice the day before. After about 12 or so laps they would overheat and you'd have no brake at all. I figured all would be well seeing as heats are 6 laps and the Thunderbike/Restricted finals are 8 laps each. What , is that I didn't figure I would do the 8 lap Semi, 8 lap Thunderbike final, 8 lap Last Chance and then a 12 lap Grand Final... all in quick sucession.

Great pic of Co-Built's Geoff Cain from  James Boddy
Fastforward to turn 1... I squeeze the brake pedal. Nothing. I tramp on it hard. The bike scrubs off a tiny bit of speed and then I'm overshooting the turn. As I leave the blue groove and into the marbles and thick muck, I can crank the bike over and get it sliding, losing speed while heading to the barrier... shiiiiiiit! I get her turned in time and fire her out. Next turn I roll off early... try the brake again. This time there is nothing... I two wheel around the turn on the blue groove. Bugger!

Classic stylin' from Dave 'Skooter Farm' Arnold
Thanks to James Boddy for the pic

I do this for 2 or 3 laps. Just two wheeling around, not touching the brake in the hope that it will cool for the last few laps... expecting another bike up my inside on every turn. I stick to the blue-groove, trying desparately to make up the time on the turn exits. Down the back straight I see the last lap flag out for the leaders. "Just 3 braking turns left... brake should be cool enough to finish the race."

Smokin' brakes! The old steed did well against the Pro/Open DTX bikes

I use the brake into turn 3. It works! Whooo-hoo! I'm not going to give up this position. Into turn 1 for the last time... beautiful! Turn 3 for the last time... shiiiiiiiit....no more brakes! I know I'm going to run very deep, so I hug the inside as much as I can to foil a pass. I run though the turn out into the rough, thick outside where I can get the bike sideways and scrub some speed (and avoid going into the barrier!). I try square the corner off as much as I can, but I'm already through it so just get the bike turned on the power and drive out the turn as hard as I dare through the loose stuff.

Somehow, I hold the position to the line. 2 riders went down in that final... so I land up taking 8th overall. That gives me 2nd in the Restricted class behind Guy Sutherland (also on a Thunderbike!). Ah-yeah! Now THAT's what I'm talkin' about!

Thanks RedMax Steve for the pic

2 crashes the day before, bike and bodily damage, 10 heats and races, crap starts, no brakes, a 5th in Thunderbikes, a 2nd in Restricted and an 8th in my first Grand Final... what a way to end the season! A great day on the clay... and a great antidote to the Manx disappointment. I'm still smiling!


Saturday, 15 September 2012

Rye House Practice

After wallowing in the usual post Manx depression of normal life for two weeks, I got out to Rye House today for some flattrackin' practice.

 A beautiful, sunny day on the clay

All felt good... then I high-sided coming out of turn 2. Bike landed upside-down, I sprained both my thumbs. Not too much damage to the bike... decompression lever, gear lever, bent foot-peg and foot-peg bracket and a rear subframe that's now and inch and a half skew. Still rideable.

I got back out after they had watered the track. It was slippy as fook. I took it easy and got some more practice in - you never know when you might race on a track like this.

A newbie rider enjoying teh experience of sliiiiiiide

Between turn 3 and 4 I slid a bit too much... "I can save it..."... "I can save it..."... I can save it..."..."No I can't." I go down in a low-motion low-side. I guess I should have given up when my shoulder was grinding into the muddy dirt. I'm waiting to slop sliding... "Wham!"

That familiar feeling of being hit from behind. "Crunch!" The impact folds me over like an envelope and I grind to a stop with my face in the dirt and a front wheel pinning my head to the clay.

"Ooooofffff!" I'm winded. I scrabble out form under the other rider's bike... watch for other traffic and then bend over and breathe deep to get my breath back. Ronald Shamier had nowhere to go on that slithery surface and hit me square in the back. This is gonna hurt in the morning!

I did one more session but am starting to feel really beat-up. I pack up and leave early to give myself time to fix the bike. I got the bike all fixed, but not feeling to clever at the moment... not looking forward to getting up tomorrow... but looking forward to the last flattrack racin' of the year. :-)

Mobile workshop - I made it to my local bikestore before they closed to refit my rear tyre... the bead wasn't seated proper

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Grand Prix Racer Trailer

I must send these guys some of my on-boards... might make it onto the movie...

