Beta Alp 4.0

A collection of information as it arises. There's not a lot out there!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Northern Trial on 18th Febuary

A report submitted to Restart the magazine of the ACTC

I’ve been competing, in the loosest sense of the word, in classic trials for five or six years now but this was my first ‘Northern’ and indeed only my second of this relatively short format. Like many of the other motorcyclists on the trial I had responded to the invitation to MCC members. It was also my first event on a recently acquired Beta Alp 4.0, which although only just over 2 years old carries the venerable DR350 engine in a fairly heavy frame and is thus well in keeping with my understanding of the ethos of such events.
My first pleasant surprise during the week before the trial was that the weather forecast predicted sunshine. Fair enough, during the week there was rain to make the route worthwhile, but I prefer being warm and dry to cold and wet. On leaving my hotel in Carlisle on Saturday morning the forecast seemed as though it would be correct as a thin layer of ice covered every surface and a cold sun was lifting into a cloudless sky.
Scrutineering for the cars
At scrutinering I was pleased to meet up with Craig who I’ve known, mostly as an email correspondent, for what must be close to a decade. He assured me that the trial would be easy…for him maybe! After the usual signing on and chat about the route everyone was availing themselves of the hot drinks and cooked breakfasts. I limited myself to coffee as I was starting to get a little apprehensive and anyway, I had eaten at the hotel. As the other competitors arrived there was the usual mix of beautifully polished antique vehicles, lightly modified but purposeful saloons and the cunningly constructed specials. I suppose the motorcycles covered a range of decades, two and four strokes, trials tyres and otherwise, but to me they have more similarities than differences. As the motorcycles and solitary combination had the early numbers there wasn’t too long to linger.
After a mere 7 miles, no 100 miles of touring assembly here, I arrived at the first special test. A basic A-B-C line test was placed on a firm-packed gravel track in Forest Enterprise land and provided a gentle warm-up. When the preliminary results arrived (only 24 hours after the trial!) I was amazed to find that I wasn’t the slowest. Black Hole should have been an easy section but hard a slippery middle section that caused the inevitable dab. Once above that the ground was dry and I suspect a score of ‘1’ would have been no harder to achieve than a ‘3’ or ‘4’. Indeed this set the tone for many of the sections in the various forest areas: After a slippery but gentle ascent there would be the treacherous loose mud hill, followed by relatively dry and traction-providing grass. So there’s my explanation for scoring far too many points! To highlight this, four out of 10 of the motorcycles cleared Little Cockup, the rest came unstuck at the ‘9’ marker, on Routen Romp the catch was the restart box.
The first yards of Falcon's crest were slippier than this photo suggests
Falcon’s Crest started with a tricky-looking rock ramp at an angle to the track. With a straight approach it would have been easy, but you either crossed it an angle or used the edge of the mud as a berm, or maybe a bit of both. While a few of us were debating this, the marshall said that a lad had used far too much throttle on it and they were sure he’d come a cropper, he proved them wrong by clearing it. I think he knew what he was doing: I’m a coward and so I like trickling along just on the gas using my minimal skills of balance. This worked well on the rocky areas and the nearly level soft sections but was a hopeless style on the steeper hills. On these I put too much power into the wheel, far too late, lost grip and failed the section. I needed more speed on the flat part or a far lighter bike. I couldn’t have let more air out of the tyres without risking a dented rim or pinch puncture. My first ‘clear’ came on Lowry’s which was a very pretty length of single track through trees. I wonder how the cars squeezed through, but they must have done as many of them cleared it too.
Falcon's Crest
The lunch stop was at an excellent forest centre although myself and the other motorcyclists I arrived with weren’t sure how the eating/timecard/break system was supposed to work. Nonetheless I did have a lovely tofu sandwich and a choice from a range of vegan cakes. That doesn’t happen very often on these events!
The easy, low section of Widow Hause
Swinside, Ullister Hill and Widow Hause were quite dissimilar sections in terms of terrain, I did well on them, but strangely enough are the cause of my only complaint on the trial. Each of these sections finished in a steep climb to a dead end, which on a motorcycle presents a bit of a challenge. As the ‘section ends’ you have to decide whether to stop or go on a little to a spot that looks a little flatter to help with a turn. As this decision is made near instantly I got it wrong 3 times. As one of the ever-helpful marshals tried to tug my machine around I asked him if it was better to go up a little. “Well the previous rider did, and he had trouble, the others didn’t make it to here”. I’ll admit to being a poor rider compared to others on this trial but, in my opinion, cul-de-sac climbs are not safe for motorcyclists. If someone could mark a ‘T’ at the top where the ground is firm that would be a great help.
Riding around the forest on the fire roads between sections in the sunshine was a very restful ‘trail ride’ and afforded fine views across the northern lakes and mountains.
A view across the Lakeland fells
Skiddaw and other unidentified mountains had a delicate dusting of snow that contrasted with their black bulk and the green valleys. In the end though we had to rejoin the roads and travel to Sandale for a section that is notoriously ‘clarty’ Just to be on the safe side I let a little more air out of the tyres and went for it at middle revs. Eventually the mud won and I had to foot, but much to my satisfaction, in the area where others did too. There was a small audience to watch our attempts to conquer this Unsurfaced County Road but I don’t know if the farmer with a big tractor who owned the adjacent field was among them.
A rapid attempt on Sandale on Enduro tyres
Apparently it was quite flat before he’d made a few journeys. It’s probably just as well he did or the cars would have found it boring.
On this, like every other trial I’ve been on, all of the marshals were incredibly patient and helpful when manhandling fallen bikes and riders and I’m very grateful for their help. In view of current RoW issues, some of which are especially acute in the Lake District, the use of Forest Enterprise land appears to be essential for trials to continue. Although I can’t believe that many of the sections have particular historical significance they provided a range of terrain and difficulty. No-one cleared the trial which shows that it wasn’t too straight forward, but a few competitors came close, so the experts can strive for 15 clears next year.


Post a Comment

<< Home