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Steve Bird

Kia National Championships of Motorcycle Trials


Kia National Trials championship, round 9 report

The final championship round.

Sunday 4th November 2018, Hillsborough Mcc Sheffield

Following front brake issues from the previous Trial, a lot of head scratching and several hours in the garage was required to modify a new disc to fit my old bike. After a successful test ride the brake was working better than ever. A different carburettor had also been modified to fit, which was working really well, so the bike was ready… but was I?

My travelling partner Dean and I arrived nice and early at the venue, not far from the Lady Bower reservoir, on the edge on the Peak District. I’m told there’s some lovely views, but with thick fog, we just about found our way to the burger van for breakfast!

An excellent entry of around 120 included some very good riders that don’t ride the full series but were sure to challenge for the honours. Heading off to section 1 I felt good, a few nerves, but calm and focussed.

The first few sections were relatively easy and most riders were still clean until the tricky section 9. A rocky climb out of the stream with a turn up a slippery mud bank, then over another rock. Many riders were struggling for grip on the mud, so not getting the momentum to clear the rock. With a bit of skill, a sprinkling of luck and sheer will, I pulled off a stylish clean ride. I’d not meant the front wheel to lift quite so much as I didn’t expect the grip I found, but I didn’t dare close the throttle until I’d cleared the rock. On another day this might have gone terribly wrong and I’d be dumped on my backside, but not today.

I managed to stay clean until section 18 of 20 when my front wheel caught a hidden rock in a deep stream section throwing me off balance, just 1 mark lost though so no disaster. So, first lap done and all good, onto lap 2.

Due to the large entry and some demanding sections that took a good looking at, time was getting on. In fact, light was fading fast in the dense wooded gullies, so by the end of the lap it was almost dark. Thankfully, I managed to go one better on the second lap and cleaned all 20 sections.

I really was chuffed with how well I’d ridden, undoubtably saving the best till last. An excellent way to finish off. Thankfully the results were soon posted online and despite some excellent opposition I’d taken the overall win. This was my fourth of the year, confirming me as 2018 Kia Air Cooled Mono-shock Champion.

My thanks go to all the people who gave up their time to organise the series and all the clubs up and down the country that hosted each round of the championship. Lastly a huge thanks to Prosaw for their support this year.

Kia National Trials championship, round 8 report: The penultimate round in the battle for the championship.

Kia National Trials championship, round 8 report:

The day didn't start too well when I spotted a problem with the front brake before the event had started. An oversight on my behalf, I thought I'd replaced the brake pads recently but as I realised later, that was on my other bike!!

Unfortunately, these had worn to the metal and with no spares I had to ride the whole event with very little front brake. Although, knowing the damage that was being done to an unobtainable disc was probably a bigger distraction, and for the first lap I simply wasn't on it.

As usual for the Kia series, the course had 20 sections to be ridden twice. They were set mainly in rocky streams and gulleys. A first lap score of 7 was perhaps double what I ought to have dropped, had I been anywhere near riding at my best. A quick refuel for bike and rider and the second lap started much better. Still clean reaching the difficult section 7, I gave it a really good look, chose my line and with a bit of skill and a lot of luck, somehow hung on for a clean. It might have taken 27 sections, but finally I’d had a decent ride. It's amazing how confidence can be lifted by one good ride though, as the lap continued, I forgot about the bike problems and concentrated on each section as it came. In fact, I managed to compete the entire second lap unpenalized.

So, by my reckoning I'd dropped 7 points in total, unfortunately when the results were released later in the week, I had actually been marked down for losing 9. But there is no point in worrying about it, like a football referee, the observer's decision is final. If I'd ridden my best It wouldn't have mattered. The annoying thing is, 7 points would have won the trial, whilst 9 dropped me down to third. And the winner... yep, my championship rival, Mr Nigel Scott!!

