Roar on the Moor: North Devon Classic Scramble 29/May 2016

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With the Border meeting at Welshpool cancelled, a few of the Welsh regulars (myself, Kevin, Ian and Graham) ended up getting late entries for the Roar on the Moor, run by North Devon (Atlantic) near South Molton. New venue and track, and possibly with the Bank Holiday weekend, it wasn’t a massive entry (50 twinshocks and 35+ classics as an estimate).  However the weather was excellent and was a great location.  The track was, er different, 70% scramble, 30% enduro but personally I enjoyed it, with some technical bits and some open sections, so that all 4 gears on the Husky were used each lap.

The 360 Automatic went well in practice but whilst waiting in the pit box, with engine running, before the first race, it decided to stop and not restart for the rest of the day. What’s always entertaining when you are trying to fix a bike is the amount of advice you get, both good and bad from others. Some of these  comments are excellent and useful whilst some are just a distraction. Spark and fuel, a carb stripdown, flywheel off to check the crankseal and timing, but all these looked good. I’m presuming the bike is just completely flooded after the wait. One of the disadvantages of the Automatic is that you can’t bump start it down the field. Anyway gave up on that and focus on riding the 1970 Husky instead. Got 4 good races out of it, with the first pre74 race being the best. The bike had some weird tyres on it (Kenda rear) and trying to give it too much to stay up with a Metisse saw my downfall in race 2. The Twinshock C races were a bit frenetic for the first couple of laps but good fun. Missed some gears in the last race and the 250 was down on power on the fast sections towards the end of the lap.

 

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The first Twinshock C race (which I missed with the non-functioning Automatic)  ended up with a red flag after a coming together with new riders at their first meeting; one broken collarbone and one broken leg.  This provided a long break which turned into the lunch break. In the end the racing schedule ended up about 17h00, after the second age related race didn’t start after a finisher in the previous race decided to drive straight into a stake and ended up with he and bike going flying.

 

 

Kevin’s CanAm shed a chain in race 1, and then in race 2 whilst he was running 3rd (he blamed the split link I’d lent him) and after fitting a new chain, with borrow battery powered angle grinder for the 3rd race, the internal clutch nut had come undone. He’d gone well on the YZ400 and had got a 3rd in the Twinshock C race. Ian Hall’s return riding continued on the pre74 and in the in race watering system does look a bit weird but does do the job of mouth wetting. Best Welsh championship regular on the day was Graham Trump, who’s ability to wheel out a working bike from the tatty transit doesn’t cease to amaze. Perhaps it was the missing front mudguard, but there were a couple of 3rd places and some good racing.

With no traffic there and back (honest 2h10 only from Bwlch to South Molton) it was as easy to get as Welshpool nearly and you can use the cruise control for most of the journey.

 

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Don’t see too many of these out racing.  A Greeves Hawkstone, with Dave Bickers favourite front fork selection.

Nice atmosphere, great weather, not a bad track and a well run meeting. Recommended Bank Holiday trip away. As an additional bonus for the travelling Welsh contingent I’d brought along the portable record player I’d picked up in Belgium last year.   As well as some Motown, Northern Soul and 80’s managed to play an appropriate track for the location. The Wurzels were on Top of the Pops with Combine Harvester, which was at #1 in the charts 40 years ago this month. I’ll be taking requests and maybe spinning the decks at Narberth in a couple of weeks.  If you want to sing along, the lyrics are further down:

 

 


I drove my tractor through your haystack last night
(ooh aah ooh aah)
I threw me pitchfork at your dog to keep quiet
(ooh aah ooh aah)
Now something’s telling me
That you’m avoiding me
Come on now darling you’ve got something I need

[Chorus] Cuz I got a brand new combine harvester
An’ I’ll give you the key
Come on now let’s get together
In perfect harmony
I got twenty acres
An’ you got forty-three
Now I got a brand new combine harvester
An’ I’ll give you the key

She made I laugh ha ha

I’ll stick by you, I’ll give you all that you need
(ooh aah ooh aah)
We’ll ‘ave twins and triplets
I’m a man built for speed
(ooh aah ooh aah)
And you know I’ll love you darlin’
So give me your hand
(ooh aah ooh aah)
But what I want the most
Is all they acres of land

[Chorus]

