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 Welcome to classicdirtbikerider.com, created in 2015 by me “Mr J”. This website came about by accident, yes that’s right, I fell off a motorcycle. The result was I decided to stay away from the bike for a year or so to let various bits of my body heal & spent the down time traveling around the country taking photos as well as bashing together various motocross related articles & thanks must go to Mr Eric Miles who has kindly allowed me use some of his wonderful scrambling images. If I had any sense at all I suppose I would stop racing motorcycles but it`s a drug that has had me hooked for nearly 40 years so as the saying goes “I won`t retire from motocross, motocross will have to retire me”.

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January 2019…..As I sit here typing this my entries are already in for round 1 & 2 of the 2019 National Twinshock Association Championship (NTA) but I thought it might be nice to look back on the 2018 season that saw myself & my trusty traveling companion pottering up & down the country taking part in the NTA events. There are various reasons why I settled in to this series, probably the main one is that Twinshock riders are graded into groups, Clubman, Inters & Experts plus groups for over 50s & 60s but don`t let the age of the riders fool you, some are still seriously quick. A lot of vintage motocross meeting I have raced at over the years had just one group for twinshock riders, good, bad, fast, slow all mixed in together & I don`t need to explain why that can get a bit dangerous at times. Not always the organising clubs fault I know, it all depends on the race schedule & the groups they are running for various types of machine, pre 65, pre70, pre 74 plus how many twinshock riders turn up on the day etc etc. Unfortunately just like any other championship or race meeting you still get very good riders entering NTA classes that they are a bit too fast for really. I presume they are looking for trophies or an easy championship win. This is seriously not cool & all they end up achieving is uniting the whole paddock in thinking the very same thing “that guy is a bit of a #*?!!, he’s way too fast for this class“. The normal excuse you hear is that a rider with lots of past experience / speed hasn’t ridden for a few years & has gotten very rusty indeed. To be honest after an hour or so in the saddle they are usually back to being pretty dam quick over the ground, their fitness level might be lower & they might not be quite so daring over the table top jumps but their ability to read the ever changing terrain, tackle the technical sections with ease & carry a lot of speed through the corners soon returns. It`s not all bad news though I’ve seen some riders upgrade themselves after just one race when they realise they have entered the wrong class, others move up at the end of the season or sometimes the organisers will insist riders move to a more appropriate group. Looking at the 2019 NTA entry forms I notice there has been a bit of a tweak made to rules regarding the Clubman class I presume in a bid to even out the playing field, lets hope they work. At the end of the day it doesn`t really matter that much to me as I would have more chance of being handcuffed to a ghost than winning a race but you have to feel sorry for the genuine riders who have chipped away for several seasons but are robbed of a top three place & a trophy or outright championship win by a couple of….. well I will let you decided what to call them.. 

Back in time to January 5th 2018, I ran my thumb over the stamp to make sure it was stuck down properly & did the same to the seal on the back then I popped the envelope containing my Polesworth & Hawkstone entries into the post box, the 2018 season had begun, well sort of. There was no chance at all that I was going to go out in winter to practice motocrossing, it would wear me out, wear the bike out & to be totally honest in all the years I have played at motocross I have never visited a practice track that has had emergency medical facilities on hand that come anywhere close to those that your will find at a properly organised event. I remember visiting one said practice establishment that had a single solitary marshal sat on a deck chair under a large umbrella & from his vantage point could only see about 40% of the track at best, nuff said. I decided that seeing as I have twiddled around on trials bikes for almost 20 years then it was high time I entered a proper organised trial as part of my preseason training. Extremely hard, outright terrifying or just totally horrific, not quite sure what word to pick to describe my first ever proper trial but what I do know is I don`t think I will ever do another one as long as I live. The boys & girls who regularly compete in that form of off road motorcycle sport have my upmost respect. No I decided that my weekly 3 visits to the gym & going down to the classic dirt bike show at Telford in February would be  adequate preparation for the forthcoming motocross season.