There was another reason I was perhaps a little complacent. I had made a calculation, that with only two rounds remaining, my points lead in the championship was unbeatable. However, I have since realised this isn't right. Riders can drop their worst two rounds, I'd wrongly thought it was only one!! So, it all goes down the final round, held near Sheffield in 2 weeks' time. I've got a bit of bike maintenance to do first though. Anyone got a new brake disc for a 1990 Yamaha TY laying around?


Kia National Trials Championship - Round 7

Sunday 16th September 2018, Torridge DMCC, Devon

The great thing about riding a National championship is that you get to ride in all areas of the country on different terrain, although the 5 hour drive down to Devon was a pain. A pastie stop and walk on the beach before heading to the venue helped though!

Due to various circumstances I hadn't ridden a Trial for 6 weeks so I knew I wouldn't be at my best. Come Sunday at 10.30 the riders were set off according to class on different sections to avoid queuing. I really could have done with a few easy sections to get going, but no, straight into what turned out to be the hardest two sections.

I was riding with all the style, balance and coordination of a drunk leaving the bar at 2am. Two sections in, 4 marks lost already and another 38 sections left to ride, thankfully I managed to improve. Lap 1 was completed for a total of 6 marks. Riding with a little more composure I completed the second lap for just 2 marks.

Whilst not too happy with my score, it had been a great Trial. We are so privileged to ride in such beautiful woodland and streams. It was a nice surprise when the results were announced, 8 marks was good enough to win my class. My friend and regular travel companion Dean Devereaux finished in 2nd on 14 points ahead of local ace Ian Baker on 20 marks.

Looking at the championship points, with just two rounds left, I have managed to open a healthy lead at the top.

I'm really looking forward to the next round now on October 21st in beautiful Wales.

Steve Bird

Kia National Trials Championship - Round 6

Round 6 of the Kia championship was hosted by my local club Nene Valley MCC.

As a committee member I was heavily involved with planning and setting the course for the Trial, although for a competitor this can be a distraction as you can't concentrate 100% on riding. Most of the work was done in the preceding weeks, clearing trees, strimming and discreetly marking the route with dots of spray paint. Final preparations started at 7am on Saturday to avoid the heat, marker flags were set out for 20 sections set round a 4 mile lap through quarries and woodland just North of my hometown and Prosaw technical centre, Kettering.

Sunday arrived and time to concentrate on riding, having lost the championship lead to Leeds rider Nigel Scott I needed a good result. One potential spanner in the works was the presence of a couple of very good local riders who don't normally ride the Kia series but are well capable of taking the win and stealing valuable championship points.

Having had a few tyre issue at the previous round my friend and fellow competitor Nigel Allen kindly lent me a rear wheel which would accept a tubeless rear tyre. Nigel recently lost his 21yr old Stepson Dom after 4 year battle with Cancer. In memory of Dom Nigel had some wristbands made with the 'Do it for Dom' logo on them. I proudly mounted this onto my handlebars and throughout the Trial this reminder helped me focus.

The dry, dusty conditions and heat, combined with a tough technical course demanded maximum concentration. Unlike the previous round where I couldn't hold a line anywhere, this week I felt great. Perhaps it was the tyre, possibly knowing the ground so well helped too but I was riding with confidence and section by section I managed to navigate my way through without penalty. As I neared the end of the first lap I was told that all my competitors had lost points. I was still clean and riding well.

Halfway through the second lap there was one section in particular I wasn't looking forward to. A steep climb up the loose dusty bank with an awkward rock at the summit. I'd seen most other riders struggle on this and knew it would be crucial to the result. I chose 2nd gear whereas some others were using 1st. I hoped to carry more speed up the hill in 2nd to help with the final rock, however this would rely on a perfect line and gaining grip on the loose bank. Thankfully the plan worked and as I completed the section clean I think my sigh of relief could be heard back home!