Ooaah she’s a lovely bit of stuff an’ all

For seven long years I’ve been alone in this place
(ooh aah ooh aah)
Eat, sleep, in the kitchen, it’s a proper disgrace
(ooh aah ooh aah)
Now if I cleaned it up would you change your mind
(ooh aah ooh aah)
I’ll give up drinking scrumpy and that lager and lime

[Chorus]

Who loves thee baby ha

Weren’t we a grand couple at that last wurzel dance
I wore brand new gaters and me cordouroy pants
In your new Sunday dress with your perfume smelling grand
We had our photos took and us holding hands

Now I got a brand new combine harvester
An’ I’ll give you the key
Now that we’me both past our fifties I think that you and me
Should stop this galavanting and will you marry me
Coz I got a brand new combine harvester
An’ I’ll give you the key

Aahh yu’re a fine lookin’ woman and I can’t wait to get me ‘ands on your land.

Suspension Part 2

Decided to rebuild the Fox shocks that I had on the Husqvarna 360 as they looked like they were pretty tired and the measurements showed a lot of sag. I didn’t have a service kit for them so it was a bit of a rough and ready job. For the longer term, I’ll make a spring compressor, but for this job it was out with the rachet straps and slip off the bottom collet. There is a preload adjuster on these Fox (non-air) shocks and noticed I could have tried them with increased compression.

 

Fox shocks on rear

Fox Shocks had a bit too much sag, so there would be very little suspension travel on the rear of the bike. 

They are relatively easy to strip and a relatively straight forward design. The only challenge is getting out the lower circlip which is about 40mm down inside the bottom tube and ideally need some long nose internal circlip pliers. There was oil left in the shock but not a lot (<50ml) and expect 60-70ml in the shock. Didn’t change any seals but ideally would want to this going forward.  There is an air top for the shocks, where you’d normally put some form of inert gas, lets say 50 psi as air will heat up with work on the track. However, can probably get away with this for now.

 

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The oil looked a bit original and maybe missing some volume

Shock back together with some fiddling, again with the lower circlip and the compressing the spring. It didn’t seem quite right when back together but the proof will be the using.  Doing a proper service with seals etc might be the better plan. But given they were £50 shocks (from Telford) and period items, I’m happy to experiment with them  Did some other work on the bike to get ready for the North Devon meeting coming up, but have worked out the starting technique for the bike, which has a Mikuni carb.  All of the Huskies flood easily and then can be buggers to start (you need to take the plug out and given them dry) and the Automatic isn’t an exception.

I’m also becoming more of a fan of the looks of the 360 Automatic despite it having a large enduro tank (which has its uses if I ever do another Gentle One). The 1976 models are lower than the 1975 models it seems and the frame and shock length different.

Bike after cleaning

 

Classic MX Suspension Setup ?

Spent 30 minutes or so at lunch today looking at the suspension on 3 of the Husqvarna’s. Like a lot of riders, probably spend more time tuning engines, fuel and ignition than we do suspension and even then spent 80% of that time looking at the rear suspension. The front suspension on the 360 Automatic was looking a bit wrong at Abbeycwmhir on the weekend, but decided to do some more research, before doing an overhaul.

Most conversation about suspension is whether it is within the regulations

The measurements are as follows, all in mm.  Rear suspension travel was calculated using the ECMO online calculator, and front was measurement/estimate on the front forks.

Bike Suspension Travel Free Load Sag
Husqvarna CR250 1970 Rear 108 435 405 30(27%)
Front 200 775 738 37(15%)
Husqvarna 250 Bolt-up 1966 Rear 115 440 403 37(30%)
Front 200 750 720 30(27%)
Husqvarna Automatic 1976 Rear 140 420 380 40(26%)
Front 250 820 775 45(18%)

 

Looking at a modern MX suspension set up example, it says that rider sag should be 33% of the total suspension travel, but this is of course for modern bikes that might have 300mm+ suspension travel, where of course pre74 classic bikes are limited to 130mm in Europe and 120mm in the UK. Therefore, for your classic scrambler, rider sag of 35-40mm would be about the maximum using this formula.

One thing you also notice, well I did with the Automatic, is the impact of having an imbalance between the front and the rear if one set of suspension is either too hard or too soft.  On the 360 Automatic, I’d picked up some very used Fox rear shocks at Telford, but with them on the bike it’s clear they are worn out and too soft. On the other hand the front was a bit too stiff and so this made the rear work in a different way. They need to be in balance to work effectively and getting the rear wrong impacts on the handling of the front.