Round 1 held at Polesworth April 1st. It was very important I raced at Polesworth so that I could get a bit of mud under the wheels ready for Hawkstone. I did not know until quite recently that motocross or scrambling has been taking place there since the 1960s CLICK VIDEO LINK . I think someone said it was the only meeting in the country not to be cancelled due to all the heavy rain that fell during the weeks prior to the event. You will probably remember if you were there that we lost some of the far end of the track because of waterlogged ground & what was left developed into one fairly dry racing line with the rest being a muddy morass of no mans land that you only ever ventured into as a last resort when trying to avoid a stuck or fallen rider. My race plan for the day quickly developed in to, just form an orderly queue & play follow the leader. Race one saw me pull out before the end  because I was convinced the drive chain was slipping, as it turned out the noise was coming from small pebbles being jammed behind the front sprocket.

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Above a shot taken by photographer Geoff Griffiths. Just blip the throttle & launch the front wheel gently off the ledge, right. Sorry not today, easy does it, deep ruts, deep mud, yellow flags waving & several stuck riders in the thing we referred to as “THE TRACK” lay ahead.

  The 400 Sazook then did something very unusual & refused to start for race 2. In all the years I have owned it first time starting has been excellent, this has been much to the annoyance of fellow racing buddies who have insisted on using four-strokes but spent more time being pushed up & down the paddock trying to bump start the things than actually racing them. A new plug was popped in but after 30 or 40 kicks still no luck so I gave up & removed the plug again, by this time a little group had gathered. One member of said group was none other than 1981 250 world champion Mr Neil Hudson, they always say you get a better class of people wandering around the paddock at a National Twinshock Association meeting don`t they. Anyway we were all crouched down trying to see if the replacement new plug was sparking, spectacles were put on, spectacles were taken off followed by lots of squinting but no one could see a spark. Then things quickly started to get out of hand, terrible & expensive words were being banded about, words like “STATOR”, “CDI”  & “WHEN THEY GO THEY JUST GO” this was then followed by a sudden crushing & tightening of the wallet feeling. The group slowly disbanded & I was left to my own devices, the only nagging thought I had was that the new plug looked very dry when it came out again even after all that kicking. Back In it went followed by a few light taps on the carb float bowl with a screwdriver & you’ve guessed it, started first kick just in time to see the gate drop for the start of my second race & the pack sprint away with out me. O bugger !

Why we couldn’t see a spark & why the carb float had suddenly decided to stick I just don`t know but I didn`t seem to have too long to ponder on the problem before It was time to get kitted up again ready for race 3. The hot ticket on the start gate seemed to be the far left hand side so I took myself off to the far right hand side, the day was lost for me so best keep well out of the way of the front runners racing for points me thinks. To my surprise we still had a packed gate for race 3, injuries & breakdowns usually dispatch a few riders for an early bath but no I soon had a rider tight up on my right & one on my left hand side leaving very little elbow room. Both riders were jumping up & down getting really pumped, one had a buddy standing close by the ropes making “fist” gestures & generally telling him to “go fast & do well” I presume. At this point I decided self preservation was the order of the day so the plan was to hesitate for a second once the gate dropped & let these two guys go, there was no point in me getting tangled up with them. So that’s what I did, only it didn’t work out quite like that. The rider to my left went too early, ran into the still upright gate & stalled. The rider to my right rocketed out of the gate but then after about 2 yards completely looped the bike out ! I gently pulled away from the start line & slowly tiptoed my way around both bike & rider, both now sprawled all over the ground. The rest of the race went by with out incident, it was just a case of going steady, staying upright & legging the bike through the deep mud & ruts. It was only after Polesworth when I was pondering on how the bike had performed that I realised I had done the same stupid trick regarding the front forks. I had replaced the forks seals on both the Suzuki 400 & a cr500 but because I had purchased a different brand of fork oil than I normally use I had gotten all mixed up with the numbers & ended up putting in the lightest grade oil instead of the heaviest. The result was front forks that were suitable for something like a YZ80 being ridden by a light weight 8 year old.  What a wally !

