That time of year again to visit mid Wales for the Classic Experts. With a lot of work on and a plan to run the Jumbo rather than the Beta, the actually date of the event caught me a bit by surprise.
Different from the last couple of years. Firstly Gavin decided to give it a miss, as with only one Sammy Miller round left and his Honda needing some engine work, he thought it might be a trial too far, with the Downland Trophy Trial next week. The weather was also different, with plenty of rain during the week and more rain forecast for the day (especially late on).
With this in mind, Malcolm Bates had shortened the mileage and the route was made up of a straight run down the main road with sections on the way down to Newbridge, then back up the lanes and tracks.
The Jumbo was looking good and sounding right as I left the damp car park in the middle of town. Riding the clubman route meant an early number and some slippery rocks. It also meant a chance to catch the Wales v South Africa rugby which kicked off at 14h30. The trial is usually laid out as 15 double-subs, meaning 30 sections in total (requiring fewer observers) and you can get going fairly quickly, though some queuing inevitable on the longer sections.
In a last minute root around the shed before leaving, I’d found my Daleswear caving oversuit, ideal for an autumn day with rain forecast. Though not too stylish, not completely waterproof, with a Lifawear top and shirt it was ideal. If the weather is going to be as bad as it was for last years Downland, it will be out again next week.
Graham on his new KTM turned up to watch as we headed done to the first group; this always has a negative impact on my marks
Not ridden these before and then turned out to be the gentle openers before the action really started. The Classic Experts does have the easier line for the clubman, but at times this can really through you. It wasn’t helped here as the flags (seemed) to be back to front, with the red on the left rather than the right. As first through there weren’t many tyre tracks to guide you either.
Tons of water in the stream and it was therefore probably pretty pointless in walking the section (it would have changed time you came to ride it). Managed to get through the first sub, though couldn’t pick a decent line with the amount of steam coming of the exhaust [[The exhaust runs hot, as my leg only knows too well]]. Picked up a 5 in the 2nd sub, not getting enough pace off the Jumbo at the bottom. A tactical dab would have been a better option.
Familiar sections here and some interesting moves through the rocks and mud. Watched Kevin take a 5 in what looked like a really straightforward part of a section, only for myself and Mark to take a 5 in the same place; very bizarre.
Probably my best sections of the day here and probably through the use of bottom gear. I’d always avoided it on the Jumbo , but with the reed valves now fitted all was much better. Plenty of pickup, allowing you to blip the throttle to keep the bike moving
Both double subs here were of the type, for me at least, that anything less than a 5 was going to be a bit of a result. Steep streamway (it doesn’t look steep in the youtube clip) with lots of rocks. Kev managed a 5 about 10ft into the 1st sub, but got it together to exit the 2nd for a 3.
A 5 on the last sub here was basically not a surprise, probably down to being knackered and ensuring the inevitable was going to happen
The last group at Hillend is a classic and makes for great viewing, being close to the road and on a steep slope. The bottom nasty step is missed by the non-experts but its still difficult to keep the feet and the pace up. This is one of those sections that will ease out after more riders have gone through it.
The last section had water in it, where there was none the previous year and after watching a couple of 5’s managed to get through for 1 and 3, which was respectable enough.
Back to Rhayader and then off to the pub to watch Wales loose to South Africa, and thanks to James Hook’s errant pass, it cost by 10 beers to a South Africa friend. Hopefully when we meet that will be in Joburg (around £5) rather than London (£30)
The trial was good, with some great sections, but there was something of a spark missing for me. Perhaps being on the Jumbo again and not being used to it, or that after the Wye Valley trial and other great events in 2008, there are better trials around.