Sunday, 2 September 2012

ManxGP 2012 - Day 14 - Senior Race

The big one – Senior race day. Up early to get my shit together and big bike to skrootineering. Bike through skrootineering and into Parc Firme… setup on tyre warmers and ready to race at 13h15. Hurry up and wait – racing on the Isle of Man is a lot like war.
The start of the Classic Superbike race - I get more nervous and excited watching other races start than I do when I'm racing. Crazy.

Due to the weather closing in, the Senior race is to start 15 minutes early. Tyre warmers on nice and early to give those shoes and wheels a nice and toasty, eat, chill, go through the pit stop with Ian and Alex, change and up to Parc Firme in good time. Up to Glencrutchery Road and line up #38 on the road. The race gets underway on time.
Team for the Senior Race - Ian on fuel and Alex on drinks, visor and screen

Pretty soon it’s my turn to stare down Glencrutchery Road. Starter’s hand on my shoulder… this time I don’t wait for the tap, but watch the start flag… every tenth counts! Blast down to St Ninians flat out, jump, I hit the next rise and she wheelies again… I roll slightly but keep her going down Bray Hill. “Whump!”  - through the bottom of Bray Hill and then more wheelies over Agos. With a full tank of gas I go steady into Quarterbridge.
On to Braddan Bridge, Snugborough and Union Mills… a good, steady start. I feel my way around the turns through Glen Helen where the rain flags are displayed… finding the water across the road in the same places as Wednesday. I make a mental note of where they are then get the hammer down after Sarah’s Cottage. I start to push.
Waiting for the flag to drop

I go quicker through most sections than I have ever been before… eeking out those extra few mph through every turn. Big Betty feels better and faster than anything I have ever ridden around here. She gives me the confidence to push. Faster, faster… faster!

As I approach Ballaugh Bridge - in the few seconds breathing time where I’m not pushing the big girl through turns between stone walls and hedges I think to myself:
“That’s more like it!”
“Just keep doing what you’re doing for four more laps.”

I hit Ballaugh Bridge and make one of my best jumps ever. “Boom!” and I get on the gas hard for the run down to Ballacrye. “Bwaaaaaap!”
What the fuck?
She’s running on one cylinder. My heart sinks as I coast to a stop. I restart her a few times, but she just limps with one cylinder firing. “Fuuuuuuuuck!”
I’m on a flat-out section, approaching the blind, fast (and a bit scary) Ballacrye. My mate Tim Devlin comes flying past. I decide it’s too dangerous to nurse her to the next Marshal post on Ballacrye as bikes are whipping past every 10 seconds now. The next marshal post with anything other than a few Marshals is at Sulby – a good few miles down the track.

My race is over.
Betty parked up as the race continues

I park the bike up against the garage and have a look if I can see anything wrong. No oil, not strange sounds... just running on one cylinder. The jump over Ballaugh must have moved a wire or uplugged something.
Mike Minns started well but pulled out after lap 2 becasue of deteriorating conditions

I sit on the garden wall to watch the race. On lap four and it starts to drizzle… I cheer on my mates. Dennis Booth is having a cracking race and is right up the front. I later learn that he had a 40 second lead, but crashed at the 33rd milestone… just 4 miles from winning. He lost the front in the rain and fog and went careening down the mountain. He was airlifted to Nobles Hospital and lucky to get away with just bashes and bruises.
The owner of the house where I parked up likes tractors...

There is a long wait after the last bike and the travelling marshals go past. I start to get cold and wet. I ran up and down the driveway to keep warm. There was nobody at home but I found a shed behind the house… I lay down and got some shut-eye with a cat and tractor.

My company for the afternoon

Not too warm, or comfortable... but dry

I wake to the sound of bikes going past – it’s the parade lap. Nearly three hours after breaking down, all the old-timers are through and the roads open. Soon Ian and Alex arrive with the van and we load up and trudge back to the house in the rain and fog.


Not too pleased