Hawkstone Park on May 5th No one knew it at the time but as we assembled at a very sunny Hawkstone for round 2 of the NTA championship the country was set for one of the hottest & driest summers on record. As I sat in the pit box watching the Evo lads do the first practice session of the day I began to wonder if the bike would be ok up the big hill. You don`t get much of a run up at it from a pit box start so if the carburettor started to play up again things could get messy. As it turned out when our practise session was called we were directed over to the start gate area & began our session with a nice blast up the start straight meaning we got half a lap under our belts before hitting the famous Hawkstone hill. Things didn’t quite go to plan though, as I approached the big hill for the first time all was not well, quite a few riders were getting stuck at the top. The marshals signalled us all to stop & give the hill time to clear, once it had a second group of riders attacked & they too became bogged down in the deep soft sand near the top. As ever time was in short supply on race day so a decision was quickly made to cut the big hill out & all traffic was directed to use what I think is known as the GP SIDECAR SECTION ? It only loops a fraction of the way up the famous slope but it`s by no means an easier option as the sand is extremely deep & can suck the bike to a total standstill if you don`t keep the throttle wide open. There was talk in the paddock afterwards that the main hill had been recently resurfaced with the wrong type of sand / clay / soil.  Who knows, who cares, all I can say is because the clubman class was the second group out for practice the rest of the track was in mint condition, smooth & fast. It`s quite amazing how it goes from one of the nicest tracks you could wish to ride to one of the worst with rutted out jumps & a never ending sandy sea of bumps & holes.

xxog

As for the actual racing Hawkstone lived up to it`s reputation of being rough, tough & generally very hard work. My only plan for the day was to keep out of trouble, don’t fall off & don`t stall the motor in the deep & energy sapping sand. Pleased to say my plan worked out just fine, didn’t`t get anywhere near the front so didn’t win a trophy but the bike ran well & I had a hell of a good time. There was high drama at the start of race 2 ( see photo above) when I thought I had fluked a good start only to find that the start gate had malfunctioned & half the riders were still stuck on the start line, lots of waving yellow flags quickly signalled a restart was required. O dear, never mind, carry on. CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO uploaded to Youtube by Charlie Copeland

Below, cruising back to the line at Hawkstone Park after the start gate miss fire.

SUZUKI PE400 ENDURO - Copy

Round 3, Bevercotes, Ollerton, May 27th 2018. We thought the weather had been good for Hawkstone but by the time we rolled up for round 3 of the NTA Championship at Beavercotes it was even hotter, “crackin flags” as they say. Sitting in a deckchair wearing nothing more than a sun hat & your boxer shorts while desperately trying to recover in time for the next race was the order of the day. I kind of got the impression it was the first time the organising club, Warsop MXC, had ever had anything to do with twinshock racing & wondered if all the sections of track that were set out over virgin grass was because they thought that’s what we liked to ride on. I myself hate riding on fresh grass, when it rains they don`t call it “Green Ice” for nothing, even with a bit of dampness from early morning due it can literally be a pain in the arse or leg or elbow.

Below, mid pack fun in the sun at Bevercotes & yes its fair to say that probably every rider in the photo was racing as if there were world motocross championship points at stake.

 SUZUKI PE400 ENDURO MONTESA TWINSHOCK MOTOCROSS YAMAHA YZ250H 1981

Bevercotes was quite a long circuit, it looped up & down the grassy bank a few times but also included well graded & watered bare earth sections. A long & very fast straight that had the option of a low ski type jump on the left hand side provided big fun. Strangely up top you had to negotiate some very zigzaggy bits of track, a bit like the type they put into hare & hound / enduro events to slow riders right down so the lap scorers can read a bikes racing number. The race commentator was very enthusiastic & spent the whole day shouting out a very long list of local “motocross legends” who had all come out to race with us in the sunshine. If the track was long then the paddock appeared to be very small & was totally ram jammed come race time, if you intend to race there my advice is tip up early. If they don`t already have one, then some sort of overflow field needs sorting out for next time me thinks. It certainly was a great days racing though, brilliant weather, the track was a bit odd in places but generally worked well. I myself wasn’t anywhere near the front runners but still had some great battles with riders further down the field & most importantly didn’t pick up any injuries so happy days.