The final few sections were completed without drama and I was delighted to complete the whole 40 sections without loss, I had 'done it for Dom'. Chatting with friends afterwards it would seem the next best score was 6 points. Hunting out my championship rival I was disappointed to find out he had retired with bike problems. Whilst this obviously helps with the points, it's not the way anyone wants to win and I'm sure it felt like a very long drive home to Yorkshire.

The only worry left was waiting for the official results, did the observers agree with my score? As it turned out, the answer was no!! I'd been given a 1 mark loss. Perhaps the observer thought my foot had touched a rock or even put another riders score against my number. But thankfully it didn't matter, I'd comfortably taken the win ahead of the 2 local aces who actually did me a favour taking points from other championship rivals.

It was really nice to get headlines and a picture in the report of the trial printed in the specialist weekly newspaper, Trials & Motocross News. But better than that I was delighted they did a small piece about 'Do it for Dom'. I hope they won't mind me attaching a scan of this.

Championship top 3 after round 6 of 9 (drop worse round)

  1. Steve Bird - 74
  2. Nigel Scott - 69
  3. Dean Devereux - 58

Steve Bird

Kia National Trials Championship - Round 5

The venue is incredible and has hosted the GB round of the World Trials Championship for the previous two years. There is a great mixture of rocks, woodland climbs and stream sections and the event organisers laid out an excellent trial which everyone enjoyed.

Another venue where overnight camping was available so some friends and I enjoyed a nice evening with a BBQ and bike talk!

Unfortunately round 4 of the championship was cancelled due to the hosting club losing land access so it'd been quite a few weeks since I rode the Yamaha. Although I managed to clean the first few sections I wasn't riding my best. Initially I thought this was due to getting used to the bike again. Trials is about accuracy. The right line at the right speed and things can sometimes seem simple. Get either wrong and you're in trouble... and I was in trouble way too often!! The bike felt like the rear tyre was flat, throwing me off balance and line, however the pressure was fine.

A crash seemed inevitable and eventually it was a tricky gulley with a root step half way up that would be my undoing. The cambered bank threw me off line, hitting the tree hard with my shoulder stopping me for a 5 mark loss (and a sore shoulder). 2 sections later and a narrow rock gulley took another 3 marks but a couple of good rides at the end of the lap helped to restore a bit of confidence.

At the end of the first lap I'd lost 11 marks and my main rivals were doing better than me. I pumped a little extra air the rear tyre for lap 2, calmed myself down and cracked on. No point in worrying about what's already done, that can't be changed.

I somehow managed to complete the 2nd lap for just 1 mark. It wasn't pretty and I rode my luck a few times, but I was delighted to salvage 2nd place and 17 valuable championship points.

I have now discovered the rear tyre was at fault for the handling. The sidewalls have lost their integrity and wobbling around like a jelly. Several other riders have had the same issues with this brand of tyre as they wear, hopefully a new Tubeless Michelin will sort things out, although this does mean I need to fit a new rim and I'll have one less excuse for riding badly.

The next round is hosted by my local club in my hometown, however in between I have the highlight of my year to look forward to, the Manx 2 Day trial on the beautiful Isle of Man.

Steve Bird

Loch Lomond 2 Day Trial

When a friend suggested that we enter the Loch Lomond 2 Day trial this year, in hindsight I perhaps ought to have done a little research before sending off my entry.

So, Friday morning my friend Chris and myself headed up North blissfully, unaware of what was about to come. The Trial is set in the hills high above Loch Lomond, and Saturday morning I set off on my bike towards section 1, a little nervous perhaps, but also exited at experiencing new terrain. The weather was perfect, there was hardly a cloud in the sky but a nice breeze to keep the midges at bay.

Here is where it all started to go wrong (yes, already), I somehow lost my scorecard before I had even reached the first section. After a short search I headed back to the start and thankfully they issued me a new card. I set off at pace quickly inspecting and riding the first couple of sections to try and catch my riding partner who had already reached section 3, about 2 miles away over the moors. With the panic looking for my scorecard, I did my second stupid mistake. I left my rucksack at section 1. This contained tools, emergency fuel, drink & crucially the 2nd scorecard for later sections. I had no option but to double back and fetch it.