Based on the measurements above,  the front was too stiff and sticking so decided to strip it down.

The fork oil had been contaminated with something, probably water and needed a complete strip to clean

The fork oil had been contaminated with something, probably water and needed a complete strip to clean

One of the fork stanchions was also bent, as usual just below the bottom yoke and the took a bit of cleaning out. The springs seemed okay and put in 250ml of oil into each leg. One of the advantages of having an Automatic is that you have plenty of HVI26 oil, which is primarily for hydraulic applications, and same spec as Ohlins fork/shock oil.  Works out cheaper than fork oil and is around 10 weight, it seems.

 

The fork tube isn't quite straight

The fork tube isn’t quite straight

 

Some further adjustment needed as once back on the bike, they still seemed to be too stiff but this might be because of the rear being too soft and that is where all the give is in the suspension.

 

 

 

Preping the Husky

This is a 1966 Bolt-Up,r which saw an increase in the number manfactured with 350 bikes being build, after 125 and 200 were shipped in 1964 and 1965. It has Husqvarna forks, rather than the earlier Norton Roadholders, which were build from Betor tubes sent from Spain. Engine is highly successful 4 speed with a smaller top end.

Bike was difficult to start and inspection showed compression was low and that the piston could basically move a lot back to front in the barrel. Time for a replacement piston and a rebore. Obtained a new-old-stock West German made piston from Jef Bens and got Roger to do the rebore on the barrel, all of which went to plan.

A Welsh Team Abroad

Also, as my attempts to write up recent events, like the Ivor Morkott trial, haven’t been to succesful, the core readership of my blog / website (Kevin and Dan) have let me know they’d like more regular updates.

So here is a relatively prompt write-up, as requested, hot off the presses in Lier, where I’m sitting with a cup of tea and a body that is remembering the days just gone.

One of paddock fields from the road.

Dan Evan, Mark Evans and Kevin Pettit made the journey over in Kevin’s van, which was slightly lower class than the race homes and blinged out vans being used by the relative large English contingent that has made its was across the channel on Thursday and Friday, before Saturday’s racing.

The track, as has been described before is a little different from those you might normally find in Belgium (and in the UK) as it’s inside a Fort, which was part of the defence system for Antwerp . A tight technical track, with a table top, a jump etc, but is actually pretty rideable for classic bikes. The rain made going difficult for early practice, but it improved significantly during the day and was in perfect condition by the 2nd block.

For a modern view of the track; some of the jumps weren’t as stiff, but still pretty impressive in place. However, it was still good fun on a ’75 Husky. 125cc and 250cc are better than 500cc on the track as it’s all about 2nd gear with a brief flurry into 3rd on the back and start-finish straights.

First beers of the weekend

The bar was open for registration and drinks and it was the former that was initially more chaotic, with form filling, paying and getting that all important white slip so you could ride on the following day. Sophie was hostess for the weekend and duly obliged by turning up at the track with frites and sausages for the team, which were eagerly consumed. After a brief flirtation with sleeping in the van, common sense prevailed and I headed back to Lier, but only after Sophie had left and had to come back and pick me up.

Quite a large British contingent, mainly Evo mounted it seems, and rounded up by Dave King. A lot of use of the F word on the Friday night, Farleigh that is, and you do begin to think that it’s the only classic motocross meeting in the UK. Perhaps a bit of Teifiside promotion needed, but it’s about 400 miles and 40 years away from the razzle dazzle of classic racing on this scale.

Watching the action

Saturday was a packed day, with practice starting at 08h00 for Kevin in the pre72 class, and finishing with the Twinshock ‘A’ final around 18h00. Normally you get practice and two blocks of racing, but today there was three blocks, but time went quickly during what was a packed day. Having a push bike to get from paddock to track was a bonus in order to get some race watching in.

Managed to get out to the track for 07h30, after Sophie had been to the bakers and made pistolekes [[Think crusty white rolls, but great fresh and very crusty. A must for a Belgian breakfast]] and bought cakes. Weather looked to be better than forecast with it warming up quickly. The energy and vibes for the day were good, and excitement building in our far flung corner of the paddock (well more like one of 4 paddocks around the Fort itself).