At one point during the days proceedings I trundled over to watch the start of a Twinshock race. My eye was drawn to a gentleman standing right behind one of the riders sat on the line waiting for the off. In his hand the man held a petrol driven leaf blower, waving it around he was giving both rider & bike engine a nice blast of cooling air. That’s a good idea & bit crafty I thought. As ever though just when you think you have a little edge on the competition something goes wrong & it did, when the gate dropped the rider stalled the bike !

Well, for a few moments at least, all men are equal, then the gate drops ! Below a photo that captures all the colour & excitement from a very hot & sunny Round 3, at Bevercotes. Taken by Mr Andrew Fairclough, one of the official photographers for the 2018 National Twinshock Series.

ROUND 4 BARNOLDSWICK JUNE 17th 2018. So far we had travelled south, then west, then over to the eastern side of the country & I presume to even things up a bit for round 4 we were all sent north. Now at this point in my life I had never heard of the lovely place that is Barnoldswick, didn’t know where it was, nothing. Since June 2018 the place has haunted me. I don`t think it`s a very big place but I am beginning to believe something like 45% of the countries population must live there. People from this area have been constantly popping up on radio & TV ever since last summer. For example, last November time I was in the workshop listening to Ken Bruce doing Pop Master & who is one of the phone-in contestants, yes a man from Barnoldswick. Last week another Barnoldswick based person popped up on a tea-time program. Only yesterday while having a late breakfast & watching BBC Rip Off Britain – Holiday we viewers are introduced to a disgruntled retired couple from, yes you guest it, Barnoldswick, who after paying £440 each for a 4 day mystery coach trip / tour of north Wales felt the holiday was a right load of old pants & a total rip off. Now we must remember that this area of the beautiful British country side is where the curious case of the Pendle Witches took place in 1612 & one can only conclude that even today, over 400 years later, there must still be super natural forces at work, are the inhabitants of Barnoldswick slowly taking over the world ?

A bit of Facebook fun posted up a week after the meeting……”With Barnoldswick being only a short broomstick ride away from one of the countries supernatural hot spots & rumours abound that from the air the track layout formed the silhouette of a horned demon it was almost certain that something bad was about to happen & indeed it did. The inky darkness of night had descended, all was quite, the generators were off & most were tucked up in bed dreaming of motocross victories to come but then as the clock struck midnight an eerie sound began to wash over the paddock, weaving itself between the assembled vans, tents & trailers. Had the witches of Pendle risen from their graves & out for a spot of mischief ? No, it was a tipsy sounding lady giving the camp a full blast midnight karaoke rendition of “I will survive”. Go on admit it, you’ve never had it so good.”

..Barnsoldwick June 17th 2018 SUZUKI PE400 ENDURO MOTOCROSS RACER ANDREW FAIRCLOUGH PHOTOGRAPHY copy

ABOVE.. Another pin sharp image taken at Barnoldswick by Andrew Fairclough, click HERE to visit his facebook page. I think this is absolute proof that there is a supernatural force at work in Barnoldswick. There is no way on earth that I “Mr steady as she goes” can get both wheels off the ground with out some sort of supernatural assistance. True.

On the face of it the track looked very simple & held few if any problem areas to worry about, or so I thought. Set high up in the hills on flat & open ground with a bit of a hillock at one end to ride over. The layout included quite a few long straights with switch back hairpin bends so both riders & spectators could clearly see where the all riders were & the distances between them. On one straight the organisers had created a track wide but quite shallow “washboard” section that didn’t look very troublesome at all as I inspected it in the Saturday evening sunshine. As it turned out the innocent looking “washboard” section was very tricky to negotiate indeed & I only manage one smooth run through it all day & I still don`t know how I achieved that. I tried attacking it down the right, through the middle & on the left hand side but never could properly identify the best & smoothest line through it. A couple of the other straights had those type of bumps that no matter how you hit them they just fire the back end of the bike right up into the riders back end. All riders will agree that when it comes to making good progress around a motocross track then time won or lost on corners is all important. Any fool can go fast down smooth flat straight bits of track but that 1/4 or 1/2 a second you can save on each corner soon adds up when you have to negotiate something like 15 corners per lap. With this in mind when i took to the start gate for my third & final race of the day I thought stop messing about & concentrate on what you are doing. When you talk to riders most know exactly what you should & shouldn’t do when attacking a turn but come the race a lot of us just get all excited & go doolally. So I thought concentrate on braking, move forward more on the bike to weight the front wheel etc etc etc. Would you believe it, according to the readouts on mylaps I knocked 8 seconds a lap off my times, amazing !  Just to put that in perspective though, the winner of my race was still 15 seconds a lap quicker than me so I don`t think a works contract will be on offer any time soon.