The 4 mile extra ride put me well behind schedule, so it was a case of going full speed ahead, briefly inspecting the section, cracking on and hopefully I would catch up. However, this highlighted an issue that would prove my undoing all weekend. I simply don't have any experience of riding Scottish moorland. It is physically very demanding. I just don't have the technique, fitness and nerve to go fast enough for long enough. My riding buddy Chris has ridden in Scotland and other similar event many times before. Couple this to the fact that he is an ex British Enduro Champion and Centre Motocross Champion, you'll begin to understand he knows a bit about going fast. I just couldn't keep up and had to watch him effortlessly disappear into the distance. I hadn't trained for this and my fitness level was nowhere near good enough, already I was starting to pay for it.

The course itself was incredible, I have never seen such breath-taking views. The sections were mostly up a rocky streams or becks of varying types and after a shaky start I was starting to ride a little better. The severity of these sections was way harder than I had expected though, each one demanded maximum effort and concentration. The Saturday route was 45 miles long, entirely off road and almost exclusively across the wet boggy moorland, up and down the steepest of hills / mountains which just seemed to go on forever.

We had a time limit of 7 hours to complete the course. Try as I might, it was beginning to dawn on me, I wouldn't get in on time. Every 1 minute over the 7 hours incurs a 1 mark penalty. Over an hour late - Exclusion. I had no option but to keep any section inspection to an absolute minimum, even riding some sections without prior inspect at all. After about 5 hours I was starting to get cramp in my arms, towards the end of the sections my hands would lock onto the bars making riding impossible and crashes frequent. There were times when I thought about giving up, the physical exertion pushing my body so hard actually made me sick at one point. I didn't stop though and eventually made the time check at 7 hours 20 minutes, incurring a 20 mark penalty. At this stage I wasn't sure if that was good or bad, as this meant I'd have to do it all again the very next day!

Waking up Sunday morning I had aches and pains all over my body, but I had had a decent sleep, so I headed off to the start area for part 2. My spirits were lifted a bit before the start when Prosaw's Scottish Area Salesman, Frank Byrne paid a visit. A good chat with Frank took my mind off what was to come for a while.

I was thankful to learn it was a shorter course Sunday, 2 laps of 15 miles each. Mindful of Saturdays time issues and the fatigue I felt, I decided that the only way I could make the time limit was to spend as little time inspecting the sections as possible. Of course, this would have a negative effect on my observation score. But at this stage my only goal was to finish. The sections weren't any easier on Sunday and after the first lap I did briefly consider a nice lay down in the shade whilst I waited for everyone else to finish. I pressed on though and there was even the odd moment where I rode quite well. These moments were quickly forgotten though as cramp and exhaustion forced errors and crashes. However, I made it to the finish with less than 3 minutes to spare!

My total score for the weekend was 145 marks lost, this put me in 40th place from 150 riders entered. I'm a little disappointed with this, but pleased I dug deep and finished when quitting would have been so much easier. I am now working on my fitness and endurance in preparation for my next 2 day trial. This is the Manx 2 Day in July, so 6 weeks of cycling and running.

The next big event for me is in 2 weeks. A Kia Championship round in Yorkshire, back on my faithful old Yamaha - Hopefully no boggy moorland!

Steve Bird

Round 3 Report - Scunthorpe MCC

The third round of the Kia National Trials championship was near Scunthorpe, which is about 2½ hours drive for me. With the nice weather I decided to travel to the venue on Saturday evening and 'rough it' sleeping in the van overnight. Morning came and fully fuelled with bacon sarnies, cooked on my camping stove (the choice breakfast of athletes) I felt focused and ready.