The rendered TM250 after practice

With a packed paddock and a very healthy entry, it was going to be a busy day. Kevin went well in practice with the newly acquired Suzuki TM250 going well, and then me going out in the pre77 practice. Track still slippery in places, but the signs were good that it was only going to get better. Good fun, and tried to remember a seriously sharp corner after a quick wall-of-death left hander. The water and sand combination managed a tidy rendering job on Kevin’s pristine TM, but with a quick drying track most post 72 bikes were spared.

1st block of racing saw Kevin pull the TM in early as it was nipping up. Recently rebored and to a tight tolerance. The Husky went well until I pulled off the fuel pipe off with my leg at somepoint. Lost a couple of minutes and about 5 places. Really enjoying the track now, with some good berms, ruts and a great physical track. A 250cc Husky was about right and a lot better than getting the 250 Yam around a couple of years before.

Pressure of racing at the top level

Mark’s outing on the Montesa was limited to practice and race 1; not feeling too good he retired to his tent for the second block of racing, only emerging later in the afternoon and setting about a relatively speedy recovery in the bars of Lier in the evening. Whether the stress of racing at international level or spending 12 hours in the van with Kevin, the cause of the mystery ailment may never be known. Whatever the cause, he was smiling at the end of it.

The Police sorting out traffic

After riching the mixture and doing a test run up the road, Kevin broke the exhaust bracket race 2. I managed to pull off my fuel pipe whilst going well and lost 4 places or so. All a bit frustrating, but still very happy with the overall performance. Really great to ride this type of track from time to time.

It doesn’t take long for our part of the paddock to look more like a gypsy camp, with spares, clothes, food and general detritus strewn everywhere. Our nice clean neighbours (Dutch) were even pressure washing their bikes between races, probably hoping some would come our way.

The classic paddock look

Dan Evans is has now won more Welsh Championship titles than anyone else. Before the ‘A’ final for the Twinshocks, he pointed out that Sven Bruegelmans hadn’t one a Welsh title. That he was MX3 World Champion in 2005 and 2008 and twice runner up, seemed to be beside the point. He did dominate the race on his 250cc Suzuki and lapped everyone up to 11th place, which is where Dan finished. That Graham Noyce didn’t finished and there were a few current (and competitive) modern riders from the UK and Belgium riding showed the quality of the field. Some impressive racing all day but Dan had come 7th in both of the earlier races, commenting that his perfect suspension for Abbeycwmhir did not really match up to Koningshooikt.

Can you spot the British supporters during Sunday's racing ?

The Evo’s held less attraction for the travelling contingent, as it does for a lot of classic riders, but the action was excellent, with some close racing. Can you run classics with Twinshocks and Evos ? Well in Belgium you don’t get much choice and you can also run in pre81 50cc and 125cc race as well.

For the full results, they are available on MyLaps

A marshall in action during Saturday's race

Apologies but I left the helmet cam in Bwlch and a video of getting from paddock to the track would have been a 8 minute video on its own and worth a view. A quick blast down the road and a push through the tunnel and up to the start gate. The track itself was pretty interesting too.

So what’s the main similarities and difference between Belgium and Wales ? My thoughts on this
– in terms of bikes, there are lots of different makes and models and in the twinshock class some monoshock Yams have been retro fitted with twinshocks. Always like that there are 50cc and 125cc bikes.
– the the pre72 class, there’s a lot more than 4″ (10cm) of suspension travel and some interesting interpretation of eligibility. No real compaints though and no bans for Japanese bikes.
– its all a little more serious, though the racing is good fun and language barrier aside, everyone knows how to have a good time (on and off the track). Its more professional with the start, race order (and timings), use of transponders etc and that’s a reflection that normally it is the main national event for all classes from pre72 through to Evo. In the UK you get a lot of competing events, different organisations and there are a lot more riders.
– Belgium’s history of success in the sport means it’s well known, supported and understood. Everyone knows who Roger de Coster or Stefan Everts is. Makes the atmosphere at events a bit special, especially somewhere like Koningshooikt.

The evening after

Saturday night was good fun out in Lier, but I retired at 01h00, leaving Dan to attempt to lead Mark and Kevin astray. Sunday saw a visit to Namur (see other article) and a trip back to the Fort to watch the modern racing (also interesting). A great weekend and thanks to organisers and lots of others who made people feel welcome.