Greensmiths Trial 2008 : Sammy Miller Round 8

After my last ride on the Trevor Hunt Trophy Trial I didn’t expect a stunning start to the trial. My riding got better, too late and as the sections got harder.

Gavin, Chris and myself set off in fog from Hereford, but the forecast was good the day, with some unseasonably good weather expected.

A different format had two laps, 5 groups and around 35 miles to complete. Started at the excellent Powis Arms [[The pub’s beer selection is rather good, including Butty Bach and Hobson’s Mild]] in Lydbury North, with the bacon butty and coffee.

Proper Twinshock

The start was sunny, though some mist as we ran over to the first group of sections at Long Lane. General enthusiam and not too much hanging around but for me not my type of section. Too tight to start and not too tolerant of my wayward line. The early subs were made of geniune 3’s, ie where i had exactly 3 dabs, infact 6 in the first 10 were like this.

After the three subs at Long Lane, it was a pretty long run across to Hatton 1 (about 7 miles) and involved an extended traverse of the A49, which on a slow trials bike is not a pleasant experience. This is probably the worst bit about this trial and its best to “hunt in packs” just to make you more visible to the car drivers.

Murky start at Long Lane

Hatton 1 was made up of a long double sub, with some muddy banks out of a stream and a challenging waterfall exit. Cleaned the first half, including the rather fearsome looking drop, which looked more challenging when Colin Lease went for an early bath at the bottom. Bikes started circling the start cards like vultures waiting for the next victim.

Hatton 2 was muddy, following the previous day’s rain. Made the wrong choice of gear in the first sub, forgetting the difference between Gavin’s TLR250 and the Beta, which likes a little more momentum to get grip.

Back down across the A49 and to the three subs at Marshbrook. The second one contained the limbo move which had taken me out the previous year, as well as a hill-climb which turned out to be easier than in looked, with plenty of grip. Any cleans on the day were most welcome. Quick refuel, wondering about the amount of fuel I’d already used and off on the short run up to the group at Hamperley.

Ah, total chaos. The first sub was tight and theorectically only possible to complete by stopping on a tight turn through the trees. Very slippery exit which I managed to clean. The next, Section 12, was probably impossible to clean [[Best score on the day was infact Peter Salt, with the only 2 of the day]]. Lots of mud and camber turns round trees meant you got your free down and opened up the throttle.

Took the wrong like on Section 13, 5. Section 14 needed grip to turn into speed and jump the gully at the bottom. Gav showed the way and cleaned it, whilst I’ve 5 it with a relatively poor effort in the end.

Single sub in the stream at Ridgeway Farm and not for the first time on a South Birmingham trial, the section crossed back over itself; confusing. A slippery exit took a couple from me. Then back to Long Lane and the start of the second lap.

A slack 5, on the same step I ‘5”d the previous year was probably inevitable as Jack Parker was there with his camera. My only 2 claims to fame in TMX have not actually got me on the bike (infact the bike has hardly been visible in either picture, shame really as its a nice bike).

Back on the A49 and the handling of the bike of the road was a little wierd, with rather strange noises. Arriving at Hatton confirmed that I’d got a front wheel puncture and a quick squirt from the pump showed it as terminal. Gavin rightly pointed out that it was unlikely to effect my riding and final scores and a clean and a 2 on the double sub proved this.

Run wot you brung

More mud in Hatton 2, the exit of the second sub had attacted a crowd (the observer, 2 guys and a dog) and it was interesting to see on the way into the group,various bits of old British bike exiting the section at speed….sideways. I attempted to select 3rd gear on the final turn, failed, missed the slot in the mud but still got out for a three.

Back to Marshbrook. Its a weird day when your best rides of the day end in a 5 and a 3. Did 90% of the1st sub, including a launch off the stream bank to avoid whacking the completely flat front tyre on the rocks below, before the marker lodged itself between fork tube and spokes.

Marshbrook

Back to Hamperley where (luckily) the subs had moved across the road to the stream in a field on the other side of the farm. First sub had an awkward climb out of the stream with a narrow (if not contrived) line; took a 3. Best ride was in the 2nd sub, for a 2. The 3rd sub, was again a make or break trial-deciding type of sub. Very tight turn and a sharp climb over roots took 5s from myself and Gav, and it was going to need a really good ride just to get through it.

Hamperley

The turn and climb at Hamperley

Final sub back at Ridgeway Farm saw me take a slack 5, but probably the only one I could blame on the flat front tyre.

Back on the road and a nice pint outside the Powis Arms to finish before heading back towards Hereford. Next trial, the Classic Experts in Rhayader on November 8th (the Saturday of Remembrance Weekend), always good for a thrash round the rocks.

Off the shed to fix the puncture

The Robot Observer

One of the perennial problems with running trials events is observers. Its not that they are crap, its just there are not enough of them.

I’ll observe trials myself and I enjoy it, but partly in the knowledge that I know I can ride an event at another time. If its raining and cold, it can be a bit tedious.

So , like Hawkeye in cricket and tennis, is there a technical solution to the lack of observers ? If not a direct replacement, some form of technology aids to observers would potentially be interesting

The problem
Not enough observers for the bog-standard club trial. You want to run a 20-section 2 lap trial and end up running a 20-lap 2 section trial as you’ve only got 2 observers. Its November, its raining and The Great Escape is on TV.

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Robot Technology

In theory there are potentially a number of ways of implementing a technology based robot observer.

video: use a well positioned video camera to record all the riders. The problem will tracking the bike in the section as you’ll need some form of image sensing technology to track the moving image (ie the bike and rider). Most observers turn their head in a section and will also potentially move around, so as to get the best view

sensors: this would need to be a combination of section-based sensors (such as the start and end cards) and a sensor on the bike and/or rider.

Video

Video has the advantage of still allowing human intervention to view the action and apply the power of the human brain to interpret what is going on in the section. The disadvantage is that someone has to sit and watch all the action from the trial (each rider, each section) after the event. Its going to delay getting the results out. There is some cheap web-based technology and it would be best to write to local disk (to ensure data recording and integrity). It could be a good evening in the pub doing the results and it would be a good training aid.

Sensors

Sensors would have to have the ability to interpret the actions of the bike and rider directly, that is without human intervention. This would need to work out each footing, the boundaries of the section (ie markers etc) and the movement of the bike (for TSR22B for example). This would be non trivial, but would allow for real-time results to be displayed for any specific rider.

The challenges would not be straight forward, but would make for an interesting experiment.

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Technology Aids

Not thinking of replacing observers, which would be nice, it would be good in some respects to improve the recording and calculation of results. With the recent Wye Valley trial, 35 sections scattered around a 30 mile lap can make for an interesting exercise in collecting the observer sheets. It also means that though results can be done quickly it can require additional resources.

Logging via mobile phone (ah not many places with a signal in south Herefordshire) or directly in a format the removes transcription errors etc would also be useful.

Head mounted cameras for observers, would also make for interesting viewing.

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Summary

Video based robot observing potentially gives the affordable short-term solution to the lack-of-observer problem. Investigating the practicalities of recording and interpreting the video is the next challenge. Something that detects movement, is weatherproof and affordable seems to make the best sense.

All good fun !