The joy of riding with your kid

Exeter-Trial-14
TRF:

Hi Andrew. What's the background to the Trial? What made you want to sign up? Had you heard of it before?

  Andrew:

We'd heard of it before and we'd sort of been interested but actually became involved after talking to the MCC at a bike show on Popham airfield near Winchester Hampshire last year. They had a stall and we got talking, my son Amos was really interested in doing it so we said “yeah, we'll have a go!” We have both done a few long distance trials before but not with the MCC.

  TRF:

Was there a lot of preparation involved? Is it open to any bike? Who does it and what are the rules?

  Andrew:

My son has actually got a KTM 350 that he was going to do it on, but it did the crank in about three weeks before we were due to go, so I found him a Yamaha XT 600. I was booked in on a Suzuki SP 400, an old one and I decided I would try and find a 600 for myself. I found a CCM 604 so we had to change class at the last minute.

There was quite a bit of preparation really because the bikes were new to us, they needed checking over - one needed new chain and sprockets. You are limited on what tyres you can use so we had to change them on both bikes and find map readers and put extra lights on the bikes as quite a few of the trials are at night. Also preparing for the weather conditions, we fitted heated grips and re-waterproofed our riding gear.

  TRF:

So do you have to navigate from point A to point B in a certain time? For someone that's never done it, what do you have to do?

  Andrew:

Well we actually started at Popham airfield in Hampshire but there were two other start points - Cirencester and Sourton Cross, where you are scrutineered and checked in. The small clubhouse was open with hot food and drinks.

You have a set time that you leave, ours were 21.09 and 21.10, and then all riders leave at one minute intervals. My son was number 99 and I was 100 so he waited for me. You have a road book where you read instructions - 'two miles and then turn right at this junction, then do 4 miles and do a left, then you might be on that road for 12 miles.' The first regularity section was 95 miles from Popham to the Haynes museum at Sparkford near Yeovil where you had a compulsory stop for an hour. We arrived about midnight and the museum opened specially with the café area fully open and the museum open at a reduced entry rate. We were scrutineered again, checking our tyres and other bits on the bike and then it was the first test which was in the Haynes museum car park. The Haynes museum is the official start really so mileage is reset back to zero. We left at about 1.30 am, the first hill climb came at 21miles the second at 32miles then a petrol stop and checkpoint at 45miles and 3.30am the third and fourth came about 51miles in some woodland the fifth at 55miles, the sixth at 68miles, seventh at 74 miles, and at last after 85miles we got to the breakfast stop check in. We arrived at 6.00am - this was all done in the dark which was a really more fun than it sounds. Again the venue opens especially with an ‘all you can eat’ breakfast of every description for a special rate. Everyone tried to get some rest.

We were back on the bikes for 8.10am. The eighth section was at 106miles, the tenth at 115miles, another checkpoint and 30min break in the parish hall at 136miles. Then eleventh was Simms Hill at 137miles, twelfth at 138miles, the last one at 154miles before the finish at 160miles at the Trecarn hotel at Babbacome. We got there at 13.30pm were the check in was at the hotel.

  TRF:

And is it quite intense? Is it go as fast as you can?

  Andrew:

Oh no, no. It's really chilled out. We got to the breakfast stop about an hour before we should have. There was a compulsory one hour stop but you can't book in till your allotted time so we had 2 hours at the breakfast stop. You do get penalised for being early but your main score is on the trials section themselves. They score you like a proper trial. You fail a section if you stop or dab or incorrectly complete a special test. The aim is to finish the trial within your time allowance and without failing any sections. If you do that you win the Gold medal.

  TRF:

Presumably they're not as difficult as a section that you would actually need a trials bike for?

  Andrew:

They are mainly just hills along Byways or private tracks rather than switchbacks and stuff like that. Simms Hill is pretty tough, you've got to go for it, you haven't got to mess around. I wouldn't say go stupid but you gotta be sort of ruthless and not let your throttle off when you see a big bit of rock or slate. There are a lot of spectators watching, especially at Simms because that's the biggest place where the spectators go - they even run a mini bus to ferry them up from the village. I would have said there's a couple of hundred people there at least and maybe 20 to 30 spectators on each of the other hills once it's daylight.

  TRF:

And so how did you get on?

 

Andrew:

Well, I fluffed quite a few hills, I got up Simms hill which everybody was saying that's the one you what to get up so I was quite pleased.

  TRF:

And how about Amos? It must have been quite good fun riding with your son?

  Andrew:

Yeah, he's pretty good. He did all the navigating. I don’t think I could have followed the route without him as it's quite hard navigating on a bike. There were probably about 110 bikes doing it and a couple hundred cars. With a car it's quite a bit easier because you've got a navigator, but when you've got to ride a bike and turn the map around at the same time it can be quite a struggle at times! They don't like you to use GPS, in fact the route is so detailed and prescribed that a GPS wouldn’t really be any use. It's not in the spirit of the event. At the end of the day, my son was going to use his KTM 350 but even he said it wasn't really in the spirit of the thing. A lot of the bikes were old. There were some new bikes but they were more trials bikes. Serows and Honda 230s, more stuff like that than full bore enduro bikes.

  TRF:

Some of those hills, if they are difficult to get a bike up they must be very difficult to get a car up.

  Andrew:

My partner and I actually marshalled the last event in Derbyshire and we stood at Putwell Hill near Monsel Head and we couldn't believe that they were getting cars up there. Really unbelievable. And I mean, the cars they are like Mark 1 Escorts and TR7s and lots of things like Lotus 7s and stuff like that. There's no 4 wheel drive and they're not allowed aggressive tyres.

  TRF:

What's the attitude to the damage that might occur? Is it such a historic tradition that people just put up with it?

 

Andrew:

The Motor Cycle Club work all year on improving and repairing the sections they use and building relationships with locals. In Devon, a lot of the trials are quite rocky so I don't think you do a lot of damage really to be fair.

You might make a few muddy ruts, but all in all it was fairly hard ground. The organisers are fairly sensible in where they choose to run the event. Also, they frown on you for having anything other than trials tyres on the bikes really. The bigger bikes run Continental TC80s which are still fairly mild, not aggressive like a MX or enduro tyre. You would get turned away if you turned up with something inappropriate. And on the maps, they point out any sensitive places - where to be quiet for example. The organisers try hard to minimise disruption.

  TRF:

So how long was the trial from start to finish?

  Andrew:

We left at 09:10 Friday evening and finished in Torquay at 01:30 Saturday lunch time. So what's that, 16 hours or something like that?

  TRF:

That's impressive. Riding into the night must really add another challenge

  Andrew:

Oh, yeah, definitely. It's definitely different doing trials in the dark. I mean the weather was kind to us. It was a little bit windy and we had a few showers but all in all it was not cold, it was favourable for this time of year. We were lucky in that respect.

  TRF:

What advice would you give to anyone else that is thinking of doing something like this?

  Andrew:

Make sure you can read a road book! Get a trail bike rather than an enduro bike. Have something that's going to do a reasonable mileage between fill ups. And there is a fair bit of preparation on your bike. I mean, we did the best part of 270 miles. If you'd done that on an enduro bike you'd nearly be wanting to drop the oil half way round wouldn't you! You also need to think about getting to the start and again back to the start after the finish if you have a vehicle parked up, especially if the weather is not good.

We had my partner driving the van following and meeting up at the check points so we could load up at torquay have a sleep before the drive home.

Photographs reproduced with kind permission of Peter Bennet and Andrew Trenoweth

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