The Trial sections were the toughest so far this year, recent wet weather meant there was still plenty of mud, which carried up onto the rocks and tree roots. Section 4 was the hardest of the day and most competitors failed this section. Having noticed the mud was carrying onto the rocks, making it even worse, I gave it a quick inspection on foot before riding and was delighted to record one of only 2 cleans.

Part of the skill in Trials is choosing the right line through a section. Faced with a jumble of rocks, or logs and roots, you need to decide the best route to take. Boundaries are marked with coloured pegs or tape but you have the choice where to ride between these. You can inspect the sections on foot first, but there's no practice. Once on the bike you then have to remember that line or route. One of my biggest failings is forgetting which direction to take or missing a marker peg. This can be so frustrating as you instantly incur a 5 mark penalty. I was really pleased with my concentration and decision making this week, choosing the right line or method of approach for most sections. Most importantly - no 5s for going the wrong way! Lets hope I can maintain this focus for the remaining championship rounds.

The 2 laps of 20 sections took me about 5 hours to compete and at the end of the day, I was physically and mentally very tired. I was pleased with my ride though and a quick mental tot up of penalties, I thought I'd lost 22 marks in total. As the Championship moves around the country, there are some rounds where a local rider will compete that might not normally ride a classic event. Once such rider rode this week who would normally be riding modern bikes in the British Championships. Knowing how good this lad is I was amazed to hear he thought his total was also 22 marks. For 2 days I eagerly awaited the 'official' results.

Unfortunately, the 'local ace' took the win on 19 marks lost, I finished a close 2nd on 22. The current championship leader was 3rd on a total of 45. I was pleased to beat my championship rivals, but can't help feel a little disappointed that such a good ride didn't earn a win. I do however now lead the championship again, if only by a single point.

One last thing to share from the weekend was a moment that meant more to me than a trophy or championship points. One of the competitors is a former professional, who was 3 times World Champion in the 70's. Now retired from his business he rides most weeks and is still a formidable rider. To ride alongside one of the sports greats is fantastic, however when that person compliments you on your riding... Well, that really made my day. I was smiling all the way home!

Thanks to John Wilkinson Photography for the pictures.

Steve Bird

Round 2 Report - Trials & Tribulations

With a 4 hour drive up to County Durham I booked a hotel and traveled up on the Saturday to make sure I was fresh and rested for the 10.30am Start Sunday. Last year I drove up in the morning and didn't have a very good ride.

Well, sadly the overnight stay didn't make any difference! The day didn't get off to a very good start when I crashed before the event had even started. I misjudged a small drop off a rock while warming up and took a dive over the handlebars. The bike lay upside down revving flat out, alerting anyone that hadn't seen it, so they could turn around to laugh at me!

So onto the Trial. The maximum score in a section is 5 marks, this would be given for a stop, falling off the bike or missing a marker flag. In recent times officials have become more lenient when judging a stop, usually allowing a second or two before penalising a rider. On Sunday I was guilty of expecting this leniency. Twice I found myself offline in a jumble of rocks and the bike had stopped before I put a foot down to help me get going again. Both times the observers 5'd me, which they were right to do. Note to self... Get your foot down earlier if needed.

I was pleased to keep my head after the 5s, cleaning 36 of the total 40 sections. My final score was 13 points lost which put me in 4th place (same as last year). Good damage control and 13 championship points. After 2 rounds of the championship I'm now in a close 2nd Place.

On the plus side, apart from those 2 slight errors I rode well. It was a fantastic Trial with beautiful scenery. Sections are rocks, rocks & more rocks, the weather stayed dry too so it was well worth the long journey. The drive back somehow seems much longer after a poor result though.

I've got a few repairs to do this week too. I hit a rock hard on a moorland crossing between sections and the rear rim is buckled. It even knocked the tyre off the rim. Perhaps I can use this as my excuse for getting off line and stopping :-)

I have a month now to sort the bike, practice and try a couple of new parts before the next round which is at Scunthorpe.

Steve Bird