Round 5, The Grange, July 22nd 2018. I didn’t know it at the time but for one reason or another this would turn out to be my last race meeting of the 2018 season. I had never visited The Grange before, as the crow flies it`s not very far from Hawkstone Park & I think most of the time it`s used for modern AMCA race meetings. Various people had told me that not too long ago it was the scene of a pretty nasty crash when of all people, a track official, had decided to nip across the track during a race to get to the infield at the exact same time as one of the fast expert lads had thundered through. They say the person was pretty much hit bulls eye dead centre & sort of scooped up onto the front mud guard of the bike. The result was lots of broken bones & bent front forks. If true that’s some force to bend a set of modern front forks.

The majority of the track is set out on flat ground with a small bank that you ride up at the end of the finish straight then ride across the top over various jumps & bumps until you make your way down off it at the far end of the circuit before tackling several short straits some of which have interesting banked turns. The start straight is very good, wide & very long with a slight right hand kink mid way but not serious enough to make you want to throttle off. Race day started off really good, in the paddock we were surrounded by veteran riders of the twinshock scene & some of the nicest guys you could wish to meet. As ever the conversations you have with such people can be far more entertaining than actually racing  your bike. The practise session went ok with out incident but in race 1 after getting a good start that saw me well into the top half of the field I gradually started to loose places & then totally cocked everything up by overshooting one of the aforementioned banked turns. Myself & the bike remained upright & I quickly re-joined the race but I had blown it. Then in race 2 I got an even better start that saw me inside the top five as we blasted up the bank  for the first time but again over the next two lamps the quicker lads started to catch up & creep past. It was at this point in the proceedings that I thought I might as well ruin the whole plot & for no particular reason crashed out. The result was a badly twisted ankle due to it getting stuck under the bike & even more bizarrely the total loss of my race day spectacles. One of the medical team & a marshal came dashing over & kindly lifted the bike of my leg. Are you ok the medical lady asked, yes fine now the bike is off my foot I replied. She then insisted I take my helmet off to get some fresh air & this is how the missing spectacle mystery started because once the race had finished I put my crash hat / goggles back on & gingerly rode the bike back to the paddock. It wasn’t until I was sat with my now very swollen foot in a bucket of cold water that I realised I didn`t have my specs. If I hadn’t lost them in the paddock when I got back & striped off all my kit how had I ridden from the far end of the track if I had forgotten to put them back on after removing my crash hat for the medical lady, I can`t see more than 3 feet with out them. A thorough search of our paddock area & a painful hobble back to the far end of the circuit when racing had finished for the day to search the crash site never did find them.

IMAGE BELOW… Start of race 2 at The Grange & things were going good, well they were for the next 5 minutes or so.

SUZUKI PE400 ENDURO MOTOCROSS RACER

Sadly even though I really wanted to ride at round 6 which was the two day Festival Of Legends meeting taking place on September 1st & 2nd at Hawkstone Park my ankle didn’t want to play ball so I had to sit that one out. More bad luck was to follow as the last round, number 7, due to take place at Pontrilas near Hereford on September 22nd & 23rd was cancelled due to torrential rain. I had sent off the entry form to race at Pontrilas because I didn’t want to end the season on the bum note that was The Grange but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. That was it, what ever position a rider held in the 2018 NTA championship after round 6 became the overall final result & the vintage motocross season here in the UK was pretty much over. The country had been blessed with one of the best summers on record, from what I hear several meetings put on by other organisations had to be cancelled due to the dry weather, I think the Pre85 Evo boys suffered a few cancelations due to lack of water & then as a final kick in the butt one or two of their meetings got rained off near the end of the season. All in all 2018 was a good year as far as I am concerned, lots of good times & nice memories to look back on & hopefully lady luck will let me do it all again in 2019. See you on the start line….Mr J

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