Gentle One : 3/April 2016
There comes a point where Carmarthenshire or Pembrokeshire trading standards need to be call in, as conditions, weather and a healthy entry meant that the Gentle One wasn’t. There had been a subtle change on the Narberth Classic MCC website which aluded to potential challenges for the rider.
Don’t get me know, I enjoyed it, in a perverse sort of way. The forecast proved correct, with a bright start giving way to rain and the old coal tip at Cynheidre had soaked a lot of rain. There was grip around the shorter than expected track. The Junior race went off first and some struggled on the first hillclimb, about 300m from the start. Even though there was only about 20 of them, it was to prove prophetic has 80+ adult riders attempted the hill on the first lap.
For me, the recently acquired Husqvarna 360 Automatic was the chosen mount for the day and formed up a small part of the overall entry, where the classic / twinshocks were 10-15 in number, with David Goddards RM400, Mick Maskelyne’s Rotax engine beast and a couple of Bultaco’s proving that you really can ride anything at these events. The Automatic eventually started, though it, like me was plastered in black mud before going 50m. Needless to say there was a significant queue waiting for the hill, but the Automatic made it straight up with some legwork at the earliest opportunity. Though changing gear, it wasn’t getting out of 1st easily but was changing up on a couple of firm straights.
The 2nd hillclimb and the bottom of the course was shorter than the first, but more challenging and again a queue was forming with people who were deciding where to tackle it or not, watching a scene from Dante’s Inferno (the circle of hell reserved for idiots on twinshocks riding what is essentially a Classic event) spread out in front of you. Dan Evans, who was marshalling on the hill commented that it would have been less knackering to ride rather help haul up a continuous stream of bikes. The cheapo kill switch on the Husky meant it keep shutting of, so I removed the spring and cover and back to a working bike. Managed to lose the tools from my bag but made 2 clean ascents of the hill, and 1 not so clean during the first 1.15 minute session.
During a quick walk of the track (looking for tools) I thought I’d knock it on the head as the rain was getting heavier, but on the return to the van and some left over stew from Saturday nights dinner, decided that at least another lap was in order. The bike (on its inaugural outing in anger) happily fired up, so back to the start and time to join the queue back at the hill. The 80 odd riders from the morning, had somewhat reduced in number, but still a wait at the bottom of Hill #1; the Automatic duly obliged and the ascent was made without too much bother. Dante’s Hill had been removed from the loop, as had the awkward off camber section above it. A shorter lap meant a shorter time back to Hill #1, where conditions had deterioated, so much so some of the top boys were struggling to get up. After 10 minutes, the course was redirected again, with a even shorter lap, keeping tricky downhill section in place. This was more like it, as everything was moving and you could get some pace and rhythym on the bike. The Automatic wasn’t changing gear correctly and the bike was indeed down on compression and making a bit of top end noise. Managed 6-7 laps easily enough, but the bottom bolts on the handlebar clamps were working loose, so gentle finished the last tap, towards the end of 1h15 minute seconf session.
Bike and rider throughly soaked and black with mud, but the bike had of sorts finished and provided an insight on what needed to be done. As for the event, Gentle is wasn’t and the only dangerous thing was the riding style of some of the modern bike riders, but they are used to it. Thanks to the Narberth club and really appreciate the efforts made to complete the event. Not easy given the conditions.
Some thoughts though, in that there is a danger than these events are appealing to the top 6-10 modern riders, who have both the skill, queue jumping abilities and the competitive spirit (aka aggression) to get round any course. That 50% of the field didn’t finish the first 1.25 hours is partly weather, experience etc, but these will be the people paying the money. Lets see what happens going forward but obviously its West Wales and you cannot predict the weather.